On October 30–31, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) main political decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council (at the ambassadorial level), visited Ukraine for a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg led the delegation coming in from Brussels, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attended the Commission’s meeting (see Part One). Discussions covered reforms in Ukraine’s security- and defense-sector as well as NATO assistance and modernization programs for which this NATO membership aspirant country may be eligible. Although Ukraine is defending against military aggression from Russia, all assistance programs under discussion between NATO and Ukraine are non-lethal; and the discussion itself, in its third year by now, looks somewhat inconclusive at this point.
NATO’s Enhanced Opportunities Partnership (EOP), launched at the Alliance’s 2014 Wales Summit and further developed since then, groups together Sweden, Finland, Georgia, Jordan, and Australia, countries selected from a pool of 24 NATO partners that includes Ukraine. Those enhanced opportunities include regular political-level consultations with NATO on security matters, deeper access to interoperability programs and exercises, information sharing with allies, some postings at NATO headquarters and staffs, and closer association with allies in the preparation for NATO operations (Nato.int, accessed November 6).
President Zelenskyy asked NATO during the Commission’s meeting in Kyiv to accept Ukraine into the EOP group of countries. The Commission’s concluding statement, however, was noncommittal: “Allies acknowledge Ukraine’s interest in the enhanced opportunities and will consider this [request].” Ukraine had previously presented this same request at the Alliance’s summits in Warsaw 2016 and Brussels 2018. Both times, NATO deferred its decision, using the same wording—simply acknowledging Ukraine’s interest (Nato.int, accessed November 5, 2019; UNIAN, October 31).
The Comprehensive Assistance Package (CAP) combines Trust Funds to support NATO partner countries’ military-related programs. In Ukraine‘s case, six Trust Funds were announced at the Alliance’s 2014 Wales Summit for the following spheres of activity: Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4), Logistics and Standardization, Cyber Defense, Military Medicine and Rehabilitation, Military Career Transition, and Explosive Ordnance Disposal. Allied countries, individually or in small groups, volunteer to provide financial support and expertise for projects run by each Trust Fund under the CAP. The funding target for all six of them was reported to total only $9.5 million at the time of NATO’s 2018 Brussels Summit. Trust Funds for Destroying Stockpiles of Weapons and Munitions and for Radioactive Waste Disposal have been added, and the total funding is reported at some $40 million in “pledged” funds. According to Ukrainian experts, CAP’s Trust Funds are under-resourced and understaffed (Dzerkalo Tyzhnia, November 2–8; Nato.int, accessed November 5). Zelenskyy suggested during the Commission’s meeting in Kyiv that CAP and its Trust Funds need to be expanded and their activities intensified (Unian, Ukrinform, October 31).
The Defense Education Enhancement Program (DEEP), on the other hand, is the largest of its kind in any of NATO’s partner countries. It operates in eight defense education institutions and five training centers throughout Ukraine (Nato.int, November 4, 2019; see EDM, July 30, 2018 and August 1, 2018).
Almost all of those programs and activities relate to Ukraine’s Annual National Program (ANP), the suboptimal tool available to a NATO-aspirant country for membership preparations in the absence of a membership action plan (see Part One). The NATO-Ukraine Commission is mandated to review the ANP’s implementation, and it began that review at its Kyiv meeting. The Commission will hold a follow-up meeting in Brussels to complete that review and discuss the ANP for 2020.
In the legislative field, the Commission recommends for Ukraine to adopt secondary legislation stemming from the law on national security. That law, adopted in 2018, is a framework law on civilian control and democratic oversight of Ukraine‘s security- and defense sector. The secondary legislation must address as matters of priority the parliamentary oversight of security agencies and defense institutions, state procurement of defense articles, the protection of state secrets, and the reorganization of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) (Ukrinform, October 31).
NATO’s 70th anniversary summit, to be held in London, on December 3–4, will differ from the Alliance’s summits of recent years in that partner countries have not been invited and partnership programs are not scheduled for discussion.
In Ukraine’s case (as in Georgia’s), NATO’s partnership programs are an indispensable and much-valued addendum to the country’s bilateral strategic partnership with the United States. It is the US that does the heavy lifting in terms of troop training and exercises, arms deliveries, logistics, or intelligence sharing—and correspondingly bearing the costs.