Relations with Ukraine
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.
- 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.
- The 2009 Declaration to Complement the NATO-Ukraine Charter mandated the NUC, through Ukraine’s Annual National Programme, to underpin Ukraine’s efforts to take forward reforms aimed at implementing Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, in line with the decisions of the 2008 NATO Summit in Bucharest.
- 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.
- In response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, 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.
- 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.
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 supports cooperation on the ground. It consists of the NATO Information and Documentation Centre (NIDC) and the NATO Liaison Office (NLO). The NIDC was established in 1997 to support efforts to inform the public about NATO’s activities and the benefits of NATO-Ukraine cooperation. The NLO was established in 1999 and plays a key role in facilitating NATO-Ukraine cooperation. Its key interlocutors include the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence, the Presidential Office, the National Security and Defence Council, the Verkhovna Rada parliament, and other Ukrainian agencies. The NATO Representation to Ukraine leads on the provision of strategic-level advice under NATO’s Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine.
Ukraine’s cooperation with NATO is mutually beneficial and includes:
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 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 support 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 16 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. Four projects have been agreed and are at various stages of implementation, addressing requirements in the area of regional airspace security; secure tactical communications; knowledge-sharing; and situational awareness.
- Logistics and Standardization – This Trust Fund aims to support the ongoing 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.
- Medical Rehabilitation – This Trust Fund 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.
- Military Career Transition – This Trust Fund assists Ukraine in developing and implementing a sustainable, effective and integrated approach to the resettlement of military personnel embedded in the personnel management of the armed forces.
- Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and Countering Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) – This Trust Fund directly supports specific selected recommendations in the NATO EOD and C-IED Assistance Plan to Ukraine. It selectively supports 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.
- 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) is helping to improve and restructure the military education and professional training systems, focusing on eight defence education institutions in Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, Odessa and Zhytomyr and five training centres for Non-Commissioned Officers in Desna, Yavoriv, Starychi, Mykolayv and Vasylkyv (this includes restoring some Navy Academy capacity in Odessa). Additionally, the DEEP programme advises on management of the academies and universities, including supporting faculty on how to teach and 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, a 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 the Conference of National Armaments Directors (CNAD) 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 the sixth 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.
- 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.
- A number of Trust Fund projects are supporting the destruction of Ukraine's stockpiles of anti-personnel mines, munitions and small arms and light weapons. Another Trust Fund supports the disposal of radioactive waste from former Soviet military sites in Ukraine.
- NATO supports the reintegration of former military personnel into civilian life through a wide range of projects, providing assistance for professional retraining and psychological rehabilitation services to mitigate post-traumatic stress syndrome among demobilised conscripts. Additionally, a specific Trust Fund project is advising on the set-up of an integrated, comprehensive military career transition system (see above).
- Since the start of the 2014 crisis in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, 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. In 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. Today, 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 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 continues to provide information in support of NATO's maritime situational awareness in and around the Black Sea.
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. As a result, NATO Allies decided to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation with Russia, while leaving political and military channels of communication open. They also call on Russia to reverse its military build-up in and around Ukraine, to stop restricting navigation in parts of the Black Sea, impeding access to the Sea of Azov, and stop fuelling the conflict by providing financial and military support to the armed formations it backs in eastern Ukraine.
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. Another meeting of the NUC took place at NATO Headquarters in January 2022, focused on Russia’s continued military build-up.
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, 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). The CAP 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. It currently comprises the advisory mission at the NATO Representation to Ukraine as well as 16 capacity-building programmes and Trust Funds (see above for more details).