Saturday, 28 April 2018 16:36


Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 28.04.2018 
Over four years after Russia began its invasion of Europe in Crimea and Donbas, Ukraine continues to defend Western democracies against Muscovy autocracy alone and without effective help. It’s a good thing, therefore, that on its own Ukraine is reorganizing and strengthening the defence of Europe along Putin’s invasion battlefront in Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
From a rump force four years ago, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are now a quarter million strong, and have approximately 35 thousand soldiers engaged in combat in the trenches of Donbas against the Russian armed forces. A recently-release Global Firepower ranking of military strength puts Ukraine’s armed forces in the 29th place world-wide. Among European countries, Ukraine has the 8th most powerful military. Part of Ukraine’s military strength comes from its one million reserve personnel, many of whom have combat experience against the Russian invasion-occupation army in Donbas.
In a speech marking the centennial of the Border Service of Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko, warned that full-scale invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation could come at any time. “For us, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are an army of an aggressor that annexed Crimea, occupied part of Donbas and is always ready for full-scale invasion,” he declared. President Poroshenko then said: “That is why there is huge work ahead of us to strengthen the defence capabilities of our state.”
The Armed Forces of Ukraine are reorganizing the defence of the homeland and of all of Europe, along the battlefront in Donbas. From the start of Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine in April of 2014, Ukraine’s defence has been managed under the framework of the “Anti-Terrorist Operation” under the authority of the Security Service of Ukraine. This month, April 2018, marks the transition from the “ATO” to a new Joint Forces Operation under the authority of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The main task, according to Minister of Defence of Ukraine, Stepan Poltorak, is “to free the territory from the invaders and protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.” This is a more robust framework for the defence of Ukraine and the defence of Europe.
The Joint Forces Operation has defined a security zone around the operational area. Russia’s invasion battlefront currently runs from the Ukraine-Russia border north-east of occupied Luhansk city, along the Siverskyi Donets river at Stanytsia Luhanska and Schastya and Slovianoserbsk, to a salient north-west of Pervomaisk, to the ‘Svitlodarsk Bulge’ north of Debaltseve, to a salient north-west of Horlivka, to the north and west of occupied Donetsk city, to the west of occupied Dokuchaevsk, and then to the Azov Sea coast at the village of Shyrokyne which is east of Mariupol and west of occupied Novoazovsk. The new security zone will run back from this battlefront, and encompass most of Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
The terms of reference of the Joint Forces Operation also give conditions for how non-military personnel may stay and travel in the security zone. Regimes of “green,” “yellow,” and “red” will be established to impose conditions ranging from free movement of people to temporary restrictions or prohibitions on movement.
A new territorial defence brigade will be created in Donetsk region, which has been the area of the most violent Russian attacks for the past three years. The Donetsk territorial defence brigade will be a reserve unit of the Ukrainian army, in case there is an offensive of the Russian army. Detachments of the new outfit will be stationed in Kramatorsk, Pokrovsk, Bakhmut, and a strengthened detachment in Mariupol. The new territorial defence brigade is intended to be equal to the regular army in the level of training an armament it receives.
Ukraine is jumping in to help NATO with strategic airlift. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, the Putin regime has withdrawn its cargo aircraft from the Strategic Airlift International Solution project. With insufficient heavy airlift capacity, NATO members are in a bind. Ukraine’s Antonov State Enterprise can fully meet the needs of NATO countries for strategic airlift, including use of the world’s largest aircraft, the Antonov An-225 “Mriya.” Ukraine is an aspirant to join NATO, and has set itself a target of 2020 for membership or at least getting a Membership Action Plan. In the meantime, Ukraine is contributing substantially to collective security in the North Atlantic community.
The defence of Europe from Russian aggression is in good hands with Ukraine, but it shouldn’t have to be. Ukraine should not be fighting the second most powerful military in the world on its own. Western and democratic Ukraine should be getting help from other Western and democratic countries, but that is not happening. In the face of implacable Russian aggression, the only reasonable war aim of the West must be the restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, the liberation of Crimea and Donbas, and victory over Russia.
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