American Institute in Ukraine Publishes a New Report on Ukraine and NATO

September 24, 2009

KIEV - September 24, 2009 – A major new report published today by the American Institute in Ukraine advocates creative alternatives to the country’s proposed membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance. The report – Ukraine and NATO: An Unnecessary Dilemma – outlines numerous practical obstacles as well as fundamental objections to Ukraine’s NATO membership and suggests that staying out of the Alliance would be in Ukraine’s national interest and conducive to peace, stability and the reduction of tensions in Europe as a whole.

While Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is still acting as if the question was merely “when” and not “if,” the report stresses that the U.S. policy has undergone a significant shift, from enthusiastic advocacy of Ukraine’s NATO membership under Bush to conditional support of its “Euro-Atlantic integration,” dependent on Ukraine’s own performance. The shift “reflects a more nuanced approach of President Obama’s team, motivated by its evolving strategic priorities caused in part by the ongoing crisis in Pakistan and the escalation of fighting in Afghanistan”:

The quiet acceptance by a growing segment of Western decision-makers on both sides of the Atlantic that there will be no NATO expansion along the Black Sea coast any time soon is a welcome development. Encouraging an impoverished, practically defenseless nation – such as Ukraine – to join a military alliance against the superpower next door, thereby stretching a nuclear tripwire between them, had never been a sound strategy.

President Obama’s challenge is to strike a balance between Ukraine’s concern to solidify its sovereignty, the report says, and the need to improve US-Russian relations. He can square this circle and achieve a diplomatic coup, the report says, but the first necessary step is to take NATO expansion off the table.

In acting to shore up its sovereignty, Ukraine must pursue its key national interest—that of working out a modus Vivendi with Russia. This is possible, but cannot happen if Ukraine resorts to provocative acts such as joining a NATO bent on Russia’s encirclement. The report concludes that a serious bid for EU membership, combined with a declaration of neutrality, makes sense for Ukraine, which is ideally placed to overcome the artificial division of Europe and serve as a bridge between its key parts:

In rejecting NATO, a new leadership in Kiev can position itself – starting in early 2010 – as a catalyst helping to unite Europe in a security structure that will protect not only Ukraine’s needs, but all of the old continent’s. Rather than becoming an object of a new and unnecessary East-West divide, Ukraine can be a bridge helping to create a more secure, prosperous, and unified Europe.

“Ukraine may be uniquely positioned to initiate a paradigm shift in the West,” the report’s authors conclude, “that would pave the way for a genuine ‘Northern Alliance’ of Russia, Europe, and North America, as all three face similar existential threats in the decades ahead. If Ukraine acts as a catalyst to that worthy and eminently attainable objective today, it may yet be hailed as a savior of our common civilization tomorrow.”