Updated: 06-May-2008 NATO Speeches


20 Oct. 2005


Speech by Jaap De Hoop Scheffer
Secretary General of NATO

National University of Kyiv-mohyla
Academy Kyiv, Ukraine, 20 October 2005

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

It gives me great pleasure to be back in Kyiv, on the occasion of the visit of the North Atlantic Council to Ukraine . This visit by the decision making body of NATO is testimony to the great importance we attach to our relations with Ukraine .

Ukraine is a nation whose leadership has declared, unambiguously, its long-term goal of joining the North Atlantic Alliance. Yet it is also a country where a large part of the population, particularly among the older generation, seems to have an image of NATO as an adverse military bloc. This poses particular challenges for me, as the Secretary General of NATO, in explaining the Alliance to the Ukrainian public. Yet this is a job that can and must be done. If we want to exploit all available opportunities for cooperation, we must first and foremost understand each other.

So what is the North Atlantic Alliance? It is the expression of a lasting bond between the democracies of North America and Europe . It is an organisation that protects the values that underlie our societies: Freedom of speech, democratic participation, human rights and the rule of law. The North Atlantic Alliance has always defended and promoted these values. At the time of its conception in 1949, NATO had twelve members. Today, twenty-six democracies work together in the Alliance to uphold our fundamental values and project stability and security.

This logic of cooperation in security is timeless. That is why NATO did not end when the Cold War ended. Yes, the security environment has changed. Yes, the challenges that we face today bear little resemblance to those of the past. The Alliance ’s missions in the Balkans and in Afghanistan have little in common with the territorial defence and deterrence functions that characterised the Cold War. But the need to cooperate in meeting common security challenges has not changed.

On the contrary: The Alliance has also served as an effective instrument for overcoming Europe’s Cold War divisions – by offering cooperation, partnership and even the prospect of membership to former adversaries. Since the end of the Cold War, ten countries have become members of the Alliance , and our door remains open for further aspirants. By requiring candidate states to adhere to the highest possible standards of democratic values, the enlargement process itself has served as a powerful mechanism for strengthening institutions and ensuring that democratic transformation is permanent.

It is therefore no surprise to me, nor should it be to you, that Ukraine ’s political leadership has stated its ambition to join this Alliance . Last December, when the whole world witnessed the courage and determination of the Ukrainian people in refusing to surrender the very same democratic rights and freedoms we in the Alliance hold dear, we all knew that the time had come to open another chapter in our relationship. Since the North Atlantic Council first met with President Yushchenko in February of this year, the message we have heard has been clear and consistent. Ukraine wants and expects to take her place as a full member of the Euro-Atlantic community of nations, and is willing to carry out the far-reaching systematic reforms that are necessary to make that possible.

This is a strategic choice for the future of Ukraine , not for the advantage of any one political party. This path of reform and integration, if successful, will improve the lives of all Ukrainians – those who wore blue last December as well as those who wore orange. The wisdom of this path has been recognised by virtually all of Ukraine ’s political class.

This spring, in response to Ukraine ’s declared integration goals, we launched an “Intensified Dialogue”. This process provides an opportunity to help Ukraine’s leadership better understand just how much concrete change will be required if Ukraine is to achieve her stated goal of membership in the Alliance. For the Allies, this dialogue also provides an opportunity to gain insights into Ukraine ’s reform programme and to target our assistance where it can be most effective.

This Intensified Dialogue process is off to an excellent start, and we have been impressed by the seriousness and determination of our Ukrainian colleagues, even as they have coped with political changes at home. Now, however, the time has come for us to “intensify” our dialogue with the Ukrainian people as well. Because if this country is to succeed in making this difficult transformation, this endeavour will need broad public understanding of what the North Atlantic Alliance is, what we stand for, and what we can offer as a partner for Ukraine ’s future.

Today’s Ukraine has set for herself a broad array of ambitious, mutually reinforcing goals. In addition to strengthening democratic institutions, the Ukrainian leadership needs to plot a course toward sustained economic growth, a predictable investment climate, and greater integration into the world community. They will need to address questions of constitutional reform, implement sweeping electoral reforms in the context of a hotly contested parliamentary election campaign, and take on critical challenges such as the de‑politicisation of the judicial system and promoting transparency. At the same time, the leadership in Kyiv must manage a daunting foreign policy agenda.

In this context, it is fair for Ukrainians, even those who see beyond the outdated Cold War stereotypes, to ask why the intensification of Ukraine ’s relationship with NATO should be a priority. This is a fair question, which deserves a serious answer. In fact, I will offer you three.

The first answer, in a word, is values. There has been much discussion in this city over the past several weeks of the need to remain true to the “principles of the Orange Revolution”. Many of you present here today were likely on the Maidan last winter, and know exactly what those principles are. They include the right to choose your own leaders, without manipulation or intimidation. They include the right to speak your mind without fear of reprisal, and to plan your own future. In brief, they include democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. These are the very values the North Atlantic Alliance stands for.

Since launching the NATO-Ukraine Distinctive Partnership in 1997, a regular exchange of views on the implementation of democratic values has been an integral part of our dialogue. And within our Intensified Dialogue, Ukraine will have greater opportunities to benefit from our experience in building democratic institutions, just as many of her neighbours have over the past decade.

The second reason for Ukraine to come even closer to the Alliance is results. Our Distinctive Partnership has provided an effective forum for practical NATO-Ukraine co‑operation, and a strong foundation for doing even more together. Over the past years, we have accumulated an impressive track record in helping Ukraine address the formidable challenges of reforming an oversized Cold-War era military establishment. This is not a burden Ukraine sought, but one that was thrust upon her by history, and we have understood from the beginning that it was in our interest and yours to see Ukraine succeed in modernising and downsizing her armed forces. Here again, Ukraine has benefited from the experience of Allies who faced similar challenges.

In particular, we have worked together, and plan to intensify our cooperation, in addressing the consequences of this far-reaching reform process. We have worked to help personnel acquire the skills they need to adapt to civilian life. We have launched an ambitious programme of assistance – the largest such programme ever undertaken – designed to help Ukraine dispose of large, dangerous stockpiles of excess munitions. This will address an urgent environmental and public safety concern. These are concrete steps, which deliver concrete results in helping to solve problems faced by Ukraine ’s citizens. And by expanding our cooperation beyond the Ministry of Defence to Ukraine ’s entire security sector, we can make a tangible contribution to the irreversibility of Ukraine ’s democratic transition.

The third reason why we should continue to intensify our relations is because this is the only way in which we can guarantee our common security. The old threats and dividing lines are – thankfully – long gone, but new challenges have arisen to take their place. These new challenges – terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the many challenges posed by failed states – rarely recognise borders or passports. Since the end of the Cold War, the Alliance has transformed its policies, its capabilities and, above all, its partnerships to cope with these new challenges. We have launched a dynamic new relationship with Russia, cooperating in ways we could hardly have imagined just a few years ago. As we have had to respond to threats originating far from our traditional geographic area, we have reached out in new ways to our partners in the CIS, the Mediterranean region, the broader Middle East and beyond. And more and more often, from the Balkans to our anti-terrorist maritime patrols in the Mediterranean Sea to Afghanistan, Ukraine has been there with us, offering forces and capabilities that have enhanced the effectiveness of our operations and improved our common security.

As far as NATO is concerned, this strategic partnership will continue to deepen and grow, because it is clearly in our interest and yours. Whether Ukraine continues to pursue this mutually beneficial relationship as a “Distinctive Partner”, or one day takes her place as a full member of NATO, is first of all up to you. We in the Alliance wish you every success, and we will do what we can to reinforce Ukraine’s national security, the strength of her democratic institutions and her economic prosperity.

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