We should begin with the Anti-Terror Operation, because, as the case has been in the previous years, most of the attention was focused on the provision for the units located in the area of military action and their training. Last year there were many rumors about the Armed Forces allegedly seeking to attack, and the rumors became even louder once Mykhaylo Zabrodsky became the commander in the ATO. Ukrainian units then started occupying “the gray area”, but in his interview for 112.ua Mr Zabrodsky said “it was just a coincidence”.
Whatever the case may be, the ATO units managed to improve their tactical state on the Avdiivka and Bakhmut directions by moving forward. Apart from that, the General staff has moved from three to just two tactical forces: Luhansk and Donetsk (earlier, there was also a Mariupol one).
According to the official data from the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the irreplaceable losses stood at 191 servicemen in 2017. Another 174 soldiers were wounded, the ministry’s response to the request filed by BBC Ukraine reads.
According to the information from the report, over 2017 the “Evacuation 200” operation raid patrols managed to find places of disposition of 11 soldiers that were considered as gone missing. Upon identification, their remains were given to their relatives for reburial.
What concerns the quantity of the military, compared to 2015-2016, it remain unchanged and stood at 250,000 (204,000 soldiers and 46,000 civilian employees of the Armed Forces). Over 2017, 34,3 thousand of private corps and non-commissioned officers were recruited under contract, as well as over 2.4 thousand of officers. This is why as of the year’s end, the number of private corps and non-commissioned officers stood at 120.5 thousand (48.2% of the total number), which is two times greater than it was in 2014. All in all, until 2020 the direction of the staff policy: 70% of the total number of the Armed Forces should be soldiers and serjeants, 20% officers and 5% cadets.
Apart from the current soldiers, there is also 140 thousand of reserve officers, “113 thousand of which are designated for the operational reserve of the first turn of the maneuver brigades and regiments”. That means that if there is a full-scale war they will be the first to return to units, most commonly to those where they had previously served.
A total of 17.5 thousand people were recruited in 2017, along with 1,500 reserve officers.
So how much money did the ministry have to feed such an army? The authority reports that in fact it received UAH 72,126,2 million (2.53% of the GDP). Also, Ukraine managed to attract assistance from charitable governments and international organizations – another UAH 2.7 billion. If compared to 2016, the amount of funding went up by 24% or UAH 14,100,6 million.
UAH 72,126,2 million were allocated to such things as the maintenance of the army and its training. The experience of NATO member states reveals that some 50% should be spent on the maintenance of the army (funding, various benefits, material and food components), other 20% should be spent on training, and the rest – 30% - on equipment and weaponry improvements. Ukraine seeks to reach such figures, but right now the Armed Forces are still consuming some 70% of its own budget. Also, in 2017, general expenses on financial aid alone reached UAH 30.3 billion:
- funding for the Armed Forces – UAH 52 249,2 (72,4% of the total amount);
- training of the Armed Forces – UAH 2 734,8 million (3,8%);
- equipment and armorment improvements – UAH 17 142,2 million (23,8%).
Over the last year, families of 467 deceased military servicemen received a total of UAH 328.6 million in financial assistance, while another UAH 1176.7 million were paid to 5786 wounded soldiers and disabled servicemen.
In 2017, 494 ATO soldiers were provided with housing, including 15 wounded servicemen from the defense ministry’s funds. Three families of deceased soldiers who directly participated in the ATO were provided with accommodation from various sources.
In 2017, 56 servicemen previously engaged in the ATO were sent overseas for medical treatment. 6 soldiers got a Hero of Ukraine award, 4 of those were posthumous.
Food and Uniform
"In 2017, the food supply experiment came to an end, thereby transferring 23 military posts to a new nutritional system”. What does it mean? At 23 military posts (even more by today) the pearled barley and canned meat were left behind, and now students and military servicemen have over 350 items including fresh vegetables and fruit, juices and seasoning in their diets. Furthermore, new quality combat rations with hot breakfast, lunch and dinner, have been introduced, allowing soldiers to mix and match between 7 different dishes. Soldiers provided positive feedback on the new nutrition.
The problem is that the equipment and ventilation in kitchens at military posts are outdated, and their repairs are time-consuming and costly. This is why many posts choose to offer a la carte menus, subsequently reforming the system itself. Altogether, some UAH 3,35 billion were spent on food supplies for Ukrainian soldiers in 2017.
16 NATO standards regulating the requirements towards the uniforms, individual protection tools and other components of material support have been incorporated into the material support system”, - the “White book” reads.
Also, the term of wearing a uniform have been lowered, for example from 6 to 4 months in regards to a summer costume, from 2 to 1 year for the two sets of winter underwear. New clothing elements have been introduced too.
In autumn of last year, the defense ministry announced it was working on women's underwear for female soldiers. Meetings and consultations with fitness instructors happened, but it was decided to postpone the project to 2018. As of late June 2018, there is still no women’s underwear in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Equipment and weaponry
Again, the main effort last year was focused on the ATO area. Up to UAH 7 billion (and that is just 10% of the required amount) was spent on providing the Armed Forces with new and modernized military equipment and weaponry. The majority of the amount went on to be spent on modernization, a minor part of it was spent on scientific research.
According to the results of execution of the State defense program in 2017, 21 new types of military equipment were received over the course of 2017. 2651 units of new and modernized military equipment were procured and delivered to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. That figure includes 700 units of key samples of military equipment, over 350 items for intelligence and surveillance, around 650 items of other equipment), 26800 units of ammunition for various purposes.
According to the cost approved by the defense ministry, some UAH 4 billion were allocated for repairs of military equipment in 2017. With that money, more than 1150 items of military equipment were repaired (at Ukraine’s defense enterprises) and over 800 of units of equipment (by maintenance organizations of the Armed Forces).
The situation with automobiles is not so great though. 80% of the automobile equipment of the Armed Forces is outdated. Its repairs are getting delayed due to bureaucratic procedures.
Training and exercise
Altogether, there were 35 brigade tactical exercises, 168 batallion (division) tactical exercisesб 605 company tactical exercises, 12 squadron tactical exercises, over 39,000 jumps. The air units had 1562 practice bombings and 933 practice shootings. Ships and boats had 98 gun fires at sea and air targets.
In 2017, Ukrainian Armed Forces units took part in 19 multinational exercises, 5 of which occurred in Ukraine, while another 14 took place overseas. Altogether, some 3600 Ukrainian soldiers participated, along with 300 units of military equipment, over 25 ships, 27 airplanes and helicopters. Also, the Military Institute for Tank Forces, the State Research Institute for Testing and Certification of Weaponry, along with three reserve-officer training departments, were established.
Over 2017, 9 existing training centers were repaired, along with the creation of the material-technical base for 2 new training centers. A system for instructor training compatible with NATO standards was introduced. Some 10 batallions, 25 companies and more than 1400 instructors were trained there. Once again, only UAH 2,734,8 million were spent on Armed Forces training (3.8% of the total amount). NATO standards envisage this component to stand around 20%.
In 2017, the Ukrainian military actively participated in two NATO missions: the national contingent (40 soldiers) as part of the multinational forces in Kosovo and Serbia, while the national personnel (10 soldiers) were part of the NATO’s “Decisive support” mission in Afghanistan.
In 2017, some 1000 Armed Forces soldiers as part of three national contingents and the national staff participated in 9 different international peace keeping and security operations headed by the United Nations, NATO and peacekeeping forces in seven countries of the world. Altogether, in 9 such operations 445 Ukrainian soldiers are taking part.
J-structure and NATO standards
By 2020, the Ukrainian Armed Forces need to reorganize into a J-structure – a unique construction set of some sort where everyone knows its responsibilities. Such an organization allows to avoid dualism, to concentrate more effort on military training, maintenance of the air alert and logistics. It will also divide the structure into specific departments, here is the one on military training, here is where their supplies come from, here is where the operations are directed from.
Over 2017, the Personnel Directorate (J1), Head Operational Directorate (J3), Head Defense and Mobilization Planning Directorate were reformed. Also, the Head Logistics Directorate (J4) and the Head Training Directorate (J7) were formed, the formation of the Head Intelligence Directorate (J2) is still ongoing.
Alongside that, the army last year received the following:
- military posts of reserve corps;
- mechanized training regiment and a training center;
- two separate mountain assault battalions;
- two separate automobile batallions;
- a separate center for electronic warfare;
- two map-making units;
- an air defense missile unit;
- a separate center for gathering radio intelligence;
- a separate marine infantry battalion;
- four crews of small bulletproof artillery boats.
It is extremely crucial to distribute the functions, tasks, authorities and responsibilities between different bodies of military management. Even though it is the 2018 prospect, nonetheless:
The General Staff of the Armed Forces should engage in the planning for the defense of the country, strategic planning of Armed Forces usage and development.
The Joint operative staff should focus on the planning and operational management of units that were transferred into operational command.
The officership of categories of the Armed Forces, certain kinds of military should be responsible for the formation, development, technical equipment, comprehensive maintenance, training and support for the military in their execution of assumed responsibilities.
Currently, some 135 national pieces of legislation based on 167 standards and other NATO guiding documents have been suggested (in 2017, 24 NATO normative documents were introduced).
Between 2014 and 2017, Ukraine attracted a total of UAH 6,885,9 million from charitable donations, humanitarian and international technical aid. In 2014, UAH 426.2 million were attracted, UAH 1,696,1 million in 2015, followed by UAH 2,083,8 million in 2016, and UAH 2,679,8 million last year.
For the most part, the Ukrainian defense ministry has been cooperating with such countries as the United Kingdom, Georgia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, United States, Canada, Moldova and others.
Just the United States alone provided assistance worth $56 million, along with 36 instructors on different functional directions. Altogether, there were 67 foreign advisors representing 13 countries working with the defense ministry. What is worth noting is that earlier, the aid for Ukraine was mostly material and logistical: various weaponry, equipment, uniforms, tools, etc. Now the focus seems to be on education, experience exchange, consultation. The American, Canadian and Lithuanian governments are good friends, but it is time to assume the responsibility for taking care of ourselves, at least partially.
2017 perhaps became the first year since the war broke out in the east of the country when it became somewhat clear how much power Ukraine actually has, how much resources it has, what it requires and where to get funding for it from. 2014, 2015 and even 2016 were the years of panic, fear, bandaid approach, and reckoning with the corrupt past. I would romantically call 2017 the year when the army left the rock bottom, left something that bringing it down, both in the material and mental sense of the word. 2018 should become a productive year for the Armed Forces (of course had it got the UAH 140 billion from the state budget it had asked for, as opposed to the UAH 83 billion it received in reality) and a rather interesting. The closer 2020 becomes, the more interesting it is going to get.