Western fighters in Ukraine are getting killed because they assumed the war would be easy, says a US veteran who fought there

Western fighters in Ukraine are getting killed because they assumed the war would be easy, says a US veteran who fought there
  • A US veteran who fought in Ukraine said many Western fighters assumed it would be easy.

  • He said some "treat it almost like it's a vacation, and they're not really expecting to die."

  • Many foreigners won't accept that their training hasn't prepared them for this war, he said.

Some Western fighters who joined the war in Ukraine have been killed because they assumed the fight would be easy, a US veteran who fought in Ukraine told Business Insider.

The veteran, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said a lot of foreign veterans who came to Ukraine to fight against Russia's invasion had been used to fighting at an advantage and struggled to adapt to the conditions there, where they were often outmanned and outgunned.

"A lot of Westerners that come to Ukraine, they want to be heroes," he said. "I just kept seeing dudes that would go out to Ukraine, and they treat it almost like it's a vacation, and they're not really expecting to die."

He said he had the same mentality when he first started fighting there. But as the war progressed, he came to understand how risky it was. "I was expecting to die because that's just the type of mentality that I fucking had, and I was OK with it," he said.

The veteran joined the fight when Russia's full-scale invasion began in February 2022 and left Ukraine last December. He fought in some of the deadliest areas, including Kharkiv and Bakhmut, and served as a combat medic for his unit, helping injured comrades.

He said he previously fought in Iraq as a contractor after he left the US military. "The tempo is a lot higher in Ukraine," he said.

A different type of war

He explained that it was harder to find places to stay safe in Ukraine, where more drones are being used than in any conflict in history, and artillery and long-range weapons are common.

He said that even miles behind the front lines, "you can still get hit by a fucking rocket out there." If you're on a base in the Middle East, you're "relatively safe."

Other US veterans in Ukraine have said the same thing, describing the combat in Ukraine as more intense.

Another soldier, who uses the call sign Jackie, fought in Afghanistan and Iraq and previously told BI that the fighting in the eastern city of Bakhmut offered no place to stop and rest, unlike previous conflicts he'd been part of.

An aerial view of Bakhmut, Ukraine, shows damaged buildings
An aerial view of Bakhmut, Ukraine.AP Photo/Libkos

Both men also compared the war in Ukraine to World War I, where trenches and unrelenting artillery fire defined the fighting.

The veteran said that Western fighters in Ukraine need to adapt to those conditions if they hope to survive.

"You have to be willing to relearn everything that you've been taught, which is, I think, one of the reasons why some of the Ukrainian soldiers are doing so well out there, because they don't have any base where they've been taught," he said.

"Meanwhile, a lot of the Westerners, they already have a set idea about how things should be and everything, and it's just not that way out in Ukraine."

He said foreign fighters need "a willingness to learn and a willingness to give up everything."

Some members of the military and experts have said that the NATO-style training given to Ukrainian soldiers has not served them well in this war. Western militaries training Ukrainians have adapted their practices as they learn from the soldiers who have real-world experience against Russia's military.

A Ukrainian serviceman walks in a trench at a position
A Ukrainian serviceman in a trench near the front line in Bakhmut.REUTERS/Yevhenii Zavhorodnii

Foreign fighters coming to Ukraine

Many of the foreign fighters in Ukraine had previous combat experience with the US military, though some had no experience. Others have said they had military experience but were lying, he said.

It's unclear how many foreign fighters signed up for the war in Ukraine or have been killed there. Ukraine founded its International Legion in 2022, which allowed fighters from other countries to join the war effort, though not all foreign soldiers are part of the legion.

Some units in Ukraine are made up entirely of foreign veterans, and many of them have said they were inspired to fight global injustice and defend democracy in Ukraine.

But other fighters have said that some foreigners joined the war looking for adventure or trying to escape problems at home.

No matter the reason, many foreign fighters have been killed, as Business Insider's Cameron Manley previously reported, with some international survivors saying they were used as a "sacrificial unit."

Read the original article on Business Insider