Military of Ukraine - History

History

Ukrainians have had a very long and honorable military tradition stretching back for centuries from the military expeditions of Kievan Rus, to the military might of Kingdom of Halych, to the military genius of the Zaporizhzhan Cossacks and later as a force within the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, achieving many victories and lasting fame.

As the Soviet Union dissolved in 1990 and 1991, 780,000 Soviet military personnel remained located in Ukraine’s three military districts. This mass was not an army but a force grouping, without a national Ministry of Defence, a General Staff or central organs of command and control. 'This grouping, its inventory of equipment and its officer corps were designed for one purpose: to wage combined arms, coalition, offensive (and nuclear) warfare against NATO on an external front.' At that time, the armed forces of Ukraine included land force formations, one rocket army, four Air Force armies, a separate air defense army, and the Black Sea Fleet. Altogether, when established, the Armed Forces of Ukraine included more than 350 ships, 1,500 combat aircraft, and 1,272 strategic nuclear war-heads of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

On August 24, 1991, the Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, enacted a resolution to take jurisdiction over all formations of the armed forces of the Soviet Union stationed on Ukrainian soil, and to establish one of the key agencies, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence.

Inherent in the process of creating a domestic military were political decisions by the Ukrainian leadership regarding the country's non-nuclear and international status. Included in this was the definition, agreement and ratification of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) which not only established the maximum level of armament for each republic of the former USSR, but also a special ceiling for the so-called CFE "Flank Region". Included in the region were Ukraine's Mykolaiv, Kherson, Zaporizhia Oblasts, and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Also key for the creation of a Ukrainian military was the 1992 Tashkent Treaty, which laid out aspirations for a Commonwealth of Independent States military that would prove impossible to develop because the former republics of the USSR all wished to go their own way, ripping the intricate Soviet military machine into pieces.

The military and security forces, including the Armed Forces of Ukraine and a number of independent "militarized institutions" (paramilitary forces) are under the command of the President of Ukraine, and subject to oversight by a permanent Verkhovna Rada parliamentary commission. Ukrainian military tactics and organization are heavily dependent on Cold War tactics, and former Soviet Armed Forces organization. Under former President Yushchenko Ukraine was pursuing a policy of independence from Russian dominance, and thus was trying to fully integrate with the West, specifically NATO.

However, Ukraine retains tight military relations with Russia, mostly inherited from the common Soviet history. Common use of naval bases in Crimea and joint air defense efforts are the most intense branches of such cooperation. This cooperation is a permanent irritant in bilateral relations. But the country is unable to drop such ties quickly, being economically dependent on Moscow. Furthermore, following the election of current President Victor Yanukovych, ties between Moscow and Kiev have warmed, and those between Kiev and NATO have cooled relative to the Yushchenko years.

Plagued at times by hostile relations with Russia following the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has been steadfastly trying to develop its own independent military industry. Notable results of this effort are the Ukrainian-built T-84 main battle tank, currently in service, and the aircraft manufacturer Antonov. Ukraine received about 30% of the Soviet military industry, which included between 50 and 60 percent of all Ukrainian enterprises, which employed 40% of its working population. Ukraine was, and still remains, a leader in missile-related technology. Especially navigation electronics for combat vessels and submarines, guidance systems, and radar for military jets. Tough competition in the world's weapons market obliged Ukraine to consider exporting arms to politically unstable or even aggressive regimes. Ukraine build its own connections in arms exporting. The first contracts on weapons deliveries to Iran, signed in the middle of 1992, caused negative reactions in the West, particularly from the United States federal government.

Several unfortunate accidents involving the Armed Forces have occurred since 1992, including the crash of an Air Force Su-27 in the Sknyliv airshow disaster of 2002 and the accidental shooting down of Siberia Airlines Flight 1812 in October 2001.

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