The vital reform of the components of the national security and anti-corruption sectors of Ukraine so far is only on paper
In the last five years, in the context of Russia’s “hybrid” war against Ukraine, many approaches to the organization, activity, legislative support and necessary changes in a wide range of national security and defense in Ukraine have changed dramatically. Many approaches really have changed, but not all of them. With the creation of new anti-corruption bodies, which for the first time in the history of the state, formed, so to speak, the anti-corruption sector of national security — the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), the National Anti-Corruption Agency, the State Bureau of Investigation (DBR) — there is an urgent need to reform the main body of this sector — the Security Service of Ukraine.
Let me remind that the new anti-corruption bodies, as well as the promise of the leadership of the state to quickly reform the Security Service of Ukraine, appeared in the conditions of Ukraine’s repulsing Russia’s armed aggression and the Western world’s supporting the Ukrainian state’s efforts to embark on the path of European and Euro-Atlantic integration. This has resulted in the signing of an association agreement with the European Union, obtaining a visa-free regime with EU countries, the prospect of NATO associate membership, and the Western world’s comprehensive support of Ukrainian reforms. Certainly, the West’s permanent financial, material, technical, methodological and other assistance, contributed to the creation of the anti-corruption sector of Ukraine.
…The new anti-corruption bodies, as well as the promise of the leadership of the state to quickly reform the Security Service of Ukraine, appeared in the conditions of Ukraine’s repulsing Russia’s armed aggression and the Western world’s supporting the Ukrainian state’s efforts to embark on the path of European and Euro-Atlantic integration…
Ukraine promised to transparently create, build and launch its new anti-corruption bodies and to reform the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) — the only state law enforcement agency responsible for this area of activity at that time. We’re not even talking about commitments for, so to speak, domestic use. Ukraine also formally committed itself to international commitments: at the 2016 NATO Summit in Warsaw, and during many talks between the President of Ukraine and leaders of the EU, the USA, leading European countries, etc. EU leaders, US ambassadors, NATO advisers, members of the EU Advisory Mission to Ukraine back in 2016 even worked out proposals to reform the SBU, which were supposed to determine the initial steps needed to bring the Service into line with democratic standards of NATO and EU countries. The main proposals included deprivation of the Security Service of Ukraine of law enforcement functions, which had to be delegated to newly created anti-corruption bodies, and its focus on counterintelligence, counterterrorism, cyber security, security threats analysis, etc.
What can we say after the last five years? The new anti-corruption bodies, despite the constant pressure and opposition from the previous leadership of the state and individual politicians, have been created, but still lack the necessary legislative, regulatory, technical and other support. And the attempts to reform the SBU have been unsuccessful, even the concept of reforming the SBU has not been formally formulated or made public, except for the “sweet talk” of the previous leadership of the state, regular meetings, roundtables in the SBU on topic of its reforming, etc. In a word, the “sovok” (Soviet mentality) does not let go.
The reason for this was not only nostalgia for the “KGB super-secret service”, but also the reluctance of the top leadership of the state and, above all, the President of the country to change the functions and tasks of the SBU. As it had been over the years of independence, this Service was completely under control, subordinated only to the president and always focused on him, often fulfilling his whims. And none of the presidents tried or wanted to change the status quo.
…Ukraine promised to transparently create, build and launch its new anti-corruption bodies and to reform the Security Service of Ukraine…
One of the top leaders of the Security Service of Ukraine (2014–2016), General V. Trepak, hit the mark in 2018, “There are now two SBUs — one is fighting the aggressor, opposing the intelligence and subversive activity against Ukraine, fighting terrorism, while the other is acting as a personal security service for the President and his environment. And while the former serves as the shield and sword of the state, the latter is one of the main tools for resolving private political issues that become dominant in the activities of the SBU. Serving at that time as the Chief of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine, I could observe this more than once. Moreover, even in violation of the law “On Intelligence Bodies of Ukraine” (the leadership of which was “close” not only to the former head of state, but also to his immediate environment), the SBU would often “step into the field of activity” of the Foreign Intelligence, which in its turn led to negative consequences as it happened in France and in a number of other cases, including without coordination with the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine (SZRU) starting bilateral contacts with intelligence services of other countries, unlawfully monopolizing the entire scope of activity of special services of the country, which in turn caused a lot of questions from our partners.
Today, the Security Service of Ukraine still has quite a few unusual for it functions, such as: protection of the economy of the state, fighting corruption, conducting its own investigation, the monopoly right to conduct operational and technical measures, etc. Such rights and powers, collected “under one roof”, are characteristic only of the intelligence services of the Russian Federation, Belarus, North Korea, China and some other countries that can hardly be called democratic.
How are the security services of the world leading countries’ built and what are their main responsibilities? In the United States, there is a widely known Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI, subordinated to the Department of Justice) and the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (an agency of the US Department of the Treasury) and the Department of Homeland Security. In France, counterintelligence on the territory of the country and the fight against terrorism is the prerogative of the General Directorate for Internal Security, which reports directly to the Ministry of the Interior, and the National Customs Intelligence and Investigations Directorate (subordinated to the Ministry of the Economy and Finance) are responsible for combating smuggling, money laundering, illegal financial transactions. In Germany, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), which reports to the Ministry of the Interior, and the Military Counterintelligence Service (MAD), are responsible for counterintelligence. The United Kingdom has MI5, as the main domestic counterintelligence and security agency, and the National Crime Agency, which is responsible for counterterrorism. As we can see, security services of the leading countries of the world have first of all, counterintelligence and anti-terrorist functions, while other bodies of relevant subordination deal with anti-corruption and financial issues.
…The Security Service of Ukraine still remains a direct descendant of the former KGB in the form of an under-reformed Soviet special service…
The Security Service of Ukraine still remains a direct descendant of the former KGB in the form of an under-reformed Soviet special service. According to domestic experts, with more than 30,000 employees, the SBU is seven times the size of the British MI5, and is four times larger than the Israeli national intelligence agency Mossad. At this, in addition to performing its traditional tasks, characteristic of most special services of Western countries (first of all — intelligence and counterintelligence), the SBU performs most of the functions of the law enforcement agency (combating economic crime and corruption).
That is why most important directions of work, such as counterintelligence, counterterrorism, state secrets, etc. are often left aside, considered minor, are underfunded, understaffed, etc. And this — in the conditions of the undeclared war! The fragmentation of the SBU’s efforts due to combating economic crime and corruption leads to a sharp drop in the efficiency of work (and results!) on other directions.
…The fragmentation of the SBU’s efforts due to combating economic crime and corruption leads to a sharp drop in the efficiency of work (and results!) on other directions…
The new leadership of Ukraine, first of all the President, seems to have begun to pay some attention to the issues of further reform of both anti-corruption bodies and the Security Service of Ukraine. This was evidenced by the “unprecedented” revival of the work of NABU and DBR in recent months. It does not neglect, I repeat, the SBU. A meeting of EU, NATO and US representatives within the international advisory group was held at the office of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, with acting Chief of the SBU I. Bakanov and Secretary of the NSDC O. Danylyuk. It was devoted exclusively to discussing the issues of reforming the Security Service of Ukraine in the direction of depriving it of its non-characteristic functions.
Thus, in view of the above-said, it is considered necessary:
- To draft a new law on the Security Service of Ukraine, which would deprive it of the functions of combating economic crimes and corruption, which would be given to relevant anti-corruption bodies, while the SBU’s main efforts would focus on counterintelligence, counterterrorism, state secrets and protection of state, etc.;
- Further reform of the anti-corruption sector of the state, delegating to it the relevant powers of the Security Service of Ukraine, especially with regard to conducting operational and technical measures;
- To develop a new model of comprehensive control over the activity of the Security Service of Ukraine and anti-corruption bodies: presidential, parliamentary and public.
Without a real reform of the Security Service of Ukraine in the way of eliminating the functions of combating economic crimes and corruption, which is urgently needed today, it is impossible to further successfully reform the anti-corruption sector of the state and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its bodies.
And this, in turn, will help the new leadership of the state in the development of modern, advanced, European Ukraine.