There are tanks, let's have some planes too
The ongoing intrigue regarding the supply of modern German-made Leopard-2 tanks for Ukraine was finally decided in a positive way.
Why did this happen and what was necessary for this to take place?
What was needed was for the German elite to realize that Russia is an existential threat. And it is fighting not only against Ukraine, but also against the entire Western world, as it professes absolutely opposing values to democracy, and its dreams of establishing "Russkiy Mir" (Russian peace) throughout the world.
It also required the exertion of unprecedented political pressure by America on Germany. The U.S. and the UK were the first to show a clear example by announcing the supply of Abrams M1A2 and Challenger-2 tanks.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said that he would deliver Leopard-2 tanks to Ukraine even without Germany's permission.
After lengthy hesitation, risk analysis and calculation of the potential profits of German companies (of course!) Olaf Scholz conceded. The German government announced that it would deliver 14 tanks to Ukraine and grant all the permits needed for re-export.
How many armored vehicles are we likely to get?
According to preliminary estimates alone, 12 countries have promised to deliver more than 100 Leopard-2 tanks to Ukraine, which is enough to equip one tank brigade consisting of three battalions.
Ukraine is also expecting to get 31 American Abrams tanks in their modern M1A2 modification, 14 British Challenger-2 tanks, 60 Polish PT-91 Twardy tanks and an unknown number of T-72 tanks modernized by the Czech Republic.
This will enable Ukraine to form a powerful shock armored "fist" of tanks for offensive operations. This group will also include around 1,100 armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles and armored vehicles, 200 howitzers, as well as other weapons and equipment provided by Western partners.
The history of arms supplies to Ukraine is far from over. It is impossible to conduct modern-day offensive operations without air cover. The Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973 clearly demonstrated what happens to troops without such support.
Ground troops and Ukrainian cities must have cover provided not only by air defence systems, but also by fighter jets, which are necessary for gaining dominance in the air and countering missile and bomb attacks.
Ukraine's next step was quite a logical one - the beginning of talks regarding the supply of F-16s, multi-purpose fighters capable of striking ground targets.
The U.S. and the Netherlands have been careful to state that deliveries of the F-16 are likely to take place. France also announced the possible transfer of these aircraft.
It may not happen tomorrow or even the day after tomorrow, but such deliveries will definitely be organized. The training period of our pilots on the F-16s ends in a few months. And they need to fly in something in order to protect Ukraine.
Western and Ukrainian politicians and the military understand that 2023 will be decisive for victory over Russia.
To achieve this goal, each of us must fulfill our own task - the Armed Forces of Ukraine to fight successfully, and Western countries to provide modern weapons and military equipment for this.
Total personnel reset
A wave of resignations swept through Ukraine on Jan. 24. On one day alone, the deputy head of the Office of the President, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy minister of defense, Vyacheslav Shapovalov, deputy prosecutor-general, Oleksiy Symonenko, and the heads of the Sumy (Dmytro Zhyvytsky), Kherson (Yaroslav Yanushevych), Dnipropetrovsk (Valentyn Reznichenko), Kyiv (Oleksiy Kuleba), and Zaporizhzhia (Oleksandr Starukh) regional state administrations, were dismissed.
With the exception of Oleksiy Kuleba, all of them were the "villains" of publications in media outlets about the alleged corruption of the authorities or were, at least, involved in them, and demonstrated their inefficiency or absolute immorality.
Such a massive reset was an attempt by President Zelensky to respond to the challenges he faces him.
The first challenge. Corruption and inefficient management reduce Ukraine's chances of winning the war with Russia. Therefore, corruption has become not just a serious crime, it has become a question of the effectiveness of the fight against Russian aggression and the nation’s survival.
President Zelensky, as the country’s Commander-in-Chief, should dismiss people suspected of corruption immediately.
The second challenge. Today, Ukraine is totally dependent on Western aid. And it is not only a question of supplying weapons, but also of providing macro-financial assistance ($5 billion a month), from which salaries are paid to state employees, and pensions to pensioners.
U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink has said that the state resources of Ukraine should serve its people, and not be used by individuals for their own enrichment. Volodymyr Zelensky also heard even harsher assessments of the situation and persistent advice during non-public conversations with our allies to immediately dismiss corrupt officials.
Under such conditions, the head of our country simply could not ignore the "recommendations" given by Western partners.
The third challenge. Corruption has a negative impact on people's trust in the authorities, and in President Zelensky personally. Numerous anti-corruption publications had stopped targeting the participants in corruption scandals, which turned into "toxic assets", but directly targeting the popularity ratings and image of the head of state.
This, however, meant a significant fall in positive political prospects for President Zelensky personally.
The president's team tried to preserve his image as a politician and "turn around" the situation in terms of news by completely dismissing corrupt officials.
The purging of corrupt officials is not only a response to challenges that arise. The personnel reset was used in the internal fight taking place in the president's entourage for control over financial flows and to strengthen his influence.
There is no doubt that the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, remains the most influential figure in Zelensky's entourage.
The appointment of Oleksiy Kuleba as deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine only strengthens Yermak’s influence.
What is in the dry residue and what should be done?
The majority of the Ukrainian population will perceive the current personnel reset as a genuine effort by President Zelensky to restore order in the country and to conduct a real fight against corrupt officials and looters.
At the same time, if corruption scandals are repeated this will lead, sooner or later, to public disappointment, a fall in support for the authorities as well as Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic course. A possible decrease in support for democratic values and affirmation of the opinion that "democracy is corruption and chaos, but the military in power will restore order" seems extremely dangerous.
What can be done today to prevent such a development?
The fight against corruption requires not only a quick response and the dismissal of corrupt officials, and zero tolerance for corruption, it also requires independent depoliticized anti-corruption bodies to conduct impartial and transparent (as far as that’s possible in wartime conditions) investigations into all allegations of corruption.
This applies especially to the Ministry of Defence. This topic is especially sensitive for our fighters on the front, who are fighting not to cover up the corrupt devices of the government, but actually for the existence of the Ukrainian nation.
On the one hand, information about possible corruption in the Ministry of Defence was published by the well-known and authoritative publication Weekly Mirror, which is highly trusted by its readership.
On the other hand, Oleksiy Reznikov has proven himself as an effective defence minister in wartime, who has authority and respect among our Western partners. In addition, the Main Directorate of Intelligence released information about the misinformation and psychological operation conducted by Russia to discredit Reznikov.
Only an impartial, open investigation should have the final say on this case.
In addition, the Ukrainian Parliament should adopt a law on procurement for the needs of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, in which it is necessary to provide for the publication of the cost of one unit of goods (except for weapons), works, and services purchased using funds from the state budget. There is also a need to renew the work of the Prozorro system for public procurement in the non-defence sphere and personal electronic declarations for civil servants.
And, finally, we hope that the process of selection and appointment of the new director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine will be transparent, honest and competitive.
Ihor Zhdanov is a co-founder of the Open Policy Foundation, a non-government organization (NGO) in Ukraine.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post
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