Relations with Ukraine

  • Last updated: 15 Jun. 2022 12:58

A sovereign, independent and stable Ukraine, firmly committed to democracy and the rule of law, is key to Euro-Atlantic security. Relations between NATO and Ukraine date back to the early 1990s and have since developed into one of the most substantial of NATO’s partnerships. Since 2014, in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, cooperation has been intensified in critical areas.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the  President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy

 

  • Dialogue and cooperation started when newly independent Ukraine joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (1991) and the Partnership for Peace programme (1994).
  • Relations were strengthened with the signing of the 1997 Charter on a Distinctive Partnership, which established the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC) to take cooperation forward.
  • Since 2009, the NUC has overseen Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration process, including reforms under the Annual National Programme (ANP).
  • Cooperation has deepened over time and is mutually beneficial, with Ukraine actively contributing to NATO-led operations and missions.
  • Priority is given to support for comprehensive reform in the security and defence sector, which is vital for Ukraine’s democratic development and for strengthening its ability to defend itself.
  • Since the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July 2016, NATO’s practical support for Ukraine is set out in the Comprehensive Assistance Package (CAP) for Ukraine.
  • In June 2017, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted legislation reinstating membership in NATO as a strategic foreign and security policy objective. In 2019, a corresponding amendment to Ukraine’s Constitution entered into force.
  • In September 2020, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy approved Ukraine’s new National Security Strategy, which provides for the development of the distinctive partnership with NATO with the aim of membership in NATO.
  • In response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, since 2014 NATO has reinforced its support for capability development and capacity-building in Ukraine. The Allies condemn and will not recognise Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, and its destabilising and aggressive activities in eastern Ukraine and the Black Sea region. NATO has increased its presence in the Black Sea and stepped up maritime cooperation with Ukraine and Georgia.
  • NATO condemns in the strongest possible terms Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine starting in February 2022. This is a serious violation of international law and the gravest threat to Euro-Atlantic security in decades.
  • The Alliance condemns Russia’s decision to extend recognition to the self-proclaimed “people’s republics” in eastern Ukraine. NATO Allies call on Russia to stop the war immediately, withdraw all its forces from Ukraine and engage in genuine diplomacy.
  • NATO stands with the people of Ukraine and its legitimate, democratically elected president, parliament and government. The Alliance will always maintain its full support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.

 

  • Response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict

    From the very beginning of the Russia-Ukraine conflict in 2014, NATO has adopted a firm position in full support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders. The Allies strongly condemn and will not recognise Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, and denounce its temporary occupation. The Alliance also condemns Russia’s decision in February 2022 to extend recognition to the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine, which is a flagrant breach of international law that further undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Furthermore, NATO condemns in the strongest possible terms Russia’s brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine starting in February 2022. This is a serious violation of international law and the gravest threat to Euro-Atlantic security in decades. 

    As a result of Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea, NATO Allies decided in 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation with Russia, while leaving political and military channels of communication open. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Allies have imposed unprecedented sanctions on Russia to help starve the Kremlin’s war machine of resources. Allies continue to refine these sanctions in order to increase the pressure on Moscow. These efforts will make it harder for Russia to rebuild its tanks, manufacture missiles and finance its war. NATO Allies call on Russia to immediately stop the war and withdraw all its forces from Ukraine, to fully respect international humanitarian law, and to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access and assistance to all persons in need. They also call on Russia to stop restricting navigation in parts of the Black Sea and impeding access to the Sea of Azov. 

    Throughout the crisis, regular consultations have taken place in the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC) in view of the direct threats faced by Ukraine to its territorial integrity, political independence and security. The NUC met for extraordinary meetings in view of Russia’s unjustified use of military force against Ukrainian ships near the Kerch Strait in November 2018 and Russia’s threatening military build-up in April 2021. Other extraordinary meetings of the NUC took place at NATO Headquarters in January and February 2022, focused on Russia’s continued military build-up and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. 

    In parallel to its political support to Ukraine, NATO has significantly stepped up its practical assistance to Ukraine. Immediately following the illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, NATO Foreign Ministers agreed on measures to enhance Ukraine’s ability to provide for its own security. They also decided to further develop their practical support to Ukraine, based on a significant enhancement of existing cooperation programmes as well as the development of substantial new programmes. At the 2016 Summit in Warsaw, NATO’s measures in support of Ukraine became part of the Comprehensive Assistance Package (CAP), which is designed to support Ukraine’s ability to provide for its own security and to implement wide-ranging reforms in the security and defence sector based on Euro-Atlantic principles and best practice.

    Under the CAP, NATO has provided support for Ukraine for many years. Through a variety of programmes and tailored advice, NATO has significantly strengthened the capacity and resilience of Ukraine’s security and defence sector, as well as its ability to counter hybrid threats. NATO and Allies have also provided extensive support to capability development, including through training and education and the provision of equipment. ln response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, NATO Allies have significantly stepped up their bilateral support and provision of equipment, helping Ukraine to uphold its right of self-defence, which is enshrined in the United Nations Charter. Allies are also providing substantial financial and humanitarian aid, including by hosting millions of refugees in countries all across the Alliance. NATO Allies have agreed to step up and sustain their support for as long as necessary, so that Ukraine prevails. 

    NATO stands with the people of Ukraine and its legitimate, democratically elected president, parliament and government. The Alliance will always maintain its full support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.

  • Framework for cooperation

    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. The NUC can meet at various levels, including heads of state and government, ministers of foreign affairs or defence, ambassadors and in various working-level formats.

    The Declaration to Complement the Charter, signed in 2009 as a follow-up to the decisions taken at the 2008 NATO Summit in Bucharest, gave the NUC a central role in deepening political dialogue and cooperation to underpin Ukraine’s reform efforts pertaining to its Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. The principal tool to support this process is the Annual National Programme (ANP), which reflects Ukraine’s national reform objectives and annual implementation plans. The ANP is composed of five chapters focusing on: political and economic issues; defence and military issues; resources; security issues; and legal issues. This includes reforms related to good governance, the fight against corruption, the rule of law, human rights, and the security and defence sector, in accordance with Euro-Atlantic principles and standards. 

    Allies assess progress under the ANP annually. The responsibility for its implementation falls primarily on Ukraine. The Commission for Coordination of Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, ensures the general coordination of its implementation by the state bodies. 

    The NATO Representation to Ukraine, established in September 2015, supports cooperation on the ground. It consists of the NATO Information and Documentation Centre (NIDC) and the NATO Liaison Office (NLO). 

    • The NIDC was inaugurated in Kyiv in 1997 to support efforts to inform the Ukrainian public about NATO’s activities and the benefits of NATO-Ukraine cooperation. The NIDC is part of the NATO Public Diplomacy Division and was the first information office established by NATO in a partner country and open to the general public. The Centre has three key pillars of work: increasing awareness and understanding of NATO in Ukraine; informing the Ukrainian public about key activities in NATO-Ukraine cooperation; and providing advice and support to Ukrainian institutions in the area of strategic communications capability development. In order to facilitate NATO’s core mission and activities in Ukraine, the NIDC supports various public diplomacy and communications projects, including round tables, seminars, conferences and multimedia projects.
       
    • The NLO was established in Kyiv in 1999 and plays a key role in facilitating NATO-Ukraine cooperation. Its key interlocutors include the Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Defence, the Presidential Office, the National Security and Defence Council, the Parliament, and several other Ukrainian agencies. Its main priorities include: strengthening Ukraine’s implementation of broad Euro-Atlantic reforms; enhancing NATO-Ukraine political and practical dialogue; supporting the transformation and democratic governance of the security and defence sector; and building interoperability between Allied and Ukrainian forces to face common challenges.

    The NATO Representation to Ukraine leads on the provision of strategic-level advice under NATO’s Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine.

  • Key areas of cooperation

    In the current circumstances, NATO’s support to Ukraine has been enhanced in certain critical areas while other activities have been put on hold or adapted. Nevertheless, Ukraine’s cooperation with NATO is mutually beneficial and has included:

    Building capabilities and interoperability

    • NATO supports Ukraine's defence and related security sector reform through the Joint Working Group on Defence Reform, the PfP Planning and Review Process, the NATO Building Integrity (BI) Process and the Annual BI Tailored Programme, the NATO Defence Education Enhancement Programme, the Joint Working Group on Defence Technical Cooperation, and the advisory mission at the NATO Representation in Kyiv.
    • Since 2016, through the Comprehensive Assistance Package, the Allies have supported Ukraine's goal to implement security and defence sector reforms according to NATO standards by providing strategic-level advice via the NATO Representation to Ukraine and support through a range of capacity-building programmes and Trust Funds. Cooperation in this area is crucial to the ongoing transformation of Ukraine's security posture and remains an essential part of its democratic transition.
    • Several Trust Fund projects have been launched since 2014, in response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, to support capability development and sustainable capacity-building in key areas:
      • Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4) – The C4 Trust Fund assists Ukraine in reorganising and modernising its C4 structures and capabilities, facilitates their interoperability with NATO to contribute to NATO-led exercises and operations, and enhances Ukraine's ability to provide for its own defence and security. Projects within this Trust Fund are at various stages of implementation, addressing requirements in the areas of regional airspace security; secure tactical communications; knowledge-sharing; and situational awareness.
      • Medical Rehabilitation – This Trust Fund, which was set up in 2014, aims to ensure rapid access to appropriate care for patients, including active and discharged Ukrainian servicemen and women and civilian personnel from the defence and security sector. Furthermore, it seeks to support Ukraine in enhancing its medical rehabilitation system to ensure that long-term sustainable services are provided. It has also supported the Ukrainian participation in the Invictus Games sporting event for wounded, injured and sick military personnel, both serving and veterans.
      • Military Career Transition – This Trust Fund assisted Ukraine in developing and implementing a sustainable, effective and integrated approach to the resettlement of military personnel who were embedded in the personnel management of the armed forces. This is no longer an active Trust Fund but it is an example of how the NATO Liaison Office in Kyiv works with Ukrainian ministries at the highest level to support strategic policy development and implementation. It also demonstrates how specific projects are modified as requirements change.
      • Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and Countering Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) – This Trust Fund directly supported specific selected recommendations in the NATO EOD and C-IED Assistance Plan to Ukraine. It selectively supported civil humanitarian activities in the clearance of explosive hazards, including IEDs and assists in setting the foundations for transformation of EOD and development of C-IED in Ukraine.
      • Cyber Defence – This Trust Fund, which achieved its objectives and was therefore completed in 2017, aimed to help Ukraine develop strictly defensive, technical capabilities to counter cyber threats. Assistance included the establishment of an incident management centre for monitoring cyber security incidents and laboratories to investigate cyber security incidents.
      • Logistics and Standardization – This Trust Fund aimed to support the reform of Ukraine's logistics and standardization systems for the armed forces as well as other national military formations, including the National Guard and the State Border Security Service, as appropriate.
    • Participation in the PfP Planning and Review Process helps Ukraine set and achieve ambitious yet realistic objectives for defence and security reforms, transformation and capability development; for improving the ability of its forces to operate alongside Allied and partner forces in crisis response and peace-support operations; and for enhancing Ukraine’s ability to host Allied and partner forces for exercises and training.
    • A Professional Development Programme for civilians working in Ukraine's defence and security institutions was launched in October 2005. Its budget was doubled in 2014 to support transformation and reform processes. In 2017, the Programme also launched implementation of new concepts including the "Champions 100" project providing support to a pool of Ukrainian civil servants directly responsible for Euro-Atlantic integration processes.
    • Since 2007, Ukraine participates in NATO’s Building Integrity (BI) Initiative, which provides practical assistance and advice for strengthening integrity, accountability and transparency in the defence and security sector. In October 2019, nine institutions of Ukraine’s defence and security sector completed the NATO BI Self-Assessment and Peer Review Process, which provided a thorough assessment of institutional needs and vulnerabilities and offered a set of policy-level sectoral recommendations to improve good governance and pursue sustainable anti-corruption reforms in the defence and related security sectors. On this basis, a tailored programme of activities continues to provide two levels of capacity-building support – specific expertise to the institutions to enhance the good governance and management of defence resources (financial, human and material), and education and training activities to develop individual capacities and foster an organisational culture of integrity.
    • The Defence Education Enhancement Programme (DEEP) has helped to improve and restructure Ukraine’s military education and professional training systems, focusing on eight defence higher education institutions and five training centres for Non-Commissioned Officers. Additionally, DEEP advises on management of the academies and universities, supporting faculty on how to teach and assisting in the development of courses on leadership and decision-making processes.
    • NATO is providing capacity-building in the area of cyber defence to enhance inter-agency cooperation and coordination, as well as to support the development of Ukraine's national cyber security strategy.
    • Since 2004, the NATO-Ukraine Joint Working Group on Defence Technical Cooperation works toward increased cooperation in capability development, defence equipment procurement processes, and the development of technical standards. This includes standardization, codification, logistics and life cycle management, as well as cooperation with NATO’s Conference of National Armaments Directors and the NATO Science and Technology Organization. The Joint Working Group is also a forum in which Ukraine’s defence industry reform efforts are discussed.
    • Ukraine joined the Air Situation Data Exchange programme in July 2006. It reduces the risk of potential cross-border incidents and optimises responses to terrorist attacks using civil airplanes. Following the Russia-Ukraine crisis, air data information provided by NATO has been extended to cover a larger area.
    • Participation in a wide range of military activities and exercises under the Military Committee with Ukraine Work Plan focuses on improving the interoperability and operational capabilities of Ukraine's armed forces, but also substantially contributes to ongoing security and defence reforms.
    • Ukraine's active participation in the NATO Operational Capabilities Concept Evaluation and Feedback Programme supports the further development of the armed forces, while also enabling the Alliance to put together tailored force packages that can be deployed in support of NATO-led operations and missions.
    • A legal framework has been established to enable NATO and Ukraine to further develop operational cooperation, including the Partnership for Peace (PfP) Status of Forces Agreement (entered into force in May 2000); the Host Nation Support Agreement (ratified in March 2004); and the Strategic Airlift Agreement (ratified in October 2006).
    • In June 2020, Ukraine became an Enhanced Opportunity Partner (EOP). This is a status offered to participants in NATO’s Partnership Interoperability Initiative that have made particularly significant contributions to NATO operations and other Alliance objectives. EOP status works as a facilitator, providing Ukraine preferential access to NATO’s interoperability toolbox, including exercises, training, exchange of information and situational awareness. The other EOPs are Australia, Finland, Georgia, Jordan and Sweden.
    • Ukraine is also building capacity and interoperability through participation in the NATO Response Force.

    Wider cooperation

    • Against the background of Russia’s aggressive actions against Ukraine, the NATO-Ukraine Platform on Countering Hybrid Warfare was established at the NATO Summit in Warsaw in July 2016. It provides a mechanism to be better able to identify hybrid threats and to build capacity in identifying vulnerabilities and strengthening resilience of the state and society. Projects in support of research, training and expert consultations are ongoing, with a focus on lessons learned, countering disinformation and enhancing resilience.
    • Since the start of the crisis in Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014, experts have provided advice on Ukraine's contingency plans and crisis management measures related to critical energy infrastructure and civil protection risks. Today, cooperation focuses on improving national capacity for civil preparedness and resilience in facing hybrid threats. In 2019, a Resilience Advisory Support Team (RAST) drew up recommendations to Ukrainian institutions with regard to the enhancement of national resilience. A Joint Working Group on Civil Emergency Planning oversees cooperation in this area. Ukraine also participates regularly in activities organised by the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre and has itself hosted multiple disaster-response exercises.
    • Ukraine has been actively engaged in NATO’s Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme since 1991. A Joint Working Group on Scientific and Environmental Cooperation contributes to identifying priority areas for practical scientific cooperation in the framework of the SPS Programme. Since 2014, in response to the crisis in Ukraine, cooperation in the field of security-related civil science and technology has been strengthened, and Ukraine has since become the largest beneficiary of the SPS Programme. Leading areas of cooperation with Ukraine in the SPS framework include advanced technology, counter-terrorism, defence against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) agents, as well as energy and environmental security. Among these activities, noteworthy is the participation of Ukraine in the DEXTER Programme, which is developing an integrated system to detect explosives and firearms in public spaces.
    • NATO supports Ukraine in implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
    • The NATO Liaison Office leads on NATO’s advisory support with regard to reforms of Ukraine’s security and defence sector.
    • The NATO Information and Documentation Centre in Kyiv supports the efforts of national authorities and non-governmental organisations to provide public information about NATO and explain the NATO-Ukraine relationship. NATO also provides advisory and funding support to build the capacity of the Ukrainian authorities in public diplomacy, media relations and strategic communications.

    Support for NATO-led operations

    • Ukraine has supported the peace-support operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and continues to contribute to the Kosovo Force (KFOR), including with a heavy engineering unit with counter-improvised explosive devices capabilities.
    • In support of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, Ukraine allowed over-flight clearance and the transit of supplies, and contributed medical personnel to support Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan and instructors to the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan. Following the end of ISAF's mission in 2014, Ukraine supported the follow-on Resolute Support Mission (2015-2021) to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces.
    • From March 2005, Ukraine contributed officers to the NATO Training Mission in Iraq, which terminated in December 2011.
    • Ukraine deployed ships six times between 2007 and 2010 in support of Operation Active Endeavour, a counter-terrorist maritime surveillance operation in the Mediterranean Sea. In 2013, it also contributed to NATO's counter-piracy operation Ocean Shield. Since the launch of maritime operation Sea Guardian in 2016, Ukraine has provided information in support of NATO's maritime situational awareness in and around the Black Sea.

    NATO-Ukraine Joint Working Group on Defence Reform

    • NATO and Ukraine cooperation in the area of defence and security sector reform is more extensive than with any other partner country. The NATO-Ukraine Joint Working Group on Defence Reform (JWGDR) is the primary focus for this area of cooperation.
    • Established in 1998 under the auspices of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, the JWGDR pursues initiatives in the area of civil-military relations, democratic oversight and civilian management of the armed forces and other security sector agencies, defence planning, development of policy, strategy and national security concepts.
    • The JWGDR allows Ukraine to draw on Allied countries' considerable experience and expertise, and serves as a tool through which the Allies can channel assistance. It also provides the institutional basis for NATO’s cooperation with ministries and agencies engaged in implementing defence and security sector reform in Ukraine. These include the National Security and Defence Council, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence, National Guard, Border Guard Service, Security Service of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) and others.
    • All NATO member states and Ukraine are represented in meetings of the JWGDR, and relevant partner countries and civil society representatives are invited to the JWGDR on a case-by-case basis.