Ukraine Security Concept: A Transformative Proposal for European Security

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 19 Issue: 188

(Source: Wikipedia)

The Ukrainian Presidential Office envisages a system of international security guarantees vis-a-vis Russia that would answer Kyiv’s post-war requirements. The guarantees would be provided by willing North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members countries, albeit, at the moment, short of NATO membership, this would potentially clear Ukraine’s path to membership in due course. The proposal is embodied in “The Kyiv Security Compact: International Security Guarantees for Ukraine” (, accessed December 14), the product of a working group co-chaired by NATO’s former Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Ukrainian Presidential Office Chief Andriy Yermak, with inputs from a number of leading Western experts. The authorship is basically Western replacing an earlier, ill-fated local product.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office is engaged in up-hill efforts to raise awareness and stimulate discussion of the Kyiv Security Compact among Ukraine’s NATO partners. This is a conceptual document substantiated by multiple, actionable recommendations. It is not a mere consolation prize for Ukraine in lieu of NATO membership. It would, in fact, support Ukraine in forms both within and considerably beyond NATO’s remit (see below). It is offered for inter-governmental among interested NATO members and possible further development, which can lead to its adoption.

Its underlying premise is one established in recent NATO documents—namely that stability in the transatlantic area depends on Ukraine’s security vis-a-vis Russia (see EDM, July 6, 7, 8, 11, 13). In more specific terms than this, however, the security of NATO’s eastern front vitally depends on Ukraine’s security. Beyond NATO or Europe, it is Russia’s future—whether as an expansionist great power or a state permanently confined to its 1991 borders—that hinges on whether Ukraine remains whole and free under Western security guarantees or a devastated rump state under permanent Russian threat.

The Kyiv Security Compact removes Russia explicitly from security arrangements involving Ukraine and implicitly from European security arrangements in general. Therein lies primarily its transformative value. Beyond its practical recommendations of military and economic nature, the Kyiv Security Compact, in effect, denies Russia the political status of a European power and a place in the contemporary equivalent of a European Concert. While Russia has long disqualified itself from such a role, this fact could be difficult for certain Western leaders or elements within Western governments to accept without qualms. The Kyiv Security Compact offers a pioneering concept in that sense, justified in its claim that it “can lay the foundations for a new security order in Europe.”

Historically, the European Concert was called on to settle conflicts and establish security arrangements through mutual accommodation of interests. From the 1990s onward, the contention that “European security is unattainable without Russia, let alone against Russia” implied bringing Russia into a new Concert of Europe with a seat and potential veto.  While this did not materialize in any official or systematic way (with the salient exception of the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, a lasting Russian success), Western powers long believed in conflict resolution and security arrangements concerted with Russia in Europe’s East. The Kremlin, however, blocked or hijacked those processes in Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan—and went on to turn Ukraine, by means of war, into a theater of Russia’s systemic conflict with the West.

Although the concert approach proved foredoomed, NATO membership is not available to Ukraine for the duration of this war and might even be delayed afterward. The Kyiv Security Compact offers an interim solution with the participation of willing NATO members (the document does not use the term “coalition of the willing,” but that is what it amounts to in practice). This would operate on two levels: a strategic partnership agreement defined as a “compact” (political, non-binding commitment) and, within that, a network of legally binding agreements between participating countries. Those agreements would be subject to parliamentary ratification in each participating country to make them binding.

Their guiding concept is to enable Ukraine itself to deter Russian aggression and defend itself with its own forces. As distinct from NATO, the Kyiv Security Compact is not an erga omnes pact but is specifically designed to counter Russian aggression. Even so, the compact envisages neither the stationing of NATO forces on Ukrainian territory nor the intervention of NATO members’ collective or national forces in the event of another Russian attack on Ukraine. It does, however, guarantee comprehensive support to Ukraine to deter aggression and an immediate mobilization of participant countries’ resources for Kyiv to defend itself in the event of future aggression. The stated goal is to ensure Ukraine’s “military edge” over Russia in that case.

The binding guarantees are to be codified in bilateral agreements between Ukraine and a core group of willing NATO members acting as guarantors. The proposed agreements include: regular joint exercises of Ukrainian and NATO partners’ forces on Ukrainian territory; training Ukrainian troops to NATO standards on NATO territory; training Ukrainian territorial defense and reserve forces; supplying Ukraine with advanced weapons for deterrence and defense (including anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems to ensure a “closed sky” from air attacks); intelligence support to Ukraine; and massive, long-term investments to build a modern Ukrainian defense industry.

Those guarantees are of the positive type (concrete actions the guarantors would bindingly undertake) as distinct from negative-type guarantees (actions that the guarantors pledge not to undertake, as in the farcical Budapest Memorandum on Ukraine). The proposed guarantees are actionable, with a trigger mechanism (contrasting, again, with the Budapest document).

These guarantees are non-transactional, in the sense that they do not require Ukraine, in exchange, to choose neutrality (nonalignment) instead of NATO membership or constrain the development of its own armed forces. The putative guarantor countries recognize Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO and the European Union as enshrined in Ukraine’s constitution. Under the Kyiv Security Compact, the guarantees apply to the entirety of Ukraine’s territory within its internationally recognized borders.

This pact includes a major economic dimension, in that the guarantor countries commit themselves to impose economic sanctions on Russia in the event of aggression against Ukraine. These provisions are designed to also apply to the present situation until Russia withdraws its forces from Ukraine’s internationally recognized territory.

Thus, the Kyiv Security Compact deserves a more forward-leaning reception from NATO member countries than it seems, thus far, to have received.