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18 October, 2013 19:19   ▪  

Expert: Ukraine’s non-bloc status should be supported by the development of regional defense cooperation with NATO and EU countries

Ukraine’s status as a non-bloc country cannot strengthen its sovereignty with security guarantees offered by any military alliance. Poland could play a key role in shaping the new Ukrainian defense architecture by advocating for the Central and Eastern European Defence Cooperation (CEEDEFCO) initiative, expert of the Polish Foreign Affairs Institute (PISM) Wojciech Lorenz says.

Although Ukraine’s authorities have introduced a bill committing their country to non-bloc policy, they have significantly strengthened cooperation with NATO during the last three years. In September, the Ukrainian frigate Hetman Sahaidachny joined NATO’s anti-piracy Ocean Shield operation off the coast of Somalia, Ukraine not only decided to increase its contribution to the KFOR mission in Kosovo and ISAF operation in Afghanistan but also outpaced many NATO member states offering troops to train the Afghan army after 2014.

In November, Ukrainian troops will participate in NATO’s Steadfast Jazz 2013 military exercises—the first live-fire NRF drills in Central and Eastern Europe. At the same time, Ukraine is developing defence cooperation with the EU. Ukrainian troops support the EU Battlegroup (HELBROC) formed by the Balkan countries, while the ship participating in the NATO anti-piracy operation will upon its completion switch to the EU Atalanta naval mission.

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“By strengthening its cooperation with the West, Ukraine will gradually build additional leverage to neutralise pressure from Russia. However, to run an active, sovereign defence policy as a non-bloc country that does not turn it into a de facto Russian satellite, Ukraine will have to create a credible defence architecture. This could be based on the experience of Finland, which also has not applied to join NATO due to the lack of public support and possible Russian reactions. Still, Finland maintains the option as an insurance policy and as leverage, which helps it fend off Russian pressure. At the same time, Finland’s defence is strengthened through the EU and its Common Security and Defence Policy with the solidarity clause in the Lisbon Treaty, formal regional cooperation amongst the Nordic states (NORDEFCO), and constant updates of its territorial defence capabilities,” Lorenz says.

He also thinks that increased cooperation with NATO could provide Ukraine with a similar insurance policy and additional leverage. In the medium term, Ukraine could achieve additional room to manoeuvre in its relations with Russia by increasing integration with the EU and CSDP. In the short term, Ukraine’s non-bloc status should be supported by the development of CEEDEFCO, the regional defence cooperation grouping, which should include the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the Visegrad Group (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia), as well as Bulgaria and Romania.

To form such defence architecture in the future, the EU and Ukraine should sign the Association Agreement at the Vilnius summit in November. Poland, which maintains the broadest spectrum of capabilities among the regional EU and NATO countries, should play the role of a country coordinating cooperation in the CEEDEFCO format.

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