There are already territorial defense brigades in Ukraine. These are civilians, volunteers who can at any time be formed into battalions and brigades. However, the principle of their formation has not yet been determined by the bill, and only 580 people currently serve in the battalions themselves. In 2014, Ukrainian "militias" were sent to the war zone after minimal training. Some of the fighters signed contracts and remained to serve in the Armed Forces, while the issue of the development of territorial defense remained outside the brackets.
In the absence of operational training of volunteers (with the exception of rare joint exercises with reservists), their conscription, and armament, Zelensky's bill "On the people's militia" is logical. However, in a sense, Zelensky's initiative perverts the very idea of territorial defense. In addition, a number of experts believe that the president does not want to increase security in the country in the first place, but to solve some political problems.
Warehouses with weapons and "transfer" to the occupied territories
The President stands up for the organized military-patriotic education of the population and its preparation for living conditions in the areas of hostilities. Resistance is carried out with the onset of a special period in the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine or the territory of Ukraine captured by the enemy during armed aggression. As a reminder, this special period has already been in effect for several months.
The President's Office believes that this bill "will help solve the problem of involving the entire society in countering threats to national security and repelling aggression from another state." True, the initiative was at least five years late. Military experts explain the hitch with the law by the fact that the ex-president was afraid of creating parallel armies.
By 2022, the defense forces will actually be a branch of the army and will live according to the laws of the army. The leading role in organizing, preparing, supporting, and performing resistance tasks belongs to the Special Operations Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The general leadership of the resistance is carried out by the President of Ukraine as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, and direct - by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine through the Commander of the Territorial Defense Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and local leaders. Thus, the presidential vertical is clearly visible.
The heads of the territorial defense zones are the heads of the regional state administration, the Kyiv and Sevastopol city administrations, the head of the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. The local, district, and regional headquarters will be directly supervised by the commanders appointed by agreement with the General Staff from among the subunit fighters.
Probably, such a vertical is connected precisely with the fear of the authorities to create separate, little-controlled paramilitary groups, which could be influenced by certain individuals. Strict obedience to the Armed Forces means stricter control. Nevertheless, the draft law states that local authorities are responsible for funding certain events for them. It is not clear from the text of the draft law what kind of events they are, to what extent they are funded.
Controversial in this context is the rule that the leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine will be able to send fighters of volunteer formations to the occupied territories to help the partisans.
After all, the main reason why citizens may be interested in joining the ranks of the resistance is the desire to protect their own home, family. In Zelensky's version, both the principle of territoriality and the principle of voluntariness are violated.
In such an environment, the motivation for volunteers must be clearly spelled out. At the very least, such a service could be counted as urgent, and a job could be retained for the volunteer.
In addition, in the conditions of strict control by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, another problem arises. The idea of territorial defense assumes that people involved on a volunteer basis will be able to perform not only the functions of an army but also use their specialization. For example, a programmer will apply his skills to cyber resistance, a medic will be able to heal the wounded. However, the new bill neutralizes these opportunities.
As for the weapons of the volunteers, it is only clear that the weapons will not be in their homes. Apparently, this is necessary just to minimize the risks of creating a separate army. Volunteers will be able to use and store only personal hunting weapons. This, however, creates other risks - for example, that the places of the centralized storage of weapons can be seized.
Also, according to the bill, foreigners involved in cooperation can obtain a Ukrainian passport under a simplified procedure or asylum in Ukraine. One paragraph in the bill solves the problem of the legalization of foreign employees of volunteers, with the requirement of which they once turned to the president.
Draining resources from the army
Another bill adopted by officials envisages an increase in the Armed Forces by 11,000 people to create the Territorial Defense Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. This is not about the entire people's militia, but only about the command of the military on the basis of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Of course, there will be many more volunteers.
In connection with the expansion of the army, another 94 million USD will be spent from the treasury in 2022, and in the following years – 26 million each. This difference in numbers is explained by the need to deploy and operate command posts, which will cost the country 66 million USD. In general, it is rather strange, because information about financing should belong to secret and not be contained in an ordinary legislative act, which, in fact, was mentioned in the Main Scientific and Expert Directorate.
Taking into account the costs of the military, on average, only 800 USD is allocated per commander per month (excluding the costs of food and clothing). Such a salary looks ridiculous, but other sources of funding for new formations, "not prohibited by law", are also allowed.
But does the reform of the army itself postpone the pulling of resources of the Armed Forces of Ukraine to the defense?
"An increase in the number of the Armed Forces requires an increase in funding, but even the current army is not adequately funded. There is a problem of staff turnover," says political analyst Volodymyr Volya. financial security, the issue of housing. In these conditions, stories about the growth of the number are either a derivative of some armchair fantasies of people who really do not understand the situation on the ground, or deliberate PR."
Military expert Valentyn Badrak believes that the funding is illogical. In his opinion, the country needs a terrorist defense, but in parallel with it, a small technological compact army is needed, which will be advanced due not to its size, but to the use of high technologies.
"By increasing the army, we will eat up 60% of the budget, support old weapons and only acquire new ones only occasionally. The army should be smaller, and funds should be directed to modern weapons systems," he emphasizes.
During the war years, the Ukrainian Armed Forces received only repaired tanks, armored personnel carriers, partially new armored personnel carriers, and a few drones. The expert is sure that funds must be directed to the use of ground robots, missile control systems. Ukraine needs its own production of equipment, which is especially evident in the light of Germany's refusal to supply weapons to Ukraine. There are some elements that we are not yet able to produce, but medium and long-term planning should be based on Ukrainian capacities, not imports. By the way, recently the world saw the first Ukrainian attack unmanned helicopter with a guidance and weapon control system.
Instead of technical support, the emphasis is on expanding the army. In 2020, Zelensky signed a decree that lowered the age of conscription from 20 to 18 years old. Also, the president initiated and signed a law allowing the re-conscription of citizens.
Zelensky's personal motivation
Badrak cites the conservative views of the military-political leadership and the commander-in-chief himself as the reason for the expansion of the army. However, a number of experts associate such a decision not with defense tasks, but with the internal political struggle. The principles of creating volunteer formations detailed in the bill are prompting political scientists to think that Zelensky needs such a document in order to further increase his influence.
"Zelensky dreams of such a mini-army," says political strategist Oleksandr Teplyuk. "I'm afraid that regional controlled mini-armies will be created, which will be covered by the law."
According to Teplyuk, they want to create a kind of forceful counterbalance to other influential political and financial structures by bill No. 5557 to Zelensky.
“Zelensky has very little control over the Ministry of Internal Affairs and law enforcement agencies,” the expert says. “We see how the Security Service, which he had pinned great hopes on, is failing. The body is very corrupt, and it is impossible to control it. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is also not subject. team. And they cannot remove Avakov. Therefore, some structures are being created that will be subordinate to the president.”
Political analyst Kyrylo Molchanov also says that Interior Minister Arsen Avakov will now weaken.
Another motive for the new legislation, political expert Volodymyr Volya, calls Zelensky's attempt to enlist the support of the electorate of other political forces.
“I think that this is nothing more than a political trick, designed for the part of the electorate that will like it,” Volodymyr Volya continues. “Here we should talk in terms of the national resistance, which are very appealing to the voters of the European Solidarity, partly Batkivshchyna, Holos factions and so on.”