Updated: 27-Jun-2005 NATO Speeches


27 June 2005


by NATO Secretary General, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

Last December, Ukraine captured the world’s imagination. Braving sub-zero temperatures and the very real threat of a violent response, the people of Ukraine launched a non-violent “revolution” – a revolution that sought not to overthrow a constitutional order, but to enforce one. The so called “radical” demand of the demonstrators who filled Independence Square was simply that the actual winner of a democratic election should be permitted to take office and govern.

NATO followed this process closely. At every stage, we did what we could to help ensure a non-violent outcome to the crisis – an outcome that would be consistent with the democratically expressed will of the Ukrainian people.

As a community of shared values, we made clear to the previous Ukrainian government that the conduct of free and fair Presidential elections would be an important benchmark of how far Ukraine had come in her democratic transition. We stressed that this, in turn, would determine how far Ukraine could expect to come in realising her stated ambitions to integrate more fully into the Euro-Atlantic community.

We made clear during the crisis our firm opposition to the use of force against peaceful demonstrators, and our equally firm support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We also made the crisis an important focus of our dialogue with Russia, ultimately agreeing on a joint appeal for a peaceful, democratic re-run of the flawed election.

But however positive the international expressions of support may have been, whether from the European Union, Poland, Lithuania, or NATO, it was ultimately the Ukrainian people themselves who resolved the crisis, by refusing to compromise on their values, or on their expectations for the future.

Through their courage, the people of Ukraine reminded us that genuine democracy is not about words, but about actions. It is not simply about governmental institutions and constitutional structures, but also about a vibrant civil society, a vigilant media, and other constituencies that will hold their political leaders to account.

I was pleased to be able to attend President Yushchenko’s inauguration earlier this year. My impression on that occasion, confirmed today, was that just being here in Kyiv one feels that this is in many ways a very different country than it was just a short time ago. However, to make certain that democracy is fully consolidated and firmly rooted, it will be necessary to press ahead with crucial, often difficult reforms. The “Orange Revolution” must not become a treasured memory of a few courageous weeks. It must remain a living project on which all of you, both inside and outside of government, continue to work hard each day.

To keep Ukraine on the course charted by its people in December, President Yushchenko has set out a broad and ambitious reform agenda. At the NATO-Ukraine Summit meeting in February he outlined for us his strategy of pursuing full integration into the Alliance. This strategy is a bold one, but its pursuit offers significant promise to improve the lives of the Ukrainian people. In the short term, this will involve significant changes in Ukrainian domestic and foreign policy, many of which are already visible.

NATO cannot drive this process. The responsibility – and the substantial burdens involved – rest squarely on the shoulders of the Ukrainian leadership. But we can help – and we are helping.

In response to President Yushchenko’s appeal, we have agreed to launch an Intensified Dialogue on Ukraine’s membership aspirations and the reforms necessary to achieve them. This Dialogue will provide an opportunity for the Ukrainian government and people to learn more about NATO’s goals, principles and missions. It will also allow us in NATO to learn more about Ukraine’s goals of reform and integration, and how we can further enhance our assistance in support of these objectives.

The Intensified Dialogue is therefore a major step forward in our relationship.  But just as important is the decision we have also taken to intensify our practical cooperation in five key areas:

  • First, we will work together to help strengthen Ukraine’s democratic institutions, in particular to help ensure democratic control of armed forces – not only within the Ministry of Defence, but throughout Ukraine’s security sector.
  • Second, we will intensify our work on overall defence and security sector reform – for example to modernise the budget of the armed forces, and the command structure -- in order to help Ukraine develop a modern, capable and accountable security establishment.
  • Third, we will enhance our political dialogue, in order to cooperate more effectively on security issues of common interest, such as efforts to pursue a political settlement in Moldova, or steps to improve export control regimes and to combat terrorism.
  • Fourth, we will intensify our work on managing the social and economic consequences of reform. This includes NATO support for the destruction of dangerous stockpiles of Soviet-era munitions and small arms, the largest programme of its kind anywhere in the world. It also includes NATO support for the re-training of military personnel to be released during the anticipated downsizing of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
  • Finally, we will enhance our cooperation in the area of public information, in order to ensure that the Ukrainian people have access to complete, accurate information about NATO and the NATO-Ukraine relationship.

All of these are priority reform areas for the new Ukrainian administration. They are, of course, vital to the success of Ukraine’s aspirations. But more importantly, they are vital to the consolidation of democratic change, and would be necessary with or without external support. They are also areas where NATO and its member states have substantial expertise and, in some cases, material assistance to offer. And we already have very effective mechanisms in the framework of the NATO-Ukraine Commission that can carry forward our joint work in these areas, now that we have the firm political will on all sides to do so.

The final area – public information – is one in which I would like to ask for your help. For several years, we found ourselves in the unusual situation of dealing with a Ukrainian leadership that sent very mixed messages with regard to NATO.

The Alliance is not in the propaganda business. Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic choice is a sovereign decision for the Ukrainian people and their elected leaders to make – and not for anybody else. But we do have a common interest in ensuring that information about what NATO does and what it stands for, and about the very real progress we have achieved within the NATO-Ukraine Distinctive Partnership, is available to Ukraine’s citizens, so that they can make an informed judgement about their government’s policy of integration.

I know that many people here in Ukraine still think of the Cold War when they think of NATO. I spend a lot of time, wherever I go, asking people to take a fresh look at the Alliance. Because it is a very different organisation.

Today’s NATO is designed to help provide security in a new world. We know that we do not have to defend against any particular state any more. Today, we are defending against threats we all face: terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the unpredictable consequences of “failed states” and regional conflicts. We are projecting stability in places it is needed and where the Allies’ interests are at stake: the Balkans, Afghanistan, training the Security Forces of Iraq, and now supporting the African Union in Darfur. And we are doing it with partners, because that the only way to succeed is together.

Our strategic partnership with Ukraine has been an essential part of this transformation. And it shows how much our partnership has rewarded both NATO and Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainian servicemen have acquired the experience of serving side-by-side with Allied soldiers in the Balkans. This shared experience has permitted Ukraine to make substantial contributions to peace support efforts throughout the world, including those outside the NATO framework, for example in Africa and in Iraq. Ukraine has recently agreed to provide support to NATO’s anti-terrorist naval patrols in the Mediterranean Sea, and to consider a possible contribution to NATO’s training mission in Iraq and its support to the African Union in Darfur. We have worked together to reform the Ukrainian military as well, making it more interoperable with NATO forces and better able to respond to Ukraine’s actual national security needs.

And finally, anyone who still believes that there is still any truth to the old Cold War stereotypes about the Alliance should look at the extensive partnership we have built over the past years with Russia. In the NATO-Russia Council framework, we have launched concrete joint initiatives on terrorism, military-to-military cooperation, theatre missile defence, and many other areas. Like President Yuschchenko, we also see Russia as an important part of the security architecture of the Euro-Atlantic area. Ukraine’s membership aspirations and Ukraine’s and NATO’s partnerships with Russia are not mutually exclusive policies.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

There is a new spirit of hope in the air, in Ukraine and in Ukraine’s relationships with NATO and other Euro-Atlantic and European institutions. The courage and maturity the Ukrainian people demonstrated during the “Orange Revolution” not only ushered in a period of profound democratic change here in Ukraine. They also “revolutionised” the way your country is viewed in Europe and in North America. The future of a peaceful, prosperous, democratic Ukraine is now in your hands. But know that as you travel the difficult road ahead, you will not be alone.  NATO will be lending a helping hand, for it is our common interest to see Ukraine succeed. 

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