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  Perspectives of Ukraine‘s membership in NATO after the meeting of the Alliance leaders in Brussels

Aivaras Bagdonas, VU TSPMI doktorantas
2009 02 12

During the North Atlantic Council session on 2-3 December 2008, the decision was made to develop an annual national program for Ukraine instead of the Membership Action Plan (MAP).  What role will this program play in promoting Ukraine‘s integration to NATO, and will it serve as a MAP so far applied for the new members?

Decisions concerning Ukraine could be considered as a sign that NATO is not ready to accelerate the integration process. This doesn‘t mean that Ukraine is to be excluded from list of NATO candidates, therefore the issue of membership could be considered as postponed but not rejected.

In order to more specifically define perspectives for Ukraine‘s integration to NATO, it is worth while discussing all pros and cons.

Opposing Russia‘s policy concerning NATO development towards the East could be considered as one of the key factors for application of long-term integration measures for Ukraine instead of MAP. Russia still considers Ukraine as one of geopolitical obstacles providing security guarantees.  On the eve of the meeting of the Alliance leaders, D.Rogozin, Russia’s representative to NATO, said that Russia considers NATO’s approach to its borders „as issue arising extreme anxiety“.

Quite a lot of direct and indirect examples of Russia’s pressure on Ukraine could be evaluated as an attempt to make Ukraine turn the road which is acceptable to Russia. Such Russia‘s actions could also be considered as a warning to the Alliance reminding possible energy sanctions to Europe in case if Russia’s position on Ukraine‘s membership is not taken into consideration.

NATO countries depending on Russia‘s energy resources are ready to treat Moscow‘s claims concerning Ukraine seriously.  The argument confirming this statement is that decisions made in Brussels in December are practically in compliance with Russia‘s requirements.

Quite clear disunity of the Alliance states on the development of NATO could be another negative factor for Ukraine: some states support Ukraine‘s membership in NATO, the others are very skeptical about this perspective.

Regarding factors restricting Ukraine‘s integration we must not forget its domestic problems.

First of all, quite a big number of Ukrainians are against the membership in NATO: according to the survey, one third of the society supports membership in the Alliance, one third is for more close relations with Russia, and position of one third of the population is neutral. Therefore, acceleration of events on the above might be dangerous both to statehood and to the territorial integrity of the country.

Secondly, Russia’s Black Sea fleet is based in the port of Sevastopol.  Will NATO states be ready to accept the country having military forces of a non-NATO state in its territory?

Thirdly, although Ukraine executes relevant reforms, its progress is inconsiderable. One of the main reasons of such a situation is instability of the country‘s political system because of permanent changes in the leading country‘s elite.

There aren‘t many arguments which could accelerate the process of Ukraine‘s NATO integration, and these are indirect arguments.

Being in a geopolitically beneficial position between NATO states and Russia, Ukraine managed to balance between these two powers and move towards the West, and retained more or less normal relations with Russia.  If it manages to keep this balance, the number of Ukraine’s supporters in the Alliance would increase.

Another Ukraine‘s strong point in pursuit of mitigation of Russia‘s position concerning NATO expansion, is membership in the WTO. It has a possibility to block Russia‘s membership in WTO, and this is a serious argument in response to Russia‘s efforts not „to allow“ Ukraine join NATO.

Another important aspect is that after the Russian-Georgian war in August, expansion of NATO towards the East acquired different colors. Although inconsiderable, NATO’s efforts concerning development of relations with Ukraine and Georgia are obvious.

During the meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels in December, J. de H. Scheffer highlighted that „MAP didn’t vanish“. This statement could be evaluated as a confirmation that Brussels‘ decisions concerning relations between NATO and Ukraine are not final and can be amended depending on Ukraine‘s success in implementing reforms necessary to join NATO.

After Russia‘s invasion to Georgia, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, said: „Ukraine will be a NATO member one day, but today it is not ready for that“.

To be more exact, NATO and Russia are also not ready for Ukraine’s membership.

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