Independence Day Parade: symbolism and practicality

14:50, 23 August 2017
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Opinion

Participation of foreign delegations in the celebration of Ukraine’s Independence Day means psychological support for the country, and this is very symbolic, indeed. It is important that such occasions can lead to actual assistance to the country in the future. In particular, we can tentatively expect some progress with the U.S. military aid to Ukraine. If Ukraine gets such military support, including lethal weapons, this will mean the formation of a bloc of Ukraine’s allies.

Of course, there are foreign policy factors functioning without Ukraine's participation. For example, there’s awareness in the West of the threat posed by Putin's Russia, which leads to the fact that the Western international community is increasing its leadership positions. And this, in turn, goes in line with the need to support Ukraine.

The West is constantly looking at Ukraine, wondering whether it can be considered an asset to the Western world and an important element of international security rather than a burden.

I can’t say that the West is definitely ready to say that Ukraine is indeed an asset, but there are many indications and signals hinting at the fact that there are now more positive attitudes than negative ones. This means that Kyiv can count on the possibility of further strengthening of our defenses, including at the expense of Ukraine’s Western partners.

Today, Ukraine can’t afford having a Soviet-type 250,000-strong army, a large enough National Guard, and other state military formations, and at the same time spend more than 80% of its defense budget on "maintenance"

On the other hand, Ukrainians shouldn’t get overwhelmed with parades and national holidays. They should note the number and types of newest military hardware and weapons that will be showcased at this year’s parade. In this regard, the situation is not too promising as over three and a half years of the raging war, nothing has been done to obtain strategic weapons. I am talking about air defense systems, combat aircraft, and powerful unmanned aerial vehicles, perhaps also strike drones. This situation is really alarming.

Ukraine’s rearmament is limited to tactical steps (increasing the mobility of ground forces, introducing new communication systems, etc.). However, there are positive things as obtaining high-precision weapons. But in general, the process is only at its initial phase.

If Ukraine keeps dragging on this path, in the next 50 years it will not become an effective instrument to deter Russia's foreign aggression. It is necessary that Kyiv understands this and changes its approach.

Today, Ukraine can’t afford having a Soviet-type 250,000-strong army, a large enough National Guard, and other state military formations, and at the same time spend more than 80% of its defense budget on "maintenance" without moving to an active rearmament of troops.

So, such parades should become a symbol of a new understanding that Ukraine needs a new type of army. That is, at first the professional core of the army should appear, with an appropriate attitude toward this core.

Today, Russia has substantially transformed its strategy and translated it into the political and social plane on the territory of Ukraine as a whole. That is, Russia implements it beyond the occupied Donbas and Crimea.

We are now witnessing such a negative trend as weaker patriotism, and this is due precisely to the erroneous development of the Ukrainian army. I stand for being proud of our army, making sure that the troops are professional and rearmed, that the army is smaller in number, while the issues of military draft are resolved through the territorial defense instruments.

However, returning to the events scheduled for August 24, it should also be mentioned that Pentagon chief James Mattis on this day scheduled meetings with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak. Support from Pentagon is definitely very much needed in Ukraine, being a significant factor that should become a symbolic signal to the Kremlin that Ukraine may move under the umbrella of U.S. protection. Indeed, it may. But there’s still a long path to walk in this direction.

Also important is the fact that Ukraine will be visited by U.S. special representative Kurt Volker, who ahead of the visit met with the Russian “supervisor” of the armed attack on Ukraine, Putin’s aide Vladislav Surkov. This is important because it means that the United States willingly consults with the Ukrainian side and does not pursue any talks behind Kyiv’s back. This is a significant encouraging factor for all observers in the process.

Russia always reacts negatively to any formats of support for Ukraine and to Washington’s refusal to conduct a dialogue with Moscow in a mode, which the Kremlin was counting on. Therefore, I do not rule out that there may be provocations on Independence Day, including the escalation of tensions and more shellings in eastern Ukraine.

It should also be borne in mind that today, Russia has substantially transformed its strategy and translated it into the political and social plane on the territory of Ukraine as a whole. That is, Russia implements it beyond the occupied Donbas and Crimea (the strategy has already been worked out there, aiming at making the regions pro-Russian and ensuring that they are subject to informational and psychological “treatment” by the Russian propaganda machine). As regards other regions of Ukraine, there is a threat of various terrorist acts and provocations with political and financial support of certain groups of Ukrainians who can either be used without their knowledge, as the Kremlin often does, or deliberately assist the aggressor for a certain pay, presenting their efforts as an “alternative vision” of Ukraine's development.

These things require improvement of the legal framework, especially with regard to politicians who voice pro-Russian slogans. And, of course, this requires strengthening of counter-intelligence efforts, to ensure that the strategy has been worked out clearly for responding to certain anti-Ukrainian manifestations.

Valentyn Badrak is a military expert and writer, chief of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament

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