Ukrainian defence minister welcomes passage of military reform bill

Ukrainian defence minister welcomes passage of military reform bill

Den, Kiev
23 Jun 04

Parliament’s vote to pass a military reform law on 22 June means that
the armed forces can move forward, Ukrainian Defence Minister Yevhen
Marchuk has said. Speaking in a newspaper interview, Marchuk said that
there is finally a realization that it is not numbers of soldiers that
are the main factor in ensuring security, but the quality of the armed
forces. Ukraine’s aim of joining NATO is now part of the country’s
official military doctrine, Marchuk said. The following is the text of
the interview Marchuk gave to journalist Oleh Ivantsov entitled “Rules
and calculation of military reform defined. At last” published in the
serious Ukrainian daily Den on 23 June; subheadings have been inserted

Ivantsov Defence Minister Yevhen Marchuk commented on the adoption
yesterday of the “legislative package” of military reform by telephone
to Den.

What opportunities does yesterday’s 22 June parliamentary vote open
up? What should now be expected?

Marchuk The formation of a hierarchy of legal provision for military
reform has been completed. Today (yesterday – Editor) apart from the
fact that parliament voted, the president Leonid Kuchma signed the
Strategic Defence Bulletin. And this means that the defence review
has been completed. To put it more simply, Ukraine has completed
deciding what military structure exists today. It may look a bit
strange, but unfortunately that’s exactly how it is. To be sure, we
are not in a unique position here: almost all post-Soviet countries
have travelled this path. On the other hand, the adoption of these
documents precisely today – the law on numbers and the Strategic
Defence Bulletin – answers the question: what military threats is the
state facing today? And the second thing – what should the priorities
be for the armed forces in connection with this?

Apart from that, the reform process has to be well-calculated,
primarily in the interests of the servicemen themselves, to make sure
that the military do not suffer, first the people who will be
dismissed from the armed forces, and second to ensure that there will
be a substantial improvement in provision for servicemen who will be
serving in the army in future. For this, a government resolution has
confirmed forecast indicators for funding the armed forces in 2005. It
set out in detail the funding connected with armed services reform,
the budget and the growth in GDP and social payments.

How the overall average wage will increase in the state, what will be
the evolution of pensions, GDP and inflation – these are not data
“plucked from the air”. They were very painstakingly calculated: it
took three sittings of the state commission headed by the prime
minister Viktor Yanukovych to achieve the agreed indicators. The
document was signed by the prime minister, the finance minister Mykola
Azarov , the defence minister and so on.

Today the reform of the armed forces, or more accurately their
reconstruction, has a scientific basis. After all, the reform
programme was developed by scientific specialists, specialists in
military science and civilian experts. The reconstruction also has a
financial basis that was calculated fairly accurately. Third, there is
a very important document – the law on social protection – which has,
I would say, social guarantees for servicemen unparalleled in all the
years of independence. After all, servicemen had been dismissed
previously – 13,000 last year, 15,000 the year before and 45,000 in
1999. But they did not have substantial social guarantees.

Importance of military budget changes

The main thing is that all these decisions make it possible to bid
farewell to the old, very offensive structure of the military
budget. Next year our budget package in the Finance Ministry, the
government and parliament will differ substantially from this year,
because in next year’s budget there will be the possibility of
investing big funds in the development of the armed forces, the
development of new weapons, raising salaries and finally raising the
reputation of military service.

Ivantsov On the eve of the NATO summit in Istanbul, can it be claimed
that the passing of laws on army reform and the signing of the
Strategic Defence Bulletin mean that questions of military reform have
been solved before the summit?

Marchuk It can be said that the legal, organizational and financial
road has been opened for radical reconstruction of the armed
forces. Now it is all about implementation. I would not say that
reform is primarily needed for us and our armed forces before the
summit or after the summit. We are confirming that our declarations
last year about reform of the armed forces are real and fairly
concrete. It is also very important that all of this year’s budget
targets, which include articles connected with reform, were met in the
first half of the year. And the second half, in connection with
certain increases, gives a full guarantee that everything planned for
army reform in the social and financial dimension will be
fulfilled. This means that we, as firm partners, have not just made
declarations, but have done everything possible to start serious
reconstruction of the armed forces and move towards the armed forces
of the future.

Ivantsov How would you comment on the opponents of military reform, in
particular the parliamentary opposition?

Marchuk The factions that voted against last time, voted against this
time as well. In the ideological and political sense, the position of
centre-right opposition bloc Our Ukraine is surprising. Their
activists understand very well that reform of the armed forces is
connected with confirmation of our Euroatlantic integration. An
important aspect that should be noted is to remember that it was
certainly not easy to get these important documents through
parliament, the Security Council and the government. Not easy in the
sense that new realities had to be recognized. It was very difficult
for many people to abandon the idea that we cannot build or leave our
armed forces for circular defence.

Collective security

There are two collective defence systems around us, in which the
principle of “one for all and all for one” applies. It was very
difficult to give up stereotypes and the traditional understanding
that numbers define the might of the armed forces. All Eastern
European countries, even our neighbours, have outgrown that
anachronism. The recognition that in today’s world military security
for the state is provided not by the numbers, but the quality of the
armed forces of the state was very painfully taken on board. And not
only among the military, but also in society.

And the second important aspect that was also difficult to get through
in an evolutionary way concerns the fact that Ukraine, both in the
military doctrine and in the Strategic Defence Bulletin, confirmed the
fact that it is moving in the direction of joining a system of
collective defence and security, understanding that by itself it is
almost impossible in today’s world to guarantee its security, first
and foremost military. This is all in the documents; they are now
national documents, but we spent almost a year getting there in
complex discussions.

The little Czech Republic is a hundred times better defended than
Ukraine, because it is defended by a collective defence
system. Another military political bloc – the Tashkent agreement that
includes Russia, Belarus, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Armenia – also
has the principle of collective defence. Therefore, the change towards
realizing that we need to move towards a collective defence and
security system is a higher level of guarantee of security as a whole,
in particular military.

Ivantsov Is the aim of joining NATO written only in the Military

Marchuk In the Strategic Bulletin as well. What is more, adaptation
and evolution of military organization and the armed forces to NATO
standards are defined as an aim. If the final aim has been set to join
the NATO collective defence and security system in future, then we
should approach that time as serious partners with achievements in the
military sphere, i.e. as a military organization that would be
compatible, even in language – from the linguistic and mentality point
of view. Not to mention the actual structure of the armed forces.