Interview: Ukrainian Cooperation with NATO
An interview with Deputy Head of the General Directorate of Military Cooperation and PKO Department, General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Hennadiy Kovalenko
Hennadiy Kovalenko: …I would like to divide Ukraine-NATO cooperation into three main parts. First of all, there is military-strategic dialog – When our CHOD [chief of defense] is participating in the NATO meetings with other CHODs, in order to discuss the security situation, as well as the development of the armed forces. The second part is the military domain of cooperation between NATO and Ukraine and I will speak about that a little bit later. The military domain consists of military exercises, programs, professional development, education, and participation in NATO-led operations. And the third part is the military-technical cooperation. This, the third part, is mainly about technical issues – about data exchange, about equipment receiving, this kind of stuff. And speaking about enhancement – or the special package for enhancing security in the Black Sea and the Azov Sea – it’s pretty much a timely decision because, for the Ukrainian side, it’s a clear political signal from NATO officials. It was stated last week, in Washington, during the NATO summit. It’s a clear message for us that Ukraine is on the radar screen of NATO. And these enhanced measured in the Black Sea and the Azov Sea – again it’s a clear message for us that NATO is keeping the situation under control, and that NATO thinks about possible developments in the security situation in that region.
NATO plans to increase the stay of its ships in the Black Sea for 20 days. This was reported by the deputy head of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Foreign Affairs, Boris Tarasyuk. How, and will it fundamentally change the military-political situation in the Black Sea?
HK: NATO ships in the Black Sea express a clear intention. We are going to exchange the recognized maritime picture with the alliance. Two weeks ago there was a strategic conference in Jordan, where Ukraine clearly stated that we would like to be not only recipients of security and defense in the region, we would like to be full-scale contributors to it. In this particular context, we offered our Navy as participants, in an internship, in different NATO ships. The second initiative, we expressed is the data exchange, with some classified information as well. And the third initiative that we expressed – we are offering our experts, our trainers to NATO mobile training teams. We have our own bitter experience from participating in the operation in Eastern Ukraine. And basically, since the beginning of 2016, we are not only studying from our partners. From our American, British, Canadian, Lithuanian, Polish partners. We are sharing our experience, and we can offer much more knowledge in the information that we have bitterly gained from the conflict.
Ukraine is unfortunately still not officially a part of NATO. Even though we are on the path, and there are a bunch of signs that show that we are on the right track, trying to join NATO. As you have said, right now Ukraine is trying to be not only a receiver but also a contributor. How is that, if accepted, how is that going to help Ukraine to integrate into NATO faster?
HK: First of all, when we are speaking about participation in international military exercises, it can probably be news for some our audience, if I say that in 2014 we participated in only five international military exercises. For this year, we have plans to participate in 26. Participation in the exercises allows us to study NATO’s approach: force generation, scenario development, concept development. To share our experience, and develop our operational capabilities. We are pretty much sober, that at the end of the day, NATO can say, ‘Guys, you have your own capacities to train,’ And they will provide us only mentors, let’s say. To observe how we are doing our exercises. But at the same time, as I have already said, speaking about the criteria for NATO, one of them is operational interoperability.
Do we have that?
HK: We have a mechanism for that. We have OCC – Operational Capability Concept, and we have an Evaluation-and-Feedback program. These programs allow us to train our units and to asses them – how interoperable we are with NATO.
NATO turned 70 not long ago. And since the beginning, the alliance grew by seven times. If I’m not mistaken. And it keeps growing. North Macedonia was the latest to joing the alliance and now there is Georgia and Ukraine in line. In your personal opinion, how fast can either of these countries reach their goal?
HK: I would like to start with the development of the alliance as such. As Jens Stoltenberg had said, right now Nato is on the third stage of the development. The first stage was the collective defense. It basically ended in 1991. After that there was peace and security projection. That was the second phase. But right now, since 2014, NATO is on the stage of collective defense, projecting security stability and counter-terrorism. Bearing in mind the third stage of development of NATO, Ukraine is pretty much fit for the purpose of projecting stability and security in the global context.
But if we are talking in the terms of the political arena, how profitable would it be for NATO to take Ukraine in, when Ukraine in the middle of a hybrid war? ..Why would Ukraine take up the responsibility to protect a newcomer?
HK: First of all – and I would like to say that this is my own opinion – that we must solve the current conflict before we will become a NATO member because I’m in doubt that NATO will take such a risk of having an open conflict on their borders. At the same time, I would endorse or even admire a NATO initiative concerning the east European presence. As you know, the NATO nations deployed a military formation in the Baltic States and in Poland as well as in Romania, in Bulgaria, so we already see some NATO preparation for the operational phases and even probably a conflict scenario with the Russian Federation. And speaking about possible future membership for Ukraine, I would like to say, that we need to finish developing our own capacities and capabilities to defend the country, to contribute to the regional security and stability as well.
That was Colonel Hennadiy Kovalenko, Deputy Head of General Directorate of Military and Peacekeeping Operation Department of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Thank you for watching and stay tuned with UATV!