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NATO aspirations to be codified in Ukraine

June 7, 2017

With Montenegro becoming the 29th NATO Member State this week, an event that coincides with 20th anniversary of the Charter of Distinctive Partnership between NATO and Ukraine this year, and not withstanding a lot of political and civil energy being spent by NATO in Ukraine over the past few years in particular, it is perhaps not surprising that 8th June will see new legislation subjected to Verkhovna Rada vote relating to the NATO – Ukraine relationship.

Draft Bill 6740 seeks to codify Ukrainian aspirations beyond the directives of adopting NATO military standards by 2020.

Well so be it.  Russian actions in Ukraine have certainly shaped public opinion in a more positive way regarding NATO.  Perhaps now is an appropriate time to codify Ukrainian State aspirations regarding NATO in national foreign policy.

Such domestic legislation takes Ukraine no closer to NATO membership, but it does provide codified aspirations and desired direction of travel for all to see at a legislative level.

To be blunt, such legislation not only takes Ukraine no closer to joining NATO, neither does it increase the chances of it, or the speed at which it will be achieved – if ever.  It may however, at some point, be a reference point for ever increasing convergence to be cited by either side – or both.

It will have no tangible effect any time soon upon the required unanimity of all 29 NATO Member States agreeing to Ukrainian membership – as, when, or if, Ukraine actually manages to get anywhere close to the required standards by way of military, democratic and civil structure.

It will however, via domestic statute, require Ukraine to actively pursue those standards and its NATO aspirations – no matter how difficult they will be to realise, and regardless of the strides the Association Agreement if/when implemented would take Ukraine.

Whether or not this swift decision to submit this draft legislation for immediate parliamentary vote following the NATO Parliamentary Assembly at the end of May is worthy of pushing other draft legislation back on the Verkhovna Rada timetable immediately prior to the summer legislative holidays is of course subjective.

Perhaps it will have little effect on any legislative timetable relating to domestic issues – issues that would tangibly affect life in Ukraine in a far swifter manner and that should be topping the legislative agenda.

Matters such as health reform and pension reform will plod slowly over all deliberately created hurdles and get over the legislative finish line – even if subsequently sabotaged by later amendments.

Land reform will be far more difficult, and yet even harder will be the granting of independent NABU wiretapping ability.

There are also long overdue CEC appointments to be made with 13 from 15 members long past there legal mandate, and the issue of anti-corruption courts and judicial reform more generally that should arguably, and rightfully, be occupying much more political energy to resolve than a swift vote identifying NATO as an aspiration for the sake of domestic codification.

That said there are not likely to be any significant or immediate domestic political losses – or gains – by pushing this draft legislation to the top of the voting agenda on 8th June – the reason then perhaps no other than knowing that there will be sufficient parliamentarians present to actually pass the vote and codify aspirations with little chance that there will ever be 226 votes to repeal it in the future.  (Expect somewhere between the minimum 226 and 260 in favour.)

Summer holidays approach for a feckless legislature.  The sun shines in Ukraine.  The will to turn up to work diminishes.

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