Updated: 07-Sep-2005 NATO Speeches


27 July 2005

published in
Novyny NATO


with Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy, Ambassador Martin Erdmann

NATO - Ukraine relations

When Ukraine’s newly elected President Victor Yushchenko attended a summit meeting in Brussels on 22 February, NATO leaders expressed support for Ukraine’s ambitious reform agenda and agreed to sharpen and refocus NATO-Ukraine cooperation in line with the new government’s priorities. Two months later, at the NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting of foreign ministers in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 21 April, the Allies and Ukraine launched an Intensified Dialogue on Ukraine’s aspirations to NATO membership and announced a package of short-term actions designed to enhance NATO-Ukraine cooperation in high-priority reform areas. NATO’s newly appointed Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy, Ambassador Martin Erdmann, will be deeply involved in taking forward the NATO-Ukraine relationship over the next few years. Novyny NATO asked him to explain what these recent initiatives will mean in practice for Ukraine.

Novyny NATO (NN): What is an Intensified Dialogue?

Martin Erdmann (ME): Intensified Dialogues were first launched with the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in early 1997, in the run-up to NATO’s first post-Cold War round of enlargement in 1999. The process of conducting Intensified Dialogues with these countries, which had declared their interest in joining the Alliance, allowed us to explore with each of them issues that had been raised in a 1995 Study on NATO Enlargement. This Study was carried out by the Alliance to consider the merits of admitting new members and how they should be brought in. It concluded that the end of the Cold War provided a unique opportunity to build improved security in the entire Euro-Atlantic area. It also highlighted that countries seeking membership would have to be able to demonstrate that they had fulfilled certain requirements. The Intensified Dialogue process aimed to provide these countries with concrete information regarding the rights and obligations inherent to NATO membership. Once admitted, a new member country would enjoy all of these rights, and assume all of these obligations.

According to the Study, any country seeking to join the Alliance must meet key requirements, which include a functioning democratic political system based on a market economy; treatment of minority populations in accordance with guidelines established by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe; commitment to peaceful resolution of disputes with neighbours; the ability and willingness to make a military contribution to the Alliance and to achieve interoperability with other members’ forces; and commitment to democratic civil-military relations and institutional structures.

The launch of the Intensified Dialogue with Ukraine marks a real milestone in NATO Ukraine relations and in Ukraine's pursuit of Euro-Atlantic integration. It is a clear signal from NATO Allies that they support Ukraine’s aspirations. Nonetheless, this process does not guarantee an invitation to join the Alliance. As the NATO Secretary General has made clear many times, such an invitation would be based on Ukraine’s performance in the implementation of key reform goals. NATO and individual Allies are committed to providing assistance and advice all along the way, but the pace of progress remains in Ukraine’s hands.

NN: What will this process mean in practice for Ukraine?

ME: The first concrete step in the Intensified Dialogue with Ukraine was taken on 27 June, during the Secretary General‘s visit to Kyiv, when the Ukrainian government formally presented an initial discussion paper to establish the basis for the Intensified Dialogue. This paper addresses key issues set out in the 1995 Study – domestic and foreign policy, defence and security sector reform as well as legal and security issues – and highlights in specific terms those areas where progress will need to be made to bring Ukraine's aspirations closer to reality. This paper has since been forwarded to NATO Allies for consideration and will be used as the basis for structured expert discussions. We intend to conduct the first of these discussions in September, when a high-ranking delegation of Ukrainian officials representing ministries involved in the Intensified Dialogue will visit Brussels. These expert discussions will in turn provide an opportunity for Ukrainian officials to learn more about what will be expected from Ukraine in the years to come, and for NATO officials, like myself, to examine in greater detail Ukrainian policy and capabilities.

NN: What is the aim of the package of short-term actions that was launched at Vilnius?

ME: The paper issued at Vilnius on “Enhancing NATO-Ukraine Cooperation: Short-tem Actions” sets out a series of near-term priorities – areas where NATO and Ukraine will work together to help accomplish the most urgent reform goals. It also records the agreement between Allies and Ukraine to launch the Intensified Dialogue.

The short-term measures focus on five areas: strengthening democratic institutions, enhancing political dialogue, intensifying defence and security sector reform, improving public information, and managing the social and economic consequences of reform. These are high priorities for the new Ukrainian government, as they are vital to the success of the democratic transformation that the Ukrainian people demanded last December. They are also areas where NATO can offer specific expertise and, in some cases, material assistance.

Already, a number of steps have been taken to implement these actions. We have broadened the scope of our cooperation on defence and security sector reform, including by responding to a Ukrainian request to assist in the reform of Ukraine’s intelligence services according to European standards. We have expanded our consultations on issues like the situation in Moldova, where Ukraine has played a more active role in the effort to find a political settlement. We have launched the largest-ever trust fund in the framework of the Partnership for Peace in order to fund the destruction of large stockpiles of outdated and unstable munitions. And we have increased our support to the retraining of Ukrainian officers and servicemen who will need to make the transition to the private economy in the context of the ongoing downsizing and modernisation of the Ukrainian armed forces. Allies are also considering how to work together to provide additional support to the training of civilian personnel in Ukrainian defence and security institutions. We will have a chance to review progress in these and other areas at a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at the level of ambassadors in Kyiv in October.

NN: How do the initiatives taken at Vilnius relate to ongoing cooperation in the framework of the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan?

ME: The Intensified Dialogue addresses issues specifically related to Ukraine’s possible NATO membership. The package of short-term measures is designed to focus practical cooperation in support of urgent reform goals. Both of these initiatives are intended to complement and reinforce existing cooperation in the framework of the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan. The Action Plan, launched at the Prague Summit in November 2002, identifies a set of long-term strategic objectives designed to bring Ukraine closer to her Euro-Atlantic integration goals. It is implemented through Annual Target Plans, which identify specific benchmarks to be reached and activities to be carried out in the course of each calendar year. It also contains a built-in mechanism to assess progress. This mechanism will continue to serve as the backbone for NATO-Ukraine cooperation as we proceed with the Intensified Dialogue. From the NATO perspective, we believe we should be using all of the tools at our disposal in order to work toward the ultimate goal of a more prosperous, more democratic Ukraine with a modern, accountable security sector, fully capable of integrating into the North Atlantic Alliance. We should not lose sight of this goal as we make adjustments to the mechanisms designed to get us there.

NN: If Ukraine makes sufficient progress in implementing relevant reforms, the next step on the road to realising the country’s membership aspirations would be an invitation to join the Membership Action Plan (MAP). Realistically, when is the earliest Ukraine could expect to be invited to join the MAP and what would this entail for Ukraine?

ME: As I said, there is no point in trying to guess at timetables. The Intensified Dialogue is a serious process aimed at helping Ukraine better understand and, more importantly, to implement many of the standards she will need to meet as a candidate for NATO membership. As the Intensified Dialogue process runs its course, our focus needs to remain on the underlying goal – the implementation of necessary reforms. The Ukrainian authorities need to concentrate their efforts on practical substance and on achieving the implementation of commitments already undertaken. NATO will provide advice and support in areas where it has expertise.

At some point, once Allies have had the chance to review Ukraine’s progress in the framework of the Intensified Dialogue, they might decide to invite the country to join the “Membership Action Plan” (MAP) process. The MAP is a programme of advice, assistance and practical support, designed to help countries wishing to join the Alliance in their preparations for potential membership and in their drive to meet NATO standards. While MAP participation in general helps prepare candidate countries for Alliance membership, it does not provide a guarantee of future membership. In any decision on NATO enlargement, each country is assessed according to its performance and based on the Allies’ judgement as to whether its membership would contribute to stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.

NN: While the Ukrainian leadership has openly declared Ukraine’s aspirations to join the Alliance, it would appear from recent opinion polls that if the Ukrainian people were invited to exercise their democratic rights tomorrow in a referendum on NATO membership, the answer would be “No”. Do you have any comments?

ME: It is principally the responsibility of the Ukrainian administration to convince the Ukrainian people that its ambitious reform programme, and its integration goals, are in Ukraine’s interest. We do, however, share a common interest in ensuring that the Ukrainian public is properly informed about NATO and about Ukraine’s aspirations, and that they are able to form their own opinions based on facts. For years, we have sought to heighten awareness of what NATO is and what it stands for, and to stimulate debate about Euro-Atlantic security issues more generally among Ukrainian academics, opinion formers and the general public. That is why we established the NATO Information and Documentation Centre in Kyiv and launched a publications programme in the Ukrainian and Russian languages.

We are not in the propaganda business. In the framework of the short-term actions launched at Vilnius, the Allies offered to cooperate with Ukraine in making available accurate information about the Alliance and the NATO-Ukraine relationship. We know that many people in Ukraine are still suspicious of NATO, and still associate the Alliance with old Cold War stereotypes. From NATO’s perspective, quite apart from the question of Ukraine’s possible future membership, it is in our interest to encourage people to take a fresh look at the Alliance, so that they discover how NATO has transformed itself since the end of the Cold War and developed partnerships throughout the Euro-Atlantic area to meet new security challenges. They would also discover that NATO’s strategic partnerships with both Ukraine and Russia are an essential part of this transformation – and would, hopefully, then also understand that Ukraine’s membership aspirations and its desire to maintain a strong relationship with Russia are not mutually exclusive policies.

Many Ukrainians also seem unaware of the benefits of existing NATO-Ukraine cooperation. The fact is that NATO and Ukraine already cooperate in concrete and mutually beneficial ways. We work together to bring peace and stability to the Balkans and to fight terrorism. We also cooperate in developing programmes to address Ukraine’s specific needs, such as the modernisation of its armed forces, the disposal of stockpiles of dangerous, obsolete arms and munitions, and the retraining of military personnel to ease their transition into civilian life. I am confident that this shared experience of cooperation will provide us with a solid foundation as we intensify the NATO-Ukraine relationship even further in the years to come.


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