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Audit of Ukraine’s integration into NATO (as a result of the visit of the delegation of the North Atlantic Council to Odessa)

At the end of October 2019, at the invitation of the Ukrainian authorities, the delegation of the North Atlantic Council, headed by NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg and his deputies Mircea Geoan? and Bettina Cadenbach, were on an official visit to Ukraine, in particular, in Odessa and Kyiv.  On October 30, the NATO delegation arrived by plane to Odessa, where it held talks with Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba and Minister of Defence, Andriy Zahorodniuk. After the talks, Stoltenberg and Kuleba held a joint briefing.  According to Jens Stoltenberg in the relations between NATO and Ukraine, all existing formats of cooperation will be combined into one program — “One Country - One Plan”. This issue was discussed on October 25 during the visit of the Minister of Defense of Ukraine, Andriy Zahorodniuk to the NATO headquarters in Brussels. Having met with Stoltenberg, Zahorodniuk stressed that Ukraine's accession to NATO remains its key priority.

In his speech at a briefing in Odessa, the NATO Secretary General said that Russia should withdraw all its troops from the territory of Donbas. And trusted that the temporarily occupied Lugansk and Donetsk will return under the control of Ukraine. The head of the Alliance is convinced that the reforms and NATO support will help to return some areas of Donbas under Ukrainian control and that "Russia must be responsible for the implementation of the Minsk Agreements and must withdraw all its armed forces and its officers from the East of Ukraine and stop destabilizing Ukraine." Answering the question of the correspondent from "Ukrinform" in Odessa, M. Aksaniuk whether Ukraine is going to apply for Membership Action Plan (MAP), the Vice Prime Minister, Kuleba said that Ukraine will not apply for MAP, because it considers the application submitted at the Bucharest summit in 2008 to be valid. According to him, "the issue of the MAP should be technical, not political" and Ukraine needs to focus on reforms, deepening cooperation with the Alliance and achieving compatibility of the Ukrainian Armed Forces with the armed forces of NATO. Dmytro Kuleba said that Ukraine needs five years to translate its Armed forces to NATO standards. Minister of Defense of Ukraine Zagorodnyuk during his talks with Jens Stoltenberg noted that Ukraine is interested in being an integral member of the NATO group in the Black Sea, given the provocative and aggressive actions of Russia in the Black and Azov Seas.[1]

On October 31, the NATO delegation was in Kyiv. That morning, under the chairmanship of the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky and the NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission was held, and subsequently a briefing for journalists on the results of this meeting. Volodymyr Zelensky trusted Ukraine's readiness to move to cooperation with the Alliance within the framework of the NATO Enhanced Capabilities Program. In particular, he said that the Ukrainian side hopes to support its proposal on practical steps to implement NATO Black Sea Package, adopted in April 2019. Zelensky noted that Ukraine is actually located on the South-Eastern flank of the Alliance and is an integral part of the Euro-Atlantic security space, where it is "not only a consumer, but also a long-term supplier of security." The head of state assured the guests that Ukraine is implementing all the recommendations of the Venice Commission on the Law on education and currently "six of the seven recommendations have already been implemented by the Ukrainian side". (After this statement, the Hungarian side unlocked the publication of the Joint Statement by the NATO-Ukraine Commission).  Further, the President said that Ukraine is ready to accelerate preparations for its membership in NATO, without removing from the agenda the possibility of Ukraine joining the NATO's Membership Action Plan.

A further statement was made by Jens Stoltenberg. NATO Secretary General supports the efforts of President Zelensky for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the Donbas and expressed hope that Russia will fulfill its obligations under the Minsk Agreements and will cease to support militants in Eastern Ukraine and withdraw its forces and equipment from Ukrainian territory. And called on Russia to return to Ukraine the ships seized in November last year, to ensure free access to Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea. Jens Stoltenberg recalled the presence of the Ukrainian military in Afghanistan, Kosovo, is part of the NATO Response Force and is preparing to participate in the NATO training mission in Iraq. He assured that NATO highly appreciates the partnership with Ukraine. Stoltenberg informed journalists that at the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission a comprehensive package of NATO assistance to Ukraine through 10 trust funds has been revised, and also reminded that NATO allies have allocated more than 40 million euros to support Ukraine in such fields as combat management and control, cyber defense, medical rehabilitation. At the end of his speech, Stoltenberg noted that all allies agree that Ukraine should fully implement the recommendations of the Venice Commission on national minorities in Ukraine. After the briefing, journalists received the text of the Joint Statement of the NATO-Ukraine Commission with 11 points.

After them, the briefing for journalists was continued by Vice Prime Minister, Dmytro Kuleba and Assistant Secretary General, Cadenbach. According to Kuleba, Ukraine intends to continue cooperation with the North Atlantic Alliance in a new format in the following five strategic directions:

  • defence and security sector reform;
  • development of democratic civilian control over the security and defence sector;
  • professional education and professional development of military and civilian personnel;
  • development of national sustainability in order to counter modern challenges and threats, including hybrid;
  • human security.

NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg made a speech in the Verkhovna Rada addressed to its deputies. He stressed that «NATO's doors remain open, but the road to NATO is difficult». According to him, the Alliance expects the entry into force of the Law on National Security and Reform of the Security Service of Ukraine, noting that NATO advisers will assist the Ukrainian society in the introduction of Euro-Atlantic principles to strengthen the rule of law, ensuring the rights of minorities and strengthening the fight against corruption. "Ukraine has come a long way and still has a lot to overcome. NATO supports Ukraine," the head of the North Atlantic Alliance stated. [2]

It is also worth noting that more than three years ago, Ukraine set itself an ambitious goal of moving to NATO standards by 2020. In this regard, several important documents were adopted: the National Security Strategy, the Military Doctrine and the Strategic Defense Bulletin. The priority task for the Ministry of Defence is to achieve maximum interoperability of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with the Armed forces of the Alliance member-states. "Many NATO standards have already been implemented. And there are already indicators of this: firstly, the provision of military personnel, their equipment and food has improved, secondly, modern models of technology are adopted on weaponry”, head of the Office of Standardization, Codification and Cataloging of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Alexander Kumeda says. The implementation of NATO standards in Ukraine is a key element of reforming the national security and safety sector. The key goal is to increase the level of combat capability and defense of the Ukrainian army. “To date, Ukraine has fulfilled and adapted 16% of all NATO standards”, head of the international relations department of the Reanimation Package of Reforms, Vasily Babich said. [3] 

Thus, this visit became a landmark event in Ukraine-NATO relations and once again demonstrated the support from the North Atlantic Alliance. For our part, the Ukrainian authorities have confirmed a clear focus on NATO membership and readiness for hard work. However, uncertainty remains in our relationship. NATO itself has internal contradictions about further expand the Alliance and maintenance of Euro-Atlantic solidarity. There is a problem of defining priority NATO standards for Ukraine. Since we are having war with Russia, we need to decide: either we implement the standards necessary to cooperate with other NATO forces in NATO's international operations under the auspices of the United Nations; or the standards necessary to address the issue of collective defense within NATO membership; or if the prospect of membership seems uncertain, then the main focus should be on standards that strengthen our own national defense. Also, the event did not avoid the unpleasant moment when NATO actually pushed the MAP away, and instead offered its substitute “One Country - One Plan”. Therefore we must clearly identify what standards we need, insist on obtaining MAP, continue to improve relations with NATO and achieve more significant progress in reforms.


[2] Ibid.