Just how dumb do you have to be to go fight in Ukraine as a foreigner?

By: Rachel Marsden

PARIS — Have you grown bored of working from home over the past couple of pandemic-plagued years? Do you long for an adventurous and exciting overseas working vacation? Well, you’re in luck because the “Ukrainian rebels” are hiring! They aren’t called that, officially. But neither is Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy doing a good job of clearly explaining the ramifications of westerners answering his appeal to join the fight against Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

Within just four days of armed hostilities between the NATO-weaponized, neo-Nazi integrated Ukraine forces and the Russian army, the former actor turned Ukrainian president made a dramatic plea: “All citizens of the world, friends of Ukraine … anyone who wants to join the defense of Ukraine, Europe and the world can come and fight side by side with the Ukrainians against the Russian war criminals,” Zelenskyy said. The country’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, followed up with an explanation of just how easy one could avail oneself of the opportunity. “Foreigners willing to defend Ukraine and world order as part of the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine, I invite you to contact foreign diplomatic missions of Ukraine in your respective countries,” Kuleba said.

And apparently several westerners heeded the call. We know this because they took to both traditional and social media to broadcast their presence in Ukraine. For instance, a “Canadian sniper” described ridiculously in media headlines as the “world’s deadliest”, posed for photos “high above the streets of Kyiv ready to greet the first Russian invader he sees with his .338 rifle,” according to Britain’s Daily Mail. Which is the kind of behavior that screams professional, top-tier covert operator.

Anyone who has spent any time around western private military contractors knows that so many former Blackwater types have been itching to relive those glory years of hanging out in the green zone during the Iraq war. Rambo-style fantasies of smoking Russians like they’re in a video game, confident that they’re on the righteous side of the conflict, have apparently taken their place.

Except that there’s a slight problem with that plan. The law of war, going back to the Peace of Westphalia, pits these foreign fighters against almost certain death. This is due to the fact that while Zelenskyy refers to what seems like an official entity, the “International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine,” it means nothing if these foreigners aren’t integrated into an actual Ukrainian army unit with the protection of the Geneva Conventions. Without those assurances, these fighters become unlawful enemy combatants subject to being smoked on the spot by the Russian army and without combat immunity or prisoner of war status consideration.

This reality is already starting to sink in. A staging base for NATO support near Lviv, in western Ukraine, was decimated when 30 Russian missiles killed a reported 35 people and wounded 134 others, with Moscow citing the elimination of “up to 180 foreign mercenaries,” according to Al Jazeera.

Social media is also rife with reports of foreign fighters fleeing to Poland, with others citing the disappointment of “basically being bodies in front of the advancing Russians”, as opposed to being “utilized as a unit with operational capabilities.” Being part of Meal Team 6 is apparently all fun and games until a professionally trained conventional force shows up with some actual missiles.

It might help to improve the decision-making of potential recruits to view the participation of these foreign fighters not through the lens of the offer peddled by Zelenskyy, but rather through the lens of foreign irregular fighters in other recent combat zones.

The CIA and Pentagon covertly backed the “Syrian rebels” in an ultimately failed attempt to overthrow Syrian President Bachar Al-Assad. There were also the “Libyan rebels” backed again by western interests to overthrow and ultimately murder Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi. And the MEK — or Mujahedin-e-Khalq — was delisted by both the EU and the U.S. as a terrorist organization when it became more interesting to consider them as “Iranian rebels” that could be useful in Iranian regime change.

The foreign fighters who naively signed up for Zelenskyy’s war tourism package have similarly become the unwitting “Ukrainian rebels” in this new conflict — the cannon fodder “fire and forget” proxy fighters which every modern NATO and western-backed war demands. Even the Ukrainian neo-Nazi fighters of the Azov regiment, previously trained by Western military advisers against Russia have since been integrated into the regular force. These foreign recruits haven’t even benefited from that much.

There’s nothing quite like buying into war propaganda to the point of finding oneself on a battlefield facing a formidable opponent, and realizing, perhaps tragically too late, that you now have more in common with jihadists than you ever could have imagined.