EVENT TRANSCRIPT: An Update on Ukraine and on UK-Ukraine Relations
DATE: 7 December 2020, 4:00pm – 5:00pm
SPEAKER: Lt. Col. (Ret.) Glen Grant
EVENT MODERATOR: Dr Alan Mendoza
Natalia Taranenko 01:12
Okay, perhaps I’ll start. Hello everyone and a very warm welcome to our annual lecture. I’m Natalia Taranenko. I’m the Deputy Director of British Ukrainian aid. We are a grassroots registered charity. We offer humanitarian and medical aid to people who have been physically mentally or socially disadvantaged, as a result of the war in Ukraine. We’re very grateful to all of you for attending today’s event. We rely solely on our own fundraising efforts and if you’d like to support our cause, you can send your donations through our website: British-UkrainianAid.org. Today’s lecture is an update on Ukraine and UK-Ukraine relations. We are delighted to welcome our guest speaker Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Grant, a security and defence reform expert from the Ukrainian Institute of The Future, who will help us to understand the current environment in Ukraine. The event will be moderated by Dr Alan Mendoza, a founder and the executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, he coordinates the analysis, research focus, strategy and development of the organization. We’d like to thank the Henry Jackson Society for hosting us. And Alan, thank you very much for moderating today. The floor is yours.
Dr Alan Mendoza 02:47
Thank you, Natalia, wonderful to be here and doing this event with the hammer drag society, of course, with British Ukrainian aid. And delighted of course, Glenn, that you are our guest speaker today. I mean, you’ve seen Glenn’s biography, I won’t go through it in depth. But you know, there’s hardly a country you haven’t worked with in Europe, I believe, certainly in Eastern Europe, when it comes to reform, when it comes to ideas, when it comes to trying to make a difference to those countries’ policies going forward. And I think obviously, Ukraine has been one of your main focuses. I am delighted that you’re here to talk about an update on Ukraine. And while Glenn is speaking, you will be able to ask questions as well, there’s a Q&A button at the bottom of your screens. If you’d like to ask a question, pop it on there. And we will try and get around to as many of you in the queue and a bit to start with. But for now, I’m going to pass the floor over to our distinguished guests. Glenn, give us your thoughts on an update about where Ukraine is today.
Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Grant 03:48
Alan, thank you very much. Before I start to think about things, people, and welcome to everybody, I’ve got an extremely dry throat. So if I stop the top of my throat (inaudible) into my mouth, I’m not being rude. I’m just trying to keep going. And the second thing is that if I say something, especially for the Ukrainians amongst you, that you find difficult, then please don’t shout at me in the question time, come back, come onto my Facebook or on my email, which you can get afterwards and write to me and then we can have a discussion about it. Because I’m sure there will be things that I do say that are uncomfortable. Why am I in Ukraine? While I was the first advisor to Ukraine after the war started, I was invited by the Ministry. And basically, I’ve been there ever since not in the ministry, but in Ukraine working either for the US, for the UK or as a volunteer. And now, of course, I’m working for the Ukrainian Institute for The Future. So I’m being paid by Ukrainians, actually Members of Parliament to have me there and keep me there. What do I do there? Well, in the institute at my little desk, then I work on reform matters, political matters, security matters. And I write quite a lot of things. And some of you will have seen them on KF posts and things. I’m also the defence and security advisor to the parliament. The committee, the main needs the committee there, and I work a lot with NGOs and activists, working as a mentor, and supporter, especially for those supporting the front line. And that fills quite a lot of my time when I’m in Ukraine. Ukraine, well, the country at the moment is in a mess politically. You can ask Ukrainians, you don’t need that from me, there’s still a big battle going on between the post-Soviet corrupt mentality, old society and organizations and the growing numbers of Western-leaning, and I would call it Christian society. And of course, both those two types of things are directly opposite to one another. And so there is always tension between those who think we should do things, right. And those who are trying to do things to get money.
But when you look at this, it’s not easy to see what’s happening. I liken it to a kaleidoscope. The colours stay the same, but the picture keeps changing. And when you look at it from outside, you’re never quite sure exactly what you’re looking at. And as my colleague in Iraq, he always says nothing in Ukraine is as it seems. And I find that all the time. And the two drivers in government appear to be personal power, and personal enrichment. And the one thing I’ve learned there is that you need to know someone for a long time to be sure of them. And that of course works both ways. Foreigners are not really trusted until they prove themselves. So what have we got? Well, we’ve got I’m not going to call him a new president. He’s been there a year, Zelensky. And he’s got a weak and a Russian leaning team. And he was told this by MI5. His deputy acts as a de facto Deputy President, de facto but not de jure. And at the moment, the President’s administration is actually acting as the government, not the government. So they’re making most of the decisions or doing most of the things. And the government itself, I’m afraid, does very little, except popping up every now and again, with decisions that most people are unhappy with, especially financial ones. And the good Mr. Zelensky, he says lots of things that sound good, but unfortunately does the opposite. And there are far too many examples of that with the security services, with corruption. And with the removal of oligarchs that, of course, nothing has happened at all during his 12 months, and actually no pressure on them, if anything, the reverse. So if you go into social media, and many of you do, you will see that there is hardly any support for Zelensky at all. And that is on Facebook, or Twitter. And in fact, it doesn’t matter what he says at the moment. The replies to his works, whether they’re good works, good words or otherwise are usually deeply cynical. Cynical, because people know that his team is basically not doing what they should do for Ukrainian society. But of course, the polls are giving him 40% and this is primarily because he’s quite good in the media. He comes over very well to the normal person. He comes over well and he has good lines to say. And he’s well supported by the media that is owned by the Russian leaning people like Medvedchuk, and by the oligarchs. And so he gets good FaceTime on television to the normal populace. And he doesn’t bother trying to sell anything on Facebook, although he does on Twitter. But a lot of the things that he puts on Twitter are only to that part of the population that already doesn’t like him. So he’s not going anywhere with that. So that’s Zelensky. Poroshenko, the last president, is still in the game. Lots of people still like him. Lots of people don’t like him because they know that he stole from the army and that basically he lied to society. And this comes back every now and again and bites him, as does the fact that he still has factories in the Crimea and factories inside Russia. And a lot of people don’t like that. He said he wouldn’t do things like this, but he’s continued to do them. The good news is that society is getting stronger. You can see this by the amount of people writing sharp things on Twitter and Facebook, and in all other bits of social media. And you can see it by the fact that there is no longer that attitude of deferring to power and greatness in a large part of the population. That is going away. Now, whether that will have any effect on the country in the short term, I don’t know. But certainly, for me as a media watcher, I can actually see the numbers growing and I can see the sharpness of the unhappiness of people about government growth. There are new political teams coming. And people are actually beginning to group together to form political parties, especially around people like Klitschko who is the mayor of Kiev, and some of the former politicians who are not now in politics. But at least there is something starting. And there are more names around now than there were, for example, before Zelensky was made president. The bad news for society is that there are still trumped up charges against activists and ex-soldiers. And a large one being the the Antonenko case of a soldier who is being held for murder, although there is virtually nothing that you could call evidence by a Western standard. That’s in the Sheremet case. So the judicial system remains corrupt. And those of you who have been following know that recently, the Constitutional Court actually did away with several of the anti=corruption measures. And now, this has caused many problems with the IMF and the IMF money. And it’s caused many problems with the country. Because it looks as though now a lot of people who have stolen money will now get away with it. Because the parliament today or yesterday, yesterday, I believe, bought it. No, not yesterday, Friday, bought in an amendment to this law. But it weakens, it weakens the effectiveness of it. So if you’ve stolen lots of things already, there is a high chance you’re going to keep them and of course in society COVID is growing, the numbers are growing, the pressure on the hospitals is growing. And there’s no real understanding of the response, especially how to maintain economics during this time. And apparently how to get oxygen to most of the hospitals as well. And a large number of the hospitals are struggling with just the very basics that they need to actually deal with the COVID virus. Moving on to defence. We had after Poroshenko, a good United Kingdom, United States educated minister and Rosa Garodnick, who didn’t last very long. He started to bear down on corruption and was obviously putting his finger on the money as they say and he was duly sacked by Zelensky. The feeling is that this was actually done by the Chief of Defence Korniychuk, who doesn’t actually like or didn’t actually like Zakharov. And of course hometrack is Zelensky’s man. And so Zelensky actually, therefore, followed the path of the non elected official against a proper official, which isn’t a good thing for democracy. Then Minister Taran came in. He was previously before he retired, a defence attaché to the United States. So officially he’s got a good Western background. But on coming in, he immediately removed the United Kingdom funded reform office that had been there for several years. And the UK trained head of internal audit, and her UK trained team. He sacked the reform minded deputy ministers except to who I will class as being anti-Western. And he kept them. He changed the payrolls for soldiers, so that anyone firing back on the frontline gets punished financially. For writing about the fighting, they are actually threatened now with prison. All those things are really quite seriously anti-West, you could say. But despite this, I’m reliably informed by his friends that he is very pro-Western, and pro-NATO. And I would say that he talks a good talk, but his actions are not necessarily in accord with this. My volunteer friend who is a member of the Kharkiv Parliament, says the soldiers on the front line will do their duty for Ukraine, but are now in a state of deep unhappiness, as effectively they have a one sided ceasefire. The Russians are still attacking Donbass four to five times a day most days. And they’re winning these, only at the end of November last week of November. There was another soldier killed by snipers. And there have been quite a few injured. Officially for November, it says four injured. But unofficially, people are writing that the hospitals that aren’t close to the frontline are actually still full of injured people. So there is now no trust whatsoever in the official lines from what they call the anti terrorist headquarters as it used to be about what is actually happening on the front. But Russia is still there. There may be officially a ceasefire and the President has said the ceasefire has now been going on for some 178 days or something of that sort. And nobody’s been killed, which of course is not true. But Russia is acting long term, and it’s still reinforcing Donbass, with more equipment and bringing in ammunition by train now. You don’t bring in ammunition by train unless you intend to use it. It is expensive to shift ammunition around. And so one has to assume that Russia is still preparing itself for something larger than just the skirmishes and almost police actions now that are happening on Donbass. Russia is still using Donbass to try out new electronic systems and drones and to to work at more sophisticated ways of using drones. And they’re using it for training courses for things like sniper courses, bringing the snipers there, and actually letting them in, on real ground and on against a real enemy, to try and kill people. Crimea? Well, there is no water in Crimea. Maybe it will start raining soon, but at the moment, it’s dry. And the President’s team keeps trying to find ways to give Russia water. And they’re often dropping hints and ideas of how to do it. There was a suggestion that they were going to sell the water rights off publicly so that they could blame a public company for actually sending water to Crimea. And that will be their ambition to support Putin by putting water into Crimea. But the public has been 100% against this. And every time there’s any hint of this, then there is a huge outcry. And usually people march on either the President’s office or Parliament to actually say we don’t like this. So I don’t see water being put in there for a while. But maybe a wet winter will save Putin’s grace for another six months or so. And Putin is also filling Crimea with immigrant Russians. And of course with military units. The number of military units continues to grow and the big thing they are doing in Russia is of course attacking in every way possible the Tatar nation, and Tatars are being arrested on trumped up charges and have been taken to court for nothing and put in prison. And this is on an almost daily basis. And those who have businesses are losing their businesses. So it’s, it’s, it’s not, it’s not Stalin type exportation of Tartars. But I think that if the international community would not outcry if Putin did, he would do so again. So let’s move on to the UK. So Zelensky came to the UK, and he said lots of fine words. And he walked around, he shaked lots of hands, and he was very happy. So we now have a UK agreement with Ukraine. I have to say that the embassy is very active, and was very active to make this work. And it’s very active, publicly, trying to actually push this agreement around. And the ambassador is doing a sterling job. I see no results yet, but she’s working hard on it. We also had a defence deal for eight missile boats. And this, as a military man, I would say this was a good deal for Ukraine. But it was not a deal that welcomed the General Staff. And the General Staff want to build big boats. In fact, the Chief of Defence actually wrote today that what he wants as his primary task is his four big ships. Why does he want this? Well, the view of most people is that it’s got nothing to do with the military or tactics. But it’s to do with business and making money. In other words, there is money to be made with big ships. There is no money to be made for people with little ships that are made in Britain and are then made under British supervision. The money is therefore tight. So not only is the chief of defence actually asking for big ships, he is actually downplaying the British offer. And in fact, Zelensky when he came back, having agreed to this British offer while he was in Great Britain, then went straight to Turkey and talked to the Turks about making cruisers. Well, of course, there’s no money in Ukraine for this. So there’s a lot of strange things going on there. And I think, although people talk about, you know, our relationship with the Navy and how we’re going to move forward, what people need to remember or understand is that the Navy Commander in Ukraine is not a commander, as we understand, he has no power, he has no budget. All the decisions for the Navy are made by the Chief of Defence and the General Staff and agreed on or not by the Ministry of Defence. So the embassy will have to work with extreme care, to actually keep this project on track. Because I would say the vultures are already gathering after the money. And lastly, I will talk about UK business. I have one line for UK business, which is to let the buyer be aware. I would say that the government in Ukraine cannot be trusted. So don’t enter into deals with officialdom. They already have reneged on a deal of green energy. And there are currently a lot of companies effectively using the Ukrainian government for money. I’m trying to get the money that the Ukrainian government has promised, but that is not forthcoming. So there have been investments. But now those best investments are not actually delivering because of the government. There are a lot of companies courting China to get easy money. And a lot of them were there last week for the Ukraine China exhibition if you want to call it that. And I don’t see that as being necessarily a good thing for the UK. One Chinese company bought shares in the large aircraft engine maker motor search. The US objected to this because Motor City has got a lot of things that are needed by the West. And the government took the shares back so now the Chinese are now taking the Ukrainian government to court over this. The good news is that the World Trade Center, which of course is a major international organization, has just granted a license to Ukraine. And WTC represents trust and sound money. So I would say if you’re going to think about working in Ukraine, you should work through that organization if you can. There are many old and unreformed companies seeking money and partners, and I would recommend any UK business. Don’t touch them, especially in heavy industries like shipbuilding and old style manufacturing, they’ve still got all the old equipment, all the old heavy buildings that cost a fortune. And in most cases, the old staff. Yes, some of them have got patents that may be worth getting hold off, because there are some very clever people in those older Soviet companies. But in a lot of cases, they haven’t patented the ideas. One of the things from motor search that the Chinese were after was all the patents in aircraft engines, of which there were a lot but there are a lot of new and good companies in agriculture, food and defence, who work in western ways and have good prospects. And I would say almost that the further West you go, the more of those you will see. So heading towards Lviv. If you’re in and around Lviv. Lviv is thriving. He can’t drive a car through life in a hurry. And the businesses around there are thriving because they’re close to the European Union. And they’re working in and out of the European Union. The bad news is that there is still a border, the European Union border between Ukraine and the European Union. And the lorry queues are huge. I took a video a couple of weeks ago as I drove past, and I drove for eight and a half minutes past lorries. And I was driving about 100 kilometers an hour. So you can work out how long that is if you’re a mathematician. So what I would say in summary, having been there for six years working and living, I would say that Ukraine is a country of great people, and a huge opportunity. But it’s in a mess, not helped by Russia. Greedy oligarchs still post Soviet thinking, corruption, and a poor legal system that is working against the country. And a generally good and wonderful but terribly naïve population. If you are involved yourself in Ukraine, please do come. But you need to have your eyes very wide open. Thank you.
Dr Alan Mendoza 27:47
Thank you, Glenn. I’m not sure when we’re going to ask questions to the audience a bit later. If you’d like to ask one you can. There’s plenty of things to talk about. I’m going to pick up a few things, though. And I’m not sure if you’re looking at this glass half full or glass half empty. Good question. Yes. Are you positive or not?
Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Grant 28:08
It’s a good question. If you look at it in terms of government, then it’s a cloth, a glass quarter full, and no more. Because they just refuse it from parliament. Never. They just refuse steadfastly to do things that they should do properly. And that’s for all sorts of reasons, whether it’s oligarchs who don’t want to see their money flows touched, whether it’s foolishness, whether it’s just a complete lack of understanding of how to write law, lots of them, lots of the parliamentarians are new and young. And they really don’t know what a good law looks like, because nobody’s ever shown them one. So they accept what they’re given. And a lot of those things are actually dire, to say the least, the security service law included such great lines as take all measures necessary, which I pointed out to to in the committee meeting that this actually means you can kill someone if you think it’s necessary, because the law lecture, and they went No, no, no, no, no, it doesn’t mean that and I said, well, then but it says that, and when the law said something, that is what the law says. So I go back to them, government, quarter full civil society, beyond half full and growing. I was more worried a year ago, there was a lot of tiredness a year ago and a lot of the I’m going to say that the stronger volunteers were really beginning to weaken. But funny in a funny way that the things that Zelensky has done have annoyed them again. And so now there’s a strengthening and and a hardening of position amongst a lot of people then. You know, we have one that we didn’t like. Now we’ve got another one we don’t like. But I didn’t mention Maidan, which is interesting for the whole thing. But most do not want to go to the Maidan. And they want to be seen as a western country, and they want to vote Zelensky out, which is an interesting observation from me that, but he may not last, he may not last if he keeps doing things that really, really, really do annoy people, then that could bubble over.
Dr Alan Mendoza 30:33
If it bubbles over in that way, I mean, as you’ve just pointed out, that’s all a normal way for democracies to continue to operate. You can’t keep on having revolutions on the streets. You know, you’ve sort of every five years or so, what’s going wrong in the sort of, if you like in the administration of government, is it a quarter full? What is it just simply out of experience? Is it vested interest, what’s the one thing you think that could make a big difference here and prevent this cycle from reoccurring, and as you say, bring it to another election cycle, rather than –
Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Grant 31:05
Getting rid of the Russians out of government will be the first thing I mean, there are too many, too many Russian leaning people in government. And the second one is getting rid of those who are corrupt, in government who’ve got huge houses that they’ve never earned. And there are quite a few of those. I’m just making the law that, you know, people actually have to not just declare what their declarations, but there should be some form of recompense to the country if they’ve got something that they clearly cannot avert, such as I mean, that the head of the the main investigation department in the in the security service, who is an official, and earns official pay has got a million pound house, and a couple of large cars and lots of other bits and bobs. I mean, he’s earned that by theft, and corruption. And then there is no other way he could have got that. But he’s left there. And that’s the problem. When you’ve got people like that who are left there, they continue to do the bad things, they don’t stop, they don’t suddenly become nice to the population or anything. Their job, as I said earlier, is to get money. The problem is that this is how the government was in 91. And it stayed like this, nobody stopped it. So all the organs of government are still not working well, for the public. There are glorious exceptions, like the changes to the passport office, and the way that they produce passports for people much quicker and much better. But if you go around the system as a whole, you’re still talking about paper based systems for things that should have been put online a long time ago. And in the paper based system, very often Someone has to go into the room, pay money to get to the front of the queue or wait another six or five weeks that is still going on. Yay. I drove to Kiev, only three weeks ago, stopped by the police and told them it infringed traffic laws, and it was going to cost me 50 Euros. When I said no, it’s not going to cost me 50 Euros because even if I did infringe the traffic laws, it would only be a 10 Euro offence at best. So I’m not paying. They said well 10 Euros then. And I said I don’t have any money. I only use a card. Then they said Are you a tourist? I said no, I’m not a tourist, I work with your parliament. At that point. They got very uneasy and said well, okay, he handed me back my documents and said, okay, you can go but just drive safely in the future. So that was only three weeks ago. So if they’re doing that, to me, they’re doing it to everybody else. You know, this is still a money making organization.
Dr Alan Mendoza 34:08
Right? So how do you change that? you’ve highlighted what needs to be done. How do you get that? Is it really just having the right people in government?
Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Grant 34:17
This is a power based society and therefore it comes from the President. And if the President doesn’t actually set standards and doesn’t actually lay out clearly what it is he wants, then it doesn’t happen. And you know, there are lots of people who are actually suggesting that the presidential style of Parliament needs to go and that they should have a Parliament and a Government and no President or at best a President with handshaking authority and nothing else. But of course that means changing the Constitution. And that means a lot of very, very difficult work and it would not get by the current parliament. Because there are too many people for whom the constitution as it is, brings them some goodies. So we’re in a bit of a vicious cycle there and until the public actually elects the right people, maybe next time, maybe another, another four year round before the right people get in there. But you know, I am positive and quite happy that this will happen. But it’s just going to take time.
Dr Alan Mendoza 35:32
Would you say part of the oligarchs still have excessive influence? In your view?
Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Grant 35:38
Yes, yes, they do very much so, very much.
Dr Alan Mendoza 35:41
How do you cut that down to size?
Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Grant 35:43
It is only by having good laws. And by not allowing, and by making sure that institutions like the monopolies commission, do not give them monopolies and break up the monopolies that they have. And until they do things like that, then you’re always going to have oligarchs who buy stuff up, I mean, you know, maybe a law that, certainly and media, they badly need a law that does not allow oligarchs to hold more than a certain percentage in any media company, not to actually to own it, so that nobody can actually shift the independence of media. And that’s a law that needs to go through. But of course, at the moment, because Zelensky is relatively weak, and his Green Party is relatively weak, he could not get that through Parliament.
Dr Alan Mendoza 36:38
Right. And I suspect there are fears anyway, there are certain oligarchs he’s close to so there’s a relationship. I’ve got two more questions, and we’re gonna open up the floor. So do ask your points. And just to remind you what will actually come to you and ask you to speak your question out, and my colleagues in the back room will approach you to speak. That’s the first one, Glenn is obviously dealing with the ongoing situation, the east, what prospects in 2021 is there of a fundamental change to that situation, or are we basically, in a stasis situation going forwards, as far as we can see?
Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Grant 37:13
I think we’re in stasis. And we’re in stasis, because Russia is actually winning internally in Ukraine, in many areas, and therefore, it does not make them upset that they keep the military unhappy by killing one every now and again, I’m sure it’ll be one or two a month that they work at. And that keeps this tension between society, and Zelensky. Because the lens is trying to say that we have this nice ceasefire, and it’s working and look how not so many people are dying, whilst on the front line, they know that the Russia is still reinforcing, the separatists are being supported, to actually to push the lines forward and strengthen them, making it much harder if there’s ever a counter attack. And to not allow Ukraine to actually have any sort of settling in the Donbass. So they’re not settled. And it’s still going on, it’s still eating Ukrainian resources. And the army, in that respect is getting weaker. Because of course, for six months, every year, brigades are doing nothing, except standing on guard is just the same for most of them, as if they were standing outside a nightclub in Kiev, except it’s standing outside a nightclub in Kiev, waiting to be killed, and you’re not allowed to do anything. So they don’t get any training during those six months. They’re just standing there rotating, in many cases just getting really, really unhappy. And lots of them have left this year, big numbers. And lots of them will almost certainly leave next year. Because the Ministry of Defence and the General Staff are doing nothing in moral terms, to change anything. In fact, they’re reinforcing the political side, which is you can’t fire back. That does not help the moral strength of the armed forces at all.
Dr Alan Mendoza 39:33
When you say leaving, do you mean deserting or leaving?
Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Grant 39:35
Not just signing off. Because they’re on contracts. So a lot of the boys are only on one year contracts, one year, two year, three year and they just leave when it’s their time. They just go understandably under those and in that case it’s really expensive for the army because you’ve got to recruit someone else and train someone else. And the quality is not always as good as the people that are leaving.
Dr Alan Mendoza 39:57
My final question for this section is: when we look at the UK angle, and I’m pleased to speak about the UK angle, I think that’s helpful. Of course, given we are having this conversation, at least at this end in the UK, what more of a role do you think the UK can play in trading and reform terms? And I suppose, I guess, you know, for lack of a better word, alliance terms with Ukraine in the next year, particularly, of course, post Brexit.
Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Grant 40:24
That’s interesting. The UK has been particularly strong actually. And I’ve actually been quite proud of the attempts to work and help. And, the big thing that they did was a parachute jump near Odessa, earlier in the year, when a parachute company jumped into one of the training areas. And that was really seen seriously by society. And that was a huge boost to civil society that we were actually there. So something like that is a good thing. And anything public that the boys can do, I mean, we are doing exercises, and we are doing stuff. But a lot of those. A lot of the things we do are just the same as from other countries are what I will call a ‘hand in the water job’, you put your hand in the water, you take it out, because the boys, the soldiers, the boys and girls in the Ukrainian army are not allowed to use the skills that they’ve got. I mean, you can’t use it if you’re on guard, you can’t use mobile warfare skills or anything else. There is a second thing which is a problem area for us, which we need to somehow think our way round in that we change over the people that are supporting the Ukrainians too quickly. And so nobody ever gets time to learn the terrain, learn the ground, make friends and actually gain trust. And I mean, one of the things for me is that having been there six years, I am only now with some people beginning to get, you know, actual contact from people who are writing to me, they’ve accepted that I’m serious, it’s taken six years of being here to be serious, and writing every day and being on television. So if you’re only there for six months, and you’re only cast against a few of the soldiers for six months or a bit of training, then it helps. But it doesn’t really help much. It’s almost like fixing the symptom rather than the cause. So we’re not actually digging in and helping with the reform, as much as we could be. We need to tick, but we need to keep engaged. If we’re going to be in the UK, we need to keep engaged. And we need to keep positive for civil society. And not think that the government is Ukraine because the government isn’t Ukraine, civil society is Ukraine. And all those people that some people find difficult to shout about things and they’re unhappy. Those are the real Ukrainians who want the future of Ukraine to be Western and positive. I always say look at the eyes. You can see when you look at the eyes, do they have eyes of Ukraine? Or do they have eyes of the Soviet Union and post Soviet times? And so often, I’m afraid you can actually tell by the sharpness and the look in the look in the eyes.
Dr Alan Mendoza 43:33
Right, thank you for that. Glenn. What we will do now is take two questions from Euan Grant firstly.
Euan Grant 43:52
Thank you very much, Euan Grant, no relation, former law enforcement intelligence analyst who’s worked in EU missions in Ukraine, and certainly quotes Tom Clancy, who in his last book before his death, covered Odessa and always made the comment, there’s no substitute for looking someone in the eye. Glenn, great to hear from you again. My question is, who is listening in NATO and across Brussels, in the European external action service, and the member states of the EU, in adjusting and adapting and dealing with the challenges you have mentioned? Who’s listening to you? And who’s listening to the positive elements in Ukraine?
Dr Alan Mendoza 44:50
Christopher Goodwin, I will ask a question in the case you are unable to unmute, it’s a pretty simple one on foreign affairs. How did Ukraine react to the recent presidential election in Belarus? So those are your two questions, Glenn, for this round, we’ll come to the next set, probably take three next round.
Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Grant 45:20
Okay, on the who is listening question, I would say not enough. And in the US probably more than in the UK. In the US, certainly there are a couple of foundations like Jamestown Foundation, who are very strong in listening to what I’ve got and what other volunteers and other leading speakers are doing in Ukraine. And Jamestown does quite a good job of them pushing that information around to people. And our good Chris Donnelly and UK, of NATO, former NATO foe. And Chris is quite positive, and listens and also pushes things around. But there is a danger, the danger with everybody that people don’t want to hear things that are uncomfortable at all. And so you know, that this sort of comment comes back with you know, this is an interesting viewpoint. And how many times have I heard someone say, this is an interesting viewpoint? Too many is the answer. And that means we hear you but we don’t actually want to take on board what it is you’re saying that there’s also the other problem that I think that the diplomatic community tends to look backwards rather than forwards. And I include in that NATO as well. So they don’t want to spoil their projects, they don’t want to spoil their promotion, they don’t want to spoil anything by saying that we’re totally ineffective in some areas. And this isn’t working, that our project hasn’t worked. I mean, who wants to say that they’ve just done a project for 18 months, and it hasn’t worked? The answer is nobody. But this is a problem, this lack of reality, and real realism, runs through too many things. It’s that looking backwards, so we put a good shine on it. But it’s not necessarily true. I hope that answers my question. The second one is really interesting, because of course the election hasn’t yet finished, as we know. And the opposition, keep being asked by people in Ukraine, and by other interlocutors, what do you think of Crimea? And they’re refusing to actually give pro Ukrainian answers. And so there is a certain degree of unhappiness about this, because they just look at it and say, Well, you know, one side can be one side and oligarchs supported by Russia and the other side will be more democrats supported by Russia, but they’re not on our side. So there is a worry from a lot of people that Bella Russia will sort of remain weak and against Ukraine and for Russia, and that we will see more Russian troops in Belarus, outflanking NATO and Ukraine. That’s what my friends told me, a Ukrainian anyway.
Dr Alan Mendoza 48:25
Okay, thank you, Glenn. For that round. For our next round. We are going to Ian Bond, Eleonora Suhoviy and Olexander Hryb. So, we’ll start with you, Ian.
Ian Bond 48:37
Glenn, great to see you again. You sort of half answered some of the questions that I had, but I mean, is there any external voice that the Ukrainian Ministry of defence or General Staff are listening to? That’s kind of pro reform and helping things along. And related to that. The quality of the frontline troops? I mean, you know, in 2014, it was pretty ragtag. What’s your assessment of the quality of the troops, six years old, and after a certain amount of Western advice and, and help and a lot of Battlefield experience? Okay.
Dr Alan Mendoza 49:31
Eleanora, over to you.
Eleanora Suhoviy 49:33
Good afternoon. I have a question regarding the anti corruption laws. In your opinion, how likely do you think that these laws are going to be enforced in practice? Or are we seeing just fine words on very little actions once more?
Dr Alan Mendoza 49:52
Great. And finally, Olexander. Are you there?
Olexander Hryb 49:55
Yes. Good evening. Thank you, Glen, for your kind words on supporting Ukraine and Ukrainian civil society. My question is, how operation orbital could be improved considering that Ukrainian army personnel do really appreciate British training, despite all the difficulties that you described?
Dr Alan Mendoza 50:18
Right, thank you. We’ll have time for one more round after this. If you haven’t asked your question yet, and want to please do add it into the bottom Q&A. Over to you, Glenn.
Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Grant 50:27
Okay, just for people in general, Ian was my boss previously. So good to see you in the external voice. It’s interesting that at the moment, no, because minister Taron basically pushed just about everybody away. There have been a couple of Ministry of Defence advisors from us in there, but in their own words, they’ve struggled and haven’t really been listened to at all. So that hasn’t actually worked, although I think they’re going to put a new round of emoji advisors in there if there was a whisper that Minister Terran was going to ask me to run the reform office. But that whisper hasn’t turned into anything substantial, it may just stay a whisper. It’ll be interesting. If he does. frontline troops, of course, they have changed. Because they were Rag, Tag and Bobtail in the first place. Although Don’t forget that amongst that Rag, Tag and Bobtail bit, in 14, there were quite a lot of older guys who’d actually been in Afghanistan in the Soviet Army. And they weren’t Rag, Tag and Bobtail, they were actually quite skilled. The problem is that the training is not very good at the moment. So although you say they’ve got operational experience, as I said previously, that operational experience to a large degree is guarding. And so it’s not actually it’s not actually developing wide skills, it’s developing quite a narrow set of stay in a trench and stay alive skills, which thankfully, they are getting better at. But if they’re moved out of a trench, and they have to go into mobile warfare, I’m sorry, but they’re going to struggle. It tactically groups as individual groups, like tank troops, or, or something they might actually be quite good. But operationally moving a battalion or moving a brigade, they’re going to struggle, because they simply don’t practice that sort of thing at all. And because they don’t practice, I mean, they never practice two brigades, even if they do practice one. So that’s going to be a challenge for them. And it’s something that people keep saying to them, that they have to actually change the exercises and change the training. But it’s not always listened to. Eleanora. Thank you. It’s a very good question. I think this is going to be half and half, because there are some new judges coming. And I think some of those new judges, if corruption laws are changed, some of them will take those laws seriously and try to do something. But what the prosecutor is doing at the moment is trying to circumvent the anti-corruption laws completely by just canceling the case by finding no cause to answer. And it’s doing that far too often, actually. And so Lenski is not showing any energy about pursuing anti corruption measures. So we may get good laws, it will have some effect because some judges will do something. But overall, I don’t think it’s going to have a huge effect for the moment until Zelensky goes and someone else comes. And then the last one was Alexander, nice to hear you again. How can the orbital be improved? I think the most important thing I would say for orbital is to stop trying to teach British best practice. Because best practice British doesn’t fit at all with what they do. What we have to do is to actually find out what it is they’ve got to do, and then help them do that better. It is pointless teaching a young officer mission command when he is never in his career, certainly for the next 10 or 15 years going to be allowed to use mission command. And so it just becomes an irrelevance for him and a time waster. It would be better if we took their method of doing things and tried to improve that. And also, the second thing I would say for orbital is that we need one or two people around long term. So a full tour orbital, an officer and assault major, who stay in the country who are going to stay in the country for three or four years. actually learn the country properly, really learn the officers that they’re going to deal with properly and actually identify what it is that will help them do their job better. I hope that answers your questions, people.
Dr Alan Mendoza 55:14
Thank you. That’s very good. We’re going to reach our final three, which is Al Bartlett’s, Ihor Oleksiv, and Eileen Shore.
Al Bartlett 55:23
Yeah. Good evening, Glenn. You’ve already touched a little bit on the military side of what’s going on, on out there. My question is on, there’s two parts to it. What is your understanding of the situation with regards to foreign nationals, including UK citizens that are traveling to fight on potentially either side of a conflict? And the other part of the question is, which groups would be facilitating that?
Dr Alan Mendoza 55:54
Thank you very much. Ihor?
Ihor Oleksiv 56:02
So I can ask the question. Thank you, Glenn, thank you very much for having such a deep understanding of the political situation in Ukraine. And there is still a significant share of the population of post Soviet Russia in the winning mentality in Ukraine. From observation, such a situation is mostly in the eastern part of Ukraine. Could you please share your thoughts on how we can overcome this? Because almost 30 years have passed since we got independence, but we still have this problem.
Dr Alan Mendoza 56:34
Thank you very much. And finally, Eileen Shore.
Eileen Shore 56:42
About six or seven years ago, I was invited to Kremenchuk for a music festival, and all the questions that I was asked continuously was, are they ready to join the EU? Do you not think that if they would even try to join the EU that Mr. Putin would just switch off, switch the knob off and they would have no gas? And do you not think that maybe the EU tempted them too much?
Dr Alan Mendoza 57:21
Thank you. Right. Glenn, you can take it away.
Lieutenant Colonel Glenn Grant 57:28
Okay, well, this is interesting that there is a general happiness, with foreign nationals that go and work go to the front line and actually soldier. Although you actually have to dig around to find unless you speak Ukrainian or Russian, and you’ve got to dig around to find a unit that would actually take them. But they aren’t happy usually because foreign nationals who come in have often got some sort of military experience and, and knowledge that they bring with them. Group facilitating, I have no idea whatsoever. But I mean, you can find me on my Facebook or something. And I’ll let you try and find out because then there must be someone who can tell me pretty quickly. But, I mean, if you know people that want to go, I’m sure it can be fixed that they do go because the army is always shorter people, it tends to be the National Guard rather than the army that takes them. And it tends to be the old volunteer battalions that take people rather than the former Army regiments because the army is a bit strict and bureaucratic about what it does. Oleksiv, you hit the nail on the head, the eastern part of the country is still post Soviet. And it’s not being helped to get out of that by the fact that the media largely is owned by the oligarchs, and the Russian leaning press. And they feed Eastern Europe still with as much pro Russian and Eastern Europe type stuff as they can. What is sad is that a large amount of the work in Eastern is being done by foreign NGOs, cervicitis as people sort of tend to call them and that the government hasn’t actually done anything of any positive note to try and re-educate this side of society. And whether that’s deliberate or just idleness, I don’t know. There is a Ministry of Communications, but it effectively does nothing. The Ministry of Interior doesn’t seem to right now. The Ministry of Interior has not got that sort of brain to actually think of this as being something they need to do. So it falls back on foreign NGOs and foreigners who are trying to do it. And I’ve got several friends who effectively are in and out of Kiev every two to three days in the East, working with schools, with charities, with anything, you can name it with handicapped disabled, to try and actually to do something. And there are not enough of them. And as you know, Eastern Ukraine is a very big country, a very big part of the country. Eileen. No, I don’t. I don’t actually agree with you actually, in some ways, I think that if they join the European Union now, for a start you couldn’t get too aggressive against it, because he’d then be aggressive against the whole of the European Union. And if he did that, he would suffer, not the European Union. So I don’t think it’s in his interest to do anything if Ukraine did join. But the thing that would have helped Ukraine is opening up the borders a bit more, so people didn’t have to feel that they had to go to Poland. So actually, you know, Europe, Europe, could actually bring money in more easily. So I think that the quicker that Ukraine gets into the European Union, the greater chance of reform. Because it gets into the European Union, they are going to actually have to meet all those requirements that all the other countries met when they joined the European Union. And they are onerous and quite disciplined from the European Union side.
Dr Alan Mendoza 1:01:38
Right. Thank you, Glenn. That’s been a very enjoyable canter through a lot of territory. I think you mentioned eastern Ukraine is a vast space and so was this lecture in the sense of how you have taken a great deal of information, distilled it quickly and given us I think, a superb update on where we’re at. And crucially, of course, where we can be going as well, which is, I think, a question lots of us would like answered. So I want to thank you, Glenn, for having joined us from Riga today, giving us the benefits of your thoughts. Of course, in fact British-Ukrainian aid for having put this together with us. Please support their work, wherever you can. All of you thank you for joining. And we will be back soon with another event for you, an online one, but perhaps one day we may well return to physical ones too. In the meantime, hope you have a wonderful rest of your afternoons and evenings.