What You Need To Know:
✓ Change cannot happen in the military without it happening in society as a whole;
✓ The current Ukrainian military leadership is trying to enforce more oversight and transparency in aim to decrease the level of corruption within the army;
✓ Though the US is only training 900 Ukrainian soldiers, some of them are being trained as certified instructors;
✓ 'No one in the western military has such experience as we [Ukraine] have because if you look for last 20-25 years or 30 years, there has been no war of such scale - with full use tanks, heavy artillery, UAVs and such high tech equipment'.
In order to meet NATO’s military expectations Ukraine needs to improve its military capabilities and carry out internal reforms within the military, said Major General Borys Kremenetsky, first deputy of the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ Military Cooperation and Peacekeeping Operations division. According to him this depends not only of political will and economic support but also on changing society’s mind set.
“The military is a part of our society so we cannot talk about the military reaching some capabilities without taking about our nation reaching some European criteria,” said Major General Borys Kremenetsky. He gave the example of military education and training. According to him, western military training teaches soldiers to be creative thinkers and to be capable of taking initiative. “This is something which differs I would say from old soviet approach which I experienced myself,” commented Kremenetsky.
Corruption within the Ukrainian military has been highlighted by several journalists. According to Kremenetsky, the current military leadership is trying to enforce more oversight and transparency over procurement as well as trying to procure more weapons from Ukrainian weapons producers and involve society in the discussion of issues of military reform.
Another issue, according to Kremenetsky, is that though Ukraine is spending more on defense now than ever before, Ukraine still spends a lot less per soldier than most countries and for almost 20 years the armed forces in Ukraine were under financed.
At the moment there are currently 300 US troops training 900 Ukrainian troops in western Ukraine. This is not too little, Kremenetsky told Hromadske, since some of the Ukrainian soldiers are being trained as certified instructors. However, it still does not escape the fact that the Ukraine-Russia conflict differs substantially from others modern day conflicts.
“No one in the western military has such experience we have” said Kremenetsky “because if you look for last 20-25 years or 30 years, there has been no war of such scale - with full use tanks, heavy artillery, UAVs and such high tech equipment.... If you take Yugoslavia or Afghanistan there was no use of such modern weapons. So we do have experience but we need to put this experience into a new type of training and new tactics – which our colleagues can provide. We still use a lot of manuals, concepts from the Soviet Union so it’s time to review all of this”.
Kremenetsky told Hromadske that the prospect of a UN peacekeeping mission in Ukraine is unrealistic because of Russia’s veto. A EU peacekeeping mission on the other hand could be effective if placed on the border with Russia, though it is still uncertain if all EU members can agree to such an operation. “This is the main priority- to close the boarder and the rest we can do ourselves,” said Kremenetsky.
Hromadske International's Nataliya Gumenyuk and Ian Bateson spoke with Major General Borys Kremenetsky on June 14, 2015.