Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma introduced Defense Minister Alexander Kuzmuk to officers in late September. Why did he replace the defense minister? It’s obvious that he was guided by political reasons and the fact that Kuzkuk’s predecessor supported pro-Western views. Kirill Frolov, a department chief at the Ukrainian Institute of the CIS, stated that “Marchuk worked for Yushchenko. He supported the anti-Russian project. Yanukovich cannot succeed in the election without removing such obstacle as Marchuk.”
In the meantime, the political struggle overshadowed military reforms carried out by Yevgeny Marchuk. What has he managed to do?
Firstly, he has compiled a plan of long-term reforming of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (so-called White Book, which was submitted to NATO). The main peculiarity of this plan is that it describes all phases of the reform of the Ukrainian Army in detail. The number of servicemen will decrease and mobility will go up.
According to the White Book, the reform will consist of two phases: the first phase until 2009, and the second – until 2015. Cuts to the Army’s strength and optimization of its structure are the main tasks of the first phase of the reform. Rearmament and modernization of weapons are the focus of the second phase of the reform. The Ukrainian Army must consist of 100,000 people in 2015 at most. The Army will consist of the Joint rapid response force, the Basic defense force and the Support force.
Secondly, Marchuk demanded that the government increase defend spending. It is intended that the intensity of combat training will be equal to this indication in developed countries in 2015. Detailed elaboration of all expenses is the main peculiarity of the bulletin. In particular, Ukraine’s defense budget must amount to 17.186 billion grivnas in 2015 (at present 5.658 billion grivnas).
Thirdly, Marchuk initiated a separation of functions of the Army (air-ground-sea). According to Marchuk’s plans, the prospective structure of the Armed Forces will include the General Staff, the Ground Force, the Air Force and the Navy. The General Staff will consist of staffs of all branches of the army. The General Staff will play the role of a joint command.
Fourthly, Marchuk proposed a system of civil oversight over the army. According to him, the Defense Ministry is a civil structure, which controls troops. He proposed substantial changes in the personnel policy. In particular, the share of officers will amount to 20% of the total number of servicemen. It is intended to decrease the ratio of senior and junior officers to 40 to 60. Only 100 generals must remain in the Ukrainian Army (at present there are around 300 generals). There are plans to use Western standards of training of sergeants.
In other words, Marchuk is a sound military leader. He was the best defense minister over Ukraine’s history. It was very important for Ukraine to have a strict defense minister under the conditions of permanent socio-political and economic crises. Financing is another very important factor. Marchuk did not manage to convince the government to allocate money for the development of the Army. He failed to be a neutral person from the political point of view. Marchuk’s pro-Western ideas and plans to integrate Ukraine into Europe were his mistake. Marchuk did not change his mind even after Kuchma made amendments to the military doctrine and declared Ukraine’s refusal to join NATO.
Moscow needs a loyal person in the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. Kuzmuk is the best candidate from this point of view. He is a good officer. The question is if he will control the Defense Ministry for a long time. The impending presidential election in Ukraine promises many surprises, which may affect the state and development of the Ukrainian Army. At present Kuzmuk seeks to activate the military reform and military-technical rearmament, solve humanitarian tasks and support peacekeeping mission abroad. Kuzmuk will try to prevent disasters, air crashes, explosions in ammunition depots and more (this ruined his career three years ago). Kuzmuk supports plans to withdraw Ukrainian troops from Iraq (this coincides with Yanukovich’s pro-Russian statements). Unfortunately, Ukraine may forget about the necessity of strengthening of its army against the background of the presidential campaign.