A bridge or an outpost? – Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration about NATO

A bridge or an outpost? – Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration about NATO

Ivanna Klympush-Tsyntsadze, Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, published an article in the influential Ukrainian periodical “Dzerkalo Tyzhnia” on January 13, 2017. In this text the Vice Prime Minister goes back to the discussion regarding NATO and Ukraine which broke out after publication of Pinchuk’s article in The Wall Street Journal. UCMC has previously covered this discussion here: Pinchuk’s plan harshly criticized in UkraineWhy asking for ‘painful concessions’ from Ukraine is wrong and  Is Neutrality a Solution for Ukraine?.

UCMC is publishing core messages of the article by Klympush-Tsuntsadze in English.

Facing the facts

Russia concentrated about 700 tanks, over 1000 units of military equipment, the same number of artillery systems and over 300 missile launchers in Donbas. The occupied territories are supplied with weaponry and manpower through “transparent” borders. Around 6000 soldiers of regular Russian army take part in occupation of Ukrainian territories in Donbas, maintaining, equipping and training two army corpses of “hybrid troops” approximating 35 thousand people. Russia is swiftly militarizing the occupied Crimea on a massive scale.

Ukraine is not the “last stop” in the way of Russia. East European, Baltic and Scandinavian countries will be at risk. Believing that the aggressor will suddenly change its ways and start adhering to the agreements reached as a result of “painful compromises” means being utterly mistaken. History knows no cases of a leopard miraculously changing his spot.

A bridge or an outpost?

Former US Secretary of State and supporter of “Russia appeasement” concept Henry Kissinger is fond of iterating an idea of Ukraine becoming a bridge between Western countries and Russia. However, this metaphor is unacceptable for us, if only because a bridge is the first to be destroyed during hostilities: it’s either blown up by commandos, shelled by artillery or bombarded by aircrafts. Most importantly, a bridge is an internal intermediary without any chance of subjectivity. I believe the metaphor of an outpost is more suited for Ukraine. An outpost is dangerous too, but at least you know what you are fighting for. It is far better to be an outpost for some time, eventually becoming an equal partner of the free global community, than to remain a bridge which is incessantly walked over by soldiers and weaponry – either on one side or another. This is why an outpost instead of a bridge is a choice.

What do Ukrainians think?

Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation conducted a public opinion survey in December. According to its results, 62% of Ukrainians are ready to participate in referendum on joining NATO today, and 71% will support joining the Alliance. The number of citizens who made a final decision regarding this issue grew by 6% only in the last 18 months. Moreover, the number of people who believe that joining NATO is the best security guarantee increased almost by 250% in the last nine years.

Non-aligned status does not guarantee safety

Non-aligned status cannot become a cornerstone of Ukrainian pragmatism, as both de-jure and de-facto Ukraine was a non-aligned state when Crimea was annexed and the war in Donbas started, and it was captured in legislation.

Therefore, speeding up European and Euro-Atlantic integration is the only pragmatic solution for Ukraine, with a particular focus on NATO integration. In other words, maximum rapprochement with North Atlantic Alliance, implementation of its standards and joining NATO as a midterm strategic objective.

In what way can NATO benefit from cooperation with Ukraine?

Some benefits for NATO from cooperation with Ukraine are apparent even today.

  1. In the first place, Ukraine may become a guarantor on East of Europe on security, a sort of “safe checkpoint” to Asia and outpost for promoting free world values on Eurasian territory.
  2. Secondly, we are building one of the strongest and most skilful armies in Europe which already possess extraordinary military experience. We are not doing it of our own accord, but the fact remains that Ukraine is a source of unique military and strategic experience for NATO. When NATO instructors are working with our troops, it is a reciprocal training process.
  3.  Thirdly, Ukraine is a country forced to stand up against hybrid warfare involving use of heavy information and economic pressure. Our progress in this resistance, its generalization and improvement can become our offer we can make to the free world, as hybrid warfare becomes a trend line of the XXI century.