NATO Secretary General George Robertson’s visit would not attract so much international attention if had been under different circumstances. This opinion is shared by Ukrainian, North Atlantic alliance, and many other analysts. Even though planned long ago (NATO says the plans were made last year), visiting now was for the General Secretary anything but easy in view of what is happening in Macedonia. In any case, Mr. Robertson flew from Macedonia to Kyiv. Ukraine is an important strategic country that can become a magnet to draw Eastern and Western Europe together, US General of the Army and Supreme Commander of the Allied Command Atlantic William Kernan stated at a July 5 press conference, July 5.
July 5-6, Kyiv hosted the symposium, The Twenty-First Century World: Cooperation, Partnership, and Dialogue,” involving the NATO Secretary General, numerous Ukrainian dignitaries, and diplomats. The Ukrainian side promptly stressed that Kyiv does not intend to join the North Atlantic alliance, yet did not deny the need to maintain active cooperation. NSDC Secretary Yevhen Marchuk noted that “accession to NATO is not on the agenda, and is not likely to be soon. It is a matter of time and evolution, ours and NATO’s.” He reminded those present of a major international political postulate whereby “the transformation of national security in any country must not increase conflict risks in a given region.” Ukraine’s accession to NATO, even hypothetical, “would increase the risks of conflict between Ukraine and Russia and between Russia and NATO,” he stressed, adding that NATO’s eastward expansion means “not only the expansion of European structures, but also further strengthening of United Europe.” He said he was confident Ukraine must participate in the development of such an undivided Europe.
Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlenko is also convinced that “the process of NATO expansion poses no danger to the national interests of Ukraine; it will simply provide additional security guarantees.” Secretary General Robertson added that every country has a right to select its means of security at its own discretion, and the that nine candidate NATO members to date are not the limit.
An alternative to Ukraine’s membership was the Kyiv-Brussels “special partnership” based on the 1997 Madrid Charter and the 1994 Partnership for Peace program. Obviously, both instruments no longer suffice for Ukraine and NATO. Numerous Ukrainian officials emphasized the need for “a fresh impetus” in the bilateral relationship. This impetus is expected at the NATO summit in Prague next year (along with a resolution on the second wave of NATO expansion). So far, Ukrainian-NATO cooperation has gone no further than studying experience in armed forces reorganization, building civilian control, observance of the human rights of servicemen (something we find hard to digest), scientific and military cooperation, along with rescue and repair missions in the aftermath of natural and industrial calamities. Yevhen Marchuk told the press there is an opportunity to help Ukraine also in a different aspect: supply or modernization of materiel using NATO resources, particularly in terms of modernizing the T-72 tank currently deployed by the new NATO members, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Another possibility is the construction of a fireproof frigate for NATO, which appears quite practical, considering Ukraine’s shipbuilding capacities, and negotiations on this are currently underway in Brussels. There are also armored personnel carriers that can be manufactured and repaired in Ukraine for new NATO members. Mr. Marchuk also mentioned the An-70 cargo plane, saying “there is still a chance to push it through on Western markets, although the market situation is unfavorable for us.” General Robertson actually agreed with Secretary Marchuk, saying that military-technological cooperation is a sphere where Ukraine and NATO are likely to ultimately combine efforts. Such cooperation, he added, could be based on aircraft, space, and missile defense projects in the European theater.
The NATO Secretary General also promised Ukraine support in terms of large-scale reform, pointing out unequivocally that foreign aid can by no means substitute domestic reform efforts; that the quickness of rapprochement between Ukraine and its European partners will depend on how seriously it will approach the double problems of developing international cooperation and upholding genuine domestic reform. Any procrastination in this process, stressed General Robertson, would cause the decision to carry out such reform to become more expensive and more painful. He also noted considerable headway in the Ukrainian armed forces reform, adding that nothing could be achieved painlessly. He said every effort would be made to enhance cooperation between NATO and Ukraine as well as Russia. Ukraine has demonstrated that the policy of gradual integration into Europe and neighborly relations with Russia can follow parallel courses, George Robertson declared.
On the eve of his visit to Ukraine, NATO Secretary-General George Robertson granted an exclusive article to The Day (see page CLOSEUP)