On the day of arrival of the American President in Moscow, Yevgeny Marchuk, Secretary of Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council, announced during the meeting of the Council in Kiev that Ukraine began the process aimed at entrance of the country into NATO. The Council discussed the relevant draft document and approved it in general on May 23.

Besides Marchuk, Foreign Minister Anatoly Zlenko and Defense Minister Vladimir Shkidchenko also spoke during the meeting. Thus, all Ukrainian agencies responsible for foreign policy of Kiev voiced their standpoint. Henceforth final improvement and approval of the draft strategy for entrance of Ukraine into NATO is up to the Ukrainian President. According to Marchuk, Kiev will inform NATO about the document officially on July 9, when the General Secretary of the alliance George Robertson arrives in Ukraine. Together with ambassadors of NATO member states he will take part in celebration of the fifth anniversary of signing of the charter on special partnership between Ukraine and NATO.

It would seem that such actions and statements look unexpected and sensational. However, observers acquainted with the nature of foreign political activities of Ukraine and NATO of the last few years have expected such a turn of events. For example, well-known American political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski announced the steps of Kiev aimed at entrance into NATO a week ago. Brzezinski analyzed actions of the Ukrainian authorities against the background of Russia’s interests.

According to him, Ukraine will be in NATO because it wants this. Russia will choose a special status that soothes its ambitions. Brzezinski emphasizes that the difficulty of entrance into NATO is associated with the requirement of the alliance to receive access to the budget of the country and to its military secrets, leaving apart the political situation.

Of course Moscow, unlike Kiev, is not ready to sacrifice its sovereignty. Although it was probably the actions of Russia that pushed Ukraine towards NATO. A military mission of NATO opened in Moscow on May 27, and by May 28 leaders of NATO member states and Russia, together with the General Secretary of the alliance, signed a document in Rome according to which they will work as equal partners with regard to some humanitarian, military, political and peacekeeping issues.

Of course, this partnership is not enough for Ukraine. Marchuk says that “further maintenance of the status as a nation not belonging to any bloc has no prospects for Ukraine.” Speaking to journalists on May 23 the Secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council repeated the official statement of Ukraine that Kiev was not against the eastward expansion of NATO. According to Marchuk, the new role of NATO in struggle against challenges to international security and its expansion beyond the borders of its traditional zone of responsibility practically make the North Atlantic treaty “the basic structure of a common European security system.” Speaking about priority steps for implementation of the council’s resolution, Marchuk emphasized the need to intensify the process of reforming of Ukrainian military for NATO standards.

Marchuk notes that probably during the summit of NATO in Prague, to which the Ukrainian President is invited, Ukraine will present “coordinated proposals” aimed at development of cooperation with NATO.

Answering the question about the time for entrance into the alliance he says, “The time depends on Ukraine, how successfully we move on the path of European integration.” The statement of intention to join NATO alone “is not serious, and will make people laugh,” and support of this intention by the society and coordinated actions of all branches of power are needed, stresses Marchuk.

Is Ukraine welcomed into NATO? So far leaders of the alliance did not speak about this. At any rate, it is possible to say that unlike in relations with Russia, NATO provided rather substantial military aid and trust to Ukraine, filling bilateral relations with specific content. Thus, during the meeting of the Ukraine-NATO commission on May 15 in Reykjavik, NATO expressed appreciation of active participation of Ukrainian military transport aviation in deployment of NATO forces in Afghanistan and provision of air corridor to airplanes of the alliance participating in the antiterrorist campaign by Ukraine (according to Ukrainian Defense Ministry, between October 9, 2001, and May 20, 2002, 1,996 airplanes of American and German Armed forces crossed Ukrainian airspace).

The alliance has fully financed and keeps financing operations of Ukrainian peacekeepers in KFOR under the NATO aegis in Kosovo. NATO also supports and finances numerous military exercises with participation of Ukrainian Armed Forces. On May 26, such exercises with participation of Ukrainian soldiers in the framework of the international peacekeeping battalion UkrPolbat, being prepared for sending to Kosovo, were finished in Poland. A day before, large-scale exercises of French Armed Forces, which lasted for more than a week, ended on the Shiroky Lan training range near Nikolaev, the largest in Europe. One thousand two hundred servicemen of the second tank brigade of the French ground forces including units of Leclerc heavy tanks, combat infantry vehicles, armored vehicles, 155-mm howitzers took part in the exercises. The overall cost of the exercises amounted to $4 million. A part of this money was transferred to the budget of Ukrainian Defense Ministry.

Traditional American-Ukrainian exercises Sea breeze-2002 will begin on June 3 in the Mediterranean Sea under the Partnership for Peace program. The goal of the exercises, which are financed, as usual, by the US, is to train multinational peacekeeping forces in a maritime peacekeeping operation. During the exercises, Ukrainian Navy will be represented by Konstantin Olshansky big landing ship, Slavutich command ship, Kremenets rescue tug, a platoon of marines, a rescue team and diver team, as well as 45 students of the Sevastopol naval institute of Nakhimov.

In the last week alone, delegations of defense ministries of Spain, Norway and Azerbaijan visited Ukraine and discussed issues of bilateral cooperation under the NATO Partnership for Peace program and GUUAM.