Ukraine’s accession to NATO: myths about the future and the harsh reality without membership

The issue of Ukraine’s accession to the ranks of the Alliance once again returned to the agenda. In an interview with a German Newspapers, Poroshenko said he was ready to hold a referendum on Ukraine’s accession to NATO. It not the first similar statement of the President over the past two and a half years. Earlier Poroshenko has repeatedly spoken about the referendum, but 6-7 years, so once Ukraine fulfils all the necessary criteria, and the army is close to NATO standards. After the tragic events in Avdiivka and exacerbation of hostilities across the front lines, Poroshenko again spoke of a referendum, according to experts, to put pressure on Western partners. In the first ocheretnia the United States, because the escalation in the Donbas began immediately after the telephone conversation trump with Putin. In Russia hurried to declare that the sharp escalation of hostilities will be another reason for the resumption of dialogue between Russia and the US. In America, meanwhile, confined himself to a dry statement calling for “an early cessation of hostilities”. It is clear that in NATO Ukraine is not waiting. Kiev hasn’t even got a Plan of action on membership (pdch) with the list of criteria that you must follow in order to join the Alliance. And the Charter of the Alliance a country which has unresolved territorial disputes and conflicts, NATO will not take. But as an element of pressure on the West, the referendum question can be used if suddenly Ukrainian issue (the war in Donbas and annexation of Crimea) will try to solve it without Ukraine.

Before the Bucharest NATO summit, where Ukraine and Georgia were denied membership action plan, Kiev was quite good relations with the Alliance. Ukraine supported NATO operations in the Balkans, in Kiev opened the first in Eastern Europe, the Centre of information and documentation of NATO and the office of NATO’s mission after the signing of the Charter on a distinctive partnership and cooperation. Later, then-President Leonid Kuchma signed a Program of cooperation prior to 2001, which in 2002 changed its Plan of actions NATO-Ukraine. And even in 2004, to appease Russia, Kuchma signed a decree that Ukraine no longer is membership in NATO, its successor, Viktor Yushchenko in 2005, returned to the military doctrine of the mention of Ukraine’s membership in EU and NATO. However, sociology was not rosy: according to the poll Fund “Democratic initiatives” and KIIS in February 2005, 45% of Ukrainians voted against the entry of Ukraine into NATO.

Photo by press service of the President

The attitude of Ukrainians towards the Alliance has not changed and on the eve of the NATO summit in Bucharest in 2008. Then against the entry of Ukraine into the Alliance was 55,5% (was only 17.8%). Western partners of Kiev have successfully used these figures, saying,
why would you map if the Ukrainians do not want NATO. But according to unofficial data, it was opposed by Germany and France according to the preliminary agreements with Russia.

According to a new poll for December 2016, more than 47.2% of Ukrainians support integration into NATO (against 33.6% of respondents). With this level of support Ukraine can apply for membership in the North Atlantic Alliance. And, according to Petro Poroshenko, the decision of the Ukrainians to accept a referendum.

Photo by press service of the President

Chronology of statements by President Poroshenko of Ukraine’s accession to NATO

May 17, 2014 at a press briefing in Krivoy Rog:

“Such a referendum will not achieve unity at this stage, therefore, his conduct is now quite inappropriate. The referendum will finally split the country”.

23 November 2014 at a press conference with President of Lithuania:

“The decision on the entry or non-entry of Ukraine into NATO is exclusively the competence of the Ukrainian people. We have accumulated a minimum of 6 years of hard work, to ensure that the country has met the criteria how about joining the European Union and NATO criteria. And only then the Ukrainian people on the referendum will have the opportunity to decide on joining or not joining”.

April 23, 2015 during a visit to France:

“The question of Ukraine’s accession to NATO is a fundamental, I organize a referendum, the decision of the people.”

30 June 2015 in an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera:

“The time has not come yet. To join NATO, we must meet certain requirements. We are working on reforms in the country. It will be a long process: it takes at least 6-7 years. When we’re ready, we’re going to call a referendum to ask the people of Ukraine, should we join NATO or not.”

5 September 2015 in an interview with “Voice of America”:

“To meet the criteria for NATO, same as meet the criteria of EU membership. They match 98%. NATO is the most effective security mechanism in the world after the UN security Council. And whether now the NATO membership voted to invite Ukraine? No. And we fully understand that. The question is simply would be provocative. Ukraine requested membership? No.”

22 September 2015 at the meeting of the Council:

“When we will create all conditions through the reform of the country for Ukraine’s compliance with the criteria for NATO membership, I will make a decision on holding a national referendum, and thus is recorded the will of the Ukrainian people.”

July 9, 2016 at a press conference with NATO Secretary General:

“We believe that at the present time, we must implement reforms and we are holding them. And then the Ukrainian people will decide what to do”

February 2, 2017 in an interview with German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost:

“Four years ago only 16% of Ukrainians support Ukraine’s membership in NATO. Now 54%. As President, I am guided by the views of their people and conduct a referendum on joining NATO. And if Ukrainians will vote for, I will do everything to achieve membership in NATO”.

Photo by press service of the President

According to the Director of Fund “Democratic initiatives” to them. Ilko Kucheriv Irina Bekeshkinoy, in the case of a referendum on membership of Ukraine in NATO, he won. “It is clear, because after the aggression of Russia’s attitude to NATO has changed dramatically. Previously, the majority of the population was against membership, and with a large score against in all regions, even in the Western region of thought were halved and the preference for neutral status. It was in 2012-2013. After that opinion has changed completely and now almost half of the population for NATO membership. Against, according to various polls, somewhere between 30-35%. But if to speak about the referendum on our latest data, more than 70% will vote “for”. It’s not from the entire population, and those who will come to a referendum. Because the supporters of membership in NATO will come to a referendum, and those who are against, most are not. That is, it is obvious that this referendum will be won with a good score. Poroshenko this data know they’re not closed,” said “Segodnia” Bekeshkina.

But should be aware that the holding of such a referendum is now pointless. First, NATO is nobody waiting for us. The most striking statement confirming it in 2015, made the then European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker: “undoubtedly, Ukraine will not become an EU member in the next 20-25 years, and a member of NATO, too.”

Later at the NATO summit in Warsaw, where the Ukrainian delegation was represented by Petro Poroshenko, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said: “President Poroshenko was very clear at our meeting that the issue of membership is not on the agenda. Now the main thing – how can the Ukraine to meet NATO standards, as it can carry out reforms, and how can we increase interoperability between the forces of Ukraine and NATO forces”.

Secondly, a country which has unresolved territorial disputes and conflicts within NATO will not take – the Statute prohibits.

Third, our army has not yet reached NATO standards to qualify for membership. As previously wrote “Segodnya” at last year’s NATO summit in Warsaw, the Ukraine presented a new Strategic defense Bulletin is a step by step plan of reforming of the Ukrainian army until 2020. Then the Deputy Minister of defence of Ukraine Igor Dolgov said “Segodnia” that this document can be considered a kind of Plan of action for the membership.

But, fourth, the map from the time of the Bucharest summit we have not received. But such a document with a clear list of requirements for membership call to all countries that formally applied for membership after the referendum. As was the case with the action Plan on visa liberalisation, where the EU has prescribed the conditions for the abolition of visas for Ukrainians.

According to Professor of political science at Rutgers University in Newark (new Jersey) Alexander Motyl, making statements about the referendum on NATO, Poroshenko is trying to have some moral and political pressure on trump, who questioned the funding of the Alliance. “In this context, Poroshenko will also act as a trump and to do the will of his people, which wants NATO membership. Thus, both presidents have the same interest to represent their people. At the same time, Poroshenko is well aware that the chances of membership are zero, because no one in NATO wants to protect the Ukraine (and any other Eastern European country-member of NATO). But the positive referendum or even the prospect of such a referendum strengthens his position viz-a-viz the West: wants membership not he, but the sovereign people, which is difficult to deny, and whose hopes and fears need to satisfy. Can increase economic aid? May arms? Can netzavim sanctions?”, said “Segodnia” Alexander Motyl.

His opinion was shared by Irina Bekeshkina: “first, the Statute, if there is a territorial dispute, claim, not to mention a war, a country does not accept. Secondly, we need a consensus decision is made by consensus within NATO. And that all countries will vote for it, even if they change the Charter… it is Obvious that it (the statement Poroshenko about the referendum – Ed.) has the character of a certain pressure on our Western partners to show that the Ukrainian population “for” NATO, and therefore NATO cooperation need to maximize”.