Updated: 07-Sep-2005 NATO Speeches



3 August 2004

published in
Novyny NATO
# 2/2004


with James Greene,
Head of the NATO Liaison Office (NLO) in Ukraine

NATO - Ukraine relations
James Greene is Head of the NATO Liaison Office (NLO) in Ukraine, which he has been running since February this year. Prior to his current appointment, he worked for a year as external co-director for the NATO Membership Action Plan Project conducted by the Razumkov Centre, a well-known Ukrainian think tank. From 1999 to 2002, he was responsible for NATO-Ukraine cooperation issues at NATO’s International Military Staff in Brussels. He first came to Kyiv in 1991-1992 for research on his master’s thesis, on the changing nature of civil-military relations during the time of perestroika and the first year of independence.

Novyny NATO (NN): When was the NLO established? What is its mission?

James Greene (JG): The NLO was established in April 1999 as a concrete expression of the NATO-Ukraine distinctive partnership. Its mission is to help Ukraine make full use of opportunities available under NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme and to enhance cooperation between NATO and Ukrainian authorities.

The NLO has three principle tasks. First, we liaise with the various Ukrainian and NATO authorities responsible for developing and implementing Ukraine’s cooperation activities under the PfP programme and the NATO-Ukraine Charter. We also liaise with the embassies of NATO member and Partner countries regarding bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Second, we advise Ukrainian and NATO authorities on ongoing cooperation activities and areas for possible future cooperation. Third, we directly support the implementation of specific activities – such as military exercises or NATO-related courses at Ukraine’s National Defence Academy – and facilitate contacts between NATO and Ukrainian authorities at all levels.

The NLO works in close coordination with the NATO Information and Documentation Centre (NIDC), which was established in Kyiv in 1997 to help explain the new NATO and promote the benefits of the NATO-Ukraine partnership (for more information on the NIDC, see the interview with its Director, Michel Duray, in “Novyny NATO” no. 3/2003). Both the NLO and NIDC also maintain close contacts with the NATO Contact Point Embassy in Ukraine, which is currently the Polish embassy (in each of its Partner countries, NATO designates the embassy of one of its member countries as a Contact Point Embassy, on a rotational basis, to support the Alliance’s public diplomacy activities).

NN: How many staff do you have working at the NLO and what sort of tasks are they involved in day-to-day?

JG: A multinational team of six people makes up the NATO Liaison Office. As the civilian Head of the Office, I am responsible for the overall management of the office and liaison with NATO, Allied and Ukraine’s civilian authorities. I also address military authorities regarding political-military issues. In addition, the office has two NATO military liaison officers, who work closely with Ukraine’s Armed Forces regarding military cooperation programmes.

The three of us spend much of our day in meetings or on the phone with Ukrainian or NATO counterparts, discussing projects, developing ideas for future cooperation or assisting in the preparation of the many NATO-Ukraine meetings that occur in Brussels, Kyiv or – most recently – in Warsaw. Recently, we have been making efforts to further broaden our contacts at the expert level by visiting the various military units designated for participation in PfP activities and by attending relevant seminars and workshops. We are provided with essential support by three administrative personnel.

The office’s impact is much larger than our small size would indicate. Being located in the same building as the Ukrainian General Staff's Euro-Atlantic Integration Directorate and near the National Defence Academy, the Ministry of Defence and counterparts in other ministries, liaison officers can quickly communicate in person to key experts and decision makers. The NLO is uniquely placed to maintain a big picture perspective regarding Ukraine’s internal reform programmes and its cooperation programmes with NATO and NATO Allies. This allows the NLO to work as a catalyst to help these programmes work together more effectively.

NN: What are the biggest work challenges you face?

JG: The biggest day-to-day challenge is figuring out, for each particular issue, how best to bring together the right people from NATO staff, NATO member states and Ukraine, and to help them develop the common understanding and vision needed to cooperate productively. There are all sorts of obstacles to building this common understanding and vision: lack of information; poor communications; language barriers; differing institutional, historical, or cultural perceptions; incompatible terminology and concepts; or simply different understandings of what the problems are and what constitutes an acceptable solution.

NN: What are the NLO’s current priorities?

JG: For the past few months, the NLO has been deeply involved in NATO’s efforts to provide methodological support for Ukraine’s Defence Review and the development of the Strategic Defence Bulletin (for more information on NATO’s support for the conduct of the defence review, see the article Roadmap for Reform by Robert Wenmakers in “Novyny NATO” no. 1/2004). With the Review now coming to an end and the Bulletin soon to be published, we will increasingly focus on helping Ukraine implement the ambitious reform goals that it has set for itself in this process, particularly through support for the new planning departments in the Ministry of Defence and General Staff. The NLO is also involved in NATO’s current efforts to help Ukraine to move the reform process into new areas – by beginning similar processes with the Ministry of Emergencies, the Ministry of the Interior and the State Border Guard Service – and to take a more systemic overall approach to the area of security sector reform.

The two military liaison officers continue to focus on the development of military education and training on issues related to NATO interoperability, and on ensuring the smooth implementation of specific PfP or NATO-Ukraine activities. A principal partner in the area of training is Ukraine’s National Defence Academy, which conducts regular professional courses for Ukrainian servicemen, taught according to NATO standards and in English, at the Multinational Staff Officers’ Training Centre, and is currently working to broaden its curricula on NATO-related issues. The Academy also organises an annual “International Week” for all academy students, conducted jointly with the NATO Defence College in Rome. Moreover, the NLO continues its close day-to-day cooperation with the Euro-Atlantic Integration Directorate of Ukraine’s General Staff and is increasingly working with Ukraine’s Service Commands and individual PfP units to help develop flexible and deployable forces that meet Ukraine’s security needs today and are interoperable with NATO forces.

In the months to come, we will place an increasing priority on work with appropriate bodies to help build the institutional capacity to plan and implement the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan and Annual Target Plans.

NN: In your experience, do you feel people in Ukraine generally have a good understanding of the new NATO, or do stereotypes about NATO still need to be overcome?

JG: The effects of decades of propaganda do not just disappear overnight. Of course, very few people still honestly believe the old slogans, but the negative emotions and stereotypes created by decades of anti-NATO propaganda are harder to overcome. Replacing the legacy of anger, hate, and mistrust requires more than discrediting old stereotypes; it demands that we work to build new, positive understanding of what NATO is and how cooperation with NATO is in the best interest of Ukraine and its people.

Through organising conferences, seminars and roundtable discussions, liaising with journalists and distributing NATO publications, the NIDC is doing considerable work to help spread information and foster dialogue in Ukraine on questions of modern security challenges, their meaning for Ukraine, and NATO’s role in addressing them. The NLO supports the NIDC in this work with expertise on issues related to practical cooperation.

Moreover, through practical NATO-Ukraine cooperation, an increasing number of Ukrainian officials, experts and servicemen are discovering that their counterparts from NATO and NATO member countries are sincerely concerned about helping Ukraine and its people find solutions to real problems. Meanwhile, Alliance representatives leave with a lasting impression of the professionalism and hospitality of their Ukrainian colleagues.

NN: Do people generally see the benefits of Ukraine’s partnership with NATO and understand the full range of NATO-Ukraine cooperative activities? Are people familiar with the overall objectives of the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan and its associated Annual Target Plans?

JG: Unfortunately, other than the efforts of the NIDC, only limited information gets out to society at large regarding the many NATO-Ukraine cooperation activities and the reform processes ongoing under the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan. However, Ukraine’s decision to publish the Action Plan and Annual Target Plans – beginning in late 2002 – has definitely improved the quality of the discussion and analysis within the expert community. I have also been pleased recently to see more interesting and open reporting and discussion in the mainstream media regarding NATO-Ukraine cooperation and Ukraine’s own security interests and reform, as well as the launching of several specialized newsletters.

Although average citizens have little information about NATO, it is interesting that they instinctively understand what NATO values and standards mean, and what Ukraine needs to do to meet them. (When I was working with the Razumkov Centre Membership Action Plan Project, we conducted a poll to ask average Ukrainians what areas required the most attention to meet NATO standards. Their responses put the economic area first, internal political reform second, foreign policy third, and defence in only fourth place.1 So, at a grass-roots level, people understand what is really needed for Euro-Atlantic Integration – which also corresponds with their own needs for prosperity, freedom and security.)

NN: NATO has developed a more extensive programme of cooperation with Ukraine on defence reform than with any of its other Partner countries. Why is defence reform so important to Ukraine? What key areas does cooperation in this field focus on?

JG: When Ukraine gained its independence in 1991, it inherited a huge legacy of combat units, equipment, military infrastructure, and military industry from the Soviet Union. These were just parts of the overall Soviet military machine, designed to meet the Cold War requirements and ambitions of a huge Eurasian superpower, tightly controlled from Moscow and supported by a centralised command economy and a totalitarian political system. So, while Ukraine inherited powerful combat forces with a huge number of highly competent servicemen, these forces were designed to meet the needs of a different time and a different country. For over a decade Ukraine has been struggling to adapt this inheritance to meet its own needs – that of a large European state with a developing democracy and free-market economy. This process has been made more difficult because the country first had to create its own central defence institutions: the National Security and Defence Council, Ministry of Defence, General Staff, Service Commands, National Defence Academy and many others. As a result, for many years, it was a challenge to even clearly define what Ukrainian defence needs were, much less to develop Armed Forces structures to meet those needs.

Today, Ukraine is moving into a new phase – the development of a truly Ukrainian model of Armed Forces, fully adapted to meeting today’s challenges and designed to work within the framework of a democratic society and the country’s economic potential. Ukraine’s recent Defence Review was a first good step. That process has allowed the Ministry of Defence to develop a model for the future armed forces and plans to achieve that model, which are better matched to Ukraine’s real security needs and to economic reality. The upcoming publication of Ukraine’s Strategic Defence Bulletin – and the public discussion that will certainly ensue – will be further positive steps toward building needed public and political support for the reforms. But defence reform alone is not enough; meeting today’s non-traditional threats requires wider reform of the security sector. Security sector reform, in turn, is also an irreplaceable part of building Ukraine’s democratic political institutions and a prosperous free-market economy, and therefore an important element of Ukraine’s national development and Euro-Atlantic integration.

NATO’s support for Ukraine’s defence and security sector reforms are multifaceted. Consultations in the framework of the Joint Working Group on Defence Reform have helped Ukraine to understand the need for reform and develop strategies to implement it. The Alliance’s sponsorship and participation in seminars with the Verhovna Rada and Ukrainian research institutes have helped Ukraine to understand more clearly Euro-Atlantic standards in areas like security policy, export control, and democratic civil control. NATO experts have provided methodological support for Ukraine’s Defence Review and are helping Ukraine to further develop its defence institutions and to define reform strategies in specific areas, such as personnel policy, defence planning and border security. Finally, many activities in Partnership for Peace and bilateral cooperation programmes with NATO member countries support reform objectives by spreading the reform experience of NATO countries, training Ukrainian experts or providing expert advice.

NN: Ukraine recently ratified a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with NATO on Host Nation Support. What does this agreement provide for?

JG: For many years, Ukraine has been hosting Partnership for Peace exercises. For each one of these exercises, NATO has negotiated a separate MOU with the Ukrainian government to address the many practical aspects – customs and visa issues, procedures for local contracting, reimbursement of VAT, physical and information security, and many more – of having NATO headquarters and units from NATO member states on Ukrainian territory. As with any international agreement, negotiating each document has been difficult and time-consuming.

The MOU on Host Nation Support will serve as a permanent understanding regarding the general principles of Host Nation Support and the responsibilities for all parties: the NATO command, the Host Nation (Ukraine) and the NATO Allies or Partner countries that are sending personnel. Using the framework of the MOU, working-level arrangements on practical issues can now be developed for each specific exercise or operation without the need for high-level negotiations.

It is important to underline that the MOU on Host Nation Support is a technical, not a political, document. It in no way gives automatic authorisation for NATO access to Ukrainian territory. But when the government and parliament do provide such authorisation – for example, for exercises – the MOU on Host Nation Support allows quicker and smoother access of NATO headquarters and forces, saving time and money for all sides.

NN: What do you think is the greatest challenge facing Ukraine in terms of realising its Euro-Atlantic integration aspirations?

JG: I would suggest that the greatest challenge today it is to build understanding among Ukraine’s leadership, experts and citizens of what Euro-Atlantic integration really means and what it requires. Here, there is a wealth of information from the ten Central European countries that have already succeeded in this process. Of course, every country is unique, but each of these countries has valuable lessons – positive and negative – from which Ukraine can learn. It is also important that Ukrainians look at their own country with a critical eye. Careful consideration of criticism, whether internal or international, is an important tool for identifying needed reforms and should be a normal part of democratic life. Open discussion on the substance of reform within parliament and civil society – political parties, independent analytical institutes, media – will play an important role in promoting understanding of Euro-Atlantic integration. It will also help begin the process of building national consensus on the vision for the country’s future and the specific actions needed to implement that vision.

I personally am confident that Ukraine will be successful in implementing the tough reforms needed to reach Euro-Atlantic standards and achieve the goal of NATO membership. This confidence comes from my personal experience with this country and its greatest resource – its people. The best way to harness this rich human potential is by allowing people the freedom, through democracy and free markets, to make their own choices and build their own future. The experience of Central Europe in the past ten years has shown that Euro-Atlantic integration is the quickest route to achieving democracy and the resulting prosperity. The Ukrainian people have the intelligence to understand this reality, and the strength, courage and resolve to make the hard choices and do the hard work necessary to follow the Euro-Atlantic path.

  1. L. Polyakov and J. Greene, “Membership Action Plan for Ukraine: What Should it be Like?” National Security and Defence №7, 2003.

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