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Interview with a retired Ukrainian general about current events ^ | March 13 2014 | Bogdan Butkeych

Posted on 03/23/2014 8:40:33 AM PDT by Ivan Mazepa

Mykola Melnyk: "Psychology of a cop and a soldier are fundamentally different"

The former first deputy head of military intelligence and one of the founders of the National Guard of Ukraine discusses how the country will be defending itself from the Russian invasion. (Article is dated March 13 2014, Bogdan Butkevych for the “The Ukrainian Week”)

Mykola Melnyk was one of the men from the old patriotic military, who in record time in 1991 created the new Ukrainian army and kept the country away from conflicts, until the present time that is. He rose to the rank of lieutenant general, and was one of the founders of National Guards, which at the time, had dealt with the problem of the Russian separatism in Crimea. In addition, he served as the first deputy chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defence. Although in retirement for the past nine years, he remains a leading expert in the field of defence and security.

Q.: The question that bothers us the most: can the Ukrainian army, with the weapons they have, stop the Russians? Will Russia begin in full-scale military conflict?

M.M.: I will not lie, it will be very difficult to stop them with the army alone. 75 thousand Russian troops that were deployed to protect the Olympic Games in Sochi, are the best of the best, they’re still near our borders, plus many more were called up in the recent weeks. According to my sources, it’s about 150 thousand, maybe more. Sadly, I do not think that Putin will stop. In fact, everywhere where there are attempts to destabilize the situation, we should be expecting a military attack. And it's almost the entire South and East part of the country. Our enormous problem is the loss of control of the state security apparatus – primarily that’s the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), and Russians have taken advantage of that. As for the weapons, we’re almost the same, although for Russians it is more modernized and precise. We have enough of the same tanks and small arms, as long as there’s crew to men them; and we’re short on parts. We’re also behind in air power and rockets. Our weapons are often better than Russian, but lately it was made only to be exported, the country did not buy it. I recommend the new leadership to take note of Ukrspecexport – the organization that carries arms sales. It had benefited itself greatly, at huge losses to the state. Nevertheless, the patriotic spirit of Ukrainian troops is extremely high. Plus we have a very good mobilization potential of high-quality military personnel. So, if Russia does attack, there will be very many casualties, but she doesn't have a chance to win, because we have endless human resources and hold a higher moral ground.

Q.: Can Ukraine take Crimea back by military means without foreign assistance?

M.M.: Preparation of an anti-terrorist operation in the Crimea should be done regardless whether it will be actually implemented; if only for a moral and ethical reason. Although without the help of our guarantors of NATO, we can hardly expect to succeed. We would need help blocking the official Russian troops, but "green men" – they’re nobody, they’re terrorists who need to be neutralized. After all, we have the army special forces, and a bunch of police special forces, and internal forces. Russia’s main goal is to capture without a fight the entire Crimean military infrastructure, to hold it, and call it the Crimean Army. The fight is not so much for the people and weapons, as it is for the actual buildings on military bases, airfields, radar stations etc. (Note to reader: at the time of this interview, Russia hasn't officially annexed Crimea yet. “Green men” were troops blockading Ukrainian military bases and Putin was claiming that they, the “green men”, were not Russian troops)

If it turns into a real military conflict, it is unlikely that NATO will openly come to our defence, but I am certain, that means of an informal assistance will be many. Not to mention the volunteers, which too will be many, particularly from Poland and the Baltic States.

Q.: In case of aggression, would it be possible to use the 300,000 men strong army of the Ministry of Internal Affairs? What to do with these internal troops, who in fact, are currently inactive?

M.M.: You have to understand that psychology of a cop and a soldier are fundamentally different. (Note to reader: the word used here is “ment”, which is a pejorative term for a cop. I didn’t want to use “pig” because it’s a bit too strong of a word.) It has always been that way, since the Soviet times. When I was a young officer, I remember, we always looked down on the police, because a cop, he’s always the punisher. While for the soldier, the motivational triad is God, country and honour. Even in today’s army, this approach, it’s transmitted genetically. I cannot imagine, as an army officer, if a woman or an old man are insulted, that I would stay silent, even at my old age. Also, look at how admiringly our (blockaded) soldiers are acting, their wives too.

So it was with the National Guard of Ukraine that we've created at the time, which had troops of the internal forces and the army as its basis. What came out was a successful combination of the army spirit with law enforcement functions. Its tenet: I have honour –everything else is irrelevant. By the way, the marines that are holding out in Feodosiya, they came from the ranks of the National Guards. (Note to reader: National Guard of Ukraine was a branch of the armed forces that existed in 1991 to 2000, it was well equipped and considered one of the elite at the time.)

As for the troops of the internal forces, today they are demoralized by the thoughtless three-month standing with shields on Maidan. Plus, they haven’t done any training for the past three months and you will not be charging tanks holding shields. Therefore, they are not needed in the condition they are in, because how do you explain, that at one of the checkpoints in Crimea which is not controlled by Russia, they are raising the Russian flag? So, it should be the internal troops, plus Self-Defence forces from Maidan, because there’s nothing left to do on Maidan, who should form the new National Guard. Instil in them a high fighting spirit, provide them with an army structure, and give them law enforcement, as well as military assignments. Weapons are in storehouses, two weeks of training - and these groups will be an important and necessary tool in keeping order and protect national security. The bill to create National Guard has been endorsed by dozens of generals, but whether it will be approves in the Parliament, that’s the big question. It has been three weeks since the bill was introduced, but for some reason it hasn’t been approved. While in 1991, we started to create the National Guard on Aug. 25 (Note to reader: Ukraine declared independence in Aug 24 1991) I do not understand the delay, it borders on criminal. Maybe the current head of the internal forces Stepan Poltorak doesn’t want competition or to lose his position, or Arsen Avakov (Minister of Internal Affairs) doesn’t want the hassle? Frankly, I do not know. We will see what will happen in Parliament (Note to reader: since this interview, the National Security Council approved the establishment of the Guard and had mobilized volunteers with military experience.) I’m constantly getting calls from my former colleagues, officers, who say, if they don’t form the National Guard, they’ll form one themselves, we’re not leaving people without protection and will be preparing hell for the aggressor.

Q.: In your opinion, how qualified are the new people appointed for security and defence?

M.M.: I don’t want to criticize indiscriminately, because I know almost all of them personally, and the burden that fell on them is incredible. Moreover, the previous management did their best to destroy the combat potential of the Armed Forces. The main thing today – this is wartime. The problem is not just an academic one - it is hard to find a general who held a live firing exercise, I’m not even talking about real combat experience. And let’s not be misled by Ukrainian troops constantly participating in peacekeeping missions. I was involved in the formation of the Ukrainian-Polish battalion in Kosovo. Their activity was more to provide security, at checkpoints, guard facilities etc. Yes, the guys have the training, their bearings are straight and they know how to shoot, but it is not the same as a real battle with a real enemy, when the officer's most important goal is to minimize losses. Actually, the main thing now, is to get everyone who has relevant experience and unite them around raising the country's defence capabilities, without partisanship or needless distractions.

Q.: Standard question: who is to blame and what to do with our army?

M.M.: Every new Defence minister that came and had his own ideas of what to do with the army. And let’s not forget, the members of the General Staff, who destroyed the structure of the army, reduced it, cut army corps, divisions, operations management, and between sauna visits, sold everything left and right. And so it went for all of 23 years since Independence, plus permanent catastrophic under-funding. Especially the past two ministers, Salamatin and Lebedev - it's just a tragedy. Lebedev, clearly is a creation of the Russian GRU. He cleaned the entire eastern region, destroyed our military bases there. In addition, when he was in charge, all our strategic plans in case of war were destroyed. Little wonder that in 1992 in Chernivtsi, when the whole army took the oath of allegiance to Ukraine, Lebedev refused to do it. During his tenure as Minister, he didn’t even want to accept documents written in the Ukrainian language. We can be confident that Russia knows all our military secrets to the point of where and how much ammo we have.

But let’s not think that when it was Yushchenko, everything was all right. For example, during Yekhanurov, many of the patriotic Ukrainian staff were released from the ranks of the Armed Forces, and the so-called reforms had unclear motives. In neighbouring Poland, for example, they have five divisions, we don’t have any. Instead, we introduced the so-called brigade system. In addition, we have a damaged system of command and control: operational command structure is ruined, most are simply destroyed, and those remaining are responsible only for the disaster response. (Apologies to the reader for the translation of last two words - he’s using a technical term, and I'm not 100% certain for this translation.) In other words, the Soviet system was destroyed, and new system hasn't been built. I will stop talking about this, because I'm worried that I’ll be scaring people.

Personally, I respected the first Defence Minister Morozov the most (minister in 1991); strangely enough, Kuzmuk (1996-2001, 2004) who in spite of his showing off, really did care about the fighting capabilities of the army; and Anatoliy Grytsenko (2005-2007), who is an incredibly honest man and during his term didn’t let it slide for anyone, even for his own friends. In the nearest future, we need to carry out military reforms on the example of the Poland, in other words, to set-up obvious, permanent and well-maintained divisions. Plus regional brigades; that same National Guard, plus acquisition of the latest technology and building new defence strategy with Russia as the main opponent.

(Translated from Ukrainian)

TOPICS: Military/Veterans; Society
KEYWORDS: crimea; military; russia; ukraine; ukrainiantranslation; viktoryanukovich; yuliatymoshenko

1 posted on 03/23/2014 8:40:33 AM PDT by Ivan Mazepa
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To: Ivan Mazepa

Most of these old Ukranian Army guys were holdovers from the Red Army of the Soviet Union.

2 posted on 03/23/2014 8:44:18 AM PDT by Old Retired Army Guy
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To: Ivan Mazepa

There are many NEW Ukrainian families in my area. When I talk to them and ask why they came here...they all say the same

3 posted on 03/23/2014 8:48:30 AM PDT by Sacajaweau
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To: Carry_Okie


4 posted on 03/23/2014 9:48:03 AM PDT by Ivan Mazepa
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To: Ivan Mazepa
Excellent, professional-level translation. Спасибо за найціннішу роботу.
5 posted on 03/23/2014 10:10:19 AM PDT by struwwelpeter
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To: Ivan Mazepa; 2ndDivisionVet; Diogenesis; SunkenCiv; TigerLikesRooster
Many thanks. This is a very different assessment than we are seeing from the MSM.

2ndDivisionVet Diogenesis, & SunkenCiv, Ivan Mazepa is from Ukraine and can translate Ukrainian news for us. I hope that he functions much as TigerLikesRooster does for us in Korea.

Ivan Mazepa, when one reads a thread, you can add a keyword for future reference (you'll find the "add keyword" link at the bottom of the article before the first post to the thread). That means if there are past threads you regard as important, you can flag them for people to find by keyword search instead of maintaining a ping list and flagging them (it's easier). Please let us know what keyword you intend for threads on the topic of the doings in Ukraine.

Thanks for the ping!

6 posted on 03/23/2014 10:16:57 AM PDT by Carry_Okie (The tree of liberty needs a rope.)
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To: Ivan Mazepa


7 posted on 03/23/2014 10:48:55 AM PDT by varon (Para bellum)
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To: struwwelpeter

Glad to do it

8 posted on 03/23/2014 11:38:10 AM PDT by Ivan Mazepa
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To: Carry_Okie; 2ndDivisionVet; Diogenesis; SunkenCiv; TigerLikesRooster

You’re welcome!
Actually, FR forum is doing a great job covering Ukrainian events (keyword: Ukraine) :)

OK, I’ll put my translations under the keyword ‘ukrainiantranslation’

9 posted on 03/23/2014 12:06:39 PM PDT by Ivan Mazepa
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To: Ivan Mazepa
I think the real conundrum here for many FReepers is the apparently anti-Semitic element of some Ukrainian groups. It's hard to get behind them when there would be the risk of association with "NAZI" elements with which conservatives are too easily tarred. Yes, I know that the original National Socialist Workers' Party was a borderline Marxist ideology, but somehow that became "right wing" simply because they were to the right of the extreme elements of the Comintern.

What is truly distressing is that so few understand the nature of the Sabbatean Jews who form the original Bolshevik and now the oligarchic components of Russian politics. These atheist creeps have NOTHING but antipathy for Orthodox Judaism. Sadly, both get tarred with the same "Jewish" brush much as "Nazis" and conservatives do today as "right wing."

10 posted on 03/23/2014 3:22:49 PM PDT by Carry_Okie (The tree of liberty needs a rope.)
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bump for this important article

11 posted on 03/23/2014 7:53:59 PM PDT by struwwelpeter
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To: Carry_Okie
I think the real conundrum here for many FReepers is the apparently anti-Semitic element of some Ukrainian groups. It's hard to get behind them when there would be the risk of association with "NAZI" elements

Since when does an element represent an entire group? "Nazis" are a fringe minority in the country as a whole, in the protest movement and in the new government.

It would be like calling the entire population of America gay bacause of a gay parade in San Fransisco. It's irrelevant what views a person actually has, if he's an American and there are American gays, that person is gay. And it's important to repeat it, they're gay, gay, gay.

In a nutshell, that's how Kremlin machine is working today.

12 posted on 03/24/2014 8:18:53 AM PDT by Ivan Mazepa
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To: Ivan Mazepa
Since when does an element represent an entire group?

I didn't say that they did. I said it can be construed as such, however unethically.

13 posted on 03/24/2014 9:29:34 AM PDT by Carry_Okie (The tree of liberty needs a rope.)
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