September 20, 2012

There’s no direct threat to Ukraine

What exactly do Ukraine’s ears and eyes hear and see? Let’s ask Chief of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, Major General Victor Hvozd.

After Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the USA and other NATO members as well as the EU expressed unanimous protest. The UK called for an anti-Russian union. In his turn, President of Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia has no fear of any consequences of its actions, including the beginning of a new Cold War. Could such situation generate any threat to Ukraine? Should such statements alter the priorities of the Ukrainian Defence Intelligence?

The weakening of both global and regional stability due to the decrease in the effectiveness of international security mechanisms on one hand and specific actions on behalf of certain states on the other hand put Ukraine in certain risks. We can’t rule out the possible confrontation in the relations between the USA and Russia as a result of the existing situation. The relations between Russia and a number of European states have some chances to get worse, too.

But returning to the Cold War agenda based on force or its demonstration is, eventually, an intellectual dead end for the world’s super-powers. It would be an acknowledgement of the fact that nobody is capable of or has a desire to develop or propose a new model of world management or coexistence. Ukraine’s geopolitical position between the West and the East, Europe and Russia, assumes both positive and negative effects. However, the noticeable advantages could appear if we find ways and means for a better and more profound participation in the dialogue between Europe and Russia, bearing our own interests in mind.

If we speak about the priorities of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, they were initially set to ensure timely prediction, identification and prevention of threats that could endanger our state.

In this case I’d like to ask you a more specific question concerning the consequences of the recent armed conflict between Russia and Georgia: do you see any threat to Ukraine and what steps should be taken to guarantee our security?

First of all I’d like to stress, that our data – both analytical and operational – indicate that there’s no direct threat to Ukraine. So let’s not raise the temperature since Ukraine itself wouldn’t benefit from that.

The issues important to our country are not purely political but military as well. A number of things proved interesting: whether it’s the confusion in the rear echelons of the advancing Russian troops, or the employment by both sides of weapons that were not adequate to the desired results, or the impact of the informational and psychological suppression of the opponent that Russia managed to achieve. The Defence Intelligence delivered appropriate reports to the state authorities; I hope those reports will be considered when decisions concerning our state’s defence capability are made.

Speaking of Russia, positive activity and efforts aimed at consolidation are needed. We particularly noticed that the Russian elite develops and pursues by means of mass media such scenarios that don’t promote development of positive relationships between the two states. The most disturbing phenomenon is the intentional switching from the relations between the two elites to the relations between the Ukrainians and Russians in general. Therefore the activity should primarily be focused on taking and supporting such steps that enable the restoration of the traditional degree of friendship. Such measures encompass social and cultural fields, where a deeper involvement of the mass media is needed. Such involvement will become possible once we propose and implement the format of active efforts.

Would Ukraine’s giving up the idea of joining the NATO bring more guarantees for better neighbourly relations with Russia?

A saying goes: “Only a country that always makes concessions is never subject to frustration or pressure.” I don’t think this should refer to Ukraine.

According to the information you have, is Ukraine going to be invited by the Alliance to initiate the MAP procedure during the December NATO summit?

This issue is Ukraine’s urgent. The entire preceding cooperation between Ukraine and NATO shows that there are both logic and need in initiating the MAP procedure. But MAP doesn’t mean NATO membership and the security guaranties that come with it. This path can be quite a long one. That’s why it is critical for Ukraine to decide on the best possible model of ensuring its own security. However, the security of a state in the first place doesn’t derive from hopes for external assistance, but from the state’s own powers, capabilities, and strategic priorities. Given this, it is most important to properly maintain our own armed forces, defence industry, and intelligence agencies.

You mean money?

The primary importance lies in the readiness of the national decision-makers to protect the national interests of their state, which means considering the long-term national interests when making decisions on tasking the intelligence agencies.

Concerning the resources, there wasn’t a single year in the entire Ukrainian history when the Armed Forces were given the amount of money provided for by the Law of Ukraine “On Defence”, i.e. 3 per cent of the GDP. At the same time, they were fully responsible for performing the functions demanded from the military and intelligence agencies. So when current Minister of Defence Yuri Yekhanurov speaks of the 2009 defence budget equalling UAH 32 bn. – considering the current UAH 9 bn. – I see this amount as a real financial dimension of the country’s defence needs under present conditions. I think it’s important.

“The intelligence community should be more active”

The relations between the branches of Ukrainian government have become quite strained recently. Does this fact interfere with the work of the Defence Intelligence?

Our mission is too specific, our efforts lie beyond the Ukrainian borders, and our key priority is to provide information on the external threats to every branch of government. We make no preferences, whether it’s the President that we inform, or the PM, or the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, or the Secretary of the Council for National Security and Defence of Ukraine. When we collect narrow-purpose information critical to any specific sector, particular ministry, or even a separate strategic firm, we supply the information to all concerned parties.

Do you think the Ukrainian intelligence could move up from an informant to an active player capable of influencing the situation in foreign countries?

It is indeed the quick and professional informing of the governmental bodies that the DIU is currently oriented to. This allows timely and correct decision-making in respect of any particular issue. The Ukrainian Defence Intelligence is traditionally strong for its situation prediction and modelling style. At the same time, the agency is developed enough to be capable of reacting to any given decision concerning action. Moreover, such units do exist in our agency, and I consider them properly trained to undertake such missions.

Does Ukraine need such decisions now? How big is the need for action in order to secure the national interests?

In its pursuit of the role of a regional leader Ukraine has been implementing a quite nonaggressive policy which can be traced virtually in every security sector – economic, technical, diplomatic, informational etc. For instance, if we assess the current position of Ukraine in the international information space we can find many reasons to worry since it gives a number of opportunities for running active operations on our territory. There’s a clear vulnerability in other sectors, too, so we have to be more active in order to change the situation.

“The intelligence agencies react to any change in situation in a matter of hours”

The range of tasks of the Defence Intelligence that you talk about is quite wide. Frankly speaking, I hardly believe that any professional special agency could exist at all in Ukraine after 17 years of political mess.

I can understand your sarcasm. Nevertheless, the functioning of special agencies is different from the informational background generated – often deliberately – around the political conjuncture. This could be particularly explained by the fact that the DIU was created from scratch, unlike the Security Service of Ukraine, let’s say. The Ukrainian Defence Intelligence was born from nothing, so the patriotism was in the very base of the agency’s activities.

How does the DIU operate?

My answer will be within the permitted boundaries. Today we can definitely speak of an effective defence intelligence agency fully established and successfully operating in Ukraine. By this I mean that the agency collects data, processes it, analyzes and promptly reports to the national military and political leadership.

In simple words, the information preparation procedure is the following: the collection element, e.g. human intelligence, space intelligence, radio-electronic intelligence works 24/7. The data collected is then directed to the analytical units that process it and generate reports. I would like to stress that our agency doesn’t simply prepare raw references concerning certain events. Instead, we conduct comprehensive analysis with proper judgements and recommendations concerning the possible scenarios of the situational development.

Everything works like a clock, is that so?

Let’s say, we do our job, although certain problems naturally do exist. There’s still room for development of the agency itself. Having become the DIU Chief I faced a certain disunity of the data flow, meaning that the analytical component in different units turned out somewhat blurred. We are currently trying to solve this issue. There are also certain problems in the space element, although the opportunities are quite visible. The government approved a draft space task program for the next five years, the financing of the space sector is planned to be significantly increased. We hope the needs of the Defence Intelligence will be considered under such program. The technical component needs upgrading, too. Generally, the intelligence agency must continuously upgrade its technical potential under modern conditions. Without that, it is hard to speak of any appropriate results.

I wouldn’t want to sound banal, but a lot of things sometimes hinge on financing. As classics used to say, there’s no cheap intelligence.

Does the DIU conduct illegal intelligence?

The Ukrainian Defence Intelligence employs every classical means of intelligence.

In other words, we could speak of the modern Ukrainian Richard Sorge, Mata Hari?

No comment.

Are there any service-women in the DIU?

Our top priority is the person’s professional characteristics, the gender issue is less important. Of course, there are.

From your own experience, how does an intelligence officer’s wife feel about her husband’s job?

Usually, being a wife of an intelligence officer is a sort of profession, too. One that can’t be learned at college. Life itself teaches it. There were many times in my career that my wife was helping me with my job, for which I’m truly thankful. I wouldn’t be the one to underestimate the merits of life’s companions of the DIU officers.

By Ivan Ryabchy, Defense Express, exclusively for “Profile