Archive for January 11th, 2015


Dilemmas – Ukrainian counter-terrorism (and security) reform

January 11, 2015

Following what was a rather well received entry relating to the gradual slide toward more standard, low level, terrorism across Ukraine outside the boundaries of the conflict zone in the east of the nation – and a few subsequent entries that followed – here and here – and in light of recent events in France together with the additional powers granted to the National Security and Defence Council, the issue of terrorism, whatever the motivation behind any particular incident, is not likely to be far from the top of numerous national agendas.  None more so than that of Ukraine.

That Ukraine faces a more paramilitary/State sponsored form of terrorism, rather than religiously aligned terrorism, for the purposes of this entry, is of little consequence.  Neither does the currently more overt paramilitary form of terrorism Ukraine faces diminish the risks it faces from religiously aligned terrorism (be it Islamic or ultra-Orthodox jihad).  Indeed the Communist Party of Russia appears to be advocating a return to the 1960’s 3rd Wave of Red/Left terrorism in Ukraine too.


To be blunt, Ukraine currently faces a paramilitary/State sponsored terrorism, may very well face a religiously ultra-Orthodox inspired terrorist spree, and perhaps the appeals of the Russian Communist Party may also find to adherents for a Red/Left terrorist crusade too – notwithstanding any “single issue” incidents not associated with any of the aforementioned as well.

"Orthodox Jihad" photo from DNR summer 2014

“Orthodox Jihad” photo from DNR summer 2014

Undoubtedly, there will be many voices within and surrounding the Ukrainian USDC and it’s new secretary, Olexandr Turchynov in particular, calling for radically expanded powers far exceeding any that may currently exist within any Ukrainian security doctrines – and he is a man, it has to be said, always willing to accept far greater power – for power’s sake.

As ominous as that paragraph may well read, whatever existed by way of security doctrines prior to 2014 are very probably in need of some serious review and overhauling.  Is what existed before, now fit for purpose in view of the threats that have – and may yet – manifest themselves in Ukraine?  Notwithstanding that, so infiltrated was, and remains, the security apparatus of Ukraine by the Kremlin, any security classification such doctrines hold, are quite meaningless – to the point publishing them in entirety and without redaction, would not tell the Kremlin anything it doesn’t already know.

It has to be said, also, that security doctrines are not something that can remain static.  They are something that to remain relevant, are required to be somewhat more of a “living document/plan/strategy”.  Such policy documents are subject to a great deal of thought of course.  Both by way of practicalities, as well as political, legal and also ethic constraints – including necessary, albeit often secretive oversight, when it comes to the implementation of such doctrines.  In the case of the UK, as Andrew Parker, DG of MI5 stated in a speech only a few days ago – the UK operates from a foundation of proportionality and necessity, not to mention political and legal oversight – and always will it do so, regardless of the issues facing MI5 and the frustrations that political, legal and ethical constraints may impose.

Thus Ukraine, its leadership, civil society, and the constituents of the nation themselves, face dilemmas when revamping the organisational and operational problems it faces within necessarily secretive agencies.

At what point is any threshold met when exceptional powers can be authorisied or indeed legislated to provide?  How elastically or rigidly can any interpretation of either existing or future legislation be without overreach?  How easy is a move from doing what may be justified but not legal, to doing what is legal and justified?  How capable are the generally feckless Ukrainian lawmakers of arriving at sensible legislation to meet the requirements of the nation regarding security, without carelessly/thoughtlessly/needlessly/recklessly trampling upon constitutional rights?  What and when is the appropriate level of intervention?  Which form does it take?  How solid should the information be to act?  The cost and cost effectiveness of any decision – particularly in the cash-strapped situation Ukraine finds itself within.  In a post-Maidan environment where demands for transparency, the containment and reduction of corruption, and increased adherence to constitutionally guaranteed human rights fire a great many in Ukrainian society and NGOs, how to deal with the necessary secrecy required whist being as transparent as possible?  There can be, after all, such a thing as too much transparency both within and without the national security realm.  What, when and with whom is sensitive information shared – domestically and internationally?  Who and how deals with oversight and operational auditing to insure legal compliance?  How to create a horizontal accountability trusted by society within and over agencies requiring secrecy, when despite the rhetoric, the goal of personal collation of power remains a post-Soviet hangover for those who will ultimately head them?

How to deal with all that when trust in the national leadership, from both within and without Ukraine, is not especially robust?  Notwithstanding trust within the leadership of current national coalition itself being somewhat lacking.

Undoubtedly the current and foreseeable future (looking long over the horizon) demands both urgent root and branch reform of not only those within the security services, but also reviews as to how they operate and within what policy parameters – legal, operational, political and ethical – as well as significant consideration as to  how those charged with independent oversight (be that done secretly where necessary, transparently when the situation allows), operate.  Questions that demand answers – but answers that can be anything but rushed, despite the urgency of the questions.

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