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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Parabellum people

4 March, 2014 - 11:45

This little creature, capable of big deeds in its professional sphere, is by no means in the Kremlin. It is in the head of everyone who dreams of a Parabellum. Si vis pacem, para bellum – “if you want peace, prepare for war.” This ancient catchphrase, which became the name of a German Wehrmacht regulation weapon, has long been planted in the brains of uniformed people who believe that noble goals can be achieved by marksmanship. Para bellum – what else does a serviceman need? A portrait of Felix Dzerzhinsky in the office room or a little bronze bust of Joseph Stalin, which you can easily push, if necessary, into the drawer?

The army, police, and all that we call uniformed services emerged as unnatural condition of an individual who had to defend himself from his likes – unnatural because nature, religion, and the moral duty of people prohibit violence. But in some countries “higher interests” are allowed to be pursued in a mean way. It is the case of Syria, where a dictator needs tens of thousands of deaths to retain power, the case of Chechnya, where the representative level of a governmental official is indicated by submachine-guns behind his guards’ shoulders. The same applies to Georgia and Ossetia, where tanks became the ultimo ratio in an interethnic dispute, and to some other former Soviet republics, where the service of a uniformed person, who is not exactly involved in defending his fatherland from foreign enemies, is paid for much higher than the work of doctors, teachers, industrial and farming workers.

The parabellum people are a new social class formed in lieu of tsarist guard regiments and other agencies to protect the throne. They are influential and well-off and feed from the hand of a “Big Daddy.” They are personally loyal to him or his successor if the latter pampers and coddles them equally well. They are no longer the security forces of their countries – they are legions in the pocket, Gogolian “devils from the snuffbox,” who are ready to spring up by the signal of their master’s finger, scaring the surrounding people with their looks and shouts. And the trouble is not in the Parabellums they grip tightly because these have been firmly stuck in their minds. The trouble is in their essence. The system is turning then from the country’s defenders into bodyguards. The country and the body are the same thing, and if the body says “Fire!” it will make no difference for them who will happen to be in their sights’ crosshairs. Having lost the master, the best of them stay behind in bewilderment, while the worst rush to look for a new voice to issue the coveted command “Attack!” Whence are these Parabellum people – unnoticeably brought up at our expense and aimed against us?

The reform of the army, police, and security services ground to a halt 15 years ago. After dropping the Soviet Army insignia and slightly updating the old apparel, the country’s defense machine still kept intact all the worst things of the past, such as a pronounced dividing line between junior and senior officers, high-handed generals, as well as unequal living conditions, supply levels, privileges and exemptions. What the system used to offer every army, security service or police novice was unconditional submission to superiors for the sake of promotion. Just be patient, and you will rise from lieutenant to colonel as organized crime department or traffic police boss, district SBU chief, district attorney, garrison commander, draft board chief… Then, once you have access to the trough, you will live high off the hog. It is common knowledge how this was done.

The problem that had arisen in the USSR was aggravated by an early-1990s ugly practice in a new independent Ukraine, when, for want of governmental funding, territorial police and security formations were kept afloat to a considerable extent by business, including that of criminal origin. Sometimes, to carry detained criminals to the center, local operatives had to borrow transport or gasoline from other law offenders still at large. This shaped a huge tangle of unlawful links, principles, and communities on the regional and national level. It was left intact in the era of Leonid Kuchma and Viktor Yushchenko. This ball was rolling until it swallowed Yanukovych. Instead of a radical reform of the uniformed services, there was only some face-lifting in some areas for many years on end. The public was not in fact kept informed of the situation, but journalists were sometimes invited to showpiece units. The structure was not changed – only some new units were occasionally added, such as the now disbanded Berkut riot police force. By slashing defense expenditures and increasing police spending, the state seriously impaired the country’s defense capability. The army is full of antediluvian hardware, whereas the police arsenal has the most up-to-date weapons. For example, special-purpose police units move on SsangYong Rexton automobiles, fire Glock pistols and Blaser sniper rifles, which greatly surpasses, in terms of quality, the equipment and weapons of the Ukrainian army’s reconnaissance units. It is not just a difference in supply. Suspending Ukraine’s integration into NATO, the country’s leadership stripped its people of the guarantee of security and territorial inviolability. Instead, it formed a costly and large army for its own protection (an estimated 200,000 military and more than 300,000 policemen, in addition to the security service), which eventually resulted in the February tragedy on the Maidan.

This country is facing so many challenges today that it will be unable to respond to all of them in the near future. Yet the new government should make uniformed services reform a top-priority goal. Firstly, it is about dangers to human lives and the country’s territorial integrity. Secondly, it is better to keep up a small army of our own than to fund a big foreign one. Thirdly, a misfortune helped us become part of the overall problem of European security, and we must not fall out of this context, as we did in 2005.

It is very easy to track down the Parabellum people who killed our guys. It is sufficient to compare the bullets extracted from the bodies with the results of a ballistic test of riot policemen’s regulation weapons. These weapons are kept in armories. But I am almost convinced that a routine forensic procedure will turn into a big political intrigue that will comprise anything but a professional scrutiny of facts. The point is that, in reality, the uniformed services are not genuine, albeit affected by corruption, security elements. Alas, we live in a different sort of country. It has common rules, judges, prosecutors, medical institutions, social security, food reserves, and the criminalists who will go to their old friends for rifles.

The vast Parabellum fraternity is fully separated from the state and still more from the people. If it were not for the money that the strong enclave is forced to receive from our country, we would only be seeing each other in battle. To sweeten this bitter statement, we have come up with the slogan “Police Are with People.” Its impact is the same as that of a tune that defenseless people whistle in dark alleys.

By Oleksandr PRYLYPKO