Ukraine should focus on getting ready for membership – Head of NATO Representation.

Ukraine’s Enhanced Opportunity Partner status is evidence that Ukraine is a contributor to, and not only a consumer of security, Mr Alexander Vinnikov, Head of the NATO Representation to Ukraine, told in an interview with Kyiv not Kiev. As well, he addressed the key aspects of Ukraine-NATO cooperation as well as the bothering question “what should Ukraine do to become a NATO member?”

The practical dimension of NATO’s support to Ukraine

Mr Vinnikov, who came to Ukraine in the post-Euromaidan period. noted that it was a professional challenge to come to Ukraine as the Head of the NATO Representation in such a historic period for the country. At the time, Russia has already occupied Crimea and began its armed aggression in eastern Ukraine.

Since then, NATO decided to extend its support to Ukraine critically:

“That support took both political and practical dimensions. One of the practical implementations was the strengthening of NATO presence here in Ukraine.”

To that end, the Alliance opened the NATO Representation in Kyiv.

However, it’s worth mentioning, that the NATO-Ukraine relationship begun a lot earlier, back in 1997, when two parties signed the Charter on a Distinguished Partnership. Right after that, NATO opened its first Information and Documentation Centre in a partner country. Ukraine had a lack of information about NATO, so this institution was established to correct that.

Later, in 1999, the Organization opened the NATO Liaison Office, the main goal of which was to facilitate and develop military-to-military contacts and other political aspects of cooperation.

Snapshot from the interview with Mr Alexander Vinnikov, the Head of the NATO Representation to Ukraine

On Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic future

The Head of the NATO Representation mentioned that in 2008 at the Bucharest Summit, NATO leaders decided that Ukraine will be a member of the Alliance. Bearing in mind that the Organization works on the basis of consensus among all members, the decision to invite a new member has to be agreed upon between all. Now, allies are looking forward to Ukraine implementing all the necessary reforms.

“What allies are looking for now is that Ukraine focus on getting ready for membership,” Mr Vinnikov stressed.

For Ukraine to become a member of NATO, it should ensure that progress in functioning democratic institutions, the rule of law, the fight against corruption, and respect for human rights are visible for the Alliance.

“Every member that joins has to share those values fully and has to show that its democracy is in line with the stand that the Alliance represents,” states Mr Vinnikov.

The current mutual NATO-Ukraine cooperation is visible through advisory support from the Alliance and a comprehensive assistance package that allows Ukraine to plug specific gaps with the help of trust funds and capacity-building programs. Mr Vinnikov mentioned a recent visit of the Ukrainian Prime Minister to the NATO Headquarters in February 2021. According to him, Mr Shmyhal had very productive and open talks with the NATO leadership.

During the visit, the Prime Minister of Ukraine met with NATO Secretary General, Mr Jens Stoltenberg. They discussed Ukraine’s next steps towards Euro-Atlantic integration. Denys Shmyhal stressed that Ukraine’s goal is NATO membership, and the Government of Ukraine is ready to do everything possible to achieve the goal.

On the rule of law in Ukraine

Mr Vinnikov states that the problems of judicial reform and the rule of law have been debated by many. In his opinion, other Ukraine`s Western partners are in a better position and knowledge to advise in these areas. However, NATO is in permanent contact with them to provide guidance and support for Ukraine.

“I think all of Ukraine’s Western partners are in agreement that this area of reform represents a clear priority from our perspective and will help Ukraine to get closer to its strategic goals of the EU and NATO membership,” says Alexander Vinnikov.

Given the Secretary General’s historic speech at Verkhovna Rada and a recent statement by the G7 ambassadors, it’s fair to say that Ukraine’s partners firmly support the judicial reform implementation.

In January 2021, the ambassadors of the G7 countries presented a roadmap of priority measures aimed at restoring public confidence in the Ukrainian judiciary and anti-corruption infrastructure. G7 representatives believe that the reform agenda’s critical aspects are the re-establishment of anti-corruption laws and transparent appointment procedures.

On the advantages for Enhanced Opportunity Partnership

In 2020, the North Atlantic Council recognized Ukraine as an Enhanced Opportunities Partner. This status is part of NATO’s Partnership Interoperability Initiative, aiming to deepen cooperation between Allies and partners.

Ukraine becomes a NATO Enhanced Opportunities Partner

Alexander Vinnikov emphasized that Ukraine has been not only a consumer but a prominent contributor and producer of security since the 90s. A status of Enhanced Opportunity Partner is recognizing Ukraine’s valuable support to NATO actions and operations.

“We expect EOP to be a strong driver for [NATO’s] future practical cooperation with Ukraine,” says Mr Vinnikov.

This partnership will open access to joint exercises, operations, and a response force. The status will provide for further information exchange, including lessons learned, intelligence sharing. The EOP will let Ukraine be more strongly represented in the decision-making process.

On the reform of Security Service of Ukraine

In January 2021, the Ukrainian Parliament adopted as a basis the draft Law “On Amending the Law of Ukraine ‘On the Security Service of Ukraine’ to Improve the Organizational and Legal Principles for the Operation of the Security Service of Ukraine.” 285 lawmakers voted for the decision.

Mr Vinnikov emphasized that this reform “is a key aspect of the reform agenda and will bring Ukraine closer to Euro-Atlantic standards.” He welcomed the adoption in the first reading a draft law on the Security Service and noticed that the voting showed a cross-political consensus among factions in Verkhovna Rada. It represents the understanding of authorities of the reform importance for national interests:

This reform is needed not for Ukraine’s Western partners, but it’s needed for Ukraine and people of Ukraine”.

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News and Opinion from Ukraine and Europe on Military and Political Developments.

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