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date: 27 February 2024

Ukraine: Democratizing Civil–Military Relations in the Midst of Conflictlocked

Ukraine: Democratizing Civil–Military Relations in the Midst of Conflictlocked

  • Marybeth P. UlrichMarybeth P. UlrichDepartment of National Security and Strategy, United States Army War College

Summary

Ukraine’s civil–military relations continue to democratize in the midst of its ongoing conflict with Russia. Ukraine’s progress in its political, economic, and military reforms is linked to the development of its civil–military relations, which, in turn, can be a catalyst for further advances in democratization and the application of the national power so essential to it prevailing in its existential struggle to preserve its national independence and fledgling democracy. However, Ukraine’s challenging geopolitical hand has limited its democratic and economic development postindependence. Prior to the war with Russia, due to the Ukraine swaying between the liberal democracies of Europe and the lure of authoritarian Russia, the conflicting interests of stakeholders from the disparate camps limited Ukraine’s ability to break decisively toward either one. The Euromaidan protests, followed by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and incursion into the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine propelled Ukraine onto a pro-Europe path. However, the legacy of Soviet-era bureaucracy, weak political culture, and scarce resources have limited the country’s progress. Key elements of democratic civil–military relations, such as meaningful civilian oversight within the relevant ministries and parliamentary defense committees, are still insufficiently present. So far, the combined impact of limited progress in the development of democratic institutions, poor economic performance, insufficiently mitigated corruption, and war in eastern Ukraine has held the country as a whole back from achieving the results of the higher-performing postcommunist states in the region. However, the Zelensky administration has a clear mandate and the parliamentary majority to implement its vision for Ukraine.

Ukraine’s civil–military relations are an important aspect of its strategic success. Political–military and societal–military cooperation and coordination can serve as the catalysts needed to bridge crucial divides and reinforce the parallel reforming tracks of democratic, economic, military, and cultural development and institution-building.

Subjects

  • Governance/Political Change
  • Policy, Administration, and Bureaucracy
  • Political Institutions

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