OpinionWhat to expect from Ukraine’s new foreign intel chief
The recent news about the appointment of a professional diplomat, former acting head of Ukraine’s Mission to NATO Yehor Bozhok chief of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine has caught me by surprise.
I believe that all those who know him personally had the same reaction. Just a couple of days ago I heard that Bozhok was allegedly expected to be appointed head of the department for European and Euro-Atlantic integration at the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Come to think about it, I was surprised at how elegant and wise the latest decision was. That’s because there can be only one conclusion – the country’s leadership now believes that the time has come for the SZR, Ukraine’s Foreign Intelligence Service, to change.
The SZR is one of the most low-profile agencies in Ukraine. Established in 2004, it remains under direct control of the Ukrainian president. Its headquarters hosts some 4,000 personnel engaged in intelligence activities in the political, economic, military-technical, scientific, technical, information, and environmental spheres. And we must understand that the operations of intelligence agencies cannot be subject to in-depth media coverage.
Russian intel trying to recruit military of Russian origin in neighboring states, including NATO Allies - mediaIn 2005, in one of the publications covering the SZR, there came a claim that the intel reports on threats to national security were deliberately watered down, only to escape the then-president’s wrath. This will certainly not be the case with Yehor Bozhok. Besides, Petro Poroshenko is a good listener.
Not all SZR operatives will find it easy to be working with their new chief. The smart ones, who are ready for new challenges, will see a true leader in him, capable of leading the team to a designated goal and achieve concrete results. He’s a well-articulated and structured man, a real clear thinker, who does not lose focus and waste time on mediocre issues, being able to set tasks clearly. None of the mission's staff, where he, until recently, was an acting chief, can actually complain about high ‘excessive demands’ or too hard of a work as their chief “plowed” his field harder than a horse. In addition, he created a real team, seeing each one’s potential and using it all to achieve a common goal. With Bozhok at the helm, a blacksmith wouldn’t bake pies, so to speak.Therefore, the composition of Ukraine's mission to NATO while he was in office can be considered one of the most effective teams.
"Under-the-carpet games" is also not about the man. He is the leader of the European type, the one who demands results but does not set unrealistic tasks. If something does not work out that well – he sits down with you and joins in on the task alongside.
Former NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow spoke of Yehor Bozhok as a "hard-working guy". This is the kind of recommendation is anything but easy to get. The NATO officials who communicated with Bozhok would approach him by "Mr. Ambassador". The very style of the Ukrainian Mission to NATO’s work enjoyed respect on the ground.
And it’s not just words. Here are the facts: last year at the Warsaw summit, Ukraine was granted the CAP - Comprehensive Assistant Package from NATO. It was initially Bozhok’s idea, and he did his best to make it come to life. A wide range of events, a bulk of ideas - it was him who generated this all. If not for his inner drive and motivation, we would have never seen such results.
He did his best to modernize the Annual National Program of Cooperation with NATO, transforming it from a thick, useless document into a working tool that is easy to understand and implement. Previously, each year it would include over 20 pages of "copy-paste" phrases, but he ensured that the new program be drafted together with NATO experts.
I believe that, given Yehor Bozhok’s recommendations, he was appointed to this position with a specific task - to reform the SZR. And he will succeed: he will study the structure, understand what needs to be changed, and develop (or maybe he already has) a real plan. The key issue will be the team – whether he will be able to shape it and whether he will enjoy support within the agency. With a good team and required support, everything he has in mind will become a success.