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U.S. Department of Defense

June 7, 2021
By David Vergun , DOD News

Ukraine Making Progress on Defense Reforms, Official Says

America is unwavering in its support for Ukraine sovereignty, territorial integrity and Euro Atlantic aspirations, said the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.

Laura K. Cooper spoke virtually today at the Democracy in Action: Zero Corruption Conference.

Ukraine is a critical partner on the frontline of Russian aggression, she said. Russia occupies Crimea and fuels conflict in the Donbas in its attempt to change borders by force. 

"We must not accept this as a fait accompli. Russia's aggression is not only a matter for Ukraine, it is a threat to Europe, to the United States and to the stability of the international order," Cooper said.

The United States has long understood that the projection of strength and unity among its NATO allies and partners are vital components to deter Russian aggression and coercion, she said. In that vein, the United States is committed to ensuring that NATO's door remains open to aspirants such as Ukraine, when they are ready and able to meet the commitments and obligations of membership and to contribute to security in the Euro Atlantic area. 

To that end, the United States will continue to work with and urge the government of Ukraine to implement the deep, comprehensive and timely reforms that are necessary to advance its Euro Atlantic aspirations in support of a secure, prosperous, democratic and free Ukraine, Cooper said.

Ukraine has made tremendous strides in its reform efforts over the last 30 years of its independence, she said, citing some examples:

  • Ukraine's passage of the law On National Security in 2018 provided a legislative framework for aligning its national security architecture with Euro Atlantic principles, and constituted a major step forward toward its goal of achieving NATO interoperability.
  • In March 2020, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky signed an amendment that separates the positions of the chief of the general staff from the commander in chief of the armed forces. This new system of command and control separates force generation from force employment functions, which is a core feature of Western military structures. 
  • Kyiv passed a law on defense procurement, and advanced a bill that could remake the Security Service of Ukraine into a modern security service guided by Western democratic standards.
  • Ukraine adopted both a national security strategy and national military strategy, which codified national strategic objectives and set conditions for reforms across Ukraine's defense enterprise. 

While the Government of Ukraine has made substantial progress, there are some areas that require further attention, she said, mentioning some:

  • The United States encourages Ukraine to pass legislation that clearly delineates the duties of the ministry of defense and the Ukrainian armed forces. This will better align Ukraine's defense enterprise with the core NATO principles of democratic civilian control of the military. 
  • Regarding defense industry, the United States urges Ukraine to adopt a strategy to better support the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces and Ukraine economic objectives, while implementing effective corporate governance and supervisory board principles that are in line with global best practices. 
  • The United States believes that the adoption of foreign direct investment controls based on national security interests are vital to protecting Ukraine's critical civil and defense infrastructure from foreign exploitation. Effective defense industry processes and institutions will lead to sustained improvement in combat capability, reduce corruption and open the door to increased Western investments. 
  • The Defense Department strongly encourages Ukraine to continue to implement its law on defense procurement to create a globally competitive process, increase efficiency and enhance transparency in the defense procurement cycle. 
  • While there have been promising human resource management reforms, Kyiv must continue to advance these reforms to truly transform the Ukrainian armed forces and pave the way for a Western style career management system. 

"The United States is committed to assisting Ukraine with the implementation of these reforms, and we maintain a robust advisory effort to help modernize Ukraine's military in line with NATO principles and standards," Cooper said. 

The Annual National Program under the NATO Ukraine Commission is an invaluable resource to take forward the reforms that are needed to advance Ukraine's NATO membership aspirations, Cooper added. 

"I encourage Ukraine to make the best use of this dedicated forum, as well as the benefits of capacity building programs, through NATO's comprehensive assistance package, and more recently, through enhanced opportunities for partner status to promote greater interoperability through exercises and training," she said. 

"I also want to underscore that the United States remains committed to continuing our political, economic and military cooperation with Ukraine in support of an even stronger and more enduring strategic partnership between our two great nations," she said.

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