Ukrainian Army Turns 19

Ukrainian Army Turns 19

The Armed Forces of Ukraine celebrated this year’s anniversary with a blast, literally. On December 6 in nine cities of Ukraine: in the hero-cities of Kyiv, Kerch, Odesa, and Sevastopol, as well as in Dnipropetrovsk, Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Lviv and Rivne, festive fireworks and salutes (20 salvos) were organized. Because of the holiday, many departments had an open day, as in the military town of Simferopol, where the separate coastal artillery group of the Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is located, and which led the country in the number of civilian visits (it has its own history museum).

It should be noted that, according to different sociological data, the trust of our citizens in the army is one of the highest among state institutions (40 to 50 percent). In the evening of December 4, a festive concert for military personnel was held, and was broadcast on the First National channel. Celebrations in many Houses of Officers around the country were also held: the best servicemen were given awards, speeches were made, etc.

On December 6, 1991, the Verkhovna Rada adopted the Laws “On Defense of Ukraine” and “On the Armed Forces of Ukraine.” That is why this date was chosen as The Day of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Nineteen years have passed since then. But does our army meet European standards, or at least the standards of developed countries? Yes, our army is battle-worthy, it is on guard around-the-clock protecting citizens from danger. But all these years of poor financing have only allowed us to maintain the fighting capacity of the army, not to develop it (and even then this is largely owing to the enthusiasm of those involved). From the very beginning of the formation of the Ukraine’s Armed Forces there was a goal to decrease the quantity and increase the quality of personnel and materiel. So far we have only managed to do the first part.

Despite numerous promises of politicians about appropriate financing, the army doesn’t feel any better. The qualifications of military men didn’t increase, new weapons weren’t received, the complete contract service system was not introduced, and initiated reforms were not completed. Despite the changes in foreign policy, and the resulting military doctrine, under different presidents (multiple directions with Kuchma, NATO integration with Yushchenko, neutrality with Yanukovych), the army was abandoned.

This summer the government adopted the new Law “On Foundations of Domestic and Foreign Policy,” according to which Ukraine declared its neutrality and questions on NATO integration were discarded altogether. The Supreme Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, President Viktor Yanukovych, greeting servicemen, pointed out that “present challenges and threats in the system of global security require a new state policy in the development of the Armed Forces. Ukraine is ready to create a mobile professional army, equipped with up-to-date weapons and technologies.” The president made similar speeches, both during his presidential campaign last year and afterwards, when in office. However, there is no appropriate financing, moreover, this year, after the sequestration of the main financial document of the country, the army’s budget was even cut.

Neutrality requires serious financial investments in the army. In addition, it should be reminded that during his election campaign Yanukovych promised a move to the contract army in 2011. Defense minister Mykhailo Yezhel more than once promised to allot about 14 billion hryvnias to the Ukrainian army next year. One can only hope that the money will be spent appropriately. Unfortunately, practice suggests the opposite.

“The Day”