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Second-hand strategy: Why does National Security of Ukraine ignore real threats?

A historical parable: early in the morning on July 19, 1870, a batman woke up Helmuth Karl Bernhard von Moltke, commander of the Prussian forces, to inform him that French Emperor Napoleon III declared war on Prussia. “The plan of the campaign is in the third drawer of the desk,” Moltke said and fell asleep again. 

Strategy “in the new way”

Wearisome and boredom are the first things a sane man will feel looking into such documents, as the National Security Strategy. Meantime, this document is an action plan for the country to overcome an extreme situation where there is no time for debates and discussions, and it is necessary to act immediately and promptly.  Many countries that once neglected that rule no longer exist now.

On May 26, 2015, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko approved the new National Security Strategy of Ukraine. The National Security Council of Ukraine drafted the document and approved it on May 6.  The formal head of the council is the president of Ukraine, but its de-facto head is Alexander Turchynov (one of the political figures of Maidan and one of the leaders of the People’s Front political party).  The previous Strategy was approved yet on Feb 6, 2007 by then president Viktor Yushchenko (2005-2010).  “Living the New Way” – said the pre-election slogan of the candidate Poroshenko.  Actually, the new trends have reached the national security field too. 

The preamble of the new document starts out from the “color revolution” in Maidan in 2014-2015. The authors say it was the color revolution that “gave Ukraine opportunities to build a new system of relations between a citizen, society, and the state on the basis of freedom and democratic values.” It is interesting that the previous strategy adopted under Yushchenko also started with a similar reference, except perhaps the authors propagated the progressive role of the “orange revolution” for Ukraine in 2004-2005, thanks to which Yushchenko, Yulia Timoshenko, Poroshenko and others came to power.

Generally speaking, the National Security Strategy may both have dozens or even hundreds pages and fit into a few pages. The volume is not important, the content is.  As to the content, the given strategy gives answers to the two key questions:

— What are threats to the state and the society at present and what threats may emerge in visible future?

 — What methods will the political elite use to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity?

It is interesting that the authors of the new National Security Strategy of Ukraine have for the first time taken the bull by the horns saying that the threat No.1 for Ukraine is the Russian Federation.  The only possible way to respond is maximum close cooperation with the West, namely the EU and NATO.

Then, it should come as no surprise that the section “Immediate Threats to the National Security of Ukraine” points at the “aggressive actions of Russia that pursue a goal of undermining the Ukrainian economy and political stability to destroy Ukraine as state and seize its territory.” What about the option that the state coup through the Maidan protests was a starting point for the Ukrainian crisis?  It was just than that the protest organizers provoked a series of street clashes and then snipers shot dead several dozens of protesters, soldiers from the internal troops and the Berkut officers directly in the center of Kiev.  It was then that the protesters seized police offices and arms warehouses etc.  As to the speeches by the formal leaders of the political opposition in the person of Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Oleh Tyahnybok, and Vitaly Klitschko, as well as and many bribed journalists and experts, they just stirred up hatred toward Russia and the Russians.  When the Maidan leaders came to power, it meant a final refusal of Ukraine from the multi-vector policy (the best signature and the shtick during Leonid Kuchma’s presidency). This is what we are witnessing now. Meantime, the authors of the Strategy exclude such option.

Here is an important question: How do the foreign policy decisions of Poroshenko’s administration blend the changes in the international situation?  In terms of the international relations and geopolitics, what we can see now is at least a new version of “cold war.”  Inherently, there is “cold” conflict between Russia and its allies on the one part, and between the Western countries headed by the United States on the other part. Therefore, in such situation, for Ukraine a refusal from its multi-vector policy means being voluntarily recruited by the army of the one of the conflicting sides. It is not clear whether the Ukrainian authorities reckon with the fact that Ukraine has a 2,295km-long border with Russia and in case of aggravation of tensions, it may be at risk as a conflicting party.

No one needs NATO

Perhaps, Poroshenko & Co hope the United States, European Union and NATO will protect Ukraine (as the Strategy declares U.S. as a strategic partner of Ukraine). Actually, the National Security Strategy declares that the cooperation with all the three actors will be intensified – as a measure of fight against the announced threat – Russia.  This implies implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU and announcement of open westward policy in the international arena. A direct quote: “Globally, Ukraine considers boosting the cooperation with the United States as a guarantor of the international security in the Euro-Atlantic space on the basis of the U.S.-Ukraine Charter on the Strategic Partnership dating back to Dec 19 2008 as the key foreign policy priority.” As for the North-Atlantic Alliance, the Strategy declares that Ukraine adopts the practices of NATO member states as a guide to upgrade the efficiency of the Ukrainian army.

 “Improvement of the fiscal policy in the national security and defense fields through gradual increase of the ratio of the budget expenditures on the security and defense sector, on development, training and operation in line with the practices of the NATO member-states,” a quote from the National Security Strategy of Ukraine. For instance, to train the manpower  (namely security services and army) it is suggested to invite tutors and instructors from the NATO countries. Actually, here the Strategy is closely connected with the Ukraine-NATO Cooperation Program that was adopted earlier. President Petro Poroshenko approved the Program on Fe4b 18 2015 by signing a decree “On the approval of the Ukraine-NATO Annual National Program of Cooperation for 2015.”

Meantime, in practice, the declared goals of the Strategy look differently. Thus, Johannes Hahn, the European Commissioner for European Neighborhood & Enlargement, said at the 3rd east forum in Berlin on April 22 2015 that no European enlargement is anticipated within the coming decade, but the negotiations will be continued with the countries concerned. That is, the EU senior officials and business-elites do not plan to consider Ukraine’s admission to the European Union. However, they plan to keep promising the EU membership for future. As to the United States, the status of a partner-state is not a matter of statements, but a matter of legal status. The status of a strategic partner in practice is the title of “the United States’ key non-NATO ally.” However, in September 24, in the course of President Petro Poroshenko’s visit to the USA, representatives of Barack Obama’s Administration (including Victoria Nuland) openly rejected such option requested by the Ukrainian president.  Another option is an Act of  Congress . For instance, in December 2014, the U.S. Congress passed an Act that declared Israel as its strategic partner and announced a range of preferences for it. The US-Israel Strategic Partnership Act expanded the trade status of Israel, facilitated import licensing procedures, promoted closer cooperation in energy, research and development, business, agriculture, water management, cyber-security. In addition, the Act increased the value of emergency the U.S. weaponry kept in Israel. Ukraine is not likely to have such preferences in future either.

Then, maybe NATO will expand the cooperation with Ukraine?  The Alliance has 3 options of cooperation:

 —Full membership;

 — Membership Action Plan (MAP);

 — Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP). Ukraine and NATO had such format of cooperation in 2002-2010.

Strange as it may seem, at the Summit in Wales on September 4-5 2014, the NATO senior officials did not even speak about the provision of any of the options to Ukraine. That is why, Ukraine’s relations with both U.S. and NATO do not fit into any of the existing formats;

As for the EU, the Association Agreement is a trade treaty, first. This suggests that the current edition of the Strategy looks to draft the list of Ukraine’s commitments to the EU, USA and NATO, while the “partners” do not undertake any commitments. Furthermore, Ukraine’s protection in case of an armed conflict with a third country is not considered at all.

Ukraine as it is today cannot be a partner, in principle; the country is weak as never before.  Ukraine’s official western partners have no legal commitments to it, which better than anything shows the level of Kiev’s sovereignty and its ability to ensure foreign policy guarantees for itself.

Perishable goods

Such documents as the National Security Strategy are an action plan for years to come. The authors are set to make the scenario for 5-10 years i.e. to forecast the possible threats Ukraine may face in the given period and make an action plan, at least briefly, to meet the existing and future challenges. Therefore, a fair question arises: Is the current Strategy able to serve as an action plan?

Let us take the agenda of the world’s mass media as a list of criteria. For instance, the world media point at the international terrorism as the prior threat. The authors of the Strategy also consider the terrorism as a threat, though they see terrorism from Russia.  For instance, the section “Immediate Threats of the National Security”  mentions such threat as “reconnaissance, demolition and subversive activity, incitement of  inter-ethnic, inter-confessional, social hatred and enmity, separatism and terrorism…” Not a word about the radical Islamic and other transnational terrorist groups!  Perhaps, the specialists of the National Security Council and Defense have invented any extra-method against the international terrorism and no longer consider it as a threat, unlike the rest of the world.

The world media and leading politicians say one of the key matters for concern is the threat of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) that recruits mercenaries through social media in dozens of countries. Yet, Ukraine’s new National Security Strategy says nothing about that quasi-state that declares the principles of religions extremism and other threats.

Over the last 1.5-year, since the Maidan protests, Ukraine has turned into a “flash point” on the map of Europe and the world.  The classical attributes of a “flash point” are refugees, drug traffic, illegal arms supply, trafficking in persons.  All this threatens the national security of any country.  What cures for that disease does the Poroshenko-approved Strategy offer?  After having a close look at the text, one can arrive at a conclusion that the authors do not mention either drug traffic or illegal arms supply.

Yet, maybe, the Administration is sure that these problems have been settled in Ukraine long ago and there is no need to speak of them anymore. After all, maybe the authors of the document do not care for such “everyday problems” of Ukraine. They are strangers!

It turns out that the new Strategy gives no answers to the real strategic tasks and challenges to the national security of Ukraine. It is just another document containing anti-Russian propaganda. Actually, the next Administration will have to draft a new National Security Strategy for Ukraine.

Sergey Slobodchuk, political consultant

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