Creating new Ukrainian Army
After Ukraine celebrated its first Defender Day on October 14, UNIAN has gathered opinions of military experts on the changes the Ukrainian Army had seen since the start of the Russian aggression, what transformations were useful for the military structure, and what flaws still need to be fixed.
Over the past one and a half years not only have Ukraine’s Armed Forces changed fundamentally, but also the country’s entire security and defense sectors, experts say. However, they believe that, unfortunately, not all the problems were solved, to give birth to a brand new army.
Ex-deputy chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Ihor Romanenko, says that one of the major problems yet to be solved is military funding. "If the government’s priority is to fight for the interests of the people and the state in the war, how come financing the Armed Forces is not a top priority? I welcome the creation of a brand new patrol police, but if they earn UAH 8,000, while the mobilized soldiers and contractors on the contact line [in Donbas] get somewhere between UAH 5,000-6,000 thousand, and in ATO – just UAH 2,500-3,000. In my opinion, this approach is wrong,” he said.
The expert also considers unresolved an issue of equipment and arms supplies, as there is only 15% of weapons available that can be considered modern. The problem of clothing, food, medical support of the Armed Forces should also be addressed. "There is a process of growth, but it’s very slow. Unfortunately, we are only at the beginning of our path," says Romanenko.
According to co-director of programs on foreign policy and international security at Razumkov Center, Oleksiy Melnyk, this is because "only 50% of what must be done is actually being done." The rhetoric of the State has little to do with real actions. "There are loud and rightful statements about the army, army values, and people in uniform. But we can’t ignore the amount of negative information, ranging from the provision of the Armed Forces, which has still not been set on track, to social protection of servicemen. It is too early to talk about a fundamental change in the attitude of the authorities toward the people in uniform," the expert believes.
At the same time, Oleksiy Melnyk noted significant changes in popular attitude toward the army. In particular, one of the factors of positive changes the expert calls attraction of volunteers who promote the idea of modern public procurement systems in the Defense Ministry. At the same time, the expert notes that "it should be clearly understood that this relatively small number of volunteers is unlikely to radically and rapidly change the situation, because the system has been cemented over the years, and it continues to sabotage or delay reforms"
However, the so-called Volunteer Troopers involved in the work of the Defense Ministry do not fall in despair. According to Olena Verbytska, chief of one of the charity funds, who recently joined other activists in the Defense Ministry, a year and a half ago "the state in general was not ready for what was happening, and for almost a year everything rested on the shoulders of volunteers, the army stood strong and was victorious."
"Thanks to the volunteers, the state won some time, and, fortunately, did not sit idly by. The uniform is being produced today, as well as the combat boots; the medicines are being purchased," said Verbytska.
But despite the fact that there is plenty of produce in warehouses, the system is still failing to ensure that everything required by the military is supplied properly. "That is, before, if there was something missing, the Volunteer Troopers tried to solve everything in manual mode: personally contacted military bases and drafted requests for necessary products ... Now we are trying to convey information to everyone that the military actually can solve almost every provision-related problem all by themselves. Over the past year and a half the military have grown accustomed to writing requests to or calling the volunteers to find what they needed, because according to popular belief, there is no reason to ask anything from the State, as presumably there was nothing in storages. But now everything the military need is in stock. Therefore, are trying to make sure the military know how to properly write requests to their logistics service, and that their requests are met in full," she said.
According to her, all problems must be addressed systematically. "If the problem moves from one sector to another, from one base to another and remains unresolved, one can trace where exactly the error occurs – whether it’s personnel, or the provision scheme, or document circulation," said Olena Verbytska.
Verbytska also notes that there are some legislative problems: "Some standards are inappropriate, some - not very efficacious." In this regard, the volunteers intend to review the legislative acts and share their vision - what mechanisms need to be applied, and in what places, to ensure that the legislation works.
Attempts to reform
In any case, experts agree that it’s premature to brand as reforms those processes that we are witnessing in the Armed Forces and the security sector, as a whole. "There are some attempts to start the reform, but there is no clear vision of how it should be done," said OLeksiy Melnyk.
According to him, rather questionable is the decision of the Commander-in-Chief to have a 250,000-strong Army, with 50% contractors (including the officers). The more soldiers, the more the defense expenditures, the expert believes. "Opportunities for funding defense are limited, and this is the task of a reformer – to determine the balance, to use these funds as effectively as possible," he says. "Maybe, there’s no need in increasing the number of soldiers, but to focus on the creation of a highly professional backbone of the Army, which would carry out basic functions. The other part could be allocated for the creation of a mobilization reserve, in case of a threat of large-scale aggression. But disbursing the funds in all directions at once is not the best option."
In turn, Lieutenant General Ihor Romanenko said: "In my opinion, it is necessary to stick to the conscription, and if the situation is stabilized, it is necessary to reduce the term of a military service to one year, but to introduce total conscription of all the young people, to bind the ideological and strategic approach to the defense, like Israel, which is located in a hostile environment. We are, too, actually. Russia is not going anywhere. So there must be no fear and no doubt during draft, but the main focus needs to be on the creation of a professional army," says Romanenko.
In turn, the director of military programs at Razumkov Center Mykola Sungurovsky notes that the increase in the number of troops to 250,000 was right at the time of decision making: "By the beginning of this conflict, not only the military, but also to the security sector had been destroyed. In order to deter this aggression, using unconventional methods, we must have a network structure."
However, according to him, the Armed Forces should have fewer troops. The army must be professional, but with strong reserves, and with significant support from a non-state sector, which should keep up the territorial defense.
Actually, to secure a reform-oriented policy in Ukraine, the new National Security Strategy and Military Doctrine have been adopted. But experts are critical of the quality of the two strategic documents.
In particular, according to Mykola Sungurovsky the new Military Doctrine "did not give an answer to the question of what our defensive capabilities should be, as without such information, there can be no basis for further planning."
His colleague Oleksiy Melnyk noted that numerous provisions of both documents "contradict with each other." "As far as the positive aspects, the content of these documents are more relevant to the real situation. First of all, Russia is determined as a military adversary of Ukraine. In addition, Ukraine’s vector of Euro-Atlantic integration is stipulated. But even considering all the above-mentioned, the new Military Doctrine can hardly be regarded as a document that answers the question of how we are going to build our defenses," he says.
In this regard, there is high probability that the Military Doctrine will soon be revised, the expert believes. A Concept of Development of the security and defense sectors is being drafted now and will probably clarify the situation in defense area.
In turn, Stanislav Gurak, deputy head of the Center of military and security policy recalled that earlier neither the documents of this kind, nor the program of reform of the Armed Forces have ever been implemented earlier, and just remained in the form of declarations on paper. "So it’s necessary that all the recently adopted documents actually be implemented, the financing of the army be ensured and properly allocated not only for the period of the war, but also in the future. It’s vital that these documents actually work, not remaining some nice words on paper," he said.
In any case, all experts agree that, despite a number of mishaps, the new Ukrainian Army is being gradually created. And even if there are few challenges related to another round of the Russian aggression in the near future, it is necessary to strengthen the Army’s potential.