Ukraine War Helping Colombian Veterans Change Their Fortunes
Hundreds of Colombian veterans have volunteered to fight for Ukraine for a rare opportunity to make at least three times what they can earn at home.
Colombian soldiers said they were paid about $3,000 a month in Ukrainian currency, roughly in line with the salaries of local soldiers.
Nonetheless, “those who want to come here, think about it first,” one Colombian volunteer said in an audio message sent to a veteran chat group. “Colombia is child’s play compared to here.”
Colombia A Fertile Ground For Recruiting
A security alliance with the US has made Colombia’s soldiers some of the best trained and equipped in Latin America, and prolonged combat have given them substantial experience.
Rumours of fighting opportunities in Ukraine began spreading last year. Colombian men now travel on their own to Poland, often selling prized possessions.
At the Ukrainian border, they reveal their intentions before border guards. Once inside the country, they are put on a waiting list after an interview and a perfunctory medical exam.
Why Is Ukraine War A Rare Opportunity
In Colombia, retired professional soldiers receive a lifelong monthly pension of $400 to $600, as well as free health care for their families. Still, those benefits are often not enough.
Some veterans end of joining organised crime groups. Those who remain working in the legal economy tend to become bodyguards, a job that pays up to about $1,000 a month.
It’s still rarely enough and the competition for jobs is also growing. Many covet lucrative security contracts in the Middle East, though those positions are usually open only to men under 40.
Shifting Nature Of Ukraine War
The stories of Colombian volunteers highlight the shifting nature of the war, which has transformed from a fast-moving struggle for national survival into a war of attrition.
Heavy losses and stalemated battles are compelling both sides to look for new pools of fighters to replenish their ranks. Still, foreign fighters make up a tiny fraction of Ukraine’s military.
Russia has had to put greater emphasis on financial benefits including death insurance. It has also exploited global economic upheaval to register fighters driven by financial need.