Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 29.09.2018
The only fighting defender of the West against Russia at war is Ukraine. Ukrainian soldiers have been engaged in battle, defending NATO’s eastern flank, for four and a half years. Although NATO gives training assistance to Ukraine, no NATO member’s military is in combat alongside the Armed Forces of Ukraine to stop Putin’s invasion of Europe in Crimea and Donbas.
Ukraine now spends 6% of its Gross Domestic Product on the military. This is far more than the minimum 2% of GDP spending which is mandated by NATO on its members. In fact, the majority of NATO members to not meet the 2% requirement. NATO estimates that in 2018, only the United States, Greece, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia will meet the guideline of defence expenditure being 2% of GDP. The median expenditure is 1.36%.
The President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, was at a ceremony in Baltimore in the US on September 27 at which two former US Coast Guard cutters were handed over to the Ukrainian navy. Speaking to the assembled dignitaries, President Poroshenko said: “Our military obligations are 6% of the GDP. This figure is now higher than minimal obligations for NATO members.” He reminded his audience that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are effectively stopping Russian aggression. They fight for freedom and democracy. Ukraine is the eastern flank of NATO, even though it is not a member.
Ukraine was promised NATO membership at the Budapest summit in 2008. After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, support for NATO membership shot up among Ukrainian voters. In 2017, the Verkhovna Rada passed a law to make NATO membership Ukraine’s strategic foreign policy objective. President Poroshenko said in Baltimore that he has submitted to the parliament amendments to the Constitution that would strengthen the course of Ukraine’s integration into NATO and also the European Union.
Under pressure of the war forced upon Ukraine by the Russian Federation, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are rapidly adopting NATO standards. Developments in training, logistics, the non-commissioned officer corps, technical equipment, command and control, and the legal framework are all areas in which Ukraine is quickly reaching benchmarks for NATO standardization.
Ukraine is reaching parity in gender equality too. Earlier this month, the Verkhovna Rada passed the law “On Amending Certain Laws of Ukraine on Ensuring Equal Rights and Opportunities for Women and Men when Performing Military Service in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and Other Military Formations.” Before this law, for example, the only combat arms specialty that was open to women in the Ukrainian military was the artillery. By amending existing laws and the internal regulations of the army, Ukraine will ensure equal participation of women and men in military service.
Ukrainian women have fought with equal valour to men in defending the homeland from invasion by the Russian Federation. Putin’s army is unreformed, and is made up mostly of contract soldiers – mercenaries – who are all men and who lack the fighting spirit to win the war that Muscovy so recklessly started in 2014.
There is a war on NATO’s eastern flank. Ukraine is holding off invader Muscovy because it is spending 6% of its GDP on its military and because over the past four and a half years it is has built the best fighting army in Europe from almost nothing. It is not unreasonable for Ukraine to ask its NATO partners to do more. NATO members should be calling Russia’s war against Ukraine “war” – and act accordingly. NATO members should help Ukraine in every way possible, such as with more and stronger sanctions on Russian war criminals, and also by providing substantial economic and military aid to Ukraine. NATO members should keep the promise they made to the themselves to spend 2% of GDP on defence. Above all, Ukraine should be brought into NATO membership immediately to save the North Atlantic region from Russian aggression.