The European Union’s high representative for foreign and security policy, Javier Solana, held talks on July 28-31 in Ukraine with President Leonid Kuchma and other top officials. The discussions centered on a possible role for Ukraine in the nascent European defense forces.
Prefacing Solana’s visit, Defense Minister Andre Flahaut of Belgium–the EU’s currently presiding country–raised that topic with the same leaders in Ukraine on July 24-27. The EU’s initiative met with instant Ukrainian consent in principle. Kuchma and Defense Minister Oleksandr Kuzmuk articulated that principle in stating that Ukraine’s European choice “logically” and “naturally” entails Ukrainian participation in Europe’s defense structures.
The two European officials reassured Kyiv that the EU’s forces would neither subtract from nor compete, but instead complement NATO’s, and would develop in consultation with the United States. The EU will also, “in a spirit of transparency,” keep Russia informed on the European defense initiative. Major planning conferences in the next few months are to discuss the specifics, which, according to Solana, “we are still mulling, without a fully developed concept as yet.” Those planning conferences will take into account Ukraine’s consent to participate and will include the country’s representatives in some of the discussions. The EU-Ukraine summit, scheduled for September, will also discuss Ukraine’s possible participation in European defense structures.
Some suggestions about Ukraine’s role transpired already during Solana’s and Flahaut’s visits. The sides looked at the possible inclusion of Ukrainian long-range aviation and of peacekeeping troops into European defense structures. According to Kuzmuk, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry has already begun drawing up relevant plans. For his part, Prime Minister Anatoly Kinakh declared that “the higher the level of Ukraine’s integration, the more secure the peace in Europe.”
The visiting European officials held also political consultations with the Ukrainian leaders on the situation in Belarus, Moldova and the Balkans. According to Solana, those three situations “are worrisome to everyone in Europe.” Ukraine not only borders on the first two countries, but also is one of three mediators in Moldova and contributes troops to NATO-led peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.
Solana reinforced a request, which U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice presented last week in Kyiv, that Ukraine suspend arms deliveries to the government of Macedonia. Earlier this year, Ukraine had supplied four SU-25 ground attack jets, four MI-24 combat helicopters and four MI-8 transport helicopters (that can be converted for combat use); it also signed an agreement with Macedonia on military-technical assistance. Ukraine had taken those steps with NATO approval in the context of the alliance’s support for the Macedonian government. On July 5, the Russian state-controlled ORT Television’s “Odnako” program–reputedly a Kremlin mouthpiece–had lashed out at Ukraine for having done so.
At this juncture, however, NATO and the EU are jointly mediating between the government and the ethnic Albanian insurgents. The mediators consider that continued arms deliveries would be “unhelpful” to the negotiating process. Kyiv has now agreed to suspend those deliveries for the duration of the negotiations. The Macedonian ambassador in Kyiv publicly and angrily protested the suspension.
As could be expected, Solana insisted that the Ukrainian leadership must combat corruption, investigate the murders of journalists, ensure the holding of free and fair elections next March, accelerate a transparent privatization and stimulate Western investment. Rice had driven home the same points the preceding week. By the same token, both officials took note of the positive economic trends in Ukraine and of the Kinakh government’s stated commitment to reforms (UNIAN, July 24-31).
NATO EXERCISE HELD, MORE PLANNED.