Center for Strategic Decision Research


Ukraine-NATO Relations in the New 21st Century European Security Architecture

His Excellency Borys Tarasyuk
Foreign Minister of Ukraine


It is a great pleasure for me to find myself among friends here in Budapest as I participate in my fifth NATO Workshop. I feel very much at home here as I do any place in Europe, for Ukraine is a part of Europe. Each year in which I have taken part in these distinguished gatherings has been marked by memorable events in Ukraine-NATO relations that testify to steady progress, open dialogue, and increased cooperation in many areas on various levels. Such progress is the result of Ukraine’s number-one priority to integrate with Europe and the Euro-Atlantic community.


Our first contact with NATO was in 1992; we joined the PFP in 1994, the EAPC in 1997, and also signed the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership in 1997. That same year the NATO Information and Documentation Center was opened in Kiev, we established the State Inter-Agency Commission on Cooperation with NATO, and we adopted the State Program of Cooperation with the Alliance. This year the Ukraine-NATO Commission was part of the Summit in Washington. These are some of the milestones that prove our belief that increased cooperation with NATO is the most effective security measure for the Euro-Atlantic area.

After Ukraine regained its independence our citizens did not hesitate to regard NATO as a key pillar of European security. The political, military, and intellectual elite in Ukraine started to become increasingly in favor of Ukraine’s intensified cooperation and even membership in NATO. The old communist stereotype of NATO as an “aggressive bloc” began to fade from people’s minds, and our practical cooperation with the Alliance began to put on flesh. Through a charter-based special partnership with the Alliance, Ukraine was finding a security niche in Europe and making its contribution toward shaping a new European security architecture.

This rosy picture changed dramatically with the tragic developments in Kosovo. The crisis became a real test for all Europeans, and is still a big problem for Ukraine.


From the very beginning, Ukraine took part in mediating the conflict for both external and internal reasons. One external reason is that, like NATO and EU, we believe that widespread, flagrant violations of human rights that lead to a humanitarian disaster cannot be considered a prerogative of a sovereign state; this belief is expressed in the fundamentals of Ukraine’s foreign policy, which was adopted by the parliament back in 1993. Because of this belief, Ukraine clearly condemns the ethnic cleansing and violence in Kosovo.

On the other hand, the Yugoslav crisis exposed a deficiency in international law and in the United Nations in particular, since there was no quick and clear solution available for this kind of contingency. And while there is no doubt that such human crises require intervention by the international community, there is a question as to what sort of intervention it should be. If military intervention is required, then we urgently need to start elaborating universal principles for how, when, and by whom such action may be taken.

This is a challenge we must face no matter how difficult. Since dealing with such conflicts on a case-by-case basis will always cause problems with geostrategic powers, it is better to work together to engrave clear principles for such interventions in international law, leaving no doubt regarding policies if other cases occur in the future. As the most powerful and efficient military organization, NATO would be well suited to perform the functions of law enforcer—not of world policeman, but as a law-abiding organization that acts on behalf of the international community and with clearly defined tasks and powers.


Unlike our Western neighbors, who have wide political consensus on European integration, Ukraine suffers from continual attacks from forces of the left. These people use every opportunity to discredit the President and the government and, for them, NATO’s actions in Kosovo have been truly a gift. The leftists have become confident because they have had the majority of the population behind them, a majority that did not approve of the NATO air strikes. Even in Western Ukraine, where people traditionally favor a European course, they had big doubts about NATO’s actions against Yugoslavia.

The anti-NATO hysteria peaked on 26 March 1999 when the left-dominated parliament adopted a resolution on Ukraine-NATO relations. You are lucky not to have seen the first drafts of this resolution. If it had been approved, I would not be here today. But even the approved text contains provisions that may hamper our cooperation with the Alliance.

Developments in Kosovo handed a trump card to the leftists, who will use it during the presidential elections in October 1999. With their anti-NATO campaign, they are also putting into question my country’s relations with the entire West, making no distinction between organizations, sabotaging cooperation with Western countries, turning people against the European Union, and spoiling constructive dialogue with the Council of Europe.

What can the executive power of Ukraine do under such circumstances? First, we have tried to explain objectively to our people what was going on in Kosovo, giving them a full and impartial picture and a rationale for NATO’s actions. Second, we have reconfirmed Ukraine’s choice of joining Europe, explaining to our citizens how vital it is for our nation. Third, we were the first to offer mediating assistance, through President Kuchman’s peace plan.

What answer did we get? A rather cool one. We were even denied an air corridor on our way to Belgrade on March 27.


It is my belief that the success or failure of Ukraine-NATO relations in the light of the Balkan crisis may change dramatically both the geopolitical situation and the map of Europe. All the beautiful talk about the future European security architecture, Euro-Atlantic integration, extending the security and stability zone, democratic values in Eastern Europe, and the unity of NATO partners may collapse in one day if the leftist forces come to power in Ukraine. It would be disastrous to underestimate this possibility. You should understand that the communists and even the socialists in Ukraine are totally different from those in other Central European democracies.

To demonstrate their true nature and their continuance of old habits, let me tell you about the recent Interparliamentary Conference held in Kiev by the leftist leaders of the Ukrainian parliament and the “first legislators” from Russia, Belarus, and Yugoslavia. Unambiguous statements were made that Ukraine must join the union of Russia and Belarus. The Foreign Ministry openly condemned these statements as unconstitutional plans not only to change our foreign policy course but to give up Ukrainian independence and sovereignty. The members of the North Atlantic Assembly who were in Kiev at that time can confirm my words. But it is sad that on the eve of the 21st century the possibility of new divisions has appeared in Europe, divisions that may lead to new or the restoration of old confrontation lines.


What should NATO and the West do and not do to prevent dividing lines from appearing?

For one, we should stop putting artificial obstacles in the way of Ukraine’s development as a strong democratic state. We should abandon the double standard that exists for Ukraine. For half of the last year it seems as though international organizations have been competing with each other to make life more difficult for the executive power in Ukraine that wishes to effect a pro-Europe policy line.

We also believe that Ukraine should be invited to be a full participant in the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe. Ukraine fully supports elaboration of the Pact and can make a valuable contribution. There are both political and economic reasons for our participation.

To put it very mildly, we are not satisfied with the role that has been given to Ukraine in the Pact. We are ready to participate in all three Working Tables: on democracy, economic rehabilitation, and security. We have means and experience, and we have invested in settling the conflict. We have also suffered considerable losses, in particular to the Danube Shipping Company and our metallurgical enterprises.


Even greater than our economic reasons for desiring to take part in the Pact are our political motivations. Today we see a new Marshall Plan for the Balkans and a policy that envisages the integration of this region into a united Europe. Ukraine fully supports this democratization and Europeanization of the Balkans. Several years ago I said that the time would come when the West would have to deal with the Balkans, but now it may be too late. It is my hope that it is not too late.

For many years Ukraine has been knocking on Europe’s door. We consider it unfair and even dangerous to keep Ukraine outside the European perspective. It is not so much the issue of reconstruction, but more the goal of being invited to integrate with Europe. That is why we believe it is so important for Ukraine to participate more fully in the Stability Pact.

How can we convince you that Ukraine should be part of a united Europe? If one looks at Kosovo, one may come to the dreadful conclusion that only wars or bloody conflicts will urge Europeans to do so. We have a proverb in Ukraine that says, “A peasant will not cross himself until thunder strikes”; let us not heed these words. Let us not have only lip service. Beautiful words about Ukraine being a special partner and a factor of stability and security will remain hollow if they are not supported by concrete deeds.


To sum up, participation in the Stability Pact and an Association Agreement with the European Union will make a big difference for Ukraine and as such for all of Europe. But until these things become reality, Ukraine is ready to continue intensive cooperation with NATO, which should keep its doors open to new members. I am glad that our practical cooperation with the Alliance continues to progress. We value highly the decisions of the Washington Summit to designate the Yavoriv military range as a PFP and NATO training site and to appoint liaison officers to Ukraine and a new director to the NATO Information and Documentation Center in Kiev. We are also ready to continue our practical contribution to peacekeeping efforts in the Euro-Atlantic area, including participation in the international civil and security presence in Kosovo.

I’d like to end by saying: Don’t believe that the election results of October 1999 will cause you to work on a new concept toward Ukraine. Ukraine has made its choice—we are with you, and I hope that you will remain with us and that we shall be united. There are challenges ahead but we should face them together.


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