Expanding the opportunities

3 January 2021, 10:27

Last year, when I addressed the readers of Ukrainskyy Tyzhden with my outlook for NATO-Ukraine relations in 2020, I – nor probably anyone else – could not have imagined that just a few months later the COVID-19 pandemic would drastically change our reality. Hardly any country and community on the globe has been spared the economic, personal and societal ravages of COVID-19. NATO’s main responsibility has been to make sure this health crisis does not become a security crisis. And I believe that we have passed the first stages of this test through close cooperation, both among Allies and with our partners around the world.

NATO Allies have actively supported each other throughout this pandemic.The hardships of 2020 also demonstrated how important and valuable our partnerships are. The Alliance much appreciates Ukraine’s contribution to international efforts to tackle COVID-19. This includessending a group of physicians to Italy and providing strategic airliftto deliver critical medical supplies to some Allies. Capacious Antonov cargo aircraft are today well recognized in NATO member states for their invaluable service. 

In turn, throughout the pandemic, Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre has coordinated the delivery of medical supplies and financial assistance to Ukraine. Eight Allies (Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania Poland, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and the United States) provided Ukraine with medical and financial aid. Recently NATO approved a project for an assistance package for Ukraine in a framework of our new Pandemic Response Trust Fund. This project will deliver critical medical equipment and supplies, with a total value of  500.000 EUR.EADRCC is currently implementing the project in concert with the Executing Agent (the NATO Support and Procurement Agency) who are dealing with purchase and the delivery of the items included in the project proposal

So despite not turning out like we expected, 2020 did reconfirm that the NATO-Ukraine partnership is effective and able to respond to challenges, from pandemics to other areas to build peace and security. 

In 2020, NATO continued to support Ukraine in areas such as command and control, countering explosive devices and medical rehabilitation for wounded servicemen and women. Also, we have increased our support in the Black Sea region, with exercises, port visits and information sharing. Security for Ukraine is security for Allies.  

But the highlight for 2020 in the Ukraine-NATO relationship was Allies’ recognition of Ukraine as one of six Enhanced Opportunities Partners. This is a indeed a recognition of Ukraine’s significant contributions to Allied operations, the NATO Response Force and NATO exercises. As an Enhanced Opportunities Partner, Ukraine will benefit from tailor-made opportunities to help sustain these contributions. This involves enhanced access to NATO exercises, inclusive of early-stage planning. EOP also offers potential for more information sharing, including on valuable lessons learned. Thus, in 2021 we will work jointly with Ukraine to operationalize the EOP with substantive activities that will help further enhance our interoperability. 

In view of the complexity and uncertainty of our realities for months to come, I will refrain from predictions for 2021. What we know for sure is that NATO will continue to provide political and practical support to Ukraine. This includes encouraging Ukraine’s ambitious reform agenda by provide advice based on Euro-Atlantic standards, principles and best practices. 

In December we shared with Ukraine the Allied assessment of implementation progress of Ukraine’s 2020 Annual National Programme. Due to the pandemic, the NATO expert team were not able to visit Ukraine as per our usual practice, but we maintained an active dialogue to discuss achievements as well as those areas where progress is still to be made. Allies expect Ukraine to address, in its ANP 2021, key reforms related to democratic governance, rule of the law, and combating corruption.  Our experts agree that Ukraine’s Annual National Program has improved year after year in terms of formulating strategic reforms, tasks and priorities. We expect that this positive trend will continue in 2021. 

The Annual National Programme derives its content from the wider strategic planning framework. Thus, in September 2020 Allies welcomed the adoption of Ukraine’s new National Security Strategy. This document sets key directions for security and defence sector reform based on three pillars: deterrence, resilience and cooperation. These pillars are key to ensuring peace and security for Ukraine and the wider region.

The National Security Strategy also includes a requirement to produce a number of strategies and security and defence planning documents.Amongst those are the Military Security Strategy and the Strategic Defence Bulletin. Our advisers are engaging with the working groups of the Ministry of Defence on the development of these key documents. In 2021 we look forward to their approval by Ukraine’s leadership. 

Among my expectations for 2020, shared with Ukrainskyy Tyzhden a year ago, was further implementation of the Law on National Security, passed by the Verkhovna Rada in 2018, through adoption of relevant follow-up legislation.  Indeed, 2020 has brought some developments significant for Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations. In July, the Rada adopted a Law on Defence Procurement, which was commended by Allies. At the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Joint Working Group on Defence-Technical Cooperation held online on 10 December, the Alliance encouraged Ukraine to take all measures for this law to enter into force in 2021.

In September, NATO welcomed the adoption of the Law on Intelligence, also a piece of secondary legislation envisaged by the Law on National Security. Furthermore, our advisers engaged closely with the working group under the Rada’s National Security, Defence and Intelligence Committee, which throughout the year continued deliberations on the draft law on the Security Service of Ukraine. NATO considers the latest version of this draft law to be an improvement over previous drafts, as it includes the gradual phasing out of law enforcement functions by 2024, downsizing, and demilitarisation. At the same time there remain areas for further development that would bring greater alignment with European and Euro-Atlantic partners, including parliamentary oversight procedures, judicial and financial control, and clarification of some SSU functions and activities. In any case, 2021 may become a turning point for this significant reform, and NATO – working in tandem with the European Union and United States – stands ready to support its finalization and implementation.

2021 should also see the conduct of the long-awaited multinational table-top exercise “Coherent Resilience 2020” (delayed due to travel restrictions) which focuses on institutional resilience and interagency cooperation. And, of course, we all hope that regular visits and in-person meetings with our partners will resume in full scope next year. 

As we look ahead to 2021, I have a sense of optimism that we will make it through the pandemic, albeit with heavy hearts from loved ones lost or not seen for an extended time. I am also optimistic about the NATO-Ukraine relationship. I am confident that we will move from strength to strength to continue deepening our partnership, as the new “NATO 2030” report recommends. In closing, I take this opportunity to wish all our Ukrainian partners a prosperous and healthy 2021! 

The Head of the NATO Representation to Ukraine, Alexander Vinnikov


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