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Ukraine : A Key to Europe's Long-term Stability

Ukraine : A Key to Europe's Long-term Stability

NATO Secretary General's Speech commemorating the Fifth Anniversary of the NATO-Ukraine Distinctive Partnership. Kyiv, July 9, 2002.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Celebratory anniversaries traditionally come in ten, twenty-five and, for the lucky few, fifty year intervals. Indeed, conventional wisdom would have it that until those milestones are reached, there is rarely enough substance upon which to reflect, to take stock, and plan the future.

It is surely a tribute therefore to the richness and potential of the NATO-Ukraine relationship that we have met here today to mark the fifth anniversary of the signature of the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership, in true celebratory style.

This morning we had a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, during which NATO Ambassadors reviewed the last five years of NATO-Ukraine cooperation together with Foreign Minister Zlenko. This is actually the second visit of the Council as a whole to Kyiv, a clear demonstration of the commitment of NATO member states to NATO-Ukraine relations.

This meeting allowed us to highlight our achievements -- and there are many, in various areas. But it also offered us the opportunity to pinpoint some remaining obstacles to deeper cooperation, and to identify areas for new or broader development of the strategically important NATO-Ukraine relationship. NATO always supported a stable, independent and democratic Ukraine, and we will continue to do so.

Before going into some of these issues, let me say that the meeting with Minister Zlenko underlined what I consider to be one of the greatest achievements of the past five years: that NATO and Ukraine have built a forum for open, transparent dialogue, where successes as well as expectations can be aired with equal confidence.

Our verdict on the first five years of the NATO-Ukraine Distinctive Partnership is a positive one. And that is what some of the NATO Ambassadors who will travel to other Ukrainian cities today and tomorrow will no doubt also underline.

Take, for example, military and defence reform. Stimulated by a successful Joint Working Group on Defence Reform, considerable progress has been made in rendering Ukraine’s defence planning and budgeting processes more transparent, and bringing its forces under democratic control. Significant success has also been achieved in making the Ukrainian armed forces more inter-operable with those of NATO -- an effort which both benefits from, and further promotes, the cooperation of our troops in the Balkans.

Another area of successful practical cooperation is civil emergency planning. Here, we have focussed on regional coordination in responding to natural disasters. There has been considerable interaction between NATO and Ukrainian experts in the field at exercises, workshops and seminars. And part of our extensive programme of scientific cooperation is also geared to issues such the environmental impact of defence activities, and the management of the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.

When NATO-Ukraine relations took shape five years ago, there were some who doubted not only the potential of this relationship, but NATO’s motivation for reaching out to Ukraine in the first place. Why, they asked, should NATO get involved in improving Ukraine’s armed forces? And if there was some logic in NATO addressing military matters, why should it care about Ukraine’s ability to respond to disasters?

We ignored these voices. We opted for cooperation, not indifference. We were convinced that Ukraine's size and geostrategic role make it a key to Europe's long-term stability. And impressed by the way in which Ukraine itself in just a few years had demonstrated its European credentials, and shown itself to be a responsible international player.

Ukraine’s political track record is impressive. It succeeded in resolving the thorny Black Sea Fleet issue with Russia. It acceded to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It sought cooperation with the European Union as well as with NATO, and engaged itself in the international community’s peacekeeping efforts in the Balkans. Last but not least, Ukraine demonstrated that a policy of gradual integration into European structures and good relations with Russia are not contradictory.

That is why NATO has consistently sought to assist Ukraine, as it charts its way into the future. That is why the critical voices have fallen silent. The strategic need for NATO-Ukraine cooperation has simply become too obvious to ignore.

Cooperation between NATO and Ukraine is the expression of a fundamental truth: today, security in the Euro-Atlantic space is no longer a zero-sum game, where one side's gain is inevitably the other side's loss. The new security challenges of the post-cold War era call for close cooperation amongst partners. There is no alternative to partnership.

Neither floods nor disease, nor the aftermath of accidents, know natural borders. Only by coming together in prevention and in cure do we stand a chance of securing the safety of all citizens of the Euro-Atlantic area.

The same logic applies to military cooperation. Today, our work on military interoperability is rewarded, day by day, through the successful participation of Ukrainian troops in our operations in Bosnia and in Kosovo. And although our common goal of a self-sustaining peace in this troubled region is not yet achieved, we have come a major step closer to it.

The attacks against the United States on September 11 have only reinforced the need for cooperation. After September 11, no one, whether in NATO member states or here in Ukraine, can have any doubt about the fact that we face common threats, and that we must face them together, in order to be able to defeat them together.

In the wake of September 11, Ukraine has been as steadfast as the NATO Allies. It has shown a strong awareness of the threat which terrorism poses to our common security a realisation that this threat requires a cooperative response and a determination to work with NATO and the rest of the international community to fight this scourge.

Ukraine underlined its commitment when it became the first NATO Partner country to express its support for NATO’s invocation of Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, and when it swiftly opened its airspace to Allied aircraft participating in the air campaign in Afghanistan.

The subsequent use of Ukrainian aircraft to transport Allied troops in Afghanistan has confirmed not only Ukraine’s preparedness to make a real contribution to the fight against terrorism, but also NATO’s growing confidence in Ukraine as a reliable Partner. And today, NATO Ambassadors and Ukraine signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Host Nation Support, thereby opening the way for even deeper military and defence related cooperation].

All this demonstrates that there is a solid basis of mutual understanding and practical cooperation for us to build upon in developing the NATO-Ukraine relationship. The level of practical cooperation between NATO and Ukraine is indeed highter than with most other Partners, including Russia. But when I referred earlier to this morning’s meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, I mentioned expectations as well congratulations.

And indeed, looking towards the future in the context of the last five years, it seems to me that for NATO-Ukraine cooperation to reach a deeper level, some critical issues must be addressed first.

Even after five successful years, there is still much to be done. For example, if cooperation in all areas of our activity is to reach its full potential, the task of implementing programmes must be clearly understood -- from the highest political and military echelons in Ukraine through to the working level. This entails delegation and new management practices. But most of all, people at all levels in Ukraine’s civilian and military bureaucracy have to assume their responsibility, to take real ownership of cooperation programmes, and to do what is right for their country.

It is also clear that security sector reform must remain a central element of Ukraine’s political and economic transformation. Especially following September 11, oversized and ill-structured Cold War forces are simply a waste of money. Not only do they fail to fulfil the military tasks that we demand of them. They are also a burden on the economy, and hence on other areas of reform.

As a former Defence Minister, I realise full well that security sector reform has painful consequences soldiers lose their jobs, bases are closed, excess military equipment needs to be destroyed. NATO has several projects in place to lessen the impact of these negative effects in Ukraine. We have been running courses for discharged military personnel. We are also helping the Ukrainian authorities with the problem of base closures, and in drafting their national conversion programme. And we are supporting a project for the destruction of half a million Anti Personnel Landmines.

NATO stands ready to continue to support Ukraine in this way -- as well as in many other ways. But I do want to stress that this support presupposes a genuine attempt on the part of everyone involved in Ukraine to implement reforms and to see them through. If Ukraine were not serious about sustained reform, NATO’s efforts will simply be a waste of everybody’s time, energy and money, at a time when there is no shortage of other claims on these scarce resources.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over the past five years, Ukraine has shown a strong determination to pursue its full integration into the Euro-Atlantic community. NATO has welcomed this aspiration and it has supported the reforms necessary to achieve it.

As a result, the NATO-Ukraine relationship has developed significantly over the past five years. Our cooperation has moved on from high level declarations to frank and, at times, tough exchanges. There is nothing wrong with this. On the contrary. It is the sign of a relationship that is both mature and constructive.

The NATO Allies are keen to see the NATO-Ukraine relationship develop even further, including through intensified consultations and greater cooperation on political, economic and defence issues. That is what we are working towards at the moment back in Brussels, together with our Ukrainian colleagues.In pursuing this work, we have the meeting of our Heads of State and Government in Prague this coming November firmly in our sights. We consider that Prague will be an opportunity for NATO and Ukraine to take our relationship to a qualitatively new level by showing that we are both living up to our commitments.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

President Kuchma recently said that Ukraine is ready to go as far towards NATO as NATO is ready to go with Ukraine. My answer to that is that NATO is ready to go as far with Ukraine as Ukraine is ready to make the necessary structural changes and reforms to move closer to NATO. To seek NATO membership is a legitimate aspiration. It is, however, also a long-term process -- one that requires a lot of determination, commitment and hard work on all sides, but in particular on the Ukrainian side.

NATO Allies will assist and advise Ukraine in its long term efforts of moving closer to the Alliance, both through our cooperation under the Charter, and through bilateral cooperation channels. The ultimate challenge, however, will remain with Ukraine itself. As a free and sovereign country, and a responsible player on the international scene, Ukraine itself is primarily responsible for charting its course into the future.

Responsibility is perhaps freedom’s greatest burden. I hope that the fruits of NATO-Ukraine cooperation will demonstrate that responsibility is also freedom’s greatest gift.

Thank you.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).