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Corruption, Malfeasance Take Devastating Toll on Ukrainian Military

Corruption, Malfeasance Take Devastating Toll on Ukrainian Military
Ukrainian troops man a checkpoint near the eastern city of Slavyansk on April 25.

By    |   Friday, 25 April 2014 12:56 PM

Endemic corruption, treachery and decades of denial regarding the Russian threat are major factors behind the calamitous state of Ukraine’s military, experts say.

The new Kiev government said it found the national treasury looted and empty after it toppled Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych and took over the country two months ago.

Desperate for money, the Defense Ministry appealed to the public for help, and Ukrainians have responded with bake sales and donations of money, shoes, canned goods and clothing to rebuild the national army. They have raised $9 million since April 18, according to the ministry. However, that is a tiny fraction of  a military budget estimated at more than $5 billion a year.

The country’s new leaders inherited a military and national security bureaucracy run by Yanukovych loyalists with ties to Russia’s FSB security service, said Andriy Parubiy, secretary of the Security and Defense Council.

Despite the existence of a massive military-industrial complex that produces radars, tanks, anti-armor weapons and spare parts, the military is plagued by shortages of essentials such as food and blankets. Its frontline troops live in squalor, and they lack basics such as body armor and helmets.

A recent investigation of one defense factory found that $81 of every $100 order was being stolen. If that money had been used to modernize the military, “there would not be a problem,” Prime Minister Vitaliy Yarema said.   

“It’s a corrupt, broken system,” Rand Corporation security analyst Olga Oliker told The Washington Times.

“Ukraine has been in bad shape economically and politically for a very long time,” said Oliker, a specialist on military affairs. Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, a succession of governments decided building a strong military to stop a Russian invasion was not a top priority, she said.

“Early on, the decision was not to defend the land against a Russian invasion because that wasn’t going to work anyway,” Oliker said.

As a result, Ukraine’s 130,000-strong defense forces could not prevent Russian President Vladimir Putin’s allies from seizing Crimea and cannot stop Moscow from annexing eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian military has very little body armor, while Moscow’s forces have some of the world’s best. The Ukrainian military would face a huge disadvantage if forced into close-quarter combat to turn back an invasion of urban areas such as the caital, Kiev.

Military analyst Ken Allard, a retired U.S. Army officer, said that following independence, Ukraine “was cast adrift from both Russian military and from NATO.” 

Virtually all of Ukraine’s weaponry “was mostly obsolete equipment inherited from the Warsaw Pact,” he added. While former Eastern Bloc countries like Poland and  Romania used their partnerships with NATO to modernize their forces to alliance standards, Ukraine’s military stagnated.

Today, some Ukrainian helicopters cannot fly because of a lack of fuel, and the military’s effectiveness is hampered by a poorly maintained communications network.

A recent report by former NATO Supreme Commander Wesley Clark  included images of  front-line Ukrainian troops living in squalor, fed by farmers in pony carts. To fend off the bitter cold, the soldiers light fires, revealing their positions to Russian snipers.

Recent media reports detailing the desperate condition of the Ukrainian military have helped alleviate the problems to some extent, with Ukraine’s financial oligarchs contributing millions of dollars of their own money, and with foreign donations of millions of dollars worth of equipment such as body armor, helmets, generators, water-purification kits and medical.

But the Defense Ministry’s deputy supply chief said recently that, even with the spike in support, the Ukrainian Army has only 30 to 40 percent of what it needs.  

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Endemic corruption, treachery and decades of denial regarding the Russian threat are major factors behind the calamitous state of Ukraine’s military, experts say.
Ukraine, military
Friday, 25 April 2014 12:56 PM
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