Zelensky Opens Ukraine's National Guard To Foreigners Amid Severe Manpower Crisis

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Feb 22, 2024 - 05:15 PM

Ukraine's devastating troop losses are long past crisis levels, and its forces are in retreat along some key front line areas, particularly in the region outside Avdiivka in Donetsk after Russia captured the city Saturday. The New York Times observed of the aftermath, "Without dominant hills, larger rivers or extensive fortifications of the kind it built around Avdiivka over the better part of a decade, Ukraine will probably have to cede more ground to hold back Russian units."

"They don’t have a well-established secondary line to pull back to," one analyst was cited in the Times as saying. Ukraine's leadership has long been mulling a new mass mobilization and conscription drive, which has received immense pushback from the war-wearied population. But instead of implementing that controversial measure domestically, President Zelensky is going a different route. He on Wednesday signed a decree opening up Ukraine's military forces to "foreigners and stateless persons." 

Early in the conflict, Ukraine formed a Foreign Legion, via WSJ

They can now volunteer to serve in Ukraine's National Guard, per the new order, and may sign a contract at the private, sergeant, or officer levels depending on their qualifications.

Ukrainian media reports say, "To join the National Guard, foreign citizens need to apply to the territorial center for recruitment and social support (TSC) at their place of residence or directly to the military unit in which they want to serve." Foreigners can join for an initial three-year period, with higher ranks possibly being committed for up to five years.

What's more is that "Foreign women can also be recruited for military service if there are vacant female military positions," according to the reports.

While Ukraine from the start of the Russian invasion two years ago has always promoted its foreign legion, or "International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine" - this new law directly integrates foreign fighters into regular Ukrainian military units - an unprecedented step.

However, it's highly unlikely Kiev will suddenly see a flood of new recruits, given the carnage at the front lines.  Ukrainians themselves are often scared of being shipped to the fighting, as the ongoing crisis of recruiters taking young men off the streets has lately demonstrated.

Just last week, Zelensky proposed that foreign fighters be given Ukrainian citizenship...

In the opening months of the war there was a trend of British, American, and European volunteers flooding into Kiev to join the fight. Many were killed - possibly in the dozens or more over the course of the war. However, this trend quickly slowed as soon as it became clear Ukraine was in for a long, grinding and bloody fight against a superior-armed Russia, which also has more manpower to draw on. 

Many volunteers were known to simply hang out in bars in Kiev or far Western Lviv, very far from actual fighting, while posting to Instagram or YouTube to gain followers and social media clout.