A fundamental reform of the Armed Forces has begun in Ukraine against the background of a political crisis connected with rivalry in the parliament and the beginning of a presidential campaign. Military construction in this country takes in consideration Russian peculiarities on the one hand, and relies on Western standards on the other. No one knows what will come out of it. Anyway, the Army will change.
As is known, disputes over the necessity of reforming the Army began in Ukraine ten years ago. Meanwhile, first radical moves were made only in June 2003 when Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma appointed his supporter Yevgeny Marchuk, former head of the republican special services and secretary of the Security Council, as defense minister. He is the sixth defense minister in the post-Soviet Ukraine. Many observers said that this appointment was linked with Russia’s experience where Vladimir Putin appointed Sergei Ivanov, former FSB agent and secretary of the Security Council, as defense minister. It is evident that this is not a mechanical coincidence. General of the Army Vladimir Shkidchenko, former Ukrainian Defense Minister, criticized Leonid Kuchma and refused to conduct reforms in the Army without proper financing. In addition, Marchuk was the first to state that Ukraine must join NATO. He determined a transition of the Ukrainian Army to Western standards. This means a substantial financial support from NATO.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also needed the Army’s support in early 2001. He had to promote his people to the Defense Ministry. In addition, the conflict between Anatoly Kvashnin, Chief of the General Staff, and Igor Sergeyev, former Defense Minister, reached its apogee, and Putin had to settle the situation. This is why Sergei Ivanov was appointed as defense minister. Similar traits end here. Marchuk refused to use the Soviet-Russian model of military control and decided to change the functions of the Defense Ministry.
The state commission for the reforming and development of the Ukrainian Armed Forces was held in Kiev in late January 2004. It made important decisions connected with further development of the Ukrainian Army. Cuts to the Army’s strength and creation of new structures will be carried out under the parliament’s and society’s oversight. Unlike Russia where directions of military construction are determined by the president and the government, changes in the Ukrainian military sector will take place on the basis of the legislation.
Yevgeny Marchuk stated that the Ukrainian Army will consist of three branches after the merger of the Air Force and the Anti-Aircraft Force. These are the Ground Force, the Air Force and the Navy. The defense minister noted that cuts to the Army’s strength and optimization of the Army’s structure are not the main goal of the current phase of the reforming. The military reform will be aimed at cutting the superfluous military infrastructure of the country. Russia realized such measures in 1997-1999. The Russian Army left over 1,000 military settlements and garrisons. Ukraine did not hurry to pass over military settlements to local government bodies. There are over 400 military settlements in Ukraine. In addition, Ukraine plans to scrap 500 tanks, 640 infantry fighting vehicles and 110 warplanes until 2005. This requires money.
It should be noted that the Air Force and the Anti-Aircraft Force have been merged and split several times in Ukraine over the post-Soviet history. Ukraine created and then disbanded the National Guard. Many servicemen were dismissed. However, the military infrastructure never changed. In other words, Ukraine’s military budget was used inefficiently.
To all appearances, Ukraine has understood its mistake and decided to change everything, but not at once. Marchuk noted that “to disband a regiment is three times as expensive as to retain it. This is why we will save money on training flights and combat shooting… Unfortunately, this is the only way out.” The minister noted with regret that military medical services receive only 32% of financial resources they need (30% for fuel). There are 47,000 officers’ families without housing. Over 1 million tons of ammunition were concentrated in Ukraine after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Germany, Hungary, Poland and the Czech republic. All this must be scrapped. (The Ukrainian Army needs around 1 million tons of ammunition for 20 years.) This also takes money.
Despite logistic problems, Ukraine intends to solve problem of combat training in an unusual way, by means of taking part in peacekeeping operations. Ukraine is a leader among CIS nations regarding the quantity of servicemen involved in peacekeeping operations in conflict zones (Ukrainian servicemen participate in ten missions under the aegis of the UN and NATO). Ukraine receives around $150 million a year for this labor. Marchuk stated that peacekeeping missions contribute to servicemen’s skills and make them real professionals. Ukraine plans to create a rapid response force on the basis of peacekeeping units in the prospects. Ukrainian generals think that peacekeeping operations help the military retain its experience and earn money.
At present the share of contract servicemen amounts to 32%. This is a bit more than in Russia. Russia plans to increase the share of professional servicemen to 50% by 2007; Ukraine intends to do this by 2010. The Ukrainian Army plans to implement a contract system of recruitment only in 2011-15, if it has enough money.
In other words, military construction in Ukraine has much in common with similar processes in the Russian Army. Ukraine’s economy is weaker, which means that many problems such as logistics are more topical for Kiev. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian leadership hopes to accomplish its plan in order to create a combat-ready army in the republic.