Foreign Policy Research Institute

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Foreign Policy Research Institute

tel. +38 (044) 287 52 58

INTERNATIONAL WEEKLY № 17 (01.11.2017 — 15.11.2017)

Implementation of a desire to join NATO or the long roundabout way?

The issue of Ukraine's accession to NATO has long acquired the meaning of national security for the country. In this direction Ukraine has already succeeded in making a series of successful steps. Clearly, there are currently some problems in the way of Ukraine's integration into the Alliance.Among them, the lack of sufficient political will of both the Ukrainian authorities and NATO leadership, Ukraine's non-compliance with NATO criteria and open armed conflict in the East. However, we note that the issue of accepting a new member of the Alliance is a purely political issue, in fact, as well as the desire of the candidate country itself to acquire the status of NATO member.

As is known, the Parliament of Ukraine canceled non-alignment and legally determined that gaining membership in NATO was on the list of the main directions of state policy on national security and the main principles of foreign policy. This has become an important step in Ukraine's path to the Euro-Atlantic community. From the Alliance itself there were no loud comments on this issue, and they responded modestly: ‘took into consideration’ the decision of the Verkhovna Rada [1]. On this occasion, there are many statements about whether Ukraine needs to integrate into NATO at all. And despite some manipulations on this topic, the answer can be only one – needs. This need was also realized by society after the Russian attack on Ukraine. This fact showed the failure of Ukraine’snon-aligned status to defend the country.

The Alliance itself has repeatedly signaled to Ukraine that on the way to NATO integration  it needs to implement series of reforms to bring the country closer to their criteria and to overcome corruption. And in early November this year information appeared that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg first recognized that Ukraine was really seeking full-fledged entry into the Alliance. Moreover, NATO not only recognizes but also supports Ukraine's aspiration to join the organizationJens Stoltenberg, in an interview with Ukrayinska Pravda’ stated: ‘Ukraine is a close partner of the Alliance. We support the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of Ukraine’. At the same time, the Secretary General did not answer the question of whether Ukraine is on the list of ‘aspiring nations’, that is, states declaring their desire to gain full-fledged membership in the Alliance. Regarding further cooperation between the Alliance and Ukraine, the Secretary General stated that his priority was reform. ‘Now we have to focus on the reforms that lead Ukraine to NATO’, he stressed [2].

On November 8, during a visit to NATO Headquarters in Brussels, the Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Ivanna Klimpush-Tsintsadze stated that NATO confirmed its readiness to integrate with Ukraine 9 years ago, and now Kyiv must focus on reforms. Klimpush-Tsintsadze shied away from commenting on when the Alliance could officially recognize Ukraine as an ‘aspiring nation’, instead reminded people of the decision of the Bucharest Summit of the Alliance, which decided that ‘one day Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO’ [3].

Also, during the visit, the Alliance reported that it was not satisfied with the way Kyiv carries out the Annual National Program, a document defining the list and speed of reforms for the further rapprochement of Ukraine with the Alliance. Vadim Prystaiko said: ‘The Alliance is dissatisfied with the implementation of the annual plan, and told us about it directly. They are dissatisfied with the pace of implementation, and this is not the first year, that is not the first annual program that one could learn to perform more effectively’. According to him, in particular, the Alliance leadership reported about it to the Vice Prime Minister IvannaKlimpush-Tsintsadze during her visit to Brussels [4].

Thus, Stoltenberg's statement is rather encouraging for Ukraine. The cooperation between NATO and Ukraine has reached a qualitatively new level, however, as we see, the Alliance is not in ahurry to give Ukraine a ‘green light’ for granting the status of ‘aspiring nation’ and the MAP. Obviously, NATO is hesitant to do this because of the unpredictability of Russia, and in Ukraine the internal situation which leaves much to be desired. Corruption is the main problem of Ukraine which the Alliance is constantly reminded of. It is therefore vital for Ukraine to implement reforms to bring NATO closer to the standards, but we should not forget about defending Ukraine's clear and persistent position as regards its desire to become a NATO member. After all, one should not forget that Ukraine is now in defense of the Alliance's eastern outpost. As Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin noted, Ukraine is now, at least politically, part of NATO's eastern flank [5].

The opinion of the former Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States Y. Shcherbak is favourable. In particular, he stressed: ‘In the current situation, the North Atlantic Alliance is very interested in the Ukrainian experience of counteracting Russian aggression. Our country went through fire and trial, became a victim of a hybrid war and Russian aggression and gained an invaluable battle experience that no NATO country has. And today Ukraine is not a consumer of security. NATO gives a protective umbrella to many countries, and Ukraine is a big producer of this security!’[6].