On July 26, the office of President Leonid Kuchma made public a presidential decree that amends Ukraine’s military doctrine, deleting the goal of NATO membership. Whether deliberately or by coincidence, the change was published on the day of Kuchma’s effusive meeting in Yalta with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The military doctrine’s original phrasing on this point was: “Proceeding from the fact that NATO and the European Union are the guarantors of security and stability in Europe, Ukraine is preparing for attaining full-fledged membership in these organizations.”
The revised version says, however, that Ukraine’s military security is based on “strengthening confidence among states, steadily lowering the level of threats to use military force, pursuing the policy of Euro-Atlantic integration . . . Ukraine’s national security interests require a substantial deepening of relations with NATO and the EU as guarantors of security and stability in Europe” (Interfax, July 26). Parts of this formulation — as well as the failure to mention Ukraine’s NATO membership goal — seem consistent with Russia’s ideas about all-European cooperative security, including NATO but not based on it, and ruling out NATO membership for ex-Soviet-ruled countries.
Ukraine had officially declared in May 2002 the goal of NATO membership. That goal was enshrined in Kuchma’s decree of July 8, 2002, and a number of subsequent documents, including Ukraine’s military doctrine. Approved by presidential decree as recently as June 15, 2004, the text of the doctrine was published on June 23, and was presented by Kuchma to the NATO-Ukraine Commission’s session at the level of heads of state and government on June 29 in Istanbul during NATO’s summit.
Shortly afterward, however, amendments to the doctrine were adopted at a July 6 meeting of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council (NSDC), chaired by Kuchma, and were promulgated by presidential decree on July 16 before being made public on July 26. Influential circles within the governing establishment are questioning not only the timing, but also the rationales behind the changes. The NSDC meeting was held while Minister of Foreign Affairs Kostyantyn Hryshchenko, a convinced Atlanticist, was absent from the country. Defense Minister Yevhen Marchuk’s mouthpiece, the newspaper Den, asked rhetorically, “Was there an urgent need to introduce these amendments? What were the arguments for such a decision?” (July 27). Den also noted that Russian media are “commenting with cynical delight” on the revision. Observers in Kyiv note, furthermore, that the publication of the presidential decree appears timed to the parliamentary recess, so as to catch its critics off-guard.
On July 27 Ukrainian officials launched damage control measures. One NSDC official told the media that joining NATO remains the long-term policy goal, whereas the military doctrine’s now-amended version sets the agenda for a shorter timeframe, aiming for cooperation with NATO in specific areas. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Oleh Shamshur explained that the doctrine was amended because NATO is “not prepared to give Ukraine a clear signal about a timeframe for membership,” an attitude evidenced again by the recent NATO summit. Shamshur insisted that Ukraine’s “policy of Euro-Atlantic integration has not been revised, is not being revised, and will not be revised,” and will focus on increasing practical cooperation.
Marchuk, who is a driving force behind Ukraine’s course toward NATO, called attention to some overlooked points in the NSDF’s decision. Titled “On Further Development of Relations with NATO, Proceeding from the NATO-Ukraine Commission’s meeting on June 29 in Istanbul,” the document instructs the Cabinet of Ministers to review within 30 days the status of the NATO-Ukraine Target Plan for 2004 and ensure its swift implementation. Furthermore, the decision instructs the Cabinet of Ministers and the National Coordinating Center for Euro-Atlantic Integration to accelerate preparations for the 2005 Target Plan in consultation with NATO, provide for the plan’s funding in the 2005 Ukrainian state budget, and reach out to the Ukrainian public to ensure its support for this policy (Den, Ukrainian Television Channel One, TV Five, Interfax, July 27).