NATO’s relations with Ukraine
Over time, Ukraine has reinforced political dialogue and practical cooperation with NATO and, since Russia’s illegal military intervention in Crimea, NATO and Ukraine have been intensifying this cooperation. NATO supports a range of initiatives in Ukraine, while Ukraine contributes to NATO’s missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo, and in 2013 became the first partner country to contribute to the NATO-led counter-piracy operation Ocean Shield. The formal basis for NATO-Ukraine relations is the 1997 Charter on a Distinctive Partnership, which established the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC), and the Declaration to Complement the Charter, signed in 2009.
Following recent developments in Crimea, NATO Allies reiterated their full support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders. Echoing a fundamental point made in the 1997 Charter, it stated that “a sovereign, independent and stable Ukraine, firmly committed to democracy and the rule of law, is key to Euro-Atlantic security.” The Alliance is also intensifying its partnership with Ukraine and strengthening cooperation to support democratic reforms and defence capacity building, complementing international efforts to support the people of Ukraine as they shape their future.
At the Chicago Summit in May 2012, NATO leaders marked the 15th anniversary of the 1997 Charter and welcomed Ukraine’s commitment to enhancing political dialogue and interoperability with NATO, as well as its contributions to NATO-led operations. They also declared that NATO was ready to continue to develop its cooperation with Ukraine and assist with the implementation of reforms in the framework of the NATO-Ukraine Commission and the Annual National Programme. This continued support was reiterated by NATO Defence and Foreign Ministers at their 2014 gatherings.
Dialogue and cooperation between NATO and Ukraine has become well-established in a wide range of areas. In particular, Ukraine has proved to be an important contributor to Euro-Atlantic security in the framework of NATO-led operations. Another important aspect of relations is the support given by NATO and individual Allies for Ukraine’s ongoing reform efforts, particularly in the defence and security sector. These reforms are vital for the country’s democratic development and for strengthening Ukraine’s ability to defend itself.
The 1997 Charter on a Distinctive Partnership remains the basic foundation underpinning NATO-Ukraine relations. The NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC) directs cooperative activities and provides a forum for consultation between the Allies and Ukraine on security issues of common concern.
Joint working groups have been set up under the auspices of the NUC, to take work forward in specific areas. Of particular importance are the Political and Partnerships Committee in NUC format, which takes the leading role in developing annual national programmes and preparing high-level meetings of the NUC; and the Joint Working Group on Defence Reform, which facilitates consultation and practical cooperation in the priority area of defence and security sector reform.
Two NATO offices in Kyiv support cooperation on the ground in key areas. The NATO Information and Documentation Centre, established in 1997, supports efforts to inform the public about NATO’s activities and the benefits of NATO-Ukraine cooperation. The NATO Liaison Office, established in 1999, facilitates Ukraine’s participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme and supports its reform efforts, by liaising with the Ministry of Defence and other Ukrainian agencies.
Annual National Programme
In 2009, an Annual National Programme (ANP) replaced the previous Annual Target Plans, which implemented the long-term objectives set out in the 2002 NATO-Ukraine Action Plan. It is composed of five chapters focusing on: political and economic issues; defence and military issues; resources; security issues; and legal issues.
The NUC assesses progress under the ANP annually.
The responsibility for implementation falls primarily on Ukraine, which is being urged to take the reform process forward vigorously in order to strengthen democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the market economy. Helping Ukraine achieve a far-reaching transformation of the defence and security sector is a key priority of NATO-Ukraine cooperation.
In 2010, Ukraine established a high-level commission that would act as a coordination mechanism for cooperation with NATO. The commission includes National Coordinators for each of the five areas covered in the ANP.
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. For instance, NATO is looking at new Trust Funds to support defence capacity building in critical areas such as logistics, command and control, cyber defence and military career transition management.
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. It assists Ukraine in the modernisation of its force structure, command and control arrangements, defence capabilities and plans and procedures. Allies also contribute to the transformation of Ukraine’s 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.
NATO-Ukraine relations were formally launched in 1991, when Ukraine joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (succeeded by the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1997), immediately upon achieving independence with the break-up of the Soviet Union.
A few years later, in 1994, Ukraine became the first of the Commonwealth of Independent States to join the Partnership for Peace. The country soon demonstrated its commitment to contribute to Euro-Atlantic security in its support for the NATO-led peacekeeping operations in the Balkans during the 1990s.
The 1997 Charter on a Distinctive Partnership recognised the importance of an independent, stable and democratic Ukraine to European stability. The Charter set out principles and arrangements for the further development of NATO-Ukraine relations and identified areas for consultation and cooperation, establishing the NATO-Ukraine Commission to take work forward.
Steps were taken to deepen and broaden the NATO-Ukraine relationship with the adoption of the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan in November 2002, which supported Ukraine’s reform efforts on the road towards Euro-Atlantic integration.
In the wake of the "Orange Revolution", newly elected President Viktor Yushchenko was invited to a summit meeting at NATO Headquarters in February 2005. NATO leaders expressed support for the new President’s ambitious reform plans for Ukraine and agreed to sharpen and refocus NATO-Ukraine cooperation in line with the new government’s priorities.
Two months later, at the NUC meeting of foreign ministers in Vilnius, Lithuania, in April 2005, the Allies and Ukraine launched an Intensified Dialogue on Ukraine’s aspirations to NATO membership. They also announced a package of short-term actions designed to enhance NATO-Ukraine cooperation in key reform areas.
At the Bucharest Summit in April 2008, Allied leaders agreed that Ukraine may become a NATO member in future.
In August 2009, a “Declaration to Complement the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership between NATO and Ukraine” was signed. It gives the NUC a central role in deepening political dialogue and cooperation, and in underpinning Ukraine’s reform efforts pertaining to its membership aspirations.
In 2010, the newly elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych made it clear that while it was not presently pursuing NATO membership, it wished to maintain the existing level of cooperation with the Alliance and to fulfill existing agreements. Continued political and military dialogue for regional stability, practical support for NATO-led operations and defence reform were identified as the main tasks for NATO-Ukraine cooperation. Ukraine issued a Presidential Decree (1039/2010) establishing a high-level Commission for Ukraine’s Partnership with NATO. This coordination mechanism will assist in the implementation of Ukraine’s Annual National Programme, and other areas of practical cooperation with NATO.
Following political developments early 2014, NATO’s Secretary General condemned Russia’s moves to incorporate Crimea into the Russian Federation. The Alliance expressed its concern regarding the authorisation by the Russian Parliament to use the armed forces of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine. It stated that “NATO Allies will continue to support Ukrainian sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity, democratic development, and the principle of inviolability of frontiers, as key factors of stability and security in Central and Eastern Europe, and on the continent as a whole”. Moreover, at a meeting of the NUC at the level of foreign ministers early April, NATO and Ukraine agreed to implement immediate and longer-term measures in order to strengthen Ukraine’s ability to provide for its own security.
1991 Ukraine joins the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (later renamed the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council). 1994 Ukraine joins the Partnership for Peace (PfP). 1996 Ukrainian soldiers deploy as part of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 1997 The NATO Information and Documentation Centre opens in Kyiv. In July, at a summit meeting in Madrid, Spain, the Allies and Ukraine formally sign the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership, establishing the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC). Ukraine establishes a diplomatic mission to NATO. 1998 The NATO-Ukraine Joint Working Group on Defence Reform is established. 1999 The NATO Liaison Office opens in Kyiv. The Polish-Ukrainian battalion deploys as part of the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Kosovo. 2000 In May, the Ukrainian parliament ratifies the PfP Status of Forces Agreement. In September, Ukraine hosts a multinational disaster-response exercise, Trans-Carpathia 2000. 2002 In May, President Leonid Kuchma announces Ukraine's goal of eventual NATO membership. At a NUC meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland, foreign ministers underline their desire to take their relationship forward to a qualitatively new level. In July, a PfP Trust Fund project for the safe destruction of 400 000 landmines is inaugurated in Donetsk. The NATO-Ukraine Action Plan is adopted at a NUC meeting of foreign ministers in November in Prague, the Czech Republic. 2004 In March, the Ukrainian parliament ratifies an agreement with NATO on Host Nation Support. Ukraine signs an agreement with NATO on Strategic Airlift. In the autumn, the Allies closely follow political developments surrounding the presidential elections in Ukraine and the "Orange Revolution". They stress the importance of respect for free and fair elections and postpone a NUC ministerial-level meeting scheduled for December. 2005 In February, the Allies invite newly-elected President Viktor Yushchenko to a summit meeting at NATO Headquarters. They express support for his ambitious reform plans and agree to refocus NATO-Ukraine cooperation in line with the new government's priorities. A PfP Trust Fund project is launched with Ukraine to destroy 133 000 tons of conventional munitions, 1.5 million small arms and 1000 man-portable air defence systems over an estimated 12 years. In April, at the NUC meeting of foreign ministers in Vilnius, Lithuania, the Allies and Ukraine launch an Intensified Dialogue on Ukraine's aspirations to NATO membership and a package of short-term actions to strengthen support for key reforms. An exchange of letters between NATO and Ukraine agrees procedures to prepare the way for Ukraine's support to Operation Active Endeavour. In September, a series of staff-level expert discussions is initiated under the Intensified Dialogue. In October, Ukraine hosts a multinational disaster-response exercise, Joint Assistance 2005. In October, the North Atlantic Council visits Kyiv to discuss the Intensified Dialogue with Ukraine's foreign and defence ministers. 2006 In February, a Resettlement and Retraining Centre is inaugurated in Khmelnytskyi. In March, NATO's Secretary General welcomes the conduct of free and fair parliamentary elections as contributing to the consolidation of democracy in Ukraine. In September, during a visit to NATO, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych reassures Allies of Ukraine's commitment to ongoing cooperation with NATO but says the Ukrainian people are not yet ready to consider possible NATO membership. In October, the Ukrainian parliament ratifies the agreement on Strategic Airlift. 2007 The first Ukrainian ship, the corvette URS Ternopil, deploys in support of Operation Active Endeavour (June), followed by the corvette URS Lutsk (autumn). Ukraine sends medical personnel to support a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan. 10th anniversary of the NATO-Ukraine Distinctive Partnership. 2008 At the Bucharest Summit in April, Allied leaders agree that Ukraine will become a NATO member in future. Ukraine deploys two vessels in support of Operation Active Endeavour: the frigate URS Sagaidachnyi (summer) and the corvette URS Ternopil (November). In December, NATO Foreign Ministers agree to enhance opportunities for assisting Ukraine in its efforts to meet membership requirements, making use of the existing framework of the NATO-Ukraine Commission and the development of an Annual National Programme (ANP). 2009 Ukraine signs land transit agreement for the supply of ISAF (April). A "Declaration to Complement the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership between NATO and Ukraine" is signed on 21 August to reflect decisions taken at the Bucharest Summit and December 2008 foreign ministers' meeting. In November, the URS Ternopil deploys for the third time (the fifth for a Ukrainian ship) as part of Operation Active Endeavour. 2010 In February, the new Ukrainian government under President Viktor Yanukovych decides to continue present cooperation with NATO, but takes Alliance membership for the country off the agenda. In February, the first NATO-Ukraine Expert Staff Talks on Cyber Defence in Kyiv are organised under the auspices of the NATO-Ukraine Joint Working Group on Defence Reform. In May, Ukraine and Turkey (as the facilitating NATO member) sign a memorandum of understanding on "Air Situation Data Exchange", which aims to reduce airspace conflicts by minimising potential cross-border incidents and optimising responses to renegade situations with civil airplanes. In November, for the sixth time, Ukraine deploys a ship to the Mediterranean to assist NATO's Operation Active Endeavour. 2011 In April, at their meeting in Berlin, NUC Foreign Ministers issue a joint statement reaffirming their distinct partnership and agreeing to take forward practical cooperation activities. 2012 In May, President Yanukovych attends NATO's Summit in Chicago to participate in a meeting with counterparts from countries that are supporting the NATO-led stabilisation mission in Afghanistan. 9 July marks the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership between NATO and Ukraine in 1997. In July, General Sir Richard Shirreff, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe, visits Ukraine for discussions on operational cooperation and support for defence reform. In September, General Knud Bartels, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee, visits Ukraine for a series of high-level talks on defence reform and operational cooperation. 2013 In February, NUC Defence Ministers agree to reinforce NATO-Ukraine cooperation: agreement is reached on a set of priorities to guide cooperation over the next five years, including in training and exercises; a project for the retraining of former military officers in Ukraine is extended; progress is made on plans for a new project to support the neutralisation of radioactive sources from former Soviet military sites; and Ukraine becomes the first partner country to contribute to NATO’s counter-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia (frigate UPD Hetman Sagaidachny). 2014 In March, NATO calls on Russia to de-escalate tensions as a so-called referendum is held in Crimea and armed forces of the Russian Federation are used on the territory of Ukraine. In April and June, NATO agrees on concrete support measures for Ukraine to strengthen its ability to provide for its own security. Measures include a number of immediate and short-term actions to help Ukraine cope with the current crisis, and longer-term measures geared towards capacity building, capability development, and a deep reform of the armed forces and the security sector. NATO will also look at additional measures, including the creation of new Trust Funds.