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NATO Warsaw 2016 – What does a “good result” for Ukraine look like?

July 4, 2016

With the NATO Summit in Warsaw now upon its Members (and partners), and with clear eyes noting the numerous issues facing the organisation and the Member States that form its constituent parts, be those issues coming from Russia, MENA, from cyberspace, or climate issues and its repercussions (to name but the most obvious) it is perhaps worth pondering what constitutes a “good result” for Ukraine.

Putting aside fanciful rhetoric of actual membership in the near future (if ever) there are certain possibilities and opportunities that with far less political will than that required regarding membership (in the near future, if ever) are worthy of pursuit – even if Warsaw 2016 be the official or unofficial platform from whence such goals, policies and strategies begin (or are further developed).

So what does a “good result” for Ukraine look like?  (Apart from more US anti-battery radar systems and assorted high-tech kit.)  Most will have their own ideas of what a “good result” would be, so here are a few thoughts that would/should/could fall within the limits of (wildest) expectation and acceptance by both parties.

It is already clear that Ukraine still blips brightly upon the NATO radar – even if it is not entirely clear where NATO “Ukraine policy” ends and NATO “Russia policy” begins.  Perhaps there is a necessarily (or deliberately – “strategic ambiguity” and all that) smudged line/overlap in places.

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Whatever the case, Ukraine gets a top table one to one with NATO leaders on 9th July – a propaganda result in and of itself (be the tangible outcome good, bad or indifferent).

It is also almost assuredly going to be the recipient of a package of NATO political and practical assistance.  Clearly the support thus far given with regard to capability development, defence restructuring, continued training and advice (both military and civilian), and progress toward universally meeting the most basic of NATO standards will continue.

As assuredly the repeated yet necessary rhetoric regarding the unequivocal support for, and recognition of, Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity will continue – and be clearly orated.  No doubt there will be mention of Minsk, but hopefully not one that overshadows or dilutes the unequivocal support for, and recognition of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity in and of itself (with or without Minsk).

Specific NATO trust funds (hopefully under NATO administration) will be announced for various issues (Vets care etc) as well as future assistance in dealing with IEDs/war remnants, strategic communications, more non-lethal aid et al.

So far, so predictable – but not necessarily a “good result”.

However, having mentioned the prospect of (highly unlikely) NATO membership, it is perhaps time that the NATO Members actually made a decision with real meaning behind it regarding further NATO membership (regardless of what the Washington/North Atlantic Treaty actually says).

Ukraine, despite any rhetoric to the contrary, is at least a decade away from meeting the most basic of NATO standards in a holistic manner (and despite PM Groisman’s statements that he believes the nation will be within the EU in a decade, that certainly wont happen either – due to EU budgetary cycles and nations like France who will not want to see a lot more “Eastern European” MEPs contesting with “Club Med” MEPs, if for no other reasons).  Indeed perhaps Ukraine is further away from NATO standards than a decade considering the sound and sensible advice it has already received – and occasionally ignored.  (Take the stop-start policy of numerically large, and thus poorly prepared and trained mobilisation/demobilisation it continues to pursue, against the advice given regarding a rolling mobilisation/demobilisation in smaller yet better trained numbers as one very basic example of several when it comes to ignoring the advice it asks for.)

Nevertheless, weak and non-committal NATO “open door policy” statements are little use to anybody.  A definitive “Yes the door is open when you make the grade”, or equally explicit “No the door is not open for Membership whether you make the grade or not – but this is unquestionably on offer if you do” is now approaching something of a policy necessity – particularly when Georgia is there or thereabouts when it comes to making the NATO grade.

It is perhaps time the NATO Members made very clear the prospects (or almost certainly lack thereof) for NATO Membership.  If Montenegro, and perhaps Macedonia if it can settle its “name” issue with Greece, together with a few Balkan nations are to be the final membership count, then that should be made clear – whether it rubs against the text of the NATO Founding Treaty or not.

There are however anchors that Ukraine can drop solidly into the NATO waters that both partners can and perhaps should pursue sensibly – but also in earnest.  For all the West looks in at Ukraine, and Ukraine (to varying degrees examines itself), it also seeks an opportunity to do something practical and tangible externally to assist those that currently assist it quid pro quo,  and to project itself beyond its borders and UN physical commitments.

Perhaps those practical and tangible opportunities should be offered.

As written within entries past, the convergence between espionage, sabotage, organised crime and terrorism within cyberspace is increasing.  It is reaching a point where it can be difficult to tell espionage from sabotage until sometime after the fact (deliberately leaving delayed “nasties” in the system far beyond intelligence gathering).  Likewise organised crime becomes a funding revenue stream for terrorism, increasingly on-line.  There is certainly significant room for a far closer and integrated partnership considering the clear cyber-convergence trend and overlaps for all things illicit in the grubbier parts of the dark net.

There is certainly a common interest and possibilities for dedicated and prolonged Ukrainian participation in the Romanian led call for a NATO Black Sea presence – a legacy of an increasingly militarised Crimea.  As suffering as the Ukrainian Navy currently is, as yesterday’s entry infers, there is also the scope for its inclusion in any NATO and EU efforts with MENA migration on the open seas too.  It would go some way toward Ukraine meeting its new obligations toward the EU CSDP, increase interoperability with NATO, and enhance the necessary deepening of relations with Romania.  (Warsaw being the other vital capitol to deepen ties with in the neighbourhood when it comes to understanding shared threats.)

It is not all a one way street either.  Ukraine has hard earned experience of front line Russian led warfare to share.  It has experience of Russian equipment limitations and weaknesses.  It has experience of Kremlin led warfare against it in cyberspace (including infrastructure disabling), social manipulation, disinformation on a colossal scale (its domestic effects and effective counters), of continued and continuing infiltration, of agent provocateur and “Potemkin destabilising projects” etc., etc.

Significant and unambiguous steps toward clarifying and/or participating in all of the above during Warsaw 2016?  Now that would be a “good result” for Ukraine.

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