Biggest threat to Europe is Russia. Biggest problem in Europe is military potential of Ukraine

Author : News Agency

Respondent : Glen Grant

Source : 112 Ukraine

Glen Grant, retired lieutenant colonel of the British Army shares his view on the new Ukrainian Law on national security
11:38, 4 July 2018

Read original interview at

112 Agency

- The NATO summit will soon begin in Brussels. Before this event, Ukraine was in a hurry to pass a law on national security. The document has already been signed by the head of the Verkhovna Rada, Andriy Parubiy, and soon Poroshenko must endorse it. You worked on the first version of the document in 2014. Comparing it with the final version, what has changed?

Glen Grant: This document is a lot new. Firstly, this is a more extensive document compared to what was written in 2014, it now includes the reality of the Security Service, the National Guard and all other departments that work in the field of defense and security. It also has a much stronger set of checks and balances, the purpose of which is that the parliament and the public have greater control over the defense forces than in the past, maybe even more than the defense forces would like. But these things are really important. And, of course, a civilian as defense minister.

- What are the main drawbacks of the adopted bill, in your opinion?

- I think that the main drawback is that in many parts there are too vague formulations, little soft ones. There is no distribution of duties in a sufficiently rigid manner. In addition, the National Security and Defense Council did not conduct proper checks to decide who should do what. Therefore, you have the same tasks in such areas as the fight against terrorism, moreover, there are military tasks. And everyone wants his "piece of pie". This needs to be clarified, because what will it lead to? If there is no clarity, who does what, then this is a recipe for spending money, this is a recipe for problems. One of the serious problems is the absence of a joint headquarters at the level of the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff. Without a proper joint headquarters, it is not clear if Russia is actually attacking, who is in charge? The whole idea of creating a joint headquarters for the Donbas was to stop the many actions that took place because no one was clearly responsible for what was going on, but it was military activity. But the whole territory of Ukraine needs the same, it needs a proper joint headquarters to control any military activities that go beyond the Donbas and beyond other joint headquarters. In fact, this is probably the most dangerous part of the law, the most dangerous weakness at the moment.

- How do you assess the point that the Minister of Defense, who is obliged to determine the forms and methods of using weapons, types of weapons, and plan and give orders to the military, should be a civilian?

- First of all, you need a civilian minister. But the tasks that you just listed are not the tasks of the Minister of Defense. The defense minister should not be a general. The work of the Minister of Defense is very clear, first of all, to translate the government's strategy into a political strategy that the chief of staff can understand and use. Its task is to manage a common defense, not military efforts. In other words, the types and number of troops should be the subject of discussion between the State Secretary of the Defense Ministry and the Chief of the General Staff: to decide what is best suited to the strategy, what is available, what is sustainable in the long term. And the main thing in the defense minister is a course that others can follow. This is a civilian because the course is a political activity at this level. And the Ministry of Defense is an organization, its work is economic activity, the best use of money, to make sure that money is not wasted on what they should not spend - it's always better for a civilian to do this. Even better, if this civilian has a certain business and international political experience.

- Let's talk about the relations of Ukraine and the North Atlantic Alliance. In 10 days, the NATO summit starts. Jens Stoltenberg invited the President of Ukraine to take part in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of heads of state. Tell me, what is this gesture about?

- The biggest threat to Europe is Russia. The biggest problem in Europe is the military potential of Ukraine. Therefore, for NATO, it would be unthinkable not to invite President Poroshenko. And rightly, he should be there. What NATO wants to hear from him is what Ukraine is doing to actually oppose Russia in order to develop in the future and, of course, what steps are being taken to make the country look like Western democracy in its form and essence, because NATO is the values organization. If Ukraine wants to join NATO, then Ukraine must follow the same values as other countries in NATO. Therefore, NATO members would like to hear from President Poroshenko what he is doing in this respect. On the other hand, I think that NATO would give him a strong, hopefully positive, signal. You know, membership in NATO is a real possibility, but changes and reforms must occur before NATO membership comes.

 - Previously, Poroshenko said that Ukraine continues to reform the security and defense sector in accordance with NATO standards. Earlier you held the position of adviser to the head of the Estonian president on the issues of joining the Alliance. On this basis, do you see any progress in reforming the defense sector of our country?

- There are two points. First, I worked with Estonia, Latvia, Montenegro on NATO membership. The most important thing in this is absolute honesty and openness. This is something that the defense and military system of Ukraine has yet to work on. I think there is a second point, according to which Ukraine is now 90% ready for NATO membership. I would have looked at it differently. The Pareto principle says - 80% of what you are doing accounts for 20% of the effort. The remaining 20% account for 80% of the effort. I think that this is exactly what is happening with the reform. In fact, many simple things have been done. The more complex challenges of reform, especially the way in which soldiers treat human rights in the defense sector, are difficult. The rejection of Soviet thinking, the transition to Western-style doctrine, especially in governance and the reduction of control, is an extremely difficult task for the military. I still do not see them working on this at the moment. Others may see, but I'm not.

- Poroshenko said earlier that he dreams that membership in the EU and the North Atlantic alliance will come in the medium term in 2030. In your opinion, is it realistic to achieve this in 12 years?

- It is realistic, and both forecasts are possible. 12 years is actually more than enough. But membership will not be without any tough action on the part of parliament, the government and the president himself. There are big changes. Across Ukraine, there is still a question - why people leave and what else can be done? This is all in the hands of the government, moreover, in the hands of the president. If he wants to do this in 12 years, I think it's possible, but it is not always possible with the speed with which he is now moving.

- We want to know your attitude to the introduction of the UN peacekeeping mission in Donbas. Which format would be ideal for Ukraine in the context of the number, authority, and geography of the blue helmets?

- Honestly, I think this is a recipe for disaster. This had no use in other countries, it has no effect, except the cessation of hostilities. If this is what you want, it will result in a loss of sovereignty in this region for Ukraine almost certainly. I just do not see Russia allow this to happen, there is no evidence that Russia is generally interested in letting the "blue helmets" penetrate the Donbas in such a format as others see it. I am concerned that this topic is used to forget about the harsh reality that at some point you will have to face Russia seriously.

- Should we expect that during the NATO summit concrete decisions will be made regarding the introduction of a peacekeeping contingent to Donbas?

- I think that this can happen. I think these decisions can be adopted, and countries can voluntarily send troops there. But this does not mean that it will happen, it will be just a decision. However, everything can change: politics and circumstances. Putin may die tomorrow. Circumstances can change tomorrow. And at this stage having a plan and help from other countries - it would be very good.

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Related: Donbas: 17 attacks on Ukrainian positions, no casualties




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