Can Ukraine Afford Its Military?

Can Ukraine Afford Its Military?
AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
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Military clashes in the east are taking a toll on Ukraine’s already strained national budget. According to recent statements by Andrei Paruby, Speaker of Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, the country is facing difficulties in funding its armed forces. As a result, Ukraine’s Channel 5 television network reported, military equipment damaged during fighting in the Donbas region has not been repaired over the past two months. "We are catastrophically short on money for the defense sector, and resolution to this crisis requires political will and political decisions. This is a decision that can not be lost in the legislative procedures,” Paruby said.

Paruby also recalled the Rada’s decision on the law on strategic defense order, which provides for the development and domestic manufacture of new and unique military equipment for the country's armed forces. "The proposed technology is on par with international equivalents, including with the anti-tank weapon better known to as Javelin, which we have long been waiting for from the United States. We are continuing its development with intent to manufacture "

The Ukrainian government intends to professionalize its armed forces despite financial constraints. On June 7, 2016, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed the Strategic Defense Bulletin, which provides for the formation of professional reserves by the Armed Forces of Ukraine - the adoption of this document is part of official measures meant to bring the Ukrainian army in line with NATO standards.

Across former Soviet states with large ethic Russian minorities, there is growing concern that Russia may use those minority communities to destabilize host nations, as Moscow did in Ukraine. More than half of the Russian-speaking residents of Estonia have a negative attitude to the presence of NATO troops in the country. The latter form part of a 4,000-strong contingent to be stationed there as a warning to Moscow. On June 15, 2016, a sociological survey commissioned by the Estonian Ministry of Defense revealed that 56 percent of Russian-speaking respondents said they opposed the presence of NATO forces in Estonia. Meanwhile, 88 percent of ethnic Estonian respondents perceived the presence of NATO forces as positive, with 66 percent generally positive about NATO activities in ensuring the security of Estonia.

Today, approximately one-quarter of Estonia's 1.3 million people are ethnic Russians, and their presence worries the Estonian government, following Moscow's decision to back ethnic Russians fighting the Ukrainian government for independence. Neighboring Latvia, whose own population is 24 percent ethnic-Russian, shares the concern but pledges to host NATO offensive forces on its territory "as long as Russia is its neighbor.” Even Kazakhstan, which continues to enjoy a peaceful and productive relationship with Moscow, is starting to feel on edge, given that one-fifth of its 18 million people are part of the ethnic-Russian community, where some members are starting to express support for Moscow's actions in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

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