Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 30

A delegation from NATO’s Political Committee and another from Poland’s Defense Ministry–a new member country of the alliance–paid parallel visits to Ukraine on February 10-12. Each delegation conferred with President Leonid Kuchma, National Security and Defense Council Secretary Volodymyr Horbulin, Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk, Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk and other civilian and military leaders in Kyiv.

The nineteen-member NATO delegation, headed by the Political Committee’s chairman Donald McConnell, also met with faculty and students at universities in Kyiv and Lviv, and visited the Yavoriv military training range in the Lviv Region. The delegation reviewed progress how joint programs under the NATO-Ukraine Charter of Distinctive Partnership and Ukraine’s state program for cooperation with NATO are being implemented. The group also discussed Ukraine’s and other NATO partners’ participation in the alliance’s April summit in Washington.

Yavoriv is ranked as the largest training range in Europe west of Russia. Situated in hilly and forested terrain, it serves primarily as a location for armor, airborne and reconnaissance exercises. During the last few years the range has hosted several exercises under NATO’s Partnership for Peace program (PfP) and also a few Ukrainian-Polish exercises. Last year, the United States allocated funds for upkeep and development work at Yavoriv. NATO and Kyiv currently plan to use the Yavoriv range on a regular basis as a training center for peacekeeping troops in the PfP framework.

Polish Defense Minister Janusz Onyszkiewicz and accompanying civilian and military officials discussed in Kyiv an expanded schedule of bilateral military cooperation in 1999. Plans include common basing of the Ukrainian-Polish battalion, whose two national components have hitherto been based separately. Kyiv and Warsaw also envisage the participation of this joint unit in Balkan peacekeeping operations under NATO command.

In the defense industry sector, the Polish side expressed satisfaction with Ukrainian technical maintenance of Soviet-era aircraft of the Polish airforce. The ministries plan to expand this form of cooperation to other types of equipment, apparently including armor. Onyszkiewicz offered assurances that Poland’s new status as a member of NATO would “not introduce a demarcation line between Poland and Ukraine, but would on the contrary strengthen their defense cooperation” (M2 Communications, UNIAN, February 10 and 11).

Implementing all these plans–and, in a larger sense, consolidating security in Eastern and Central Europe–depends on the success of anticommunist forces in Ukraine’s October presidential election. Ahead of that election, the leftist half of the Ukrainian parliament is currently blocking ratification of Ukraine’s agreements with foreign partners, NATO included. Pro-Russian leftists have announced their intention to challenge Kuchma’s policies in this area at a closed parliamentary session.–VS