NATO – Ukraine: Membership not in Shape but Essence

NATO – Ukraine: Membership not in Shape but Essence

After the entrance of American missile cruiser “Monterey” into the Black Sea waters last week Russian authorities as if again has acknowledged the problem of “NATO by our borders”. It has been known for a long time that Viktor Yanukovych closely collaborates with NATO, and that there are plenty of Atlantists by him. But people have ignored it till recently. Now when the issue of gas is critical the parties think over how to press on the “partner”. It seems that Russia is already willing to take out one of the trump cards...

“” asked experts: Have the relations between Ukraine and NATO changed in its essence? Will they eventually result into the membership of the state in the Alliance? Which factors influence the (assumed) Euro-Atlantic orientation of the President V. Yanukovych?
Denis Kiriukhin, expert of Kiev Center for Political Studies and Conflictology (Kiev): Neither in the essence or in the shape the interrelations of Ukraine and NATO hasn’t changed for the last three years, when during the anniversary Bucharest summit of the North-Atlantic Alliance in 2008 Ukraine was refused of the immediate signing of the Membership Action Plan. Bucharest decision didn’t at all mean that with that the Alliance refused of its policy of “opened doors” towards Ukraine. As then in fact they adopted a decision on that the integration of Ukraine into Alliance shall not be accomplished through the gaining of MAP, but through the performance of the Annual National Program that is similar in its content to the MAP.

Indicative in this respect are the recommendations, given to the authorities by the USA on the issue of which policy should be led towards Kiev, by Steven Pifer in his analytical report “Prevention of Crisis in Ukraine”, represented in 2009. The ex-Ambassador of the USA  to Ukraine advises Washington to focus its attention on the Annual National Program, which “in its content can be similar to the MAP, but without being named MAP, initiating undesirable arguments in Ukraine, as well as within Ukrainian-Russian relations in general”.

Permanence of the course of entrance of Ukraine to NATO was proven also with the Charter on Strategic Partnership between the USA and Ukraine, signed by the US State Secretary C. Rice and the Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs V. Ogryzko in December of 2008.

As known, after the victory of V. Yanukovych in Presidential elections the out-block status of Ukraine was legally fixed, which nevertheless doesn’t impede the options for cooperation with NATO (the same as for example with the CSTO), including also within the frameworks of the accomplishment of the Annual National Program. In other words, the logic of cooperation of the Alliance and Ukraine, which was defined during Bucharest Summit, was revised.

Today, Ukraine, just as Russia, actively collaborates with the North-Atlantic Alliance. It lies within the interests of Ukraine to accomplish joint antiterrorist programs with NATO, to be active participant of the program, directed on assurance of security in the Black Sea region, and eventually to promote the combativity of its armed forces, also including joint military trainings in NATO.

The issue on entrance into the Alliance is out of the agenda and shall not be topical in the years to come. Nevertheless, successful accomplishment of the Annual National Program, anticipating, as known, in particular, reformation of Ukrainian armed forces, including also under the NATO standards, as it seems being able to establish the conditions, within which the existing today military-technical obstacles for the entrance of Ukraine into the Alliance shall be eliminated.

At the moment political environment is not the one, within the terms of which we could seriously talk that in nearest future the line of Ukrainian authorities shall change, the essence of which is the cooperation with NATO without the issue of entrance. Obviously that any refusal of the out-block states shall extremely negatively affect the electoral support of the President-in-office. The kind of decision shall turn his opponents into upholders, but for that the most of supporters shall vanish. Nevertheless, cooling down of Russian-Ukrainian relations is able to push Ukrainian authorities to the promotion of cooperation with West in general and with NATO particularly.
Vladimir Kornolov, Director of Ukrainian Office of the CIS States Institute (Kiev): Interrelations of Ukraine with NATO have absolutely changed for the last two years – at least as henceforth Ukraine on the legislative level refused of “Euro Atlantic integration” and fixed the out-block status. From mow and on NATO officially doesn’t involve Ukraine into the block, by this constantly underlining, that the doors are opened.

Still it is a significant change of the situation in comparison with the aggressive pro-NATO campaigns of 2007-2009. Recent comments of the US Ambassador G. Tefft about maintenance of the plans of engagement of Ukraine into the Alliance, and repeated more careful comments of various functionaries of the NATO prove that no one denied the possibility of NATO entrance despite official course of Kiev.  And propaganda of NATO efforts to whiten the image of the Alliance in Ukraine is kept on. And that is why I would also suggest Russia not to relax on this issue – the story can easily repeat itself  only with a wave of a wand of one person, who is Viktor Yanukovych.

As for the line of Yanukovych, it can’t be called logic. For him, technocrat from Donetsk, the issues of Ideology and geostrategic choice of Ukraine have always been secondary ones.

His is not a dedicated anti-NATO or pro-NATO, pro-Russian or pro-Western politician.

However we shouldn’t forget that he and his party are hostages, the electorate that has clear pro-Russian and anti-NATO views. The attempts to flirt with west-Ukrainian electorate shall not give the due effect – still Yanukovych shall be the alien, no matter what he does. Respectfully, for Moscow it is important, for pro-Russian spirit to preserve in south-east of Ukraine, in the environment of the key electorate of Yanukovych. By preserving steady geopolitical orientations, ideologically supporting public spirit, and as far as possible creating a good alternative to the “regionals” which would press the public opinion in the direction opposite to the Western one, Yanukovych and current Ukrainian elites could be maintained at the course aimed at approach with Russia instead of estranging.
Roman Travin, director of East-Ukrainian Center for Strategic Initiatives (Kharkiv): In comparison with five years of Yushchenko presidency, the relations NATO – Ukraine naturally have changed. The indicative example is the new military doctrine of the country, adopted this spring. Let me remind, it regulates the out-block status of Ukraine. It’s clear that this would hardly be possible by the former president. At the same time, probably (or even most likely) they lead some lobby talks. Maybe, there are some not public agreements between current Ukrainian authorities and NATO administration, but I don’t possess reliable information on this account. And I wouldn’t draw some far-sight conclusions grounding only on the recently scandalous publication in Ukrainian magazine “Kommersant”. I think that Ukraine shall not join NATO in the foreseeable future. Even because most of Ukrainians and which is important without exaggeration all electorate of the Party of regions and V. Yanukovych himself treat negatively the membership of their state in the Alliance.

Talking about factors influencing foreign policy of Ukrainian authorities, I would like to note the following: one of the main political results of the passed decade for Ukraine was the priority of foreign acknowledgement of the legitimacy of Ukrainian authority over the domestic one. I.e. in order for the authorities to look legitimately even inside the country, its legitimacy should be acknowledged by West, which gives widest possibilities to Brussels and Washington to press Yanukovych or other Ukrainian President. And I think that this really influences the relations of our authorities with North-Atlantic Alliance.

As for the prospects, I’ll say in brief: closer approach with NATO (if it happens) shall not bring anything positive not only to Ukraine, by Yanukovych personally.
Vasilij Stoyakin, Director of the Center for Political Marketing (Kiev): The only serious change within the relations between Ukraine and NATO was the unilateral refusal of Ukraine from the prospect of entrance into this military block. NATO doesn’t refuse the  kind of prospect: of Ukraine involvement  to NATO is one of the strategic goals of the USA in Eastern Europe. Obviously, the issue of Ukrainian membership in NATO shall be raised immediately after west manages to push off the current power.

A pretty high level of cooperation of Ukraine with NATO is explained with a whole number of factors.

1. Ukraine orients on Russia, which maintains high (according to some estimations even higher that Ukraine in times of Yushchenko) level of cooperation with the Alliance.

2. Cooperation with NATO is observed as the element of multi-vector policy, balancing the influence of Russia. By the way the publication in “Kommersant” of the program of cooperation with NATO is the sign of dissatisfaction of Russia – one can’t puts his claims directly, as Ukraine formally doesn’t intend to join NATO, and the level of cooperation between Russia and NATO is also pretty high. In the essence, Ukraine can be blamed only for the secrecy of cooperation and inconsideration of Russian interests.
3. Yanukovych considers that cooperation with NATO improves the perception of his administration in West. This is a rough mistake. Legal collaboration only eases for West the undermining operations in Ukraine.
Translated by EuroDialogueXXI from




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