On February 14, the Cabinet of Ministers approved personnel changes in the Ministry of Defense’s leadership. Oleksandr Pavliuk, a lieutenant general, was appointed the First Deputy Minister. Former deputies Ivan Rusnak and Oleh Hayduk will remain in the Ministry as advisers.
What is known about Pavliuk?
Oleksandr Pavliuk is a Hero of Ukraine, a lieutenant general.
Pavliuk graduated from the Kharkiv Guards Higher Tank Command School and the Ivan Chernyakhovsky National Defense University of Ukraine. During 2006-2007, he served as the commander of the Ukrainian peacekeeping contingent in Kosovo. He commanded the 24th Mechanized Brigade until 2015. During the Anti-Terrorist Operation, he took part in the liberation of several cities in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, in particular, Sloviansk, Lysychansk, and Kramatorsk. In 2021-2022 he commanded the Joint Forces Operation, and from the beginning of the full-scale invasion, he headed the Kyiv regional military administration, organising the defence of Kyiv.
What preceded personnel changes?
After a series of scandals surrounding the Ministry, the question of possible personnel changes arose. First of all, it was about Minister Reznikov. It was assumed that the head of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, Major General Kyrylo Budanov, could take his place. This potential personnel reshuffle has caused considerable discussion in society. First, Budanov is quite effective in his position, and the functions of the Minister of Defence are significantly different from his current ones. Secondly, the appointment of an active serviceman to the role of a civilian minister is a direct violation of the Law "On National Security."
Subsequently, discussions about the potential candidacy of a new minister and the current Minister's resignation generally shifted to personnel reshuffles within the leadership of the Ministry. Thus, instead of the Minister of Defence, the focus turned to his deputies, especially the first deputy. Before this appointment, the President amended the Decree, allowing military personnel to occupy the corresponding position during martial law. Previously, only a civilian could be the first deputy minister.
Non-civilian Minister during the war?
Nevertheless, the idea of a serviceman holding the position of Defence Minister is still discussed. However, only during martial law, as said by the Rada’s Committee on National Security, Defence, and Intelligence members. According to Mariana Bezuhla, the committee’s deputy head, the possibility of introducing amendments to the Law, which would allow appointing a Defence Minister in active military service during martial law, is being considered. However, as of now, these changes are still potential.
The Law "On National Security" adopted in 2018 was a significant achievement for future reforms in the security and defence sector. In particular, it sets clear requirements for the head of the Ministry of Defence - they must be civilians exclusively.
This change was necessary primarily because of several risks such Minister of Defence carries: conflict of interests, usurpation, and corruption. But since then, this norm has only sometimes worked. In 2020, contrary to the Law, President Zelensky introduced the candidacy of Andrii Taran for the Defence Minister. As a result, this contributed to the disruption of the state defence order and direct conflict with the then Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Ruslan Khomchak. In the end - the rollback of reforms in the Ministry of Defence significantly undermined Ukraine's defence capability in peacetime.
The "civilian vs military minister" issue in wartime does not lie in the plane of personalities. It concerns the conflict between civilian (Ministry of Defence) and military (army) systems. The Ministry must provide for the army and not interfere in its activities. And the military is to defend the country, not adjust under himself a civilian institution. Even in wartime, a service person as a civilian minister risks upsetting this balance.
Currently, there is no final decision regarding changes to the legislation. There is no explanation for the need for military personnel in senior civilian positions either. There is also no debate on the safeguards for potential risks of such a decision. So far, we do not see an active dialogue about strengthening the democratic control over a possible service person heading the Ministry of Defence.
NAKO sincerely hopes that the Verkhovna Rada will demonstrate a proactive approach in communicating its debates and decision-making and overseeing the Ministry's activities, especially if it will be headed by a serviceman - directly or through the first deputy.