No NATO for Ukraine

One of the key international figures involved in brokering the deal between the Ukrainian government and the opposition that finally led to the agreement for the election repeat on December 26 was Spain’s Javier Solana. But it’s vital here to stay up-to-date on Solana’s career path: he was NATO Secretary-General, but that was in the period 1995-1999. In 2004 in Kiev he has rather represented the European Union, as its High Representative for the Common Foreign & Security Policy (together with the presidents of Poland and Lithuania, who were also actively present there). Thus, it was the EU that was there on the scene, wielding influence from being not only Ukraine’s neighbor but also the club most Ukrainians wants to join. NATO, on the other hand, was not there; and, as Ole Bang Nielsen of Denmark’s Berlingske Tidende reminds us (NATO Puts Ukraine on Ice), the Ukraine cannot expect to find itself on NATO’s short-list of new-member candidates anytime soon.

Of course, NATO knows perfectly well how to maintain a proper attitude towards that country even under the special circumstances that have prevailed since the abortive second-round presidential election there. As Nielsen reports, the military alliance called off this past week a long-planned meeting in Brussels with current Ukrainian foreign minister Konstantin Grysenko. In NATO’s eyes, Grysenko quite properly did not represent a legitimate government. As Nielsen quotes one high-level diplomat, “It would have been peculiar suddenly to meet with representatives from a government that had just committed electoral fraud.” No, business can be picked up again after that December 26 election-repeat, which by all accounts this time will install Viktor Yushchenko as the Ukraine’s president.


Except that Yushchenko is clearly on record as favoring not only EU but also NATO membership for his country, meaning that, under normal circumstances, he could be expected to explicitly request that sooner or later. But he’d be better off not doing any such thing, if he prefers to avoid a public rejection. Ukrainian NATO membership is simply not in the cards, for two reasons: 1) NATO’s plate is already full when it comes to candidate states, which these days are Croatia, Albania, and Macedonia. A country doesn’t just one day join NATO; apart from the approval that has to come from each existing member-state, there are beforehand also all sorts of preliminary agreements, arrangements, and preparatory programs. And 2) The idea of Ukrainian NATO membership is still a serious provocation to the Russians. Vladimir Putin may have discovered over the past few weeks that it’s not necessarily within his power to connive with a government in Kiev that he likes to steal an election and so keep that government in power, but that’s quite different from having the Ukraine in what is still in some respects a rival politico-military bloc.

No, Nielsen make the rounds and reports that the idea of Ukrainian NATO membership has no traction in the NATO states the count: the US, of course, but also France, Germany, and the UK. Poland is the most prominent supporters of the idea. The result is at least no chance of misunderstandings: it is clear to the Ukrainian authorities that they should not even get their hopes up. And here’s a lesson the European Union would do well to note.

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