Stars and Stripes January 23, 2006
Conferences to focus on Ukrainian military, intel
Goal is to help former Soviet state downsize forces
By Charlie Coon
Lawful intelligence gathering and fallout from military downsizing will be discussed this week during two conferences in Kiev, Ukraine.
The conferences are being sponsored by the Garmisch, Germany-based George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. Vernon Hodges, the center’s division chief for Ukraine, said the politically strategic nation had asked for help in the two areas.
“It is an ever-evolving process, even in democracies that have been established for quite some time,” Hodges said.
The first conference, scheduled for Tuesday, is to address democratic oversight of intelligence operations. Thirty-one participants are expected.
“Each country has its own apparatus to intelligence gathering,” Hodges said. “Regardless of what a country may have in place, [the goal] is to gather information they think they need for their leadership to make decisions.
“We’re giving lessons learned on how other countries learned to establish checks and balances.”
In the second conference, on Thursday and Friday, 48 participants will examine the effects of continued reduction and specialization of Ukraine’s military.
The nation inherited a 500,000-member military and large amount of military assets after the 1991 breakup of the former Soviet Union, according to the GlobalSecurity Web site (globalsecurity.org). After Russia, Ukraine is the largest and most populous of the former Soviet states.
In recent years, Ukraine has been reducing its military’s numbers while fine-tuning its capabilities.
“We are helping them to meet that [downsizing] goal and show them the fallout,” Hodges said. “What do you do with the former soldiers? How do you assimilate them back into society?
“There are a lot of Cold War remnants left over,” such as military housing, he said. The privatization of state-owned facilities and industries also will be discussed.
Hodges said that Ukraine’s military objectives are based on the nation’s strategic goals.
“How do [they] build the right force to face the threat they’re going to face over the next 20, 30, 40 years,” Hodges said. “We’re facing the same thing in the U.S. military.”
Hodges said that the conferences are “all in the spirit of the Marshall Plan,” a U.S.-sponsored plan that strove to rebuild Europe after World War II.
The Marshall Center, a joint organization of the U.S. and German defense departments, holds classes, seminars and conferences in an effort to promote democracy and stability in former Soviet bloc nations and elsewhere.
Ukraine, which gained independence in 1991 after the Soviet Union dissolved, is about the size of Texas with a population of 47 million.
“This is not a country that is about to go under,” Hodges said. “This is just [the Marshall Center] providing assistance, because everyone goes through this.
“We are there for the nations of Eastern Europe to help them on their way.”
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