The renewal of NATO's dialogue with Russia: will this affect Alliance relations with Ukraine?
At the end of 2017, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he expects to intensify the dialogue with Russia in 2018 and stressed the importance of maintaining open channels of communication. ‘I expect there will be more meetings and also more use of these direct military lines of communication. So we are moving forward both on the political dialogue and the military lines of communication, and the whole alliance is behind that’, – Stoltenberg has said. ‘NATO's message is that we don't want a new Cold War. We don't want a new arms race and we want political dialogue with Russia. This dialogue is not easy. Russia is our neighbor and Russia is there to stay’, – he added.
There was an information in media about the planned meeting of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) of NATO Allied Command Operations, Curtis Scaparrotti and the Chief of the Staff of Russian Army Valeriy Gerasimov. At the headquarters of the North Atlantic Alliance and in the Allied Joint Force Command did not refute but did not confirm information about the allegedly scheduled meeting in January. ‘NATO and Russia maintain communications lines between military departments, for greater predictability and transparency of military activities’,- explained the Joint Force Command.
Recall, NATO and Moscow relations worsened after the annexation of the Crimea and Russia's military intervention in Ukraine. The Alliance repeatedly accused the Kremlin of using propaganda and cyber threats to undermine security in the region. The level of relations and contacts between NATO and Russia has reached the most critical since the end of the Cold War.
However, NATO continues to seek a political dialogue with Russia in order to prevent a red line in international tension. Russia does not lose any possibility of compromising its activities and continues to exacerbate the situation around the borders with the Allies. For example, last year in Lithuania and Estonia, fighter aircraft of the Baltic Air Patrol missions climbed to the sky 130 times to accompany Russian military aircraft flying near their borders. Also, let's recall the Zapd 2017 exercise where took part much more military than officially declared Moscow and Minsk. At the end of 2017, NATO was concerned about a Russian missile system capable of carrying nuclear warheads and noted that it violated a ntermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty concluded during the Cold War.
Also, the North Atlantic Alliance is concerned about the growing activity of Russian submarines in the Mediterranean and Atlantic ocean. ‘From 2014, additional 13 submarines were launched. The activity of Russian submarines is now the highest since the Cold War’, – the Secretary General of NATO has said. According to the commander of NATO's submarine forces Andrew Lennon, Russia ‘is clearly interested’ in the subsea infrastructure of the Alliance. It is about activating the submarine forces of Russia in the Atlantic, precisely in areas where subsea cables are laid out, providing access to the Internet in Europe and North America.
Obviously, NATO does not want open conflict with official Moscow, so they are still looking for points of contact for establishing relations. This cooperation at this stage will not have a significant impact on the relations between Ukraine and NATO. Such a ‘soft’ diplomacy of NATO is not effective, since Russia accepts the Alliance's request to return to dialogue as its political capitulation. However, the Ukrainian authorities need to show the results of reforms and the political will to further integrate into NATO. This is the issue of national security, on which the integrity of our state depends.
In general, for Ukraine, the lack of contacts between Russia and NATO last year has become a favorable background for even more intense dialogue with the Alliance. It is quite clear that in today's international relations such cooperation is beneficial and constructive for both Ukraine and the Alliance. The President Poroshenko wrote in a column for the special issue of ‘New Time’ and ‘The Economist World’: ‘Ukraine's membership in the European Union and joining NATO remain a strategic goal of Ukraine, but this is not a 2018 perspective’. Thus, the President seems to be stand on the Ukraine's accession to NATO, however, at the same time, he does not show sufficient political will and don’t rushing to insist on a more intensive dialogue on joining the Alliance.
According to the poll of the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, citizens of Ukraine believe that joining NATO would be the best option for ensuring security for the country. The survey was conducted in conjunction with the sociological service of the Razumkov Center from December 15 till December 19, 2017, in all regions of Ukraine, except for the Crimea and the occupied territories of Donetsk and Lugansk Oblasts. 38.5% of respondents consider that the best option for guaranteeing security for Ukraine is joining NATO, 28.6% – non-aligned status, 5.3% – military alliance with Russia and other CIS countries, 5% support a military alliance with the United States. Could not determine the answer of 19.5%.
According to the same Fund in 2012, membership in NATO was chosen as a source of security by 13% , in May 2014 – 33%, in December 2014 – 44%, November 2015 – 46%, June 2017 – 47%.
The fall of the level of NATO support in society primarily is due to the deepening of the internal social and economic crisis and corruption. The proposed ‘hybrid’ peace does not work and brings more and more dissatisfaction. And society considers the kleptocratic regime to be a bigger threat.
So, the authorities of Ukraine in their history have already lost several opportunities to become part of the Alliance, moreover, it has refused to engage in a strategic dialogue with it. However, it's time to make it clear that NATO is a guarantor of security in the country and the instrument of confronting those challenges that Ukraine faces now.