Dirk Brengelmann, Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy at NATO, talks about the Alliance’s strategic interest in Ukraine and the priority of Ukraine’s European integration
This October, NATO and Ukraine will evaluate Kyiv’s progress in implementing the Annual National Program, the key tool in their cooperation. This multilateral Program is ambitious and includes a range of reforms Ukraine needs to implement to preserve its legitimacy as a NATO special partner and to add specific context to its current non-aligned status. This means presenting a clear security policy, modernizing its armed forces to make them more professional, and so on. But this ocean of challenges, changes and difficulties is so turbulent it can sink a country that lives day-to-day. The Ukrainian Week spoke with Mr. Brengelmann during his recent visit to Kyiv.
STRATEGIES AND CONSTRUCTIONS
U.W.: Today Ukraine and NATO use the term “constructive partnership” instead of “strategic partnership” to describe the level of cooperation and interaction in official communication. Why do you choose to say “constructive” instead of “strategic”?
Honestly, I don't think I would put too much emphasis on the choice of words. In reality, the relationship is both strategic and constructive at the same time. Having been involved in NATO-Ukraine cooperation for a long time, I can say that what is important is that we are still doing so many things together. It is important to me to see that the level of political dialogue and practical cooperation between NATO and Ukraine has not changed. So, if I could come at it from a more technical side, let me also add the agreement that we still have dates from 1997 and it mentions a distinctive partnership. So, as I said, it is both strategic and constructive. When I say strategic, I mean partly in terms of interests and in terms of your geopolitical and geostrategic situation. You are an important country in an important area. I think the level of interest is also of strategic measure. I would also say that we have a strategic interest and good relations with Russia. And let me add to that as far as we are concerned, Ukraine's having good relations with us and also aspiring to have good relations with Russia is not a contradiction. So, we are not against you trying to have good relations with Russia. That's not our point when we say we have strategic or constructive partnership.
U.W.: How do you see today the role of Russia in the European security system?
We see Russia as an important player in European security. There is no doubt about that. You know we have many ways of organizing security in Europe. We have the OSCE, we have cooperation between NATO and Russia and we have the NATO-Russia Council. We have two strategic documents with the Russians: one is the Founding Act of 1997, and then in 2002 we took another step forward when we created the NATO-Russia Council. As you know, we are now trying very hard to come to a point where we actually want to discuss with the Russians how we can cooperate on the important project of missile defence. We are trying and doing much to increase cooperation with them. Then we have an additional layer, and I think that is the more important one for Ukraine right now. That is the European Union. Ukraine has the goal of European integration and you also have said that regardless of your policy of non-block status, you want to continue to have good cooperation with NATO. Again, this is your decision and we fully support it. We will do all we can from our side to make it happen and there are various instruments for accomplishing that. The most important one as you mentioned is MAP. There are other vehicles. We have a distinctive partnership, we have the NATO-Ukraine Commission and we have the Annual National Program that is the most important technical vehicle for our cooperation.
U.W.: What about the prospective role of Ukraine in the European missile defence?
This is a project which will take a very long time both in NATO and at the same time in our discussions with Russia. But in Lisbon at our last Summit we said that we are ready to discuss that issue with other partners. We have done so already with Ukraine and we are ready to continue to do that.
U.W.: One-sixth of the measures in the annual target plan for Ukraine and NATO were joint measures that meant that the Alliance could supervise how they were carried out. When it comes to MAP, NATO has specific instruments to help and assess the Plan. What about the Annual National Program? How many measures, projects and so on are under NATO supervision and/or joint projects by their nature?
This is actually very different from what we call the Target Plan. I think the quality of what we define as the Annual National Program is higher. But the point is that indeed there were joint activities in the Target Plan. Some of them were of a factual character such as joint seminars. What happens in carrying out the ANP? Your side will develop reform programs, and set goals and then we can give advice and support in trying to achieve them and to make progress and we do that by giving advice in the early stages of drafting the ANP. Then we have a process at the end when we conduct a joint assessment. But it is more driven by your side. You set the goals, you determine the reform projects and we simply give some advice. In terms of its nature, the ANP is very different from the Target Plan. It is done in a particular framework which is the NATO-Ukraine framework because we have our own set of arrangements with Ukraine, we have our own Commission and so on. Ukraine is one of three countries with whom we have a special set of arrangements. The others are Russia and Georgia. These countries with MAP fall under another common umbrella.
U.W.: Does NATO have tools to control directly how the country fulfils the ANP?
I quite honestly would hate to use the phrase “to control directly”. What we do, as I said before, is to consult together, to advise and then we can make a joint assessment. This is not a relationship of one side trying to control the other. When your government said now it wants to follow a new policy, its non-block status policy, that was your sovereign decision. At the same time they said, "We want to continue good cooperation and a high level of political dialogue". I can only say that we will take you at your word. Let me give you just one example. As far as I recall, Ukraine is the only country that, with the one exception of the operation in Libya, has been active in all NATO operations, the only partner that has done this. So, it's not about control, it's about dialogue. Control is not the right word.
U.W.: There are two interesting points in the Annual National Program for Ukraine: it sets the goal of creating “mechanism of consultations” with NATO members in case of a threat to Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity and it says that Ukraine can resort to the military support of other countries and international organizations. What does this mean in practice? Are these just general statements or is it a question of principle to have them in this document signed with Ukraine?
Let me start with the basics, Ukraine is also a PFP country, a country participating in the Partnership for Peace. In this Partnership, we have the famous paragraph 8 in which we say we are open to consultations with our partners when there is a common security interest. We have said very much the same in our Strategic Concept. So, it is another basis for cooperating. We have now worked for many, many years in the NATO-Ukraine Commission. We discuss issues which are in your national security interests there. As I have indicated, I had some very active involvement in 2003. And since I have taken up my new functions, we are also doing a lot in terms of consulting on security policies.
U.W.: Is there any special kind of security cooperation between NATO and Ukraine in relation to the 2012 Football Championship? What must Ukraine do to meet the security standards of that event?
This issue came up some time ago actually, during Secretary General Rasmussen's visit for discussions with the Ukrainian government. So, there was a discussion, and detailed work will begin this month. We will have an advisory support team arriving here. As far as I know, they will deal with various ministries here on issues including health care, emergencies and so on. So, in a few weeks we may have a better basis for understanding what it is you want and what it is we can do. I understand it is a pretty detailed discussion, it is not just one ministry. It will cover several different areas.
ARMY, BALANCE AND POTENTIAL
U.W.: Did the Ukrainian authorities talk with NATO today about specific deadlines for the full professionalization of the Ukrainian army?
Let me first say there have been differences within NATO on that issue. We still have countries that are only beginning to develop professional armies, like my own home country Germany that have only just now decided to have a professional army; so far, we have had an army of conscripts. So, there have been different models within the Alliance. As far as I can see the situation here in Ukraine, I don't think a decision on a professional army is coming soon; my impression is that it will take some time. We can help in doing that because many of our member states have a lot of experience in dealing with such changes. In the beginning, I think a country needs to establish a certain set of doctrines. And I know that a lot of work is being done on this right now. But only after you have established a certain set of security policies and military doctrines, can you take the next step — to decide what exactly should be the form and size of the professional armed forces. You are now in the first stage of developing a set of strategic papers.
U.W.: The Annual National Program says that Ukraine and Russia have reached a balance of interests on the Black Sea extension. By NATO's assessment, is there a balance of interests in the decision to prolong the Russia's Black Sea fleet stay in Sevastopol by 25 years?
This was an agreement between two sovereign states, so it is not for us to say what we think about this agreement the Ukrainian government reached with the Russian government. And in this sense I would not want to go into any kind of detail or make any evaluation of that. I repeat, it is a sovereign decision. You asked me before about the security policy consultations. We did have some consultations on Black Sea security in a wider sense, including this issue, and I think your country is making quite a contribution to the security of the Black Sea region. But I don't want to go into details on this issue.
U.W.: Could you comment on what kind of potential Ukraine has in the Black Sea region?
There are various elements. You have been a very active contributor to our endeavours in the Euro-Atlantic family. Some NATO member-states border the Black Sea. There are others who are NATO partners in different ways. So, all in all, the Black Sea area is an area which has very close links with the Alliance when you look at the countries bordering it. And everybody who helps to decrease tension in this region is helping our security. I think you have contributed to reducing the tension.
U.W.: Is Transdnistr the first area that should come to mind when talking about Ukraine's constructive role in the Black Sea region?
I was not referring to Moldova in particular. But since you asked, I can note that the Russians are involved there (remember the famous “5+2 formula”) and your country and others have been involved, too. I think you have played a constructive role there as well.
U.W.: How could the decline of democracy in Ukraine, including the trials of Tymoshenko and other politicians, affect the NATO-Ukraine partnership?
You mentioned one case in particular. It did draw some attention in other countries and in the media. If it comes up in my meetings, it will be no surprise (this interview was conducted before Brengelmann met Ukrainian leaders. - Ed.). You understand that I can't go into details on what I will discuss. But let me give you the framework. In the ANP, there is also an element about the rule of law and democracy. Is this not a basis for discussing issues like this? So, we will discuss it on this basis.
U.W.: But could you confirm that these issues could affect cooperation?
These principles are important in the way I said.
U.W.: How long might NATO be engaged in the operation in Libya? Will the Alliance ensure security for foreigners working there?
I hope we will not be forced to be in the operation much longer, but there are still forces loyal to Qaddafi that are using weapons which can be a risk and danger to the civilian population. So, right now we are still in operation. All our operations are exclusively from the air or from the sea. We don't have any land operations. So, coming to the point you just made, we are not on the ground. But let me add that the National Transitional Council's leaders have said repeatedly that they respect the foreigners there and accept the privileges of the foreign premises, I am not talking about the embassies. They have also made the point that they are people who do not seek a policy of revenge — they want the future of the country to be as inclusive as possible, which means that they want to have normal civil servants, not those who were committing crimes. I think all this is a reflection of lessons learnt from the Iraqi situation. I noticed at the beginning that there was a concern for the well-being of some your fellow countrymen. You sent some ships and you also offered the ships to other foreigners. The same happened later when ships from other countries came. I think the international community acted there with solidarity. Let me only add that during its military operations, NATO was very active — and I believe successful — in reducing humanitarian problems. We are able to ensure that ships and humanitarian flights will come to the country and that IOM was able to send ships to save foreign workers and migrants. We were able to get a lot of foreigners out.
May I say one thing about the operation which is very important for me because there has been criticism from time to time. What we did under Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 involved attacks from the air to protect the civilian population. I think we took extra care to avoid civilian casualties and I think we were successful in this. And for me to be very honest, that was one thing that was very remarkable. There were situations when our aircraft could have possibly hit different, additional targets but we were not sure whether these targets were not too close to homes. So we avoided them to make certain of our hits. This was a political goal to protect civilian population.
Dirk Brengelmann is NATO’s Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security.
He is responsible for advising the Secretary General on political issues affecting the security of the Alliance, including NATO’s partnership relations and its interaction with other international organisations; chairing the meetings of Senior Political Advisers of the Allied Delegations at NATO Headquarters; and directing the Political Affairs and Security Policy Division of the NATO International Staff.
Brengelmann has a distinguished record of public service. After a brief spell as an investment banker in Tokyo, he entered the German Foreign Service in 1984. He served as the Private Secretary of Jürgen Möllemann, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, and then became Deputy Chief of Mission at the German Embassy in Port-au-Prince. He subsequently served as Political Counselor at the German Embassy in London, Deputy European Correspondent in the Federal Foreign Office, and Political Counselor at the German Embassy in Washington DC. From 2000 to 2003, Ambassador Brengelmann served as Deputy Director in the Private Office of NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson. He then took up the position of Director and Head of Division at the Federal Chancellery in Berlin. After serving as Director and Head of the Defence and Security Policy Division at the Federal Foreign Office, he returned to Brussels in 2008 as Minister Plenipotentiary in the German Delegation to NATO, before being appointed NATO Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy at the beginning of 2010.