Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

tel. +38 (044) 287 52 58

INTERNATIONAL WEEKLY № 11 (17.06.2017 – 30.06.2017)

NATO is preparing for defence, and in Ukraine under the guise of ‘reforms’ destroying what have been already created

After Russia's military invasion to Ukraine the Eastern Europe became much more vulnerable. At the Kremlin's hybrid war background on the territory of Ukraine, NATO tries to strengthen its eastern flank. So, the Alliance has recently worked out the issue of the defence of the Suwalki corridor from Russia's potential invasion. The US and British troops conducted the first large-scale NATO defense exercises on the border between Poland and Lithuania, working out a scenarioaccording to which Russia could try to cut off the Baltic States from the rest of the Western Alliance. More than 10,000 troops, over 70 ships and about 70 aircraft participated in the NATO exercises [1].

However, Moscow traditionally refuses and denies the existence of any plans to seize the Baltic States. At the same time, Russia claims that NATO is threatening the stability of Eastern Europe by expanding its military presence and conducting similar military exercises. So in particular, the Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, believes that: ‘what is happening clearly demonstrates the clear reluctance of the Western partners to abandon the anti-Russian course’. According to him, NATO increased the ‘intensity’ of operational and combat training within the framework of the exercises of Baltic Operations-2017 and Saber Strik-2017, resulting at the situation on the western frontiers that Russia tends to deteriorate [1].

However, as it is known in September this year, large-scale military exercises of Russia and Belarus ‘West – 2017’ are planned. They will unite more than 100 thousand military and will be the largest Russian training since 2013. Instead, the US military intends to conduct their studies in Sweden, Poland and Ukraine – at the same time when the Russian ‘West-2017’ will take place [2]. According to Ben Hodges, the US Army Europe commander, Russia cannot be trusted, because there are many examples of how Moscow does not comply with any agreements and consistently violates its promises. ‘When Russia seized the Crimea – it happened against the background of military exercises. When Russians invaded Georgia – there were also training. And I would not rule out similar developments in connection with these exercises. But NATO is a team of professionals, we all work to have the highest level of readiness during such exercises’,-  Hodges said [3].

Russia's hybrid war against Ukraine remains the top theme in NATO. At the same time, the Kremlin is threatening not only direct military intervention but also cyber-attacks in European countries. These issues lie at the heart of cooperation between Ukraine and NATO. Today, in the Alliance, Ukraine is regarded as one of the most important partners, because Ukrainians are working out in practical terms resisting Russian aggression on all fronts every day. The latest evidence of this was the meeting of Oleksandr Turchynov, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, with the NATO Deputy Secretary General, Kamil Grant, which took place in June this year. The parties discussed the Russian hybrid aggression against Ukraine, the issue of cooperation with the NATO member states in the military-technical sphere and cybersecurity, as well as the issue of transition of the security and defense sector to NATO standards, in particular its defense-industrial complex.

‘Only the powerful weapons and strong army can stop the aggression of the Russian Federation’, – Turchynov said, adding that the restoration of multilateral military-technical cooperation between Ukraine and the Allies is one of our main priorities. Kamil Grant emphasized that the Alliance does not overlook the topic of Russian annexation of the Crimea and the events in the East of Ukraine. ‘NATO demonstrates unity on the position of Russia's actions, which are extremely dangerous for the world order’, – he mentioned. ‘NATO considers Ukraine one of the most important partners and looks very optimistic about the prospects of our cooperation’, – he summed up [4].

At a time when NATO considers Ukraine one of the most important partner, doubtful decisions are taken inside the country that undermine the ground of the formation of the professional Armed Forces of Ukraine. The last such decision was made  by the top state officials about the reformation of the National Academy of Ground Forces in Lviv, with the liquidation of three military departments there, whose graduates form the main command structure of the combat units and hold the defense of Donbas front. The Minister Stepan Poltorak wants to teach the future artillery in Sumy, troopers – in Kharkiv, and engineers (pioneers) in Kamyanets-Podilsky. The International Center for Peacekeeping and Security is subordinated to the Lviv International Academy of Land Forces, that is, Yavoriv Polygon. Here, the NATO’s officers are training Ukrainian servicemen, full-time students and contract staff. It is one of the largest shooting range in Europe, with an area of over 30 hectares [5].

The decision on the so-called reform of the Academy is deprived of any common sense and is illogical, unsystematic, especially during the war. The question is, why should the state ‘reform’ the Academy and disconnect students from training at the Yavoriv shooting range, which is now the basis of Ukraine's defense capabilities and send them to locations that do not have the proper equipment and trainers?

Thus, the latest developments indicate that in NATO indeed, they practically and politically support Ukraine in this difficult time of the hybrid war; however really, the Kremlin is not the only enemy of Ukraine. Because of its unprofessional decisions or even planned, the leadership of the state continues to destroy what is already created and does not think about the prospect and consequences of such acts.