Considering the current state of affairs, it is important to understand the NATO and Ukraine relationship for a comprehensive overview of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Overall, Ukraine acquires military, humanitarian, medical, and political support from NATO. It has also intended to be a NATO member. Therefore, it is vital to dissect the key parameters of this relationship and to understand why Russia opposes this partnership with NATO in the context of the indivisibility principle of security.
Above all, it is crucial to understand that Ukraine acquiring military support from NATO countries along with its bid to become a member of NATO has fueled the crisis. Accordingly, NATO’s five waves of expansion have reached the borders of Russia.
NATO considers the country as a place to deploy weapon systems or contain Russia which has created a do-or-die situation for Russian Federation. Most importantly, Russian Federation has stated several times that these NATO-Ukraine relations violate the indivisibility principle enshrined in NATO and OSCE documents.
History of Ukraine-NATO partnership
NATO and Ukraine enjoy a substantial relationship in the context of military, humanitarian, and political collaboration. The roots go back to the era of the 1990s.
In this regard, the cooperation framework between NATO and Ukraine started when it joined North Atlantic Cooperation Council in 1991. Later in 1994, the country joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace program.
In addition to that, the establishment of the NATO-Ukraine Commission and the signing of the 1997 Charter on a Distinctive Partnership further strengthened the relationship.
With time, it started participating in NATO-led missions. Overall, the NATO-Ukraine partnership has focused reforms in the security and defense sector.
However, in 2017, the current President of the country reinstated membership in NATO. For him, this step is the part of foreign policy and strategic necessity of Ukraine.
Therefore, Ukraine’s Constitution was amended to acquire the objective in 2019. Similarly, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy approved National Security Strategy for his country in 2020. It aimed for the membership of NATO.
NATO-Ukraine’s Key Areas of Cooperation
NATO and Ukraine enjoy a relationship of mutually beneficial factors. In this regard, the key areas of cooperation are as under;
Building Capabilities and Interoperability
Ukraine’s defense and security sector get’s support from various platforms of NATO. This includes the Comprehensive Assistance Package as well. Besides, NATO has launched several Trust Fund Projects to support the country which includes;
- Command, Control, Communications, and Computers
- Logistics and Standardization
- Medical Rehabilitation
- Military Career Transition
- Explosive Ordinance Disposal
- Countering Improvised Explosive Devices
- Cyber Defense
The military and political cooperation between Ukraine are sustainable and progressive. It further includes various sustainable projects, these include Professional Development Program and Building Integrity Initiative.
Defense Education Enhancement Program, Defense Technical Cooperation, and Air Situation Data Exchange are also included in the NATO-Ukraine collaboration.
On a wider scale, the cooperation handles threats related to Hybrid warfare. NATO also supports the concept of integration of former military personnel in civilian life. Furthermore, NATO doesn’t only support the civilian resilience system but works on women, security, and peace as well.
— NATO (@NATO) February 26, 2022
In return, Ukraine has supported many NATO-led operations, including operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iraq along with Operation Active Endeavor, Ocean Shield, and Sea Guardian.
NATO-Ukraine Response amid Russia-Ukraine Conflict
Amid the recent Ukrainian Crisis, NATO focused on capacity-building and capability development in Ukraine along with providing humanitarian, medical, military, and political support.
Besides, NATO allies condemned Russia’s ‘Special Military Operation’ in Ukraine. In this context, NATO has stepped up its presence in the Black Sea region through maritime collaboration with Georgia and Ukraine.
Along these lines, the alliance also condemned the Russian recognition of LPR and DPR. It also called on Russian Federation to withdraw forces from Ukraine.
According to NATO’s standpoint, it supports the people, the President, parliament, and the government of Ukraine. Furthermore, it extends support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Recently, NATO has not only demanded to cease the military operation but also asked to allow humanitarian access to all the people of the affected region.
Throughout the crisis, NATO-Ukraine Commission remained active to conduct consultations. In the context of political support, NATO provided measures at the 2016 Summit in Warsaw.
These measures then became part of the Comprehensive Assistance Package. Constructively, the Comprehensive Assistance Package is entitled to implement reforms of the security and defense sector.
Military and Political Support
More specifically, NATO allies are providing political and practical support to defend the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and core interests of Ukraine. However, it must be noted here that NATO is helping Ukraine indirectly.
The indirect support by NATO includes supplying air-defense missiles, anti-tank weapons, ammunition stocks, and small weapons. Financially, NATO allies have assisted Ukraine with millions of euros.
Romania, Poland, and Croatia are accepting Ukrainian refugees as well. However, Italy provided immediate financial assistance whereas Turkey deepened the military ties with Ukraine.
🇦🇱 🇧🇪 🇧🇬 🇨🇦 🇭🇷 🇨🇿 🇩🇰 🇪🇪 🇫🇷 🇩🇪 🇬🇷 🇭🇺 🇮🇸 🇮🇹 🇱🇻 🇱🇹 🇱🇺 🇲🇪 🇳🇱 🇲🇰 🇳🇴 🇵🇱 🇵🇹 🇷🇴 🇸🇰 🇸🇮 🇪🇸 🇹🇷 🇬🇧 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/kYioIhT0uL
— Oana Lungescu (@NATOpress) February 27, 2022
Considering the current state of affairs, many countries including the US, UK, Belgium, Greece, Germany, France, Estonia, Czech Republic, Canada, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, Portugal, Netherlands, Latvia, and Lithuania have sent military equipment to Ukraine.
Therefore, Ukraine has received a large stock of critical weapons such as Javelin missiles and anti-craft missiles. In brief, NATO has trained, funded, and reformed the Ukrainian army and various defense institutions since 2014.
Throughout the Ukraine crisis, NATO has not only released the joint statement but put forward many practical steps in form of political and military collaboration.
How does Russia see the role of NATO?
In return, Russia has vociferously opposed the growing relations between Ukraine and NATO. This is because Russia sees NATO as an anti-Russia alliance.
Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, has also stated that NATO has always been against the core interests of the Russian Federation.
Secondly, the Russian Federation doesn’t want Ukraine to be a part of NATO or acquire the military buildup capabilities. It deems this move as an immediate threat on the doorstep for Russian national security and strategic interests.
Thirdly, Russia has reiterated that NATO has violated its charter by having five waves of expansion. As a result, this wave has approached the borders of the Russian Federation.
Thus, Russia has demanded time and again that NATO must return to the 1997 status and stop its further expansion at the Eastern flank.
❗️ #Lukashevich: The root of today's crisis in #Ukraine is not a Russian special military operation. The situation in #Donbass and #Ukraine is a consequence of #NATO desire, led by the United States, to use 🇺🇦 to create real threats to the national security and deter 🇷🇺Russia pic.twitter.com/qDcMz6gzYr
— Russian Mission OSCE (@RF_OSCE) March 3, 2022
Following that, Russian Federation has stated that Russia has a principled stance, and in this regard, it opposes the ‘Open Door’ policy of NATO.
In this context, the Russian side states that the NATO Open Door Policy violates the indivisibility principles which entails that no state should strengthen its security at the expense of others.