Ukraine’s strategic goal is to join NATO and European structures. This conclusion is promoted by statements made by some politicians. As is known, Leonid Kuchma’s decree dated July 15 made amendments to the provisions of the Ukrainian Military Doctrine. In particular, the decree removed records of Ukraine’s preparations for joining NATO and the European Union. After the decree was announced on the eve of Kuchma’s meeting with Putin in Yalta some Ukrainian and Russian observers concluded that Kiev gave up its plans to integrate into Europe, and directed the vector of its economic, political and military cooperation to Moscow.
It should be noted that Kuchma and his environment need Russia’s support in the impending presidential election in autumn.
In the meantime, latest statements made by Prime Minister Victor Yanukovich (a candidate for Ukrainian president) and Defense Minister Yevgeny Marchuk show that Ukraine’s objectives in international politics are somewhat different. Yanukovich stated during celebrations of the 12th anniversary of the Ukrainian Navy that “reforms in the Armed Forces are linked with the prospects of joining NATO”. Commenting on the provisions of the Strategic defense bulletin in the Narodnaya Armiya newspaper, which was passed in June 2004, Ukrainian Defense Minister Yevgeny Marchuk stated that “the doctrine is a tactical element. It may change tomorrow.” The minister explained why such decision was made. As is known, President Kuchma “did not manage to reach a new level of dialogue with NATO” during the NATO summit in Istanbul in June. This is why Ukraine decided not to determine the concrete timing of joining the alliance. At the same time, the objective remained. The defense minister noted: “Cooperation with NATO does not stop for a minute.”
In other words, Kiev’s intention to join NATO remains its strategic task.
In the meantime, society and the parliament are dissatisfied with Ukraine’s military presence in the Middle East. Victor Yanukovich recently stated that Ukraine must withdraw part of its military contingent from Iraq. Sergei Tigipko, head of Yanukovich’s election staff, stated that “we listen to the people’s opinion and take in consideration its negative attitude to the Iraq war and Ukrainian servicemen’s participation in peacekeeping missions”. He noted that Yanukovich’s approach to cutting the strength of the Ukrainian contingent in Iraq will not change regardless of a decision of the National Defense and Security Council, which will hold a meeting regarding this issue in the near future.
No one knows if the National Defense and Security Council will support the prime minister. It is hardly likely that Ukraine will leave Iraq within the next six months. In the meantime, the US monitors preparations for the presidential election in Ukraine. Washington states that the election must be democratic and legitimate. In this regard, a report circulated by Radio Liberty looks very interesting. Referring to a member of the US government, the radio station stated that “the US will not support Ukraine’s requests to join NATO if Kiev fails to organize a fair and free presidential election”. The US official reminded about a range of violations of the law and unequal conditions of the Ukrainian opposition. In addition, he warned that “a range of well-known politicians will arrive in Ukraine on the eve of the election”. The US official stated that “the Ukrainian leadership is mistaken if it thinks that the US will relax pressure on Ukraine because of Ukrainian troops’ participation in the operation in Iraq”.
In other words, Ukraine’s loyalty to the US and NATO will not become a ticket to the alliance. The West and Washington probably consider Ukraine as a rival in geopolitical games in the CIS and the world. Kiev has achieved a substantial success in the arms business. It supplied up-to-date tanks to Pakistan and renders military aid to Turkmenistan, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Libya. Ukraine is a serious rival to Russia and other players of the arms business. Integration with Moscow would give Kiev access to relatively low prices for energy resources and other strategic goods. Kiev’s loyalty to ATO will help it create a counterbalance to Moscow if it decides to hinder Ukraine’s efforts aimed at realizing its national interests. In the meantime, Moscow and the West understand that Kiev is sitting on two chairs, and will finally have to make choice. A decrease of export prices for oil gives Moscow a chance to integrate with Ukraine. However, this intention has many obstacles. Everything depends on how far the West and the US are prepared to go in order to hinder integration processes between Moscow and Kiev.