The ultimate goal of the military establishment is an army that has been trained and armed according to the perspective operations doctrine, which fixes how to defeat Russia on the battlefield, write. NATO standards do not automatically address these issues and challenges. Though the understanding that Euro-Atlantic integration does not provide automatic answers to all the military-building issues we face with does not preclude the need to implement them.

Expert discussions in Ukraine about Euro-Atlantic integration are dedicated mainly if it should apply for a membership action plan (MAP) or not.

But they do not affect the practical aspects. Particularly, even not all the main supporters of Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration can say immediately what is need for the so-called interoperability of the Armed Forces with the armies of NATO countries achievement. And, as a result, they will not be able to explain what has been done during the last six years and what needs to be done still.

However, there is another interesting practical issue that is worth to be highlighted precisely. Unfortunately, there is a trend to equate the implementation of NATO standards with the ability to fight in Ukraine. This approach is one-sided very much.

NATO standards are not equal to the ability to fight and win

The goal of NATO standards implementing is certainly correct because the so-called interoperability cannot be guaranteed without definite standards. However, in many cases, the standards are only about the efficient resources’ usage, the troops’ organization, the provision of such important elements as the army controllability, and not about how to fight and win on the battlefield in the future.

Therefore, this is one of the perception problems, because NATO standards and the ability to fight and win in our country are perceived almost as the synonyms, which is far from the accuracy.

The military construction ultimate goal is an army that has been trained and armed according to the perspective doctrine of operations, which fixes how to win if an enemy needs to be on the battlefield. NATO standards do not automatically address these issues and challenges.

A good example of this is the same Allied joint doctrine for the conduct of operations (AJP-3 (C). This document tells only about the stages of planning and conducting operations – an abstract algorithm of actions, and not about how to militate against Russia under its current condition in real life on the battlefield or at the tactical and operational levels.

That is why NATO and the United States currently develop separate doctrinal documents that would form the military construction background. By the end of 2020, the United States wants to develop a new single operational doctrine for high-intensity warfare. This document will describe how to fight and defeat Russia or China if needed.

With this document in mind US, military construction will be carried out – the equipment purchase, the army structuring, the fighters training. Such documents have not been developed in the United States since 1986. The philosophy of the new document is to expand the scope of the confrontations from the ground and air space, as provided for in the 1986 doctrine, to confrontations in all possible spheres (including cyber sphere and outer space).

Similarly, in September 2019, NATO launched a process of a Warfighting Capstone Concept development for the next 20 years at the level of the Military Committee. Thus, the United States and NATO honestly acknowledge that they do not currently have ready-made recipes on how to fight Russia in its current state in the case of the need. In other words, NATO standards do not contain ready-made decisions on how to go to war with Russia, and therefore how to essentially conduct military construction in terms of preparation for war with our adversary. At the same time, it is more appropriate to assess the army in terms of its ability to fulfil its main constitutional duty than its formal compliance with certain NATO standards.


Mythical compatibility

Understanding that Euro-Atlantic integration does not provide automatic answers to all the military construction issues before us does not cancel the homework on the implementation of the already mentioned NATO standards from the agenda.

Priority in this regard should be given to the standards that ensure the so-called interoperability of forces. Interoperability means the ability of national armed forces units to be easily integrated into international forces at the level of planning and conducting operations, which is considered almost the main criteria for the success of Euro-Atlantic integration of our army assessing. What is formally needed for this?

Ability to plan and conduct operations in line with NATO practices. Our senior and middle military leadership must master the key documents of the Alliance on this issue and be able to apply them in practice. For this purpose, the Linguistics Research Department operates in Ukraine, which translates and adapts the relevant documents to our realities.

Availability of management systems that can be integrated into a single NATO interface if required. It means the communication tools should be able to exchange the information with the other NATO countries easily, if necessary, ensuring the control under troops during an operation at least. As a maximum, the entire Unified Automated Troop Management System (UASU) should ensure the uninterrupted secure exchange of diverse data types. From this position importantly that Ukraine purchases Turkish tactical radio stations Aselsan, which fully match to the corresponding Alliance’s equipment. The Dzvin’s operational and strategic unit, which is currently developed and tested in the interests of the Armed Forces, can also exchange data with the relevant NATO systems, that isn’t less important.

At the same time, to achieve the appropriate interoperability level, there is no need to replace all post-Soviet equipment immediately and switch to NATO’s calibres. The weapons systems’ availability that can work with unified ammunition is a plus because it allows to get the Alliance’s help, if necessary. Although the Soviet calibres saving makes one think about the ammunition provision by oneself, it doesn’t hinder to plan and conduct operations within a single plan.

The Central and Eastern Europe countries example is quite illustrative. Our western neighbours became NATO members 15-20 years ago. But their Euro-Atlantic integration is still ongoing at the technical level. After all, Soviet weapon is not completely decommissioned there still. However, this did not prevent them to join the Alliance anyhow.

Though the Soviet equipment service life in the Armed Forces starts to run out. And it is far behind from the modern warfare requirements, especially in terms of a unified collection system, payment and information use establishment.

Therefore, the ability to plan and conduct operations under NATO doctrinal documents and the ability to ensure the control of troops during the operation conduction by communication and control systems unification is the necessary minimum to ensure interoperability. It is from this point of view that the Armed Forces should be assessed in the future.

Interoperability in practice

It cannot be said that the Armed Forces did not try to get closer to NATO practically. Thus, Roman Zvarych published the results of an experiment with the transfer of the 13th Battalion of the 95th DShV Brigade to Alliance standards within the Stryker program framework. The experiment started in 2016 and yielded results in 2018 as demonstrated by NATO training in Germany.

Its implementation required the officers and sergeants retraining based on many American documents about training, operations, equipment. This experience repetition across the Armed Forces will require a new education and training system, a radical breakdown of the current institutional system that will meet with fierce resistance, and significant investment in staff who must be at least fluent in English and understand US and NATO documents.

There were talks of a two-year experiment based on a mountain assault brigade that will be able to act together with NATO forces in the Land Forces in early 2020. The relevant brigade is planned to be staffed and structured as accepted in the Alliance. During defence, the new brigade should keep the traditional 20 km for the Alliance, instead of our usual 12-15 km. But the experimental team will not be involved in environmental protection. Instead, it will focus entirely on training in line with NATO approaches. This may be an extension of the Stryker experiment to the brigade level. Although such a reformatting process of the Armed Forces brigades structure to NATO standards together with the new training program will be a long process.

In the Land Forces alone, we have 18 tanks totally, mechanized and motorized infantry brigades. And we have the appropriate line brigades in the Assault Troops and the Marine Corps. The need to keep up to 10 line crews in the OOS area at all times also limits the ability to release individual units for qualitatively new training.

By the way, the trained battalions and brigades of the Armed Forces participation in NATO exercises abroad will be a good progress indicator. Today, only individual Ukrainian troops participate in the Alliance’s international exercises at most.

Realities and prospects

Now the main attention of the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff is focused mainly on organizational issues, as well as at the available resources efficient usage when Euro-Atlantic integration is concerned. Formally the dividing process of the generating forces function and their usage was completed at the end of March 2020. Previously, these functions were combined by the General Staff and its Chief.

However, in NATO countries these functions are differentiated because the workload of each of them requires special attention today – the military business went far beyond the Moltke Sr. era, who could effectively combine the forces’ generation and usage.

Now he Chief of the General Staff and the commands of the military branches are responsible only for generating forces, their armament and training. At the same time, the Commander-in-Chief will be responsible for the set of forces transferred to his jurisdiction the application. In early February 2020 new commands were created in the Armed Forces, which will be responsible for medicine, support, communications and cybersecurity.

Such steps are right and correct, as they correspond to Ukraine’s commitments to international partners under the same National Security Law of 2018. Our international partners continue to wait for the full implementation of this law under the conditions when Ukraine needs convincing arguments that it can do our homework. Such examples will be much more important in the discussion with sceptics within the Alliance about Ukraine’s membership in NATO prospects than our constant calls in the style of “Dayosh already tomorrow”.

However, the main task for the next 5-10 years will be to harmonize the process of Euro-Atlantic integration with the preparation for a possible major war with Russia. Both processes requirements do coincide on many issues. Under any circumstances, the Armed Forces must ensure the control of troops by modernizing the control and communication system.

Simultaneously, massive introduction of protected control and communication systems in the Ukrainian army, which are compatible with NATO, solves the problem of guaranteeing the necessary level of the units control in case of need to resist the aggression of the Russian Federation. Similarly, NATO’s approaches to planning and conducting operations acquisition by Ukrainian command’s will also increase the chances of success, though not provided ready-made recipes for opposing Russia’s hypothetical aggression. After all, in this case, our military will take into account all the factors that are important in the war at the operational level in their actions.

At the same time, it is necessary to implement a set of tasks that are not formally included in the Euro-Atlantic integration measures list but are also necessary for the Armed Forces preparation for the Great War. Such measures include the analysis of objective trends in military affairs at the current stage, which affect tactics and operational art; analysis of the Russian military threat; development of own unified perspective operative doctrine of conducting military operations and specification of tactical instructions.

These tasks in the complex will help to formulate a list of necessary weapons and equipment for procurement, to determine the requirements for training and preparation of troops, to resolve the issue of changing the structure of the units if necessary. Only such harmonization and joint efforts will allow the Armed Forces not only to approach NATO formally but also to be prepared practically to fulfil the main constitutional duty.

Smaller budget

Ukraine’s recent accession to NATO’s Partnership for Enhanced Opportunities (EOP) has changed little in terms of the challenges facing the Armed Forces in the Euro-Atlantic integration process. The experience of Sweden and Finland, which have been members of the EOP format since 2014, shows that the effectiveness of these countries’ participation in the relevant format of cooperation with NATO is more the result of their national efforts to develop the security and defence sector than the cooperation Enhanced Partnership. It would be a big mistake for Ukraine to pursue a policy with the exact opposite assumption.

On the other hand, we delayed the development of documents that will determine the Armed Forces features in the mid-2020s. This is because the National Security Strategy which is a fundamental document in the field of national security and defence according to the current Law on National Security 2018 has not been implemented yet.

The requirements of this document should be taken into account in other documents – particularly the Military Security Strategy, the Strategic Defense Bulletin and the State Development Program of the Armed Forces. The first version of the National Security Strategy was approved by the National Security and Defense Council at the beginning of 2020 but was not approved by the President.

The Strategy was further adjusted taking into account Covid-19 and passed to the re-consideration. So far, the National Security Strategy has not been adopted – perhaps just because of the uncertainty stemming from the spread of Covid-19. But this document’s approval is postponed as well as the implementation, which is also important in the process of joining NATO. Although in January 2020, the MDU has prepared a pretty decent version of the Military Security Strategy.

Covid-19 adds problems. The army command managed to curb this disease spread in the ranks of the Armed Forces. The rate of spread of the disease in the army is many times lower than in the country as a whole, according to the official statistics from the MDU. However, the severe economic consequences of Covid-19, including the economic downturn, mean the MDU is unlikely to receive a record $ 5.4 billion in the budget for 2021 as it happened this year. The difficult question will be where exactly to save. Most likely, this will happen through the weapons and equipment provision and the training pace – it is dangerous to reduce the service prestige because we will lose staff, which is the most valuable.

Under these circumstances, there is a difficult task of choosing the highest priority projects for rearmament and equipment modernization. Although without doctrinal documents it will be more difficult to do. One can only hope for common sense.

Natalia Tolub

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