Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who was at NATO headquarters slightly more than a week ago to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, spoke with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and confirmed that his nation’s entry into NATO and the European Union is a matter not of if but when.
For anyone not familiar with the fact, the eleven nations that have joined both NATO and the European Union in the post-Cold War era – Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia – all joined NATO first and the EU second. As though the first were the precondition for the second as it evidently is. That says a lot concerning power relations between NATO and the EU, and between the U.S. and the EU.
Having been promised eventual NATO membership at the military bloc’s summit in Bucharest, Romania in 2008, Ukraine’s impediments to full accession now are the territorial dispute in the Donbass and the presence of foreign (that is, non-NATO) military forces in territory it claims as its own: Crimea, where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has been based for centuries.
Kuleba made this seemingly disjointed and grandiose but nevertheless intriguing statement:
“No one in any country has ever said that [Ukraine] will join [EU and NATO] by such a date. They have always said, ‘you have to do this and that, then you will join’. Let’s be realistic. There are countries in the EU that are skeptical about Ukraine’s membership prospect because they think that we are too big, we will be too competitive as the EU members. And because they still see the picture of Eastern Europe through the prism of the influence of the Russian Federation.”
That Ukraine with a population of 44 million would be unassimilable by multinational organizations whose members include Turkey (85 million), Germany (84 million), Britain (68 million), France (65 million) and Italy (60 million) seems dubious.
The press account of his Radio Liberty interview points out that “Ukraine’s strategic course towards full membership in NATO is enshrined in the Constitution.”
It also recalls that in a conversation with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg a month ago Kuleba referred to a NATO Membership Action Plan – the final stage to full membership – as “the most pressing issue for Kyiv and a real signal for Russia.”
Today’s Ukrainian news also reports the commander-in-chief of the nation’s armed forces, Colonel General Ruslan Khomchak, asserting that no blackmail – presumably Russian – will prevent his nation pursuing the successful road to joining the world’s only military bloc; and history’s largest, with 30 members and 40 partners.
His comments came during a video conference on April 30 with co-chairs of subcommittees and working groups of the Joint Multinational Coordinating Committee (JMCC) on Military Cooperation and Defense Reform, about which more below. His interlocutors were from Britain, Canada, Denmark, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden (please note), member states of the above group tasked to transform the Ukrainian armed forces to meet NATO standards, to NATO warfighting interoperability. Khomchak was “assured of their unwavering support for Ukraine and its Armed Forces.” Another participant was the NATO Mission in Ukraine.
Immediately after the U.S.-engineered coup which overthrew Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, in 2014 – in which current U.S. President Joe Biden played no small part – the Ukrainian-American Joint Coordination Committee was established as Washington became the first nation to provide military training for its new client’s army to prosecute the still-ongoing war in the Donbass. A battalion of the California National Guard was deployed to Ukraine at the time to began that process.
Later in the year Britain, Canada, Lithuania and Poland followed suit and the Ukrainian-American Joint Coordination Committee was expanded into the Multinational Joint Committee on Military Cooperation and Defence Reform. Denmark and Sweden joined after that, bringing its complement to eight nations.
- expand the training of units to the brigade level;
- initiate the development of a number of doctrinal and conceptual documents;
- establish work in 14 subcommittees and three working groups;
- increase logistical support to $250 million per year.
As to what true purpose that assistance is intended, a statement issued by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine after the April 30 video conference states in part:
“The JMCC is not only an effective platform for military cooperation, but also one of the mechanisms for coordinating efforts to achieve interoperability between the Armed Forces of Ukraine and NATO troops.” More specifically, “all JMCC subcommittees and working groups were heard on the current state of transformation of the relevant military authorities…according to NATO standards.”
The Ukrainian military chief also said that although Russian forces that had engaged in drills east of the Donbass last month had returned to their bases (“some Russian units”), they may return at any time, and that “the highly motivated and combat-ready Armed Forces of Ukraine remain one of the main deterrents to the Kremlin aggressor.”
The above-cited statement affirms that both Ukraine as a nation and its armed forces are committed to NATO membership as their main defense strategy. It further states: “To achieve this strategic goal, appropriate planning of measures to bring troops and military authorities at all levels in line with the standards and procedures used in NATO’s armed forces and in the Alliance’s multinational headquarters is carried out.”
That is, Ukraine will have a NATO army first, NATO membership following that.
The U.S. Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine, Britain’s Operation ORBITAL, Canada’s Operation UNIFIER and the Lithuanian Military Training Mission in Ukraine ( LMTM-U) – representatives of which participated in the conference – play a key role in transforming Ukraine’s armed forces into an integral component of the NATO international expeditionary force. One which is the past twenty years has conducted wars and other operations and missions in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Libya, Macedonia, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan, the U.S., Uzbekistan, Yugoslavia, the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.
Rick Rozoff is a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. He has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. He is the manager of Stop NATO. This originally appeared at Anti-Bellum.