Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
On February 8th 1994, 25 years ago, Ukraine joined the “Partnership for Peace” (PFP) NATO program.
It happened practically immediately after the establishment of the program in January, 1994. It is characteristic that also then, in 1994, a similar plan of interaction between the EU and the post-socialist space was put forward by the French Prime Minister Edouard Balladur of that time. This was the first project that received the informal name “Balladur plan”. In 2007 he also voiced the idea of unification into one structure of the US and the EU, which also received the name “Balladur plan” in daily use. But unlike the project of 1994, nobody ever tried to realise the idea of 2007.
In 1994, within the framework of the “Balladur plan” numerous events (round tables) were held, and in their course a number of Eastern European countries was defined, which in the future, during the waves of expansion in 2004 and 2007, became a part of the EU. 10 years were spent for their preliminary adaptation to European structures. However, even now, 10-15 years after their accession, it is difficult to call these countries fully-fledged members of the EU. The stability of their budgets and financial systems directly depends not only on the financial aid of the EU as such, but also on the preservation of its volumes. Without permanent annual multi-billion injections from the EU, these states as economic systems are unviable.
The “Partnership for Peace” program was some kind of NATO analog of the “Balladur plan”. Removing the concerns of those post-socialist states that will never become NATO members, as well as the preparation for NATO membership of those who it was decided to accept, were its main tasks. At the same time, like in the case with accession to the EU, the achievement of the criteria that grants the right to become a NATO member was decided randomly, and the opinion of Washington played a decisive role in it.
Thus, for example, Romania – which was considerably inferior to Ukraine until 2014 in terms of economic and in military-political weight, in terms of the question of the development of democracy, and even in terms of the amount of corruption – nevertheless became a NATO member in 2004 and an EU member in 2007. In 2009 Albania – in the boondocks of Europe – was accepted into NATO (now it one of the first in the queue for EU membership). Washington tried only once, in 2008, at the Bucharest NATO summit, to push forward the Membership Plan of Action for Ukraine and Georgia (which would make them official candidates for membership in NATO), but this American initiative was blocked by France and Germany, who didn’t want to spoil relations with Russia. But the question of the reception of Kiev in the EU was in general never on the agenda.
At the same time, it must be kept in mind that the Ukrainian authorities did everything that depended on them to achieve at least the status of a candidate for NATO membership. In 2002 the NATO-Ukraine Action Plan – the highest form of cooperation within the framework of the “Partnership for Peace” (PFP) – was adopted. In April 2004 the Verkhovna Rada adopted the law on free access to the territory of Ukraine for NATO forces, and in June 2004 president Kuchma approved the military doctrine that determined the entry of Ukraine in NATO as the ultimate goal.
This, by the way, will be useful to grasp for those who consider that the danger of NATO bases appearing in Ukraine arose only in 2014 and only because Russia didn’t send tanks to fight against Banderists. By the way, the introduction at the initiative of Poroshenko of the amendments to the Constitution canceling the non-bloc status of Ukraine and determining NATO accession as the ultimate goal is also secondary. 15 years prior Kuchma, quietly, without excess noise and without paying attention to the Constitution, solved the same problem with his decree (which approved the military doctrine). In general, by the middle of 2004, half a year before Maidan, and seven months prior to Yushchenko coming to power, Ukraine was quite ready for NATO accession. Since then Kiev has been in the starting blocks during all this time, but it isn’t invited anywhere.
PFP for NATO played the same role that the “Balladur plan”, and then the “Eastern Partnership”, played for the EU. In fact, they were complementary programs. In 1994 the West still hadn’t made a final decision on what to do with the post-socialist space. Meanwhile, the former countries of socialist camp and the former federal republics were actively rushing into western structures, thinking that joining them would give them the opportunity to solve both their social-economic and military-political problems.
Originally the PFP program was supposed to bring down the heat of Eastern European emotions, busying the countries that were rushing into NATO with mastering a certain mechanism that allowed to “prepare” them over decades for “compliance to criteria” of membership. The criteria are extremely indistinct. PFP members are required to observe the UN charter and international law, to refuse to threaten with the use of force, to meet democratic standards of the West, to carry out military reforms, and to provide civil control over the armed forces. In general, “for everything good and against everything bad”. At the same time, the worthiest one – i.e., the US – had to decide who is most worthy for membership.
Another important point was that within the framework of PFP a country cooperated with NATO on an individual basis. Thus, the West prevented the creation of lobbyist groups, such as the Visegrád Four, which already existed back then (and which was originally considered by the countries that created it as a mechanism for joint accession to the EU and NATO).
In general, thanks to PFP the West received time to decide on a strategy concerning the countries of the former socialist camp. At the same time, their wishes weren’t rejected straight off. Moreover, a mechanism was created, and with its help it was possible to accept any country into NATO at any time and to reject any country under a specious excuse. This same thing also concerns the mechanisms that were created in order to regulate the process of the EU’s expansion.
Within the framework of PFP obligations were taken only by partner countries, while NATO agreed only to the emergency carrying out of consultations if a partner country feels that its territorial integrity is under threat. It is necessary to say that these consultations haven’t helped anybody to date; they created the mechanism of NATO (and de facto the US) interference in any inter-state conflict whereby at least one partner country is involved.
Today’s attempts to actualise the topic of accession to NATO undertaken by Kiev (in particular, the introduction of the corresponding amendments to the Constitution), which have a pronounced propaganda character and have no practical value, are indeed caused by the understanding of that fact that within the framework of PFP Ukraine is perhaps indeed a partner of NATO, but NATO isn’t a partner of Ukraine. Kiev can’t speak with Brussels as equals, it also can’t leave the PFP program, since it would be regarded as the largest foreign policy failure of the current authorities. At the same time, within the framework of PFP Ukraine can only follow the instructions of NATO (in reality, the US) while receiving nothing in exchange.
In general, PFP, which was originally presented as a mechanism for the adaptation of potential candidates to NATO requirements, quickly turned into a trap that keeps those countries that the bloc doesn’t intend to bring into its structure in the orbit of NATO in the quality of “junior partners”.
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