By Petro Shuklinov, Journalist, LIGABusinessInform/LIGA.net
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine
On the Minsk agreements, mobilization, military salaries, the powers of the Security Council and the future of Putin’s Russia: the first interview of the new Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council [NSDC].
The FIRST interview with the newly-elected Secretary of the NSDC of Ukraine, Oleksandr Turchynov. In a conversation with LIGABusinessInform, he explained what he would do in his new post, how the situation in the defense sector will change, and whether normal relations between Ukraine and Russia are possible after the departure of Putin’s regime in Russia.
– Will the powers of the Secretary of the NSDC increase?
– According to the law and the Constitution [of Ukraine], the NSDC must coordinate the work of the entire defense sector, including the executive branch, on matters related to the country’s security. The Council shall decide any matters related to national security, defense, and, if necessary, the issues of war.
At the same time, the current law does not provide for a mechanism of implementation of these powers. This law was adopted under Kuchma’s presidency. Then, it was all theory and conditional statements. No one took the word “war” seriously. Nobody thought that we might indeed need the position of a Chief-of-Staff, that we would have to liberate our country from an aggressor.
The changes proposed by the new law specifically deal with designated mechanisms for the implementation of the tasks assigned to the NSDC.
– In your opinion, will the Parliament adopt these changes without amending them?
– I am convinced that all the patriots, all [of those] who live by the interests of their country, will vote for this bill.
“The only mechanism to force them to comply with the agreements, including the Minsk agreement, and to make [them] free the occupied territories – is a strong army and a strong state. There is no other mechanism.”
– The Minsk agreements. How can we force Russia to fulfill them? What will be Ukraine’s strategy for the future?
– Russia is acting in a despicable manner. Russia has attacked when we were weak as never before–in fact, when there was no real government in the country. They attacked when there was no combat-ready army, when there was a complete collapse of law enforcement structures. Like jackals, they stabbed [us] in the back.
The only mechanism to force them to comply with the agreements, including the Minsk agreement, and to make [them] free the occupied territories – is a strong army and a strong state. There is no other mechanism. I do not believe in diplomacy towards Russia. I do not believe they will leave, fearing the pressure from our allies. Only a strong Ukrainian army will force them to get out of our territory.
– What the Russian economy is experiencing now – is this the payment for the annexation of Crimea, for the Russian army invasion of Donbas, for the civilian airplane downed by the Russian military?
– Of course. Putin counted on being able to get away with this. Yes, we have not received military and technical assistance, which could have saved thousands of our soldiers’ lives. We have to fight with weapons inherited from Soviet [times]. Nevertheless, the sanctions and the system of economic pressure by lowering the cost of energy carriers have given their results.
Putin’s main problem is his regime. There are no examples in history where an authoritarian dictatorial authority could ensure the efficiency of the economy. With his aggression towards Ukraine, Putin tried to shift the attention of the Russians from the insolvency of the economic and socio-economic policies of his regime. All of their ideological and propaganda nonsense that they spread around – about eating babies, the bloodthirstiness of our soldiers, children buried alive – all this nonsense has been invented solely for the purpose of shifting the attention and hatred of [the Russian] people from their economic and political failures to an external enemy, created in their perverted mind – [i.e.] Ukraine.
But the Russian economy is very vulnerable. There is no safety margin. And that is why it began to crumble even earlier than was forecasted. In my assessment, if the current price trend for energy carriers holds for at least half a year, the collapse of the Russian economy will become irreversible.
“There are many media outlets in Ukraine, which are controlled by Russia and which work against their country. This problem needs to be solved.”
– It is impossible to categorically state that Ukraine is losing the information war against Russia. But it has not yet won this war. What will you do about this?
– We must complete the announced processes we started – to clear Ukraine’s information field from the information provocateurs. And it’s not just about the propaganda channels of Russia. There are many media outlets in Ukraine, which are controlled by Russia and which work against their country. This problem needs to be solved. In a state that is at war, everything must be directed at strengthening the country, rather than weakening it. Because any provocateur, be it an economic or an informational one, must be localized.
– Does the NSDC have enough instruments to accomplish this?
– As part of the NSDC, I have a small staff, but we are tasked with coordination. We must force those [officials] who are obligated to do it under the Constitution to work. Of course, we are not a substitute for the National Council or law enforcement. But we will seek mechanisms that will force them to work. We can’t replace the authorities that should work on combating corruption, but we need to coordinate and focus them on specific goals and objectives. This is the format of the NSDC – not to replace, but to force [others] to work effectively.
– The General Staff announced that a new partial mobilization was necessary. And how effective will it be if the military recruitment offices are still motivated only by corruption and sending not those who are willing and able to fight, but every Tom, Dick, and Harry?
– We must change the mobilization policy. It should not be another hectic occurrence, when the [military offices] seem to catch just anyone; we need a statewide systematic policy. Mobilization is not only conscription. [I] am talking about the mobilization of economic potential, budget, and material resources. This is a complex task. And we must ensure its implementation. Today, we lack mobilization reserves. Such an agency as the State Reserve has also become a virtual concept. That is, the policy of mobilization should not be chaotic or spontaneous, but a well-planned and professionally implemented policy.
Next year, we are planning to replace the servicemen mobilized in 2014. At the same time, our task is to create a powerful reserve that includes several hundreds of thousands of reservists who can take their places in order of battle within a day, if necessary.
We need to create an effective system that will work today and the day after tomorrow, and that will provide us with real security. We are carefully studying international experiences, including Switzerland’s [experience] on this issue.
– And what should [they] do with the military enlistment offices?
– [They] have to force those people, who are under obligation to fight corruption, to perform their duties. [They will have to] provoke them with bribes and arrest them. [They must] update the staff of the military recruitment offices. Many volunteers keep coming back from the front. They have combat experience, have been honored with awards, some have been injured. They have proven themselves above and beyond. This is the right work for them. They know who is needed at the front. They understand that human lives depend on decisions like these.
[We] must also take into account the current situation with unemployment in Ukraine. If you do not have a job and you are ready to serve your Motherland – for these [people], there must be unambiguous priority.
– A concrete example. Tank commander “Bulat,” mobilized in March [of 2014], receives 3,000 Hryvnias for his work in the ATO zone (including the combat pay). [He was] rotated out [of the zone], but continues to serve – [his take home pay] is 1,500 Hryvnias. What should be done for the military to receive good pay and when will this happen?
– One of the problems is the formation of the defense budget. I talked to the Prime Minister and the President on the subject. The economic situation is catastrophic. Its cause and effect are the war on which [we must] spend money. However, there is no other alternative but to ensure the army is provided for. And we must understand that we are not only limited by funds, but also by time. And this is a big question – what will we lack more of – money or time. Therefore, our plans must be realistic. I would like to promise all officers the salary level of their colleagues from NATO. This would be a desirable [outcome], but it will not happen today. All that is possible in the budget will be given to the army. But while the tasks must be realistic, the plans must be specific.
In this case, one of the tasks is to increase contractors in the military. The priority goes to the increase in salaries and social benefits of contractors. It is very important that many volunteers [amidst the servicemen] now sign contracts to stay in the Army or the National Guard.
– Russia and Putin. Are there prospects for resuming relations with the aggressor after the change of power in the Kremlin?
– Yeltsin’s Russia did not pose a threat to our country. So, a lot depends on [Russia’s] leadership. And I’m certain that a change of course and rejection of aggression are still a realistic scenario for Russia. But if the current course is not altered – Russia is doomed.