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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

Spain: The Long Road from an Interventionist Army to Democratic and Modern Armed Forces  

Rafa Martínez and Fernando J. Padilla Angulo

During the transition from ancien régime to liberalism that took place in Spain during the first third of the 19th century, the military became a prominent political actor. Many soldiers were members of the country’s first liberal parliament, which in 1812 passed one of the world’s oldest liberal charters, the so-called Constitution of Cádiz. Furthermore, the armed forces fought against the Napoleonic Army’s occupation and, once the Bourbon monarchy was restored, often took arms against the established power. Nineteenth-century Spain was prey to instability due to the struggle between conservative, progressive, liberal, monarchical, and republican factions. It was also a century full of missed opportunities by governments, constitutions, and political regimes, in which the military always played an active role, often a paramount one. Army and navy officers became ministers and heads of government during the central decades of the 19th century, often after a coup. This changed with the establishment of a parliamentary monarchy based on a bipartisan system known as the Restoration (1874–1923). The armed forces were kept away from politics. They focused on their professional activities, thus developing a corporate attitude and an ideological cohesion around a predominantly conservative political stance. Ruling the empire gave the armed forces a huge sphere of influence. Only chief officers were appointed as governors of the Spanish territories in America, Africa, and Asia throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. This went unchanged until 1976, when Spain withdrew from Western Sahara, deemed the country’s last colony. The power accumulated in the overseas territories was often used by the governors to build a political career in metropolitan Spain. Following the end of the Restoration in 1923, the armed forces engaged with the political struggle in full again. After a military-led dictatorship, a frustrated republic, and a fratricidal civil war, a dictatorship was established in 1939 that lasted for almost 40 years: the Francoist regime. Francisco Franco leaned on the military as a repressive force and a legitimacy source for a regime established as a result of a war. After the dictator passed away in 1975, Spain underwent a transition to democracy which was accepted by the armed forces somehow reluctantly, as the coup attempt of 1981 made clear. At that time, the military was the institution that Spanish society trusted the least. It was considered a poorly trained and equipped force. Even its troops’ volume and budget were regarded as excessive. However, the armed forces have undergone an intense process of modernization since the end of 1980s. They have become fully professional, their budget and numbers have been reduced, and they have successfully taken part in European Union (EU), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and United Nations (UN)-led international missions. In the early 21st century, the armed forces are Spain’s second-best valued institution. Far from its formerly interventionist role throughout the 19th century and a good deal of the 20th, Spain’s armed forces in the 21st century have become a state tool and a public administration controlled by democratically elected governments.

Article

Jordan: The Military and Politics in the Hashemite Kingdom  

Curtis R. Ryan

The Jordanian Armed Forces (JAF), unlike their counterparts in many other parts of the Middle East, have never taken power in a coup. The military has no direct role in governance, but its shadow looms large in Jordanian politics, especially as the kingdom has been challenged by regional wars, internal conflicts, and (after 2010) by the domestic and regional effects of the Arab Spring (Arab uprisings). The only time Jordan came close to a military coup was in 1957, in an era marked by heightened pan-Arab nationalism and politicization of armed forces across the Arab world. But that coup was foiled almost as soon as it began, leaving the armed forces thereafter to cast themselves as the protectors not only of the country but also of the Hashemite monarchy. Jordan’s armed forces fought in multiple wars with Israel, including in 1948 and 1967, with a more limited role in the 1973 Arab–Israeli war. The military was also involved intensely in internal conflict, especially in 1970–1971, when King Hussein’s armed forces clashed with the guerilla forces of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Although they never overthrew the state nor established a military government in Jordan, the Jordanian Armed Forces nonetheless played a large role in Jordanian politics, society, and even in the economy. The military was also part of a broader array of security institutions, including the intelligence services, the police, and the gendarmerie. An aid-dependent country with limited resources, Jordan faced countless fiscal crises over the years, but its military and security budgets continued to grow. Hashemite kings have tended to dote on the armed forces, ensuring large budgets and the latest in arms and equipment. Even the regime’s attempt to cultivate a strong Jordanian national identity was deeply rooted in the images of the military, the monarchy itself, and the other key security institutions. But while the military’s influence loomed large in public life, it did not necessarily reflect a broad range of Jordanian society, being drawn heavily from Jordan’s tribal, rural, and East Jordanian communities, rather than from more urban, largely Palestinian-Jordanian communities. But in the era of the Arab uprisings across the Middle East (especially after 2010), military veterans—especially those with tribal and East Jordanian roots—played ever more vocal roles in Jordanian politics, remaining loyal to the monarchy, but also feeling empowered to lecture the monarchy about perceived flaws in social and economic policies. The personnel in Jordan’s military and security institutions, in short, were drawn from the same tribes, regions, and communities that were most fervently challenging the regime and its policies in the Arab Spring era, changing the nature of Jordanian politics itself.

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

Venezuela: Coup-Proofing From Pérez Jiménez to Maduro  

Deborah L. Norden

From the middle of the 20th century, Venezuela’s governments have demonstrated surprising immunity to successful coups. The more than 40-year Punto Fijo democracy (1958–1999) boasted free and competitive elections even while the vast majority of Latin American governments fell to military rule. Two decades later, the beleaguered government of Nicolás Maduro withstood not only national, but international demands for a military coup under conditions of virtual economic collapse and extreme political crisis. This resilience is largely a function of successful coup-proofing—deliberate government policies to both reward military loyalty and defend against possible dissent. The Bolivarian leaders of the early 21st century—Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro— built on a combination of strategies previously utilized by either the Pérez Jiménez military regime (1948–1958) or the Punto Fijo democratic regime, notably expanding such elements as politicization and the creation of competing militarized forces (counterbalancing) to fit with the revolutionary model that the chavistas sought to pursue.

Article

Georgia: Warlords, Generals, and Politicians  

David Darchiashvili and Stephen Jones

The balance between civil and military structures is central to understanding the development of Georgian statehood since the beginning of the 20th century. The first modern independent Georgian state was established after the 1917 Russian Revolution. The Democratic Republic of Georgia declared its independence in May 1918. In February 1921, the young republic was incorporated into the Soviet state and had no separate army of its own. Since regaining its independence in 1991, Georgia has experienced multiple administrations, and despite significantly different policies on the military, the overall pattern has been one of civilian (though not always democratic) control. Georgian militias and paramilitaries, between 1918 and 1921 and again between 1991 and 1995, played important roles in determining political power at times of revolutionary or constitutional crises. Since 1991 there have been three presidents - Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Eduard Shevardnadze, and Mikheil Saakashvili - with strong executive authority. In 2013, the position of president was made semi-ceremonial and a prime-ministerial system was instituted. Since 2013, there have been multiple prime ministers. Bidzina Ivanishvili was the first and the most powerful. All of Georgia’s leaders have shifted from a Soviet to pro-Western orientation. Since the second half of the 1990s, the relationship with NATO has grown closer, which has had a major impact on the structure of the Georgian armed forces and on their relationship with Georgia’s civil authorities. The 2008 war with Russia had a major impact on the Georgian military, and, since then, the level of professionalization of the Georgian armed forces has increased dramatically. Samuel Huntington, Eric Nordlinger, and other Western students of civil-military relations have pointed to the important balance required between civil and military authorities for a stable democracy. Georgia still displays continuing features of nepotism, clientelism, corruption, and dominant political personalities, which has significant consequences for the independence of the Georgian military and for civil-military relations more generally. Western states such as the United States and Germany, and international organizations like NATO continue to urge reform and provide training to the Georgian armed forces

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.