On August 6, Russian forces killed four Ukrainian soldiers in the Donetsk region, despite the renewal of ceasefire agreements. During the ensuing discussions between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin, both sides expressed the need for continued dialogue in international working groups. Make no mistake, Russia will not simply be dissuaded from relinquishing its hold over eastern Ukraine. Ukraine must embark on structural defense reforms accompanied by targeted investments in military equipment if it is to have any chance of creating a long-term framework for national defense. Through practical aid programs and military collaboration, Western partners and the United States can have an important role to play in increasing Ukraine’s military capacity, effectiveness and reliability. .
It did not come as a great shock to witness the takeover and consolidation of Ukraine’s territory by Russia at the start of hostilities in 2014. Entrenched corruption and outdated military principles had deflated the capabilities of Ukraine. defense of Ukraine, thus limiting effective responses to deadly incursions. Although Ukraine has taken some steps to tackle inefficiencies since then, there is still a long way to go.
Basically, Ukraine suffers from its own history. The tired old Soviet military bureaucracies and command structures led to incredible levels of mistrust between the frontline soldiers and the higher command. Although the Ukrainian army enjoys a high level of cultural and societal support as an institution, around 80% of trained military personnel still do not renew their contracts. Military leaders must not waste the strategic capital offered by a highly motivated patriotic population.
At a time when the Ukrainian army has grown from around 150,000 to 250,000 troops, a modern command system must be put in place to adequately motivate and manage an emerging modern army. Soviet military principles of concentration of forces and subordination of the general staff suppressed the army’s ability to respond to threats and take initiatives. Ukraine is in desperate need of a qualified class of officers who can be empowered to take action, supported by a higher hierarchy who values ââthe ability to adapt on a flexible front.
NATO and the United States have actively contributed to Ukraine’s nascent structural reforms. Even before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, NATO had engaged in numerous partnerships with Ukraine to raise military standards and promote interoperability. More recently, NATO’s 2016 Warsaw Summit produced the Comprehensive Assistance Package, including trust funds to strengthen Ukraine’s defense and security industries.
The United States has also contributed to Ukraine’s combat readiness and overall modernization through holistic military-to-military training. US National Guards and Special Operations Forces currently operate Ukrainian training facilities, such as the Yavoriv Combat Training Center. At the end of July 2019 also saw the arrival of Ukrainian sailors in the United States to learn to pilot two island-class naval cutters, donated by the Americans.
Of course, structural reconfiguration is only half the battle to improve Ukraine’s security systems. In addition to modern military ethics and structure, Ukraine needs military hardware that addresses practical security gaps.
Since 2014, the United States has steadily increased its lethal aid shipments, including the April 2018 transfer of Javelin missiles and launchers. In June 2019, the Defense Ministry announced a new package of $ 250 million to provide the Ukrainian army with more military equipment. While it is important to provide Ukraine with the tools to defend itself, Kiev and its Western partners must focus on the specific challenges that threaten the Ukrainian security forces.
In practice, Ukrainian frontline soldiers do not need anti-aircraft batteries or modernized ballistic missile capabilities, systems that were put in place by the former Ukrainian administration. These technologies respond to the wrong threats and would lead to greater Russian involvement without a reliable defensive infrastructure in place. Instead, Ukraine faces tangible threats from conventional forces equipped and led by Russia by land and sea.
The strategic objective of the new Ukrainian administration should be to invest in reconnaissance equipment, communications equipment, anti-battery radars and other modern means that will enable soldiers to respond to the hybrid nature of first-class combat. current line.
According to National interest Mark Episkopos, obtaining capable artillery battery detection technologies as well as modernized armored personnel carriers would prove important in responding to frequent Russian artillery barrages.
At sea, Russia’s seizure of Ukrainian ships in November 2018 reinforces the need to expand Ukrainian naval capabilities. Russia’s claims to Crimea and the surrounding waters of the Sea of ââAzov have exerted and will continue to exert pressure on Ukraine’s ability to maneuver through sovereign territory and strategic ports. Key cities like Mariupol are threatened with being cut off from the Ukrainian navy and exposed to possible Russian offensives.
As on land, Ukraine must take a practical approach to modernizing naval defense. Investments in coastal anti-ship defenses and radar equipment, as well as a commitment to uphold Western naval performance standards, will weigh heavily on future Russian actions. The goal here is not to structure a Ukrainian navy to compete globally with Russia. However, investments in targeted coastal and port defenses would force any hostile force to think twice about potential Crimean-type invasions.
To be clear, the United States and NATO have already shown their commitment to help expand Ukraine’s naval capabilities. In July 2019, the Breeze 19 and Sea Breeze 19 naval exercises in the Black Sea brought together a multitude of NATO navies and partners to assess eventualities and strengthen interoperability. Specifically, the Sea Breeze 19 branch of these maneuvers gave Ukraine an important platform to both assess its naval capabilities and work alongside a multinational naval contingent.
These exercises not only have a symbolic purpose to show the value that the Western military places on Ukraine’s ability to defend itself, but also produce tangible improvements in Ukraine’s command systems.
Ultimately, the territories seized by Ukraine will not be reclaimed by an all-out offensive or the elimination of all hostile Russian forces, the consequences of which would significantly worsen a war that has already killed thousands and displaced millions of people. However, proactive structural reforms will give the Ukrainian military a solid base to defend against future attacks and preserve its territorial integrity. Collaboration with Western partners must be broadened to obtain both the necessary institutional support and foreign investment. Equipped with practical equipment, the Ukrainian army can significantly increase the cost of Russian occupation and protect Ukrainian sovereignty in the long term.
* Zachary Popovich is a Masters student in Public Administration at James Madison University.