Ukraine's Security – An Equation with many unknown Variables (I)

Posted in Europe , Russia , Asia , Democracy | 22-Dec-10 | Author: Octavian Dumitrescu| Source:

Ukraine - between West and East

The issue of the Ukrainian security is complex and relatively new, considering the recently obtained independence on 24 August 1991, breaking away from the not too distant Soviet past of this country. Ukrainian policy makers and military decision-makers in the last two decades have always been concerned with identifying the most direct and simple way to satisfy the security needs of their country, but the dynamics and the nature of changes in the security environment in Eastern Europe and in areas adjacent to it have greatly increased the difficulty of this task. The temptation of political, economic, social Moscow-like mimicry has led, for several times during this period, to actions and measures that showed the indecision rather than the decision of the policy makers from the top leadership of the new state emerging from the collapse of the former USSR . We do not refer here only to the hardships inherent to the break from the former Soviet centralized leading system and from the previous social and economic relations, which, at some point, were clearly evidenced in the Ukrainian policy. Along with the joy of acquiring its independence, the Ukrainian state and society were faced with their own weaknesses and disappointments, especially since the processes of Ukraine’s evolution as an independent state took place in a new geopolitical unfriendly environment, sometimes hostile, which increased the complexity of the phenomena and the processes that this country had to overcome.

The emergence and the intensification of the current economic crisis have increased the number and the complexity of the risks at global, regional and national levels and have revived some older risks for the geographical region of Ukraine. The internal political and economic crisis in Ukraine, in the last twenty years - as shown in some studies of the Ukrainian specialists included in the Almanac on The Governing of The Security Sector In Ukraine, issued in 2010 under the aegis of the Geneva Centre for Democratic Control of Forces Army - led to the emergence of internal threats to the security of the country: the danger of a conflict between elites and society, the burden of the masses, the lack of trust in the government and its representatives, the weakening of important state institutions, including the judiciary system and the national security system; the loss of legitimacy of the democratic state as an immediate result of the inability to respond to the crisis development. On the background of the domination of Ukraine's public information space by Russia, many citizens of Ukraine appreciated "the advantages of the authoritarian stability in Russia as compared to Ukraine's democratic chaos." We mention from the beginning that the materials included in the above mentioned Almanac were based on data, official documents and decisions taken before the election the current president of Ukraine, Victor Yanukovych.

As a result, according to analysts' assessment of Ukrainian security and defense sector of the country has entered a critical condition, and poor inter-agency coordination has become a critical disease state system of Ukraine. This, plus the ongoing political conflict, freezing reforms and erratic actions of the authorities, led to deteriorating international image of Ukraine.

After having acquired its independence, Ukraine had three main options for the development of security: (a) the conservation of the non-alignment status and of the neutrality status, (2) the development of a closer partnership with NATO and EU in the domain of security and defense, without joining the alliance, (3) joining the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The trends of globalization of economic and social phenomena, including security, the features of the global and regional security environment and its development prospects have made the path of neutrality particularly difficult. Making its own capabilities to ensure adequate defense measures for the independence and sovereignty of a state the size and with the problems of Ukraine (which, although inherited from the former USSR a huge amount of forces and military means, could not rely on the outdated quality of most of them), seemed extremely difficult and hard to achieve, despite the global premises of the 90’s. As a result, Ukraine has selected a mixed approach – that of paralleling the partnership with the Euro-Atlantic security and defense institutions with the integration of new security structures created in the former Soviet Union, i.e. the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) of the CIS. The steps are alternated depending on the political and military orientations of the leaders in Kiev. Of course, there is no mistake in testing the better alternative, the one that provides faster and lower cost security interests of the country. But this choice has led to a delay in the achievement of the development parameters and standards, including in the domain of Security and Defense, that would ensure the interests of security and defense of Ukraine.

We appreciate, however, that the partnership with the Euro-Atlantic security structures and the membership in the CIS and CSTO, along with former Soviet countries have brought some benefits to the democratic development of the young Ukrainian state, to its citizens and contributed to a positive development of the institutions of the Ukrainian society, including those of security and defense. In parallel, Ukraine was involved in bilateral and multilateral relations and contributed to the evolution of the international security institutions, reached international agreements and participated in the agreements regarding gun control and disarmament along with potential adversaries.

Also, in my view, the dual behavior of the political and military elite in Kiev and its indecisiveness in adopting a clear development option, particularly in the economic, social and military plan, brought delays and rain checks in taking appropriate measures for the organization and reorganization of the democratic institutions, and sometimes created confusion among citizens and postponed the fulfillment of their expectations.

Ukraine's national security policy is firstly based on the National Security Strategy, which sets out its strategic goal: "to guarantee the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state, the national unity on the foundations of democratic progress of society and of the state, the respect for human and civil rights and freedoms, the creation of conditions for a dynamic economic growth, so as to achieve social welfare standards at European level for the population.”Defending sovereignty and territorial integrity is a top priority of Ukraine's security strategy, as shown in the mentioned Almanac.

The analysis of the existing potential threats to the security of Ukraine and the ways to mitigate them is, according to Ukrainian experts, a component of the national security policy, given the fact that the analysis and decisions take into account internal and external factors, national capabilities and limitations, the opportunities provided by cooperation with partners. According to Oleksiy Melnyk (leading expert on military programs at Razumkov Center, one of the authors of the materials in the mentioned Almanac materials), many experts believe that the main external challenges and risks to national security of Ukraine, especially after the conflict between Russia and Georgia, include:

Russia's increasingly aggressive policies aimed at expanding its area of influence, including the possible use of force against its neighbors.

The weakening of international law and of the effectiveness of international institutions, leading to the weakening of the external security guarantees to Ukraine.

The escalating of the situations in the areas of "frozen" conflicts and the external efforts to generate new areas of conflict as a tool for interfering in the politics of the sovereign states, including Ukraine.

The lack of consensus within the Euro-Atlantic area with regard to the relations with Russia, which reduces the credibility of NATO and the EU as effective defenders of international law and of regional stability, Ukraine being considered as located in a geopolitical buffer zone.

The existence of global risks – terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, illegal migration, etc.

These risks are added to the effects of the internal problems which, according to the same author, amplify the threats to Ukraine’s security:

The domestic political confrontation, the lack of the ability to compromise and the weaknesses of parliamentary traditions.
The continuous social division regarding the regional, political, economic, religious and language characteristics.
The inefficiency and the excessive proportions of the state system and the failure of strategic management mechanisms.
The weakening of state institutions, particularly of the judiciary system, which destabilizes the political system by changing the neutral arbitration and affecting the protection of the citizens' rights.

The security system imbalance caused by the lack of coordination of the reforms between the various security sector structures, the weakening of the capacity for crisis management, and the increasing differences in pace of the reforms in the armed forces and in other security system components.

The plight of armaments and military equipment, the poor maintenance and the low level of combat readiness of the Armed Forces.

We note, however, that Ukraine worked on creating external favorable conditions to the development and the security of the state, in addition to the measures designed to achieve national security goals. Among these, we mention:

The accession of Ukraine into European and Euro-Atlantic security systems.

The development of the Ukraine – Russia partnership.

The cultivation of harmonious mutually beneficial and good neighborly relations with countries in the region. The extension of active cooperation with the U.S. and Canada, EU countries, other European countries and regional powers.

The strengthening of international peace and security through participation in peacekeeping activities, in multilateral measures against weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, transnational organized crime, slavery, drug trafficking and other challenges to international security..

The intensification of the cooperation with the European regional organizations and the involvement in the implementation of multilateral projects, the establishment of subregional collective security system in the interests of all the countries in the region.

The first steps after independence were very important for the organization of the new Ukrainian society and laid the structural foundations of the young Ukrainian state. The Proclamation of Independence Act, on August, 24, 1991, led to the subordination of all the military stationed in the country under the Parliament of Ukraine, to the creation of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, to the establishment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Also, on the same day, the National Security and Defense Council was established, and on September, 20, 1991, the National Security Agency was created. Subsequently, security and defense officials have started setting up appropriate processes to constitute and reform the components of the institution system, to elaborate the documents necessary to implement these measures. This process took about five years, ending with the establishment of Ukraine's security sector. The process included the signing of international agreements with neighboring countries, which led to the recognition and safeguarding of the state borders of Ukraine and the adoption of the Charter on the special Ukraine - NATO partnership, which established the Euro-Atlantic course of Ukraine at that time.

Then the process of reform and modernization of the security sector and defense institutions of Ukraine started. One of the important documents in this area is the National Security Concept, adopted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in 1997, a document that defines, among other things, the crucial national interests of Ukraine. According to this document, Ukraine's Security Sector consists of: the Strategic Management System - the Supreme Rada (the Parliament), the President, the Security and National Defense Council and the Cabinet of Ministers - and the Executive Elements of the security sector:
Internal security services - Security Service.

The Information Services – the Foreign Intelligence Service, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense, the Directorate of Intelligence Administration of State Border Service

The Police – the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The Gendarmerie – the internal troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The State Protection Directorate.

The Border control - the State Border Service.

The Defense Forces – Ukraine Armed Forces, the State Special Transport System, and the militarized divisions of the Ministry for Emergency Situations and Population Protection from the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe

The Special State Communications and The Information Protection System

The State Prison Department.

The legacy of the former USSR consisted primarily of three major security institutions - the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the KGB - which Ukraine has decided to keep as a basis for the future security system of the new independent state. In this framework, eight of the entities listed in the previous paragraph formed the so-called "paramilitary structures", as the Ukrainian analysts, authors of the Almanac, noted. The name given to these institutions wants "to highlight the specific of the Ukrainian phenomenon" to take charge of the security components from the defunct Soviet Union and note the need to reform them. The personnel of the paramilitary structures wear official uniforms, have ranks and social benefits almost equivalent to those of the military. A significant part of these forces - civil defense and railway troops - was transferred from the Ministry of Defense to the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Ministry of Transport respectively, while the other part undergoes a reform process.

Looking briefly at the responsibilities of the security sector institutions (as presented in the above mentioned Almanac), we find that in the case of the strategic management structures, there is an excessive centralization towards the top of the hierarchy, especially at the level of the President of Ukraine, who, under the Constitution, has the right to appoint the prime minister and the cabinet and to name the principal officers and commanders in the armed forces and in other institutions with executive responsibilities in the security and defense sector. By authority of his position as president of the Security and National Defense Council - structure composed of the prime minister, ministers of defense, of foreign affairs, the President of the Security Service and others appointed by the President - the head of the state ensures the coordination and the control of all the above-mentioned institutions and their activities. In addition, under the auspices of the President of Ukraine operates the Central Service for Security and Defense Policy (the Secretariat of the President of Ukraine) and National Center for Euro-Atlantic Integration - institution abolished by the present president, on April, 3, 2010, a sign that he wants the removal of Ukraine's form the pro-occidental policies and the expansion of the ties with the Russian Federation.

On the other hand, it appears that the center of gravity in terms of executive responsibilities belongs to the Cabinet of Ministers - in fact, a structure of strategic management – who plans and implements measures to ensure the ability of defense, of national security, civil order and the fight against crime, develops the budget and funding and provides logistical support of the agencies in the security sector. However, we can see that some of the executive structures involved in security and defense – in fact as it is the case with other countries – have a dual subordination to the President of Ukraine and to the Cabinet of Ministers, which may cause an imbalance between some components of the strategic management of Ukraine’s security sector generally benefiting the president. Simultaneously, this imbalance may favor the one-handed accumulation in of the power of decision in all matters of security and defense.

It should be noted in this context that, according to official tests in Ukraine - Strategic Assessment, 2008 – the concept of national security is seen in a complex way, as it encompasses the economic, energetic, social security. The top priorities set by political and military decision makers in Kiev, include the independence of the democratic institutions, the fight against corruption, the defense capability, the management of national security and the economic and energetic security.

The concerns of the Ukrainian state turned carefully towards renewing the relations with Russia, given the need to look at these relationships with pragmatism, starting form the conclusion of the Ukrainian side that, in the early '90s, Russia had “little interest to develop normal relations with Ukraine.” To achieve this end, Ukraine has sought to reduce the areas of possible confrontation – the electric power, Crimea, the Russian language and the NATO membership (at the time of the analysis of the authors of the Almanac, Ukraine was taking it seriously) - the resumption of bilateral negotiations in areas that were attractive for elites or for the interest groups in Moscow, eventually developing long term strategies and appropriate tools to substantiate constructive Russian - Ukrainian relations.

A concern of particular importance to the Ukrainian leadership was to increase the efficiency of the national defense and security, based on the idea that, before joining a collective security system, a country can and must undergo a transitional period, in which the security deficit is high, as shown in the Russia – Georgia conflict. To this end, , Ukraine initiated internal steps for achieving interoperability with NATO, within the PARP / PfP and, in 2009, continued its efforts for that purpose, in order to increase the degree of professional coordination of the law enforcing agencies, including those with a special status (by this term, Ukrainian analysts probably refer to special services). Also internally, Ukraine has sought to strengthen the democratic institutions, to improve the legislation and to de-politicize the judiciary system and to enhance the efforts of the civil society to ensure the freedom of the press and the protection of the journalists.

Externally, Ukraine has pursued with priority to achieve a balanced regional development, at least in terms of security and defense, “the development of common values and the national identity of Ukraine in harmony with the national minorities and regional identities, and building a partnership with the neighboring countries in order to ensure the interests of the people in the border regions”.

Exploring, these issues, even briefly, indicates an optimistic, mainly pro Western orientation of the intentions, plans, strategies and management actions of the leadership in Kiev for the reforms of the Ukrainian society, primarily, but also for security and defense. The implementation of documents and adopted strategies has experienced different periods of evolution, some characterized by the acceleration of the adoption and implementation of appropriate measures, other by a slowdown or even changes of direction.

Another equally important area for Ukraine’s security sector is the industrial complex of defense that integrates differently owned companies, subordinated to a variety of governmental agencies that already are or may be engaged in government-funded defense contracts or military technological cooperation programs with other countries. After the disintegration of the USSR, Ukraine inherited 30% of the Soviet defense industrial complex, meaning 1840 companies, where 2.7 million people worked. Approximately 700 of these companies, with 1.3 million people, had as main business the military production. The lack of demand from the Ministry of Defense led to the closure of many of them. Of these companies, 85% were state owned or were supported by the state, the government had bonds in 8% of them and 5% were joint ventures (in 2009).Ukraine's industrial defense complex has five main sectors: the aircraft sector, the missile and space industry, shipbuilding, the defense and application equipment with military precision sector. A 2008 study of the Center for Army Conversion and Disarmament Studies in Kiev reveals the following aspects of the industrial defense complex of Ukraine:

Approximately 250 companies and organizations in Ukraine are partly involved in the execution of specific defense orders or military production programs.

170 of them, where 250,000 people worked were directly engaged in the military production.

The annual value of the defense products was 1 - 1.5 billion dollars.

Approximately 90% of this production is for external clients.

The Ministry of Industrial Policy of Ukraine has in subordination 118 companies and defense organizations of which are 36 research and development institutes and 14 are other entities supported by the budget; these institutions employ 190,000 people.

The Ministry of Defense has 48 subordinate military repair factories, where about 20,000 people work.
The National Space Agency of Ukraine has 7 scientific research institutions, 13 manufacturing plants, 7 specialized enterprises employing approximately 20 000 workers.

As a result of the reform and restructuring measures of the industrial defense complex of Ukraine, the number of companies was reduced from 700 to 250, the number of the employees form 1,5 million to 230,000, while the total value of the production decreased from 10 billion American dollars to 1-2 billion dollars.

The structure of military goods exports (in the years 2007 to 2008) is indicative of the geostrategic interests of Ukraine: 28% - South-East Asia, 22% - Russian Federation, 14% - other CIS countries, 18% Middle East and North Africa , 12% - Africa (excluding the north), 6% - the U.S., Western and Eastern Europe, Latin America.

Certainly, the achievement of Ukraine’s national security objectives has many ramifications, many more than those summarized above. Many of these are relatively clear, but the unknown variables in the security equation of Ukraine are manifold. Most of these unknown variables depend on the political and military factors in Kiev, but a good part of them are of external, regional or global nature.