Ukraine Calls On NATO. What else to expect from Poroshenko?

Home / Analytics / Ukraine Calls On NATO. What else to expect from Poroshenko?
The main event of the last week was the decision of the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada to fix the course towards joining the EU and NATO in the constitution. Parliament deputies forcibly reinforced the course to the West in the main law, and it seems that NATO headquarters did not even notice it. They only called on Ukraine to consistently carry out reforms, and “everything will be fine.” For the sake of justice, the decision of the Rada was not unexpected, as President Poroshenko proposed to consolidate the NATO orientation last spring. Why did this happen now and what will Kiev's actions lead to?

Imitation Instead of Results

Ukraine wants to join NATO not for the first time. In 2008, the country's leadership, the Yushchenko-Tymoshenko-Yatsenyuk triad, asked Brussels to grant Ukraine the status of NATO candidate. Kiev then wanted to be part of a “pre-accession plan...”, which did not guarantee automatic NATO membership, but allowed giving the appearance of soon joining NATO. By the way, the Verkhovna Rada is asking for this today and wants the Alliance to approve an action plan for Ukraine at the NATO anniversary summit in December 2019. Kiev is so persistent that has even changed the constitution and this is not the end. The recent decision of the Ukrainian Parliament is the third pro-NATO performance during the era of the second Maidan. Back in 2014, the Verkhovna Rada made changes to the legislation abandoning non-aligned status. A year later, Kiev defined NATO membership as a foreign policy goal. At the same time, the main conditions for rapprochement with NATO, voiced during the Kuchma presidency – army reform, weapon upgrade, the fight against corruption, and many other aspects of standardization – still rarely exist on paper, and more often in words. NATO membership is a topic that reflects the needs of Kiev leadership, but it is hardly important for the Ukrainians. Ukrainian politicians are rapidly losing both trust and respect, and therefore strive to show a positive dynamic of rapprochement with the West. As conceived by local tycoons, the background of missing positive results in the economy and in the fight against corruption, the “rush to NATO” will be a beautiful screen of a protracted social crisis. Imitation of the movement is much more important than the results, because they will have to wait for decades, and the struggle for power is going here and now.

Does NATO Need It?

Is it possible that in the near future Ukraine will receive from Brussels a roadmap for NATO membership? In 2008, a similar request from Kiev was supported by Washington, and, at its instigation, by some EU members: Romania, Poland and the Czech Republic. However, France and Germany spoke against granting Ukraine an action plan for membership in the Alliance. The EU locomotives have motivated this by the inevitable deterioration of relations with Russia, which reacts painfully to any NATO movement towards the East, and even more towards the borders of the post-Soviet space. Since then, the international situation has changed, but there are no more reasons for a closer rapprochement between Ukraine and the North Atlantic Alliance. Rather on the contrary. There is a civil war in the country, territorial conflicts have escalated, and Kiev itself claims that it is at war with Russia. In such conditions, NATO will not risk accepting Ukraine. In addition, there are NATO member states that are blocking the rapprochement of Ukraine with the Alliance, based on their national interests – Romania and Hungary are not satisfied with the policies of Kiev in Transcarpathia, where their communities live. Another important factor: Paris and Berlin do not want to increase confrontation with Russia. On the contrary, they are interested in resolving territorial conflicts in Eastern Europe. It is more convenient for Washington, which supports Kiev, to interact with the “always begging” state than with a full ally, which should be protected. In addition, if in 2008 Ukraine still controlled the Crimea, which was the strategic goal of the US, nowadays the situation has radically changed. Today, NATO gives free rein to Ukraine, but emphasizes that the country has a whole list of preconditions that must be fulfilled to join the Alliance. Experts estimate that the process of their implementation may take 20 years.

Geopolitical Dance

In the meantime, Kiev decided to use the example of Montenegro and practice a geopolitical ritual of burning bridges. But if the former Yugoslav republic became a candidate for EU membership and a full member of NATO a few years later, Ukraine has only symbols – “there is no way back”, “the West makes us who we are.” In practice, it means that the Kiev leadership and Petro Poroshenko personally have no choice but to practice more and more rituals that help keep power. During the first term in office, the main Ukrainian oligarch has conducted at least three such campaigns: visa-free travel with Europe, autocephaly of the Ukrainian church, and now the preservation of the NATO orientation. The next step of the president should be even more provocative, especially if Poroshenko’s headquarters is aware of the threat of election failure. In the upcoming months, the last circumstance will only increase the degree of conflict, retaining the image of Ukraine as a powder keg for Europe. All this is unlikely to change the current position of many NATO members in relation to Kiev. As a result, programming the NATO and the EU orientation at the level of the main law, Ukraine actually condemns itself to be in limbo eternally. However, as you know, it never hurt anyone.