Contract army passion

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While the parliament which has to form the government on the coalition basis is trying to start working in Kiev, Yulia Timoshenko, the main candidate for the post of the prime minister and the leader of BYT bloc, demands the passing of a bill on the abolishment of drafting to the Ukrainian army from 2008. Timoshenko is currently defending this slogan in a coalition agreement with Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defense bloc. Timoshenko proposes stopping of drafting of conscripts and recruitment of 36,000-40,000 contract servicemen.

Both President Victor Yushchenko and Defense Minister Anatoly Gritsenko are against the implementation of the contract system from January 1 of 2008. Yushchenko explains, “We will not transit to the contract army in two months.” According to him, only by 2010 will the Ukrainian armed forces be able to transit to contract manning fully. In September, Yushchenko announced, “2010 is the first year when we do not have a comprehensive draft; this will be a contract army.”

Deputy Prime Minister and former Defense Minister, Alexander Kuzmuk, believes that Ukraine can really transit to a contract army only in 2012. Kuzmuk says, “It is realistic to transit to a contract army in 2012 with investment of $30 billion” adding that it is necessary to rearm the army simultaneously. Incidentally, in 2007 the military budget of Ukraine amounted to $2.88 billion or 2.5% of the country’s GDP. These were record figures because in 2006 military expenditures amounted to $1.7 billion.

Meanwhile, chief of the general staff of the armed forces of Ukraine, Sergei Kirichenko, believes that the transition of Ukrainian army to the contract basis depends on the budget to be passed by the new parliament. According to Kirichenko, for army needs it is necessary to allocate 2% of the GDP in 2008 and 3% of the GDP in 2009 and 2010. Kirichenko explains, “Such financing will allow for the implementation of the state program for development of the armed forces and a program of army transition to the contract basis.” The secretariat of the president forecasts nominal GDP on a level of about 860 billion hrivnas ($170 billion) in 2008. This means that if proposals of the general staff are supported by the parliament, it will be necessary to spend not less than $3.4 billion on military needs in 2008.

In any case, it is obvious that such amounts will hardly solve the problems of transfering the troops to a professional basis. Although the Ukrainian army is being reduced, it has a significant strength. Thus, recently the Ukrainian government approved the bill “On the strength of the armed forces of Ukraine for 2008.” The bill proposes reduction of strength of the armed forces from 200,000 to 183,000 people including 143,000 servicemen until December 30 of 2008.

According to the government, passing of the bill by the parliament will allow optimization of combat composition and strength of the armed forces, provision of state social guarantees for the servicemen fired because of reforming of the armed forces. Implementation of the bill requires 1.139 billion hrivnas (approximately $270 million). Thus, being reduced only by 17,000 servicemen the armed forces of Ukraine require 10% of the entire military budget. As we see, this is very expensive. Along with this, transition to a professional army is even more expensive. Salaries alone for 40,000 contract servicemen, as BYT demands, will receive no less than $0.5 billion a year. This means that almost 20% of the budget will be spent only on salaries. The proportion of salaries for officers and warrant officers is the same. What about expenses on food, housing, armament and military hardware supply to the army, research and development programs, etc? All these items are very expensive, too.

As we see, given the current GDP of Ukraine of $170 billion and defense expenditures of 2% of the GDP, the country evidently does not have enough money for a professional army. For example, the military budget of the Russian armed forces amounts to $30.9 billion. The Russian army has 1.2 million servicemen. This means that in 2007, the army spends $25,800 per one contract serviceman. Ukrainian army budget expenditures per one serviceman amount to $20.39. However, only a limited quantity of contract servicemen is introduced in Russia and remaining army consists of conscript soldiers. Thus, we see that the military budget of Ukraine is less efficient. Along with this, Russia does not set an official task of the creation of a fully contract army. Even with such a ratio of expenditures, the military budget of Russia is considered to be insufficient. It amounts to 2.63% of the GDP. What can we say about Ukraine then?

(Information: in September of 2006, the Ukrainian parliament decided to reduce the strength of the armed forces from 221,000 to 200,000 people. The state program for development of the armed forces for the period between 2006 and 2011 implies the reduction of the armed forces to 143,000 people by 2011).

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