October 21, 2017

A European Army: To Be Or Not To Be?

Oleksiy Volovych

Part 2

A European Army: To Be Or Not To Be? Part 1

Military-Technical Cooperation between Ukraine and the West

After the termination in August 2015 of the military-technical cooperation between Ukraine and Russia, our state is stepping up cooperation in the sphere of defence industry with the United States, Canada and the EU countries. This is facilitated by an increase in spending on security and defence needs of Ukraine over the past three years — from UAH 90 billion in 2015 to UAH 130 billion in 2017, and according to the draft state budget-2018 — to UAH 165 billion. According to the government's forecasts, in 2019 this figure will amount to UAH 175 billion, and in 2020 — to UAH 187 billion. To date, the state concern “Ukroboronprom” unites 105 enterprises of the defence industry, which employ hundreds of thousands of qualified engineers, technicians and workers. At these enterprises, the European partners could start joint arms production with Ukrainian companies. At the moment the enterprises of Ukroboronprom cooperate with 20 countries.

One of the most promising directions of the development of military-technical cooperation between Ukraine and the Eastern European countries (members of NATO) is the modernization of old Soviet military equipment without the use of components and spare parts of Russian make, in which the enterprises of the Ukrainian defence industry have made significant progress. Ukraine could place Western electronics on the products of the domestic defence industry, as well as deploy centers for the exploitation of Western military equipment on its territory. Our country is ready to cooperate with European countries in the development of a long-range radar detection aircraft based on the domestic An-148, as well as in the repair and modernization of old Soviet anti-aircraft missile systems. Within the three and a half years of the “hybrid war” in the Donbas, Ukraine has accumulated a unique experience that could be combined with the technological capabilities of Western companies.


In order to have successful cooperation with the European defence industry enterprises, Ukrainian such an enterprises should open their representative offices in the EU countries, and also pass the procedure of certification of products for compliance with the Alliance standards. Without the compliance of Ukrainian weapons and military equipment with these standards, their sale to European countries is almost impossible. And Ukraine has something to offer the West. For example, Ukrainian armored vehicles, transport aircraft, missile armament, and radar equipment in their characteristics are in no way inferior to Western models. But for NATO countries, which include the leaders of world arms exports, Ukraine is interesting primarily as a market, but not as an arms supplier. On the other hand, a sufficiently developed Ukrainian defence industry allows to provide the Ukrainian security and defence sector with modern weapons and military equipment by 70–80 %, which gives Ukraine grounds for counting on partner relations with the Western defence industry.

In early 2017, Ukroboronprom promulgated plans to switch by 2018 the entire volume of production of Ukrainian weapons and military equipment to NATO standards, which means that there can no longer be a return to military-technical cooperation with Russia. Strange as it might seem, but Russian President V. Putin considers it possible “to return to cooperation with our Ukrainian partners in the military-industrial complex, it is important only to create certain conditions for this”. He stated this in his 2017, April 25 speech at an on-site meeting of the Military-Industrial Commission of the Russian Federation in Rybinsk. By “certain conditions”, V. Putin probably meant the restoration of the pro-Russian government in Ukraine. We will not give him the satisfaction!


The Project of the EU Army and the Ukrainian-Russian Confrontation

Since the beginning of Russia's aggression against Ukraine in the spring of 2014, the discussion on the idea of the creation of a European Army has significantly intensified both in different structures of the European Union and at the level of individual countries, especially in Germany and France — participants in the “Normandy Format” negotiations on the settlement of the situation in the Donbas. During the armed conflict in the Donbas, a number of the EU and NATO member states provided Ukraine with significant military and technical assistance and support. In particular, since spring 2014, supplies of material and technical and humanitarian aid have begun, training missions have been organized for training personnel of the Armed Forces, National Guard, Border Guard and National Police of Ukraine. Poland, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Slovakia, Norway, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Czech Republic, Albania, Lithuania, Latvia, Switzerland and Denmark have provided Ukraine with total military-technical assistance worth about 16 million US dollars. Canada has provided 24 million US dollars in aid.

Of the countries non-members of the EU and NATO, China and Australia have provided total aid worth about 10 million US dollars. Japan has provided the greatest assistance to Ukraine. The total package of Japan's assistance to Ukraine in December 2016 amounted to 2 billion US dollars. Much of this amount went on strengthening the defence capabilities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. As of 2016, Lithuania was the only state supplying lethal weapons. It has supplied Ukraine with 60 KPVT machine guns, 86 DShK machine guns, as well as about 150 tons of ammunition. In the period of 2014–2017, instructors from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Sweden, Poland, Lithuania and Estonia participated in the training of Ukrainian military.

In 2014–2016, the United States provided Ukraine with assistance worth over 600 million US dollars, of which 111 million US dollars made the non-lethal ammunitions, devices and military equipment. September 19, 2017, the Senate of the US Congress approved the allocation of 500 million US dollars (about UAH 13 billion) to support Ukraine in the spheres of security and defence. According to this bill, the United States will for the first time supply Ukraine with lethal weapons of a defensive nature. Besides, Ukrainian military personnel will be able to undergo rehabilitation in American medical institutions.

Ukrainian President P. Poroshenko, who that day participated in the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, said that providing Ukraine with defensive weapons would not stop Russian occupation in the Donbas, but could save lives of many Ukrainian soldiers and “raise the cost” of a possible large-scale Russian aggression against Ukraine.

We often hear statements by European officials of different levels that Ukraine's accession to NATO is premature since, say, neither Ukraine nor NATO itself is ready today and is unlikely to be ready in the next 5–7 years or more. Thus, on March 3, 2016, in his speech at the 14th Norbert Schmelzer lecture, President of the European Commission J. C. Juncker said that Ukraine would not be able to become a member of the European Union and NATO within the next 20–25 years. However, Ukrainians are stubborn people and such statements of Western politicians are not in any way upsetting us. No one and nothing will turn us away from the path of Euro-Atlantic integration. The situation in the world is changing very quickly. Few European politicians could foresee 4 years ago that Russia would annex the Crimea and occupy a part of the Ukrainian territory in the Donbas.

In this situation, the question arises: if the leadership of the European Union defines the area of responsibility of the future EU Army within a radius of 4 thousand kilometers from the borders of the European Union, then one can hope that the territory of all Ukraine will fall into this zone. Besides, many NATO and the European Union's documents state that the main task of NATO and the future EU Army is to protect Europe first and foremost. Here I would like to remind NATO and European Union's strategists that the geographical center of the European continent is located in the city of Rakhiv in Western Ukraine.

We would be very grateful to our European partners if they helped us to carry out a small special operation — to return the 410-kilometer section of the Ukrainian-Russian border in the Donbas region to the Ukrainian border guards' control. The reason for this may be the a letter of intent for cooperation in the sphere of special operations, which was signed in February 2017 by Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine V. Muzhenko and Commander of NATO Special Operations Headquarters M. Webb. If the border with Russia is securely closed, then the crisis situation in the Donbas will be quickly resolved, since the supply of Russian arms and ammunition to pro-Russian separatists and terrorists (with whose hands Russia is leading its proxy war against Ukraine) will stop.

If our Western partners do not intend to defend Ukraine in cooperation with the Ukrainian Armed Forces, fearing the risk of collision with Russia, then about what “European security” can we talk? What is then the point of the words said by President of the European Commission J. C. Juncker in March 2015 in his interview with the German newspaper “Die Welt”, that “a joint EU army could serve as a deterrent and would have been useful during the Ukraine crisis. With its own army, Europe could react more credibly to the threat to peace in a member state or in a neighbouring state”?

Unfortunately, we are witnessing that behind the loud statements of some European top politicians there are often no real actions. And we have a very sad example when, on December 5, 1994, the “great powers” signed the “Memorandum on Security Assurances in Connection with Ukraine’s Accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons”, which Russia violated with impunity in 2014 and keeps violating, sparkling a fire of war in the center of Europe.

Most Russian experts do not see in the European Army project anything “good” for Russia's interests on the European continent, because, in their view, the main goal of the European Army will not be Africa, but Russia and its neighboring countries, in which a significant number of ethnic Russians live compactly. Russian experts believe that everything is complicated by the fact that the EU, unlike NATO, is not connected with the Russian Federation by any, even purely formal, “delimiting” agreements in the military sphere. In addition, today the atmosphere in the relations between the EU countries and the Russian Federation does not contribute to the achievement of any agreements in the military-political sphere. Russian experts also “fear” that in case of the full-fledged functioning of the European Army, the military bases of the European Union can appear in the countries of Eastern Europe without any complicated coordination with NATO. But they somehow “forget” that today, Moscow has already concentrated hundreds of thousands of Russian troops along the western borders of Ukraine, and it was Russia that for the first time after the end of World War II annexed part of the sovereign European state — Ukraine, and for more than three years has been conducting combat actions against it in the occupied areas of the Donbas.



Russia's aggression against Ukraine has intensified and accelerated the process of forming a common defence policy of the EU beyond the borders of NATO. Strengthening of the EU's defence potential is in line with the national interests of Ukraine, especially in the face of the political and military confrontation with Russia, in which most European countries are allies and partners of Ukraine. In case of creation of European Army, Ukraine's capabilities in the sphere of military-technical cooperation with the EU countries will expand further, in addition to its continuation and expansion with NATO. However, we cannot wait until 2025, when, according to J. C. Juncker, a “fully-fledged European Defence Union” will be created, therefore Ukraine should cooperate in the military-technical sphere with individual EU countries already today.

The European Army will never be able to become an alternative to NATO at least because the combined military budget of the European Union is unlikely to ever reach the level of the US military budget. And most importantly, the US nuclear potential is unlikely ever to be surpassed by the European Union countries, which have never really sought and will not seek this, relying on the USA's powerful “nuclear umbrella”.

The EU Army could fully complement NATO at the regional and local levels, in particular in peacekeeping operations, while NATO has been and will be a global military force, first of all a major deterrent of the global scale. The leaderships of NATO and the USA do not see a threat to their interests from the defence projects of the European Union, as they complement NATO's role on the European continent. A strong European security and defence policy will contribute to the further strengthening of NATO.

At the beginning, in the creation of the European Army can participate not more than 5 to 6 leading EU countries, first of all the FRG and France. I would like to hope that these will be combined armed forces of not only the countries of the European Union but also of the whole Europe, which would allow Ukraine to participate in them, especially since such a precedent is already available in the format of the Lithuanian-Polish-Ukrainian International Peacekeeping Brigade (LitPolUkrBrig), established in September 2014, as Lithuania and Poland are members of the European Union and NATO. On the other hand, LitPolUkrBrig could become the basis of the future joint armed forces of the member countries of the Baltic-Black Sea Union in case of their creation.

In our opinion, the units of European peacekeepers are more likely to carry out the peacekeeping mission in the Donbas than the UN peacekeepers, since Russia will never agree to the establishment of the UN peacekeepers' control over the 410-kilometer section of the Russian-Ukrainian border, using the right of “veto” in the UN Security Council. If peacekeepers are deployed in the Donbas under the decision of the European Council and in accordance with the OSCE mandate, Russia will not be able to prevent the implementation of this decision.