Western Ukraine’s efforts…between political aspirations, security motives, opposition members and Russia’s refusal
Kiev- Ukraine with NATO has a friendly story that began early after independence from the collapsed Soviet Union in 1991, with its accession to the Atlantic Cooperation Council in 1992 and topping the list of signatories in the Commonwealth of Independent States to a framework agreement with the alliance entitled “Partnership for Peace”.
Subsequently, the two sides witnessed other cooperation agreements, but the first turning point in relations was in 2005, after the success of the “Orange Revolution” in bringing loyalists to the West to power for the first time since independence and after decades of previous decades in the camp of the Soviet East.
The helm of governance in Ukraine turned towards the Western track, and its dream of European Union membership emerged, and cooperation with NATO acquired the form of “urgent dialogue” as a first step towards its accession to the organization. In early 2008, the alliance received an official letter in this regard signed by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, but it was rejected. by Germany and France.
Here, Moscow’s refusal and anger became clear to the public, and so the situation continued until 2010, when the pro-Russians once again came to power and returned foreign policy to a state of “non-alignment”, while maintaining the membership endeavors in the European Union in a fictitious form that satisfies the masses.
2014 events and beyond
But the momentum of talk about membership returned strongly after the 2014 events in Ukraine, before Parliament abolished the state of non-alignment in December of the same year, and adopted constitutional amendments in 2017 that identified the membership of the Union and NATO as one of the priorities of Ukrainian foreign policy, and entered into force in 2019.
The occupation of Crimea by Russia and its fueling of the separatist movement in eastern Ukraine played a role in raising popular support for this trend, reaching more than 70%, and not less than 55%, according to various opinion polls.
In June 2020, the NATO Council granted Ukraine the status of an “opportunity-enhancing partner”, which is considered a quantum leap and a shift in the alliance’s dealings with this country, after being careful and careful was an essential feature of it.
Tensions return after the “longest truce”
And quickly, in July 2020, tension returned to the eastern regions controlled by pro-Russians, and Kiev accused Moscow of fueling the conflict after nearly a year of a truce that was considered “the longest-lived” and “the most resilient”.
The tension continued until last March, when Russia mobilized about 100,000 of its forces on the border with Ukraine, in conjunction with joint exercises and maneuvers with NATO on its territory and in the Black Sea.
Ukraine, NATO and the “Potential Invasion”
During the past weeks, there was renewed talk of Ukraine’s membership in NATO, in light of unprecedented Russian military buildup on its borders from 3 sides, and with the possibility of a massive invasion of its lands that might spark a third world war.
This is the latest, largest and most dangerous escalation in 8 years, during which an explicit Russian condition for calm and the return of troops to the barracks emerged: Ukraine should not be a member of the alliance.
Although Russia is firmly committed to Ukraine’s neutrality, this is not the only reason hindering the latter’s accession to the European Union, and NATO in particular. The countries of the Union and the Alliance are divided among themselves into 3 categories: supportive, supportive with conditions, and opposition.
The Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), Poland, Slovakia and Romania are among the countries that strongly support Ukraine’s membership in the European Union and NATO, and Turkey supports this membership as well.
Germany, France and the United States stand out from the supporters with conditions, and the talk here is about reforms and the application of necessary criteria for this membership.
Hungary is one of the countries most opposed to Ukraine’s membership in the European Union and NATO, due to the tension in Budapest’s relations with Kiev, over issues related to language, education and freedoms, and others related to the Hungarian minority in the Zakarpattia region (western Ukraine).
Ukraine .. Which road map?
And if, years ago, Ukraine was pursuing reforms, applying standards and satisfying the parties with membership, its tone has become more severe, especially in light of the recent escalation with Russia.
Today, Ukraine is demanding a clear road map for the next year 2022, and a reasonable time limit for membership, and its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, rejects the idea that membership of the Union should be within 30 years, and NATO membership within 50 years, on the grounds that this is a “disturbing Western reservation.”
where is the problem?
All of the above raises questions about the reasons and factors that push countries to support Ukraine on the path of Western integration, and others to oppose it, and anger Russia to the point of preparing for war.
Oleksiy Haran, director of the “School of Democratic Initiatives” in Kiev, says that the decision of Ukraine’s membership in the European Union is political par excellence, and has nothing to do with the conditions for reforms and the application of standards. The situation in Ukraine today is better than it was in some countries when it joined the Union and NATO.
Haran explains to Al Jazeera Net that “many Western countries view Ukraine as a country mired in war and crises, and for this reason they do not want to be for them a lifeline that they pay dearly for from their budget, while other countries take into account that supporting Ukraine will harm its major and most important relations with Russia.” It may lead to a war with her.
Haran considers that Ukraine’s need for the West was greater than the latter’s need years ago, but the situation has changed significantly over the past months and in reverse, and “this is what we see through the statements of Western officials.”
Therefore, Haran believes that the supporting countries are those that fear the expansion of Russia’s influence regionally and internationally, such as the neighboring countries and the United States, which consider Ukraine the first line of defense in the face of Russia’s expansionist ambitions, and that the issue of membership depends on the other countries’ realization of the need for Ukraine to be on its side, and this is a matter of time , according to him.
West and Russia
This talk leads to the issue of “red lines” that Moscow sets and warns against crossing them from time to time with regard to NATO expansion by including Ukraine.
A few days ago, the opposition website “Strana” (the country) published the text of the Ukrainian independence document, noting that it forbids the country’s abandonment of the character of “non-alignment” and entering into military alliances, as the document states the following: “The Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic officially declares its intention to In the future, it will become a permanently neutral country that does not participate in military blocs.”
On this, the editor-in-chief of the site Ihor Hogva comments by saying that the independence document is essential on which all important decisions in Ukraine as an independent state are based, and its content contradicts the desire of the current authorities to join NATO, and may hinder all the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of the country.
Hogva tells Al Jazeera Net that the legal aspect may be absent from the authorities’ attention, but it is certain that Russia will not allow NATO to obtain Ukraine and approach it to its borders, then – according to Hogva – the Russian-Western war will be inevitable, not just a possible issue, and this is taken into serious consideration in talking about alliance.