About the Priority Steps of the Ukrainian Leadership in the Sphere of Defense Reform and Development of the Armed Forces

Results of the analysis of current situation in the areas of defense reform and development of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) indicate the presence of a number of serious problems, the most relevant of which are the following.

Implementation of the norms of the Law “On National Security of Ukraine” adopted a year ago (hereinafter – the Law on National Security) is slow. This is mainly the case of:

  • creating a more effective unified system of leadership and management of the defence forces;
  • modernization of defense planning and management systems for defense resources;
  • improving the planning and use of defence forces;
  • transformation of the Ministry of Defense and military personnel of the AFU.

It should also be noted that in December 2020 will end the effects of major existing documents of defense planning, especially Strategic Defence Bulletin of Ukraine (SDBU) and the State Program of the AFU Development for the period up to 2020 (AFUSPD).

Therefore, the National Institute for Strategic Studies (NISS) in August 2018 recommended that the Ukrainian leadership start perform a defense review as soon as possible, and that the Ministry of Defense implement the next cycle of defense planning in a short time (until 2020).

After all, for example, in the past, the defense inspection started in September 2008 had been lasted more than a year, and the defense planning cycle was completed in 5 years. – in 2013. Launched in May 2014, the next defense inspection had been lasted more than a year, and the defense planning cycle was completed in 3 years – in 2017.

However, the decision of the ex-President of Ukraine P. O. Poroshenko to perform inspections in the security and defense sector, including the defense review, was made public only on May 16, 2019.

As a result, the Ministry of Defense is forced to perform the above-mentioned review and complete the next cycle of defense planning in a very short time, in just 1.5 years. At the same time, it will be necessary firstly to develop and approve by the President of Ukraine V. O. Zelensky the updated National Security Strategy of Ukraine, then consistently prepare on its basis and approve by the Head of the State the Strategy of Military Security of Ukraine (instead of the current Military Doctrine of Ukraine) and only then – new SDBU and AFUSPD.

Another problem is that in 2016-2019, for various reasons, a significant number of important tasks and measures of the defense reform identified in the SDBU and AFUSPD were not fulfilled. In particular, this applies to the issues of reforming the Armed Forces and other components of the Defense Forces according to the principles and standards of NATO, legal and social protection of military personnel, combatants, military pensioners and their families.

To solve these problems, it is advisable to propose to the President of Ukraine, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine and the leadership of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine to implement, among others, a number of the following priority organizational, legislative, financial and personnel steps, which are then given primarily in priority and logical sequence and only partially in chronological order.

First of all. After the appointment of the new Minister of Defense of Ukraine and the Chief of the General Staff – the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, it is recommended to the President of Ukraine:

  • to update the personnel of the National Security and Defense of Ukraine Council (NSDC) and the NSDC Military Cabinet;
  • declare the decision of the Head of the State to complete in 2019-2020 the achievement of goals, tasks and activities of the Defense reform and development of the AFU, provided for SDBU and AFUSPD valid till 2020.

It is quite expected that such steps of the President of Ukraine will testify to the heredity of his military policy in the sphere of defense reform and development of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the goals, tasks and activities of which in 2015-2016 were determined jointly with Western partners in order to achieve the criteria necessary for Ukraine to gain membership in NATO and the EU.

The mentioned steps of the President of Ukraine will also create grounds for clarifying priorities, defining additional tasks and measures that will contribute to a better completion of the defense reform and accelerate the further development of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Secondly. Today, the so-called “quota” principle of appointment to senior positions in the power structures of Ukraine remains an extremely dangerous problem in the State personnel policy. However, in this regard, it should be noted that the President of Ukraine and the new Minister of Defence are not bound in this case by certain agreements of the signatories of the Coalition Agreement in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

In this situation, it is recommended that the President of Ukraine assist the Minister of Defense in selecting and forming his own team of specialists, rather than political appointees, and preparing and submitting proposals to the Prime Minister of Ukraine regarding the appointment of first Deputy and Deputy Ministers of Defence.

Thirdly. At the same time, in compliance with the norms of the second and the last paragraph of article 26 of the Law on National Security, it is recommended that the President of Ukraine instruct the Secretary of the National Security Council to develop a draft of National Security Strategy of Ukraine by December of the current year with the involvement of the National Security Council, NISS, relevant State Bodies, Civil Society Institutions and foreign experts. After all, this Strategy, once approved, should serve as the basis for preparing the Defense planning documents.

Fourthly. For the implementation of the published in April c.y. by the advisers of the presidential candidate of Ukraine V. O. Zelensky the directions of his actions in the sphere of National Security and Defence, the President of Ukraine is recommended to take a number of measures to accelerate the implementation of the provisions of articles 14-16 of the Law on National Security. First of all, it is advisable to introduce by the end of 2019 (and not from January 1, 2021, as stipulated by this Law) a new, more effective system of joint leadership and management of the Defense Forces in the conditions of deterrence and repulse of Russian armed aggression, which will be implemented in accordance with the principles and standards adopted by NATO member States.

In this context, it should be emphasized that this, in a certain way artificial, long 4-year delay in the Law on National Security of the introduction of this new system of leadership and management took place, mainly through certain purely subjective reasons. According to unofficial information from our foreign partners, with whom we worked together on the draft of this law, this was categorically insisted on in 2016 by the former Chief of the General Staff – Commander-In-Chief of the AFU V. M. Muzhenko.