Between 55 to 65 percent of Ukrainians oppose joining NATO, according to recent surveys. Andrew Bishop, a freelance journalist and blogger at What You Must Read, addresses the issue of “Why Ukrainians Don’t Want NATO” in the Diplomatic Courier:
1. “Ukraine remains an eternally “torn country” with approximately 17 percent of its population being ethnic Russian…And third, constant political fighting between Ukraine's political leaders means: “In short, few Ukrainians see the current period as the right one for engaging in a battle over NATO, whether it be amongst themselves or against Russia.”
... after the Georgian crisis, where Russia justified its intervention in terms of defending Russian citizens, the Ukrainian authorities remained concerned that this scenario could be repeated in the Crimea.”
2. Ukraine, one of the first victims of Russia’s “energy imperialism” back in 2006 when the Kremlin cut the country’s gas supplies for several days, has no desire to experience that wrath again. Already the country’s power bill has been increasing by the year, and with winter approaching, few would argue that now is the time to test the fierceness of Moscow’s Putin-Medvedev tandem.”
While Ukrainians are opposed to NATO membership now, Bishop cites experts who argue that a broad information campaign in support of NATO, such as those conducted in all other Eastern European countries before they joined, could potentially change a lot of minds:
Eventually, the Ukrainian insider believes one thing can change people’s minds: “A well funded and long term information campaign that focuses on the positives (NATO as a stepping stone to the EU, NATO as a source of military reform, NATO as a source of democratic control of the security forces) rather than on the negatives (NATO to defend Ukraine against Russia, NATO to use Ukrainian troops in hot conflicts).”UPDATE, I recently wrote:
It seems like Georgia and Ukraine's bids for NATO membership have been bundled together up to this point; it may be time to change this. Georgia and Ukraine are two different countries in different political situations, and each may very well progress toward NATO membeship at its own pace.Brookings Fellow Steven Pifer wrote an email response noting that any bundling of Ukraine and Georgia is most likely informal (I agree, but do think there is a tendency to consider them together up to now regardless), and he also made the point that despite relatively high support for NATO membership among Georgians, the country's progress will be hindered in the long-term by questions about its two break-away regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. As Pifer wrote in his email:
When NATO first considered post-Cold War enlargement back in the 1990s, one of the principles was that an aspiring entrant should first resolve any territorial disputes. The logic behind this was that NATO did not want to import into the Alliance any pre-existing territorial issues. Given Tbilisi's insistence that the two break-away regions remain part of Georgia, it's not clear how this circle can be squared.This only reaffirms arguments that neither Ukraine or Georgia are in a strong position to pursue NATO membership, and neither will likely be offered Membership Action Plans (the next step toward NATO membership) before the end of 2008.
See also from Atlantic Review:
* Two different paths to NATO: Georgia and Ukraine
* Georgia's bid: western values for western security
* War in the Caucasus
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