Consultations and cooperation between NATO and Ukraine cover a wide range of areas identified in the 1997 Charter and the 2002 Action Plan. These include peace-support operations, defence and security sector reform, military-to-military cooperation, armaments, civil emergency planning, science and environment, and public information. Cooperation in all areas is currently being intensified to enhance Ukraine’s ability to provide for its own security.
Ukraine has a proven track record of actively contributing to Euro-Atlantic security by deploying troops to work together with peacekeepers from NATO and partner countries. It is the only partner country that has contributed, at one stage or other, to all ongoing NATO-led operations.
Deployments to the NATO-led operation in Kosovo have included a helicopter squadron, infantry companies, headquarters personnel and support staff. Currently, Ukraine contributes approximately 160 personnel to the KFOR mission as part of the joint Polish-Ukrainian battalion, in the Multinational Task Force “East.”
The country is further contributing to international stability and the fight against terrorism by providing over-flight clearance for forces deployed in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), or as part of the coalition forces under the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom. A transit agreement for the supply of ISAF was signed by Ukraine in April 2009. Ukrainian medical personnel supported the Polish Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) from 2010 and the Lithuanian-led PRT in Afghanistan from 2007, until both shut down. Currently, Ukraine provides just over two dozen military personnel to ISAF, including instructors to the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan (NTM-A). It has also indicated its willingness to participate in the post-2014 follow-on mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces. From March 2005, Ukraine also contributed officers to the NATO Training Mission in Iraq, which terminated in December 2011.
Moreover, Ukraine has supported Operation Active Endeavour, NATO’s maritime operation in the Mediterranean aimed at helping deter, disrupt and protect against terrorism. Ukraine has contributed naval assets to the operation six times since 2007, most recently in November 2010. End 2013, it also contributed a frigate to NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield, which fights piracy off the coast of Somalia.
Ukraine is also the first partner country to contribute to the NATO Response Force (NRF). In 2010, Ukraine contributed a platoon specialised in nuclear, biological and chemical threats to the NRF. In 2011, Ukraine provided strategic airlift capabilities with their Antonov aircraft.
Defence and security sector reform
Ukraine’s cooperation with NATO in the area of defence and security sector reform is crucial to the ongoing transformation of Ukraine’s security posture and remains an essential part of its democratic transition.
Ukraine has sought NATO’s support in efforts to transform its Cold War legacy of massive conscript forces into smaller, professional and more mobile armed forces, able to meet the country’s security needs and to contribute actively to stability and security in the Euro-Atlantic area and beyond. Another overarching objective of NATO-Ukraine cooperation in this area is to strengthen democratic and civil control of Ukraine’s armed forces and security institutions.
NATO supports Ukraine’s defence and related security sector reform through the Joint Working Group on Defence Reform (JWGDR) and the Partnership for Peace (PfP) Planning and Review Process (PARP) mechanism to assist Ukraine in the modernisation of its force structure, command and control arrangements and defence capabilities, plans and procedures, and to support the transformation of its defence and related security institutions into modern and effective organisations under civil and democratic control, able to provide a credible deterrence to aggression and defence against military threats.
- Capacity building and civil control
In addition to the support provided to Ukraine through the JWGDR and the PARP mechanism, other NATO programmes and initiatives contribute to specific aspects of strengthening civil control over defence and related security institutions, including in the intelligence sector. Improving the capacity of these institutions is of fundamental importance for Ukraine’s development as a democratic country.
As part of wider cooperation in this area, a number of specific initiatives have been taken:
- a JWGDR Professional Development Programme for civilians working in Ukraine’s defence and security institutions was launched in October 2005;
- a NATO-Ukraine Working Group on Civil and Democratic Control of the Intelligence Sector was established in 2006;
- a Partnership Network for Civil Society Expertise Development was launched in 2006 to promote the sharing of experience on the role of civil society in defence and security affairs among civil society groups and security practitioners in NATO member countries and Ukraine;
- Since 2009, Ukraine has participated in the NATO Building Integrity Programme. Civilian and military officers have participated in the relevant education and training activities to strengthen their capabilities and learn best practices of embedding transparency, integrity and accountability in the defence and security sector;
- expert talks with security sector institutions in the area of cyber defence, with the aim of enhancing inter-agency cooperation and coordination, as well as supporting the development of Ukraine’s national cyber security strategy.
- Retraining and resettling former military personnel
Various initiatives are underway to help Ukraine retrain and resettle former military personnel made redundant as a result of the progressive downsizing of the Ukrainian armed forces. For instance, expert help is being given to help Ukraine develop a comprehensive resettlement programme.
By implementing these programmes, NATO is assisting Ukraine in the management of the socio-economic consequences of defence reform. By the end of 2013, NATO programmes had retrained close to 7,000 officers. Of these, 75 per cent are on average employed within six months after the completion of the retraining course.
- Destroying stockpiles of weapons and munitions
Individual Allies are also supporting the destruction of Ukraine’s stockpiles of anti-personnel mines, munitions and small arms and light weapons through PfP Trust Fund projects.
The first project involved the safe destruction of 400,000 landmines at a chemical plant in Donetsk, over a 15-month period in 2002-2003. It was the first step in destroying Ukraine’s stockpile of almost seven million anti-personnel mines.
A second project to destroy 133,000 tons of conventional munitions, 1.5 million small arms and 1000 man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS) was launched in 2005. With projected costs of some €25 million, the project is to be carried out over an estimated 12 years. It is the largest demilitarization project of its kind ever to be undertaken, and will permanently increase Ukraine's capacity to destroy surplus munitions.
- Economic aspects of defence
Dialogue and exchanges of experience with experts also take place with Ukraine on the economic aspects of defence. Issues covered include security aspects of economic development and economic matters related to Euro-Atlantic integration, as well as topics specifically related to defence economics such as defence budgets, the management of defence resources and restructuring in the defence sector. Courses are also organised for Ukrainian staff, covering the whole budgetary process from financial planning to financial control.
Helping Ukraine implement its defence reform objectives is also a key focus of military-to-military cooperation, complementing the work carried out under the JWGDR with military expertise.
Another important objective is to develop interoperability through a wide range of PfP activities and military exercises, sometimes hosted by Ukraine, which allow military personnel to train for peace-support operations and gain hands-on experience of working with forces from NATO countries and other partners. For example, Ukrainian forces took part in NATO’s exercise Steadfast Jazz in November 2013.
Senior Ukrainian officers also regularly participate in courses at the NATO Defense College in Rome, Italy, and the NATO School at Oberammergau, Germany. Contacts with these establishments have been instrumental in setting up a new multinational faculty at the Ukrainian Defence Academy.
The military side has also taken the lead in developing a legal framework to enable NATO and Ukraine to further develop operational cooperation:
- a PfP Status of Forces Agreement facilitates participation in PfP military exercises by exempting participants from passport and visa regulations and immigration inspection on entering or leaving the territory of the country hosting the event (entered into force in May 2000);
- a Host Nation Support agreement addresses issues related to the provision of civil and military assistance to Allied forces located on, or in transit through, Ukrainian territory in peacetime, crisis or war (ratified in March 2004);
- a Strategic Airlift agreement enables Ukraine to make a substantial contribution to NATO’s capability to move outsized cargo by leasing Antonov aircraft to Allied armed forces – an arrangement which also brings economic benefits to Ukraine (ratified in October 2006);
- the Defence Education Enhancement Programme set up with NATO in 2013 provides six defence institutions in Kyiv, Lviv and Kharkiv with expertise on how to improve the professional military education they have to offer and build the capacity of Ukrainian teaching staff.
Technical cooperation between Ukraine and NATO in the field of armaments focuses on enhancing interoperability between defence systems to facilitate Ukrainian contributions to joint peace support operations.
Cooperation in this area started when Ukraine joined the PfP programme and began participating in an increasing number of the armaments groups which meet under the auspices of the Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD) – a NATO senior body which identifies opportunities for cooperation between nations in defence equipment procurement processes, focusing in particular on technical standards.
A Joint Working Group on Armaments, which met for the first time in March 2004, is working toward increased cooperation in this area.
Civil emergency planning
NATO and Ukraine have developed practical cooperation on civil emergency planning and disaster preparedness, since the signing of a memorandum of understanding in 1997.
Ukraine’s western regions are prone to heavy flooding and NATO countries and other partners have provided assistance after severe floods in 1995, 1998 and 2001. A key focus of cooperation has therefore been to help Ukraine prepare better for such emergencies and manage their consequences more effectively.
PfP exercises also help develop plans and effective disaster-response capabilities to deal with other natural emergencies such as avalanches and earthquakes, or man-made accidents or terrorist attacks involving toxic spills or chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agents – Ukraine hosted one such exercise in 2005. In 2010, Ukraine also sent a mobile rescue centre to Poland as part of an aid effort following flooding in the country.
Science and environment
Ukraine’s participation in NATO science programmes began in 1991 and intensified following an exchange of letters on cooperation in the area of science and the environment in 1999. Over the years, Ukraine has been among the biggest recipients of NATO grants for scientific collaboration.
In addition to applying science to defence against terrorism and new threats, Ukraine’s priority areas for cooperation include information technologies, cell biology and biotechnology, new materials, the rational use of natural resources and cooperation focused on defence-related environmental problems.
NATO has also sponsored several projects to provide basic infrastructure for computer networking among Ukrainian research communities and to facilitate their access to the internet. Although the focus of past collaboration has been in the area of physical sciences, project proposals are now also being considered which deal with security issues from a social science perspective. For example, a new Trust Fund is being considered that will help remove and decontaminate military sites with stored radioactive waste.
A Joint Working Group on Scientific and Environmental Cooperation is supporting the further development of cooperation in this area.
It is important for the Ukrainian administration to inform the Ukrainian people about NATO-Ukraine relations and the benefits of cooperation in terms of Ukraine’s own reform programme. Many people in Ukraine still lack information regarding the role, activities and goals of the Alliance, and outdated Cold War stereotypes remain strong in the minds of some.
The Allies have offered to cooperate with the Ukrainian authorities in raising awareness about what NATO is today, and in better explaining the NATO-Ukraine relationship.
The NATO Information and Documentation Centre, based in Kyiv, is NATO’s principal public information facility, offering seminars and talks, as well as coordinating visits by NATO officials to Ukraine and representatives of Ukrainian civil society to NATO Headquarters in order to better illustrate the mechanisms behind the partnership.