Borysfen Intel

Ukraine's European and Euro-Atlantic Prospects

November 23, 2015
<p>Ukraine's European and Euro-Atlantic Prospects</p>

Yuriy Radkovets

Ukraine's European and Euro-Atlantic Prospects Through the Prism of Today's Historic Moment 

Russia's cynical occupation and demonstrative annexation of the Crimea, and later its armed aggression in the East of Ukraine have actually removed from the agenda the issue of the geopolitical choice of our state, which has finally chosen the course towards European and Euro-Atlantic integration, which is the main guarantee of Ukraine's state sovereignty, territorial integrity and national security, and the driving force of its political and economic development.

Experts of the Independent Analytical Center for Geopolitical Studies “Borysfen Intel” have repeatedly raised the issue on possible ways of resolving the problems of European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine in the circumstances of Russia's tough counteracting these processes.

Based on the experience of member countries of the former Warsaw Pact and former Soviet countries, only NATO membership guarantees their safety, particularly in the context of the unprecedented intensification aggressive foreign policy of Russia, without hesitation using armed force and resorting even to nuclear blackmail to achieve its geopolitical goals.

In the situation of worsening confrontation between Russia and the West, Putin's regime is increasing pressure on Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, including using methods of “hybrid” policy and force provocations in the Baltic region and Poland, as well as directly at their borders. At the same time, the guarantee for NATO's adequate response (according to Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty on collective defense) constrains the possible use of force by Moscow in the Baltic area. According to the President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite, had the Baltic countries not become members of NATO, they would have been occupied by Russia long ago.

This is directly related to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and those of the European and democratic choice. Thus, the failure of the leading European states to give Ukraine and Georgia permission to join NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) during the NATO Summit in Bucharest in April 2008, was perceived by Moscow exactly as the West's weakness and its “willingness to make concessions to Russia”, including in the questions of security and interests of both NATO and the EU. As a result — such a position of member countries of NATO and the EU actually “unleashed” Russia, seeking to implement its neo-imperial policy in post-Soviet territories, including through the use of armed force against former Soviet republics. This is evidenced by its military aggression against Georgia in 2008, and in 2014 — against Ukraine, that virtually destroyed the architecture of the European security system.

These problems have a negative impact on the credibility and interests of NATO and the EU, with which fact already agree the leading Western politicians and experts. According to the US Senator J. McCain during his visit to Kyiv in June 2015, NATO's refusal to give Ukraine the prospect of membership in the Alliance (through the MAP) has become the Alliance's greatest strategic mistake for the time of its existence.

Today, the development of the situation around Ukraine, which is courageously counteracting Russia's armed aggression in Europe, in fact determines its future and the future of NATO and the European Union. For example, it should be assumed that Moscow, in case of victory over Ukraine, would greatly strengthen its expansionist abilities in western direction, this time-already against the EU and NATO — first of all, against the Baltic countries and Poland. At this, the West's reluctance to really assist Ukraine in terms of its protection and defense is seen by Putin's regime as condoning permissiveness and impunity of Russia's actions in the future.

Taking into consideration all this Western countries and international organizations' supporting Ukraine, even in the form of financial-economic and certain military-technical assistance, as well as introduction of political and economic sanctions against Russia, although they are very important, but, in fact, inadequate measures in relation to the real situation, and in general cannot substantially prevent it from achieving its objectives. This problem can be solved only by combining these West's actions with decisive military and political steps (true political will) and practical measures taken by both, Ukrainian leadership and NATO/US to integrate Ukraine into the Alliance, despite Moscow's negative reaction and threatening to respond appropriately.

Today, the West and Russia are actually in a state of “cold war” and the Putin regime has actually used an armed aggression against Ukraine. Under such circumstances, Moscow's so-called “adequate” steps could not significantly change the situation and make it more difficult or more dangerous for Europe, NATO/USA, and Ukraine. Well, if Russia does overcome Ukraine, then Europe will have to defend itself independently, and will pay a much greater price for its safety. In view of this, NATO/EU and their member states have to see helping Ukraine (including in the context of its European and Euro-Atlantic integration) as real investments, first of all into their own safety, as well as the cost of their own defense and protection.

That is, the urgency and fundamental importance of Ukraine's membership in NATO both for our country itself, and for the Western world as a whole, demand that the parties abandoned the formal, bureaucratic and pseudo-democratic procedures of our country's joining the Alliance. This applies to the statutory requirements of the Alliance in terms of impossibility of admission to the organization of new members in a state of armed conflict with other countries and with unresolved territorial disputes and to statements of some political forces in Ukraine on the need for a referendum on its foreign policy choice.

Firstly, today Russia itself refuses to recognize itself party to an armed conflict with Ukraine. So, from the purely formal point of view, our state is not in a state of war with other countries.

Secondly, the Alliance did take Germany, which was divided after World War II and until now has not received a final territorial integrity (we mean here Russia's illegal confinement of East Prussia, which, according to the Potsdam Agreement, was transferred under the Soviet Union's control in 1945 only for 50 years). There are other similar examples.

Thirdly, almost all new candidates for NATO membership got their membership in the Alliance without any referendums, as the latter are not required by the statutory provisions of the Alliance. And under the circumstances concerning Ukraine the vast majority of the Ukrainian population already supports European and Euro-Atlantic choice of our country, which was demonstrated by the “Revolution of Dignity” in 2013-2014.

Why do some Ukrainian politicians, statesmen and people's deputies so much exaggerate the theme of necessity of a referendum in Ukraine on its accession to NATO?

According to experts of the Independent Analytical Center “Borysfen Intel”, the reasons for this are as follows:

Reason 1-our politicians and statesmen this way are simply shifting the responsibility onto ordinary Ukrainians, and in case of a negative result they will hurry to say: “We wanted (and offered) to join NATO, but most of the people are against it! It is necessary to wait till “appropriate conditions” will be created; if the result is positive-the responsibility (in the form of manifestation of internal political and socio-economic problems) will also be assigned to the ordinary citizens of Ukraine;

Reason 2 — our politicians and statesmen this way are really eager to get the broadest support of citizens of Ukraine in order to direct foreign policy efforts to speed up the Euro-Atlantic and European integration of Ukraine to guarantee the protection of its statehood, sovereignty and territorial integrity. But if the second reason is true, then why in the country there is absolutely no information-propaganda work on Ukraine's joining NATO in all directions and at all levels of central and local authorities, unlike in 2004-2008?

Or maybe there is Reason 3 — “God forbid to irritate Russia...?” Too late, dear! Late! Ukraine to Russia for a long time now has become a permanent irritant — no matter if we are going to NATO and EU or not!

And one more, perhaps the most important question in terms of a practical mechanism for the implementation of Ukraine's European and Euro-Atlantic integration, namely the question of the sequence of its accession to the European Union and NATO. That is what should be primary and what — secondary — Ukraine's entry into NATO and then the EU? or vice versa — first joining the EU and after that becoming a member of NATO?

The practice of recent “waves of enlargement” of both the EU and NATO clearly demonstrates that the primary (a must!) is always the entry of the applicant country into NATO and only secondary — is the country's accession to the European Union. This is understandable, since it is closely linked with the very nature and content of these two international organizations, namely:

North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO; (French — Organisation du traité de l'Atlantique Nord, OTAN) is a military-political union (transatlantic forum), bringing together the majority of European countries, the United States and Canada (now the Alliance includes 28 countries) designed primarily for collective deterring any form of aggression against the territory of a NATO member country or protecting it;

The European Union (EU) is an economic and political union of Europe member states (today the association includes 28 European countries), designed to develop and coordinate joint trade and economic (market), monetary, legal, as well as foreign and security policy.

That is, when some Ukrainian politicians, parliamentarians or high rank statesmen state “authoritatively” and at first sight “meaningful” that Ukraine should first join the EU (through the “association” or “associate membership”), and only then-the NATO — are, to put it mildly, either “shy” cover-up of their political ignorance or a complete misunderstanding (or not knowing) the content and direction of development of internal and external processes in these international organizations, or “frank deceit” that is actually the same.

To answer the above-asked questions, one must first of all clearly understand the concepts of “association” and “associated membership”.

The former — “association” is a common concept in the EU's foreign policy, and “association agreements” is a popular form of fixing relations of different content between the EU and its partners.

Today the European Union has concluded association agreements with Tunisia (1998), Israel (2000), Morocco (2000), Jordan (2002), Egypt (2004), Syria (2008), the Palestinian Authority (interim agreement in 1997), Algeria (2005), Lebanon (2006), the Central American countries (Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama), and Chile (2003), South Africa (2000), Georgia (2014) and Moldova (2014). Besides, the EU has signed Stabilization and Association Agreements (SAA) with the Balkan countries — Macedonia (2004), Serbia (2008), Albania (2009), Bosnia and Herzegovina (2010), Montenegro (2010) and Kosovo (2015).

By the way, Turkey — a candidate country for accession to the EU — also had an Association Agreement with the European Union (signed in 1964), which in 1995 was deepened by the Agreement on Establishment of a Customs Union with the EU.

Similarly, most countries of Central and Eastern Europe, before joining the EU, had concluded with the European Union so-called “Europe Agreements” (establishing an association) between them and the European Union, which clearly defined perspectives of their “full integration” into the EU.

Analyzing all these examples, we can say that the very concept of “association” may be interpreted differently depending on the format of relations between a particular country or region and the EU. But in fact, it is not so much the word “association” that matters, but the specific content of the Association Agreement signed between a partner country and the EU.

In contrast to “association”, a common concept, providing for the mandatory period (long or short, but always!) with the EU, the concept of “associated membership” is virtually empty — there is no format of relations with partner countries in the European Union.

There is no concept of “associated membership” in the constituent (basic) agreements of the EU (original constitutional acts of the EU), or in the text of the Lisbon Treaty. No country today is an “associate member” of the EU, and the EU's relations with its partners do not even provide for the status of an “associated member”. That is, such a word combination in the relations between the EU and its partners is devoid of any concrete content.

In order to join the European Union, the candidate country, first of all, must meet the Copenhagen criteria, approved in June 1993 by the European Council in Copenhagen and confirmed in December 1995 by the European Council in Madrid. The criteria require that the state should abide by democratic principles, the principles of freedom and respect for human rights and the rule of law (Article 6 and Article 49 of the Treaty on European Union). Also, there must be a competitive market economy in the country and should be recognized the general rules and standards of the European Union, including goodwill to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.

The Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU signed on 27 June 2014 in Brussels, despite its being a “new enhanced agreement”, does not have a European prospect for Ukraine (unlike, for example, the Europe Agreement between the EU and Poland containing concrete prospects of Poland's accession to the EU), and, therefore, will not contribute to Ukraine's accelerated joining the EU, and thus NATO. And this, in turn, will mean that the objectives and requirements of the Agreement for Ukraine may be subject to exacting inspections, assessments and permanent revisions (example — Ukraine's implementation of the requirements to liberalize its visa regime with the EU), which will significantly prolong the time deadlines of their fulfillment (and therefore the entire Agreement) and, as a consequence, — will postpone the prospect of European and Euro-Atlantic integration of Ukraine. According to the latest estimates of the European and Ukrainian experts, to fulfill the requirements of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU alone will take four to six years (in reality — see the more painful example of Turkey and some Balkan countries).

At the same time, it is impossible to talk about this Agreement's complete non-compliance with Ukraine's European integration plans.

Firstly, the proposed by the EU this type of agreements regarding different countries take into account different levels of international legal, market and democratic (it is even safe to say — civilized) development, and, therefore, will include longer transition periods for these countries, in particular, for example, not to use the EU's commitments to promote trade and financial transactions until the developing countries can implement them. The matter is that none of the countries (especially the former Soviet republics, including Ukraine) will not be able to join the European Union until it is able to provide, first of all, Western countries with international legal guarantees of protection of its investments (especially large ones!) into this country.

Secondly, the consistent implementation of the objectives and requirements (often too sensitive for the society) determined by the agreement, will gradually bring the countries closer to their compliance with the Copenhagen criteria, which will help to reduce their internal political and socio-economic stresses.

At the same time, in the present circumstances for Ukraine this way is not entirely acceptable because it puts off the prospect of its Euro-Atlantic integration. Today, Ukraine needs first of all to join the Alliance through an accelerated procedure, to preserve its statehood, sovereignty and territorial integrity in the situation of the foreign (Russian) military aggression against it. That is at the moment the most important foreign policy issue for Ukraine — is its immediate accession to NATO. In fact — this is rescuing of Ukraine from Putin's criminal military aggression, and in fact — it is the question of Ukraine's survival and remaining a European state. At this, taking into consideration the external (purely Russian) military aggression — this issue is already more important than Ukraine's membership in the EU.

At the same time it should be noted that the preparation of Ukraine to join the NATO through the Membership Action Plan today is also already a barely acceptable option as to just fulfill the requirements of the MAP will take a lot of time (according to some estimates of Western and Ukrainian experts, three to five years).

Why not approach the issue more creatively and offer the EU and NATO a version of the integrated implementation of the requirements under the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU (including in terms of Ukraine's domestic political and economic reforms), as well as requirements within the NATO Membership Action Plan, that is, simultaneously and in parallel, the more so because by their volume and content (according to different estimates of the leading western and Ukrainian experts and politicians and statesmen) they by 90-95 % repeat each other?

Thus, the timing of Ukraine's getting membership in NATO and the EU could be reduced by almost two times and take half a year to three years. And most importantly — Ukraine would join NATO first and then the EU almost simultaneously.

As an example, I want to mention the experience of the Slovak Republic, which during one of the latest “waves of NATO and EU enlargement to the East,” March 1, 2004 joined NATO, and on 1 May of the same (2004) year, it joined the European Union. Are we worse than brothers — Slovaks? I am sure we are not worse! The pressure (on the part of pro-Russian political forces in Slovakia, and especially of the Russian side) on the then President of the Slovak Republic Rudolf Schuster (June 15, 1999 — June 15, 2004) and Prime Minister of the Slovak government Mikulas Dzurinda (October 30, 1998 — July 4, 2006; he is till called in Slovakia “the architect and father of the country's European integration”) was really great — only they know how great it was!

That is, again, through this example we can see how much is needed a strong political will of both, the leadership of the candidate country for membership in NATO and the EU, and the leaderships of these international organizations. According to experts of the “Borysfen Intel”, in this issue both sides must be willing to take responsibility. That is, to make Ukraine a member of NATO means to take responsibility, or, to be more exact, to take the obligations to protect and defend Ukraine.

There is a formal and bureaucratic way, including stating, like in 2008, that “... Ukraine is not ready yet, but NATO leaves the door open for it” — that is exactly what the majority of both Western and Ukrainian politicians of all stripes keep saying today.

But there is an informal way, taking into account the peculiarities of both historical and current situations as well as the threats hanging today over Ukraine and the whole of Europe. For some unknown reason Ukraine historically confronted the threats from the East, and now Ukraine alone is countering them, and today people in Ukraine are dying (about 9 thousand Ukrainians!) for the welfare, including for Europe's one. And Western world should not hide behind the statutory provisions of the Washington Treaty. Well, there are no rules without exceptions!

Approaching the question of the future of Ukraine, one should take into consideration the particular historical moment, which today is the most dangerous for it. If Europe and the entire civilized Western world believe that Ukraine needs to be rescued from complete destruction, the question of its future should be solved by them separately and immediately, without looking back at the Kremlin.

In this context, the next NATO summit of July 8-9, 2016 in Warsaw should actually be revolutionary. The Alliance has to make an extremely important geopolitical decision in this summit — to give Ukraine the opportunity to join (together with Georgia and Moldova) NATO Membership Action Plan. And it could be the first practical step on Ukraine's way into NATO and the European Union.


Conclusions and Suggestions.

Ukraine's membership in NATO is now only a matter of its leadership and the NATO leadership' political will, which should be taken in the interests of both Ukrainian (national), and the European and Euro-Atlantic security. Demonstration of determination, consistency and inevitability of the intentions of the parties in this matter will enhance the security of Ukraine and the whole Western world in the face of a real threat from the Russian side, and will confirm the credibility of NATO as the only today influential international military and political organization that is able to really defend the interests of its members and partners.

NATO, the EU, and their member countries today need to understand and to consider specific assistance to Ukraine in the context of its European and Euro-Atlantic integration as real investments, especially into their own security and as the costs of their own defense and protection.

In the current security situation, the most important foreign policy task for Ukraine — is its rapid accession to NATO. In fact, this is the only way to rescue it from Putin's military aggression and a guarantee that Ukraine will remain a European country. And given the foreign (purely Russian) military aggression, this task today is much more important than Ukraine's membership in the EU.

At the same time, during Ukraine's preparation to join NATO through the NATO Membership Action Plan, it will take a long time to fulfill the requirements of the MAP. In these circumstances, it would be appropriate and necessary to offer the EU and NATO a version of the INTEGRATED implementation of the requirements under the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, as well as the requirements of the NATO Membership Action Plan (which is 90-95 % overlap), i.e., simultaneously and in parallel. In such conditions, timing of Ukraine's getting membership in NATO and the EU could be reduced by almost half and take half a year to three years. And most importantly — Ukraine would join NATO first, and then the EU almost simultaneously within that period of time.

That is how experts of the “Borysfen Intel” see the most needed and vitally important MECHANISMS and TIME LIMITS of implementation of the European and Euro-Atlantic prospects of Ukraine, taking into account its particular historical moment of development in the situation of Russian aggression and a new global confrontation between the West and Russia.



Abridged version of the article was published in the newspaper "Uriadovy Courier"
№ 220 (5594), 25.11.2015

The extended version of this article was published in the newspaper "Golos Ukrainy" ("Voice of Ukraine") № 233 (6237), 10.12.2015

The article was published in the edition of the Romanian Center “INGEPO Consulting Company” — “Geostrategic Pulse” № 204, 20.12.2015


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