Posts Tagged ‘NATO’

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Ukrainian MIC to produce the M4 WAC47

January 3, 2017

Although it is perhaps not secret despite being secret, for quite some time the US has been toying with the idea of (limited) tech transfer to Ukraine with regard to matters MIC (Military Industrial Complex).

Issues that have prevented such (limited) transfers are not Ukrainian ability to produce weaponry from the transferred tech, nor those of any licencing limitations,  but its ability to prevent any tech transfer immediately being leaked to Russia.  Kremlin infiltration withing all institutions in Ukraine remains despite sweeps to remove the most obvious traitors from all institutions.

As is almost always the case, the most obvious infiltrators are not the most damaging.  Low hanging fruit etc.

Hence the tech transfer for the much mentioned Javelin (and other) weaponry providing Ukraine with the ability to manufacture its own remains in purgatory.

No surprises at the desire to assist Ukraine to arm itself vis a vis the obvious problems of a compromised and thoroughly infiltrated institutional structure with the latter prudently holding in abeyance the former.

Infiltration of Ukrainian institutions and structure is a problem that is not going to go away, but it is a problem that can be far better managed with a lot of work over the coming years.

However, there are MIC tech transfers and licencing that can occur whereby there are no or manageable classified issues to consider – thus predominantly only commercial issues are to be solved.

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It has come to pass that Ukrboronservis, part of the State Ukrboronprom monolith, is about to commence the manufacture of the M16 (or more accurately the M4 Carbine WAC47) in Ukraine in partnership with the US company Areoscraft.  The aim of this project is to equip the Ukrainian army with NATO standard weaponry produced in Ukraine by Ukraine and for Ukraine.

Messrs Vladimir Korobov (Ukrboronprom), Sergei Mykytyuk (Ukrboronservis) and Igor Pasternak (Areoscraft) made the very clear inference that the M4 WAC47 was the first weapon for this pilot project and cooperative agreement.  Ergo by inference there will be others, similarly of NATO standard.

The question is whether what follows this first project involves a tech transfer far more sensitive than how to manufacture, and licence the manufacture of, a M4 Carbine.  In short, how quickly and thoroughly can Ukraine reduce the amount of institutional and MIC Kremlin infiltration to a level that the US is prepared to transfer the tech and licencing for the manufacturing of weaponry more advanced than an M4 Carbine?

It appears the M4 WAC47 is set to become a Ukrainian produced standard piece of equipment for the Ukrainian military with the unambiguous intent of making its armed forces and its equipment interoperable with those of NATO.  A welcome step along an obvious MIC pathway – as stated in a less than flattering entry from February 2015.

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Pinchuk & the WSJ

January 1, 2017

It has to be said that Viktor Pinchuk of all the Ukrainian oligarchy has always been the most intriguing for this blog.

Firstly, compared to the others, Mr Pinchuk is actually a clever guy.  He had managed to become a multi-millionaire through his engineering creativity before marrying the daughter of former President Kuchma – and thereafter leveraging that marriage during the Kuchma epoch to move from being a multi-millionaire to a billionaire.

pinchuk

His time directly (rather than indirectly) in Ukrainian political life as a parliamentarian was really rather brief and began in the same year as his marriage to former President Kuchma’s daughter in 2002 and ended with the “Orange Revolution” of 2004/5 with Mr Pinchuk having backed Viktor Yanukovych.  Despite easily being able to buy his way into any parliament, he chose not to do so.

Since then his political influence has been indirect insofar as manifesting via parliamentarians both national and local that are loyal to him.  It should also be noted that “his people” are generally far more subtle than the drones of Kolomoisky, Firtash or Akhmetov.

He also has a penchant for collecting famous friends – The Clintons, Damien Hirst, Elton John etc.

In fact, aside from feeding from the State subsidy trough and self-interest indirect political machinations, Mr Pinchuk set about rehabilitating his image through philanthropy and his own foundation from 2006 onward with very little domestic public oratory or prose.

The annual YES conference is a Pinchuk brainchild that he funds – which in 2016 notably saw Mr Pinchuk pay Donald Trump to speak at (albeit a speech lacking in clarity and not without technical problems) via a video link despite his association with (and donations to) the Clintons for many years.

Perhaps a lesser known fact was that during the “Revolution of Dignity”, Mr Pinchuk funded the provision of medical supplies to treat the injured.

Aside from a few historical legal battles, most notably with Ihor Kolomoisky over assets, Mr Pinchuk rarely features in the news – unlike many of his peer oligarchs.  There is in fact very little that can be attributed to him personally by way of public statements or on the record oratory.  Clearly a deliberate policy on his part.

It was something of a surprise therefore when an article appeared in the WSJ, authored by, or ghost written and then attributed to, Viktor Pinchuk.  The article has ruffled many Ukrainian feathers, both political and societal, being prima facie interpreted as a plan for capitulation to The Kremlin.

In a nutshell he spoke (wrote) out in favour of elections in the “DNR” and “LNR” by politely forgetting about Crimea if it meant an end to the deaths in the occupied Donbas, the abandoning of any thoughts of joining NATO and the creation of a formal understanding that Ukraine would not be joining the EU any time soon.

Now to be fair, there are those on the Crimea Committee of the Verkhovna Rada, even of patriotic leaning, that have privately told the blog that they foresee Crimea returning to Ukraine only if the Russian Federation implodes in similar fashion to that of the USSR – and if that be so then the returning of Crimea will be an issue dwarfed by the ramifications of such an implosion for Ukraine more generally.

That said, there is none on the said committee that would advocate anything other than “Crimea is Ukraine” as a domestic and international policy – quite rightly.

With regard to the EU, as previously written the Association Agreement (and DCFTA) is not an instrument that takes Ukraine into the EU.  Only the completion of the Aquis Communautaire can do that – and that is a process Ukraine has not even asked to commence.  The simplest way to view the Association Agreement is as a document that brings “European norms” to Ukraine at a speed at which Ukraine can achieve them – ie it brings “Europe” to Ukraine at a speed and in chunks that Ukraine can handle/digest.  For Ukraine to go to the EU, an entirely different thing, then it is the Aquis that is the only route – a route more demanding than anything within the Association Agreement.

Likewise, whatever Ukraine may or may not do with NATO, it is currently a long way from being at a civilian and military standard by which it could join.

In short, Ukraine is decades away from meeting the requirements of the Aquis for EU accession – if it ever applies.  It is probably about a decade away from fully meeting the civilian and military standards required for NATO entry – should it ever ask to join.

Those are the bureaucratic realities and limitations of Ukrainian reformation and their speed – notwithstanding political limitations of those that would have to agree to any Ukrainian accession.  None of this is a secret.  The respective institutions know it.  The Kremlin knows it.  Ukraine knows it.  And Mr Pinchuk knows it.

The domestic angst naturally, insofar as NATO and the EU is concerned, comes from his call for codification of such matters and the legislative boundaries they would place upon Ukraine for at best, uncertain and ill-defined “gains”.  Peace at any cost does not bring peace – it brings an armistice fated to fail at some undetermined point in the future.

Why then, has Mr Pinchuk who rarely makes public statements, decided now is the time to make such a statement and one that is guaranteed to irk the public, the political class, and paint him as a Kremlin stooge domestically and among many of Ukraine’s “friends” abroad?

Is it a reaction to witnessing fellow oligarch Dmitry Firtash exiled to Vienna, or Ihor Kolomoisky lose PrivatBank to nationalisation, or seeing all oligarchs with fingers in high energy usage industries (including Mr Pinchuk) now subject to energy pricing that sees an end to subsidies/most favoured user status?  It seems somewhat unlikely.

Will the oligarchy now find common ground for a robust fightback against the government in 2017, and this is somehow Mr Pinchuk declaring unity?  Also somewhat unlikely.

Has Mr Pinchuk simply decided that giving in to The Kremlin is the only way to undo the current deadlock?  Maybe, maybe not.

Has he been bought off or manipulated by Moscow somehow?

As the chances of any of his WSJ points being implemented are currently very slim at best, and will make him extremely unpopular at home, how does Mr Pinchuk benefit from his unusual public intervention?

All questions to be asked.

Also to be asked are why make such statements now, and why chose the WSJ to do it in?

The answer may be that the article was written and published in the WSJ specifically for one reader.  That reader being Donald Trump.

It may well be that Mr Pinchuk has little belief that what he has written will become policy and be implemented.

He may well not believe that this is the right policy either.

However, just as with voting at the UN, it is not that uncommon to see some nations prima facie voting against their own interests in order to curry favour with others – in the full knowledge that the vote will be vetoed by yet another.

Maybe it was written to defend the business interests of Mr Pinchuk in the USA?

Perhaps the end result here, considering Mr Pinchuk’s penchant for collecting “friends” like the Clintons, Damien Hirst and Elton John etc, is that Mr Pinchuk may be seeking to become the Ukrainian “name” most liked and granted most access by Donald Trump – no differently than Nigel Farage is angling to get (and may succeed) more personal interaction with Donald Trump than UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

 

If Mr Pinchuk can achieve a personal status that grants him more access to Donald Trump (and a kinder ear) than President Porosehnko simply by writing something he believes Mr Trump would read agreeably within the WSJ, then he may feel it a gamble worth taking with the repercussions among Ukrainian domestic politics a prize worth chasing.

Perhaps a lens through which to view Mr Pinchuk’s rare public prose?  Perhaps all it takes is being a billionaire, a few well chosen (if never implemented) words in the WSJ agreeable to a personality like Mr Trump and suddenly Mr Pinchuk becomes “Don’s man in Ukraine”.

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Awaiting an unsanctioned Archduke Ferdinand moment?

November 11, 2016

An interesting event in the Balkans has been on the radar where coup plots and assassinations have seemingly reared their head.

The Ukrainian SBU claimed to have passed information leading to the arrest and deportation of Russians and Serbs that had apparently been involved or in the orbit of the occupied Donbas, had headed to Serbia with the intent of staging a coup in Montenegro storming government buildings and assassinating Prime Minister Djukanovic with the intent of installing a pro-Kremlin government.

The arrests in both Serbia and Montenegro, not to mention reaction within the national elites of both nations, seemingly sufficient to prompt an immediate flying visit from the head of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev and former FSB chief.

Attempts to manage the fallout subsequently followed with the usual denials and distractions and the general muddying of the waters in the public domain.

It is now claimed that diplomatic sources have revealed that this alleged attempted coup and assassination plot brought forth private apologies from Mr Patrushev and the assurances that it was not a Kremlin sanctioned action but rather a rogue operation.

Some or all of the above may be true, mostly true, partly true, but probably not entirely false.

However, unsanctioned actions are perhaps not surprising in the current Kremlin environment where there appears to be a lot of room for improvisation and risk taking for those on the overt or covert front line in order to get noticed and moved up.  When the official policy is plausible deniability, it becomes very easy to act knowing that such deniability is not only plausible but would also be genuine.

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And thus we perhaps await Europe’s next Archduke Franz Ferdinand moment – not through Kremlin design or sanction, but through a policy that may prove to simply have too little control for those improvising and risk taking to gain the “Tsar’s” attention.

Of course this may, and hopefully will not come to pass, but it seems something worth pondering upon the 11th day of the 11th month as we mark the armistice that ended World War I when there are so many potential Archduke stand-ins.

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The Kremlin merges Crimea with its Southern Federal District

July 28, 2016

August is a month that in recent years brings with it increased difficulties born of The Kremlin for Ukraine.  This combined with a major sporting event, which has also coincided with Kremlin shenanigans fairly frequently over the years would perhaps prompt a reader to expect a difficult few weeks ahead for Ukraine.  The entrails of the Rio Olympics in August perhaps do not read particularly well for Ukraine.

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The 28th July witnessed its first “August surprise” a few days early – albeit perhaps not the surprise it should/could have been.  President Putin signed a decree ending the Federal District of Crimea and merging it into the Southern Federal District.

Southern District in Blue (less Crimea)

Southern District in Blue (less Crimea)

The more astute observers may have predicted such a move based upon a previous decree placing the Southern Military District and Crimea under the command of Colonel General Alexander Dvornikov following his recall from leading the Kremlin’s Syrian campaign.

A matter of consolidating military command and control, and also public administration, by moving it away from the peninsula itself and placing its power centers within internationally recognised Russian territory.  The result being occupied Crimea now squarely falls within both military and administrative control of the respective civil and military Southern Districts of the Russian Federation based in Rostov-on-Don.

The reasoning behind the move has been cited as being necessary to “improve governance” – which is entirely plausible (although perhaps not the real reason for canceling the separate Crimean status when assimilating Crimea into the Southern District control apparatus) considering the exceptionally poor governance and administrative abilities displayed by the current “authorities” since 2014.

As yet the repercussions of the Crimean assimilation into the command structures of the Southern District, both military and civilian remain to be seen – perhaps the forthcoming Duma elections will provide some indication.

For sure whatever grubby political deals had been previously arranged within the peninsula may have to be renegotiated with those now in control from Rostov-On-Don.  Alternatively, perhaps those in Rostov-On-Don have an entirely different plan for the elites within its newly acquired administrative territory.

Either which way, and at the very least, there will now have to be accommodation for the “rent seeking” expected by those within the Rostov-On-Don machinery.  Money flows from “rent seeking” will have to be, at least in part, redirected.  Organised crime structures too may need to seek new accommodations within the power centers of the Southern District.

For Ukraine and the West, the question is now what to do about Crimean sanctions – a far simpler matter when it remained a distinct stand-alone administrative centre post the illegal annexation.  There are now questions to be asked  and answered as to whether they will extend to those within the Southern District’s that will undoubtedly violate the sanctions imposed regarding Crimea specifically.

For those “western” capitols already wavering regarding sanctions, this additional complication may prove to be too much – albeit it already seems unlikely 2017 will conclude witnessing a continued unity within the EU Member States.  That said, the issue of sanctions specifically applied to Crimea have never been subject to wobbles – the issue of wobbles has always related to the sanctions that were imposed that are not Crimea specific but caused by the on-going Kremlin actions within the occupied Donbas.

This change of Crimean circumstance will perhaps muddy the waters somewhat.

A reader may ponder what August will yet further bring – for the month of August rarely heralds anything good, but rather a deliberate concentration of ill-deeds from The Kremlin in recent years.

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Projection and messaging – A stiffening Sea Breeze

July 25, 2016

Prior to the active phase of Sea Breeze 2016, the 24th July saw the USS Ross take its turn in hosting a gathering of Ukrainian politicians (both national and local), a diverse collection of diplomats, military people from assorted international commands, think tankers et al.

Sea Breeze is a long standing exercise in the Black Sea involving the Ukrainian Navy.

It has become an annual event that a US naval vessel hosts canapes and drinkies whilst docked in Odessa during Sea Breeze exercises.  This blog is now a long standing annual Sea Breeze attendee having attended similar functions on the Donald Cook, USS Porter etc (once on a State Dept “distro list” there’s no getting off – fortunately as far as this blog is concerned for the “distro list” is not restricted to Sea Breeze invitations).

Thus having attended such events often it is easy to become somewhat nonchalant about the messaging US military hardware being docked in Odessa and conducting various drills at sea sends.  Military projection is part of the messaging of course – all Sea Breeze exercises are, notwithstanding their training and interoperability mission.

Nevertheless it can become much of a muchness if care is not taken to remind oneself of the necessity of the message being sent.  Employing a rather poor metaphor, the pitch, the tone and the volume historically being somewhat consistent around these exercises it is easy to become accustomed to it like the background noise of the television or radio.

This year however things feel different.

Indeed this year things are different.

Instead of one US naval ship docked in Odessa, there are two – for the first time.

The USS Ross is moored along side the USS Whidbey Island, forming part of a 14 nation, 26 vessel, 20 plane and helicopter, 50 military “equipment unit” and 4,000 soldier exercise.

Stern/aft of the USS Whidbey Island

Stern/aft of the USS Whidbey Island

This year is different because the USS Whidbey Island is a landing craft – and on Wednesday 27th Ukrainian and American troops will indeed be making amphibious landings, together with parachute drops together.

A somewhat significantly different message is being sent than the usual sub tracking/chasing, mine clearing etc exercises of past Sea Breezes – necessary as those exercises are.

Moreover, of all the considerable coastline Odessa has to offer to practice the joint US/Ukrainian amphibious landings and parachute drops, the chosen part of the coastline is that of the southwest of the Oblast – “Bessarabia” – immediately adjacent to the Kremlin controlled enclave of Transnistria in Moldova.

Amphibious landings in, and significant parachute drops on “Bessarabia” will send messages to several different recipients – as it is clearly designed to do.

There is the obvious and clear messaging to those within Transnistria – and beyond to the Kremlin – in deliberately choosing the “Bessarabian” coastline.

A reader can only ponder what MP (and uncrowned Tsar of Bessarabia) Anton Kisse thinks of such events occurring on what is very much perceived as his undisputed fiefdom – a fiefdom over which many in 2014 had serious “separatist” (read Kremlin instigated and supported) concerns.  Be those concerns unwarranted or otherwise, in some quarters those concerns are yet to abate.  A wily politician may, if inclined, see an unhealthy leverage in such circumstances.

It is perhaps worth pondering whether or not the simultaneously running exercise “South Wind”, aimed at testing the planning and management capabilities in case of Martial Law is running in parallel, or as a “bolt on” (officially or otherwise), or is an entirely unconnected affair.  There would be numerous message recipients internal and external of Ukraine if there became a perception of a link – real or otherwise – between the two simultaneously timed exercises.

Whatever the case, having experienced the chit chat and atmosphere circulating among the canapes and drinkies of many historical Sea Breeze exercises, it is quite clear that this year is different.  This year is very much about messaging – and messaging several recipients at different levels.

The messaging is meant to be blunt, clear and unambiguous – and is very likely to be received that way.

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UkrOboronProm awaits Cabinet OK for MIC ammo plant

July 10, 2016

What seems a very long time ago, albeit only 18 months, an entry appeared regarding the Ukrainian MIC (military industrial complex) and the then dismal state of affairs.  A very blunt appraisal of UkrOboronProm, the State weapons manufacturer, filled the prose.

Matters in various spheres have indeed improved since that entry, although there is a very long way to go.

Within the above linked entry was mention of the (then) future requirement to construct new facilities once the immediate manufacture, repair, bodge it and make do issues of that somewhat more desperate time had been managed.  It was no secret that the only ammunition plant in the nation was in Luhansk and is currently within the territory without the control of the authorities in Kyiv.

A significant Ukrainian MIC loss when engaged in a hot war with The Kremlin perhaps – or perhaps not.  After all, like all Soviet inheritance, post-Soviet authorities allowed the ammunition plant in Luhansk to remain poorly maintained (if at all) in a retarded 20th century industrial state despite the calendar having moved ever onward well into the 21st century.

Ukraine therefore required – and still requires – a functioning, efficient, fit for purpose, domestic ammunition plant within its MIC.

Opportunity presents itself to build a domestic ammunition plant fit for the 21st century – perhaps with some foresight, to build an ammunition plant fit for purpose throughout a significant part of the 21st century.

Credit where credit is due, UkrOboronProm under the leadership of Roman Romonov is far from the shambles it was when Kremlin aggression physically manifested.  Admittedly needs must, and there was no choice but to dramatically improve – but improvement needs to be managed nevertheless.

UkrOboronProm wasted little time in submitting 10 (yes ten) variations on a theme when it came to the construction and tooling of a new ammunition plant to the government.

The Cabinet has yet to decide upon which of the 10 (yes ten) variations submitted by UkrOboronProm it will authorise.

bullet press

Presumably all 10 (yes ten) variations constitute more than simply being basic industrial sheds containing little more than industrial bullet presses ranging through the calibres from artillery to small arms.

Hopefully some thought, considering such a plant will immediately become a strategic target, is also given to location, construction methods, ease of plant security, and ability to defend it.  That notwithstanding the employment and social benefits (or consequences) such a MIC plant brings with it that may also influence location.

Clearly the continuing delay by the Cabinet (or to be fair, Cabinets past and present) to make a decision upon which variant will be built continues to retard the recovery and development of the Ukrainian MIC – all of which will ultimately need to be upgraded and see significant investment to cure it from is post-Soviet legacy of neglect.

Of all the major and prickly decisions the Cabinet of Ministers has taken, and will subsequently take, it seems improbable that which variant of 10 (yes ten) ammunition plant plans will be one of the most difficult – so make the decision!

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Decree No296/2016 – Euro-Atlantic Coordination Commission

July 9, 2016

With the Warsaw NATO Summit now winding down (and congratulations to friend of this blog Slawomir Debski (and PISM) for organising what appears to have been a well administered event), whether a reader agrees or disagrees with the rhetorical and/or tangible outcomes, Saturday 9th was for Ukraine the bigger of the two days.

What was said “on the fringes” and “behind closed doors” may or may not become known (or leaked) in the coming days and weeks, but what catches the eye in the public domain is Presidential Decree 296/2016 – for it creates a domestic body aptly named the “Euro-Atlantic Coordination Commission”.  A dedicated oversight body.

In a very short summary, its purpose is to create an entity that will monitor, analyse and evaluate the speed and trajectory of Ukraine along the path to meeting (the most basic of) NATO standards across all necessary spheres – both military and civilian.

The goal is clearly meeting NATO membership criteria – regardless of whether Ukraine pursues membership, or whether it ever manifests should it choose to do so.  Whatever the case, without meeting those most basic standards membership will certainly not materialise, no differently to any goal of EU membership should Ukraine decide to apply when far closer to meeting those standards (thus at least one decade in the case of NATO, possibly two for the EU – if (glacial) momentum can be maintained).

Ergo, the domestic coordination of (more or less the same) central legislature, State institutions, and other public bodies required for Ukraine to meet its EU Association Agreement and DCFTA obligations will also apply for NATO.

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze

Common sense (which is sadly not that common) dictates that Deputy Prime Minister Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze, who is tasked with the EU integration mandate, also has her portfolio expanded to include the NATO mandate – and lo, it has come to pass that common sense has won the day.

As stated when the new Cabinet of Ministers was unveiled in mid-April, the creation of a VPM to specifically deal with EU integration, and the appointment of Ms Klympush-Tsintsadze in particular to that role, was perhaps the highlight of the new Cabinet.

Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze is a clever woman.  She views issues with very clear eyes.  She is not prone to populism.  She speaks directly.  She is also quite likable.  She is also one of the few that enjoys support across the schism within the broad “Church of Reform” in Ukraine – a schism that has now made a notable move as predicted.  All very necessary traits given the role she has been given, and taken on.

What seems fairly clear, is that she believes that it is far less important for Ukraine to enter “Europe” (however you define that), than it is for “Europe” enter Ukraine – metaphorically speaking.

Her mantra appears to be that it is for Ukraine to introduce and adopt the European values and practices it deems necessary for national development.  European integration is therefore bringing “Europe” in terms of values and practices to Ukraine and not vice versa, attempting to take Ukraine to Europe..  A particularly wise framing of matters, despite the subtleties and nuances of such a mind-set oft being missed.   Such a view firmly places the responsibility for European integration upon her domestic colleagues and not the Europeans – quite rightly.

It would therefore seem quite probable that she will take a similar view regarding her new expanded portfolio regarding NATO – not to bring Ukraine to NATO, but to bring the NATO ethos and standards to Ukraine – similarly regardless of whether Ukraine eventually joins or not.

A significant question however, is the scope of NATO integration on offer, and how to benchmark progress toward fully achieving that (unknown) level of integration?

The EU Association Agreement and DCFTA has a clear and unambiguous structure and path to accomplishment – it is therefore measurable, and thus allows for domestic tactical and policy tweaks where necessary toward obligation fulfillment.

Naturally the current leadership of Ukraine, in the absence of NATO membership, would desire to achieve the nearest thing to it – a partnership so close as to be NATO membership minus Article 5.  Undoubtedly this would have to be the starting position of Ms Klympush-Tsintsadze when framing issues in her own mind – certainly when it comes to coordinating matters internally of Ukraine.

Another question will be how long she will remain in post, and how far she can progress matters during that time.

It may very well be that the summer witnesses a drop in early Verkhovna Rada election rhetoric – but the Autumn and a new Verkhovna Rada session will undoubtedly see that rhetoric scale new heights.  Given her apparent support across the “reformist church” schism, whatever transpires, she may survive in post – but she certainly will not remain in post for the decade it will take to holistically meet all basic NATO standards (notwithstanding two decades to meet EU standards and the acquis communautaire which sets a higher bar than the existing Association Agreement and DCFTA toward which Ukraine labours).

Currently at least, questions of scope, achieve-ability, timeliness and measurement cast a shadow over what is otherwise a common sense Presidential Decree, decision and appointment.

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