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NATO and Ukraine — a NATO representative answers WU questions
During the NATO Summit that was held in Istanbul on 28–29 June 2004, and at the highest level of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, a heightening interest in the topic of NATO-Ukraine relations was evident. Welcome to Ukraine Magazine turned to Michel Duray, Director of the NATO Information and Documentation Centre in Kyiv, with a request for an interview to clarify some points in the NATO-Ukraine relations.
Seven years have passed since the NATO-Ukraine Charter on a Distinctive Partnership was signed, and two years since the NATO-Ukraine actions plan was agreed upon at the Prague Summit of 2002. Has the resulting cooperation been rewarding, in your opinion? Has Ukraine honoured the pledges it took upon itself? Could you please give examples — if there are any — of the most fruitful and mutually beneficial cooperation?
Let me add that 10 years passed since Ukraine joined the Partnership for Peace Programme, the first CIS country to do so. The resulting cooperation, as you say, has been rewarding indeed for both sides. Consider as well the global picture. NATO in 1991 did open to new democracies, whose immediate future was somewhat uncertain, including Ukraine, and has been developing since and is still developing fruitful partnerships, some of which took the form of integration processes. Therefore, if we look back at the relationship, in terms of a stabilization element amongst others, we can be satisfied. Though much remains to be done.
The Alliance continues to support Ukrainian sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity, democratic development, economic prosperity and its status as a non-nuclear weapons state as key factors of stability and security in Central and Eastern Europe and in Europe as a whole, as mentioned in our Strategic Concept adopted in 1999. Ukraine indeed occupies a special place in the Euro-Atlantic security environment and is an important and valuable partner in promoting stability, for example in the Balkans, and as well in Iraq in the Polish-led sector.
Looking back at what has been done, I would say that strategically the NATO-Ukraine partnership and the Distinctive Partnership have helped Ukraine to develop its own independent foreign and security policies, have supported Ukraine’s internal reform process, in particular in the Defence and Security sectors, and have provided Ukraine the possibility to enhance her image abroad as a stable and reliable partner, a security donor, even if from time to time we have had discussions, which after all is the essence of international relations.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer reiterated the Alliance’s commitment to its partnership with Ukraine, but called for more progress on democracy during a visit in Kyiv on 19 April 2004. NATO and Ukraine have developed the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan, with its instruments, the Annual Target Plan, which are a result in itself of so many years of cooperation and long-term political vision. It encompasses such a broad range of reforms, not only concerning the security sector, but freedom of press, transparency of elections, independence of judges, fight against money laundering, and I call your readers, if they are interested, to have a look at that document, which can be found on our website.
Let me state a few concrete examples now.
The Ukrainian contribution to the peace-keeping operations in the Balkans has been “a must” since 1995, whereas Ukraine did support the Alliance efforts and benefited herself from a unique field experience, allowing its Armed Forces to operate in a NATO context.
Ukraine has adopted what we call the Host Nation Support Agreement, which allows an easy access of NATO troops in Ukraine — pending Ukrainian approval of course — for example for training at the PfP Training Centre in Yavoriv. Ukraine has successfully fulfilled a programme consisting in the destruction of anti-personnel mines in Donetsk in 2003. There is an important Greek-led feasibility study for a Partnership for Peace Trust Fund project aimed at the safe destruction of 133,000 tons of surplus munitions and 1.5 million small arms and light weapons.
Ukraine has completed the process on an agreement that will allow NATO to use Ukraine’s military transport aircraft for its missions, and you know how important it is today for the Alliance to be able to deploy troops, such as in Afghanistan, and for Ukraine to propose its transport capabilities.
NATO countries are financing, for example, English courses for officers. Knowledge of English is of a key importance in terms of military interoperability and communications.
NATO experts, at the request of the Ukrainian authorities, are advising on defence and security sector reforms, under the aegis of the NATO-Ukraine Joint Working Group on Defence Reform. These are a few concrete examples among many others.
In the field of Civil Emergency Planning, NATO and Ukraine have a Memorandum of Understanding, whereas Ukraine is a valued experienced partner in solving civilian emergencies. NATO-Ukraine Science cooperation is as well noted. The very last guidelines for the Science for Peace programme were worked out in Kyiv as long ago as in June 2003, during a meeting of the NATO Scientific Committee in Ukraine. Hundreds of Ukrainian scientists and research institutes have benefited from our science programme, and have access to the network of NATO countries scientists and scientific institutions. For example, eleven scientific workshops are planned in Ukraine for this year only, on issues linking science and security. In May, a seminar in Kyiv comparing the Chornobyl catastrophe to a terrorist nuclear attack helped NATO and partner countries scientists to study how such catastrophe can be managed, what mistakes should not be done. This is very topical, isn’t it? In the economic field, NATO and Ukraine developed concepts and courses on military and defence budgeting, for example. NATO also finances retraining language courses for former Ukrainian military personnel, laid-off after the armed forces downsizing, and Ukraine’s experience in conceptualizing social adaptation for former military is useful for other NATO partners. In the field of armaments, NATO and Ukraine are intensifying their cooperation as well. There is a NATO-Ukraine joint-working group on Armament, which helps Ukraine to understand our technical standards and to adapt them to its own productions. Interoperability is important indeed.
Have the stereotypes of attitudes to NATO that persisted in the post-Soviet Ukraine from the Soviet times been done away within recent years? Has the recent crisis in Kosovo affected the public opinion in this country in any way?
This is a question very close to my heart. Changing stereotypes requires a better understanding of what NATO is, but as well of what security means today and the new security challenges that we face, like terrorism, weapons of mass destructions, religious extremism. We are all in the Euro-Atlantic zone, to my mind, in a sort of process of integrating various security concepts. From the Latin word “se curare” (to cure oneself, internal vision) to the Russian word “bezopasnost” (without danger, external vision). Think about it.
Old stereotypes are one challenge that NATO faces in Ukraine, but not only in Ukraine, in NATO countries as well we have stereotypes on NATO, which are also inherited from the Cold War. In Ukraine, about a third of the population is still opposed to NATO, another gross third is in favour of Ukraine joining the Alliance, and a third is not interested in the issue. The main stereotypes are that NATO is an aggressive military bloc, under the unique command of one country, which has the power to dictate its will to member nations. And, of course, nothing of that is true! NATO is an Alliance, based on a very strong transatlantic link, of democratic countries sharing the same common values, sharing the culture of consensus, and valuing the consensus of cultures. We have discussions, sometimes difficult times, but this is the magic of it: everybody has to agree at the end of the day, and has the right to share their views. I would say that stereotypes are stronger in some regions, such as former closed cities, but believe me, this is mainly due to a lack of information, and I meet every day people who are open to discussion. This is to my mind a characteristic of Ukraine: you like arguing!
On the recent crisis in Kosovo, I have not personally seen a switch in the public opinion on NATO. Rather a better understanding of the complexities that ethnic conflicts can generate. For having spent 9 years in the Balkans along with NATO-led peacekeeping forces, Ukraine knows the situation obviously as well.
To what extent is the population of Ukraine informed about the prospects of further development of relations between Ukraine and NATO?
I would today rephrase the question the other way round. Is the population of Ukraine interested about NATO and future prospects in the relationship? I have the feeling, when I visit regions, that the interest is very high indeed, though access to information is difficult. Information exists in the capital Kyiv, but not enough in the regions. We have started opening 27 small information points in all the oblasts of Ukraine (in selected libraries), through an NGO, although NATO cannot undertake the task of informing the Ukrainian population instead of the Ukrainian government.
In our own countries, information efforts on NATO are supposed to be developed by our own members. But I see more and more the NATO topic in the press, on TV, and there seems to be an improved national consensus that this topic is worth being addressed. Furthermore, there are now 3 Ukrainian journalists accredited in NATO Headquarters in Brussels, and this provides the opportunity for the Ukrainian media to get 100% Ukrainian information on NATO without external biases.
Madeleine K. Albright, in her article “How to Help Ukraine Vote” published in The New York Times on March 8, 2004, wrote, “The suspicion within the political opposition is that Ukraine’s contribution to the coalition in Iraq was intended to buy amnesty from the United States.” Amnesty for the current Ukrainian leadership must have been meant. What is your personal opinion about Ukraine’s joining the coalition?
NATO Allies do commend Ukraine’s practical contribution to peace and stability, including its active involvement in the Balkans and contribution to the post-conflict stabilization of Iraq.
Have the foreign-policy priorities of Ukraine been established clearly enough?
This is not up to me to answer and to judge priorities of an independent sovereign State. On NATO’s side, and as far as the NATO-Ukraine aspect of the Ukrainian foreign policy is concerned, I can answer that we have a vision of Ukraine’s declared intentions, as presented in the NATO-Ukraine Charter on a Distinctive Partnership, the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan and its Annual Target Plans.
NATO nations do support accordingly and unequivocally Ukraine’s efforts toward Euro-Atlantic Integration. But I would say that this is up to Ukraine to implement most of it and decide what it wants at the end of the day.
NATO seems to be prepared to give Ukraine partnership assistance in reforming the Ukrainian armed forces. Why does the North Atlantic alliance find it important to see the Ukrainian sector of security and defence reformed?
Defence reform, or Security sector reform, is one of the key elements of the NATO-Ukraine cooperation within the framework of the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership and the Action Plan. But let me remind you that concrete assistance in the defence field started as soon as Ukraine joined the PfP in 1994, and then evolved in a more specific way, by mutual agreement and interest. We have been working with Ukraine for a long time. With no other partner than Ukraine NATO has developed to date such a level of cooperation in the field of security sector. We even opened in 1999 a NATO Liaison Office, headed by a civilian colleague and staffed mainly with NATO and Ukrainian military personnel, working very hard to implement our joint cooperation and concrete NATO-Ukraine programmes, including the Annual Target Plan.
It is important to us to work with Ukraine in the defence field because it is important to Ukraine first of all.
Secondly, NATO is a unique — I would say the unique — international organization with such an experience in the field of collective defence policy management, and defence planning in particular. And here is the golden opportunity for Ukraine: to make use of NATO countries experience in the field of defence planning. The total number of personnel in the armed forces under the Ministry of Defence was reduced from some 900,000 to about 355,000 military and civilian staff from 1991 till 2003. You imagine the problems that can be met by the authorities in general and individuals in particular. Many NATO countries have gone through important downsizing, though not of that scale, and have positive (and negative — we also made mistakes) experience. This “free of charges” technical assistance is, to my mind, inestimable.
At the end of the day, NATO is interested, as the Ukrainian government is, to have a fully democratically controlled security sector, which can match realistically both the scarce resources provided by the national economy and the current threats as they are perceived by the country leaders. Reform in this sector is definitely playing a key role in the Euro-Atlantic integration process of Ukraine, though political reforms are as well considered as being of key importance by our member states. By transforming its armed forces and its security sector along these lines, Ukraine is definitely getting closer to NATO.
Will Ukraine’s integration into the Unified Economic Space delay her joining NATO?
Ukraine is a sovereign State and develops economic and other relations with whatever organizations it considers useful for its future. I always avoid to comment on Ukraine — EU policy, I have to do the same on UES. As we mention in our Strategic Concept, the Alliance continues to support Ukrainian sovereignty and independence, territorial integrity, democratic development and economic prosperity. In international relations, each actor has its own interests and behaves accordingly. This is not different for Ukraine either. Furthermore, UES members are NATO partners, we have the NATO-Russia council where Russia with her allies, on an equal basis do make decisions on topics of common interest, such as fighting terrorism. But it is not our role to interfere into inter-partners relations.
Could you please say a few words about the NATO Information and Documentation Centre (NIDC) in Kyiv? What are the main directions of its work? How many people are on the staff of the Centre?
The Centre was opened in 1997. Six years after the Ukrainian independence and two years before the Kosovo crisis. And it was the first time that NATO would open such an Information Centre, such an office in a partner country. The primary original mission of our centre was to inform the population of Ukraine on the benefits of the NATO-Ukraine Charter for a Distinctive Partnership, which was signed in 1997, and to inform the Ukrainian society and the Ukrainian authorities about the changes within NATO itself. As a part of the NATO Public Diplomacy Division, the NATO Information and Documentation Centre is a NATO public diplomacy representation in Ukraine and we try to develop information programmes to explain what we are. We have had a sister office in Moscow, Russia, since 2001.
The NIDC is not a big organization. All in all eight people are working very professionally in the Centre. Our day-to-day work is generally based on the following.
First of all, we help visitors and we provide them with information, we help them to find information on security-related issues and on NATO-related issues. There were about 2000 visitors in 2003, of all ages, from young students to generals! We can also ask them to give them their e-mail address and to develop a database and a mailing list so that they can be informed on-line, on what is happening in NATO.
The second aspect of our day-to-day work is a distribution of publications. Apart from the English and French publications, and other NATO languages publications, we also distribute a lot of documents in Ukrainian on NATO, in various formats, such as the electronic versions of NATO Review and NATO Handbook on CDs, such as the Novyny NATO, which is a quarterly magazine dedicated to Ukraine, printed by NATO.
The third aspect of our day-to-day work is, as well, very important, it is to co-finance projects with non-governmental organizations or universities which are developing curricula, seminars, roundtables, publications as well, and we work on a day-to-day basis with them to have these seminars happening. This is a lot of work and we go in a lot of regions of Ukraine. In 2003, we co-sponsored 27 events. We held a Winter Academy in Lviv with the Ivan Franko University last February, and are developing with the National Tavriysky University in Symferopol a Summer Academy in July 2004 for young Ukrainian politicians, just after the NATO Istanbul Summit. We shall discuss security, and the role of the transforming Alliance and Ukraine.
The fourth task that we do on a regular basis is to give press briefings and provide information to the representatives of the mass media in Ukraine on the current issues which are happening in NATO and on the current issues of the NATO-Ukraine relationship.
We work very closely together with the NATO Liaison Office and the NATO Contact Point Embassy, the latter representing officially the NATO Council in Ukraine. The Polish Embassy in Ukraine is still playing this role at the moment.
We know that the Centre is located in one of the buildings of the Kyiv Shevchenko University. Do you maintain any kind of relations with students and faculty of the university? Do they show any interest in the work of the Centre?
Our address is 36/1, Melnykova Street. We are housed in a building that belongs to the Kyiv Shevchenko University, where you find the Institute for International Relations, the Faculty of Journalism, the Diplomatic Academy, etc. And incidentally, the Information Office of the GUUAM. We have more than excellent relations with all of them. The ground for interest expressed by the young generation is consequently quite large. We provide to many of them important quantities of written information, and even foreign students come to see us. We hosted recently a group of Chinese students, studying in Ukraine, willing to know more about NATO. I am Belgian, but I spoke with them in Ukrainian. It was normal business.
Which steps do you think Ukraine should take in the nearest future to move on from declarations to more purposeful actions in order to be integrated in the North Atlantic structures? Which democratic and economic transformations should be introduced as early as possible to get things going?
Let me be clear. We — NATO and Ukraine — do not talk now about Ukraine’s integration in the nearest future, e.g. tomorrow, into the Alliance per se. Words are important. Ukraine for that would have to go through a Membership Action Plan, which would take years.
The purpose of the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan is to identify clearly Ukraine’s strategic objectives and priorities in pursuit of its aspirations towards full integration into Euro-Atlantic security structures. I quote the official text here.
Furthermore and however — words are again important — Ukraine is already integrated in some North Atlantic institutions, such as PfP, and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the NATO-Ukraine Commission, which has been institutionalized as well through the Charter, and draws benefits from this situation, as well as is an active security donor.
We talk about helping this country to develop and implement reforms, which could facilitate and speed up its full integration, and if it decides to officially apply for membership and when there is a consensus amongst Allies on that.
This demands a lot of efforts that can be made only by Ukraine. I remember that Lord Robertson, Former Secretary General of NATO, during his farewell visit to Kyiv in October 2003 said that success in this effort will require more than the stated intentions of political leaders and defence and security sector reform. Reinforcing political reform and the role of civil society is one of the key elements. Freedom of the press, freedom of opinion are decisive factors among nations contributing to the future of the Alliance, including its open-door membership policy. He said that “the quality of the Alliance is ultimately a mirror of the democratic values of its members”.