We arrived for the interview a little early, and the military escorted us to a room where we had a conversation. There was a round table, two flags - one of Ukraine and the other of the Ministry of Defense, a model of An-225 Mriya, and a gorgeous bouquet of cotton in a glass vase. On the wall are postcards from defense ministers of different countries-Poland, Estonia, and the United States (this one stands out from the crowd: it features a photo of Oleksii Reznikov with Lloyd Austin during the Ukrainian minister's first visit to Washington in the fall of 2021), and postcards from various military brigades of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
"Be free to ask anything you are interested in," Reznikov says after greeting him. "I intend to," I say.
We meet with the minister at a time when the "jacket scandal" had already been denied by the Ministry of Defense and had subsided, but the Ukrainian media continued to spread rumors: when Reznikov would be fired, who would take his place, where Reznikov would be appointed after he left the Ministry of Defense.
It is clear that these issues were not avoided. But they also discussed many other important topics for a country that has been at war with the Russian aggressor for 10 years: empty military warehouses before a full-scale invasion, the supply of weapons and everything necessary for the army, joining NATO, producing our own weapons, public complaints to the government, reform of the Ministry of Defense... Here is the first part of a long interview with Minister of Defense of Ukraine Oleksii Reznikov.
THE DECISION ON INVITING AND ACCEPTING UKRAINE TO NATO WILL NOT BE BASED ON THE NUMBER OF IMPLEMENTED STANDARDS
- Mr. Minister, how would you comment on the statement by MP Yaroslav Zhelezniak that you will soon leave the Ministry of Defense and go to work in the UK as an ambassador?
- All decisions regarding the Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry are made by the President. The rest is just thoughts.
- In a little bit, it will be two years since you, a completely civilian person, became the head of the Ministry of Defense [Reznikov took over the Ministry on November 4, 2021]. Please tell us what has fundamentally changed in the system of the Ministry of Defense during this time, what plans have you managed to implement and what have not?
- I can't say that the system of principles has changed, because even before I came, Ukrainian legislation was changed and many cultural things that were normal before have changed.
First of all, the fact that the Minister of Defense is a military man has changed. It was a rule, a tradition. But as a result, this led to certain conflicts between the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. And this conflict still exists.
- How does it manifest itself?
- At the level of dualization of certain functions, certain structural units. We sometimes talk to Valerii Zaluzhnyi about this, and he says: "Yes, sometimes it misfires," using the metaphor of an engine in a car: when a spark plug is out of order, it's called "misfiring." That is, something may be happening between structural units from the old conflict times. This is something that still needs to be modernized.
But the fundamental requirement of Ukrainian legislation, in accordance with NATO standards, is to have civilian democratic control, more civilian thinking in the ministry in order to implement policies, standards, etc. And this has changed fundamentally.
When I took office, I announced that there should be synergy between the teams of the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces of Ukraine. We are together, but each has its own tasks and functions. This has definitely changed, and we have managed to establish this synergy. Today, there is no friction between the top echelons of the Ministry of Defense and the Armed Forces of Ukraine. We find understanding, we find solutions, we hear each other. And this is the most important thing, especially now, during the open phase of the war.
As a minister, I do not try to interfere in the conduct of military operations, in the planning of operations, and so on. I help to find solutions to implement these plans at the political, national, and international level. If necessary, by issuing regulations, orders, directives, advice, etc., while relieving the Commander-in-Chief and the command of some things that are not typical for them.
Of course, there was restructuring: we reformed some departments, updated some, and created new ones. We created an anti-corruption council, enlarged the corruption prevention department, and set up a reform support office. But all of these are tools for the main thing - to change the philosophy. The philosophy should be European and NATO-oriented, which is very important to them.
Ukraine's membership in NATO will be a very serious step towards building a new security architecture for us, in fact, a guarantee of security against future offensives and attacks by the Russians. We need to be a member of a powerful security alliance, and NATO is just such an alliance. There is no better on the planet Earth.
So, when a political decision is made to invite and accept Ukraine into NATO, it will not be based on the number of NATO standards that we have implemented.
- Why? And by what criteria, then?
- Let me explain. I meet with defense ministers from all over the world - the Rammstein Club alone includes 54 ministers, and in general I have probably talked to 70 ministers from different countries, give or take. So, they are all members of different security alliances. Let's go back to NATO. I ask the ministers of countries that have joined NATO since 1991, even since 1997: "How many NATO standards do you have in terms of percentage or quantity?" The answer is: on average, about 30%. About 40% of the necessary regulations have been adopted in their countries. Some countries have 2% implementation of NATO standards, some - 8%. That is, you don't need to have 100% to be accepted into the Alliance! I started to look into it, and I was curious, because there are 1200+ NATO standards.
And it turns out that, first of all, not all NATO standards need to be met. For example, if you are not a maritime power, you do not have to have standards related to the navy. If you don't have space forces, you don't have space-related standards... The Security and Defense Forces of Ukraine have implemented 287 NATO standards. This is almost a quarter of the total number. Of these: 174 are within the framework of the NATO-Ukraine Partnership Goals (priority standards of the Alliance), 113 are initiative standards. According to this indicator, Ukraine ranks first among NATO partner countries and even exceeds the performance of some member states. By the end of 2023, about 200 more standards have been adopted and are planned to be implemented. And there are certain standards that we do not need to implement. For example, the standard for the quality of drinking water for the army is higher in Ukraine than in NATO countries.
- So what will be decisive in deciding whether or not to invite us to NATO?
- Three things will be decisive. These are the existence of civilian-democratic control over the Armed Forces, both in the form of legislation and in the form of actually built infrastructure. That is, the Minister of Defense is a civilian, the Deputy Minister is a civilian, and so on, and so forth, implementing policies. Secondly, it is clear, transparent, accountable procedures for providing the Armed Forces - from procurement to all other things. When it is clear how funds are spent, how budgeting is planned - starting with the government and parliament. Because in NATO they support each other, there is a structure called NSPA (NATO Support and Procurement Agency), the main logistics organization of NATO. Companies producing weapons (or not) are added to it, registered, and when you want to buy a gun, boat, torpedo, bomb, shell, ATV, uniform, etc., the agency will provide you with it. A kind of military Amazon.
Therefore, NATO member states want, if you are also a NATO country, that the producers of these countries have the opportunity to sell you something.
And as a result, this leads to interoperability of the Armed Forces. Because how can you plan an operation if you have different shells, different tanks, different bullets?
And so, God forbid, NATO is in a military conflict with a mission, they will know which battalions, companies, platoons have entered. They know what kind of small arms were brought in - everything is clear, everyone has the same, not that one has something, the other has something else. If it's artillery, it's 155 mm or 105 mm, if it's tanks, they all have 120 mm, not a mix. Therefore, all this interoperability is related to procurement, planning, etc.
And the third component is joint planning of operations.
The military commands know how similar military commands in partner countries interact, and there is a NATO command that clearly knows: here are marines, here are pilots, here are paratroopers, here are infantrymen, here are tankers, here are artillerymen of different nationalities, different countries, but they can plan together because everyone understands the standards for how to fight and interact. That's it, three things. If a country meets these three criteria, it becomes a NATO country.
And now let's look at us carefully. We have legislation on civilian-democratic control, we have had civilian defense ministers several times, at least during President Zelensky's term: Andrii Zahorodniuk is a civilian minister, Andrii Taran was already a civilian, but he is a retired general, I am also a civilian, I served in the military in Soviet times, I retired as a sergeant, so I am not a career military officer, I am a civilian, a lawyer. Here we are already following the standard. All the deputies were practically civilians, the only thing is that now, during wartime, a decision was made and my first deputy is General Oleksandr Pavliuk, because during the war, we need this expertise, with military experience.
And today we are seriously working on changing the procurement policy and approaches. Why did I create two agencies according to NATO standards? I made this commitment when I spoke from the rostrum of the parliament on November 4, 2021, when I was nominated by Mr. President for this position and made my presentation before the Verkhovna Rada vote.
I said: I will create an agency to separate procurement commerce from the policies of the departments that are supposed to be engaged in planning, quality control, implementation of standards, adoption, etc. And we are moving in this direction.
Of course, the Russian attack in February 2022 was a challenge not only for the whole country, but also for me personally, because I had very little time to prepare for the implementation of the reforms that I planned to do in agreement with the President. I had just been appointed for three months, and then the invasion. I had just gotten up to speed, formed a team, and started to understand what was going on here and how it was working, or, on the contrary, not working or not working well, and then there was an invasion, and I had the task of clothing, protecting, and feeding a multiplied army.
THE MINISTRY OF DEFENSE HAS CHANGED ITS PHILOSOPHY: WE MANAGED TO ADD BUSINESS MANAGEMENT AND SIMPLIFY MANY PROCEDURES.
- How did you feel when, in your first three months in office, you conducted an audit and realized that we were missing everything, that the warehouses were essentially empty?
- Frankly speaking, I was sad. Why? I had an assumption that things were not so bad after 30 years of independence.
- And what did it turn out to be?
- And it turned out... Our Armed Forces gained expertise, capabilities and ceased to be a Soviet army only within eight years of the beginning of this war, that is, since 2014, first during the ATO operation and then the JFO [Joint Forces Operation]. But, in principle, there is still quite a bit of Sovietism in the Armed Forces and, of course, in the units of the Ministry of Defense. All this inheritance-with corruption, with mess, with excessive bureaucracy, with mouse fuss, with papers-this so-called "Ukrainian paper army," etc.-well, I inherited all this, so here you go, work with it. The only metaphor I can think of is the ancient Greek legend about the stables of Augeus, which Hercules had to clean. I'm not as healthy as Hercules, but I had a bigger challenge than he did. Probably, if I had known the scale of it, I would have persuaded the President not to appoint me here, because I would have been afraid that I would not be able to cope. This is a huge challenge. But once I got into that water... I am a parachutist, so I have a good routine: once you jump, you have to keep working, open the dome, and land safely.
And I had to work in conditions when there are no bulletproof vests in the warehouses, no helmets, a little summer uniform, and almost no winter uniform: the level of orders for winter uniforms is 68,000 per year, and 100,000 per year for summer uniforms. And just imagine, due to the increase in the number of our military personnel and the General Staff's planning of the first mobilization items, as of July 21, 2022, I had to buy about 1.2 million sets of winter clothing and about 2.3 million sets of summer field uniforms as required by the General Staff. Just think about it. Compare the numbers: 68,000 winter sets was the task and 100,000 summer sets was the plan for 2021, and here is a more than tenfold increase in volumes for 2022, and all this had to be done in a month!
- And the number of purchases of food and weapons has also increased many times over...
- Everything. It was necessary to feed not 261,000 people, as it was written in the law that came into force on January 1, 2022, but a million. Fuel for transport, weapons, shells, ammunition, and everything else: headphones, glasses, backpacks, bags, sleeping bags, mats, gloves, etc., underwear, socks, just the whole range, the guys should have it all.
In the first weeks, the first months even, people fought in different ways: some had what they had, some bought it in stores, volunteers - we are very grateful to them - they saved the situation while we were getting up and running, signing contracts. We are not as flexible as private companies. It is convenient for volunteers: they come, buy for cash, take it away, give it back in small batches, and no one asks them about the quality - they just give it back, at least to dress and protect it. But we don't, we have quality standards, everything has to be clear, huge contracts. So it took time.
Before that, all the clothes were sewn in Ukraine, which is correct, that is, purchases were made for the Hryvnia from Ukrainian manufacturers, and we are very grateful to them. I think they are also heroes, because they had to endure blackouts, relocation, bombing, and transporting teams. They simply could not carry the volumes that were needed in a very short time. Therefore, in the first months, the Ministry of Defense bought clothes abroad. Of course, after settling the situation a bit, we met with representatives of the light industry, met with manufacturers, and I said: "I am interested." The initiative of the Prime Minister, Denys Shmyhal, was very powerful here, and Yulia Svyrydenko, the Deputy Prime Minister, was also very helpful, we were all on the same side. We agreed: you guys start, do the relocation, don't lose people, buy fabric, we will sign a contract with you, and in 2023, I guarantee you 100% that I will buy only in Ukraine so that the Ukrainian Hryvnia remains in Ukraine, you pay taxes, provide jobs, pay salaries, personal income tax to local budgets-a win-win situation, a benefit to everyone: the state, local budgets, people. And in return, we get quality goods, etc. And we have done it, as of now I have all the contracts with Ukrainian companies.
So if we talk about changes in the Defense Ministry, it will be a long conversation, and I am ready to report to you. But if we are talking about fundamental things that have changed, I think the philosophy has changed. We managed to add business management, to simplify many procedures, which had to be done sometimes by force, militantly, through bureaucratic resistance. Because every time you say: "Why is this so slow?" The answer is: "It's always been this way"...
- There are still a lot of legislative obstacles and restrictions that last for months...
- Absolutely. But the official quite rightly does not want to violate them, because tomorrow law enforcement officials will come to him. Especially when we have "rampant legality" - an official can be held accountable for anything. There have been cases when our law enforcement agencies have come - they are great, decent, I respect them very much, I appreciate them for what they do - but they suspect a department employee of not having done a market research during a procurement. I understand, but what kind of market research is needed during the war? When to do it, when you need to buy, buy, buy, and send everything to the front. And there are many such cases. But formally, she violated the procedure, formally, she didn't fill out a piece of paper. And so officials say: "Mr. Minister, with all due respect, I will not sign it." Because this is a small scaffold in their place. That's why we rewrote resolutions, convinced government members, and simplified processes. And I think we succeeded in this and made it possible to create such a booster. Especially for drone manufacturers who started production in garages. Last fall, we did this while all this was being created under the new rules - it was not quick, it took almost a year. But I think this fall there will be a boom in the production of various Ukrainian drones: flying, floating, crawling, etc., and it will continue to grow in volume.
We have also changed this fundamentally, and other processes follow. And the most important thing is that the employees of the ministry and other departments transferred to us see all this, and the culture is being renewed. Do you understand?
SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE INVASION, WE HAVE ALREADY RECEIVED $100 BILLION IN AID
- But society, as you can see, wants more and faster. And here, I think, there is a lack of communication between journalists, society and you, the ministry.
- You are right. But the question arises here. My priority is to provide for the soldier in the trench, his commander, his repairman - everyone has their own needs in order to win this war and defeat the enemy, kill as many enemies as possible and liberate all our occupied territories as soon as possible. This is my mission together with them, with the military, the task. That is why I evaluate the effectiveness of my managers by how quickly and how much they deliver what the General Staff asks me to deliver. It draws up a special document called a "need" according to the law, and we follow this need: we buy something, bring something through MTA [material and technical assistance from partners provided free of charge]. This means that I have to spend time 24/7 communicating with partners in different time zones: Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the United States, Canada, and Europe. There are 8, 10, 12 hours of time difference, and I have to stay awake, I have to communicate with them to bring us weapons, ammunition or something else for their money. If we calculate and evaluate all the aid packages today, I think we have already received about 100 billion dollars during the full-scale invasion.
- Is it for weapons?
- Let's put it this way, it's weapons and military equipment. We received about 100 billion in money for various weapons and equipment, ammunition, shells, and shots. From the United States alone, we received more than 50 billion, approaching 60 billion. If you multiply this by the Hryvnia exchange rate, you will see how many trillions of Hryvnias it is.
Plus the Ukrainian budget, which is also spent. Just so you understand, a significant majority of the Defense Ministry's budget is spent on salaries and compensation for the military. Therefore, if we calculate the efficiency of using budget funds, what we provide in the army is cheap. Because we did it with other funds, funds from other countries. But when someone starts telling me that this is inefficient, it would have been more efficient to go out to tender during the war, hold long bidding, compete, go through the courts with tender trolls, and sign a contract in three months... Yes, I'm sorry, it's not clear what would have happened if I had done that.
Therefore, using the legal procedures during martial law, under a shortened procedure, we signed contracts with everyone and for everything we needed. Of course, the suppliers were different, and we didn't have time to check them either. But if you count the entire volume of various purchases - for Ukrainian Hryvnias or for foreign currency purchased for the Ukrainian market - the share of problem receivables is only 2.7%. What do you mean by problematic - it is in the courts.
- Does this mean under-delivered goods for our money?
- Yes. Either the goods were delivered late or of poor quality and we had to ask for a replacement. Or they say: we will deliver, but we ask to postpone the deadline because a third-country manufacturer did not give us a license, etc. Or these are Ukrainian companies that have not purchased some components or have not managed to produce the products we ordered from them.
- And you are suing them? Can you name the number of lawsuits?
- There are hundreds of them. But, not only that, but the 2.7% I mentioned, you'll laugh, probably includes several billion more, which is the inheritance I inherited from previous years. In other words, there are debtors, primarily Ukrainian contractors, who have not fulfilled their obligations, and we are in court with them, which were started before me, and we are just supporting them. This is included in the 2.7% of bad debtors. Someone writes there: "They have a receivable, they haven't delivered something." This is not a professional approach, because every month there is a receivable, but it is "alive". For example, the Ministry of Defense has tens of billions of Hryvnias paid to serious, reputable manufacturers, but the delivery will be in '24 or '25. If they were not paid now, they would not be able to carry out the missile program, the anti-missile program. These are our respected companies, like "Luch", for example, which makes "Neptune". Of course, I paid him because the Neptunes proved to be effective and sank the cruiser Moskva. But this is also a receivable, tens of billions, but it is a working receivable, it is not an inefficient use of funds or inefficient management.
Everyone has their own criteria of efficiency, but I tell all my team members: we have our own criterion of efficiency - timely, unimpeded, uninterrupted, high-quality supply of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Period.
AIR DEFENSE IS THE NUMBER ONE PRIORITY AMONG OUR NEEDS.
- Can you tell us what the most urgent needs of the Armed Forces are now? Zaluzhnyi came and said: "Give it to me!".
- I will simply repeat to you what I tell our partners at Ramstein and at bilateral meetings. The number one priority is air defense. These are new modern system complexes, such as Patriot, NASAMS, SAMP/T, Iris-T, such as Gepard, Crotale, etc.; these are hand-held man-portable air defense systems such as Stinger, Starstreak and others; these are various grenade launchers, ATGMs, etc. Of course, aviation, because aviation is a part of air defense, because the aviation platform allows you to hit air targets - from cruise ballistic missiles to aircraft that launch them, including drones, "Shaheds," etc. And today we know for sure that we will have an F-16.
- I think next year, in the spring. I mean, already in use. Because today we have permission to train, there are countries that have agreed to train, and there are even countries that have already agreed to give us F-16s after the training and infrastructure are completed.
But, as for amateurs, I will give you a metaphor, no, an allegory, rather. There is a trilogy by Tolkien called The Lord of the Rings. And at one time there was a question why the hobbits could not ride on eagles and easily deliver the ring to the fiery mountain? They really couldn't. Because there had to be: a) political will to provide eagles; b) approval from the "governments of the eagle states"; c) training of eagle keepers, preparation of an airport for them, specialists who would serve them, feed them, take care of their nests; d) and all this time, arguments were heard from those states that have eagles: "Why do you need eagles if you are already fighting off Sauron well?"
- Don't the owners of the eagles associate their giving with some political processes, with the approach of elections, for example?
- No, never. There has never been an argument: "We have elections". No, it never sounded like that. I can tell you what arguments were made and what were not, but I read them between the lines. The main argument has always been a political one, a desire not to create the impression in the Kremlin that the West is raising the level of escalation. That's exactly what many countries are doing. They don't want the Kremlin to be offended by them, to think that this is crossing some "red lines" and that this means that the level of escalation will increase, and then they will do something bad in response. And every time we discussed it, I said: "Look, what other level of escalation do you need to demonstrate if they are killing civilians all over Ukraine? They are not hitting military targets, they are killing children in Mariupol, in the theater, they raped and killed people in Bucha, Irpin - you saw it all..."
- Kharkiv region, Kherson region, Chernihiv region...
- Yes, destroyed Saltivka, Izyum, the torture chambers.. Our critical infrastructure facilities are being targeted in order to plunge us into a blackout, deprive us of water, heat, light, freeze us to starve, etc. This is a war against the civilian population. They are terrorists! And every time we proved it, every time they accepted it: "Well, yes, indeed, we have to do something about it."
The second argument is that in order to avoid dragging NATO countries into a war, we should not attack Russians on their territory with NATO weapons. Believe me, I have written more than one letter of commitment that we will not use their lethal weapons on the territory of the officially recognized Russian state, we will use them only for the purpose of de-occupying the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. The temporarily occupied territories are also those that were officially recognized by the international community as part of our borders as of 1991. This means Crimea, Luhansk, Donetsk and everything else. This was also a bit of a concern for our partners at the beginning. But when we sank the cruiser "Moskva" with "Neptune" in April 22nd, we received "Harpoons" afterwards. After receiving "Harpoons", we de-occupied Zmeinyi Island and opened a grain corridor. Now we feed the countries of Africa and Asia with our grain, etc.
I will add two more aspects. One is the availability of free samples of weapons and spare parts in our partners' warehouses, the ability to transfer them to us in a good condition, or to repair them, teach our military personnel how to operate them, and master them. The second is the availability of funds that they will be able to allocate from their budgets, as well as to obtain permission from the parliament and the government to finance this assistance. And, of course, pragmatism worked here. They have calculated all this, because taxpayers will ask them to pay for it later, and this is where the political context, of course, comes in. If the ruling political force or the alliance with the government does not have strong support in the parliament, it is difficult for them to do this. Remember how Bulgaria behaved at one time. There, the Minister of Economy was a lady from the Socialist Party, with anti-Ukrainian views, pro-Russian views, and she was responsible for licenses for the export of anything military from Bulgaria. Her quote: "Not a single bullet will get into Ukraine from Bulgaria". A principled position! It was impossible to get a license from Bulgaria to Ukraine.
- Was it last year?
- Yes, we did. Now the government has changed, the majority in the parliament has changed, and we have positive changes. You know, water wears away a stone. This is the daily and nightly work of President Zelensky, who communicates with leaders, communicates with their parliaments. Our ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the entire Presidential Office, our MPs, who communicate at their level with fellow MPs, senators, congresses, sejm, etc. And, most importantly, Ukrainians as a whole - as Westerners themselves say - have inspired the whole world. Our representatives of the defense forces and our civilians have inspired them. And this is the main argument that they need to help us, because they see that we can definitely win. They say, "You can win," and we say, "We will definitely win". And they have already wanted to become partners in this victory, their perception is changing.
Because in February 2022, it was impossible for them to imagine that the huge so-called "second army of the world" with weapons and all the means would not defeat Ukraine. "Kyiv in three days, Ukraine in three weeks..." but we proved that this is not true.
There's a good story about David and Goliath. And you believe in it - that David will defeat Goliath again, using bravado, courage, bravery, indomitability and a little better technology...
- High-precision long-range weapons...
- High-precision weapons, exactly right. And it will take down Goliath.
We have all this, we get weapons from our partners, we are that David, and I can say that we have already defeated this Goliath, his legs are already bent. He is just so big that he will fall for a long time. But it is very difficult and very painful for him.
IF YOU WANT CHANGE, GO TO POWER, DO IT AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
- But at the same time, Mr. Minister, the hot war has been going on for more than a year and a half, and now we hear a lot of claims that the government has been lulling us to sleep, saying that we have 2 weeks, and 2 more weeks, and 2 more weeks until victory. But it's not 2 weeks, it's already the second year, and you're saying that we'll get F-16s in the spring. This means that the war will continue even then. It's hard for people to accept. And recently you said that the war will be long. Ukrainians have nowhere to go - we will be in this war. Is the world ready for this long war? Won't they say that it's enough help? Won't they say that we have run out of weapons in our warehouses? Do you discuss such long-term prospects of this war with your partners?
- Regarding claims to the government. It's a national tradition, it's in the Ukrainian genes to have claims against the government. And the war started in 2014, but most Ukrainians are used to living in the paradigm that they don't have this war. Like, someone is fighting in eastern Ukraine, and I'm living in peacetime, beaches, vacations, and so on. Excuse me, but then the question is: has there been no war since 2014? There was no occupation of land, no temporarily displaced persons, no demarcation line, no deaths of our boys and girls, no injuries? Yes, there was. For 8 years. And the authorities tried - two cadences of power, two presidents, two teams, governments - to find a solution without a full-scale war. The same Minsk agreements - whether they were good or bad - had to be found together with our European partners. We did everything we could to do so - the Minsk talks, the Normandy talks. It didn't work out. Because the Russians did not really want to leave our occupied lands, they had another plan. As always, they deceive, as they did when they signed those Minsk agreements.
Why do we historically dislike the government? My explanation, for myself at least. A country like Ukraine, the Ukrainians, the people who lived on the territory of Ukraine for the last 400 years have been living in a colony. The government has always been an enemy. Basically, it was the Russian Empire, and some territories were Austro-Hungary or Poland, or Germany, or the Soviet Empire, and so on. Therefore, at the genetic level, Ukrainians think that whoever is in power is an enemy, because he is a stranger to me. I pay tribute to him, I suffer from him. That's why even when we became an independent Ukraine and began to develop for 30 years and become a country, a nation, a people, we continued to think that the government is bad. And also the idea that if you come to power, you abuse it. We also have a lot of this. But here we fell into a trap, because people who said: "Okay, I'm not going to sit on the couch and criticize the government, I'm going to do something myself," they immediately start criticizing it. And no matter what you do, no matter how much you change the good things - and you have to do it anyway, you agreed to do it - you are always under-doing something for everyone, and doing something badly. You are already a traitor. You are already a bad guy. You're already a corrupt official, or a stupid one, or a slacker, or something else. Another candidate comes along and says, "Let me try. He used to be an activist, a politician, or something, but when he became, relatively speaking, an official, that's it... I'm not talking about salaries, people are better off doing business, being an entrepreneur, and no one criticizes you.
If we don't change this social contract within ourselves, it will be difficult for us to rebuild and restore our country after the victory, because there will be even more claims. Boys and girls will come back from the front, wounded, with crippled souls, from captivity, and they will also have the perception that the government owes me. This is normal, it's a psychological need. When they are elected to power, all political forces in local authorities will be represented by former military personnel, veterans or members of their families. And then it will start: let's help veterans first. And then older people, someone else who needs help, will stand up and say: "What about us?". And there is only one budget. And who will earn money? And will all the people from abroad return? They've been working there for 1.5 years, they've learned the language, their children go to school, they have support. Will they come back? And these are our taxpayers. That is, we have more than enough challenges.
If we only think: "The government is bad," nothing will change. It's enough to sit on the couch - then you will definitely get nothing. If you want to change something, go to the authorities, do something and take responsibility. Complaints against the government are normal in a democratic country, but in my opinion, we need to be more objective.
Now there are complaints about the issuance of weapons at the beginning of the full-scale. But I'll tell you: in Kyiv alone, we issued 21,000 Kalashnikovs in two days to people who volunteered to go to the TRO [Territorial Defense Forces]. Only in Kyiv! And now just think about it: if we had been following paperwork and procedures, this would have been impossible. What do we have today, when the enemy is far from Kyiv? Representatives of law enforcement agencies are already asking those who issued weapons questions: on what grounds did you issue the assault rifles? Why did you do it? Law enforcement agencies!
- Can you name specifically which departments? There are a lot of them now.
- So they all ask questions, send letters, appeals, and so on. It turns out that the people who made the decisions and took responsibility were heroes back then. And now there are questions to them. And there will be many more. And they will say: well, he is in power, he is acting badly. No one thinks that it was February 24-25. And the same guys who are being interrogated now were carrying weapons to other cities under fire, under bullets. To Mykolaiv, for example. Ask Vitalii Kim. He will tell you clearly: if I hadn't been brought assault rifles from Kyiv and given them to the civilians who entered the TRO, we would not have held Mykolaiv. If we hadn't held Mykolaiv, they would have moved on to Odesa, and both Odesa and the Black Sea would have been blocked. And the picture would have been different. And I can give many examples of this. So the question is: was the government that bad in February? Or did it do everything it could to prevent us from being captured, Kyiv from being occupied, the government from being destroyed, the Verkhovna Rada from being destroyed, the President from being destroyed, and us from losing control? On the contrary, we held on. The de-occupation of Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy regions began, and then continued in Kharkiv and Kherson regions. And it continues now. So, I'm sorry, sometimes you have to make a maneuver, and, I'm sorry, there is a war going on, and the information war is part of it. And sometimes certain public things that are said are important at the time they are said. And I would evaluate it by the consequences, what it led to. If it led to negative consequences, it was poor communication. If this communication may have misled partly you, but most importantly, it misled the enemy, and this led to positive results, аn order should be issued for this.
Let's get back to our partners, and I'll give you a short answer. All my ministerial colleagues with whom I communicate, or the leaders of the countries with whom the President communicates, but I am present at those meetings very often as part of delegations, as in Vilnius, for example, at the NATO summit, say the same phrase: "We will be staying with you as long as it takes".
- One comment from me as a journalist. The community still needs the authorities to be accountable. It's clear that in the first months of the war it was not up to that, but now the situation has changed, and the authorities continue to be closed, it's hard for us to work, it's hard to get information. In my opinion, there should be regular briefings where we can ask live questions about everything. Timely answers to problematic questions relieve tension in society...
- Is the war over? No, it is not. It seems to me that many of our fellow citizens have joined a political party called "The War Is Over." That's it, there is no war, there is no enemy under the walls, well, we are used to nighttime shelling with missiles and "Shaheds" - let the air defense defend ourselves... And now about the claims: you don't speak enough, you don't explain enough, some things are not transparent, and so on. Guys, the war is not over, the enemy is here! And his saboteurs are here, his spies or agents of influence - they are all here, watching and reading. That's why we always say: don't take pictures of the damage sites, wherever they are, don't show where the missile came from, because they can see where our air defense is. They do this on purpose to exhaust us. The war is not over, we cannot go into peacetime mode. It's absurd, it's nonsense. And the people have already relaxed.
As for the explanation. Well, the Ministry of Defense definitely holds briefings on a regular basis, my deputy Hanna Maliar does it all the time. In addition, representatives of the commands give briefings all the time. We tell what we can tell. And we communicate some things and not others - deliberately, knowingly, so as not to give the enemy a signal of what is happening. This is a key task. Again, 2, and not, I'm sorry, for the sake of some couch expert sitting at the TV and criticizing: they are fighting wrong, they are using the wrong weapons, they have not bought enough drones and they have bought the wrong "camouflage"...
(to be continued).
Photo by Hennadii Minchenko