Recently, contacts between Ukraine and NATO intensified rapidly. A session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission on the level of foreign ministers will take place on June 25, and signing of the Association Agreement with the European Union – on June 27. A visit of the president of NATO Parliamentary Assembly to Ukraine is planned for July. Ukrainian side invited the NATO Secretary General to visit Ukraine as well. And finally, the Alliance summit will take place in September, one of the main topics during which will be the Ukrainian issue. The Day’s reporter has been to the Ukrainian Embassy in Brussels and asked head of the Ukrainian Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Ihor DOLHOV to tell about the tendencies in relations between our country and the Alliance, the ways in which NATO helps our country settle the crisis caused by the Russia’s aggression, and to what extent is the assessment of the so-called Ukrainian crisis, which in fact is Russian crisis, relevant to the situation.
“NATO MEMBERS AND PARTNERS CONDEMNED THE ANNEXATION OF CRIMEA AND RUSSIA’S AGGRESSION”
“If we follow the chronology of events, NATO became one of the first organizations that saw the danger and responded to our request to hold the session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission immediately. This meeting, which took place on March 2, has been prepared in literally one day. Back then it was emphasized that Ukraine experienced an aggressive attack and that it was a challenge for the global security, because a country, which is a permanent member of the UN Security Council with a right to veto, did not just start the aggression, but set itself in isolation, having violated fundamental regulations of the international law and its own obligations. Therefore, NATO’s position has been very clear and consistent from the very beginning. If we remember all the statements made by the General Secretary of NATO Anders Rasmussen on events in Ukraine and around it, including the last statement made on June 13, we can see, firstly, the rapidity of the reaction; secondly, the consistency of signals; and thirdly, the clarity of position to support Ukraine and do everything to find a decent answer to these sudden and unexpected for everyone challenges.
“Today [the interview was recorded on June 17. – Author] a session of the European Atlantic Partnership Council took place. The reason for it was allegedly celebratory, since the session was convened to mark the 20th anniversary of the Partnership for Peace. But the main discussion centered around the crisis, around the most serious challenge to European security in the 21st century. And definitely, all missions, NATO members and partners, condemned the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s aggression, called on the RF to perform its obligation. That is, on the one hand, there are significant results of the Program’s activity, and on the other, a situation has emerged, which puts all the work that has been done under a threat. And that is why a lot of work, carried out by the Alliance members and partners, remained in the background, in particular, on the development of proposals for the summit on the future partnership, since everyone felt a larger and immediate threat. So, the session of the EAPC became another demonstration of Russia’s complete isolation.”
“WE HAVE ALREADY RECEIVED SOME HELP PACKAGES FROM THE ALLIANCE”
You said there were statements made by NATO, but what can you say about specific actions performed by the Alliance and aimed at strengthening of our defense capacity?
“We have already received some help packages from the Alliance. And this help will continue in the future. By the way, one of the main goals of the NATO-Ukraine Commission on the level of foreign ministers on June 25 is to assess what has been done after the previous Commission’s session, which was held on April 1. Meanwhile, our partners and we clearly distinguish that there are urgent needs, which are related to the situation, as well as medium-term and prospective ones.
“I would like to draw attention to prospective needs, because we faced a necessity to carry out a fundamental reform of the defense sector in Ukraine. This is a very serious challenge, which requires other approaches and reinterpretation of all conceptual documents, from the concept of national security and military doctrine, to defense order. And we will know which army to build when we understand what this army must do, which tasks it has to execute, which fronts to block, which threats to repel. And these are basic things, which make up the foundation of the national security of every state and are especially topical for Ukraine right now.”
What can NATO help with to stop the inflow of ammunition and militants from Russia?
“Of course, we cannot talk about NATO troops marching to the east of Ukraine tomorrow. We do not expect this, there are no grounds for it. In this context, it is crucial to pay attention to what NATO started doing from the very first days.
“First, Article 4 of the Washington Treaty was invoked. According to it, NATO member states that border us and felt the threat, requested and received additional means of security guarantee. Undoubtedly, besides the moral influence, it affected Russia’s actions in military and political spheres. The Alliance’s reaction also included increased and constant presence of NATO naval forces in the Black Sea, and increased number of airplanes in countries that border Russia and Ukraine.”
“ALL OUR NEEDS AND ASSESSMENTS WERE ENUNCIATED IN PACKAGES AND SENT TO PARTNERS”
What help do we need?
“All our needs and assessments were enunciated in packages and sent to partners. They must be unified and adjusted according to the change of the situation and partners’ capabilities. In order to achieve this, NATO mission was sent to Ukraine and additional work has been performed, which will be continued. We already have certain developments and we see what must be done next.
“I participated in NATO-Ukraine defense ministers meeting and saw, just like our NATO partners, that the leadership of Ukraine’s defense sector has a clear vision of future actions. Judging by the official messages from the session of the Council of National Security and Defense of Ukraine held on June 16, the instructions and views expressed by the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko let us see the direction of the defense sector reforming.
“These are diplomatic, military, and political long-term projects, contacts, negotiations, and immediate measures. And all this must be done, but when I think that Ukrainian soldiers and civilians die every day, these things, acquire a completely different content and meaning.”
Europe constantly calls on us to negotiate with Russia and these days German minister Steinmeier declared the necessity to reach an agreement with Moscow. What is your opinion on this?
“If we talk about NATO, as the head of the Ukrainian Mission to NATO I see no role for myself in seeking an agreement with or contacting the head of the Russian Mission to NATO in any matters. The Alliance has made a statement, having limited the contacts with Russia. Moreover, when this anniversary meeting of the EAPC was held, many had doubts as to whether Russians must be invited. I did not have them, because everyone saw once again that the RF isolates itself and avoids any steps to decrease the escalation of the crisis and promote the peaceful regulation.”
“THE PARTICIPATION OF OUR MILITARY UNITS IN THE NATO RESPONSE FORCE IS A GREAT EXPERIENCE TOO”
But the question remains: what is there to do?
“What must be done? We must increase the combat capability and readiness of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, provide our homeland protectors with all the necessities. We must take part in joint trainings with armed forces of NATO member states, send our soldiers and officers to take courses. And this is being done constantly.
“It is little spoken about right now, but the participation of our military units in the NATO Response Force is a great experience too. In order to join the rotation, we must receive certification through joint trainings with NATO.
“The Verkhovna Rada approved the list of events on the territory of Ukraine, in which foreign units participate, and also an action plan on the participation of Ukrainian units abroad. By the way, Ukraine continues performing all the obligations relating to peacemaking operations, despite the complicated domestic situation.”
Some say our forces must be called off from those operations and redirected to the east of Ukraine in order to stabilize the situation.
“Calling off is not a problem. But we must realize that we are not the only country facing a difficult situation right now. We feel this sharply, because the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine are under a threat. But people die and suffer the same in other hot spots.
“By the way, the participation in peacemaking operations is not measured in dollars and hryvnias. This is what is called international solidarity and international cooperation, state’s responsible attitude towards its obligations and tasks as a member of the world community.”
“THE ISSUE OF COLLECTIVE OR ANY OTHER FORM OF DEFENSE WILL RISE BEFORE UKRAINE. BUT FIRST, PEACE AND ORDER MUST BE RESTORED IN THE COUNTRY”
This is true, but when talking to ambassadors of many countries from the former socialist camp, I often heard that a leader must convince the country in the need to move in a specific direction, in particular, provide the benefits of membership, in NATO, for example. Should our leaders clearly state and explain that we should join the collective defense system?
“What is the peculiarity of the current Ukrainian situation? That president Poroshenko has unique trust and support of the people. None of the other presidents ever had such support. This is a great capital and great responsibility he must resolutely go forward with. And the president sees which way to go, and we see it from the steps he has taken. Undoubtedly, the issue of collective or any other form of defense will rise before Ukraine, before its leadership, but in the first place, before the people of Ukraine. However, peace and order must be restored in the country at first. And this fully corresponds to the approaches and visions that were discussed in relation to the necessity of fundamental revision of the defense sector. All this is an answer to the question of what should the national security concept and military doctrine be, what do we count on: ourselves only, or other options as well.”