Interview with Valentyn Badrak

Director of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies is talking about prerequisites of Russian aggression, the specifics of Donbas hybrid war, as well as about the direction the Armed Forces of Ukraine should develop, and whether it is necessary to count on international partners.
Photo: Yaroslav Karpenko

About Activities of the Center

The CACDS has occupied its certain place in the system of military and technical cooperation, as well as in the sphere of security: informational, technological and economical one. We have intensified our activities considerably since the beginning of the war, and now our Center is one of those institutions whose position is interesting for the President’s Office.

My colleagues have repeatedly traveled to present books published by us in English to foreign media and public organizations. The focus on working with specific audiences who are opinion leaders in their environments has become a great business card of our CACDS.

We started doing the things that had been a white spot in Ukraine before. For example, western

experts say: “ You are all right when the matter is about “government to government diplomacy” but when it is about “society to society” or “society to government” – little positive things happen in that direction.

Prerequisites for War

— Which moment can be considered a starting point since the matter of Russian aggression has become only a matter of time?

— Speaking in Budapest in 2008, Putin called Sevastopol a Russian city and said that more than

17 million Russians live in Ukraine. By means of spreading such fakes, in fact, he was even at that time conducting an information operation against Ukraine. After that, it became clear that a moment would come which Russia would surely take advantage of.

— What prerequisites were acceptable for Russia to launch an attack?

— Let’s say as follows: If it were not about traitor Yanukovych with his entire team and, eventually, the Revolution of Dignity and if we had a powerful army, Putin would not have gone to war with Ukraine. If for no other reason than because he understands what power means.

It should be noted that Putin resorts to cruel actions only when his target cannot defend itself. It’s a pity that although we knew about Russia’s preparation, we did not respond and failed to prepare the army and technologies for resistance.

Putin resorts to cruel actions only when his target cannot defend itself.

– Were the military actions in Georgia a direct signal to Ukraine?

– In autumn 2009, we saw that Russia allows itself to use the armed forces to protect its political interests. That was the very moment when the cycle of preparation for war ended with a legislative decision. At the same time that was a signal that Russia was ready for war not only with Georgia but also with Ukraine.

In co authorship with Volodymyr Gorbulin we published an article in the “Dzerkalo Tyzhnia” (“Mirror Weekly”) entitled “The Conquistador in Iron Armor”. It stated that Russia was ready for war. However, we must realize that this is not a prediction: we did not expect the war to be in this form, but even then we understood that Russia was a loaded gun that would certainly fire.

In autumn 2009, we saw that Russia allows itself to use the armed forces to protect its political interests.

– What is the essence of hybrid warfare?

– It is similar to any other war used by Russia as an attempt to suppress one’s national position. In the Russian sense, any development in the post-Soviet space can only be coordinated through Moscow. The very term “hybrid warfare” is used in cases when propaganda and other informational manipulations are used simultaneously with the military lever.

It should be noted that Russian propaganda does not end within borders of Russia. The matter is about the entire Russian-speaking space where Russia is trying to organize brainwashing of Russian-speaking viewers in any country of the world. An interesting point is that channels pay more attention to Ukrainian issues than to problems of Russia itself.

Russia is trying to organize brainwashing of Russian-speaking viewers in any country of the world.

– What are the tools of hybrid warfare?

– Firstly, Russia uses the intelligence services very actively. Their activities include the following: committing massacres against Ukrainian patriots, undermining prominent figures who took part in hostilities and defended Ukraine, recruiting Ukrainians for performing terrorist acts.

Secondly, political loosening, attempts to destabilize Ukrainian society, for example, through the label of nationalism. This will facilitate various rallies and public events against the official Ukrainian authorities, which will show differences between the authorities and the society. In this way Moscow receives an opportunity to influence Kyiv’s position.

Thirdly, use of world tribunes in all international organizations, where Russia is represented, for carrying out information struggle.  Such a strategy makes it possible to influence some foreign politicians and public opinion leaders and to promote their involvement in anti-Ukrainian actions.  For example, a visit to Crimea performed by a delegation of Italian or Czech parliamentarians certainly has a very negative impact on Ukraine.

– How would you assess the impact of information struggle on Ukraine in the framework of Russian hybrid aggression?

– Things related to the effect on consciousness are more important than artillery bombardments or sniper attacks on the frontline. Anything that can support undermining and changing consciousness is an important component of hybrid warfare.

Things related to the effect on consciousness are more important than artillery bombardments or sniper attacks on the frontline.

Prospects

– What are the Armed Forces of Ukraine at the moment?

– Today, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are an unambiguously powerful force, but they cannot yet be called an institution for deterring aggression. In order they could become such an institution Ukraine must have a sufficient number of high-precision weapons, powerful air defense, air forces and artillery. In addition, we should not forget about communication and automation systems, as well as the protection of soldiers.

If Ukraine had such a strong army capable of defense, Russia would have faced so many losses in the war resulting in a social collapse which could stop the enemy.  Talking about potential losses of the Russian army I mean the figure of about 50 thousand people. We have not reached this level yet but we can talk about an opportunity to create an army of this kind within a period of 4-5 years.

– How do you see the development of the Armed Forces?

– Now it is worth reviewing the development of the Armed Forces in the direction towards the newest defense systems. I would divide them into three types: systems of detection and surveillance, defeat and control systems, communication systems.

Systems of the first type give an opportunity to detect enemy with a help of electronic reconnaissance Systems of the second type – defeating with a help of such missiles as “land-to-land”, “land-to-sea”, as well as artillery fire adjustment. Systems of the third type are intended for improving military command and communication system.

– How do you assess the steps taken by the Ukrainian authorities to reintegrate the Donbas?

– The reintegration practices that are currently available and discussed have problems with consistency and therefore they presuppose some risks. In my opinion, first it is necessary to guarantee security and a complete ceasefire, establish Ukrainian border control, and only then matters concerning transformation of regions are to be resolved: holding elections and launching reconstruction. Russia is de facto dominant in the Donbas today, but peace at any cost is an unacceptable strategy.

Peace at any cost is an unacceptable strategy.

International Support

– On diplomatic efforts: should diplomacy always be reinforced by military forces?

– Diplomatic work is very important, and sometimes it is even a top priority. At the same time, any diplomacy will face obstacles if it is not supported by military forces. If diplomacy does not rely on a powerful military lever, it is in fact doomed and will surely fail. At the same time not only the military lever should be taken into account, but also the general security issues including intelligence and information security.

– How much can we count on for military support from the United States and the European Union in case of an open war?

– From the very beginning of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, it was clear that none of the Western partners would help us. Moreover, it is not just about sending own military contingents or means of military and technical assistance. Unfortunately, we have even faced the fact that in many European countries we were de facto embargoed on the sale of weapons and critical weapons.

It is no secret that Germany, Italy and France are at the start of economic cooperation with Russia today. In the Kremlin they are skillfully creating a number of circumstances which will make European countries swallow not only the current situation in the Donbas, but also a large-scale military conflict between Russia and Ukraine – such a situation is extremely dangerous for Ukraine.

On the part of the USA we can see the restraint assistance received from the last two administrations.  Obama administration was even more restrained. It is possible that this year’s presidential election in the USA will change something, but in any case we should not count on an easy solution to this issue.

Since the beginning of the war in the eastern region, our Center has insisted that Ukraine should develop a rearmament strategy in a way that focuses mainly on country’s own forces.

In the Kremlin they are skillfully creating a number of circumstances which will make European countries swallow not only the current situation in the Donbas, but also a large-scale military conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

– What can you tell specifically about the United States?

– If Ukraine consistently maintains its position of sympathy to the western values ​​and Euro-Atlantic integration we will have a great chance of achieving the desired level of alliance with the United States. At the same time, we should understand why we consider the United States to be our primary ally. The matter is that the USA is actually the only country able to help us without looking back at Moscow. I mean receiving help with weapons and technologies, from consulting and training to ideas like a former land lease. Simply put, we could get a lot of help from the USA, but today we still have to work a lot for reaching this purpose.

The USA is actually the only country able to help us without looking back at Moscow.

– How do you assess US President Donald Trump’s activities in the military sphere?

– Trump is an unpredictable and risky person who does more for his resonant image than for the development of his own country. Unfortunately, Trump’s attitude toward Ukraine is built solely through the prism of his own interests. The situation with the attempt to blackmail Biden and defer assistance to Ukraine clearly illustrates this. Based on such realities, he is a negative hero for us and his presidency as a whole is a challenge for Ukraine. For Ukraine it would be a positive event if someone else took the US presidency.

Trump is an unpredictable and risky person who does more for his resonant image than for the development of his own country.

– What is your position concerning selling “Motor Sich”? Can we sell an enterprise of the kind to China with the USA being our strategic ally?

– In the context of the “Motor Sich” plant, it is fundamentally important for us that technologies owned by the state cannot fall into wrong hands, and in this case, into hands of the foreign state. So much the more, having the USA as our strategic partner and ally we must also consider their interests in order not to damage the system of our relations. After all, the United States is perhaps the only state able to help us with weapons and technologies.

– To what extent is it possible to involve the UN peacekeeping mission in resolving the Donbas conflict?

– In my opinion, a peacekeeping mission is only possible under conditions of a complete ceasefire. In other words, Putin must be really inclined to stop military aggression and finish with the pressure on Ukraine. However, taking into account Putin’s position of today, I do not see such prospects.

It is almost every day that we are informed about deaths of Ukrainian servicemen in the east region. Based on that we can conclude that Russia continues the war, in spite of anyone, and in fact it ignores both the Minsk agreements and the Normandy format. In view of such realities, I see no prerequisites for a peacekeeping mission.

A peacekeeping mission is only possible under conditions of a complete ceasefire.