Having worked as a trainer and adviser to the Ukrainian military since 2015, I have seen over the years a noticeable difference in the training, equipment, and the general modernization of the Ukrainian military. Today Ukraine seeks to further enhance its military capabilities by sending its special forces to the Israel Military Industries Academy for Advanced Security and Anti-Terror Training.

This world-renowned academy, regarded by some as the best training facility around, has been host to numerous special operations units, both police and military. Given the influence of the Israeli Special Forces—regarded by many as among the premier special operations units in the world—on the institution, that should come as no surprise. According to the academy website, “Established in 1999 by veterans of the Israeli security forces, IMI Academy specializes in a wide range of comprehensive security training programs, including anti-terrorism, anti-crime and homeland security.”

This is not only a military move, but also a political statement. Ukraine is broadcasting that it has international partners and is seeking deeper collaboration with the Israeli government. This will undoubtedly be seen as distasteful to the Russian Federation, as the relationship between Russia and Israel continues to be poor due in no small part to Israel’s involvement in the Syrian Civil War, its ongoing conflict with Iran, and its close relationship with the U.S.

Since the latter end of 2018, I have noticed the West seems to be paying more attention to the Ukrainian conflict. The government of Ukraine has been actively collaborating with strong partners such as Israel, the U.K., and the United States. I believe this to be a power play by the Ukrainian government, one that will undoubtedly deeply concern the Russian government. It would seem the Ukrainian government is strengthening its partnerships and training, potentially with intent to mount a risky counteroffensive in the Donbass region. On the ground there’s been an increase in small-arms engagements and increased light artillery engagements from both sides. I believe both Ukrainian and separatist forces are prepared for one last offensive.

Having spoken with my connections in Ukraine, it would seem that tensions remain high for those troops stuck in the trenches on the front lines of Europe’s forgotten war. Word through the grapevine suggests that the Russian-backed separatists will make a push for Mariupol in the summer, as taking it would cripple the Ukrainian economy and strengthen the separatists’ grip on the Donbass region.