The Armed Forces of Ukraine have changed and continue to change. During the years of ongoing war and Russian aggression, our army not only found the strength to deter the enemy but also became a new, more modern, strong and professional one. Opinion found out what changes have happened to the Armed Forces in the recent years, what reforms are still needed, what advantages the contract-based service has over the mandatory military service and whether there is a place for discrimination in the Ukrainian Army.
How has the Armed Forces of Ukraine changed in recent years?
The recent years for the Armed Forces consist of continuous war and constant challenge from the enemies. However, according to the expert on national security and defense of the Ukrainian Institute for the Future Irakli Janashiya, official statistics of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine emphasizes significant changes and reforms implemented during the years of war.
“Four years of war – four years of reforms. Official achievements according to the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine:
- The number of troops increased from 146 thousand to 255 thousand
- The military budget increased, which today is 3% of GDP (83 billion UAH in 2018)
- Rejection of the Soviet terminology such in greetings and their change to Ukrainian “Mr.” and “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the Heros! “etc.
- Rejection of Soviet insignias.
- Women’s draft to the Armed Forces. Today, every 10 servicemen is a woman. This is 25,000 servicemen. Among them, there are 3,000 officers and 70 colonels. More than 7,000 are in the JFO zone.
- Transition to NATO standards by 2020. Foreign instructors, etc.
- Wages of the military has tripled (since 2019 it is going to increase again by 30%). Now the junior officers receive up to 9 thousand UAH, and senior officers – up to 15 thousand.
- Development of domestic military-industrial complex.
- Creation of the Special Operation Forces – the organization responsible for military intelligence, counter-intelligence.
- A new system of sustenance.
- Construction of 184 houses \ barracks for 23 thousand servicemen and their families.
- Creation of the chaplain institute.
- Creation of a new command center of the Naval Forces in Odesa that replaced the lost one in Sevastopol,” the specialist shares the information.
However, as Irakli Janashiya explained to Opinion that not all of listed above can and should be considered as a reform. For example, the expert doesn’t consider that the rejection of Soviet terminology can significantly affect our army. In addition, some of the achievements introduced by the Ministry of defense will only be realized in the future.
“The first two paragraphs, de facto, cannot be considered as reforms, because we are in a state of war, and that’s what should be done: the numbers and funding increased.
The following 2 paragraphs, concerning the change of the Soviet terminology and insignias, can hardly be named the changes that significantly transformed the Ukrainian army.
The transition to NATO standards – for 4 years of “transition” to NATO standards only 5 out of 1188 standards have been adopted. All the rest of the time, the Ministry of Defense is actively demonstrating the tones of the NATO standards, which they managed to translate into Ukrainian.
Vital standards such as “Decision-Making Protocol Standards” (rejection of Soviet Meetings), “Algorithmization of non-nuclear weapons structures” (the effective timing), full computerization of the structure, qualification testing of the WHOLE Ministry of Defense Staff, “Documentation standardization” (which means less papers and bureaucracy), etc. will not be soon accepted.
Concerning 184 houses, according to the documents, they have to be constructed by the end of 2018. But in fact, only 10% of 184 houses can be built, and not earlier than 2019. Other 160+ dwellings will become the unfinished construction objects.
What reforms are needed for the Armed Forces?
Irakli Janashiya is convinced that the achievements listed by the Ministry of Defense are not enough nowadays, because there are a number of reforms that should be implemented in the near future. Among them – an improvement of the logistic system, ammunition regulation and full transition to a contract army.
“All foreign military officers and experts as one say, that first of all, it is necessary to establish strong logistic systems and the contact between the front line, the headquarters and the rear.
To solve the problem with a lack of ammunition. Since the beginning of the war, Ukraine has lost almost 50% of its ammunition. Three-quarters of it were lost due to the explosions of military warehouses. There are no ammunition plants in Ukraine – no shells are produced. Saying the truth, a month ago “Ukroboronprom” said that private joint-stock companies began to produce 40-mm grenades for AGS and 152-mm artillery shells. Also, for the construction of the first ammunition plant in Ukraine was allocated 1.5 billion UAH.
Complete transition to a contract army. Ukraine loses a lot of money to support conscripted soldiers,” the expert of the Ukrainian Institute for the Future believes.
Transition to the contract army or mandatory military service?
The thesis of the previous expert on the need for a complete transition to a contract army is actually said out loud not for the first time. But is there a need for it, or is it worth keeping the format of the mandatory military service? According to Mykola Sunhurovskyi, the head of the military programs at the Razumkov Center, contract-based service can really strengthen the defense capability and effectiveness of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, but it may be more expensive than, let’s say, a conscript serviceman. In fact, in the long run, everything looks vice versa.
“The contract army means professional servicemen. In this case, the effectiveness of the Armed Forces is rising. Their financial security is simplified. The contract servicemen are better with the equipment, it is less variable, less spare parts are needed. But they are paid higher than conscript servicemen. The one-off payment to the contract servicemen is bigger, but if you take a certain period, then the conscript one, for example, needs to be trained constantly, and the contract servicemen only once, and in the future he only has to undergo one more training,” the expert explained in the comment to “Slovo i Dilo” media.
Serhii Tsyhipa, a political expert, a journalist and a reservist of the Armed Forces told Opinion about the expediency of transition to a contract army. In his opinion, such a step will help Ukraine to become closer to NATO membership. However, until the full transition, the system of mandatory military service, according to the expert, should remain.
“The Armed Forces should eventually change to a solely contractual basis, but by this time the system of mandatory military service will be kept. A professional contract army, of course, is a step towards the process of acquiring the NATO membership,” the commentary says.
The same opinion was supported by Roman Popov, a lawyer. He is convinced, that the service in the armed forces of Ukraine should be a conscious choice of everyone and indisputable constitutional right of a person, but not a duty.
“The army of a civilized European country must be exclusively contract-based. Each serviceman must get not only an automatic weapon and a rank, but also a military qualification, whether it is a signaler, a doctor or a tankman, it doesn’t matter. In addition, the service in the Armed Forces should be a conscious choice of everyone and should be an indisputable constitutional right of a person, but not a duty. From the contract-based service and mandatory military service both the Armed Forces and Ukraine as a whole will get only benefits,” said the lawyer.
Liliia Brudnytska, an expert of the Center for structural political science “Choice”, also believes that in the future we should consider only the contract-based service. However, the army also needs an additional reformation in the sense of strategic efficiency.
“Only contract-based service. A person will do it responsibly. Therefore, the military efficiency of one contract serviceman will be higher than the efficiency of 10 conscript servicemen. They should want it, and then there will be no bullying of conscripts by older soldiers, no use of the soldiers in non-military purposes and no corruption on the military-industrial complex. In addition, the army needs to be reformed not only in terms of armament and better food but also in terms of strategic efficiency: the country’s defense must be hybrid, and the army – contract, mobile, highly professional and multi-component, perhaps with a deep revision of the management vertical and “Affiliates” in other public spheres,” the expert stressed.
Should every man become a defender?
This question, the answer to which may be obvious to some people, is in fact very controversial. For example, to the question of whether every man should become a defender in the current situation in Ukraine, Serhii Tsyhipa answered positively, stressing that everyone who has no physical disabilities should be ready to defend our country.
“Under the conditions of the undeclared Russian-Ukrainian war, in order to unite the nation in a fight against the enemy, every young person, if he has no physical disabilities, should be ready to become a defender of Ukraine,” the expert commented.
But, the lawyer Roman Popov believes, that this is unacceptable, since the security of the state, even in a state of war, must be determined not only by the quantity of military but also by quality. In addition, it’s impossible to even send everyone to the front line, even hypothetically.
“I think that such a situation is not only impossible but also unacceptable. The security of the state, even in the time of the war on the territory of Ukraine, determines not only the quantity of military personnel but also the quality, that is, first of all, the availability of compulsory skills and knowledge of military personnel for conducting military operations. Secondly, the success of the country during the conduct of military operations also depends on the stability of the economy, in particular, industry, financial system, etc., which should be provided by people. We cannot send everyone to the front line”, Popov added.
Liliia Brudnytska also believes that in theory, a man can become a defender not only on the front line but also in the rear, in every way helping and working to protect the state. Another thing is that in society there can be a significant percentage of those who are not aware of the realities of the present and are trying to evade even the compulsory military service, not to mention the decision on voluntary admission to the Armed Forces.
“Hypothetically all the citizens of the state should be its defenders, they differ only in the form of protection: someone on the front, someone in the rear. That is a martial law when all without any exception have to work primarily to protect the state. In practice, our officially announced conscription for the military service is facing attempts to evade it, moreover, from traditional bribes and medical certificates to going abroad. There are even articles about legal ways to avoid military service. So we have mismatch condition: in response to a hybrid war, we offer a traditional army service,” Brudnytska says.
What about women?
The absence of women in the Armed Forces is a myth that has been completely dispelled in recent years. Thousands of those, who change the heels to combat boots, protect our country and speed up the future victory. However, in this context, the following questions often arise: are there still any moments in which female soldiers can be discriminated, and is it worth to think about mandatory military service for women?
The issue of limiting the rights of women during military service was canceled by the recent law “On amendments to certain laws of Ukraine on ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men during the military service”.
“The law provides equal opportunities for people of both sexes to sign up a contract for military service, and it is determined that women can sign up a contract for military service until they reach the minimum age for military service.
There is also the principle that women are on an equal footing with men, including equal access to positions and military ranks, and equal liability in the performance of military service duties. The document abolishes unreasonable restrictions on the service of women in the military reserve and the performance of the reserve training by men and women”, was said in the statement on the website of the President of Ukraine.
However, as long as Ukraine has not completely switched to the contract-based service, nobody will dare to talk about compulsory military service for women, Liliia Brudnytska is convinced. According to her, a more expedient step would be to create military courses at educational institutions, where all, regardless of gender, would learn the basics of military skills.
“In the short term, it’s unlikely that high-ranking officials or politicians will dare to even hint about it because we have more female voters than men, ladies – are a numerous and desirable electorate. In the medium term, an increase in the number of people in camouflage without changing the quality of the army, without deep reform of the Armed Forces as such, will increase the revenues of the military commissions and participants of the corruption schemes,” it is mentioned in the comments.
Serhii Tsyhipa is convinced that the issue of gender-based discrimination started being solved only with the beginning of the war on Donbas. As for the mandatory military service for women, the expert sees no necessity, adding that, on the contrary, the contract-based service is rather timely and has no discrimination at all.
“The gender issue in the Ukrainian army barely, but started being solved only with the beginning of hostilities in the Donbas in the summer of 2014. At the moment, the issue of drafting women to the Armed Forces of Ukraine for the compulsory military service is not worth it and I consider it inappropriate. But the women’s service on a contractual basis is no longer discriminatory. I can give an example of a woman-contractor, who is serving in the command of the Special Operations Forces and she made more than 300 jumps,” summed up the expert.
By Dmytro Zhuravel