Ukraine, a future NATO ally?

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Ukraine tries to join NATO Amid all the talk about new European security arrangements and Europe's military relations with the USA, little attention has been paid to one startling development: Ukraine has applied to join NATO. In theory, this should be a huge strategic shift for the entire continent, for Ukraine is neither small, nor strategically insignificant. Ever since it emerged as an independent state out of the rubble of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has blown hot and cold over its Western orientation. It has appealed for Western donations and investment, but on its own terms. It has refused to implement a serious economic reform and it is years behind Russia in political reform as well. President Leonid Kuchma's election was labelled by foreign observers as 'flawed': a polite term for saying that it resembled more the communist past rather than the country's European pretences. For many years, Ukraine spurned the very idea of integration in NATO . . . And yet recently the same President Kuchma addressed a letter to Lord George Robertson, the NATO Secretary-General, asking for admission into NATO. So, what is happening in Kiev? A great deal is going on, but ultimately very little is happening. Ukraine supplied weapons to Iran and continued to conduct some illicit economic relations with other countries on the USA's list of 'rogue states'. Much to the irritation of NATO, Ukraine also supplied weapons to Macedonia, just as that country was about to slide into civil war and the Alliance was preparing to deploy its troops. But the leaders in Kiev always believed they had one major asset: the fact that their country was sandwiched between Russia and the rest of Europe and that its strategic importance as a buffer state outweighed all other considerations. To a large extent, this was true: all Western governments went out of their way to treat Ukraine as equal in importance to Russia . . . An explicit symmetry developed: everything NATO did with Russia was immediately replicated with Ukraine. But everything changed after the terrorist attacks on the US last September. Russia's President Vladimir Putin forged ahead with its strategic alliance with the West. The West reciprocated, and the equality between Ukraine and Russia . . . was simply abandoned overnight. Last month NATO signed a new co-operation treaty with Russia, establishing a council between Moscow and Brussels. No such structure was even mooted for the Ukrainians. To make matters worse, the whole idea of Ukraine as a buffer state was rendered irrelevant: if Russia is likely to remain a trusted partner, the buffer is a hindrance, not a help. Washington is no longer prepared to even pretend that it takes Ukraine seriously: the US has slapped trade sanctions on the country, because Ukraine is apparently one of the worst violators of copyrights and patents. So, the wily President Kuchma has hit upon a new strategy: if Ukraine can no longer be a buffer, it should become a member of NATO . . .… quite interesting should they join Nato.. they have a very significant force of Soviet aircraft and a pretty decent arms industry of their own, perhaps we'll see Antonovs, tanks, etc built in NATO standard and requirements.. we've already seen their latest tank upgrades switching to the 120mm gun.
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