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Promised end to military conscription now years away

2011/2/14 10:36:54

One of the most welcomed promises during the Yushchenko administration was an end to military conscription. However, the promise did not become reality under Yushchenko, and the Yanukovych presidency has made clear the issue is on the back burner until 2015.

News and commentary from Ukraine Business Online


KYIV, Feb. 14, 2011 (UBO) – For many years military conscription has been one of the most hated Ukrainian realities. Former President Viktor Yushchenko promised to end conscription but never managed to attain the reality. The Yanukovych administration has now dusted off the old concept of conscription as a way to teach patriotism, and has made plans to keep the practice around until at least 2015.


On Nov. 18, 2010, Colonel-General Hryhoriy Pedchenko, Chief of General Staff and Commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine told a briefing in Kyiv the Ukrainian army would be fully contract no earlier than 2015


He went on to describe the current situation in which 51 percent of privates and non-commissioned officers are under contract with that number planned to increase to 70 percent by 2015.


Pedchenko added that the General Staff is planning to increase the strength of ordinary troops, petty officers and noncommissioned officers employed under contract by 20,000 to 69,000 before the end of 2015. 


Minister of Defense says end of conscription necessary for budgetary reasons


On Friday, Defense Minister Mykhaylo Yezhel confirmed the earlier announcement regarding conscription during an Inter television interview. 


"The situation has developed that we are not able today, as claimed by some politicians, to transfer to a contract army in three months," Yezhel said, adding that Ukraine plans to draft about 20,000 military personnel for all services in the coming year.


"For the full transition to a contract army the state lacks funds and, at the same time, the service on the contractual basis is not prestigious for the young men who go to serve," Yezhel concluded.


Years of neglect have been ruinous for Ukraine’s military forces


There is little doubt that the defense minister is correct in his statement that contract service in the military lacks prestige.


After independence, the kind of serious reorganization and downsizing of the Ukrainian military necessary to rationalize the forces was not accomplished, leaving a force larger than the country could afford.


Every Ukrainian government since independence has budgeted less than was necessary to adequately fund the existing military – and then provided actual funding even less than the paltry amount budgeted.


This has led to a military without enough money to adequately train its conscript troops There was neither enough money to properly maintain the navy’s ships, except for a couple of show pieces, nor money for those ships able to put to sea for sufficient time to adequately train crews. However, one of the most damaging deficits was in the air force, for which there was neither sufficient money to properly maintain aging Soviet-era aircraft nor enough money for the air force’s pilots to have more than a very small number of the flying hours necessary to maintain top efficiency.


Interestingly enough, many military personnel believe the most valuable training for personnel in recent years has been the experience gained during Ukraine’s active participation in UN peacekeeping missions in Africa, the Middle East and other parts of the world.


Before someone misunderstands our criticisms here, let us state firmly that they are in no way directed toward Ukraine’s military leadership, which in general has done an extremely good job in the face of abysmal underfunding.


The national political leadership in various presidential administrations, governments, and parliaments was unwilling and unable to muster the political will to support the military forces in a satisfactory manner. If there is blame to be apportioned, almost every Ukrainian politician since independence should be willing to shoulder his or her share.


Further, so far as the statements from various top leaders about the military being the place to learn patriotic duty, most Ukrainians believe they are quite capable of teaching patriotic duty in their homes, churches and schools, with no help from the army needed.


Jim Davis


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