Ukraine Continues Active Militarization
EUGENE GERDEN
© 2015 FrontLine Defence (Vol 12, No 6)

Amid the existing Russian threat, Ukraine continues active militarization and strengthening of its national army on a massive scale. At the beginning of 2015, the Ukrainian government approved a defence budget of about UAH 110 billion (US$ 5.7 billion). In terms of allocated funds, this is six times higher than in 2014.


Ukranian soldiers in T-64 tank in Donbass.

Last year, the Ukrainian military budget was approximately UAH 70 billion (US$3 billion), which corresponded to 1.8% of the country’s GDP, however, in 2015 year this figure reached 5% of Ukraine’s GDP.

According to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, prime minister of Ukraine, the existing state defence order involves massive purchases of new weapons and combat equipment for the needs of the Ukranian army. It includes armored vehicles, high-precision weapons and means of electronic warfare.

Yatsenyuk has stated that about half of the allocated funds will be used to purchase weapons and equipment from abroad, however, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence plans to create conditions for acceleration of R&D activities by the domestic defence enterprises.

Ukroboronprom, Ukraine’s state-owned conglomerate of more than 130 defence and engineering firms that specialize in arms products, was established in 2010 with the intent to become the main domestic supplier of weapons and combat equipment to the Ukrainian army. Among Ukraine’s leading independent suppliers are Vinnitsa-based Fort (small arms); Kiev-based Leninskaya Kuznay (rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank weapons); Luch design bureau (Stugna antitank missile systems); and the Cherkassy auto plant (armoured cars).

Sergei Pinkas, Ukroboronprom’s deputy general director, confirmed that the organization has already supplied 10 T-64 and two Bulat tanks for the Ukranian army this year, and 20 more were added in late 2015. For 2016, the volume of new tanks is expected increase in the range of 50-60 units.

Overall, according to Anatoly Stelmach, an official representative of the Ukranian General Staff, this year more than 500 units of major military equipment, 300,000 weapons, as well as more than 3,500 other types of weapons and military equipment will be supplied for the needs of the Ukranian army.

Knowing that foreign sources will be needed to supply the vast number of weapons deemed necessary, Petr Poroshenko, President of Ukraine, has recently signed a law that exempts importers of weapons to Ukraine from customs duties and other taxes.

According to Yuriy Lutsenko, an adviser to the President, there are currently no legal obstacles on the supplies of weapons from Western countries to Ukraine, as the existed embargo was officially lifted at the end of 2014.

In October 2015, Pavel Klimkin, the Ukranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, told local media that the Ukrainian government is conducting talks with at least five Western countries about the possibility of supplying weapons and combat equipment to the country by the end of the year.


Joint Task Force Ukraine
Major Ben Rogerson passes orders through an interpreter to his Ukrainian counterpart prior to a platoon level exercise at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre (IPSC) in Starychi, Ukraine in November.

Operation Unifier
As part of Canada’s response to requests from the Government of Ukraine, the CAF, with support from the Department of ­Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, is providing military training and capacity building to Ukraine forces’ personnel to support Ukraine in its efforts to maintain sovereignty, security, and stability. The training mission occurs under the rubric of the Multinational Joint Commission which includes Ukraine, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Canada joined the Joint Commission in January 2015, and co-chairs, with Ukraine, the Sub-Committee on Military Policing.
(Photo: Joint Task Force Ukraine, DND)

Particular hopes are put on the US, which last year provided a package of non-returnable aid for equipping the Ukrainian army, in the amount of US$118 million.

According to data of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, these funds were used to purchase tents, shelters, heavy equipment, auto parts, diesel generators, light armored patrol cars, trucks, patrol boats, ammunition and other equipment and machinery for the Ukrainian army.

To date, the U.S. has refrained from direct supplies of weapons to Ukraine, however there is a possibility that such a situation will change, as a draft of the military budget, which has been recently approved by the U.S. Senate, involves the provision of military support to Ukraine in the amount of US$350 million.

If approved, the support will be in the form of anti-tank weapons, radar systems, tactical reconnaissance UAVs, protected means of communications, and other weapons.

According to a spokesman of the U.S. Senate, the President of the United States will submit to Congress a list (with timeframe for implementation) of the necessary military equipment and services that is to be provided to Ukraine.

It is anticipated that the current domination of the Republican Party in the U.S. Congress will strengthen the military bloc and create conditions for increased military support to Ukraine.

In addition, the Ukrainian government has reached agreements on the supply of weapons with several EU states, such as Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Israel, Poland and other countries. The supply of arms may take place unofficially with the help of companies affiliated with Privat Group, the Ukranian company owned by local billionaire Igor Kolomoisky.

No direct agreements have been signed by NATO countries, however there is a possibility that supplies of lethal weapons may be started in accordance with the new U.S. military budget which approved the provision of US$300 million in military support of Ukraine, which is not a NATO member state.

According to a NATO spokesman, member nations can enter into their own agreements with the Ukrainian government, and some Polish media reports have indicated that such deals are taking place from former communist countries, such as Hungary, Romania, Serbia and others.


Ukranian Bulat tank

Still, the U.S. and NATO prefer to avoid direct exports of lethal weapons due to the political risk. The use of intermediaries, however, means that purchases are being carried out with insufficient openness and transparency.

In the meantime, according to an official spokesman of Stepan Poltorak, Ukraine’s Minister of Defence, the Ukrainian Defence Ministry plans to submit a comprehensive report to the national government regarding with the volume of weapons supplied for the current year and prospects for 2016.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine had one of the world’s largest armies in terms of tanks, military aircrafts and combat equipment. By 1990-1991 it had one of the world’s largest commands of Strategic Missile Forces with nuclear weapons, among which were about 170 intercontinental ballistic missiles, and about 2600 units of tactical nuclear weapons. However, in the years since, military potential of the country was almost lost, mainly due to a number of political and economical crises in Ukraine.

The completion of modernization of the national army is an acute need for Ukraine, as will allow the country to be better prepared for the still existing Russian threat. In addition, this will also help Ukraine to re-build its military potential, which was practically destroyed after the collapse of the USSR. According to analysts in the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence, the entire modernization and recapitalization process may take up to 5 years.

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Eugene Gerden, a former deputy director in the Russian Ministry of Defence, was responsible for fighting cyber crimes (2008-09).
© FrontLine Defence 2015

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