Staunton, June 11 – In a commentary entitled “How Ukraine is Entering NATO without Unnecessary Noise,” Mikhail Samus argues that Kyiv is meeting the requirements of a Membership Action Plan (MAP) even though it has not been offered one and even though the document it is acting under bears a different title.
President Petro Poroshenko’s signing of a Strategic Defense Bulletin attracted less attention than it should have, the Kyiv commentator says, because its realization “in fact” would fulfill the provisions of a potential NATO MAP but “without an official declaration of that” (dsnews.ua/politics/ukraina-vstupaet-v-nato---bez-lishnego-shuma-09062016110700).
Indeed, he says, the provisions of the document Poroshenko has signed are even “tougher” than those typically contained in a NATO MAP because they are even more comprehensive than the latter.
The Ukrainian document, he quotes, “defines the paths for the achievement of defense reform in particular for increasing the capacity of the country’s defense to the level which will permit the fulfilment of the tasks of the defense of the state and the restoration of its territorial integrity.”
Moreover, the document continues, it calls for “active [Ukrainian] participation in the realization of the joint policies of the EU in the area of security and defense and active cooperation with NATO for the achievement of the criteria needed for full membership in the Organization of the North Atlantic Treaty.”
The resemblance of the Strategic Defense Bulletin to a NATO MAP reflects “the fact that it was prepared by the Reform Committee of the Defense Ministry and the Armed Forces of Ukraine with the immediate participation of NATO representatives both from headquarters and from individual member countries, above all, the US and the UK.”
In addition, Samus continues, “the recommendations” of the Bulletin were also developed by the American RAND Corporation and it was forward for Poroshenko’s signature only after its provisions were agreed to not only by Ukrainian institutions but also by NATO headquarters.”
Obviously, there were differences of opinion, but these were worked out, often over the objections of conservative forces in the Ukrainian military establishment. But the important thing is that they were worked out rather than papered over as has happened before in Ukrainian defense planning.
That happened because of NATO pressure, Samus says, noting that the alliance had been frustrated with Kyiv’s go slow approach and had given the Ukrainian authorities “a deadline” to come up with something like this. That deadline was the NATO summit in Warsaw where the new document will be presented as part of Ukraine’s effort to join the alliance by 2020.
That will be possible if and only if Ukraine carries out the provisions of this document, something it has not done in the case of similar documents in the past Consequently, Samus says, Ukrainian officials and Ukrainian society have to press harder rather than assume that the document solves everything.
The tasks are daunting. On the one hand, Russia continues to press Ukraine and possesses overwhelming force, especially in what Samus identifies as the key naval sector. And on the other, there is still evidence that some members of NATO, including Germany and France, are not enthusiastic about taking Ukraine into the alliance.
In the short term but only as an intermediate step, Samus says, Kyiv should explore some southern version of NORDEFCO which involves NATO countries and non-NATO states like Sweden in the defense of Scandinavia against Russian aggression. But for Ukraine, he insists, such steps are “only half measures,” although they can help boost Kyiv’s defense readiness.
If NATO is not prepared for Ukrainian membership, other things will follow, the Kyiv analyst says. Ukrainians will have to look for other means to defense themselves and the territorial integrity of their country. One of those could involve acquiring a nuclear capability, something Ukraine gave up earlier.
Samus says that he doesn’t believe anyone could condemn Ukraine if it felt compelled as a result of NATO’s reluctance to include it in its ranks, to move in that direction, not only because of the sad fate of the Budapest Memorandum but also because of the continuing Russian aggression it faces and must find a way to repel.