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.
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. Currently it is the only Partner country contributing actively to all ongoing NATO-led operations and missions.
Ukraine contributed an infantry battalion, a mechanised infantry battalion and a helicopter squadron to the NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Deployments to the NATO-led operation in Kosovo have included a helicopter squadron, infantry companies, headquarters personnel and support staff. Currently, Ukraine contributes 130 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 have supported the Lithuanian-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Afghanistan since 2007, and the Polish PRT since 2010. Currently, Ukraine provides a total of 24 military personnel to ISAF, including instructors to the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan (NTM-A). Ukraine has also indicated its willingness to participate in the post-2014 follow-on mission to train 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 supports 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.
An exchange of letters was signed in February 2013, confirming Ukraine’s intent to contribute a frigate and helicopter 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 civilian control of Ukraine’s armed forces and security institutions.
A Joint Working Group on Defence Reform (JWGDR), established in 1998, directs cooperation in the area of defence and security sector reform. (See also related web page on the JWGDR)
Ukraine’s drive to reform its defence and security sector also benefits from participation in the Partnership for Peace (PfP). In particular, the PfP Planning and Review Process enables joint goals to be developed for shaping force structures and capabilities to help develop Ukraine’s forces to be better able to work with NATO forces.
- Capacity building and civil control
Of fundamental importance for Ukraine’s development as a democratic country and its progress towards further Euro-Atlantic integration is the strengthening of civil control over security and defence structures, including the intelligence sector, and improving the capacities of these structures.
As part of wider cooperation in this area, a number of specific initiatives have been taken in recent years:
- a 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.
- 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.
Expert help is being given to help Ukraine develop a comprehensive resettlement programme.
A NATO-funded retraining programme is providing linguistic and specialised professional courses for several hundred former military personnel per year. A project for the retraining and resettlement of redundant military personnel at a centre in Khmelnytskyi, western Ukraine, is being supported through a PfP Trust Fund. The Centre is the single largest provider of such assistance to retiring military personnel in Ukraine.
- 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 twelve 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.
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).
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 supporting the further development of 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 to prepare better for such emergencies and to 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 second only to Russia in terms 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.