The Ukrainian government has learned to discuss NATO with the correct terminology. It is hoped that our state leaders will also learn how to implement its European integration policy and get closer to NATO, even if this is done gradually. This was the comment of an envoy from one of the NATO member countries on the first results of the alliance's session in Kyiv, specifically the meeting between NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer and Ukraine's political leadership.
"We have to do a considerable amount of homework," President Viktor Yushchenko said later during a press conference. "Some problems have been solved, but others have not. The Ukrainian side is convinced that joining the Membership Action Plan...will allow Ukraine to focus on this homework and carry out the tasks that have been set within the mutual plan of action. The Membership Action Plan is precisely what is allowing Ukraine to proceed from most effective, intensive dialog to cooperation. Therefore, we will do our utmost to ensure that a positive decision on this question is issued this year."
President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Tymoshenko demonstrated a united approach to Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic course. A top Ukrainian diplomat noted the prime minister's constructive role during her talks with NATO's secretary general. He admitted that some people at Ukraine's foreign ministry were afraid that Tymoshenko would never use the word NATO during the talks, but it cropped up in practically every second statement. When she was asked what kind of help Ukraine needs from NATO, Tymoshenko replied: "Give us MAP status in December." She also presented Scheffer with a copy of a monograph by Viktor Yanukovych in which he writes that Ukraine will join NATO in 2008.
The unnamed diplomat also said that the Ukrainian side offered the assurance that the democratic coalition will last until the end of its term, adding that the main problem in obtaining MAP status for Ukraine is Russia and Germany's stand. He noted that much will depend on what will satisfy or dissatisfy Russia before the December summit, when Ukraine's MAP status will be determined by NATO's foreign ministers.
Scheffer believes that Russia has no veto right in regard to NATO's expansion and cannot deny Ukraine membership in NATO. He made this point clear during a meeting with diplomats and experts at the Diplomatic Club, which was organized by the Open Ukraine Foundation. Once again, NATO's secretary general patiently explained that Ukraine alone must decide whether to join the alliance, just as NATO will determine whether to admit Ukraine, regardless of the stance of any third party, proceeding from the results of the reforms in Ukraine's defense and national security sectors. He reminded those present that every country that joined NATO did so of its own free will. As for the anti-NATO rallies in Kyiv, he said they are a manifestation of people's free will, adding that a country's strategic course is adopted by a majority vote.
Scheffer did not skirt around sensitive issues. He responded diplomatically to an ex-foreign minister of Ukraine, who wanted to know what the current government should do to obtain MAP status this December.
In the secretary general’s opinion, the Ukrainian government should keep up the reforms, explain why it is adopting the Euro-Atlantic course, and tell the people the truth about NATO — its activities, goals, and values. Ukraine’s president, prime minister, and parliament must explain why our country needs MAP status and, eventually, NATO membership, so that they can secure popular support. Scheffer believes that Ukraine will become more competitive after joining NATO, particularly in the sphere of military transport aviation. He reminded his listeners that strategic transport planes, which are manufactured in Ukraine, are widely used for deliveries to Afghanistan.
NATO’s secretary general praised Ukraine’s participation in peacekeeping missions, particularly KFOR in the Balkans, Active Endeavor, NATO’s training mission in Iraq, and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. NATO welcomes Ukraine’s efforts to expand its ISAF personnel and secure ground transit for the ISAF through Ukrainian territory. Ukraine is also seeking to contribute to the Franco-British helicopter initiative and participate in NATO’s Air Situation Data Exchange (ASDE) program. In addition, as NATO’s first partner, Ukraine intends to take part in the NATO Response Force (NRF).
Scheffer repeated the well-known truth that after being admitted to the alliance Ukraine will remain a sovereign country whose government will decide whether to take part in NATO operations. He stressed that NATO does not distinguish between old and new members; all member countries are equally important. He reminded his listeners that even the small Baltic states have found their respective niches in NATO missions, and they are taking an active part in NATO debates. A military organization cannot survive without a political backbone, he pointed out.
On the topic of NATO’s prospects, Scheffer noted that the Western military alliance has no ambitions of becoming the global cop and that it must stick to its mandate. He expressed the hope that the United Nations will rely increasingly on NATO, especially in regard to peacekeeping missions. Speaking about some of the problems that NATO faces, the secretary general noted that the procedures for funding NATO operations must be revised so that the countries involved in such operations do not end up shouldering the entire financial burden. It is also necessary to restructure NATO’s armed forces so that units can take part in missions, with an emphasis on NATO Expeditionary Operations. There must also be a strong EU-NATO partnership.
Scheffer noted that Ukraine’s developing relations with NATO will serve our country’s strategic interests, but in the meantime the alliance must develop neighborly relations with Russia.
The members of the NATO delegation will now travel to Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, and Lviv, where they will have an opportunity to obtain first-hand information about cooperation projects that are part of the program Science for Peace and Security in Ukraine. It should be noted that The Day has been covering the NATO topic since 2000, so it cannot be said that Ukrainian society knows nothing about the alliance. Nevertheless, the visit of the NATO VIPs to Ukraine is very important. It is not every day that NATO’s secretary general and envoys from 26 member countries visit Ukraine.
On the other hand, this does not mean that Ukraine’s political leadership must discuss NATO only when delegations visit. Obviously, the level of discussions on this subject should raised to one where Ukraine’s NATO membership becomes understandable to the average Ukrainian, so s/he can figure out what membership in this club of democratic countries will entail, the kind of standard of living it can assure, and how it is possible to make bureaucrats serve the people’s interests.
An important aspect of the NATO delegation’s visit to Kyiv was that both the president and the prime minister confirmed the Euro-Atlantic course. Ukraine’s leadership must now organize the work that is required to reach this goal. It was thus a positive signal that despite their squabbles, the president and the prime minister of Ukraine are aware of the extreme importance of NATO membership as a crucial factor of all reforms in our country. Judicial reform, which has been discussed for years, is equally important, but there has been no progress on this front.
It is generally understood that Ukraine is a country that badly needs a “critical mass” of individuals who are convinced Ukraine must become a member of NATO. Ukraine’s leadership — the government and the parliamentary opposition — has made it clear that this question will be resolved after a referendum. It is crucial to launch numerous social-educational projects, enlist the assistance of various social groups, and teach our journalists how to write intelligibly about NATO. Nor do we need to win over the countries that support Ukraine’s NATO membership. Perhaps it is time to set up a coordinating center in Ukraine to secure its Euro-Atlantic course.
Volodymyr KHANDOHII , First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine:
The NATO delegation’s visit to Ukraine is an important event in the process of including Ukraine in intensive consultations with NATO on the highest level. This is how we view the meetings with Ukraine’s top leadership. I think these meetings were extremely important and had a positive impact on the consciousness of at least the delegation members. The main achievement of this visit is that they heard the president, the prime minister, and the head of the Verkhovna Rada confirming the unchanging nature of our foreign policy course. A frank discussion took place during the meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Commission about the need to intensify the reforms that we are implementing within the framework of the Action Plan and Target Plan. The NATO envoys underlined the fact that they came not in order to lobby on behalf of NATO or sell it, but to reply to society’s questions about the nature of NATO and its priorities, direction, and activity. The public will obtain answers to these questions. I think this is very interesting and useful. I believe that this visit will boost our aspirations and prospects for obtaining a positive result this December.
Serhii STUKANOV , member of the Ostroh Club of Young Intellectuals, city of Donetsk:
In Donetsk, measures for informing the pubic about NATO (principles of activity, goal, structure) are totally inadequate, to put it mildly. No noticeable improvements or signs of more dynamic informational activity connected to the decisions of the Bucharest summit or the recent visit of NATO’s general secretary to Kyiv have been observed in our city. Like before, the only source of any information about NATO is the display of special publications that was opened several years ago at the Krupskaia Oblast Research Library. The exhibit is regularly expanded with new issues of the NATO Bulletin and other materials, but visitors to the library do not pay much attention to this display. Donetsk National University has a Research- Information Center on International Security and Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, which organized an international conference on the Ukraine-Russia-NATO triangle on May 15-16 this year. From time to time roundtables are held in institutions of higher education in Donetsk, but for the most part they can hardly be considered active measures aimed at informing the public about NATO. No large-scale measures aimed at the broader public are taking place in the city.