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UK Special Forces in Ukraine: a matter of transparency and parliamentary oversight

US Pentagon leaks revealing the covert presence of at least 50 UK special forces in Ukraine have sparked public debate about the necessity of parliamentary oversight and transparency in the deployment of military personnel. This debate is fuelled, in part, by concerns about what would happen if the UK went to war with Russia.

While recent YouGov surveys suggest that Britons generally support non-combat assistance to Ukraine, they are less enthused about engaging in direct combat with Russian forces.

Leaked confidential US military documents exposed the undisclosed operations of UK special forces in Ukraine, raising questions about their activities and the lack of transparency behind the decision to deploy them.

YouGov’s latest survey found that 52% of Britons would support special forces operating in a non-combat capacity, while only 27% would be opposed. However, direct combat with Russian forces garners much less support, with just 32% in favour and 45% against.

These figures are only slightly higher than those in favor of sending regular troops into Ukraine (27%) and are comparable to those supporting airstrikes against Russian targets in Ukraine (34%). Despite this, strong public support remains for other forms of assistance to Ukraine or opposition to Russia.

With 77% of Britons supporting the maintenance of current sanctions against Russia, and 73% backing further economic sanctions against Russian interests in the UK, public sentiment clearly leans towards non-military intervention. Moreover, 68% support sending additional weaponry and supplies to Ukraine, as the nation’s ammunition supplies dwindle.

59% of Britons back sending more troops to support NATO members in Eastern Europe.

From AOAV’s perspective, the lack of parliamentary oversight and transparency in the deployment of UK special forces in Ukraine raises significant concerns. Decisions of such magnitude, with potential consequences for the UK and its international relations, ought to be subject to proper scrutiny and debate. While public opinion is varied, the demand for accountability and transparency in military operations is a necessary component of a healthy democracy.

Dr. Iain Overton, Executive Director of Action on Armed Violence, expressed his concerns regarding the situation, stating, “The undisclosed deployment of UK special forces in Ukraine highlights a concerning lack of transparency and parliamentary oversight. In a democratic society, it is crucial that decisions with potentially far-reaching consequences be subject to rigorous scrutiny and public debate. Failing to do so not only undermines democratic principles but also risks jeopardising the trust citizens place in their government and military institutions. Stating that we have active troops deployed overseas does not in itself put those troops in danger, but it does so for accountability and transparency.”