Sometimes things appear to be dramatic prima facie, when in fact they are anything but.
This afternoon, Prime Minister Yatseniuk, after a meeting the the National Security Council, submitted a draft bill for consideration by the RADA, to abolish Ukraine’s long standing official non-alignment status.
Prima facie, and in the context of the current war on-going between Ukraine and Russia in the east, a dramatic turn of events perhaps.
“Pursuant to the decision of the NSDC the Government of Ukraine submits to the Parliament a draft law called to abolish a non-alignment status of the Ukrainian state and resume the policy towards Ukrainian membership in NATO.”
Defiant stuff vis a vis Kremlin intentions for, and aggressive actions within, Ukraine.
There will no doubt be stern words and condemnation from within and those around The Kremlin for the sake of propaganda – particularly from the swivel-eyed far right lunatics that see everything as a CIA or NATO inspired plot. That the actions of The Kremlin they so keenly support have pushed Ukraine further and further away as a nation, society and ideologically, will no doubt fly directly over their heads.
Yet despite all that propaganda noise, as and when it comes, The Kremlin will remain confident that Ukraine joining NATO is not going to happen any time soon – if at all.
Of the five chapters that outline conditions for NATO membership, one wonders if Ukraine actually meets any of them currently – and how many years it will take to meet all of them.
In brief, of the political and economic issues, Ukraine would need to demonstrate stable democratic institutions (far more than simply being able to hold reasonably free and fair elections every 5 years), actively pursue, or ideally have settled, any regional or ethnic disputes (Crimea?), have good relationships with their neighbouring nations (Russia?), display robust commitment to human rights and rule of law (which is not something Ukraine is renowned for), have a market economy, and civilian control of, and over, its military.
Regarding the chapter on defence, firstly Ukraine must spend enough – and commit to continuing to do so – on its defence. There is also the obvious issue of reforming its military to effectively enhance the collective defence arrangements of NATO members. Clearly serious financial and reforming assistance is required.
There are also criteria regarding legislation and information security that Ukraine would have to meet, despite undoubtedly still having many Kremlin infiltrators amongst its ranks, and most of the Ukrainian State infrastructure still working on pirated Microsoft software and heaven only knows what downloaded malware, spyware and Internet nasties.
Whilst some of those issues can be overcome very quickly indeed, there are certainly others that will take years to accomplish.
Compliance with NATO membership requirements is not going to happen tomorrow. Or next week. Nor next year.
There is then Article 10 to consider – the unanimous agreement of existing members to admit a new member. Even the most casual of glances at the existing membership highlights one or two (currently) Kremlin Trojan Horses, discounting a few naturally dovish members that will acquiesce to the robust noises from The Kremlin about NATO on its borders – even though NATO is already on its borders.
However, the Ukrainian leadership are of course aware of these facts, just as much as The Kremlin and the NATO leadership itself. It was undoubtedly all raised once again today at an extraordinary meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission.
President Poroshenko may need to show some flexibility too, having campaigned stating NATO membership would only be pursued if 70% of the nation were in favour. Still, he is a politician and subjected to “events, dear boy”, and those most serious events are being orchestrated by a very aggressive and unfriendly neighbour.
So, is this more just posturing by Ukraine following overt Russian military invasion in its eastern regions over the past few days, far beyond what has gone before this year? Nothing for The Kremlin to really raise an eyebrow over should this bill pass through the RADA and become law?
Clearly and unambiguously, the Ukrainian leadership is attempting to permanently reject the official and currently legally held non-aligned status, in preference for alignment with western constructs. Actual NATO membership and EU membership, or not – when and if they ever come – is somewhat irrelevant today. What is important, should this bill pass, is that Ukraine will not be constrained to act in a non-aligned way from that moment onward.
An alignment toward the western constructs within Ukrainian law there will be, snuffing out any remote chance of membership within any Russian led alternatives. If the September ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement and DCFTA rules out the Eurasian Union – which it does, although not so the CIS trade agreements if a few simple tweaks were applied – today’s submitted draft bill also rules out any CSTO, SCO or emerging alignments too.
Should this bill pass and be signed off by the president, any notions of a “neutral Ukraine” can be forgotten. Formal membership of western clubs or not, Ukraine is not rejecting its non-aligned status for it to be replaced by one of officially recognised neutrality – no matter how much that may upset the geopolitics of the region.
It makes the NATO Summit in Wales during the first week of September somewhat more interesting – not that anything more than training, reform assistance and enhanced intelligence sharing seem very likely to be forthcoming – (officially at least).