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 STRATEGIC DEFENSE BULLETIN AGREED – BIG DAY FOR MILITARY REFORM IN UKRAINE

On Thursday, NATO office, the Defense Ministry, and the General Staff have completely agreed on the Strategic Defense Bulletin. For the first time in two years, a document of defense planning of strategic level has been developed in Ukraine. The first innovation was the Military doctrine 2015 – the basic framework document. The Strategic Defense Bulletin is the document of a different level – it includes obligations of the Ukrainian authorities on conducting structural reforms.

The Bulletin had been developed during six months. It had been redrafted four times. There were many sensitive issues. Eventually, everything was agreed upon, except one key contradiction that the Ukrainian party was very reluctant to accept - subordination of the Chief the General Staff. NATO demanded that the Chief of General Staff was reporting to the defense minister by ] 2020, which would eliminate the duality of power and repeating of functions in the army command. The Ukrainian General Staff was totally against it. The Chief of General Staff Muzhenko really wants to keep his direct reporting to the president as well as direct access and the possibility to act bypassing the defense minister. This is convenient for the president himself. Petro Oleksiiovych enjoys commanding on his own, this creates an illusion of control. After all, the defense minister candidacy is offered by the president, but he needs to be approved by the parliament and can only be dismissed through the parliament, while the Chief of the General Staff can be called upon, appointed and dismissed by the president himself.

The turning point came last night at the talks in Brussels at the level of the military leadership of NATO countries with the Chief of the General Staff Muzhenko. At NATO headquarters, Muzhenko was given an ultimatum - it's either acceptance of the Strategic Defense Bulletin as proposed by NATO office, or no support from NATO and public criticism of Ukraine at the NATO summit. This had an effect. So in case the SDB is accepted, the Chief of the General Staff will become a subordinate of the minister of defense by 2020 and possibly even earlier, and he would not be able to directly report to the president and make decisions without the minister.

What is the practical significance of the Strategic Defense Bulletin? The implementation of the SDB's provisions defines the volume of financing of Ukrainian law enforcement agencies by NATO in 2016. Yes, the U.S. budget stipulates for up to 500 million USD for support of Ukraine. However, these funds will only be allocated upon the implementation of the SDB-prescribed strategy. The amount is considerable. For instance, it's two times more than the budget 2016 allocated for the entire State Defense Order.

The governments of Canada, the Netherlands, and other countries that want to stop Putin's threat to the European security, will make decisions in similar manner.

The State Defense Bulletin should become a public document. It is expected that tomorrow it will be put for the discussion of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine and will be accepted officially.

Based on it, the program of the Armed Forces development, the program of weapons development, and even the Ministry of Defense's budget will be elaborated. We do not have all of these, and that's the reason why we do not have systemic development. At the moment, drafting these plans in short terms sounds fantastic, but what's not possible today might become possible tomorrow.

Well, if this happens before the NATO summit begins, it would be a very positive signal. The president of Ukraine intends to approve the SDB in the NATO-desired version in order to receive political support and positive assessment by NATO of its cooperation with Ukraine. Hopefully, nothing changes.

Conclusions:

1. For the first time in two years, a document of defense planning is accepted, based on which real structural reforms in the Defense Ministry can be implemented. This means that we might move from words and imitations to real actions.

2. NATO countries have in fact assumed most of responsibility for practical development of the Strategic Defense Bulletin. This shows the West's significant interest in conducting reforms in the defense and security sector. Sympathy and concern are gradually replaced with deeper involvement of NATO in Ukraine's problems.

3. The drafting of the Strategic Defense Bulletin should be the first step for the Defense Ministry - after it, development of implementation programs and creation of a controlling institution for reforms monitoring are expected. Together with elaboration of similar strategies for the Interior Ministry, the National Guard, the Security Service of Ukraine, the State Border Service, the Intelligence Service, and the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Defense Ministry.

Yurii Butusov, Censor.NET
 
 
 
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