Ukraine’s challenge: reform the army or perish


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Article by: Roman Malko

Ukraine’s key challenge for the coming year is the modernization and reform of the army — by Ukrainians, here and now, during wartime.

“I am confident that 2015 will be a year of radical reform of the entire sphere of security and defense,” Dmytro Tymchuk, coordinator of the Information Resistance group stated recently. “It cannot be otherwise. In 2014, with the beginning of Russian aggression, the Ukrainian people and the state saw the light and realized that the army is necessary after all, despite the fact that for 23 years the country was convinced of the opposite. Above all, our sovereignty and territorial integrity depend on it. Warfare has been taking place since April, and it would be a crime not to draw conclusions. In society, among experts and in government it is now understood that the situation must change.”

There is no doubt that changes will happen — life requires it. The only question is the suitability of the steps to be taken, the political will, and adequate understanding of the situation. However, not only will is required but also a certain modification in the ideology of power. The president, as commander in chief, has been relying on the political and diplomatic process as the main strategy for resolving the conflict in the East. He has had some success, but because of excessive reliance on this approach and delays in strengthening the defense potential and organizing countermeasures to aggression, certain serious gaps are becoming apparent that risk defeat.

On the one hand, we are asking for help from the West, which is putting pressure on Russia while telling Ukraine not to let the situation lead to war. On the other hand, the Ukrainian government still maintains the naïve hope of reaching an agreement, even though it has been demonstrated that this is impossible. “There will be no help from the West, says Valentyn Badrak, director of the Army Research, Conversion  and Disarmament Center — especially no lethal weapons. It is possible to buy certain weapons but nothing will be given to Ukraine. The West has decided to withdraw from Ukraine and to be ready to repel aggression at the NATO borders. There is no doubt that Putin is preparing for this. If the Alliance reacts as specified in its charter, then in fact that means the start of World War III. Therefore, there is no 100% certainty that there will be any (Western) defense of Ukraine just as there is no 100% certainty that  an agreement with Putin is possible. With these givens, Ukraine has no alternative to preparing its own resistance, and the military-political leadership has to place a priority on the immediate preparation of defense forces for war and of the entire population for resistance to Russia.”

The questions that need be addressed immediately often go far beyond the military sphere, but if they are not resolved it will be impossible to hope for the successful reform of the security system. First, the population must be prepared for war, starting with the realization that we can resist Putin’s aggression. The legislation must be amended immediately to allow for the declaration of martial law. The state still has to conduct a full-scale fight against corruption because wiping it out only in the Armed Forces of Ukraine is unrealistic. This issues affects the combat readiness of the army and the viability of the country. In the Armed Forces of Ukraine people who do not have professional skills or initiative and who are unable to make independent decisions still occupy high positions. As a result, this leads to defeat and human losses.

Ukraine still has to create a new army, and the sooner the better. If the government keeps the promise given by the president to allocate 3% of GDP annually, plus another billion dollars every year for three years for upgrading, then everything will fall into place. Provided, of course, there is clear understanding of what has to be done. According to experts, national conscription and the formation of the army according to the Soviet model belong in the past. What is needed today is a 100,000-120,000 permanent professional army. Various models are being proposed, but there is general agreement on the vision, which is based on the bloody ATO experience as well as the latest developments collected in NATO standards. The primary issue is to establish standards in legislation, financial security, organizational structure, staff procedures and so on. Even if they are not perfect, they will be constantly refined under combat conditions, and there is probably nothing more effective in the world. Usually armies are prepared not for the most likely but for the most serious threats. In our case, the two coincided. The most likely and most serious threat is Russia. Russia’s aggression requires a clear preparation for resistance. Thus, the military doctrine also needs to be changed, along with the strategies for national security and defense. If we are ready to withstand Russia, we will be able to deal with any other military threat.

The activities of the volunteer battalions that have demonstrated their effectiveness need to be regulated. The methods are varied — from incorporating them into the National Guard, which should be withdrawn from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, to placing them under control of the president, or bringing them  into the structure of territorial defense, which also needs to be improved. Here again, the experience of Switzerland or Lithuania is useful, while also taking account of Ukrainian realities.

We must not forget that the security sector must consider both the military measures of resistance and influence as well as the non-military ones. The first steps have been taken. An Intelligence Committee has been created, an important outpost in non-military confrontation. Additional steps must include  the development of more powerful means of deterrence, such as the creation of missile forces that rely on operational-tactical missile systems, and the reinforcement of special purpose  troops, which are currently being used somewhat haphazardly.

Another important point is the social protection of the soldiers and officers who are defending the country. There has been some progress, but the potential has not been fully realized. Experts list some twenty points for government action — from the rapid creation and implementation of a special housing program and insurance programs to the review of the pension system.

To make all this possible, it is necessary to prepare the 2015 budget for defense procurement and acquisition rapidly and realistically. According to Valentyn Badrak, “the question of the state’s procurement orders for defense, their distribution and priority, as well as the possibility of taking advantage of Western technology and the creation of joint ventures and projects, must be submitted at the deputy prime minister level by creating an appropriate structure –State Agency for the Defense Industry — that will oversee the military-industrial complex and be able to organize a public-private partnership.”


The reform of defense is not limited to the powers of the defense minister. In fact, he may have less and less influence on it. It is important to use all the resources of the state, across all verticals, starting with the president as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The country must finally switch to a special time frame  that brings us closer to a possible military confrontation with the aggressor.

“If we show willingness to fight, seriously, for a long time, until the end, Putin will retreat,” Badrak stresses. “Not because he’s afraid, but because there is already a significant change of attitudes in Russian society. Our strong resistance can bring about serious opposition in Russia. Therefore, this factor is more significant that the diplomatic and political opposition of the West.”

Translated by: Anna Mostovych

Source: Tyzhden

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  1. Avatar Czech Friend says:

    Some bleak vision of the future there. Ukraine needs to repel Putin’s aggression before it happens. Why? Because quite simply many, many lives would be saved. Therefore it is absolutely crucial to ASK NATO and US for military help, ANY HELP. Europe must stand up to Russian bully and know that it will crumble if we stay together. Because the thing is this, Russian agressors will not stop in Ukraine and they will be hardened after that.

    YOU MUST THEREFORE NOT STOP IN ASKING FOR MILITARY HELP. Use any means necessary and DO NOT STOP. Your lifes depend on it.

    That is the most viable thing at the moment. Only a strong joint military action would make Putin to put down his tail. By that I mean big scale allied operation in Eastern Ukraine.

    The question is how could the borders with Russia be secured?

    How to prevent danger of Russian informers in Ukraine military command?

    You must start building your country and not your army first. After Putin is finished in Terrorussia you will get some peace time hopefully for rebuilding the armed forces.

    It is a fight for survival buit it doesn’t have to be a suicide martyr mission. Use any means necessary even kidnapping high profile Putin’s cronies relatives in Europe and use them as bargaining chips. Remember when fighting such a scumbag evil enemy like Putin anything goes.

    You’re in the right, don’t give up and seek friends to your rescue!


    1. Avatar dok says:

      Everything you said is absolutely correct. Since putin is fighting a dirty war against Urkraine, Ukraine must fight back and fight a dirty war against putin. Ukraine will not win a tank battle with Russia. Ukraine should fund and sponsor insurgent groups within Russia, let them create chaos within russia. Find and eliminate russian oligarchs who are friends of putin. Find and takeover assets that are owned by russian oligarch. Within Ukraine, Russian activists must be eliminated.

  2. Avatar Mike Kostelny says:

    Ukraine has been formally requesting military assistance from all civilized countries of the world but without success! Even in Poroshenko’s last visit to the US Congress last year, he cleared stated that Ukraine thanked the USA for its shipment of blankets to assist in the war effort but ‘one cannot win a war with blankets alone!”–to which the entire US Senate stood on its feet and applauded Poroshenko!

    The stark reality is that until Obama is replaced (in TWO years!), there will most definitely be no lethal military aid to Ukraine even if Putin should send the full might of his armed forces against Ukraine. The Western World (including NATO, EU, UN, USA, Australia, Japan, Canada, etc.) want nothing to do with an all-out war with Russia!

    If we accept the two premises stated above, what are the remaining options for Ukraine?

    In my view, we should consider two key options:

    #1: renewal of nuclear weaponry. Consider Israel, a country much smaller than Ukraine but one that already has 3 nuclear submarines, over 4,000 nuclear-tipped weapons and over 100 modern military jets that are nuclear-capable. Even Russia with its 700,000 active military soldiers and many more nuclear weapons and subs and fighter jets than Israel would never do to Israel what Russia has done and continues to do to Ukraine? Why? –the answer is obvious: Ukraine has been de-fanged, and de-toothed, and de-militarized from its stockpile of nuclear weapons (having been the third largest nuclear-equipped country only 20 years ago!).
    So, a plan to eventually reconstitute nuclear weaponry in Ukraine must begin today!

    #2: No country in the world would ever consider to sell arms and lethal military weaponry to Ukraine, even Israel (which nation even currently classifies Russia as it’s most prolific arms purchaser, along with China and the USA!). So, Ukraine needs to get with the program and seriously consider which country has zero alliance or loyalty with either Russia or the West, and that country without doubt is China!
    The Chinese mindset is entirely different to that of Russia or the West! They are in a class all by themselves. As a Police State and one of the UN’s ‘big Five’, China can do what it will with its own weaponry.
    Should an Arms Agreement be made between China and the Ukraine, not one country could effectively object–neither Russia (which still needs to be wary of a pending Chinese invasion to it’s West! and which recently signed and needs the 30-year oil trade agreement with China), nor the USA (which would like to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine but politically is hamstrung to do so), nor NATO (which again would like to assist Ukraine militarily but is likewise hamstrung to do so, as Ukraine is not a member of NATO), nor the EU countries (who offer only a pittance of military light or small arms at best), nor any other nation on earth, who lack either the means, or the will, to assist Ukraine in its ‘hour of need’!
    China has zero loyalty to any other country on earth! Unlike the Ukraine or Russia, the Chinese government deals with internal corruption (among it’s government employees) with shocking cruelty. When I visited Zhongshan China in 2008, I learned of a Bank of China employee who was sentenced to death for allegedly stealing less than $200 from the bank accounts to which he was entrusted. No Court of Appeal was granted, no leniency, but swift death (and a lifetime prison sentence for his wife who claimed likewise that she knew nothing of this missing money!). Yes, China lives under extreme cruel laws that are effectively hold most of the population in check. China only respects a greater power than itself. As a nuclear nation, China fears neither Russia, nor the West, but has built a powerful underground military substructure (within it’s chain of mountains!) that arguably can defy even nuclear weapons!
    So with the proper protocol and with a long-term agreement to supply China with Ukrainian grain (the best in the world!), China may be willing to supply all the lethal military weapons that Ukraine requires–for the suitable price, of course!
    As with the loans to the USA, China may request government controlled land in Ukraine (national parks, and federal lands, etc.) as collateral in exchange for lethal military weapons and other means of assistance.

    But given that NO OTHER NATION on earth is or would be willing to assist Ukraine in it’s hour of dire need (to resist Putin’s putsch into Ukraine), what other choice does Ukraine have?! We have seen what Russia has done to the German sea port of Konigsberg (now, Kaliningrad!) once they place it under their ‘protection’, and what more recently Russia has done to the Crimea and the Donbas–all Ukrainian identity to be wiped out, erased for ever!

    And so that similar fate awaits the rest of mainland Ukraine, once Putin’s rag-tag repressive regime of Russian rogues, rascals, and rioters take over the once peaceful tranquil and civilized land of Ukraine the Beautiful?! It seems that whatever Russia touches turns to death, destruction and decay. With such a dismal prospect for Ukraine, why not turn to China–for a weakened Russia would certainly suit China’s expansionist policies! And a weakened, even a totally destroyed Russia, would give Siberia the impetus it needs to secede from the Federation, as well as several other oblasts within the once proud empire!

    1. Avatar Czech Friend says:

      “The Western World (including NATO, EU, UN, USA, Australia, Japan,
      Canada, etc.) want nothing to do with an all-out war with Russia!”

      But that’s Putin’s bluff. Why would the coward go for an invasion now when he strugless with economy. He wants to survive himself and an invasion would be his last nail in the coffin.

      If West actually took the risk and rushed to Ukraine after Crimea we wouldn’t be in this situation today.

      Military assistant and help IS the only and BEST OPTION right now contrary to popular belief. Putin is a coward playing for his life yet he manages to terrorize with knowing he doesn’t have the balls to go all out.

    2. Avatar Sulfur12 says:

      China will do nothing to help Ukraine. firslty, because of their policy of non intervention, which is cornerstone of their international mindset. They have no interest in helping Kiev, and a lot to loose. From their point of view its good that Russia is fighting Ukraine, that west imposed sanctions on it, that oil is cheaper and makes Russia poorer and that Putin is wasting resources on conflict without clear end goal. Because of that Moscow has to come to Beijing and ask for help, and this help is costly and will increase Chinese grip over Russia. Chinese want to slowly but surley crush it with their love. And this situation is gold for them, because Putin has to come to them like a lapdog.

  3. Avatar Azazello Blasphemikov says:

    First and foremost they have to stop corruption and get appropriate taxes from the oligarches.

    The fish stinks from the head! The leaders must give a good example and then the people will follow.

    Peace to the cottages! War on the palaces!

  4. Avatar evanlarkspur says:

    The front line of the battle against Putin is in Ukraine, and the Ukrainians are fighting him rather than NATO forces, which will include direct Russian/American conflict if it occurs. If we arm Ukraine, Putin will have his wings clipped, Ukraine will gain a strong sense of national unity and pride via hard-won victories, she will become our staunch ally, and a direct NATO/Russian conflict will likely be avoided. Um, duh?

  5. Avatar Jiří Kwolek says:

    Ukrainians are strong people. But there is a big problem: Ukrainian society is divided. Not every Ukrainian loves his country unconditionally. Some look closely at their live conditions, at their politicians, oligarchs, bureaucracy, corruption, low efficiency of law enforcement and thinks: maybe Russia has better solution for it. This is why NATO does not want to provide military help to a divided, not very well functioning nation / country. USA did this mistake in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan… Sure, this is not a fair comparison, but this is core of the problem. Modernize country, modernize army, BUT above all clean-up post soviet mess.

  6. Avatar Sulfur12 says:

    “What is needed today is a 100,000-120,000 permanent professional army”
    Thats… exactly opposite of what you have to do. Look at Israel for clues, or Finnland or Switzerland. What you need is not operational forces only, but national guard that is going to defend locally. Army of 120 000 is miniscule, because at best 60 000 of it will be actual soldiers, and it wont be able to fight strategic encirclement that Ukraine experiences-Transnitria, Crimea, Belarus, Donbas and Russia. In order to outweight russian forces and make military invasion impossible you need in totality around 300 000-500 000 forces, including national guard and other formations. Please note, that Finnland has small army of 36 000, but in reality its defense capability is around 500 000, because they have paramilitary formations and civilian training. Also look at Taiwan-290 000 strong army, becuase it is endangered by mainalnd China, South Korea-in my opinion the best comparison in your situation-630 000, endangered by North Korea (1 million soldiers). Don’t be fooled by modern popular western theories, which were designed in order to fulfill needs of overseas intervention. You dont need army that will be able to invade far away country and occupy it, you need territorial defense! for that you need big army that will be able to cover territory that is supposed to defend. The common rule of thumb is that in order to sucessfully invade, the agressor forces have to be 3-4 times bigger. Russia has 750 000 army, and they can easily make this quota if your army will be 120 000 (especially if they will attack from 3 directions). In order to occupy country, the agressor needs 10-20 times more forces. So if apart from ground army you will have local national guard of sort, then its enough that it will be 100 000 strong, and Russia wont be able to win at all. So in totality your minimum requirements are 200 000-300 000 standing army and 100 000 national guard. In totality from 300k to 400k forces minimum. Conscription is a must, ant common defense trianign for every able citizen. For model look at Israel, which also uses army to boost human capital and spur innovation, so that years of compulsory service are not wasted time. 120 000 army? thats something that Spain has!