Behind the scenes of the NATO-Ukraine Commission
A meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC) was held at Ukraine’s request at the headquarters of the alliance on January 26. Following the meeting of the alliance’s ambassadors, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a press conference that “the NUC meeting sends a strong signal of political support for Ukraine.”
The Day asked the Head of Mission of Ukraine to NATO Ihor Dolhov to explain what this signal entailed and what the alliance did and could do to help our country to resist Russian aggression.
“We had another tragedy early on January 24. Our mission began to take all measures in all possible directions on the same day, as ordered by the national leadership. One of these directions, of course, is the distinctive partnership with NATO. Thus, I sent an appeal to the NATO secretary general late on that day to convene an extraordinary meeting of the NUC as provided for in the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership. As you have seen, all partners have agreed to this, aware of the urgent need to discuss the situation. Therefore, this meeting took place at 2 p.m. local time on January 26. Its goal was not only to respond to terrorist attacks, but to discuss possible ways to proceed in order to convince the Russians of the need to return to fulfilling their obligations under the Minsk Accords.
“Representatives of all 28 NATO members spoke during the meeting. All the speeches had three points in common. First, all NATO nations were united in experiencing painful anxiety about what was happening in Ukraine. The second point was their sympathy with the Ukrainian people and leadership of the country, caused by our sacrifices and losses. Third, they have once again confirmed their full solidarity with Ukraine and support of its territorial integrity, inviolability of borders and state sovereignty.
“After the meeting, the NATO secretary general clearly stated two main points that found support there. First of all, they condemned the Russian Federation and Russian-supported illegal terrorist groups that carried out a series of attacks in recent days. Secondly, they appealed primarily to Russia to return to negotiations aiming at a peaceful settlement of the situation and unconditionally fulfill its obligations under the Minsk Protocol.”
The NATO secretary general stressed the need for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the Donbas, but we know that during major conflicts, diplomatic solution should be propped up by the argument of force, that is, the military option should stay at the table. Do you think that NATO in particular and the West in general rejecting this option even in theory is disadvantageous?
“First, the issue was on the agenda from the very beginning of the crisis, that is, from the end of February 2014. Secondly, I would like once again to recall the initial situation and remind that Prime Minister of Ukraine Arsenii Yatseniuk said at the NATO headquarters on March 6, 2014, and it was repeatedly confirmed afterwards, that NATO, despite being a military and political bloc in a special relationship with Ukraine, had neither legal basis nor legal capacity to carry out any military action on our soil. However, realizing the newly-emerged security challenges, the NATO summit held in Wales in September 2014 had the situation around Ukraine as one of the principal issues on its agenda. NATO has taken a number of important decisions at the NUC meeting at the highest level, and they are now working on implementing them. These decisions do not involve military assistance; however, we will keep discussing the need for military assistance bilaterally with NATO member nations as well with other countries.”
How would you comment on the statement made by the American expert Ivo Daalder, who believes that some NATO countries are ready to provide lethal weapons, but expect the US to make the first move?
“We have the geopolitical situation with key players and international organizations all involved, the UN’s role being essential. The UN Security Council discussed the Ukrainian question on 39 occasions since March 2014. We also have NATO involved as a military-political organization with which Ukraine has a distinctive partnership, and individual countries are working on the issue as well. There is a division of tasks between international organizations, and we try to get maximum support from NATO, going beyond moral, political, and advisory activities, to get as much as may be done within the alliance’s statute framework; we also rely on bilateral commitments. In particular, the alliance has created trust funds that keep raising more money and have already begun to be used. However, we must realize that there are urgent challenges relating to the combat zone in the antiterrorist operation area, and then there are challenges which the Ukrainian state has to meet and will meet gradually as it goes about a radical reform of the security and defense sector of Ukraine.”
You mean the reform needed in order to give a decent response to the separatists and Russian forces in eastern Ukraine and drive them from our soil?
“We are giving a decent response already. Our people are dying for that every day. What we discuss now is making our future army better prepared in every respect to engage with NATO.”
We heard the NATO secretary general refuting at the press conference held on January 26 Vladimir Putin’s statement about the presence of “NATO’s Foreign Legion” in Ukraine. How would you comment on this statement by the Russian president?
“NATO has no legions, neither domestic nor foreign. Therefore, it has to do more with excesses of Russian propaganda, allowing such issues to be raised at the highest level. How is one to continue the dialog under these circumstances? Stoltenberg said clearly that NATO saw only Russian troops being present in eastern Ukraine, in startling numbers as well.”