On February 8, 2022, the National Security Committee recommended that the parliament adopts in the first reading a bill to strengthen democratic civilian control over the Armed Forces.
This is the bill “On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine on National Security and Defenсe to Strengthen Democratic Civil Control over the Armed Forces, Improve the Joint Leadership of the State Defenсе Forces and Planning in the Spheres of National Security and Defenсe.” This document provides for amendments to 19 Ukrainian laws.
The draft law stipulates that democratic civilian control over the activities of the security and defence forces is exercised by the democratically elected civilian authorities of Ukraine. The military is accountable to the government. In particular, the Ministry of Defence controls the Armed Forces. It will monitor compliance with the law and report on the use of budget funds in the military, as well as interact with public authorities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Оne of the bill’s tasks is to create a civil Ministry of Defenсe (MOD). In particular, the draft stipulates that persons who resigned from military service less than 5 years ago may not be appointed to the positions of Minister of Defence and Deputy Ministers. This would introduce a principle of NATO countries that eliminates subjective factors which previously hindered the effectiveness of democratic civilian control. In the past, representatives of the top military command were often appointed to MOD leadership immediately after their discharge from military service. Under these circumstances, efforts to establish a civilian Ministry of Defence as a mandatory component of democratic civilian control were purely formal.
The draft law delimits the powers of the Minister of Defence and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. So far, there has been no clarity on this issue at the legislative level. As a result, there were conflicts of authority, such as between former Defence Minister Andriy Taran and former Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Ruslan Khomchak.
Therefore, the bill stipulates that the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces is subordinate to, controlled by, and accountable to the Minister of Defence. In this case, the Commander-in-Chief is appointed and dismissed by the President on the recommendation of the Minister of Defence. This should lead to a clear mechanism for sharing responsibilities between politicians and the military.
In addition, servicemembers will be able to serve in the Ministry of Defence in positions determined by the Minister on a rotating basis for up to 4 years. This will contribute to the “civilianization” of their careers, as they will work with civilian colleagues for some time, acquire relevant skills, and share their experience at the same time.
The following provisions in the bill will also help strengthen democratic civilian control over the Armed Forces:
- The Verkhovna Rada will be informed about a candidate for the post of Minister before appointment;
- Within the constitutional powers of the President to control the activities of the security and defence sector is enshrined the right to approve candidates for appointment by other entities to positions of military command at the level of the commander of troops (forces);
- The concepts of “leadership”, “military leadership”, and “management of troops (forces)” are clarified.
At the same time, NAKO has a number of additional recommendations that should strengthen democratic civilian control, which will be sent for consideration to the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security.
As part of the expert support project of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Security and Defence, NAKO provides advisory support for the development of a number of bills, including the bill on strengthening democratic civilian control over the Armed Forces.
NAKO expert Vitaliy Shevchuk is a member of the working group working on the bill. The project is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom.