Australia has deployed members of an SAS regiment to Hereford, England, in advance of deployment to Ukraine.
This is in addition to 190 Australian Federal Police already committed to ‘Operation Bring Them Home’, a reference to MH-17 victims.
That’s a lot of Australian lives at risk amidst a civil war on the opposite side of the globe. I sincerely hope none get caught in the cross fire. But what if one does?
How are the SAS meant to respond then?
The Dutch Prime Minister has rightfully cautioned of the need to “weigh the geopolitical ramifications” any deployment will have, noting “this is not an area where this would remain without consequence”.
The Netherlands have committed to send 40 unarmed investigators, and are considering an additional 40 under an agreement signed with Ukrainian President Poroshenko.
But agreements signed between the Ukrainian President and Foreign Ministers of Australia and the Netherlands have yet to pass the Ukrainian Parliament, which is in disarray after the governing coalition collapsed two days ago.
This means neither Dutch nor Australian forces can legally deploy on Ukrainian soil until after the Ukrainian parliament next sits on Thursday, July 31.
It seems Tony Abbott is a little over-keen to send Australian troops to Europe, which I suspect has more to do with domestic approval ratings than it does sensible policy.
There is no need for the Australian SAS to be deployed in Ukraine. It is a confrontational move that may actually increase the risks for investigators. Armed foreign troops are a far more ‘credible’ target than civilian investigators working on an international tragedy.
It’s my opinion that sending armed Australian forces into the midst of any foreign civil war is a bad move. Particularly in Ukraine, where the risk of a rapid escalation of the conflict were a western soldier to be injured or killed by rebels is so high.
We should not do it at all.
But if we are going to send a ‘peacekeeping force’ in, we need to do it right.
This requires careful diplomacy and mutual agreements with both the Ukrainian Government and the forces of the self-declared Donetsk Peoples Republic.
We can’t just send Australian police and military forces to the door and expect to be invited in. So please, Tony, at least get the necessary agreements signed before putting more Australian lives at risk in Ukraine.