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  NATO perspectives for Georgia and Ukraine

Arûnas Spraunius
2008 03 24


Although the two countries have the same soviet past, actually they are different states. Their perspectives for membership in NATO should be evaluated by taking into consideration their unique current situation. Besides, another step of these countries would be membership in the EU.

The leaders of Ukraine have to do many maneuvers, since the road towards membership in NATO is not an easy one. In the middle of January the minister of foreign affairs of Ukraine V. Ohryzka delivered the application, signed by the Chairman of the Supreme Rada and Prime Minister, to the Secretary General of NATO J. H. Scheffer on a permission to join the operational plan for membership in NATO. But the Ukrainian opposition, which is against membership in NATO, disturbed the meeting of the parliament on 25 January: twenty deputies blocked the place of the chairman of the parliament and made barricade from chairs preventing from entrance to the meeting hall. The posters said: „No to NATO!“, „NATO – Never!“ and „NATO, Go Away from the Black Sea!“. Russia warned Ukraine that membership in NATO would have negative consequences for the bilateral relations.

When speaking in the meeting of the Committee for foreign relations of the European Parliament, the Prime Minister of Ukraine Y.Tymoshenko acknowledged that the letter to the authorities of NATO, signed by the three highest authorities of the country, has polarized the society of the country.  She also said that the only way forward was evolution by organizing a wide information campaign both regarding the goals of NATO and Ukraine towards its membership in NATO. According to Prime Minister, V.Yushchenko and chairman of the Supreme Rada A.Yatsenyuk, the decision on the membership in NATO would not be made without the national referendum. The Ukrainian opposition executes disinformation campaign by escalating fears of the soviet past, therefore proposals emerged on consideration of a possibility of the plebiscite so as to prevent the opposition from destabilization of work of Rada on the pretext of escalation of the NATO issue. It is interesting to note that the program for cooperation of Ukraine and NATO, approved by the Government of Yanukovych, who is against the accession to the Alliance does not contradict the plan for the pursuit of membership in NATO. In any case, a fierce information fight takes place currently in Ukraine, and the issue of NATO is attracted in pursuit of the internal policy goals.

The referendum in Georgia on the membership in NATO was held on 5 January, together with the presidential elections. 72,5 percent of citizens of the country approved membership of Georgia in the Alliance. On 20 January president M.Saakashvili said that the nation has chosen the road of Euro-Atlantic integration, therefore Georgia would move towards NATO and the EU. Despite minor protests the issue of NATO in Georgia is more apparent than in Ukraine. The accession to NATO for Georgia could only be hindered by its problematic relations with Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Russia, as well as the doubts of Western partners on the level of democracy in the country.

Irrespective of the different situation of the above countries, certain dynamic is characteristic of the processes of their accession to Western structures. It is strange that only few people in Ukraine are aware of the fact that 90 percent of positions of the plan for membership in NATO are related to internal reforms of the country in the sphere of human rights and freedoms, legislation and growth of economy. Whereas the new generation of politicians of Ukraine evaluate membership in NATO as an opportunity to modernize society of the country.

Besides, the Ukrainian intellectuals have reproaches to the NATO itself, which has not yet presented itself to the society of the country. There are few possibilities that Ukraine (and Georgia) will manage to repeat the road of the Baltic States, Hungary or Poland. In 1998-2000 a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine S.Pifer said in the daily The International Herald Tribune, that despite many circumstances, it would be worth while approving the Ukrainian Action Plan regarding its membership in the Alliance during the meeting of NATO members in Bucharest. By carrying out democratic, economic and military reforms, this country has achieved practically the same as Romania,Bulgaria, Slovakia or Albania in 1999, when their accession plans were approved. According to the British The Financial Times, the key trump card of Ukraine is democracy, which has become even stronger during the recent political conflicts.

Certainly, there‘ll be many discussions and disputes. Despite the support which the U.S. State Secretary C.Rice once again confirmed to president V.Yushchenko during the Dallas Forum, other NATO countries seem to be less happy about Ukraine‘s loud reminder of itself.  The factor of Russia, which is especially against Ukraine‘s membership in NATO, is reminded once again. In fact, the Ukrainian president is convinced that in the long run Russia would understand the strive of his country to integrate into Western structures.

The Swiss newspaper Le Temps doubts on whether Georgia would be invited in Bucharest to join the accession program. It also reminds the presidential elections in Russia and problematic situation in Kosovo, the independence of which could be evaluated as a precedent for Abkhazia and South Ossetia which are also seeking the same objective. According to the newspaper, the Alliance might ask Tbilisi to wait for a while. And if Tbilisi is asked to wait, Kiev’s fate would be the same...

Concerning perversity of the new political elite of Ukraine and Georgia, these countries at least proceed moving towards the West. And now it is a problem of the Alliance itself on how long it would take for it to test this obstinacy and patience.

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