UKRAINE-NATO COOPERATION IN FULL SWING.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 139
Last month, Ukraine’s Black Sea coast was the scene of Cooperative Partner-2000, a naval and amphibious exercise, the largest yet conducted by NATO forces in a post-Soviet country (see the Monitor, June 26; Fortnight in Review, July 7). Peace-Shield-2000 has been underway at the Yavoriv training range in western Ukraine since July 8. Yavoriv, with its dual status of a Ukrainian military base and NATO training center for peacekeeping troops, is the NATO’s first toehold in a post-Soviet country.
Some 1,400 military personnel from nearly twenty NATO member countries and aspiring countries are involved in the exercises. The preparatory phase, which ended two days ago, focused on assimilating and practicing common procedures for the conduct of a UN-authorized, NATO-led multinational peacekeeping operation. Those common procedures cover planning, operational decision-making, and command-and-control of the troops in the conflict theater. The follow-up phase, which began on July 14 and end on July 22, is scheduled to focus on field exercises by rapid-reaction units and includes a joint landing of American and Ukrainian paratroopers in a combat context. A specially installed computer network and an orbiting satellite connect the exercise headquarters at Yavoriv with headquarters in Germany, Estonia and Bulgaria–a member, a candidate and an aspirant country, respectively.
Troops of the Polish-Ukrainian joint battalion have been deployed with the NATO-led peacekeeping forces in Kosovo. The Kosovo deployment constitutes the joint battalion’s first mission abroad. The battalion itself is one of only two units thus far set up by a post-Soviet country with a NATO country, the other unit of this type being the Polish-Lithuanian battalion. Defense Ministers Oleksandr Kuzmuk of Ukraine and Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland met in Krakow and Przemysl, Poland on July 9-10 to see off the joint battalion’s 530-strong Polish element. The Ukrainian element–including 270 army and twenty interior troops–left for Kosovo on July 15. The ministers commented that the Polish-Ukrainian battalion serves three concurrent purposes: It contributes to European security, forms a link between Ukraine and NATO, and functions as a training unit for Ukrainian troops in the context of that country’s NATO-assisted military reform (see below).
Ukrainian and Polish troops are scheduled to serve side-by-side in Lebanon as well, though not as a joint unit. The Verkhovna Rada approved on June 22, and President Leonid Kuchma signed on July 1, the law on the deployment of a 650-strong Ukrainian unit of military engineers on the Lebanese-Israeli border as part of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) peacekeeping operation. The Ukrainians are due to be “placed” next to the Poles.
Joint exercises and peacekeeping operations figure prominently on the agenda of Ukraine’s Interdepartmental State Commission on Cooperation with NATO, chaired by the National Security and Defense Council’s Secretary Yevhen Marchuk. In Kyiv on July 6, the commission reviewed progress on the state program for Ukraine-NATO cooperation in 2000 and resolved to draw up a state program for 2001-2004. “State program” is a status which denotes priority access to state funding; and the longer timeframe–coinciding with that of Kuchma’s presidential term–is designed to ensure continuity in the program’s implementation. Earlier this year, Kyiv and NATO had agreed on the desirability of moving to a multi-annual cooperation program.
This sequence of events coincides with the third anniversary of the NATO-Ukraine Charter for Distinctive Partnership, signed by Kuchma with the state and government heads of NATO countries in July 1997 at NATO’s Madrid summit. A Ukrainian-NATO round table marked the anniversary on July 11 in Kyiv. NATO information chief Jamie Shea termed Ukraine a vital component of the security of Europe and an emerging link in global security. Responding to inquiries from Ukrainian national-democratic parliamentary deputies about the possibility of Ukraine’s accession to the alliance, NATO representatives cited at least three prerequisites. First, substantial progress on Ukraine’s military reform and modernization, supported by an adequate defense budget. Second, public relations work to change Soviet-bequeathed “negative stereotypes” about NATO among substantial sections of Ukraine’s electorate. And third, as corollary, an expression of political intent by the Ukrainian leadership, “in which case”–Shea was quoted as stating–“we see nothing impossible down the road.” (UNIAN, DINAU, PAP, July 3, 6-8, 10, 12; see the Monitor, January 31, March 6, June 14; Fortnight In Review, January 7, March 17).
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