The so-called “Revolution of Dignity,” that took place between November 2013 and March 2014 in Ukraine, gave Russia a pretext to seize the Crimea and engage proxy forces in the Donbas to rebel against the new Ukrainian administration. Seen from the point of view of NATO, this is an unprovoked action that threatens the status quo in Europe. It seems therefore normal that thus challenged, prudence would counsel the strongest possible support to Ukraine, to demonstrate resolve and reassure the Alliance’s Eastern flank.
NATO’s subsequent forward presence deployment offers two axes of ‘deterrence’ – one is the actual deployment of multinational combat teams in the Baltic States and Poland, representing an unprecedented military presence at Russia’s door; the other is direct but naturally limited support for Ukraine. Taken together, NATO’s twin initiatives relieve the pressure on Ukraine indirectly. The military presence in the Baltic States forces Russia to maintain a corresponding deterrent to face the threat of NATO invasion from the North-West, which means a reduction of support for proxy fighters in the Donbas. Meanwhile NATO has set up a series of trust funds through which nations can coordinate their support, and continues to press for structural and attitudinal changes in Ukraine through the Defense Education Enhancement Program (DEEP).
The DEEP is a NATO flagship initiative dating back a decade, and frequently hailed as the keystone for intellectual interoperability and politico-military integration with NATO and Partners for some twenty former Soviet and Yugoslav republics, as well as Afghanistan, Mauritania and Mongolia. The character of the support offered by NATO to Ukraine appears limited, and for good reason. What would the Russian reaction be if, contrary to its own precepts, NATO began siding overtly with Ukraine (especially an un-reformed Ukraine) in this contest? Furthermore, the opinion as to what can be done to help Ukraine in her predicament—and of whether anything should be done—is a function of the fragmented national positions within the Alliance. This is the least—as well as the most—that NATO can do.
Individual Allies are similarly constrained, and their involvement in support of Ukraine takes place within the confines of NATO’s Art. 4 on crisis management, which means that whatever support is offered cannot be overtly offensive, lest they be perceived as effectively entering in alliance with a foe of Russia. Therefore, NATO countries must deploy their forces onto NATO member States (the Baltic States and Poland) to create a center of gravity that will attract Russian forces away from Ukraine. New NATO members have prepared for their role as host nations to the forces of other NATO members. Furthermore, the countries contributing to NATO’s forward deployment are adding self-contained capabilities which do not place a burden on the host nations. Ukraine, on the other hand, must devote and re-direct personnel and resources to welcoming whatever support NATO countries can directly offer on its own.
For deterrence to function, the country that is adopting it as a policy must be credible. And credibility is closely associated with capacity. Evidence is beginning to surface that Ukraine is having difficulty absorbing the support that NATO and individual countries have been delivering since the crisis began. In short, supporting Ukraine may have the effect of diverting and distracting precious human resources. At some point, the assistance packages offered to Ukraine will need to produce results lest the credibility of the country—and of the NATO Allies—begin to suffer for lack of operational capability. This paper uses a small portion of the DEEP initiative implemented to support Ukraine to measure the country’s military support absorption problems. As a methodology, we will investigate the DEEP initiative as administered by the Partnership for Peace Consortium of Defense Academies and Security Studies Institutes (with its office based in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany) which has been selected to manage some 15 percent of the NATO DEEP initiative for Ukraine.
This contribution proposes a method to calculate the human resource “cost” of accepting security and defense cooperation initiatives. We hypothesize that there is a limit to what a host country can absorb without depleting core functions that support national security, and in the case of Ukraine, deterrence.
The first part of this contribution details the origins of the PfP Consortium and of the DEEP Ukraine initiative. The second part highlights difficulties in execution of DEEP events, which the author treats as an indicator of mal-absorption. Apart from his own experience as a subject-matter expert (SME) veteran of several DEEP events in Azerbaijan, the author draws from documentation and discussions shared with DEEP program managers at the PfP Consortium. This paper concludes with a discussion as to how absorption difficulties drain Ukrainian resources away from other security priorities, and that, in definitive, the result could be a loss of credibility for the Alliance vis-à-vis Russia.
The Partnership for Peace Consortium of Defense Academies and Security Studies Institutes (PfP Consortium) was created through a multilateral memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary Summit of NATO in Washington DC, 4 April 1999. The Consortium is an association of nearly 50 countries, which have convened in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) format to conduct military and security education development in a track-two diplomacy format. The United States and Germany fund and accommodate a small secretariat in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, co-locating it with the George C. Marshall Center, which shares some of its operational resources. NATO uses the PfP Consortium to manage a portion of its DEEP program, through the PfP Consortium’s Education Development Working Group (EDWG), chaired by Dr. Alan Stolberg, a RAND contractor.
The DEEP initiative was created in 2007 as part of the larger NATO Partnership Action Plan on Defense Institution Building (PAP-DIB) of 2004. The intent of DEEP is to lead host nations to enact and effect security sector reforms as a way to integrate Western military and defense management practices. The management of the initiative through the PfP Consortium provides a multilateral platform that combines NATO’s prestige with administrative and political flexibility, necessary because of the heavy American interest in the success of the program. The program is driven, from the geopolitical point of view, by the competition between Russian and Euro-Atlantic spheres of influence.
DEEP events are typically week-long visits by multinational teams of civilian and military educators sharing their educational expertise within the host nation’s defense education structures. Three key results are expected from those exchanges; 1) enhanced (meaning “Westernized”) defense/security curriculum; 2) development of host nation faculty teaching skills according to Euro-Atlantic standards, and 3) infrastructure and institutional development.
By some accounts, NATO has not done much in support of Ukraine. But the DEEP Ukraine has been the fastest growing initiative within the program, a testimony to the desire of the Ukrainian leadership in seeking Western help – and presence. Ukraine formally requested a DEEP program from NATO in October 2012. A feasibility study conducted in March 2013 officially launched the program. The revolutionary crisis interrupted the program almost immediately, but resumed in late 2014, doubling in size from what had been previously planned. To meet the added activity load, NATO enlisted the support of the PfP Consortium. In 2015, there were 66 Ukraine DEEP events planned, up from 14 in 2014. In 2016, 76, and as many in 2017. Not all events were executed, however; the first indicator of overstretch.
According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies’ annual Military Balance, Ukraine’s force structure is of some 250 000 personnel, with some 71 000 front line troops. Ukraine has repeatedly attempted, over the last two years, to mobilize and retain additional recruits. According to an advisor of President Poroshenko “alcoholics and dodgers, drug addicts and morons”  made up the bulk of the new recruits, attracted doubtless by salaries that competed well with the Ukrainian private sector (800-2 500 USD per month, depending on rank). In addition, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense counts some 45 000 civilian employees. An important question of defense management concerns the ratios; how many frontline troops versus reserves (Ukraine counts a 1 million-strong reserve), how long the tail for how many teeth. With 71 000 frontline troops, Ukraine is, man-for-man, a match for Russia’s expected 65 000. Russia and Ukraine face similar reform and modernization problems; having inherited an immense force structure from the Soviet Union, it struggles to maintain readiness of a sufficient part of that remaining structure to propose an adequate deterrent.
While a rough ratio of 1:2 civilian employee per frontline troop seems efficient, it also represents an immense burden on the civilian side of the MOD to manage the Ukrainian military as well as the panoply of defense diplomacy and cooperation initiatives. Even if the MOD civilians are supplemented from the logistical structure of the Ukrainian forces, say, half the force structure on paper, or some 125 000, this only reverses the ratio to 2.5:1, compared to 7:1 in the Canadian Army or 13:1 in the United States. The point here is not cost. When a country’s territorial integrity is under threat, no cost is too great. The point here is the administrative capacity to absorb additional support.
Individually, the problem is also acute; one of the critical impediments for soldiers to receive Western support is language. This is surprising, considering the avowed “Westernization” of Ukraine since the Orange Revolution of 2004. As a conscript system, the Ukrainian state can count on some 400 000 men reaching majority every year. One would have expected, 12 years after the Orange revolution, that a policy of Westernization would have at least produced that many soldiers by 2015 with English skills sufficient to be basically interoperable with Western forces. This is not the case. A NATO-Ukraine Commission Report established the conditions for success for Ukraine’s then (this has since changed with the Warsaw Summit of 2016) efforts at joining NATO as balancing “the necessary membership criteria… professionalization of its military, while at the same time dealing with urgencies in Eastern Ukraine.” The Report adds that there are also “systemic issues that are negatively affecting morale and thus motivation to serve … [which] prevent the recruitment, professional development, and retention of the best available candidates.” 
In fairness, the Ukrainian structures also underwent significant reform over the last few years, which cannot have been very good for morale. The MOD agencies have been reduced by 60 percent. The General Staff has been halved. The Main Directorate of Operational Support—critical for providing host nation support to foreign forces—is now 40 percent of its original strength. The force structure went from 168 units to 46, the Air Force has lost 70 percent of its structure, and the Naval Forces—evicted from Crimea—have relocated as part of the Maritime Academy of Odessa, and has redeployed its six agencies and units to 28 other locations around the country. In addition, Ukraine counts as many as eleven separate military training and education institutions disseminated throughout the country. Security cooperation initiatives therefore do not benefit from economies of scale, experiences from one institution (or service) cannot be passed on to the others seamlessly, and effort is thinned out across the territory.
The Ukraine DEEP initiative gives an indication of the challenge; the NATO DEEP Ukraine 2015 Annual Program Review (APR) reveals that “English language skills of faculty needs to be still improved. Nevertheless, out of 1500 faculty working in defence education institutions, 700 … already attended or started their English courses.”  We speak here of military education institution faculty; not the rank and file. This gives an appreciation of the challenge. The cadets’ language training regimen was doubled from 2014 to 2016, while graduating students generally reach NATO STANAG 2 language proficiency.
Meanwhile Ukraine has asked NATO’s help in reforming the Non-Commissioned Officer corps. The first challenge faced was that the Starychi NCO training facility could count on only 20 percent of its instructors. The NATO-Ukraine Commission Report that initiated the DEEP initiative for NCOs further states that “sending NCOs abroad to gain experience and training … due to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, is difficult.”  To add to this difficulty, one must also count the asymmetry in fighting experience. While NATO forces have been deployed on this or that complex operation for most of the last twenty years, they have never seen the sort of combat (with the possible exception of the British in the Falklands in 1982) that the Ukrainians are enduring. In this regard, it looks strange for Ukrainian servicemen of all ranks when NATO nations come down to partake of their “wisdom.” 
As a matter of fact, the opposite may be true; the Ukrainians have a lot more to teach their Western counterparts about Russian fighting technique than the other way around. This realization has been made clear in a Stars and Stripes article published at the close of the first year of war in Ukraine with quotes such as that of US Lieutenant General Hodges: “none of us have been under Russian artillery and rocket fire like the Ukrainians have,” or from an American NCO who, despite having served in Afghanistan, saw only the American side of armor action, whereas Ukrainians have engaged Russian armored personnel carriers from 15 meters away, an impossibility in the American training concept. So the difficulty for Ukrainians to integrate advice from Western nations is not simply due to lack of resources; it is also due to lack of common understanding. Yet NATO believes that intellectual interoperability can be mustered through the DEEP initiative.
The quantity of DEEP activities has increased fivefold since implementation began. The PfP Consortium is responsible for some 15 percent of those events on behalf of NATO every year and runs two activities in Kyiv, two in Lviv, two in Odessa, and two in Kharkiv, in addition to an annual planning meeting, an annual program review (APR) which normally involves senior MOD staff, and until recently, a shadow faculty event, for a total of eleven events. If all events are run, this represents a significant planning burden for the schools involved.
A typical DEEP event involves sending small teams of subject-matter experts (SMEs) to Ukrainian institutions for a week-long exchange on educational delivery methods, and curriculum development. In 2014, the war precluded running any event by the PfP Consortium. In 2015, there were 36 events scheduled by NATO, of which three were run by the PfP Consortium. For any given event, whether run by NATO or the PfP Consortium, up to 30 faculty from the targeted institution need to leave their normal duties to receive the SMEs for a whole week, interrupting the normal teaching schedule as some courses are momentarily interrupted, administrative work falls behind, while students and course members do not necessarily have a week off. Nevertheless, the visit of Western SMEs to Ukraine frequently depends on the combined schedules of both the Western SMEs (themselves teachers and instructors) and the Ukrainian faculty. Therefore, normal preparation time between semesters is sometimes taken over by DEEP business. More to the point, all the DEEP events compete for the same time slots in the Ukrainian institutions’ calendars.
It is therefore not surprising that there have been severe difficulties in timely coordinating events between the SMEs and the Ukrainians. While it is difficult enough to line up SMEs, arranging the time of Ukrainian faculty is even more difficult, leading NATO reports to charge that one of the critical shortcomings of the DEEP Ukraine initiative was the timely selection of proper Ukrainian faculty with whom the SMEs visit. This problem was mentioned in 2015, and was never solved in 2016, which saw the execution of only 60 percent of the DEEP Ukraine events planned by the PfP Consortium. In 2017, the PfP Consortium was retained to execute eleven events as part of NATO’s DEEP Ukraine initiative, yet no more than 40 percent of the events were executed.
To make matters worse, most of the DEEP SMEs—at the request of the Ukrainian government—are Americans. Indeed, US European Command (EUCOM) theater regulations state that as a precaution, and owing to the risk of terrorist activity in Ukraine due to the conflict, no U.S. government employee is allowed to travel (privately or on duty) East of the river Dniepr sending a perplexing message to Ukraine about the seriousness of the US support, and raising questions about the credibility of the deterrent intentions in the eyes of adversaries.
While the SMEs are all faculty volunteering their professional time to this cause, it looks on the surface that this is a cost-effective endeavor—and it is—save that the language barriers require that nearly 20 percent of budgeted expenses (in addition to travel and accommodation arranged for the SMEs by the PfP Consortium) pertains to interpretation and translation needs. This further highlights the inherent absorption difficulties of the Ukrainian personnel.
Sometimes, the SMEs sent are unprepared for the challenges they will face with the Ukrainian host. The PfP Consortium program manager for DEEP Ukraine had the opportunity to witness this in February 2016, when he was sent to observe the execution of a DEEP Ukraine to the Kozhedub Air Force Academy in Kharkiv. From a roster of 35 faculty, the audience dwindled to 18 by the end of the week, with the balance coming in and out to attend the lectures, being frequently replaced by other colleagues, so that roughly half of the roster attended the full DEEP Ukraine, while the rest benefited from part of the event, although it could be said that in total, some 45 Ukrainian faculty members benefited from the lectures given by the SMEs, only a third attended the full event, while the rest’s assiduity to the lectures was somewhere between 20 and 50 percent. Clearly, the Ukrainian faculty are not going to absorb much new technique if they partake to DEEP events for which they have no context. In terms of program effectiveness and eventual deterrence credibility, what kind of message will the SMEs bring back when they conclude that Ukrainian faculty seemed uninterested in what they had to deliver? From both sides, that critical component of deterrence and reassurance—credibility—is lost.
In the strategic plan for the DEEP Ukraine for 2017, First Deputy Minister of Defense Ivan Rusnak was quoted as saying that the DEEP Ukraine initiative was “successful, prospective and efficient.”  However the numbers reflected in that same report suggest that since 2013, year at which the Ukraine DEEP was launched, accounting for the war-related suspension of the program in 2014, 1 300 servicemen, in 11 training and education institutions benefited from the expertise of some 350 SMEs during 147 events, 16 of which had been carried out by the PfP Consortium over three years. About half the total number of events allocated to the PfP Consortium could be run over three years, despite having eleven events planned year on year. Eleven events still represent one event each month just for the PfP Consortium, while it takes on average two months to organize a single event!
Those numbers are telling, taken in the context of the overall security situation and needs of Ukraine and suggest to this analyst that Ukraine has very few servicemen to contribute to the DEEP, lest they depopulate the ATO to follow the program. On average, the events require two SMEs, who represent a proportion of some one Western expert for every four servicemen, while the proportion of servicemen who have benefited is 1 to 55. This proportion is merely a quarter of the new recruits that Ukraine brings in every year. At this rate, the process of generating intellectual and technical interoperability is not rapid enough.
This is perhaps why the focus of the Ukraine DEEP changed from faculty and curriculum development to a Master Instructors program. Henceforth, the effort of the DEEP Ukraine will be to develop the skills of the more promising faculty and trainers from Ukraine, as opposed to exposing the bulk of them to Western lecturing. The Master Instructor Program (MIP) will translate into a reduction of the number of events per year, as well as a reduction of the number of personnel targeted by reform. With the MIP, champions of education reform who speak English are identified and enlisted to train future trainers in the Ukrainian system based on SME guidance. The effort will amount to half a dozen visits to a handful of individuals who will eventually carry out further training along Ukrainian-defined priorities, thereby relieving agencies’ administrative burdens.
The DEEP initiative is NATO’s premiere activity to support Ukraine, but there are lots of other initiatives that are carried out bilaterally. If one takes the 1:4 ratio above defined from the exercise of the DEEP program, one can assume a similar proportion for other, more “muscular” initiatives, such as Canada’s support of field medic and military police training. Ukraine’s MOD authorities would be forgiven for sparing their battle-hardened personnel for regular training and education duties in support of the ATO, rather than lending them to carry out bilateral activities. In truth the process of reform is taking place hand in hand with powerful Euro-Atlantic nations, drawing energy away from the task of demonstrating resolve.
The dilemmas caused by mal-absorption of foreign support affects deterrence in several ways; 1) Ukraine fears extending itself “Westward” in pursuit of reforms while at the same time losing time and opportunity in front of a dwindling Russian presence at her official border, and so only contributes a token portion of her servicemen to bilateral efforts ; 2) Ukraine is literally overwhelmed with the abundance of programs and initiatives deployed for her benefit, and owing to its lopsided civilian-military structures and tooth-to-tail ratios, cannot process the offers quickly enough. This theory would be reflected by Deputy Minister of Defense Rusnak’s desire to switch from quantity to quality ; 3) Ukraine does not “trust” Western expertise; and 4) Ukraine uses the DEEP program, much like other nations, as a tool to maintain Euro-Atlantic nations engaged with Ukraine, thereby leveraging the expectations of success of the initiative at NATO and other DEEP coordinating agencies so that donor nations will be locked in support. In other words, DEEP is a tool for Ukraine to maintain a declaratory stance over reforms from which it can pry further concessions from the West.
Any of these outcomes threaten the value of deterrence and reassurance. For one, the Ukrainian servicemen will not be able to integrate Euro-Atlantic methods quickly enough. This in turn will mean that they would not be able to operate reliably with NATO troops in the medium term should a local escalation mean that NATO would start providing more coercive operational support (such as equipment, but also access to certain NATO capabilities which require knowledge of certain procedures, such as operational planning). Second, the interpretation of a mismatch between Euro-Atlantic and Ukrainian commitments to reform or to interoperability generation through DEEP suggests that there is a built-in cleavage in the relationship. This cleavage is likely to accentuate mistrust, especially in cases where NATO would be “felt” it should do more for Ukraine, or, conversely, when NATO countries would become impatient at the lack of reform.
As the DEEP program is the most that NATO can do at present, SME visits attain a quasi-operational value, so that reports from the SMEs about the challenges of transformation—and reports from Ukrainian beneficiaries about the SME experience—reach high-level decision-makers rather rapidly which means that policy can change correspondingly rapidly. “Field level” opinions from both sides have the potential of revealing that NATO is but a paper tiger when it comes to Ukraine, and while the forward deployments last, the subterfuge may be held, but as Ukrainians grow impatient about Crimea and the Donbas, fragmentation may yet take place. And this may invite further Russian adventurism.
If the objective of the DEEP Ukraine is to make Ukrainian defense structures more “acceptant” of Western and NATO methods, it is to ensure that, should there be an escalation between the West and Russia, Ukraine could participate operationally, materially and intellectually to the change of policy, and bring its weight to bear in making deterrence real. Therefore, the DEEP program should figure in Russia’s deterrence calculations, more so if the process of transformation (and Western penetration) is measured as complete. However, the more the Ukrainian side shows signs of being unable to absorb Western and NATO support, the less credible it may be as a capable participant to Western schemes.
Pierre Jolicoeur is a specialist on the former Soviet Union and South Eastern Europe. His research focuses on secessionist movements, foreign policy, and cybersecurity. Since 2014, most of his research has focused on strategic communications, digital diplomacy and information operations, where he analyzes the impact of social media on the military operating environment. Full Professor since 2018, Jolicoeur has been director of the Department of Political Science of the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) since 2012.
 Frederic Labarre, and Pierre Jolicoeur, “Shaping and Measuring Military Culture Development: A Case Study of the Defence Education Enhancement Programme (DEEP),” Canadian Foreign Policy Journal 22, no. 4 (2016): 135-146, 141.
 Labarre and Jolicoeur, “Shaping and Measuring Military Culture Development,” 140.
 Labarre and Jolicoeur, “Shaping and Measuring Military Culture Development,” 140. For example, the Armenian National Defense Research University (NDRU) led by MGEN (Ret.) Hayk Kotanjian is an indirect result of the DEEP Armenia program.
 “Note No. 220/13246 of 16 December 2015 from acting Minister of Defence of Ukraine Rusnak to Ambassador Alexander Vershbow,” appendix to NATO document AC/340(NUC)N(2015)0009, 2016.
 “Military Personnel,” April 22, 2017, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/ukraine/personnel.htm.
 “Military Personnel.” The author of the online article does not cite his/her source.
 “Military Personnel.”
 Kaspars Mazitans, “Russian Armed Forces Military Reforms and Capability Development 2008-2012,” Baltic Security and Defence Review 16, no. 1 (2014): 5-22.
 NATO-Ukraine Commission, “Executive Summary and Strategic Recommendations for Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) within the Ukrainian Armed Forces and NCO Defence Education Enhancement Program (DEEP) Team Report,” Annex 1, Vol. 16, 2015.
 Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, White Paper 2015 (Kyiv, 2015), 9.
 Political Affairs and Security Policy (PASP), “DEEP Ukraine 2015 Programme Review,” (December 2015), unclassified internal document. Private document consulted with PfP Consortium’s DEEP International Program Manager’s permission.
 Alan Stolberg, “Measures of Effectiveness (MOE) for the DEEP (as of December 2016),” PfP Consortium EDWG, January 2017, 27-28.
 NATO-Ukraine Commission, “Executive Summary,” 1-6.
 NATO-Ukraine Commission, “Executive Summary,” 1-11.
 Stolberg, “Measures of Effectiveness,” 28. “75 percent of the faculty now have recent combat experience from the ATO” (Anti-Terrorism Operation).
 Jad Sleiman, “Ukrainians Training with US Forces Have Own Lessons to Share,” Stars and Stripes, July 26, 2015, https://www.stripes.com/news/ukrainians-training-with-us-forces-have-their-own-lessons-to-share-1.359807, accessed on April 23, 2017.
 Political Affairs and Security Policy (PASP), “DEEP Ukraine 2015 Programme Review,” December 2015, unclassified internal document, 2.
 Frederic Labarre, “After Action Report to event PFP C 16411, Faculty Development (UKR DEEP) carried out 8-12 February 2016,” February 19, 2016, PfP Consortium internal document.
 Alan Stolberg, Strategic Plan for DEEP Ukraine (as of December 2016) (EDWG, January 2017), 11.
 Stolberg, Strategic Plan for DEEP Ukraine, 10-11.
 Annual Review of the DEEP initiative, carried out in February 2017 at NATO Headquarters.
 Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, White Paper 2015, 16. The MOD White Paper estimates that within one year, Russian presence was halved at the border, lending credence to the theory that NATO’s forward deployments are effectively drawing away Russian troops from the Donbas.
 Letter to Amb. Vershbow No. 120/13426.