Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk made a routine inspection trip in late February, visiting Rivne city and oblast. He met the local administration and military command, discussing retraining and employment for officers and men to be discharged in keeping with the military reform. Militia Major General Mykhailo Tsymbaliuk, head of the Rivne Oblast Department of Internal Affairs, told The Day that the manpower thus released would help solve the problem of filling over 100 district militia inspector vacancies. In any case, during the first phase of the experiment, most servicemen enrolled in militia forces proved to be good officers. Social aspects of the regional contingent were also discussed, with special emphasis on the housing issue. The defense minister was a long-awaited guest at the Ostroh Regional Boarding Lyceum with a special military and physical training course. His visit was preceded by a decision of special importance for the lyceum. The engineers regiment on the territory of Ostroh will be disbanded this year. Ihor Pasichnyk, Rector of the Ostroh Academy National University, which patronizes the lyceum, put forth the initiative of handing the regiment’s buildings and premises over to the lyceum. The cabinet approved, owing to support from Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk and Minister of Education Vasyl Kremen. If this author were to describe Minister Marchuk’s visit to the lyceum, this would be a brief feature. The lyceum students, future servicemen, were numb with surprise, seeing the defense minister accompanied by several generals. The minister, however, took over the initiative and even gave a brief classroom lesson on how to study English. Ostroh Academy students proved much more communicative. The Day has on more than one occasion described this oldest Eastern European institution of higher learning and its students. On the morning before Mr. Marchuk’s visit, the academy hosted The Day’s Editor-in-Chief Larysa Ivshyna, who had come to award six students winning our personal scholarship contest. The meeting between the students and defense minister was further evidence that the editor-in-chief had chosen the right “place where one can apply one’s good will.” Mr. Marchuk noted the students’ desire to learn in depth about what is happening in today’s world. He congratulated the contest winners, saying he wished The Day ’s example were followed by various other institutions — not as instructed from above but from their own good intent. Such scholarships could be a major incentive for the younger generation.
TIME TO FINISH HARNESSING HORSES
Yevhen MARCHUK, Minister of Defense of Ukraine:
I have seen many wonders of the world and cultures, including religious sites revered by many peoples. I have heard about the Ostroh Academy and formed my opinion. However, let me tell you frankly that I feel very impressed today. I think that future historians will rack their brains trying to figure out this phenomenon; how a team of enthusiasts could have worked this miracle in a matter of eight, maybe nine years, starting from nothing, then gathering so many treasures of our history, our spiritual wealth, subsequently launching a process of absorbing all this from all over the world, relating to Ukrainian history and our most dearest spiritual values.
I would like to share with you some ideas addressing problems that greatly concern many people in Ukraine, Europe, and the world at large. Many prominent political, public, and religious figures in Europe keep wondering how they can secure the well-being of their peoples. Answers to this question in the past two or three years have drifted far from the stereotypes generated over considerably longer periods. The United States, the world’s most powerful country protected by two oceans, turned out as defenseless as smaller states when faced with the challenges of the contemporary world.
Security is a rather simple notion. Having security means that people don’t have to worry about their own safety. Security is often associated with a nation’s defense potential. True, but there is more to it. Iceland, for example, has no armed forces, but it enjoys NATO’s powerful collective defense and security potential. Ukraine has the largest armed forces in Europe: 355,000 officers and men, the largest number of tanks and aircraft — a formidable force. But the Czech Republic, with a smaller territory, is currently much better protected than Ukraine, in terms of its security, precisely because it is embraced by that collective defense and security system. All of its neighbors are members of the alliance. Or take Tajikistan. So far away from Ukraine, so different in terms of economic progress and military potential, it also proves better protected than Ukraine, simply because it is a signatory to the Collective Security Treaty along with Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, and Armenia. We are faced with a dilemma. We are surrounded by two powerful military and political blocs, each with nuclear potential. Is this not insecure today? How is Ukraine to move forth in order to maintain its own security? What does maintaining national security mean to us now? What do we have to accomplish in order for our people not to worry about their safety, so they can freely occupy themselves with creative endeavors, realize themselves as creative individuals, so we can pay full attention to the well-being of one and all? Do we have to move by the inertia of events, toward which we are being pushed, or should we have to show our own initiative? There are varying views on Ukraine’s future; whether we should join NATO, leave everything the way it is, or join the Moscow- based Collective Security Treaty. From the military point of view, these questions cannot be answered in so many words, because there are pros and cons to be considered. However, departing from this logic and rising to the higher level of security in the broad sense of the word, the answer is known: it is the European vector of development. This simple, self-evident truth, nevertheless, is regarded in different ways in Ukraine, even though a new strategy with regard to NATO was adopted almost two years ago, envisioning eventual accession to the alliance. I think you know the turnouts of polls; about one-third of the respondents support the Euro-Atlantic course; one-third are against, and one-third uncertain. Deciding on which direction Ukraine will take requires traversing a long and hard road (this choice is to be made not by any single person, not even by parliament or by president, but by the whole nation, by means of common decisions. This is a road with a number of painful transformations, considering that none of the existing collective defense systems is ideal. You know how the international community responded to the NATO military operations in Yugoslavia; that response was not unequivocal. Even now that eighteen NATO countries have stabilization contingents in Iraq, as part of the coalition forces, we cannot say that the decision is unanimously supported in even Great Britain, let alone Ukraine. The world is quickly evolving from the standpoint of European and world security architecture. Let me remind you how we made the decision to send our contingent to Iraq or to Liberia. It was incredibly difficult, with accusations thrown at those initiating it or being involved with making the decision. There were accusations of treason and so on. Only half a year later, many people (high politicians and opponents) realized that whatever is discussed today, when dealing with international security and large-scale phenomena in international life, there is no avoiding Ukraine’s participation in peacekeeping missions, particularly in Iraq. Interestingly, quite a few people’s deputies from opposition factions voting against that decision would eventually ask to be flown to Iraq to visit our Fifth Brigade.
Today, security in our region is of tremendous value. In addition to the military effort to maintain this security, it includes Ukraine’s participation in international and regional organizations, various international forums, OSCE and EU structures, and the UN Security Council. After the decision to send a peacekeeping contingent to Liberia was voted down the first time, some faction leaders asked me what national interests Ukraine had in that country. I gave them the following example. The UN Security Council is the only guarantor of national security in Ukraine. Our neighbors in the West have their powerful collective defense and security system. Our neighbors in the North and East have a different collective defense and security system. And they all have their nuclear components. With this alignment of forces the armed forces alone cannot be a hundred percent guarantor of security, especially considering that there can be nonmilitary threats. The UN Security Council is the only international structure that would defend Ukraine, should anything happen. When we had that Tuzla situation, some of our politicians and diplomats were not sure to whom they should turn for help. Remember? Who they should petition. In the pragmatic sense, it was the UN Security Council. So when the UN Security Council decides to dispatch the largest peacekeeping contingent to Liberia and contacts Ukraine (considering that our military has firsthand peacekeeping experience), do we have a right to say no to the sole guarantor of our security asking us to help resolve a civil conflict? Of course not. We must not decide on whether or not we’ll do as asked, we simply must do it, because the UN Security Council is our sole guarantor. Strange as it may seem, our military participation in peacekeeping missions has become one of the most important components of maintaining our security. Why? Over the past couple of years almost all European countries have quickly grown to understand the meaning of national security. Most of them have realized that there must be something else besides armed forces with up-to-date training and equipment, something to do with a collective security system. That there must be a technology of participation (as part of coalition systems or of the UN Security Council) in the neutralization of the sources of world threats. Where can a threat come from? As I mentioned earlier, it will not amount to a country seizing the territory of another country. The world has changed. Noncontact warfare has become a reality with unmanned drones... Such horrible phenomena as international terrorism, as evidenced not only by September 11, but also by recent acts of terrorism in Moscow, in the Middle, and Far East. These are actual threats, with consequences that are equal to acts of military aggression. Thus, participation in peacekeeping missions is one of the latter-day elements of maintaining national security in any given country. We find it hard to accustom ourselves to the fact that the armed forces are currently required largely to carry out special missions like taking part in peacekeeping operations abroad. This is a fact, but it’s hard to digest. It should be noted that the units of our armed forces that have taken part in peacekeeping missions are military structures marked by a new quality; they are islands of a new Ukrainian army. We — and I mean primarily politicians and the military but always supported by public opinion — must adopt the idea that the Ukrainians should be involved with everything happening in the world; we should be present wherever conflicts take place or threats are appear. That’s how every country will act from now on. How else should one explain the increasing number of countries deciding to dispatch contingents to Iraq or to reinforce their contingents there? Japan, a country that had never sent troops anywhere after World War II, also followed suit. Most importantly, this process of quick evolution is meant to provide our politicians with a variety of such arguments, so that they will not hesitate to make decisions most vital for Ukraine, even without waiting for the UN Security Council’s invitation following the resolution. They should behave like an A student raising his hand even before the teacher finishes his question, because he understands everything and knows the answer. In other words, the proverbial circle is closed. Security is a matter that rests within ourselves, in our understanding of our place first of all in Europe and the rest of the world. It is a complex process, but I think that we are in the final phase of this being perceived by the entire nation. There is a Ukrainian saying that you can take your time harnessing your horses, but then you must have a good ride. I think it’s time we finished harnessing. To implement such ambitions, we must have, among other things, well-trained and equipped armed forces. This is precisely the objective of the current military reform in Ukraine, because our armed forces are the key component of military security. This work is very complicated, very painful, but it must be carried out.
Artem FILIPYEV, fourth year law student, Ostroh Academy:
You said in an interview that there is a vast ground on which the armed forces can be put to good use; actually, not only in the military sphere, but also for other purposes. Would you explain?
MARCHUK: There is a new draft of our Ukrainian military doctrine to be submitted to the president. It introduces the notion of the armed forces being used in solving certain domestic problems, including prevention of acts of terrorism, using complex technologies and techniques. At the preparatory stage, such prevention can be provided by special services, but at the implementation phase the military proves the only practical solution to the problem. Another sphere of application is combating the aftereffects of disasters like floods, earthquakes, and man-made ones. Only the military with its hierarchical structure, where the commanding officer’s orders are always carried out, can operate under conditions when human lives are in clear and present danger such as search-and-rescue operations. Take, for example, that activated mine in Sevastopol.
Olha KOSIYIV, MBA student:
Do you think the Ukrainian economy could carry out the military reform as quick as possible in keeping with NATO requirements? Should the process be expedited?
MARCHUK: This is a philosophical question. Financiers, practicing military experts, and politicians have long racked their brains trying to answer it. The problem is that financing the armed forces even as provided by law takes 10.2 billion hryvnias. Of course, this is a fantastic sum, meaning that the current Ukrainian economy cannot finance the armed forces on this scale, let alone subsidize their development. At present, manpower does not determine the armed forces’ potential. Materiel does, meaning modern weapon and control systems, as well as coalition membership. At present, the Ukrainian economy can only provide for the initial phase of the reform. There are opportunities to embark on this reform so as to make our military service prestigious not only in terms of men’s patriotic spirit, making them feel that they are the best of the best, but also by giving them the best pay. Today, these indices in the Ukrainian armed forces are lower by 30% than in the other coercive structures, with the civilian employees receiving the lowest wages. This prestige, in addition to the parameters I’ve mentioned, also implies solving the housing problem (we still have 47,000 servicemen on housing waiting lists), providing the officers and men with adequate pay, career prospects, but most importantly, with modern equipment, so they can have enough combat training.
Oleh PLEVAKO, law student:
Is there an alternative to our NATO membership as a political tool and one capable of ensuring our security?
MARCHUK: Yes, in theory. Now and then we are offered examples of European countries other than NATO members. Rather often, this is presented as a key argument. Why should we join NATO, considering that Austria, Switzerland, and Sweden are not? However, no one bothers to mention that these countries are in the very midst of that collective defense system, and that they are actually consumers of the product supplied by the alliance, regional stability and security. Also, they are actively cooperating with it in the partnership mode. In this sense, Ukraine has no alternative. We are at the crossing of two blocs. To depart from the old cliche reading that Ukraine, as a NATO member, means Ukraine against Russia, one ought to be reminded that this entire notion is nonsense; none of the NATO countries would ever admit another country with serious problems still to be solved or having problems with any of its neighbors. We’ll be barred admittance to their club if we are in a state of confrontation with Russia. Besides, Russia appears to be stepping up its cooperation with NATO.
Viktor FEDORCHUK, fourth year law student:
Mr. Marchuk, how do you feel about Ukrainian politicians saying that Ukraine must revive its status as a nuclear power in order to exert political, rather than military, influence on the international community?
MARCHUK: I have been in one way or another involved with Ukrainian nuclear disarmament at various stages, including the political and practical military decision-making process. All I can say is that any allegations about Ukraine taking possession of nuclear armaments is a myth. It’s an illusion we ourselves have created. Ukraine has never possessed any nuclear weapon systems. The fact that there were about 200 strategic missile silos on our territory never served to enhance our security at the period. Rather the opposite, as only Moscow could give and block commands. No one in Ukraine could have planned, let alone ordered a missile launch. Any such launch would be a child’s dream without satellite surveillance, early warning system data, and countless other elements. Also, those 200 or more silos were each located by satellites with a meter’s precision, each being covered by at least three [NATO] warheads during the Cold War. Add here cruise missiles, strategic weapon systems, and aircraft. Sad but true, such was the logic of nuclear confrontation. In other words, Ukraine had 200 first strike targets waiting to be hit from three directions; we had no control over those weapons and we could not use any of them at our discretion. So how can we possibly restore our nuclear arsenal today? We can’t for economic and political reasons. Although we could do so in theory, this would take tens of billions of dollars — and this would by no means enhance our security. And even if it did, how would our neighbors and the rest of the world respond? Our neighbors wouldn’t be frightened under their nuclear umbrella. The say that everybody would then treat us differently, compared to the way they’re treating us now. Japan and Germany are nuclear-free, yet every nation treats them with respect, including the nuclear powers. The sooner we discard this myth, the sooner we find ourselves in a position to work in other directions that I’ve mentioned before in order to ensure our security; the sooner the situation will benefit us all.
Olena KOTIUK, second year humanities student:
Our people tend to live relying on the old adage of mind your own business, so the notion of security appears to be associated exclusively with one’s own security and that of one’s kin. A closer and broader view, however, shows that individual security can be ensured only after upgrading the system of national security. The esteemed Defense Minister has elucidated certain aspects which we had earlier not been able to fully understand, owing to the specifics. Military science is a highly responsible field of endeavor, something not all of us laymen can comprehend.
I’m happy to have been present at this meeting, for it turned out not only a way of communication, but also a quite effective way to broaden one’s world outlook.
Nataliya DUBASIUK, fifth year humanities student:
Sometimes, discussing topics such as national security, one can better understand the meaning of one’s own safety and that of the whole region which you consider to be yours. And so the global scope is somehow beyond individual perception; one uses notions like armed forces and national security for the sake of one’s erudition. After listening to Ukrainian Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk, I felt that my personal distancing stereotype was falling apart, replaced by another one, best defined as territory, something previously defined in an image-bearing manner, expanding, reaching as far as the frontiers of my country. I am enchanted to realize that it takes such tactician and professional talent not to hesitate to make one’s choice: To be or not to be. Another thing that leaves me worried a bit is why there are so few people prepared to assume this responsibility. When we communicated with Yevhen Marchuk I felt as though we were being offered a new understanding of certain notions. For example, I had been previously outraged to know that Ukrainian peacekeepers were being sent to Iraq, Lebanon, or Kuwait. Nor had I understood the [international community’s] standing ovation when Ukraine decided to become a nuclear-free country. After listening to Yevhen Marchuk, I realized that military science was something few, not all, could understand and master.
Ihor PASICHNYK, Rector, Ostroh Academy National University:
We were looking forward to a meeting with Yevhen Marchuk, aware of his status as a noted political and public figure. We were eager to watch and hear him in close contact with an audience, not on television. All I can say is that the audience was stunned to hear his brilliant answers, his excellent lecture, his exceptional expertise with regard to any issue under study. I mean, we saw a genuinely sage and gifted politician. I think that the most important result is that our rising generation, our students, became convinced that we have clever, wise individuals occupying important executive posts in this country — for people sometimes tend to harbor very different views on the matter.
Also, when meeting with our lyceum students -orphans and those who had lost a parent — Mr. Marchuk could see that they lived and studied under good conditions (among other things, owing to support from the regional administration). The decision to hand the buildings and premises of a military unit being reorganized over to the Ostroh Academy National University so that they could be eventually used by the lyceum is another positive — this time tangible — consequence of our contact with the defense minister.
Pavlo SULKOVSKY, People’s Deputy of Ukraine (Constituency 154):
As a people’s deputy, I am happy to know that my Rivne regional electorate had a meeting with our military, and that our defense minister promptly made decisions concerning our servicemen, military towns, and so on, so their property would not be stolen, so every serviceman would not be reduced to poverty. I do believe that such an approach reflects a genuine state-building stand.
Mykola SOROKA, Chairman, Rivne Regional State Administration:
Every such visit helps solve a number of problems, and our guests have a more concrete view on the local situation.
Roman VASYLYSHYN, Chairman of Rivne Oblast Council:
The engineers regiment deployed on the territory of the City of Ostroh is to be disbanded by September 1 of this year. It has been decided that all its buildings and premises will be handed over to the Ostroh Academy, considering that the military lyceum is on the premises, and that the said institution lacks the territory. The Ministry of Defense treated the matter with utmost understanding, aware that it was another opportunity to further restore that gem of Eastern European science. Well, I’m in no position to comment on the impressions voiced by Ostroh Academy students; you have seen them.
Colonel General Petro SHULIAK, Commander of Ground Troops, Armed Forces of Ukraine:
The Armed Forces are undergoing an extremely important reform. This trip of the Minister of Defense to Rivne and Ostroh, made in accordance with a routine regional inspection schedule, envisioned checking reform progress at the local level, particularly in regard to the minister’s perfectly correct instructions addressing cadre issues in the first place. The minister, in particular, paid a visit to inspect the Rivne Garrison where the 14th Engineers Regiment will cease to exist this August. It was important for the minister to see how this process was being handled. He paid special attention to the individual approach to the men subject to the personnel reduction discharge, commissioned and noncommissioned officers, so as to reduce the painful effects of the process to a minimum.
Since there is a lyceum on the regimental grounds, and considering that this institution practices a special military-oriented training program, it was only natural for the Minister of Defense to pay attention to the fact, for such young people are the future of our Armed Forces, the future of our State. We saw the eyes of those boys shine with enthusiasm while mastering the ABCs of knowledge, including of military science. As for the Ostroh Academy, it’s where you can become truly aware of being a citizen of Ukraine. Here one can trace the roots of Ukrainian literacy and science. One is gratified to be aware of this the more so that we of the military were also at those roots when we transferred the funds that have been released.
Lieutenant General Mykola PETRUK, Commander of the Western Tactical Command:
I think it’s very important for the officers to hear the Minister of Defense comment on the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ prospects, concerning every officer and his family. That is why the Minister of Defense has set that course by visiting military collectives and explaining all such issues, lest there be any misunderstanding. As for the Ostroh Academy, I am here, and it’s not my first visit, since I have helped set it up from the beginning. I have known the rector for a long time. The changes will be for the best. It’s quite indicative that, during the visit of the Minister of Defense, they discussed opportunities for the servicemen thus discharged to take retraining courses at the Ostroh Academy, particularly in terms of studying English and other languages as training courses meant for officers to be sent on peacekeeping missions.