Vadym Prys­taiko: “Mem­ber-states that feel di­rect threat clash with those be­liev­ing that things will get set­tled some­how”

“Mem­ber-states that feel di­rect threat clash with those be­liev­ing that things will get set­tled some­how”

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - In­ter­viewed by Yuriy La­payev

Head of Ukraine Mis­sion to NATO on Al­liance ex­pan­sion and Ukraine’s plans on de­fense re­form

The Ukrainian Week spoke to the Head of Ukraine’s Mis­sion to NATO about the prospects of NATO ex­pan­sion, Ukraine’s plans on de­fense re­form, and the im­pact of pol­i­tics on se­cu­rity con­sid­er­a­tions within the Al­liance.

How do you as­sess the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the 2017 An­nual Na­tional Pro­gram for NATO-Ukraine co­op­er­a­tion? What are our in­ter­na­tional part­ners say­ing about it?

— We have re­cently re­ceived rec­om­men­da­tions from NATO mem­ber-states on how they as­sess Ukraine’s im­ple­men­ta­tion of ANP in 2017. I can hardly sum it up in two words: the pro­gram it­self has 60 pages di­vided into five sec­tions, from po­lit­i­cal to mil­i­tary and de­fense sec­tions. As­sess­ment of the pro­gram by our part­ners is a 24-page long text. ANP is a doc­u­ment that al­lows us to fo­cus on the ef­forts Ukraine has to take in or­der to re­form. It is not a proof of NATO ex­pect­ing some­thing from us. There­fore, the first sec­tion of ANP has noth­ing to do with de­fense or se­cu­rity. It refers to po­lit­i­cal is­sues. It records changes of our course that took place in 2017. This sec­tion also lists all re­forms which we have set as our goal, which have to take us to the fu­ture as we see it. I’m talk­ing about de­cen­tral­iza­tion, health­care re­form, pen­sion re­form and oth­ers.

Sec­tions two and three re­fer to de­fense, mil­i­tary and se­cu­rity is­sues. Here, the sit­u­a­tion is some­what sim­pler. We have the Com­pre­hen­sive As­sis­tance Pack­age, as well as the Strate­gic De­fense Bul­letin which Ukraine has de­vel­oped and pre­sented at the NATO Sum­mit in War­saw in 2016. Re­forms are con­ducted in Ukraine in line with these doc­u­ments. Funds and re­sources from NATO as an or­ga­ni­za­tion and its in­di­vid­ual mem­ber-states have been al­lo­cated for this. Trust funds have been set up, in­clud­ing some very spe­cific ones — for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and treat­ment of in­jured sol­diers, for in­stance. We have wider work­ing groups fo­cus­ing on re­forms in de­fense in­dus­try, prepa­ra­tion for a trans­fer to NATO stan­dards, changes in lo­gis­tics, im­prove­ment of ar­ma­ments, anti-min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties — all those things Ukraine needs for sur­vival. By the way, Ukraine is the largest re­cip­i­ent of money and re­sources and has the big­gest num­ber of R&D pro­grams with NATO un­der the Science for Peace and Se­cu­rity pro­gram. All of this con­sti­tutes the ANP.

I would like to re­mind you that 2018 will mark the 10th an­niver­sary of the NATO Sum­mit in Bucharest where we were de­nied a Mem­ber­ship Ac­tion Plan (MAP). Still, de­spite this de­nial, a de­ci­sion was made that Ukraine would use the ANP mech­a­nism as MAP. De­spite ev­ery­thing, Ukraine is mak­ing the nec­es­sary changes with­out a for­mal MAP.

Can you share how the ANP is de­vel­oped and what the de­tails of the 2018 ANP are? What is NATO’s cur­rent fo­cus in co­op­er­a­tion with Ukraine?

— 10 years ago we said that Rus­sia was dan­ger­ous, so we needed to join NATO. We were not taken very se­ri­ously, to put it mildly. The fact that we are not a NATO mem­ber to­day is our prob­lem. It is a re­sult of us hav­ing doubts for too long, jump­ing from one side to an­other based on our do­mes­tic pol­i­tics. Whether we like it or not, we are now an east­ern out­post or flank of NATO. Be­yond us there is only Rus­sia which has set a goal to not be a friend or a part­ner for NATO, and is ob­vi­ously con­struct­ing its pol­icy against the Al­liance.

This is a dan­ger. In re­sponse, NATO is forced to adapt and re­in­force its pres­ence in East­ern Euro­pean mem­ber­states. This ac­tivi­sa­tion is the most in­tense since the end of the Cold War. Back then, every­one thought that peace had come to Europe. Amer­i­can and Cana­dian units left Euro­pean ter­ri­tory while other groups were re­duced sig­nif­i­cantly: NATO had more than 30 dif­fer­ent com­mand struc­tures in the early 1990s and only seven by 2014. To­day, a re­al­iza­tion has set in that Rus­sia’s mil­i­ta­riza­tion con­tin­ues, in­clud­ing in the oc­cu­pied Crimea where it can place nu­clear forces. There­fore, Ukraine is surely un­der NATO’s radar even if it’s not a mem­ber-state, only a friendly part­ner. Ukraine has the largest ter­ri­tory in Europe and an army that grows out of ne­ces­sity to re­sist Rus­sia’s ag­gres­sion. This army should be con­trolled by civil­ian and demo­cratic pro­cesses, among oth­ers, so that it does not turn into some kind of a “junta” of which the Rus­sians have been talk­ing for so long.

Mean­while, a con­cept of com­pat­i­bil­ity ex­ists. It means a ca­pac­ity to ful­fill tasks in co­op­er­a­tion. Ukraine is still par­tic­i­pat­ing in all NATO oper­a­tions. Of course, our con­tri­bu­tions are cor­re­lated with our needs in the East. Still, 40 Ukrainian troops are in Kosovo to­day. Also, we are en­gaged in NATO’s rapid re­sponse force that should be ready to de­ploy in any part of the Al­liance within 24 hours. Our plane is ready to be en­gaged in its oper­a­tions. We ad­di­tion­ally train para­troop­ers and spe­cial­ists in chem­i­cal, bi­o­log­i­cal, ra­di­o­log­i­cal and nu­clear de­fense. Our mil­i­tary should be pre­pared for joint oper­a­tions, pro­vide NATO-stan­dard lo­gis­tics, and fol­low mil­i­tary stan­dards and rules of com­bat ac­cepted in NATO. In fact, that’s what we’re work­ing on now. This rou­tine work is not al­ways in­ter­est­ing. How­ever, it is the cru­cial el­e­ment and the most time-con­sum­ing one.

What about non-mil­i­tary spheres?

— Our re­searchers are work­ing in R&D projects with NATO spe­cial­ists. A spe­cial fund is study­ing dif­fer­ent as­pects of hy­brid war­fare and ca­pac­i­ties to re­sist it. We are ac­cu­mu­lat­ing knowl­edge, even if, un­for­tu­nately, we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it all first­hand. Now we can gain knowl­edge and share it with NATO. We have re­cently fin­ished an im­por­tant project on nu­clear de­con­tam­i­na­tion of an area where nu­clear am­mu­ni­tion used to be stored with the Ger­mans. This was in Vaku­lenchuk, a vil­lage in Zhy­to­myr Oblast. Nearly EUR 1mn was spent on the project. We have pre­sented the re­sults in NATO.

Now, we are start­ing a new stage of the project as the Ger­man side is pre­pared to fund and man­age it. These projects are not di­rectly linked to se­cu­rity or de­fense, they are purely en­vi­ron­men­tal.

Real-time ex­change of in­for­ma­tion on air traf­fic is an­other im­por­tant el­e­ment. It helps the mil­i­tary bet­ter un­der­stand where a tar­get is and boosts the se­cu­rity of civil avi­a­tion. More such projects are un­der­way.

What about ex­change of in­for­ma­tion? Are all par­ties to the di­a­logue happy with how it’s go­ing?

— We start ev­ery day by in­form­ing our NATO part­ners on de­vel­op­ments in Ukraine. Un­for­tu­nately, some­times this in­for­ma­tion con­tains the num­ber of our mil­i­tary killed on the front­line. Also, we share up­dates on ma­jor oper­a­tions and on what is hap­pen­ing in the coun­try in gen­eral. NATO has a pretty clear un­der­stand­ing of the threats Ukraine is fac­ing, and of mod­ern war­fare used against our army. We have data on this war­fare and share it with NATO.

Ac­cord­ing to sur­veys from early last year, not all mem­ber-states were will­ing to in­ter­fere if Rus­sia at­tacked a NATO coun­try. Has that trend changed?

— I can’t claim that this trend was not known of be­fore. In sur­veys, how­ever, an an­swer de­pends on the way the ques-

tion is asked. In­deed, there must be some nom­i­nal Ger­man bürg­ers who are re­luc­tant to de­fend a nom­i­nal Es­to­nia. For­tu­nately, how­ever, the elites that are in power in those coun­tries have long es­tab­lished that no­body would ques­tion the prin­ci­ple of col­lec­tive de­fense. Oth­er­wise the bloc would seize to ex­ist. I’m cer­tain that any gov­ern­ment in any mem­ber-state un­der­stands this. And no coun­try has left the Al­liance so far.

Given the fact that Amer­i­can troops are the core of NATO, mem­ber-states were cer­tainly con­cerned when the newly elected US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump for­got to men­tion his coun­try’s com­mit­ment to Ar­ti­cle 5 of the North-At­lantic Treaty at a sum­mit at NATO’s head­quar­ters.

That changed over time. He must have re­al­ized that it is the core prin­ci­ple. The US is the one to re­mem­ber about this ar­ti­cle: NATO’s his­tory has one case of its en­act­ment af­ter the US was at­tacked on Septem­ber 11, 2001. This un­der­lines the im­por­tance of the ar­ti­cle which no­body has tried to test so far. Com­mit­ments like these help keep up peace in Europe.

Are the forces de­ployed in Europe ac­tu­ally ca­pa­ble of coun­ter­ing a sud­den Rus­sian at­tack?

— Con­cerns are un­der­stand­able. That’s why NATO was so sen­si­tive about the Za­pad 2017 drills con­ducted by Rus­sia and Be­larus. It is pos­si­ble to mo­bi­lize a sig­nif­i­cant force un­der the guise of drills. The rapid pace of this mo­bi­liza­tion is the in­di­ca­tor that is taken into ac­count in assess­ments of real in­tents of a given coun­try dur­ing mil­i­tary plan­ning. This is a con­cern for NATO. And, of course, they need to know what force to ac­cu­mu­late, al­though here mem­ber-states that feel di­rect threat al­ways clash with those be­liev­ing that things will get set­tled some­how. NATO is a dy­namic or­ga­ni­za­tion, it al­ways has these lively de­bates.

I can add that one rapid op­er­a­tion could prob­a­bly take place. But let’s re­mem­ber that the US Armed Forces and their mil­i­tary bud­get are larger than the top ten mil­i­tary pow­ers, in­clud­ing Rus­sia. So [Rus­sia] could plan a sui­ci­dal mis­sion and con­duct it, but it should re­al­ize what would come next. I as­sume that such ac­tions are planned in the Al­liance — it’s not pleas­ant, but it’s nec­es­sary. No­body wants to scare or pro­voke Rus­sia. But NATO strate­gists should ob­vi­ously take Rus­sia’s grow­ing ap­petite into ac­count.

How does pol­i­tics af­fect de­ci­sion-mak­ing in NATO? Look at the grow­ing ten­sions be­tween NATO and Turkey.

— NATO is a mil­i­tary po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion, first and fore­most. There­fore, its mem­bers try to avoid any po­lit­i­cal clashes. Es­pe­cially that the Al­liance runs on the prin­ci­ple of con­sen­sus. Of course, it is ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to come to a con­sen­sus be­tween 29 mem­ber-states — far more dif­fi­cult than in the early days of the bloc.

The changes in Turkey are draw­ing the at­ten­tion of Ger­many and the Nether­lands. But NATO has so far man­aged to avoid con­fronta­tion be­tween Greece and Turkey, old and new mem­ber-states, and it has to seek com­pro­mise. When it comes to the heavy de­fense part, the mil­i­tary of the mem­ber-states have a com­plete con­sen­sus, I be­lieve. They don’t just man­age to co-ex­ist at the NATO or mil­i­tary head­quar­ters. They plan oper­a­tions to­gether and sup­port each other. Over­all, they stay away from delv­ing into pol­i­tics too deeply.

Bos­nia and Mace­do­nia have MAPs. When do we ex­pect them to join NATO? Where could it ex­pand next?

— Mace­do­nia is can­di­date No1 to join NATO. It has had its MAP for a while now, some of the long­est times. It is in­deed close to mem­ber­ship. The only stum­bling block is its name which it is forced to solve with Greece. The con­sen­sus prin­ci­ple is hold­ing it back. Our Ge­or­gian part­ners have made sig­nif­i­cant progress. By con­trast to Ukraine, they have not been wast­ing time but pre­par­ing thor­oughly and con­duct­ing re­forms. I will not be sur­prised if they get some kind of pro­mo­tion in sta­tus or a MAP de­spite the un­re­solved con­flict and oc­cu­pied part of their ter­ri­tory. The lat­ter is a leg­end, a set of myths whose ori­gin no­body can re­ally ex­plain.

We were of­ten crit­i­cized be­fore for Ukraine’s neu­tral sta­tus recorded in the Con­sti­tu­tion. That didn’t ex­ist. Still, many politi­cians were se­ri­ously talk­ing about it. It’s the same thing with the [oc­cu­pied] ter­ri­tory. There are var­i­ous ap­proaches de­bated by schol­ars on whether Art. 5 can ap­ply to the ter­ri­tory which the state does not con­trol. This should be left up to the ex­perts. It has noth­ing to with MAP. I like this phrase I hear when I ask whether things re­ally are so dif­fi­cult and whether we re­ally need to ful­fill MAP? In the past, these things were done through po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sions, with no com­pli­cated plans or pro­grams (Turkey and Greece were ac­cepted de­spite the un­re­solved con­flict). What I hear in re­sponse is that it’s a “mov­ing tar­get” in NATO’s ter­mi­nol­ogy.

This means that we plan to join the bloc to­day, while it will be a dif­fer­ent or­ga­ni­za­tion ten years later with dif­fer­ent de­mands and ex­pec­ta­tions. By the time we get closer to it, the or­ga­ni­za­tion will change more. There­fore, we must change per­ma­nently and re­form our­selves so that we at least keep up with the mov­ing tar­get. But we are not do­ing it for NATO. If our sol­diers looked like NATO troops from day one, had the same dis­ci­pline and could fight like NATO troops do, the war would be dif­fer­ent, I’m sure. No­body would have de­cided to let their forces out in the streets just like that, with Rus­sian in­signia or not. If the [Ukrainian] army had ful­filled or­ders and shot when nec­es­sary, the re­sult would have been dif­fer­ent.

There is an ac­tive de­bate on civil­ian con­trol over the army, es­pe­cially in the con­text of the De-Oc­cu­pa­tion Law which ex­pands the pow­ers of the mil­i­tary. One of the changes is a civil­ian min­is­ter of de­fense. This is of­ten re­ferred to as NATO’s re­quire­ment. Does the Al­liance re­ally in­sist on Ukraine hav­ing a civil­ian as de­fense min­is­ter? What are NATO’s rec­om­men­da­tions on this?

— Civil­ian con­trol over the armed forces and se­cu­rity sec­tor is one of the key is­sues of in­ter­est for NATO. Ev­ery na­tion de­cides on ways to ac­com­plish this. There is no uni­ver­sal recipe, but there is an un­der­stand­ing that the Armed Forces should be ac­count­able to the peo­ple, in­clud­ing through par­lia­ment.

There­fore, it is rea­son­able to ex­pect that Ukraine’s De­fense Min­istry will be headed by a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the rul­ing po­lit­i­cal force. This is about open­ness and ac­count­abil­ity, in­clud­ing fi­nan­cial ac­count­abil­ity. In a nut­shell, all recipes for a more open and ac­count­able gov­ern­ment can be fully ap­plied to the Armed Forces and the De­fense Min­istry.


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