Ukraine Ready to Block NATO

Kiev intends to legally formalize its refusal to join NATO. In coming days the Ukrainian Parliament, Verkhovna Rada, or Supreme Rada, will review the draft law "On Ukraine's announcement of neutral, non-aligned status." According to Ukrainian sources, it will happen no later than July 2. The former president Viktor Yushchenko made a great deal of efforts to make Ukraine a member of NATO.

Now Ukraine is talking about a possible change in the law regarding domestic and foreign policy, which provides for elimination of the provisions regarding Ukraine's membership in NATO as a strategic objective expressed by the previous president.

Yushchenko believed that NATO membership guaranteed safety for Ukraine. He also hoped that this membership will be a bridge to Ukraine’s joining the EU.

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Yushchenko raised the issue almost immediately after his coming into power. However, he was faced with the opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych. On September 19 of 2006 the Verkhovna Rada endorsed the position of the latter, ruling that the issue of NATO membership could be solved only during the all-Ukrainian referendum. However, supporters of NATO membership did not settle.

The draft law on non-aligned status of Ukraine in December of 2007 was introduced in the parliament by local communists. However, it will be discussed just now, when the position of opponents of Ukraine's joining NATO became much stronger (after Viktor Yanukovych’s victory in February 2010 presidential elections).

But can a bill be passed in the Rada where Yanukovych has many opponents? After all, these plans caused a negative reaction not only from the opposition, but also Mr. Litvin, the Speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament. Back on June 17 he made it clear that he did not support the institutionalization of non-aligned status of Ukraine.

What do NATO leaders think of this perspective? Experts Vladimir Kornilov and Dmitry Rogozin discussed it with

"I am 92.5 percent confident that Yanukovych will be able to pass the bill,” said Vladimir Kornilov, director of the Ukrainian branch of the Institute of CIS countries. There is no doubt that the majority of Rada members are happy about the adoption of this document. It is supported by the majority of Ukrainian citizens. It is no accident that the law on non-aligned status of Ukraine was one of the pre-election promises of Viktor Yanukovych.

I would not say that NATO rejected Ukraine. Yushchenko had his reasons when he got this idea. It came from NATO leaders themselves, f irst and foremost the United States. Washington expected to gain access to military bases on Ukrainian territory, which would create a strategic threat for Russian security. In this case, the U.S. strike forces would be deployed at Kursk and Rostov-on-Don, where Russian border is not secure.

However, if Yanukovych will manage to legislate the non-aligned position of Ukraine, it will be a great achievement. Whoever comes to replace him, no matter how ardent of a NATO supporter, will have to convince the parliament to reconsider the previous decision. And it will be very, very hard,"- the expert believes.

Dmitry Rogozin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to NATO is not so optimistic. "I would note that even in the case of a positive outcome of the vote in parliament, there will be no great progress on the interaction between Ukraine and NATO,” - said Rogozin. The Ukrainian authorities intend to maintain an existing volume of cooperation with NATO established under Yushchenko.

And the volume is quite serious. For example, Ukraine will maintain its participation in NATO Response Force. Let me remind you that apart from Ukraine it involves another country not formally included in the block, Finland. Together, they allocated a group of armed forces consisting of several thousand people. Under existing agreements with these countries, in case of an attack at NATO countries, the group will be used to counter it.

Furthermore, no one intends to cancel the individual plan of partnership between Ukraine and NATO. The leadership of the alliance did not flatly reject the prospect of the inclusion of that country as its member. In fact, they embarked on something that does not force things and wait until public opinion changes in favor of Ukraine joining NATO."

Sergey Balmasov

Read the original in Russian

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov