Doors to NATO Closed: Lack of Preparation Recognized in Kiev

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Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ

25th February, 2016


The acting head of Ukraine’s mission to NATO, Egor Bozhok, said that the country is not ready to become a full member of the Alliance, but is actively working to meet the criteria of the Alliance. This was stated by the representative of Kiev to NATO on Wednesday 17th February, in an interview to the Ukrainian portal DefenseExpress.

“At the socio-political level, Ukraine is not ready to become a NATO member. It should be noted that even if the country is ready for membership of the Alliance technically, the crucial requirement for its acquisition is currently still at the level of public support. And when the time comes, the leadership of Ukraine will ask its people,” said Bozhok.

However, according to him, Kiev is actively working with the representatives of the Alliance in order to meet the criteria of the organization.

Recall that in December 2014, the Verkhovna Rada amended two laws, abandoning the non-aligned status of the country. According to the new military doctrine, by 2020, the country must ensure the full compatibility of its armed forces with the forces of country-members of NATO.

On December 13th 2015, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko described the entry into the EU and NATO as the main goal of the country. According to him, recently the public support for Euro-Atlantic integration has increased from 16% to 70%. “We can directly talk about the long-term accession to the European Union and NATO membership”, — declared Poroshenko.

On 11th February 2016, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that the integration of the country’s army in NATO will be held in 2016. “We are actually moving to a contract army, and the Ukrainian armed forces, de facto, should they become members of NATO, must fully meet the standards and criteria of the North Atlantic Alliance”, — said Yatsenyuk.

The next day, Petro Poroshenko approved the annual national program of “Ukraine-NATO” cooperation. The program determines the main directions of cooperation and common policy objectives of a partnership between Ukraine and the Alliance, and provides a comprehensive development of cooperation. The document also outlines the process of political, economic and social reforms in Ukraine.

At the end of last week, on the sidelines of the Munich conference, there was a meeting between the President of Ukraine and the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who congratulated Ukraine on the approval of the National program of “Ukraine-NATO” cooperation. The Ukrainian President said the document was important in the implementation of complex reforms that bring Ukraine closer to NATO standards. Poroshenko also praised the strong political support and practical assistance that NATO provides to Ukraine.

Kiev does not hide that the goal of NATO membership is protection from the mythical “Russian aggression”. “Ukraine can defend itself from Russian aggression only in the system of collective security, said the chief of the UAF General staff, Viktor Muzhenko, on the air of the national TV. According to him, Ukraine will be able to repulse the aggression, but lengthy battles “can be a serious problem for us”.

“Speaking about NATO, we often by default mean the US. To a large extent, that’s the way it is. However, other members of the Alliance have their own military and political interests that do not always coincide with the ambitions of Washington,” believes a political analyst at the international monitoring organization CIS-EMO Stanislav Byshok. “In Berlin, Paris and other capitals of the European members of NATO, the prospect of Ukraine joining the Alliance is understood as the harbinger of a military conflict with Russia, which even a warmonger like Bernard-Henri Levy will not support.”

The leadership of Ukraine has made and continues to make statements about “compulsory” membership of the country in NATO and the EU “in the future”. The words of the current representative of Ukraine to NATO can also be interpreted as a call to be better prepared for the future to still join the Alliance.

“SP”: What needs to happen for Ukraine, but also Moldova and Georgia to become members of NATO?

“If the candidate of the Democratic party or a “hawk” from the Republicans is elected US President, the prospect of these countries joining NATO will be more realistic, though, considering the discontent of European allies, it is also very distant. Plus all three countries have disputed territory: Ukraine — Crimea and Donbass, Moldova — Transnistria and Gagauzia, in Georgia — South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This is obviously not conducive to the demands of NATO.”

“SP”: What can and should Moscow do to oppose the hostile ring tightening around it?

“There is the opinion that, for example, is featured in Zygar’s new book, that the conflict between Russia and the West was actually invented by the Russian President or, rather, his surroundings. As Russia starts to behave as if the conflict in reality exists, the collective West, feeling the threat from the East, begins to act accordingly. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

However, if you were to read, instead of “Soviet papers”, the work of George Friedman, Henry Kissinger or Zbigniew Brzezinski, we see a different picture. A geopolitical confrontation between Russia and USA is an objective reality, which manifests itself in various spheres, primarily in the military. And Russia cannot “exit” from this confrontation, because it’s not a sport with clearly defined rules in such a situation, where the fight stops. Therefore, Russia can respond to NATO’s enlargement using available means, including the rearmament and strengthening of cooperation within BRICS.”

“SP”: Why does the West pursue an escalation in Ukraine and in Syria? Why not just negotiate with Moscow? Will a new administration in Washington defuse the situation or will it follow the same policy?

“In relation to Ukraine, the interests of Brussels and Washington in recent years have significantly differed. Ukraine, for Washington, is a guarantee that, firstly, the European ambitions of Russia will be substantially limited, and secondly, the prospect of the creation of the Eurasian continental bloc from Lisbon to Vladivostok — actually, the “wider Europe”, which is able to create a real alternative to American hegemony, remains distant.

The imperatives of American foreign policy remain relatively stable in the postwar period; if the White house will once again be in the hands of the Democrats, nothing will change in regard to the Russian lines. The attitude towards Russia  differs among the Republican candidates, from sympathy (Trump), to aggression (Rubio or Bush).

“SP”: The White house said that Ukraine needs the protection of the United States and NATO, like members of the Alliance on the Eastern flank — Hungary, Romania and the Baltic States. Does this mean that Ukraine is already equated as the Eastern flank of NATO?

“Postmaidan Ukraine is, first of all, specifically the Eastern flank of the US, a flank which is uncomfortable not only for Russia. And such a position quite suits, for example, popular with some on the Russian left, the candidate of the Democratic party, Bernie Sanders. Sanders recently said that NATO should deploy more troops to Eastern Europe, and not allow the aggressive designs of Moscow to develop.

“SP”: Can we say that with the Minsk agreements, Moscow has not allowed Ukraine to divide and protect themselves from NATO missiles along the Dnieper river?

“If we analyze the Ukrainian media in relation to the Minsk agreements, two diametrically opposed positions co-exist peacefully. First: Russia occupied Donbass, which now groans under its oppression, periodically firing at itself and the Ukrainian army, and all hearts wish to return to democratic Ukraine so that, together with all the country, they can enjoy the coming freedom. Second: Russia is using the Minsk agreements in order to “shove” Donbass into hating all things reasonable, good and Ukrainian back into Ukraine and using it to influence internal and external policy of the country. Both points of view have the right to exist, although their correspondence with reality is hardly the same.

As long as there is NATO, it is impossible to say that any one document or action of Russia has protected itself from the North Atlantic Alliance. The geopolitical process never ends.

“NATO has never hid that they were ready to submit for consideration the question of Ukraine’s membership in NATO, ” said the Director of the Center for Eurasian studies Vladimir Kornilov.

And we all understand that we are not talking about “standards”, “willingness” or even about “public acceptance”. Not once has NATO accepted a poor, undemocratic, unstable country into its Alliance. It’s a question of the convenience of using Ukraine against Russia. So it will depend only on the active position of Moscow if one day Ukraine will or will not become a member of NATO.

“SP”: The path to NATO was announced by Yushchenko. Later Poroshenko complained that during the Bucharest summit bloc it was declared that the door to the Alliance for Ukraine is closed.

“Any anti-Russian Alliance will suit any Ukrainian nationalist — even NATO, despite the Alliance with Turkey, but there is the possibility of driving more wedges between Ukraine and Russia… Regarding “closed doors” — there is no hurry. Let us remember that during the Bucharest summit that door was closed for Ukraine, Germany and France. Since then, their position regarding Russia has repeatedly changed. Russian diplomacy scored a significant victory. But this does not mean that we should relax. We must always work with influential members of the Alliance to create temporary alliances inside of it to prevent the possibility of Ukrainian membership in NATO in the future.

“SP”: According to Bozhok, the decisive requirement for gaining membership is still at the level of public support. According to Poroshenko, recently, public support for Euro-Atlantic integration has increased from 16% to 70%. This is not enough? What do you think about these numbers?

“I’ve seen different figures. But given the fact that the opinion of Crimea and Donbass is not taken into consideration, as well as the anti-Russian hysteria that prevails in the Ukrainian media, I assume that the relative majority of Ukrainians now support joining NATO. But on the other hand, this further drives a wedge between the one and the other Ukraine, any negotiations on the return of the Donbass would be theoretically impossible. I think that’s what Bozhok primarily meant, not the ratings of this idea.

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