Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 03.01.2018
Defending Europe from Russian invasion has a price, and in 2018 Ukraine will spend a substantial part of the wealth of the nation paying that price. This year the budget for the Ukrainian armed forces will be a record amount: 86 billion hryvnia, which is about 3.06 billion US dollars. This is five percent of the gross domestic product of Ukraine.
There will be a big boost in spending on weapons and military equipment, especially now that restrictions have been lessened by Canada and the United States on arms sales to Ukraine. A 34% increase in matériel expenditure over the previous year means that Ukraine will spend 18.1 billion hryvnia in this category, or 644 million US dollars.
The bulk of Ukraine’s defence spending will go to the Ukrainian Ground Forces that are in combat against the Russian invaders of Europe in Donbas, the easternmost region of Ukraine.
The enemy, Russia, has decreased its military budget for 2018 to about 42.3 billion US dollars. Russia has to pay a fortune for past imperialist aggression and for Putin’s wars today. Wars of aggression and military occupations are expensive, and Russia tries to maintain these in Chechnya, Trans-Dniester, Abkhazia, Tskhinvali Region, Crimea, Donbas, Syria and other places. With an economy smaller than that of South Korea, Russians are being impoverished to pay for Putin’s wars.
Nevertheless, Russia’s expected spending in 2018 on Putin’s wars, including the invasion of Europe, will be almost 14 times greater than Ukraine’s expenditure to defend Europe on the battlefront in Donbas.
Russia is invading Ukraine in part because Ukraine is not in NATO and has no military allies. Putin is exploiting the inconsistencies in NATO collective security. Three former captive nations of the Russian empire (when it was called the Soviet Union) are in NATO: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania; three former captive nations who want to be in NATO are not: Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. Three Nordic countries are in NATO – Denmark, Norway, and Iceland – while two Nordic countries are not – Sweden and Finland. Russian aggression works at these cleavages all the time. NATO is a favourite bogeyman of Russian hate propaganda, and the North Atlantic allies are very poor at spreading the true message of NATO, which is of a free association of sovereign nations for collective security.
Ukraine is doing its part for the defence of the North Atlantic security area by spending five percent of its gross domestic product on defence and fighting in the trenches to save Europe from Russian invaders. Ukraine should be in NATO. Most NATO members fail to meet the alliance’s two percent of GDP target for defence expenditures. Standing by and making non-NATO Ukraine pay for and fight the war for the defence of Europe from Russian invasion makes no sense. It’s time for NATO member countries to do something substantial to help Ukraine, and that means defeat Russia. Welcoming Ukraine into NATO membership would be a start.