Παρασκευή, 14 Μαρτίου 2014

Ukraine's Greatest Challenge Lies within its Borders

Marcus A. Templar (June 10, 2010)

Considering its dire economic situation, deterioration of military equipment, corruption, substandard training, and lack of political will, Ukraine's hopes to join NATO and eventually the EU wither away. As the largest (603,700 km2) and most populous (45,700,000) country of the former USSR after Russia and as a result of its geographic location between Russia and the West, Ukraine is an important player in the stability of the region and indeed of Europe.

The major ethnic populations of Ukraine include 77.8% Ukrainian, 17.3% Russian, 0.6% Belarusian, 0.5% Moldovan, and 0.5% Crimean Tatar. Ukrainian religious groups comprise the following: Ukrainian Orthodox - Kyiv Patriarchate 50.4%, Ukrainian Orthodox - Moscow Patriarchate 26.1 %, Ukrainian Greek Catholic 8%, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox 7.2%, Roman Catholic 2.2%, Protestant 2.2%, Jewish 0.6%, other 3.2% (2006 est.) and speak Ukrainian (official) 67%, Russian 24%, other 9% (includes small Romanian-, Polish-, and Hungarian-speaking minorities).

Although the Presidential Decree as appears in the White Paper 2008 states that "[i]n 2008, the structures of educational and socio-psychological were renewed in order to improve' mentoring of personnel, and introducing military national and historic traditions,” in contrast to the White Paper of 2007 which "continues the tradition of previous editions,” the "breakthrough document" providing clear objectives and political guidance for defense reform was the White Paper 2004. Ukraine was one of the three republics of the USSR to promote the dismantling of the multi- national communist state and the formation of the CIS on new democratic basis. The once forceful and proud Ukrainian military has slowed down its original momentum for modernization and its ability to defend the country is questionable due to financial hardship.

2007 Elections

The ethnic, linguistic, and religious make up of the country plays a very important role regarding how Ukrainian citizens view NATO and EU membership versus an alliance with Russia. The map above illustrates the political situation in Ukraine and the power of the constituency. In 2007 Parliamentary elections three political parties won seats in the Parliament in a regional pattern. The Party of Regions (blue in the map above) representing approximately the areas that Russia seceded to Ukraine in 1963 overwhelmed the other two parties. Although Prime Minister Tymoshenko's Bloc in the northwestern portion of the country won the majority of popular votes, it did not fare as well in securing parliamentary seats, while the Zakarpathian regional party of Ruthenia remained a local party subjugating the other two in Ruthenia. This politically demographic map could be taken as the gauge demonstrating the feelings of Ukrainian voters toward Russia.

2010 Elections
On February 7, 2010, Ukrainians elected the former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych as their new President. His victory over the incumbent Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko changed Ukraine’s direction from the West to the East. The election results proved that the country is split in two. Central and West Ukraine voted for the pro-western candidate Tymoshenko and the East and the Crimean Peninsula for the pro-Russian Yanukovych. The result in essence did not change the electoral preference at all, except for the Zakarpat’ska Oblast (Carpathian region) which at the first round voted for the new President, but it changed its vote on the second round. 

The Condition in the Ukrainian Military

The strategic goal of Ukraine's current regime is NATO membership, which requires the achievement of political and military preconditions, which are:

* A functioning democratic political system,
* Democratic civil-military relations,
* Treatment of minority populations in accordance with democratic governance.
* A functioning market economy, and
* The ability to make a military contribution to the alliance.
In addition, each country's strategic position is assessed according to four criteria:
* Relevance to NATO's ability to project power in areas of likely contingencies,
* Creation of interior and easily defensive borders within the alliance,
* Risks that may accrue from a higher level of commitment to a new ally, and
* Added transaction costs of a new member for the alliance's cohesion and ability to perform its main missions on the basis of consensus.

The State Program of Ukraine defines the Ground Forces (Sukhoputni Viyska - SV) as the "backbone of the Armed Forces," which "plays the leading role in preventing and dealing with possible aggression against Ukraine.” The ground forces are supposed to include personnel of more than 54% of all Armed Forces personnel. At present and in the future the Ground Forces consists of Mechanized, Armor, Air Mobile, Missile, Artillery, Army Aviation, and Air Defense units. In addition, they include several components of reconnaissance, special designation (Spetsnaz), NBC protection, radio-electronic warfare, topographical, hydro-meteorological, technical, logistical and medical units.

The global economic downturn has deprived Ukraine of funds needed to cover the expenses essential to sustain, train, and equip the Army aiming to the readiness of its soldiers. Yurii Ekhanurov, the Ukrainian Defense Minister declared in February 2009 at the NATO - Ukraine Commission meeting in Krakow, Poland that his country would reduce the number of military exercises in 2009 related to the level of resources.

In 2008, Ukraine spent US $2,066,806,000 or 1.4% of its GDP. Comparing the above expenditure against the military budget of some NATO countries (2005: France 2.6%, Greece 2.34%, Turkey 2.75,Germany 1.5%, UK 2.4%, USA 4.06%) and Russia's 3.9% for the same year, Ukraine's expenditure for its military is very low.

In order to succeed in its Army's modernization, Ukraine enacted the Presidential Edict l862-25T dated 27 Dec 2005 Modernization of the Ukrainian Army requires that by 2010

“complete transfer of the Ukrainian Armed Forces over to a manning with servicemen doing their military service under contract, and gradually bringing the personnel strength ratio between officers, sergeants, petty-officers and soldiers up to generally accepted world standards, ensuring a due professional development and career growth for NCOs.”

A professional military would guarantee quality of soldiers and economically would translate to substantial savings for the country. According to the RIA Novosti of Kiyv, Viktor Yushchenko told a defense Ministry meeting in late November 2007 that the last conscription will take place in the autumn of 2009. From 2,000 professional soldiers in 2007, Ukraine's contracted military personnel rose to 51,000. The far-reaching goal of the Ukrainian government to implement and maintain a professional force based on a professional NCO Corps could be hindered considering that only 32.7 of the enlisted have finished high school.

Continuous low pay and poor living conditions in garrison facilities would deter quality candidates from entering the force as professional soldiers and unless the above positions become competitive to civilian opportunities, it would be difficult for the Ministry of Defense to attract qualified candidates for the job.

The Ukrainian Rada or Parliament Accounting Chamber Board report issued in August 2, 2005, concluded that "inappropriate system of alienation and utilization of military immovable property released during realization of State Program of Reforming and Development of Military Forces of Ukraine that existed in the Ministry of Defense did not provide for its legitimate and effective utilization." The audit continuous, "the actual immovable property became especially attractive on the property market and turned into source of speculations and uncontrolled incomes for the persons who got access to it, the state incurring large losses. Vast majority of audited military immovable operations has signs of corruption."

A few years ago, Ukraine expressed its desire to join NATO; nevertheless, thus far has not succeeded because of a few reasons one of which is Russia. Russia feels threatened by a neighboring NATO country and Russia's leadership has made their fears known to everyone.

In view of the outcome of Georgia's dare to Russia, which was disastrous for Georgia and the inactivity of the West to defend Georgia's interests, Ukrainians have been divided in two camps. According a poll conducted in the summer of 2008, 59% of Ukrainians "would vote against joining NATO, up from 53%" in 2007. The "22% of the population would vote in favor, down from 32%" in 2007. The Ukrainian head of the General Staff, Gen Serhiy Kyrychenko in an interview to a Ukrainian newspaper declared, "The Ukrainian and Russian military enjoy friendly relations and have many plans ahead” Such statement sheds doubts to the willingness of Ukrainians to see in their future their state within NATO despite the current leadership's inclination.

Two NATO countries, France and Germany, have been reluctant regarding the suitability of Ukraine to join the Alliance; such a decision by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry would further hinder training and would definitely jeopardize the readiness of the Ukrainian Ground Forces. The only way that the political leadership could turn the tables around is if they have the political will to proceed with all reforms of the country's military; however, they have first to overcome the economic impasse that they have in front of them.

Ukraine's future as member of NATO depends on the speed, extent, and details of the long promised reforms of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. However, low budget, deterioration of equipment, corruption, substandard training, and lack of political will would weaken Ukraine's chances to join NATO soon, if ever. In addition, Ukraine’s future with NATO will depend on the balance of power between the pro-western segment of the Ukrainian society and the pro-Russian constituency, as well as on Russia’s will to flex its muscles.

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