Ukrainian Military Reform and Prospects for Ehnanced Euro-Atlantic Security Cooperation
Ten years after the end of the Cold War, Ukraine's military is providing an example of successful reform to the country's political leadership. In her discussion, Ms. Closson noted that despite having the largest standing military (next to Russia) on the continent of Europe, Ukrainian officials continue to implement new reforms aimed at converting its military infrastructure from a Soviet-style to a more NATO-based system. Recent institutional changes include an attempt to identify civilian posts within the Ministry of Defense as well as conduct an overhaul of the personnel ranking system. Ms. Closson pointed out that the combination of these recent reforms and the streamlining of the nation's military academies are producing the beginnings of a hierarchal command system similar to those found in Ukraine's NATO neighbors. However, the remaining disjointed command structure is the largest obstacle for the reform process. Intense competition exists between the Ministry of Defense and various paramilitary groups for control of resources, while overlapping and redundant responsibilities cause confusion in the Ukrainian military elite.
According to Ms. Closson, the United States has provided significant aid to Ukraine's military transition and continues to outline a number of objectives that it would like to see implemented. U.S. leaders are concerned with developing a civilian command structure within Ukraine's Ministry of Defense as well as controlling the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Because Ukraine's military relies on arms sales for over 1/3 of its revenue, U.S. officials continue to closely monitor Ukraine's anti-proliferation measures. Ms. Closson reiterated that in the wake of September 11th, the United States cannot afford to abandon the Ukrainian military in the middle of the reform process because a stable Ukraine contributes to security in the region and the entire world.
Ms. Closson concluded by saying that Ukrainian officials have forged a distinct relationship with the West. Each year the militaries of the NATO allies and Ukraine conduct nearly six hundred cooperative meetings. Currently, Ukraine ranks first among NATO's Partners for Peace participants for having the most advanced military structure. However, the increased dialogue concerning an enhanced NATO-Russian relationship has many Ukrainians wary of being overlooked by the NATO allies at the upcoming NATO summit in Prague in November.