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

Marybeth P. Ulrich

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.

Article

Serbia’s Civil-Military Relations  

Filip Ejdus

When, how, why, and to what effect did the military involve itself in Serbia’s politics? Due to its decisive role in national liberation and state-building, the Serbian military has always enjoyed high societal reputation. Since the 19th century, the military also played an important role of a nation-builder and social elevator for the lower strata of society. However, Serbia also has a very long tradition of military involvement in politics with several coups that decisively shaped the course of national history. Since the outset of Serbia’s state-building in the first half of the 19th century, Serbia experienced four successful military coups and many occasions when its armed forces were used to quash domestic unrest. The reasons behind the robust involvement of armed forces in Serbian (and Yugoslav politics) have been diverse and ranged from an ambition to provide internal stability and defend national or corporate interests to a desire to change the country’s foreign policy orientation. Since the end of the Cold War, the military played an ambiguous role on some occasions undermining democracy, while on others being an agent of democratic transformation. Since 2006, the military of Serbia has been placed under civilian democratic control and seems to have internalized its role of a politically neutral and professional force with a mission to defend the country, support civilian authorities in the event of emergency, and contribute to international peace and security. Still, the ongoing democratic backsliding, the lack of clarity about the state’s strategic outlook, and the still unresolved status of Serbia’s former province Kosovo all preserve the potential for civil-military tensions in the future.

Article

LGBT Military Service Policies in the United States  

Andrew Goodhart and Jami K. Taylor

For most of its history, the U.S. military has maintained a policy of exclusion toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people serving in uniform. The justifications for these exclusions have included the view that being homosexual or transgender is a psychological disorder, that it undermines military morale and effectiveness, and a fear that LGBT people would be vulnerable to foreign espionage. Explicit policies banning consensual homosexual sex—and excluding from service those who engage in it—date to the period between World Wars I and II, but de facto efforts at exclusion have existed since the early days of the republic. Regulations governing homosexuals in the military came under pressure in the 1970s and 1980s as societal views toward lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people changed, and those LGB service members discharged under the policy increasingly challenged their treatment in court. (Public pressure to change regulations governing transgender people in the military arose mostly in the 2000s, though litigation efforts date to the 1970s.) In addition to general shifts in public and legal opinion, the debate over LGB people serving in the U.S. military was affected by the experience of foreign militaries that allow LGB people to serve. United States law began to loosen formal restrictions on LBG people serving in uniform with the passage of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) in 1994, but it still required LGB people to serve in secret. Changing public perceptions of LGB people and problems implementing the ban galvanized support for eliminating such restrictions. In 2010, President Obama signed legislation repealing DADT and removing all restrictions on LGB people serving in the military. However, transgender people do not enjoy the same rights. The Trump administration has revised Obama-era rules on transgender service members to enable greater exclusion. The issue is being contested in the courts and appears ripe for further political and legal dispute.