NATO recognizes Ukraine’s progress in defense reforms and fighting corruption, but needs to do more, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg claimed during a joint briefing with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kyiv on July 10.
“These reforms are essential to ensure security and prosperity for all Ukrainians and to bring Ukraine closer to NATO,” Stoltenberg said, adding that the alliance would continue supporting Ukraine on this path.
The alliance’s leader spoke after a Ukraine-NATO Commission meeting as a part of his visit to Kyiv on July 9-10 to celebrate the 20th anniversary since the signing of the Charter Agreement for a Distinctive Partnership. The secretary general was joined by all delegates to the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s policymaking body.
On July 10, Stoltenberg also met Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman and delivered a speech at the Verkhovna Rada, the first NATO chief to stand in front of the Ukrainian parliament.
The last North Atlantic Council meeting to take place in Kyiv happened in 2008, so Poroshenko called this year’s even a “crucial and very well-timed visit.”
The alliance stands firm in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and will never “recognize Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea,” Stoltenberg asserted. NATO will continue backing Ukraine against Russian-led proxy forces in the Donbas, a war that has already claimed at least 10,000 lives.
“It is clear that the ceasefire is not holding and we are concerned by increasing threats against OSCE monitors,” Stoltenberg said. “The Minsk agreements remain the only path towards peace. Russia must withdraw its thousands of soldiers from Ukraine and stop supporting the militants, with command and control, and military equipment.”
The ongoing Russian aggression has forced NATO members to improve their defensive capabilities, Poroshenko said.
“I can even suggest that NATO has woken up and opened the “second breath,” he said. “The allies became convinced of the need to combine all their efforts for mutual defense and the importance of increasing defense expenditures and expanding their presence in the world.”
Aid amid war
In support of Ukraine’s reforms and defenses, NATO provides both political and practical aid to help bring the nation’s defenses closer to NATO standards.
NATO has some 50 employees working in Ukraine, but the alliance does not supply any lethal weapons to Ukraine.
“Today, we reviewed our comprehensive assistance package for Ukraine,” he noted. “Through 10 different trust funds, NATO allies have pledged almost 40 million euros to support Ukraine in areas such as command and control, cyber defense and medical rehabilitation.”
The alliance works to provide Ukraine with satellite communications equipment, in addition to the NATO-led military training to the country’s armed forces personnel and advice in security and defense reforms.
In recent days, NATO has delivered an advanced cyber defense equipment for Ukraine’s key government institutions to detect cyber security incidents and to protect themselves, a step made after a massive cyberattack on Ukraine’s government agencies and businesses on June 27. On that day, 40 minutes after the last attack, the Ukrainian and NATO experts started coordinating their steps to minimize the effect, Poroshenko said.
Also, Ukraine’s president suggested that the alliance create a new trust fund to boost establishing a nationwide network of institutions for psychological rehabilitation of Ukraine’s war veterans and their families.
A long way to go
Ukraine has confirmed its desire for Euro-Atlantic integration, Poroshenko stated, adding that on July 6 he had eventually signed a corresponding bill to make eventual NATO membership one of its long-term strategic foreign policy goals.
“We are determined to conduct reforms, have a clear schedule of what must be done by 2020 to meet the NATO membership criteria. Today, Ukraine does not meet these criteria, as nothing has been made over the past 20 years. Moreover, on the contrary, laws were passed that pushed us away from NATO,” the president noted.
Nevertheless, Ukraine has started the discussion on the introduction of the NATO Membership Action Plan, he asserted. Despite optimistic forecasts by Poroshenko, Stoltenberg later said Ukraine still had a long way to go, primarily in fighting corruption.
“If Ukraine is to truly fulfill its potential, there is much it must do,” he stated in his address to the country’s parliament. “It must strengthen its institutions, and it must rid itself of the cancer of corruption. Corruption, inertia and resistance to reforms stand in the way of real change and of a secure, prosperous future for the Ukrainian people.”
Earlier, Stoltenberg also met with Ukrainian war veterans who had benefited from NATO medical rehabilitation trust fund and who would represent Ukraine at the Invictus Games, a competition of disabled military servicemen which is due to be held by the alliance and its partner states in September in Toronto.
The visit also resulted in the ceremonial opening of a new NATO representation office in Kyiv.
“None of the North Atlantic Alliance partner nations has a similar full-scale diplomatic mission,” Ukraine’s Deputy Prime minister on European Integration Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze commented on her Facebook page. “It also bears a profound symbolic meaning. On these days we actually open a new page in affairs with NATO.”