Updated: 27-Feb-2003 NATO Speeches



28 Oct 2002

NATO-Ukraine cooperation
on defence reform

Interview with Edgar Buckley, Assistant Secretary General
for Defence Planning and Operations,
in NATO-Ukraine magazine Novyny

The Joint Working Group on Defence Reform (JWGDR) at Senior Level met in Yalta on 28 October 2002. The NATO Chairman of this meeting, Dr Edgar Buckley, NATO Assistant Secretary General for Defence Planning and Operations, gives his assessment of NATO-Ukraine cooperation in defence and security sector reform.

Novyny NATO (NN): What is the JWGDR and what is the importance of the meeting in Yalta?

Edgar Buckley (EB):
The JWGDR is the primary focus for NATO-Ukraine cooperation in defence and security sector reform. It meets once a year at Senior Level. The Ukrainian Authorities invited us to conduct the 2002 meeting in Crimea. We heard an update on Ukraine’s reform plans from Serhii Pyrozhkov, Deputy Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council, and Viktor Bannykh, Deputy State Secretary of Defence for International Cooperation. Moreover, we agreed a number of practical projects to support Ukraine, launching work on a proposal to destroy 133,000 tons of munitions and 1.5 million small arms and light weapons, as well as a pilot project to strengthen the role of civilians in the Ministry of Defence.

NN: Why is it important for Ukraine to pursue defence and security sector reforms?

Defence and security sector reform is not unique to Ukraine. Every NATO and Partner nation faces a similar challenge. The Prague Summit was all about transformation and developing new capabilities to address the today's complex security challenges, which include large-scale global terrorism and the possible use of weapons of mass destruction. Managing this process of transformation is a challenge faced by new and more well-established democracies. Defence reform aims to ensure that Ukraine has the right tools to meet these challenges.

History has taught us that security in these uncertain times is indivisible. Ukraine is an integral part of the Euro-Atlantic security community. Transformation also serves the vital interests of Ukraine and supports its long-term strategic goal of Euro-Atlantic integration. Managing this transformation and the consequences of defence reform, which include social and economic aspects, presents many challenges. It requires strong leadership and resources. While there is still considerable work to be done, Ukraine has taken important first steps in adapting and restructuring of its Armed Forces. Only Ukraine can determine its needs. However, NATO has been a ready and willing partner in supporting Ukraine.

NN: Why does NATO give such priority to supporting Ukraine's reform efforts? What aspects of defence reform does cooperation focus on?

A strong, independent and democratic Ukraine is good for Ukraine and good for NATO and its Partners. We have made a common commitment to security in the Euro-Atlantic area, which is well illustrated by the Polish-Ukrainian battalion serving in Kosovo. NATO remains committed to strong NATO-Ukraine relations under the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership. At the same time, the political process should be complemented by reform of Ukrainian defence and security structures.

Defence reform cooperation focuses mainly on defence planning and implementation of Ukraine’s priorities set out in the package of 80 National Defence Reform Objectives (NDROs). These include the establishment of rapid reaction forces, professionalisation and training for peacekeeping operations, as well as strengthening the role of civilians in Ukrainian defence structures. Our activities are not limited to the Armed Forces or the Ministry of Defence. We have also developed activities to support the Ukrainian Border Guards.

NN: How has the establishment of the JWGDR helped facilitate cooperation?

Defence reform is a core element of Partnership for Peace (PfP) and a central part of our activities with all Partners. However, it is true that NATO and Ukraine cooperation in this area goes beyond what we are doing with other Partners. The establishment of the JWGDR is a practical example of our Distinctive Partnership. It has proven to be key to taking forward our cooperation in defence and security sector reform, providing a forum for Ukraine and Allies to share common experiences and to identify obstacles. It provides Allies with a tool to channel assistance, as well as the institutional basis for our cooperation with ministries and agencies engaged in supporting defence and security sector reform in Ukraine. These include the National Security and Defence Council, Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence, Border Guards, Verkhovna Rada and others.

NN: What have been the key achievements of defence reform cooperation over the past five years?

Our programme of cooperation has steadily grown over the years. The Action plan, agreed in Prague, draws heavily on the activities of the JWGDR and PfP. Every year, hundreds of NATO-Ukraine activities and bilateral activities support defence and security sector reform. We still have considerable work before us but I would highlight a number of important concrete steps. Agreement of the package of 80 NDROs and the decision by Ukraine to extend this defence planning process to its entire Armed Forces provide an important framework for the practical steps to be taken in the coming months and years. Ratification of the PfP Status of Forces Agreement and the NATO-Ukraine Security Agreement are also significant milestones. In July 2002, Ukraine signed the Host Nation Support Agreement and we began negotiation of a Strategic Airlift Agreement. The establishment of the Yavoriv PfP Training Centre and the launch of the NATO/PfP Trust Fund Project in Donetsk to destroy 400,000 anti-personnel landmines are good examples of our practical cooperation.

NN: What key challenges remain and where do current priorities lie?

One of the biggest challenges for Ukraine is the establishment of a national defence planning system that effectively matches national requirements with available resources. Development of such an approach requires strong national leadership. The Ministry of Defence cannot achieve this on their own.

NATO is determined to further support the Ukrainian transformation. The new Action Plan, is an important step forward. It identifies political, economic, military and other reform areas where Ukraine is committed to make further progress and where NATO will continue to assist. However, defence reform cannot be implemented overnight. Such complex projects take time.

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