Ukraine: No Longer as Mighty

FOLLOWING ITS DECLARATION OF INDEPENdence in 1991, Ukraine claimed all of the military hardware on its territory and demanded that soldiers serving there take an oath of loyalty, changing Europe’s entire military balance. After Russia, Ukraine had the largest military force in Europe – but Kiev’s relations with Moscow were strained and its leaders unproven. Soon, however, it became apparent that, for all its numbers in military equipment and personnel, the vast army was not a threat to European security, but rather a liability to Ukraine. Kiev could not afford either to maintain it or to demobilize it. In addition, disputes with Russia over former Soviet property, particularly the Black Sea Fleet, contributed to worsening relations. Unsure of the country’s security and facing severe financial restraints, Ukrainian political and military leaders repeatedly changed their minds about the purpose and form of the armed forces. As a result, the huge military machine that caused concern in 1992 is no longer considered a serious threat.