Small Wars Journal

Defence diplomacy in the war in Ukraine – cooperation and challenges

Mon, 06/10/2024 - 11:36pm

Defence diplomacy in the war in Ukraine – cooperation and challenges

Lech Drab and  Marzena Żakowska[1]

Abstract: The central focus of this article revolves around conducting a comprehensive analysis of the role played by defense diplomacy in the intricate context of the Ukraine war. By doing so, it seeks to specifically focus on cooperative endeavors between Western nations and the Ukrainian government. Furthermore, the article strives to highlight the challenges faced in the process. By examining these aspects, we aim to address a pivotal question: What were the profound and consequential domains of cooperation in defense diplomacy between Western states and Ukraine that significantly shaped the trajectory of the war's development? The findings show that the crucial areas of this cooperation encompassed military support, military education, intelligence sharing, as well as legal and legislative collaboration.

Key words: defence diplomacy, war in Ukraine, military support, military education, intelligence sharing, legal and legislative collaboration


The ongoing war in Ukraine presents a large-scale cooperation between the Ukrainian government and Western countries, aimed at defending against Russian aggression. This cooperation directly illustrates that security is no longer solely a state or regional issue but has become a global problem. Within the framework of this cooperation, various diplomatic domains come into play, with defense diplomacy emerging as a prominent facet. Defense diplomacy, in this context, can be defined as the strategic and non-confrontational use of defense capabilities to foster constructive relationships and achieve positive outcomes in bilateral and multilateral interactions with specific countries. Crucially, defense diplomacy distinguishes itself from military operations. Instead, it operates through a diverse set of cooperative measures. These include the exchange of personnel, the deployment of ships and aircraft, high-level visits by senior military officials, bilateral meetings and dialogues, joint training exercises, active participation in regional defense forums, provision of military assistance, implementation of confidence-building measures, and engagement in non-proliferation efforts. (Dodd and Oakes 1998, p. 22; Ministry of Defence, London 2011, p. 7).

At its core, defense diplomacy serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it aims to establish and nurture trust between nations, which is essential for building enduring partnerships. Secondly, it contributes significantly to the development of democratic armed forces and aids in conflict resolution. By enhancing military capabilities and interoperability, it equips nations to address the challenges of war and security more effectively. Activities encompassed within the realm of defense diplomacy, which include various actions and strategic arrangements, are typically shrouded in secrecy. They are often held in strict confidence and withheld from public knowledge until the very last moment or even after their completion. This deliberate concealment is primarily driven by the profound and far-reaching consequences these activities can have on the course and outcome of a war.

The aim of this article is to investigate the role of defense diplomacy in the context of the Ukraine war, with a specific emphasis on exploring the scope of its cooperative efforts and challenges as well as and identifying the precise realms within defense diplomacy which have significant impact on the course of the war. In essence, this research seeks to provide answers to the question: What were the significant domains of cooperation in defense diplomacy between Ukraine and Western states that had a profound impact on the course of the war's development?

To achieve this aim, the article will examine several critical dimensions. Firstly, we  introduce the foreign policy instruments and emphasize the positioning and significance of defense diplomacy among them.Secondly, we dissect the various domains where defense diplomacy operated, and the instruments employed within these domains. Finally, we scrutinize the specific areas of support extended to Ukraine within the framework of defense diplomacy.

1. The place and role of defence diplomacy in the foreign policy of states

Foreign policy refers to a government's strategy and approach in dealing with other countries and international actors. It encompasses a nation's goals, interests, and actions on the global stage and involves various political, economic, military, diplomatic  as well as psychosocial efforts (instruments) to advance its objectives in the international arena. Equally valuable are also normative instruments, which play an increasingly important role with the development of international relations (Kupiecki, 2018, p.19).

Political instruments are a fundamental aspect of a state's engagement in international affairs, involving interactions conducted by official representatives of the state within the wide sphere of diplomatic relations. Therefore, political instruments closely collaborate with diplomatic tools. These instruments serve as versatile tools for achieving a multitude of goals by provide a dynamic platform for a range of activities e.g. facilitate the free exchange of opinions, creating a space for open consultation where nations can express their unique perspectives and insights, serve as mechanism for applying pressure and persuasion. Moreover, these instruments frequently play a pivotal role in the establishment of common positions, mutual obligations, or formal agreements on a multitude of issues that arise in the complex web of diplomatic relations between states or within international organizations. Within diplomatic circles, these instruments serve as indispensable channels for conflict resolution and dispute settlement. Through skillful employment of dialogue, negotiation, and traditional diplomacy, nations can de-escalate tensions, bridge divides, and arrive at peaceful solutions to the most intricate and sensitive (Kuźniar, 2006, p.127).

Economic instruments refer to the means and methods used by a state to achieve its political objectives through economic measures. On one hand, these instruments primarily include partial or complete economic embargoes and the use of various forms of trade discrimination. They also extend to financial measures, such as withholding loans or financial aid to influence the behavior of another nation or in response to specific actions. In the most severe scenarios, a nation may resort to imposing a comprehensive economic lockdown, effectively isolating a target country from the global economy. However, it's crucial to recognize that economic instruments are not solely employed in a punitive or coercive manner. In the foreign policy of any state, economic instruments can also have a positive application. This involves providing financial assistance, facilitating the transfer of goods, selling modern technologies, and supporting investment for development (Czaputowicz, 2007, p. 35). These measures encompass training, technical assistance, and overall support for growth.

Military instruments represent a critical component of a nation's toolkit, often reserved as a measure of last resort and employed only when all other diplomatic or peaceful means have proven ineffective. This principle is deeply rooted in the international norm prohibiting the use of force as the primary means of settling disputes between states. However, it's important to recognize that military instruments can take on various forms, extending beyond overt conflict. They can also be applied indirectly in the form of deterrence, coercion, or even within the context of an arms race. Additionally, military instruments encompass cooperative efforts related to verifying compliance with disarmament agreements, implementing arms control measures, and confidence-building measures (Lachowski, 2004, pp. 14-15). Those instruments also hold significant importance, especially in relationships between states or allies. In such situations, they can involve security guarantees, the supply of weapons and equipment, training, consultation, the exchange of intelligence information, as well as joint exercises. According to Edmonds and Mills (Edmonds and Mills, 1998, p. 106), military instruments may encompass 'any use of armed forces (excluding warfare) to achieve national goals' while also enhancing interoperability and preparedness.

Psychosocial instruments represent a multifaceted approach that relies on various assets, including culture, information dissemination, the allure of ideology, and the presentation of a particular social model. These instruments are wielded by a nation as part of promotional, propaganda, or information campaigns directed towards its external environment. It's essential to acknowledge that psychosocial measures can have dual applications. On one hand, they may be employed for constructive purposes, fostering positive relations and enhancing a nation's image on the global stage. For example, during times of peaceful coexistence between states, these measures are utilized to craft a favorable perception of the nation, bolster its prestige within the international community, and ultimately create an environment conducive to the exertion of diplomatic and political influence (Kuźniar, 2006, p.128). Conversely, psychosocial instruments can also be used with more sinister intent. They may serve as vehicles for disinformation, propagandistic efforts, or information warfare aimed at achieving strategic objectives, such as annexation or conquest of another country.

Normative instruments, within the landscape of international relations, have assumed an increasingly pivotal role for the state foreign policy. These instruments encompass a diverse array of norms, rules, and regulations that govern the behavior of states and international actors. A substantial portion of these norms is specifically tailored to regulate bilateral and multilateral relations between states. These norms establish the rules of engagement, guiding interactions, and shaping the conduct of nations in their dealings with one another. They serve as the glue that holds together the intricate web of diplomatic relations, trade agreements, and alliances, creating a framework within which states can peacefully coexist and cooperate. Moreover, there exists a category of norms that transcends individual state interests - universal norms. These norms possess an overarching applicability and play a crucial role in stabilizing the international order. They act as a safeguard against chaos and conflict by establishing common standards of behavior that all nations are encouraged to uphold. Universal norms foster predictability in international affairs, providing a sense of security and trust among states. The actions undertaken to establish and uphold these legal regulations and mechanisms, when harmonized with the interests of a state, become powerful tools for advancing national objectives. In the realms of security and economic development, adherence to these norms can lead to greater stability, fostering an environment conducive to progress and prosperity. Normative instruments, when harnessed effectively, serve as strategic assets in a nation's foreign policy toolkit (Drab, 2018, p. 34).

Defense diplomacy refers to the strategic use of military and security assets in the pursuit of a nation's foreign policy objectives.Therefore, is a specialized instrument of a state's foreign policy in the realm of international military relations, holds a permanent place within the framework of national security, foreign policy and international cooperation (see Figure 1).  It goes beyond traditional diplomacy, which primarily deals with political and economic matters, by integrating military capabilities into the diplomatic toolkit. Defense diplomacy involves activities such as military-to-military exchanges, joint exercises, defense trade, and security assistance programs. In terms of its significance, 'defense diplomacy' encompasses a broader scope than the commonly used as 'military diplomacy'. The former not only encompasses the objectives and tasks of the latter but also extends them to include various facets, such as crisis prevention, defense dialogue, the promotion of bilateral and multilateral cooperation within international security organizations, and the use of armed forces in international missions and operations (Ministry of Defence, Madrid, 2012, pp. 28-31).  

fig 1

Figure 1. The place of defence diplomacy in the state foreign policy

Source: Author’s elaboration.

Defense diplomacy, while rooted in a long tradition of military diplomacy, is a relatively new and dynamically developing specialized instrument within the foreign policy and security tools of modern states (Cottey and Forster, 2004, p. 6). Its role in countering threats, resolving crises, and shaping international cooperation in the realm of security is expanding. Additionally, it constitutes an essential component of a state's overall diplomatic efforts, functioning alongside other specialized areas. Hence, within the context of national security, defense diplomacy plays a crucial role. It provides a mechanism through which a nation can bolster its security by establishing alliances, cultivating partnerships, and deterring potential threats. Defense diplomacy isn't solely about responding to military aggression; it's also about preventing conflicts through dialogue and cooperation. For instance, military-to-military engagement can foster understanding between nations and reduce the chances of misunderstandings or miscalculations that could lead to conflict. Moreover,  one of central aims  of  defense diplomacy is to enhance transparency in the actions taken by different states and to foster trust among them (as noted by Seng Tan and Singh in 2012, pp. 221-231). This transparency and trust-building are not merely abstract ideals but tangible objectives that underpin the effectiveness of diplomatic efforts. To achieve these objectives, defense diplomacy incorporates a crucial element - preventive tasks. In an ever-changing global landscape, characterized by the intensification and diversification of security threats, diplomacy must adapt and proactively address emerging challenges. The preventive dimension of defense diplomacy involves identifying potential sources of conflict and instability and taking measures to mitigate them before they escalate into crises. This situation also applies to identifying threats, particularly beyond the traditional realm, as military conflicts and territorial disputes, but also modern days threats such as cyberattacks, terrorism, and transnational organized crime. These evolving threats necessitate a proactive and preventive approach to international relations. Following this, defense diplomacy is a powerful tool for fostering and shaping international cooperation in the realm of security (e.g., partnerships, military alliances, collaborative initiatives). It involves collaboration with other nations to address common security challenges, such as counterterrorism, peacekeeping, and humanitarian assistance. By working together, countries can pool resources and expertise to tackle global threats. In this situation crucial role of defense diplomacy is contribution to facilitating cooperation, sharing intelligence, and coordinating responses among states and international organizations. Moreover, defense diplomacy has become a key mechanism in conflict resolution and peacekeeping efforts. It provides a framework for peaceful negotiations, conflict resolution, and crisis management. Diplomatic efforts, backed by military capabilities, can help prevent conflicts from escalating into full-scale wars and promote peaceful solutions to disputes. Peacekeeping missions often require cooperation between military forces from various nations, and defense diplomats play a key role in negotiating and maintaining these collaborations. We can observe that defense diplomacy has assumed an increasingly vital role, as it now not only focuses on traditional military cooperation but also extends its reach to encompass a broader spectrum of security issues. This expansion reflects the contemporary reality that security is no longer limited to military considerations alone; it includes economic, political, and social dimensions as well (Plessis, 2008, p. 90). The implementation of tasks within defense diplomacy in the activities of modern states is guided by a common framework of rules, structures, and mechanisms. However, the ways in which individual countries approach defense diplomacy can vary significantly. These differences are rooted in a variety of factors that shape a nation's unique approach to this essential component of foreign policy, including traditions, perceptions of security threats, international position, economic and military opportunities, as well as the specifics of the political system.

2. Domains and instruments of defence diplomacy

As previously mentioned, defense diplomacy is a crucial instrument of foreign and security policy, covering various areas aimed at ensuring the security of country (see Figure 2). However, it does not independently formulate a state's external defense policy but primarily serves as a toolkit that the state employs to achieve its foreign and security policy objectives (Riyadi and Dewi, 2022, p. 81). Defense diplomacy is employed to establish trust and fulfill state objectives, with the aim of preventing conflicts. This includes the peaceful deployment of armed forces in international missions and operations, as well as engagement in international military cooperation activities. Such utilization of military personnel seeks to foster stable and predictable relationships within the realm of international defense cooperation.Tasks carried out as part of defense diplomacy encompass a wide range of activities involving both civil and military personnel from the ministries of defense and the armed forces.

fig 2

Figure 2. Main domains of cooperation in defence diplomacy

Source: Author’s elaboration

These activities occur at various levels and are connected to a wide range of issues related to the statutory tasks of this ministry of defence. When considering the implementation of tasks by defense diplomacy, it becomes apparent that the main areas of cooperation include (Drab, 2018, pp. 10-11):

  • Maintaining high-level bilateral relations involves both civilian and military personnel from the ministries of defense. These relations typically culminate in high-level meetings, which represent the highest level of task implementation within defense diplomacy. Such meetings are instrumental in building military partnerships between states. Frequently, these meetings lead to decisions on conducting defense and strategic dialogues between countries, influencing the exploration of new areas of cooperation and further strengthening established cooperation (Sing, Tan, 2011, pp. 8-17).
  • Military education and training are regarded as one of the most crucial areas of cooperation within defense diplomacy. The outcomes of collaboration in this domain have a lasting impact, extending over several years. This cooperation encompasses not only training provided by military academies for senior officers but also courses and training sessions organized within military units, targeting non-commissioned officers and soldiers in the use of specialized military equipment (Barcik, 2014, pp. 89-105).
  • Military exercises, conducted both within the framework of bilateral cooperation and security organizations, serve the purpose of preparing the armed forces of allied or partner countries for joint missions and operations (Willard, 2006, pp. 39-56). These exercises also foster mutual trust and credibility, ensure interoperability, and establish common principles for managing and commanding multinational formations.
  • Military missions and operations, whether part of a coalition or within security organizations, aim to preserve peace, stabilize regions in crisis, and maintain a sense of security (Marques & Neto, 2020, p. 22). In the international arena, wherever armed forces are deployed for such tasks, defense diplomacy comes into play, as it seeks compromises to achieve the paramount goal of peace and stability.
  • Intelligence cooperation, especially involving the exchange of security-related information, armed forces' status, and regional political-military situations (Crawford, 2010, pp. 3784-3785), extends beyond specialized intelligence institutions. Civilian and military diplomats responsible for state-specific cooperation also engage in tasks related to this area.
  • Military aid and support for armed forces should not be regarded as standard bilateral cooperation. The scope of military support and assistance is quite extensive, ranging from the donation of military equipment and weapons to various forms of training, courses, and exercises. Military aid plays a vital role in a state's policy and is an integral part of defense diplomacy (Drab, 2018, pp. 47-55).
  • Continuity in military cooperation between states is ensured by maintaining military relations defense attachés, serving as the primary point of contact for initiating and sustaining such cooperation, play a crucial role in this context. The mutual exchange of defense attachés in international relations serves as a formal endorsement of ongoing contacts, typically guaranteeing the longevity of cooperation and facilitating daily communication between military and civilian representatives of the host state (Dodd, Oakes, 1998, pp. 22-25).
  • Legal and legislative cooperation focuses on preparing, negotiating, and implementing contracts and agreements related to various defense aspects. This includes arrangements for the presence of foreign troops on a country's territory, the maintenance of military bases, the coordination of joint exercises, and other matters. These agreements apply to the participation of armed forces in peacekeeping missions, crisis situations, or wartime scenarios (Muniruzzaman, 2020, p.71).

The areas of cooperation in defense diplomacy are not exhaustive, and new initiatives continually emerge, expanding the role of defense diplomacy. Evolving security conditions compel states to seek solutions to address emerging crisis situations. Consequently, intensifying cooperation within the framework of defense diplomacy, along with a wide array of available instruments for inter-state collaboration, enhances the assurance of one's own security.

3. Defense Diplomacy in Ukraine war

The analysis conducted underscores several crucial aspects within the realm of defense diplomacy that are employed to support Ukraine in faithing the war with Russia. These include military assistance, training and education, intelligence information sharing, and legal and legislative cooperation. Additionally, maintaining political and military relations through high-ranking military diplomats and defense ministry representatives of allied states, along with initiatives from international organizations, equally play significant roles in supporting Ukraine.

Military assistance is rooted to the defense cooperation between Ukraine and NATO members, as well as other partners, commenced in 1991 shortly after Ukraine's independence (Meleshchenkop, 2021, p. 480). The Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 led to the heightened defense and security cooperation between Ukraine and most Western nations. Initially, this collaboration focused on the bilateral provision of non-lethal military equipment, military exercises, and training (Szeligowski, 2016, pp. 141-144). In response to Russia's military aggression in Ukraine, since February 24, 2022, 41 predominantly Western countries have pledged support to Ukraine (Trebesch, et al, p 1) with some providing lethal weapons for the first time. The United States stands out as the largest supplier of lethal weapons, providing more than 42.1 billion euros in military aid from January 24 to July 31, 2023. Germany follows as the second-largest contributor, pledging approximately 17.1 billion euros. The United Kingdom supports Ukraine militarily with almost a third of what Germany transfers (6.6 billion euros). Norway (3.7), Denmark (3.5), and Poland (3.0) are next in terms of military assistance for Ukraine (see Figure 3).  The provided equipment and weaponry, encompassing fighter jets, HIMARS, tanks, air defense missiles, howitzers, anti-aircraft guns, ammunition, UAVs, and more,[2] serve a dual purpose for Ukraine. These assets not only enhance the nation's ability to safeguard itself effectively but also empower Ukraine to actively pursue the recovery of previously lost territories.

fig 3

Figure 3. Top six  countries providing military support to Ukraine from 24 January to 31 July 2023 (bilion euros)

Source: Author’s elaboration base on Martin Armstrong, The Countries Pledging the Most Military Aid to Ukraine, Statista, 22 September 2023, (Accessed 3.10.2023).

It's crucial to underscore that Ukraine, beyond receiving military aid, is the beneficiary of a diverse array of humanitarian assistance. This support goes beyond military provisions, encompassing a spectrum of resources, supplies, and aid aimed at addressing the broader humanitarian needs within the country. These encompass vital necessities such as food and medical supplies, among others, all geared towards enhancing the overall well-being and quality of life for the Ukrainian population. According to data from the German Institute for Economic Research covering the period from 24 February 2022 to 15 January 2023, a total of 40 countries extended comprehensive support to Ukraine, combining both humanitarian and military aid, with a cumulative value exceeding 143 billion euros. Noteworthy in this global effort, the United States emerged as the leading contributor, providing a substantial 73.1 billion euros. In the realm of European assistance, which incorporates contributions from various sources, including European Union institutions such as the EU Commission and EU Council, as well as through the European Peace Facility (EPF) and the European Investment Bank (EIB), in addition to contributions from EU member states, Ukraine has received a combined aid package totaling 54.9 billion euros.[3] Considering the proportion of GDP allocated for military and humanitarian support, Norway (at 1.708% of GDP) and the Baltic states - Lithuania (1.358% of GDP), Estonia (1.284% of GDP), Latvia (1.127% of GDP), and Denmark (1.060% of GDP) − stand out for their significant contributions. Poland, at 0.695% of its GDP, Germany at 0.542% of its GDP, the United Kingdom at 0.486% of GDP, and the United States at 0.330% of its GDP, closely followed suit. In contrast, France allocated 0.063%, and Italy 0.068% (see Figure 4). This comprehensive support underscores the concerted international effort to address the multifaceted challenges facing Ukraine in ongoing war.

fig 4

Figure 4. Military and humanitarian support of selected countries for Ukraine (% GDP )

Source: Author’s elaboration based on Kiel Institute for the World Economy, Ukraine Support Tracker, (Accessed: 23.10.2023).

Military education and training constitute the second major area of extensive cooperation between Ukraine and the West countries in the area of defense diplomacy. Ukraine's historical association with the Soviet Union meant its complete reliance on the Soviet military training system, which aimed at fostering loyalty to the Soviet states. Any attempt to integrate elements developed in any of the Soviet republics into the educational system was perceived as a threat to Soviet identity. Moreover, the educational process was heavily influenced by the realities of the Cold War (Gerasymchuk, 2008, p. 2). At the onset of the 1990s, the education system, including military education and training, exhibited several characteristics, including conservatism, uniformity, an authoritarian and technocratic management style, isolation, and a lack of self-motivation (Gerasymchuk, 2008, p. 3). As a result, military training remained one of the weakest elements in the functioning of the Ukrainian army prior to the outbreak of the conflict in Donbass in 2014. Additionally, the limited number of exercises primarily occurred as part of the Ukrainian army's cooperation with NATO at the tactical level. Therefore, it is not surprising that, as per Wilk's opinion, 'the deficiencies in training for soldiers, officers, and NCOs should be considered as one of the primary reasons for the losses suffered by the Ukrainian army in the initial months of the conflict' in Donbass in 2014 (Wilk, 2017, p. 22).

In this context, training for the Ukrainian armed forces emerged as one of the most vital components. The United States was among the first Western countries to commit to supporting Ukraine's military training efforts. Initially, they focused on training detachments for the newly established National Guard and Special Operation Forces. Subsequently, other Western nations followed suit in providing training for the Ukrainian army. The United Kingdom and Canada, for instance, were actively involved in training new recruits. Additionally, neighboring countries actively participated in the training process for the Ukrainian armed forces. Polish instructors and the Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian brigade (LITPOLUKRBRIG) contributed to the training efforts through the American-led Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine (Wilk, 2017, p. 23). A practical evaluation of the training effectiveness for Ukrainian soldiers could be seen in their participation in international military exercises. In 2021, Ukraine hosted the Ukrainian-US exercises Rapid Trident 2021[4]and Sea Breeze 2021,[5] the Ukrainian-British drills Cossack Mace 2021[6] and Warrior Watcher 2021,[7] the Ukrainian-Romanian exercises Riverine 2021, [8] and the Ukrainian-Polish drills Three Swords 2021.[9]

Just as the European Union provided reimbursement for the transfer of arms and military equipment to Ukraine, it has also committed to training the Ukrainian armed forces. On 5 September 2022, European Union foreign ministers approved a military assistance mission aimed at training 15,000 Ukrainian personnel across various member states (Koziol, 2022, p.1). Under this decision, both Ukrainian recruits and specialized personnel will receive training on EU soil over the next two years. Several EU member states are already offering training on a bilateral basis. The goal of this support is to coordinate military training efforts among EU countries and facilitate coordination between Ukraine and partner countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, which already provide such training. Notably, the mission is open to participation by third-party states, and an operational headquarters is planned to be established in Brussels. The estimated cost of the military mission over two years is approximately 106 million euros. Additionally, the EU has allocated extra funding for military assistance to Ukraine through the European Peace Facility (EPF), with a total amount of 3.1 billion euros earmarked for Ukraine (Koziol, 2022, p.1).

Military education and comprehensive military training across various expertise levels constitute a long-term process, necessitating clearly defined goals from all involved parties. Modern military equipment, along with the evolving rules governing its usage, demands ongoing refinement and training for military personnel. The beneficial outcomes of cooperation between Western countries and Ukraine within this realm of defense diplomacy are already evident through the recapture of territories by Ukrainian forces from the Russian army.[10] 

The exchange of intelligence information represents another essential area of collaboration within defense diplomacy between West countries and Ukraine. This collaboration includes sharing information with Ukrainian forces about the location, armament, and actions of Russian troops.[11] Notably, in recent years, robust relations have evolved between American intelligence agencies and Ukraine. The exchange of information was facilitated even before the conflict, and this cooperation persisted seamlessly when Russia initiated its full-scale operation on 24 February 2022 (Murauskaite, pp. 3-9). It's important to note that sharing intelligence is among the most challenging forms of cooperation between countries, especially when it pertains to military information. Consequently, decisions to establish such collaboration typically rest with the highest state authorities. The extent of military intelligence information provided is subject to meticulous analysis, both in bilateral relations and within the framework of security organizations (Riemier, 2022). Intelligence primarily serves decision-makers, providing them with high-quality information to shape policies in response to changing situations. It guides operational bodies in preparing for these changes to maintain political, economic, and military advantages. Information exchange isn't limited to state support during wartime but extends to cooperation during times of peace as well. Early information regarding the security situation enables states to prepare and take appropriate measures to preempt potential threats and minimize potential losses. When deciding on intelligence cooperation, states must cultivate mutual trust and shared responsibility in exchanging military information. Intelligence cooperation, including the transfer of information, is typically conducted discreetly by states. Information made public is usually presented in a general manner, devoid of unnecessary details, and is agreed upon by the involved states. In addition, cooperating states typically refrain from officially notifying other states, security organizations, or the public about the information they share.

Legal and legislative cooperation in defense serves as the cornerstone for initiating and nurturing both bilateral and multilateral partnerships among nations. These agreements cover a wide spectrum of critical areas, ranging from allowing foreign troops to be stationed on each other's territory to managing military bases, conducting joint exercises, and participating in international treaties related to arms control. They also encompass rules and protocols governing the involvement of armed forces in various operations, including humanitarian aid missions, as well as cooperation in disaster relief efforts (Turchak, Burakov, Posohova, 2023, p. 433). Navigating legal negotiations in this domain is often a protracted and intricate process, primarily due to the necessity of finding compromises, particularly in matters of security, which hold utmost significance for any sovereign state. These negotiations entail painstaking efforts to balance the interests and concerns of all parties involved while safeguarding their national security interests. Furthermore, legal cooperation in defense goes beyond agreements and treaties. It also involves the crucial task of investigative activities. These activities play a pivotal role in the detection of wrongdoers, the identification of vulnerabilities in security systems, and the assessment of gaps in existing protocols. By conducting thorough investigations (Monte and Luyten, 2023, pp. 2-11.) nations can not only hold perpetrators accountable but also enhance their defense mechanisms and contribute to the overall security of the region or alliance.

Russia's aggressive actions in Ukraine stand as a flagrant violation of international law and the fundamental principles governing the respect for a nation's sovereignty. In the realm of international relations, the use of force should never serve as the primary method for resolving conflicts between states. The international community has long recognized the importance of diplomacy, negotiation, and peaceful means to address disputes and differences.[12] Moreover, the conduct of Russian forces in this conflict has raised serious concerns about numerous war crimes committed against the civilian population. So far was discovered mass graves in Ukrainian’s city Bucha, Izyum, Kherson, Mariupol and the list of thoses place is note ended.[13]These actions have resulted in the loss of innocent lives, significant human suffering, and a profound disregard for the principles of humanity and international humanitarian law. Such actions not only undermine the fabric of international norms but also demand a comprehensive response from the global community to ensure accountability and justice for the affected individuals and their families. In this situation, legal military cooperation within the framework of defense diplomacy becomes increasingly important. In July 2023, the International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine (ICPA) commenced operations in The Hague. Its primary function is to investigate Russia's crime of aggression and streamline the process of constructing cases for forthcoming trials.[14] However, the work of the ICPA may face challenges in establishing cooperation with certain allied countries supporting Ukraine, as collaboration could potentially lead to the prosecution of troops deployed abroad.[15]


Our research has yielded a comprehensive understanding of defense diplomacy. This concept entails the strategic utilization of a nation's armed forces and military resources as a means to conduct diplomatic endeavors and advance the country's foreign policy goals. In essence, it represents the harmonious interplay between a nation's military apparatus and its foreign affairs establishment, with the overarching objectives of nurturing international cooperation, forging collaborative partnerships, and effectively addressing security-related issues and threats.

The collaboration in defense diplomacy takes on a versatile array of manifestations, encompassing the deployment of military attachés who act as liaisons between countries, military assistance, intelligent cooperation, legal and legislative cooperation as well as the negotiation and execution of bilateral and multilateral agreements that underpin mutual defense or security arrangements. Morover, include active participation in international peacekeeping and humanitarian missions aimed at resolving global conflicts and extending humanitarian assistance, the provision of military training and education to foster capacity-building and expertise sharing, engagement in conflict prevention as well as crisis management and conflict resolution to mediate disputes and avert escalation, the provision of disaster relief and humanitarian assistance in response to natural or man-made disasters.  The objectives of defense diplomacy span a broad spectrum. They may encompass endeavors such as promoting regional stability by enhancing security cooperation and peacekeeping efforts, countering shared threats, facilitating arms control agreements to mitigate arms proliferation and regional tensions, and ultimately, fostering trust and cooperation among nations on both regional and global scales. In this context, defense diplomacy assumes a pivotal role within a country's foreign policy toolkit, operating in tandem with traditional diplomatic channels and economic relations to effectively address security-related issues on the international stage.

In the expansive realm of defense diplomacy cooperation, the prevailing security situation in Ukraine serves as a focal point, shedding light on several crucial facets that underscore the significance of collaboration between Western countries and Ukraine in the field of defense diplomacy. These include as main point the transfer of military equipment and armaments, military education and training, the exchange of intelligence information, and legal and legislative collaboration. The United States has the dominant share in the transfer of military equipment, training, and the exchange of intelligence information, but other countries such as the United Kingdom, Poland, Germany, Baltic states, Norway or Denmark also support Ukraine in this respect. Notably, a groundbreaking development in defense diplomacy involves financial reimbursement for equipment and armaments provided by EU member states to Ukraine. The European Union's decision to financially support countries contributing military hardware to Ukraine carries profound implications. By supplying equipment, EU member states not only strengthen Ukraine's armed forces but also address the issue of outdated military gear within their own militaries. This, in turn, paves the way for a generational upgrade in military armaments.

We can't definitively assert that cooperation within these realms of defense diplomacy, between Western nations and Ukraine, can independently guarantee victory in the conflict against Russia. Nevertheless, there is hope that the combined support extended by Western countries to Ukraine, encompassing defense diplomacy alongside political, economic, and social initiatives, will collectively play a pivotal role in bringing an end to this protracted war.

In reflecting upon the challenges encountered in defense diplomacy collaboration during war in Ukraine, valuable lessons emerge. One key insight gleaned from these challenges is the imperative of laying the groundwork for smooth and effective collaboration during peacetime. Establishing robust collaborative frameworks and cultivating relationships in periods of peace serves as a critical foundation for navigating the complexities of cooperation during times of crisis or war. The notion of 'starting more booster' during peacetime implies a proactive and deliberate approach to strengthening ties, fostering mutual understanding, and developing shared strategies. This preparatory phase not only enhances the efficiency of collaboration but also establishes a resilient framework capable of withstanding the strains imposed by the exigencies of wartime conditions. In essence, the lessons drawn from wartime challenges underscore the strategic importance of cultivating a continuous and proactive approach to defense diplomacy, ensuring that collaboration is not only a response to crises but an ongoing and evolving process that anticipates and addresses challenges before they escalate.


Agreement between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on cooperation in use of the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait (2003).

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Agreement between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on the Ukrainian-Russian state border (2003).

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[1] Corresponding author.

[2] For more information on type of military aid transfered to Ukraine in period 2022-2023 see “Arms Transfers to Ukraine,” Forum on the Arms Trade,,as%20training%20for%20Ukrainian%20soldiers (Accessed: 17.10.2023). 

[3] See more Kiel Institute for the World Economy, Ukraine Support Tracker, (Accessed: 23.10.2023).

[4] Chad Menegay, Aimee Valles, “US, NATO, Ukraine enhance interoperability with Rapid Trident exercise,” US Army, 21 September 2021, 3.10.2023); Juliusz Sabak,”6 tys. żołnierzy z 15 krajów. Na Ukrainie rusza Rapid Trident – 2021.” Defence 24, (Accessed: 3.10.2023).

[5] “U.S. Sixth Fleet announces Sea Breeze 2021 participation,” America’s Navy, /(Accessed: 3.10.2023); Międzynarodowe ćwiczenie pk. "Sea Breeze 2021" na Ukrainie, (Accessed: 3.10.2023).

[6] Daria Derevianchuk, "New international military exercises launch in Ukraine,"  Kyiv Post, 12 July 2021, (Accessed: 5.10.2023).

[7] “RAF personnel arrive in Ukraine to conduct training for Ukrainian military,” Royal Air Force,,training%20to%20the%20Ukrainian%20military (Accessed:5.10.2023).

[8] “UrInform: Ukraine, Romania to hold Riverine 2021 joint exercise,” Kyiv Post, 1 May 2021, (Accessed: 20.02.2023)

[9] Gleb Garanich, “Ukraine holds military drills with US, Poland, Lithuania,” Reuters, 27 July 2021, (Accessed: 20.02.2023).

[10] For more information regarding the progress made by Ukrainian forces on the battlefield, see “Ukraine Conflict Updates,” Institute for the Study of War, 15 August 2022, (Accessed: 10.10.2023).

[11] For detailed information see Julian Borger, “US intelligence told to keep quiet over role in Ukraine military triumphs,” The Guardian, 7 May 2022,; Ken Dilanian, Courtney Kube, Carol E. Lee and Dan De Luce, “U.S. intel helped Ukraine protect air defenses, shoot down Russian plane carrying hundreds of troops,” NBC News, 26 April  2022, (Accessed: 15.10.2023); Julian E. Barnes, "Helene Cooper, Ukrainian Officials Drew on U.S. Intelligence to Plan Counteroffensive," New York Times, 10 September 2022, (Accessed: 15.10.2023);  Koichiro Takagi, The War in Ukraine and the Intelligence Revolution, Hudson Institute, 7 March 2023, (Accessed: 16.10.2023 ); Olivia Gazis, “British spy chief predicts Russian forces will soon ‘run out of steam’ in Ukraine,” CBS News, 21 July 2022,; ‘UK intelligence reports on desertions in Russian army and soldiers refusing to take part in hostilities’,  Ukrainska Pravda, 30 August 2023, HTTPS://WWW.PRAVDA.COM.UA/ENG/NEWS/2023/08/30/7417658/ (Accessed: 20.10.2023);  
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and The Rt Hon James Cleverly MP, Press release: Intelligence shows Russia may target Black Sea civilian shipping, 4 October 2023, 20.10.2023).

[12] Violations of the international law, bilateral and multilateral agreements committed by Russia concern following: UN Charter 1945; Helsinki Final Act 1975; Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the UN Charter 1970; UN GA Resolution 3314 “Definition of Aggression” 1974; Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention in the Domestic Affairs of States and the Protection of Their Independence and Sovereignty 1965; Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Internal Affairs of States 1981; Declaration on the Enhancement of the Effectiveness of the Principle of Refraining from the Threat or Use of Force in International Relations 1987; Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances related to the Ukraine’s accession to the Non-Proliferation Treaty 1994; Agreement on Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership between Ukraine and the Russian Federation 1997; Agreement between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on the Ukrainian-Russian state border 2003; Agreement between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on cooperation in use of the Azov Sea and Kerch Strait 2003; Agreement between Ukraine and the Russian Federation on the status and conditions of Russian Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine 1999.

[13] For more information see Greg Norman, “Bucha massacre: Global outcry against Russia escalates as horrifying stories emerge of Ukraine atrocities,” Fox News, 4 April 2022, (Accessed: 14.07.2023); Amnesty International, “Ukraine: Mass graves in Izium is a macabre reminder of the cost of Russian aggression,” (Accessed: 14.07.2023); “36 graves discovered in Kherson,” (Accessed:14.07.2023); Hilary Andersson, ‘The agony of not knowing, as Mariupol mass burial sites grow’, BBC News, 7 November 2022,,strategic%20target%20for%20the%20Russians (Accessed:14.07.2023)

[14] European Commission, Ukraine: International Centre for the prosecution of Russia's crime of aggression against Ukraine starts operations today, (Accessed: 22.10.2023).

[15] For more information see Dan De Luce and Abigail Williams, “Pentagon is blocking U.S. cooperation with international investigations of war crimes in Ukraine,” NBC News, 1 June 2023, (Accessed: 22.10.2023).

About the Author(s)

Lech Drab is a doctor and lecturer at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Jan Dlugosz University in Czestochowa, Poland with practical international experience in security and defence. He graduated from the NATO Defense College in Rome (Italy), the Geneva Center for Security Policy, and the Wrocław University of Technology. He completed a number of specialist courses in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany. He is a former Associate Professor of the National Security Department at the War Studies University in Warsaw and Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce. He served as Director of the Department of Military Foreign Affairs of the Ministry of National Defense, military advisor to the Permanent Representative of Poland to the European Union (EU) and the Polish Military Representative to the NATO Military Committee in Brussels (Belgium). As a member of the Athena training team, he lectured in Brussels, Helsinki, Potsdam, Florence and Montpellier. He chaired the Athena Special Committee during the Polish Presidency of the Council of the EU. He specializes in defense diplomacy, international security, NATO and EU security policy and peace operations. His recent publications include: “Defense diplomacy – an important tool for the implementation of foreign policy and security of the state,” Security and Defence Quarterly, Warszawa 2018; “Polish – People’s Republic of China defence relations – way of improvement,” Security and Defence Quarterly, Warszawa 2021; “Defence diplomacy of selected states – searching for a universal model of defence diplomacy,” Polish Political Science Yearbook, Toruń 2022. ORCID:


Dr. Marzena Żakowska is an assistant professor and lecturer at the Faculty of National Security at War Studies University, Warsaw, Poland. She holds a PhD. in Security Science from the National Defence University, Warsaw, Poland. Currently, she is the Director of Global Affairs and Diplomacy Studies and Chair of the War Studies Working Group at the International Society of Military Sciences. As editor and author, she has published books and articles on armed conflicts, hybrid threats, hybrid warfare, Balkan’s security, and social security issues.