Ukraine’s plans for a major increase in defense spending next year are quite logical and fit in well with the logic the country’s current authorities prefer to follow these days, Russian experts say. Once it has declared Russia as the “arch foe forever” and been pushing ahead with plans for regaining control of the restive south-eastern areas, Kiev cannot but put more muscle into its armed forces, hoping that financial assistance from the West will let it do so even in the gravest economic situation on the brink of default.
Ukraine’s National Defense and Security Council under President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday advised the government to ensure the spending on national security and defense next year should be no smaller than 5% of the GDP. The defense sector is to get no less than 3% of the GDP. Government financing of the defense budget will be no less than $4.4 billion. Certain sums are to be attracted from “special funds” and in the form of borrowed resources “against government guarantees.” Poroshenko said those estimates were based on a relatively optimistic forecast of the situation in the east of the country. Should it change, the spending may be increased.
In a word, military spending is to double in contrast to that in the outgoing year.
“Poroshenko’s motives are very clear,” Professor Andrey Manoilo, of the political science department of the Moscow State University, has told TASS. “Ukraine is pushing ahead with preparations along two lines. Firstly, Kiev has not given up the idea of handling the Donbas issue from the position of strength. It still hopes for gaining an upper hand. For this it will need money to purchase hardware and pay the mercenaries and contractors. Also, money will be crucial to pay for the loyalty of nationalist volunteer battalions.”
The Ukrainian regime is well aware that at a time when the economy is in a near-default state and winter time is near while there is no money to pay for gas, the people’s patience may wear thin. “Should protest demonstrations follow, they will have to be suppressed by force. In other words, the authorities are getting ready to wage a war against their own people not just in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics. They do not rule out the possibility angry popular protests will have to be suppressed in other regions of the country,” Manoilo said.
“Although the economic situation is getting from bad to worse, the budget is in crisis and only external donations still keep the Ukrainian economy afloat, the increase in military spending looks quite logical and agrees well with the current Ukrainian authorities’ general mode of action,” the leading research fellow at the Russian presidential academy RANEPA, Sergey Bespalov, has told TASS.
Ukraine’s military spending has been growing steadily since the February coup of 2014, he said. “On the one hand, this is quite explainable, because throughout the post-Soviet years Ukraine kept saving on its armed forces. By 2014 the national armed forces had been downgraded to the state of utter decay. It is clear that any state should feel obliged to revise its defense policies. But it should be remembered in what context this is happening. Ukraine’s military spending in 2014-2015 kept growing as the so-called ‘anti-terrorist operation’ — in fact, civil war in the east of the country — went on, but the Ukrainian army scored no decisive successes.”
“Besides, Russia is portrayed as Ukraine’s arch foe. It’s official ideology in Kiev and the belligerent rhetoric in fact obliges those who use it to increase military spending although the economy’s condition is really disastrous. Ukraine is getting major external support from the International Monetary Fund, the European allies and the United States. This external assistance allows for increasing military spending, but it is very clear that the heavy pressure on the feeble Ukrainian economy will be getting stronger.”
“There is no other way out for them,” the deputy head of the world economy and world politics department at the Higher School of Economics, Andrey Suzdaltsev, has told TASS. “The current Ukrainian state’s number one goal is ethnic nationalism. For this it is to have a major foreign enemy. This explains why the national security doctrine says that Ukraine is an outpost of the West, which will not abandon its allies, and that there is an ever-lasting threat from ‘aggressive Russia’. In this context the proposed military spending growth looks absolutely logical. Naturally, it is expected that in view of Ukraine’s anti-Russian warmongering zeal the West will not leave Kiev alone and keep financing it.”
As for the risk of popular discontent, Suzdaltsev does not expect any major outbreaks in the future.
“The people are literally brainwashed. A powerful propagandistic campaign is underway and alternative sources of information have been muzzled. The more so, since the argument is simple: Russia is to blame for all,” he said.