Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Window on Eurasia: Ukraine Seen Forming New Military ‘Troika’ with Lithuania and Poland

Paul Goble


            Staunton, November 26 – Having reluctantly concluded that it will not get the assistance it needs from NATO as a whole, the Ukrainian government is seeking to obtain it by developing military ties with Lithuania and Poland, a move both Vilnius and Warsaw appear receptive to, according to “Nezavisimaya gazeta.”


            In an article in today’s issue, Tatyana Ivzhenko, the paper’s Kyiv correspondent, says that was one of the results of the just-completed meeting of Dalia Grybauskaite with her Ukrainian counterpart Petro Poroshenko and reflects ongoing discussions with Poland about military supplies as well (


            Some in Kyiv are comparing this new “troika” with GUAM, while some in Moscow are suggesting that this is just a cover for NATO to send arms to Ukraine. Neither view, Ukrainian experts say, is entirely justified, arguing the resources of Lithuania and Poland are less than many think and that NATO won’t use such a bloc as cover for sending military aid.


Sergey Taran, a political analyst at the International Institute for Democracy, says that there are three reasons why this new “troika” is not like GUAM. First, he said, he “would not exaggerate the role of the US now” in promoting it. Second, GUAM was “thought up as a union” of countries with common economic and energy issues. This one is about defense.


            And third, he says, “Russia could employ a variety of effective instruments against GUAM, but now, it is not having nay opportunities for influencing the ‘troika’ besides intimidation and economic pressure.” Thus, the new group may be more rather than less significant than GUAM has been.


            At the same time, Taran argues, the West will not send any military aid via Lithuania or Poland until after Kyiv makes progress on economic reform and fighting corruption, as US Vice President Joseph Biden made clear during his recent visit to the Ukrainian capital.


            Sergey Zgurets, a military affairs expert at the Kyiv Center for Research on the Military, Convergence and Disarmament, says that neither Lithuania nor Poland has sufficient resources to help Ukraine in a major way, although Kyiv, given the pressure it is under from Russian aggression, will be happy to get anything from them it can.


            He adds that “Western countries will not begin to make use of Lithuania as a cover for supplying arms and technology to Ukraine.” But that does not mean that individual members of the alliance cannot do what they want within the limits of their capacities, and that fact is driving Kyiv’s policies.


            The Ukrainian government is trying to meet Western demands for economic reform and fighting corruption, but it has little hope that the Western alliance will provide it with the tools it needs to combat Russian aggression in the east. Consequently, it must rely on itself and on those of its neighbors who share its concerns about Russian intentions.


            “Ukraine, considering that the path to NATO will be very long is already seeking to create intermediate unions which will allow it to increase its defense capacity,” Zguryets says. “It is logical that Lithuania and Poland will become its allies” because “like Ukraine, they see Russia as a threat to their security.”



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