Vadym Prystaiko, Head of Ukraine's Mission to NATO
Russian aggression is greatest danger for Ukraine and NATO
05.07.2018 17:55

Next week the Belgian capital will host a summit of the North Atlantic Alliance, the world's most powerful security organization. Those invited to the high-level meeting include not only the heads of state and government of 29 member states, but also partners, including Ukraine.

Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko spoke in an exclusive interview with Ukrinform's correspondent in Brussels about the agenda of the NATO summit on July 11-12 for Ukraine, and why Kyiv does not expect a historic breakthrough at the top meeting.

Q: Mr. Ambassador, what will the summit agenda be for Ukraine?

A: According to the official program of the summit, the Ukrainian and Georgian presidents are planned to have a meeting with the North Atlantic Council at the level of heads of state and government, participate in a meeting of the partner nations of the NATO Operation Resolute Support in Afghanistan. Top-level bilateral contacts are also planned.

Our goal is to enlist the support of our NATO colleagues in confronting the Russian Federation and to continue defense and security sector reforms. It is also important to sum up the results of cooperation as part of the Comprehensive Assistance Package approved in Warsaw two years ago and take the next step towards the Euro-Atlantic integration of our country.

Q: What are the expectations and main political tasks that the Ukrainian delegation headed by the president plans to implement after high-level meetings?

A: It is about consolidating political support for Ukraine from the heads of state and government of the allies. After all, as you know, new leaders have come to power in some NATO states; political life is changing; threats evolve. NATO also responds to processes in the Euro-Atlantic area and in the world. The direct discussion of these processes by the leaders of the states of the most powerful military and political bloc on the planet is an opportunity that should be fully used.

Q: What will be discussed at a meeting in the Ukraine-NATO-Georgia format?

A: The subject of the meeting is quite extensive. The issue concerns security of the region, defense reform and interaction with NATO.

Obviously, the presidents of Ukraine and Georgia will be able to share with their colleagues their vision of security in the Black Sea region, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, highlight the greatest threats faced by our states, and clarify joint steps in confronting these challenges.

Russia's growing aggressiveness is the most painful issue for both countries and for the alliance.

Of course, at the 10th anniversary of the Bucharest Summit, the leaders of Georgia and Ukraine will talk about the prospects of NATO membership and the steps taken by governments and societies in these areas.

I am sure that the discussion will be multilevel and interesting.

Q: How would you assess Hungary's position on Euro-Atlantic cooperation of Ukraine? Has any progress been made on the withdrawal from this unconstructive policy by Budapest in relation to Kyiv?

A: The position of Hungary is clearly demonstrated by the recent letter sent by the Hungarian ambassador to NATO to his colleagues in the alliance. In fact, just two days after a meeting between the education and foreign ministers of our countries in Zakarpattia on June 23, which, in our opinion, was effective, the Hungarian side stated that Ukraine had not offered any solutions to the well-known language problem. So the blocking of meetings of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at the high political level on the part of Budapest continues. Only two days were enough for the Hungarian side to declare the lack of progress! And this is despite the fact that after negotiations in Zakarpattia region it was announced about the following concerted steps, in particular, the holding of a meeting between the Hungarian community and the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine in July, the completion this autumn of the work on a draft law on secondary education, which is intended to address specific issues of concern to language minorities.

The Hungarian side does not show any desire to resolve the issue. It is aware that the NATO summit is a good occasion to impose their agenda on us and plans to use it in full.

Q: Can Ukraine expect after the summit a historic breakthrough in the process of Euro-Atlantic integration of the state, in particular, with regard to joining the Enhanced Opportunities Program for some partners?

A: I am pleased to follow in the Ukrainian media the discussion about NATO's Enhanced Opportunities Program (EOP), as well as the so-called aspirant country status and other issues of Ukraine's interaction with the alliance. It's nice that these questions are of interest to surprisingly broad circles of experts, journalists and "sympathizers."

Sometimes, in the course of discussions, the subject of discussion is lost, and symbolism, political feasibility or inappropriateness come to the first place. An illustrative example is the Enhanced Opportunities Program. This is really a format that helps unite around NATO a club of the closest partners who, for various reasons, are not allies, but are prepared to work closely, often on technical issues, during joint operations and exercises.

In other words, formally this program is not a "breakthrough" or even a mechanism for Euro-Atlantic integration. Although Ukraine willingly participates in all forms of interaction, we also have to appreciate closeness to the alliance, which gives us the status of a special partner. Is this format interesting for Ukraine? Yes, it is. Is there a significant added value to this format for us? We need to carefully examine our current needs and the needs of the alliance. Is NATO ready now to invite Ukraine to this program? No, it is not. Another three-year review of the effectiveness of the program ended six months ago. All five participants, namely Australia, Finland, Georgia, Jordan and Sweden, are "re-invited" to participate in its work in the future. We are taking part in negotiations on this issue. I do not think that this work will be completed before the summit.

Andriy Lavreniuk, Brussels

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