Borysfen Intel

Anatoliy Lopata

November 6, 2014
<p>Anatoliy Lopata</p>

Lopata Anatoliy Vasylyovych — the first Chief of General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, an experienced military commander. It’s safe to attribute him to the true Ukrainians which created our national army. Retired from military service in 1996, he habitually monitored closely the process of the Armed Forces’ reforming. He believes that he has no right to keep out of the nationwide tasks - the resumption of our defence capability in current hardship of Armed Forces.

He is the first guest of BINTEL.


 Born March 23, 1940. In the Soviet Army since 1959. Graduated from the Baku Higher Combined-Arms Command School, Frunze Military Academy, Military Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the USSR.
Served as commander of platoon, company, battalion, regiment, the 7th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade (Cuba). Having graduated from the Military Academy of the General Staff was a commander of a division, army corps, deputy commander in chief of the Northern Group of Forces (Poland). Since June 1992 served in the Armed Forces of Ukraine: Deputy Minister of Defense, Chief of the Main Staff, then Chief of the General Staff — the First Deputy Minister of Defense.
Since August 2006 at the age of 55 retired in the rank of Colonel-General.
A. V. Lopata was one of the originators of the Armed Forces of the independent Ukraine.
He was awarded with the Diploma of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the Order of the Red Star, "For Service to the Motherland in the USSR Armed Forces", the Medal "For Distinction in Guarding the State Border of the USSR", and medals of the USSR, Ukraine, Cuba and Poland.


Anatoliy LOPATA:

“Only having understood the past we can predict the future”

Anatoliy Vasylyovych, a year ago, it would have been so much easier to talk about the role of the Armed Forces in Ukraine, because, as usual, the talk would have been reduced to theoretical considerations, cautions that the Army is off politics, and so on. Now life takes on a different hue, and not just the military — almost every Ukrainian worries about further fate of our homeland, its being able, by and large, to defend its independence. Actually, we now see how intertwined are the two concepts — army and politics. But if, for example, once General Jaruzelski, having given the command to march troops onto the streets of Polish cities and villages, prevented, as he thought, the collapse of the country and intervention of the forces of the Warsaw Pact, in our country politicians have already so much, to put it mildly, excluded the Army from public life, that it is difficult for it to perform even its direct functions for the defense of Ukraine from the foreign enemy. Can you confute or confirm this thought?

If we look at the political activity in this country, I want to say that the behavior of its leadership in relation to the Armed Forces and the defense of the country can be called a top class political “aerobatics”. We all know that the defense of the homeland should be a priority of every citizen and of a soldier — first and foremost. A soldier will not stand aside if the country's defense is being weakened due to some objective and subjective reasons. Because this is called treason. Once I was accused by Leonid Kuchma that “General Lopata politicizes”. I replied that I deal with politics indirectly, being sure that the defense of the state is the “thing” that I know well, with which I constantly deal, and I have no right not to take part in this. Even if I am accused of being engaged in politics. Therefore, the problems of today I perceive as a challenge, and I cannot be indifferent, seeing what is going on in the defense sector.

And how do you assess the current events?

Appreciating the external activities of our state, in particular of the President, Foreign Ministry, unfortunately, I still have great demands to our domestic policy, to everything concerning the defense capacity and the Army. Therefore, I would not like to disparage some militaries' intentions, who have entered politics professionally, having decided to become members of our political blocs and parties. But I think that in general it is logical. In the government of the country and the Parliament must be well trained officers, their activities there should contribute to the development of our Armed Forces. This is how I see it.

True, many of them do not show themselves worthy in this important sphere, often keeping silent, actually fulfilling some trifling errands, and they do not have an authoritative voice in the Parliament. Perhaps with the exception of some. For example, I used to watch the vigorous activity of A. Grytsenko, as former Minister of Defense, as a former military man. Many people I know in person, such as A. Skipalskyi, I. Smeshko, are also in the vanguard of politicians, actively advocating for strengthening the foundations of the security of our country and, indeed, of the Armed Forces. Personally, I am not interested in political activity as such; I do not see myself under the dome of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament). I am interested in the Army's affairs. For example, how to minimize or correct the mistakes made ​​earlier in the organization of the state's defense capability.

Have you managed to somehow sum them up?

Today we need a different approach to the processes of development of the Armed Forces, not the way it used to be done before. This problem of the development had not been at the proper level.

All our presidents and governments, withdrawing themselves, used to shift it onto shoulders of the Minister of Defense, Ministry of Defense, General Staff. And today we see the same picture. For example, again for the post of Defense Minister are appointed, often in a hurry, random persons. This fact alone shows that our leadership will not soon get round to the defense theme.

What would you advise our leadership today?

To create a state commission, perhaps, headed by the Prime Minister, which would carefully consider all political, economic, military-technical aspects and would objectively take them into consideration when making decisions on the creation of a true army.

I would like to remind you that something like that we saw when the Minister of Defence was appointed a former Prime Minister.

Do you mean Yevhen Marchuk?

…I mean Yekhanurov Yekhanurov, who had the opportunity to look from a higher position at the solution of military problems. Appointing him to the post was explained as follows: He was experienced, having his strategic vision, in particular, had connections with construction companies that would provide an opportunity to solve the problem of providing servicemen with housing. I was present at Yekhanurov's meeting with heads of construction companies when was being discussed the strategy of construction of military towns. He was given the task, in particular, to reduce the military apparatus. Much less was said about his tasks in the development of the Armed Forces.

You know, responsibility is different, and different are approaches to the implementation of the task, when a special commission for the implementation of the government program is working, rather than when this task is directly entrusted to the military. The Minister must solve local problems. Yevhen Marchuk, having a great experience in the Security Services and having become Premier, received a specific task regarding the Armed Forces. He was not engaged in their construction, he was given the task to reduce their numbers in order to reduce the budget lay out for their maintenance. No one at that time cared about our defense strategy, it was not even considered. The only thing he managed to do at that moment was to lobby the question of participation of our troops in the Iraqi operation. Honestly, I did not approve of it. In those days it was necessary to form the officer corps, which would quickly learn to use troops to neutralize terrorist groups, to reject a military attack on our territory.

In other words, you mean our Military Doctrine?


But your recent book tells us that the attitude of the state's leadership to the Military Doctrine was, to put it mildly, specific...

I absolutely agree with you. Our Military Doctrine did not consider the Russian Federation as the main threat to the territorial integrity of our state. This does not mean that we were not ready to consider this problem, to solve such problems. We faced this question especially at the time when the encroachment began at Tuzla. Until then, we had already dealt with the problems of division with the Russian Federation, the formation of our Navy on the basis of the Black Sea Fleet. We had seen how the Russian Federation had been doing everything to prevent the Ukrainian Armed Forces' becoming powerful. But (!), we had never planned special trainings for defending our borders from the east. We had not been strengthening our state's eastern border, as it was not assumed that the Russian Federation would venture an annexation of our territories — the Crimea or eastern regions. We were aware of Russia's seeking to make Ukraine move in line with Russia's policy, and then again become part of Russia. We saw it, but could not dovetail, for example, what the Russian Federation had done for the collapse of the Soviet Union with what it had done for the creation of Ukraine as a state. It is hard to overestimate, for example, the positive role of the Russian Federation's President Yeltsin. Who would have thought that he would actively pull down the Soviet Union? However, virtually all that was initiated by Gorbachev. Gorbachev's perestroika dealt a decisive blow to the Soviet Armed Forces, the Warsaw Pact. We remember how the Soviet military formations were forced to get out of Europe.

Today I must admit that at that time the process of building our Armed Forces was wrong. For example, we were not sure whether we could cope with all our weapons without the help of Russia. This refers, for example, to cooperation of our Military Industrial Complex (MIC) with the Russian MIC. No one, apparently, could have even theoretically assumed that in 23 years Russia would so defiantly attack our country. Putin's project of annexation of the Crimea, creation of the arc in the south of Ukraine from Russia's western borders to Trans-Dniester, where the Russian Federation had laid the cell of instability based on the 14th Army, cutting Ukraine off from the Black Sea, Russians' using the separatist movement in our regions...

In your book you recall, how you headed the Ukrainian delegation at the negotiations on the division of the Black Sea Fleet. Then the members of the Russian delegation did not want to take any decision because they were not interested in your questions. Why? Wasn't it because, at that time, Moscow was at a loss, there was a struggle for power there, and the Russians just had other things to care about?

No, at that moment they had already come to their senses, realizing that state-creative processes in the CIS countries did not meet their geopolitics. The geopolitical strategy of the Russian Federation had been developed by the Russian Federation's General Staff, Institute for Strategic Studies and some Russian scientific institutions and is set out in a 600-page book “Russia's geopolitical strategy”.

This strategy had been masterminded by the military, had it not?

— By both, military and civilian experts. In B. Yeltsin's time. The book was published with a circulation of 10,000 copies and distributed to Russian government agencies for official use. I happened to leaf through its pages, where for each state neighboring the Russian Federation, are written Russians' plans. For example, Ukraine is allowed to be independent if it is part of the Russian Federation or if it goes in the wake of Russia's policy. All our attempts to combine our efforts with those of the European politicians are considered by Moscow as hostile steps towards Russia. Obviously, there they would never even think that Ukraine would become independent, that it could have its own opinion on the development of the world community. For more than 15 years, the Russians have been working against the Ukrainian statehood, trying to make the economy of Ukraine completely dependent on Russia. They have been using our gas dependency, having turned it, actually, into a weapon. We should have already foreseen that the Russians will try to do without our Military Industrial Complex. There are no doubts about the fact that President Viktor Yanukovych was under the full influence of the Russians, that he could bring Ukraine into Russia (under the full dependence on Russia to be exact). The last two of our Defense Ministers, Lebedev and Solomatin were original Russia's volunteers in our Armed Forces.

You put it so mildly — “volunteers”. Would it not be more correct to call them “supervisors”?

They did everything to make sure that our Armed Forces lost their fighting capacity, failed to fulfill their constitutional duty. In the time of these “ministers” the Army collapsed completely. Could this happen to the Army in 1994-1995, like it did in 2014? No, it could not! The number of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in 1995 was 450 thousand, in 1994 — at least 500 thousand. Such a version of combat incapability was out of the question. Why? Because we had a strong Army. We had helicopters and the combat strength of the aviation was super-strong. We had inherited from the Soviet Union more than two and a half thousand aircrafts, half of them — combat air force. At that time no one dared to touch Ukraine! But the Russians knew that after 2005 the resource of this machinery was ending, Ukraine would not have its own combat aviation. I remember talking with the then Defense Minister Shaposhnikov, with their Chiefs of Staffs, and hearing more than once: we will wait until the end of life of your equipment. I remember, one day the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces frankly said: “You are very lucky that we have problems with Chechnya”. The then Russian Defense Minister Grachyov used to treat us with negligence, and kept saying something like this: “Well, we can see that today you do not have nuclear weapons. Tomorrow you will have no combat aircrafts. You will have only tanks, over time they will get outmoded. Your army is nearing its end”.

What was our leadership's attitude to this?

— I used to work with both, (Kravchuk) Leonid Makarovych, and (Kuchma) Leonid Danylovych, who did care about the Army, but in fact never worked on its development. Their priority was to reduce the Army for the sake of reducing costs. Let me remind you once again that the Armed Forces for Ukraine should be optimal in size, approximately 250-280 thousand people. Even when I was in the post of Chief of the General Staff, we forecasted that after 2005, if armed with modern military equipment, aircrafts, weapons, upgraded existing equipment, for our Armed Forces the personnel of 220 thousand will be enough to ensure the safety of the Ukrainian state.

At that point of time, the large number of ammunition stored under the open sky was just “killing” us. It had been brought to us from the South, Central, Northern Army Groups and the Group of Forces in Germany... There was so much ammunition that we could not maintain it properly. And here, add the ammunition stored in Ukraine since Soviet times. Much of it was already obsolete, including military equipment. What could be done? In 1995 we had 65 million tons of obsolete ammunition. If it were put into boxes and into railway carriages, and the latter were hitched to the train, you would get a wagon chain 800 kilometers long, — the distance from Kiev to Moscow. Remember, all this was already unusable for its intended purpose. Considerable funds were needed for neutralization.

Soon these stocks began catching fire, there began problems with the storage of weapons. That was no coincidence! Ukraine looked, so to speak, a powerful force, taking into consideration the potential for realization of weapons. We were selling them with both hands. But the Armed Forces had no benefit from it, no funds for their development. Just the state treasury was being refilled, the pockets of some individuals involved in the sale of weapons were being lined. Once Lieutenant-General Ihnatenko, as People's Deputy, tried to calculate the cost of the remaining military property. And immediately the question arose: Where have the weapons gone? After the collapse of the USSR we had them in the amount worth 32-35 billion US dollars, nuclear weapons of the Army's Strategic Missile Troops (1272 units) included.

Our great trouble was our not sticking to a strict policy of accounting equipment and weapons. Funds received from the sale should have been directed to the modernization of equipment and weapons, to production of domestic samples, to the revival of the work of our MIC. But since we did not do what we should have done, it turned out that we have “eaten” that money. Where in the world have you seen an army, selling its weapons, and eating the money from the sale? Thanks to many years of “self-destruction” we have now the current situation in the East of Ukraine.

We have demonstrated how it should not be. The necessity of arming is determined during trainings, when tactical actions are being “rolled off”, strategic conclusions are being drawn. At the first such trainings, or to be exact, command and staff trainings of September 28, 1992, which you mention in your book, who was defined in the strategic defense operation as our enemy, — Russia, Hungary, Poland, Romania? What equipment, how much material resources and what number of personnel were needed then to perform the tasks? In conclusions it is always specified.

We operated the forces which at that time we had. You see, beginning to solve such serious problems, one should know exactly what one has in subjection, — how much forces and money. Then there still were military districts, and there were no problems with the account. The Commander knew the capabilities of the district troops, he knew what he had in warehouses, parks, boxes. And decisions were quite specific, grounded. There were no problems with use of troops then. First of all, on the western direction. There would not be any problems (at least on the Stuff's maps) on the Eastern direction either. I have already mentioned this at the beginning... It is interesting that on the territory of Ukraine there were military units of the so-called central subordination, i.e., Moscow's. Such as various scientific institutions, subunits of security services, etc. We had no idea about them. All the record documents somehow had just disappeared. Back in 1995 we would find units of the existence of which we had no idea.

How so?

For example, the Military Commissar during a regular army conscription sends recruits to the mentioned in mobilization documents military unit. And reports, as expected, to our Command Staff. But what unit is that? We do not have it on our lists. And only with the help of our financiers we began to identify such groups, — they also needed money for functioning. Even in 2000 we were visited by envoys from the Russian Federation to inspect secret warehouses. For example, envoys of strategic intelligence, in its time subordinated to Moscow. There was ammunition, weapons, assigned soldiers in peacetime involved in peaceful activities. They, of course, would become operational in a certain moment. Once they were under command of the KGB, then — of the FSB of the Russian Federation. These were citizens whose task was during a war to work in the West. We knew nothing about them, — how could we? But they were ready for their specific work already on our open spaces. And they did work. Over time, some have started to work here. The good news is that these professionals could not be young forever...

— ...They, like military equipment, with years were growing old, right?

— Yes. Ukraine became independent, and they had to somehow obtain legal status. This is a peculiar example. And there were many closed-type institutions, some institutions with their own tasks. Many have been shut down, transferred to the Russian Federation, together with scientists and equipment. I think even today still there are abandoned units which no one enters.

We were experiencing a very difficult period of collapse and with difficulty were taking possession of everything that we had inherited. However, we managed those days to preserve scientific potential, to reactivate scientific structures, institutions, to reshape them, to subordinate some of them to the General Staff. But from the territory of Ukraine was removed a lot of things, on which experts had been working for decades. We were not able to finance scientific activities and experts were leaving, offering themselves abroad or finding a different job. And they were trying to take away all the researches with them. We are lucky that science develops very fast and all those researches lose their relevance. But at this, continuity in scientific research, scientific school, etc are also lost. This is true not only about the military science.

This, obviously, can be said about the Armed Forces? Because all the shortcomings, which we observed during operations of the so-called “ATO” — are a result of the loss of continuity in the military training of our units and subunits, in the training of military professionals, aren't they?

Unfortunately, they are. As for the ATO. The new government, for various reasons, does not have the proper influence on our Armed Forces. The Operational Command lacks the necessary means of control (it has become known to me, though with some delay), the system of means of communication is broken. In 1995, the General Staff could efficiently manage troops anywhere in Ukraine, because it had the necessary forces and means: the advanced system of Staffs, brigades and regiments of communication, perfect system of closed communication. But in 2010-2014 it all “disappeared” — they explain it was reduced due to “being not needed”. Once our Air Defense was the most powerful in Europe, we controlled all the planes taking off even in Spain or Turkey, now everything is far otherwise. We, as they say, “have raised the ceiling”, and if we still see high targets, low-altitude targets are no longer worth being remembered. We used to have reliable anti-aircraft missile complexes, but after many of them had been sold, we found ourselves helpless due to our own initiative. Our Air Defense systems had been sold by whole units.

Recently we had to observe it in the Crimea. Powerful military units were unable to act for their intended purpose. Crimean units had been manned by locals on contract. They virtually did not resist to the disgrace that was going on there. Well, Russia, having weighed it all, had carried out an effective, based on its own interests, information-propaganda work.

Figuratively speaking, we had become relatives with our northern neighbor to such extant that did not make a single shot when it started the operation to capture the Crimea. We did not do anything to preserve our territorial integrity. Remember what the newly appointed commander of our Navy did? How to interpret the action of the Brigade Commander in Perevalnoye, who left his subordinates in the place of permanent deployment? Some commanders, for some unknown reasons, did not bring their units, in accordance with existing plans, to these areas, but abandoned them and fled the Crimea? I do not even want to name them...

It turns out that the much-publicized military service under the contract does not suit us, if the vast majority of local contractors remained in place, rushing to go over to the enemy? Had that happened in western regions of Ukraine, would local contractors have done the same?

I think the contract service as such, is not suitable for Ukraine. It has the right to life, but for us more suitable is the mixed system of manning the Armed Forces. Because we, at least today, do not have enough money for maintenance of a contract army. Here I do not mean the whole personnel of our Army, which, given the length of service of officers and ensign personnel, is professional anyway.

Yes, but I would like to “try on” the Crimean situation, for example, to the Western Ukraine. Would they have not dared to confront criminal brazen attitude of the “big brother” either?

Remember, the Russians for a long time in the Crimea had been carrying out propaganda work; there had virtually been no Ukrainian television programs, Ukrainian schools there (with few exceptions). Our state had neglected its duties, on the implementation of which depends its future. Everything had been done for the sake of pleasing our neighbor. And now we see the consequences of such inaction. Extraterritorial principle of military service, mixed manning of military units should be in our field of vision. Service at home is not a service. A rotation should be carried out if it is needed. One must serve wherever the state tells one, not where one was born and lives. In Poland, by the way, they also at some point decided that a citizen would serve no more than 300km from home. But Poland is comparatively small, and its army has about 130 thousand military servicemen.

From your point of view, have certain conclusions from our recent events been drawn?

I cannot answer in the affirmative. It seems to me that our last four Ministers of Defense did not have time to even think about a reform of the Army. You see, the Minister cannot influence this. Not even if you give him the rank of a General or a Marshall. He is unable to offer the concept of building and development of the Armed Forces, because it requires a great experience, relevant training. This is a task for the General Staff, where should be concentrated, so to speak, a collective thought, a collective mind. And when the Chief of the General Staff knows how to put a task, how to chose the right specialists for its fulfillment, listens to their opinions, — we know that we have a sufficient number of citizens who have been through a great school of military service — then there will be the result we need. But tell me, who is interested in the opinion of former soldiers, who had gone through the school of Afghanistan, peacekeeping operations, even Chechnya, who learns from their experience gained with blood? No one! If I, for one, since 1995, have not read a single lecture for the young generation of our soldiers, can we claim that our state cares about the combat capability of the Army, about the preparation of officers? Frankly speaking, nothing has changed here, the weapon system is the same on which I grew up. I know this equipment, I have learnt the principles of its combat use. I have also certain experience of work with personnel, it may be interesting and useful to the current military. Not without reason must have appeared a simple, at first glance, proverb: “An old warrior is a wise warrior”?

I agree with you and let me give you a typical example. In our central military hospital is being treated for serious injuries received in the ATO, a young boy, Lieutenant-gunner Hera. He is a recent graduate of our wonderful Army Academy in Lviv. For three months he had been fighting with separatists at the Luhansk airport. Now, despite his very serious physical condition, from his hospital bed he keeps sending his Academy's teachers, not only SMSs, but schematic drawings of the organization and conduct of modern combat actions by tactical groups. Needless to talk here about his morale. He and others like him are our pride. These Ukrainian guys will not violate the oath, will not talk their friends into going over to the side of the enemy just because the latter promises titles and money. How and who will use their combat experience?

They should be listened to and be hold up as an example!

And how was it with our peacekeepers? They performed certain tasks outside our state, usually in difficult and dangerous conditions, and not just climate. Did anybody demand a report from them? Did anybody read their reports, draw conclusions, implement them into the educational process? Perhaps not everyone knows that in the 18th, 19th centuries, a British officer, returning from a trip, always reported in writing about what he had seen and experienced, in front of a group of specialists-geographers. These reports are stored in a special library, so, come the need, they can be used today. Britain was once a large empire, sending troops to India, Africa, and America. Does anybody in Ukraine know that the USA had been thoroughly studying the military experience of fighting detachments of the UPA in the Second World War, which later was successfully used by US Special Forces during the Vietnam War?

At some point I also had to write such reports. For example, after returning from a trip to Cuba, I used to write a report about all the carried out there exercises, military trainings, interaction with the Cuban Armed Forces, the used equipment, weapons. I would write my comments, suggestions, and service tips on tactics and so on. I studied the reports of our peacekeepers performing tasks in Bosnia. However, in 1995 I already retired from military service and there is nothing I can add to this theme. But when I was serving, I stayed in touch with our officers —peacekeepers. I remember how Colonel M. Verkhohlyad contacted me directly for permission to use weapons in a very difficult situation, because his peacekeeping command hesitated. I allowed him to bring the battalion in readiness and to use weapons against attacking insurgents. Later, this Ukrainian officer was highly praised by both Serbian and Bosnian Generals. Because he acted as a true commander, rescued nine and a half thousand local citizens. While a similar Belgian peacekeeping battalion at the same time did not bother to do anything and lost both, its men and many locals.

...Everything should be analyzed, recorded, so that our new generation could benefit from the experience of previous generations, and the continuity should not be discredited by the ugly word “poperedniki” (“predecessors”).

As they say, the experience is worth the heirs. And vice versa. With me in the General Staff, on the initiative of some officers, there was established a military-historical division exactly for generalizing the combat experience, but it seems its work was soon wound up. Obviously, the combat experience is not being analyzed and generalized. What I now sometimes read in some editions about the first steps in the formation of our Armed Forces and General Staff can be called in one word — a lie. And at some point it may become history, it will be interesting and surprising. But it will be despised because a lie does not deserve better.

We must care about it; we should feel responsibility for our work. Then we would not have been at a loss in the face of the attack of the Russian Federation, in the face of actions of “little green men” in the Crimea. Let me point out that had we had in our Armed Forces a proper personnel policy, choosing right people to responsible positions, there would not have been all this shame, people would not have died because of the inability of commanders to lead subordinates in a combat situation. If even a military rank and position can be bought — as I have heard about it — what else is there to say?! Believe me, in Soviet times, when I was marching up the rank ladder, I did not have to “present” anybody with anything, even with a bottle of cognac. Never! And this is what I would like to tell our followers, that is, to convince them that a specialist, especially a military specialist is respected for his ability to faithfully fulfill his military work. A man with shoulder straps on his shoulders must be estimable.

Of course, it is difficult to disagree with you. What about foreign counterparts — have you seen those that meet your criteria for military experts?

An unforgettable impression has remained of communication with the Chief of the Polish General Staff General Tadeusz Wilecki. I knew him back in the time when he served as Commander of Silesian Military District. And when he was Head of the Polish General Staff, I was convinced that he was a very balanced and honest man, and of course, a great expert in his field. He had studied the troops and their capabilities very well. And when the question arose, what the future Polish Army should be like, he insisted that the system of management should be similar to the NATO's one. He emphasized at the training of military personnel. You remember that one of our problems was learning the language. The Poles had the same problem. But Veletski immediately used the opportunity offered by the USA to prepare his officers in this matter. They got a sufficient number of military experts, fluently communicating with their Western counterparts in German and in English. They received a proper military training abroad, and having received Western military equipment, they mastered it without problems. In the communication system he made ​​a bid for the computerization of the Armed Forces.

And so did the Turks, by the way. Once I happened to visit with my Turkish colleague, to observe the work of the Turkish military. And let me tell you that we have much to learn from them. For example, I had to watch how a Tank Division was performing its tasks at the training area. Each Platoon Commander, Battery Commander has a computer, near each gun there is a computer device. They are connected to the GPS system, enter the task and are ready to fulfill their duties. The Commander does not have to, losing his voice, shout commands on the phone “... Landmark, right 20”... and so on. All is done quickly, efficiently, without additional noise. The point of the target is on the screen, and so are the instructions. What else to say here? I had a chance to see how the Turks were assembling at the factory built by Americans the F-16 war aircrafts. All employees of the plant are Turks, and there is only one American there — the Director of the plant, who is also preparing a Turkish specialist to replace him. At the very beginning at the newly-built plant there were seven hundred American specialists, then they gradually prepared a replacement from the local population. Virtually all parts of the aircraft are manufactured in Turkey, from the United States comes only one navigation system.

By the way, it is interesting how this plant was built. After the decision on its construction, they decided on the place for it, — an absolutely unequipped open field. They brought machinery there, cleared the site, leveled it, made a ​​perfectly smooth tarmac, where they brought and placed modules with factory equipment. That was it! The plant began to work. Next to it there is a wonderful aerodrome and a runway.

I also saw how in Turkey their military pilots are trained. Just one indicative figure — within a year they carry out 280 hours of flights. They are the best pilots in the Balkans. And all this thanks to the systematic approach to work.

By the way, the Poles on the basis of their training plane have made a war plane. They have made their own military equipment. Their own! While we, having such a huge material base, did not manage to produce anything! Neither a plane or a helicopter, nor a drone! But why? Because at the highest stage of our state government not a single thought had come about the security of our country. Everybody was caring about one's own interests: to take an official seat, to make it profitable for one, to fill one's purse from the state budget. In Poland it was not like that, especially in its Armed Forces. Although they began to reorganize their Army in much worse conditions than ours. And they have already reached the desired level.

Today, Turkey has a very powerful Navy. Thanks to what or whom? It allowed NATO and the USA to supply it with modern military equipment and weapons. Its officers are trained to meet modern standards, including abroad. Trained professionals get the necessary knowledge, bring it to their home environment, thus helping to keep abreast of all the latest in the world.

I was also impressed by the Chief of General Staff of Turkey, General Ismail Karaday. Turkey also has its own domestic problems, such as the Kurds. I asked: why? And it was explained to me, that it somehow happened so historically, and they have to live with such circumstances. For example, at that time each Istanbul hotel was guarded by the military, on each floor there was a military serviceman. Quite often I saw watchtowers with armed guards. In order to maintain order, — I was told.

In Turkey, the Army has a very high social position. For example, every officer, every sergeant is provided with housing. If not with his own, then with service housing. Their Army has surplus property, they rent it out to civilians. How has this been achieved? Because in Ukraine over the last 23 years housing for military servicemen has been and still is a problem.

In 1964, the Turkish government adopted a Decree that allowed the Turkish Ministry of Defense to establish a bank. All military servicemen receive cash collateral exactly in it. Everyone entering military service annually receives funds for the construction of his own flat. But he, signing the document on his military service, has to tell where he plans to live after it.

Of course, in the Turkish capital, he will not live, because construction prices are too high there. But, for example, to the place where he or his wife was born, or their parents live — he is welcome. All the funds for young officers accumulate in the construction company belonging to the Turkish Ministry of Defense. It builds housing in an amount of: one room for the husband, one — for his wife, to each of them — his/her toilet, plus another common room. That is, if the family has no children. If they have two kids of different sex, then each child has a separate room with an additional toilet. Plus — another bathroom for guests. Such is the tradition.

The General who was accompanying me asked where I was going to live after the service. And to my counter question answered that he would retire in two years, but already knew exactly where he would live with the family, and even what furniture would be in his apartment, what sum of money he would get at the time of retirement (he, as a General, was supposed to get one hundred thousand US dollars, which he was going to place on deposit, as addition to his pension). Tell me, does Turkey have the right to demand dedication from its military during their service?

Everything is “exactly like here”...

I want to be honest with you, to ask why we are so good for nothing, that we cannot build normal life in our state? Are our citizens against it? Do our officers-patriots not deserve it? Volunteers raise funds to maintain our troops who are fighting in the East, collect money for treatment or prosthetic care for the injured for whom awaits the unenviable fate of the disabled...

Once we were visited by the Chief of General Staff of Poland General T. Wilecki, whom I have just mentioned, and he told about his conflict with the Defense Minister of Poland due to the lack of necessary funds for the Army. Wilecki said he had to speak in the Polish Sejm several times and to convince the Deputies to vote for the allocation of funds for the maintenance and development of the Army. That is, similar problems arise in Poland too. But they solve them! My Polish colleague was supported by the Deputies of the Polish Sejm, while I did not have such support in our Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament). Perhaps our mentality differs from that of normal people.

I cannot forget, how the Head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Shalikashvili warned me: “Anatoliy, do not try to make a contract army! Don't you dare!” “Here, he says, we have a contract army. And during the operation “Desert Storm” we could not properly rotate our troops. We had not enough funds”. “Here, he said, you have conscripts. They give a head start in the competition with my contract soldiers! At all joint trainings Ukrainians acted much better than my contractors”. The American was highly impressed by our soldiers! I agree with him: they are priceless! They are so selfless, conscious, unfussy, and industrious! They were working so hard at those trainings to be the best! We used to be like them when we were young.

I hope that our current government finally realizes that it is necessary to form the Army, being guided by the best, habitual for our mentality, principles. It is an absurd when within a decade there appear five or six programs to reform the Army. It is impossible! Each military subunit, each military unit must be formed carefully, taking into account all the necessary conditions for its combat use. Each budget kopiyka (Ukrainian coin) should be used properly. Everything must be strictly controlled by the state.

The Army should not be lagging behind modern requirements, — as military clashes in our East show us. Equipment, weapons, tactics, — all this should be monitored, recorded and made available for use during the fighting. Here today, this “hybrid” war demonstrates the importance of the system reconnaissance. Without it, without logistic support, without UAVs, without the ability to analyze the data obtained, without proper communication, without headquarters, without adequate reserve, any hope for some positive news is vain. Therefore, we have such losses, like, for example, at Ilovaisk. The President, as Commander-in-Chief, must first of all care about the Army's affairs, about the Army. Once I had a chance to talk with the Prime Minister of Israel I. Rabin. I asked him how he was simultaneously coping with the duties of the Prime Minister and Minister of Defense? He answered: Easily. Every day he listens to representatives of the Defense Ministry about the state of affairs in the Army and about everything around it. And he orders commands to solve the problems mentioned during this hearing. The Government of Israel, I.Rabin said, exists to perform these tasks. As simple as that!

Then I thought: how do we attract at least the Deputy Prime Minister to resolve all the problems of our Army? The Defense Minister cannot head the Armed Forces. It is not his function. It is the function of the General Staff. But in matters of logistic support of the Armed Forces the Minister should be directly involved, — how much money does the Army need, how the program for development is being implemented, what must be ordered from the military industrial complex and how these orders are being fulfilled, and so on. And the Minister does not need dozens of useless departments. The forecasting and control structures are enough. But the General Staff should be engaged in direct Army affairs: intelligence, reconnaissance, prospects of the development of the Army, and training of officers, troops, and their structural changes and so on. And then we will get the desired result.

I have my own vision of what I will now ask you. But I want to hear your explanation about the position of the Western countries which do not agree to help our troops with modern weapons, because, they say, they “are afraid of the political risk”. And the US Senate for some reason decided not to grant Ukraine the status of the main partner outside NATO. What is the matter? Is it not clear that Ukraine is countering the Russian aggression almost with bare hands? What do “political risks” have to do with all this?

Well, what is your vision?

Probably, the West is afraid that the aid given to us in the form of precision weapons may turn up on the other side of the front. Because of our total corruption, lack of principles. These are not dry rations, but more serious things. They still do not trust us.

I can agree with this thought, but only partially. You see, internal problems of our society do not add optimism. All that the West is trying to do for Ukraine is being done with taking into consideration the reaction of the Russian Federation, in order not to spoil economic relations with either Russia or its leader Putin. The results of the Parliamentary elections show that the team of regionals (Party of Regions) has come to itself and under different slogans has come again into the Ukrainian Parliament. Now should be created a reliable majority, which could convince the West of the inevitability of progressive reforms in our state, in its ability to cope not only with our economic troubles, but also to strengthen the security sector of Ukraine and our national defense capability. And here for P. Poroshenko and the Government it is very important in the nearest future to faultlessly lead effective personnel policy, which will be the driving force and will provide the necessary results.

O. Mahno



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