Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 19.11.2018
Ukraine is on a path to NATO. Membership was promised to Ukraine a decade ago and now Ukraine is advancing rapidly on being able to take up that offer. The most important thing Ukraine is doing for NATO right now is fighting Russian aggression and stopping Putin’s invasion army in Donbas. When Ukraine joins NATO, existing members will gain an invaluable asset in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which have almost five years of combat experience against the Russian enemy.
In recent days, three small steps have been taken on Ukraine’s path to NATO. First, the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Commission was revived and the United States came out strongly in favour of Ukraine’s accession to full NATO membership. Second, Poland spoke in favour of Ukraine’s NATO membership and against Hungary’s practice of blocking the integration of Ukraine into collective security for the broader North Atlantic region. Third, at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the Ukrainian delegation presented reports which directly benefit NATO collective security today in the fight against Russian aggression and Islamic terrorism.
The United States strongly supports Ukraine joining NATO. On November 16, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin met in Washington, D.C.. The outcome of the meeting was the revival of the US-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Commission. Areas of concern of this ministerial-level commission are security and countering Russian aggression, rule of law and humanitarian issues, and economy and energy.
Ukraine has made joining NATO a strategic priority, and has enshrined this in legislation. The US welcomes the choice Ukrainians have made to accept the offer of NATO membership that was made a decade ago. “The United States welcomed Ukraine’s NATO aspirations, reaffirmed by the 2008 Bucharest Declaration, and looked forward to one day welcoming Ukraine into the Alliance,” read the 2018 U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Commission Joint Statement.
Poland has asked Hungary to stop blocking Ukraine’s path to NATO. For over a year, the Hungarian government of Viktor Orbán has been obstructing meetings of the Ukraine-NATO Commission and all ministerial contacts between Ukraine and NATO member states. On November 17, Poland’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Jan Pieklo, stated the Government of Poland’s official position: “Poland supports Ukraine joining the European Union and NATO. We do not want bilateral issues to be brought to the global level of strategic cooperation within NATO.” Poland, like most NATO member states, does not want the Orbán government’s animosity towards Ukraine to jeopardize the urgent need for NATO to mount a forward defence to Russian aggression.
The Halifax International Security Forum took place in Canada from November 16 to 18. Overlapping with this gathering, the 64th annual session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly is going on in Halifax from November 16 to 19. Ukraine is in attendance at the NATO PA as an Associate Delegation. Ukraine submitted reports about Russian private military companies and Russia’s ties to Islamic terrorist organizations.
The Russian Federation uses a variant of mercenaries known as private military companies in its wars against the Ukrainian people and against the Syrian people. The report presented by Ukraine to the NATO PA in Halifax stressed that private military companies are used by the Putin regime as an alternative to special operations forces (Spetsnaz) to reduce the “image risks” of Russian imperialism. The Ukrainian report gives names, numbers, and facts about how Muscovy uses private military companies to wage its foreign wars.
The other report presented to the NATO PA by the Ukraine delegation outlined how Russian intelligence services encourage radical Islamists to leave the territory of the Russian Federation, even going so far as to buy them air fare. The Putin regime is exporting terrorism from the northern Caucasus to Syria, sustaining Daesh.
Although unjustly not yet a member of NATO, Ukraine has given the benefit of its battle-experienced military intelligence to the North Atlantic alliance and done it a great service.
If NATO member states were to faithfully fulfil the mandate of the North Atlantic Treaty they would admit Ukraine to the alliance right now. Given that the Russian Federation is at war with the West and is invading Ukraine, NATO members need Ukraine to properly provide collective security for themselves. The last few days have provided small signs of progress towards where NATO needs to be: putting up a real forward defence to Russian aggression in Ukraine.