Director of the NATO Information and Documentation Center in Ukraine Natalia Nemylivska will complete her mission in Ukraine in a matter of days. In accordance with tradition, her first and last interviews were both given to our publication. It should also be noted that through her assistance, NATO allocated a grant to Den’s 14th Summer School of Journalism past year. We started the interview with the question of how NATO evaluated the Ukrainian government’s end-of-year adoption of the State Program of Public Education on Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine for 2017-20.
“IT IS A KIND OF A MARKER FOR CONSOLIDATION OF EFFORTS”
“Ukraine adopting a new program to educate its citizens about NATO is a very important step. We support it and believe that it is the authorities’ response to the demand from a public which is interested in NATO.
“I want to turn to prehistory of the issue here. Of course, the newly adopted program is important, but it should also be recalled that the groundwork for Ukraine’s information cooperation with NATO was laid by the Charter on a Distinctive Partnership. This is our main interaction tool that has existed since 1997. And by the way, the NATO Information and Documentation Center was also founded in 1997, soon after the Charter was approved. Thus, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Center this May. That is, regardless of the existence or non-existence of specific public education programs, public awareness work was conducted over the past 20 years as part of the Annual Target Plans and, later, Annual National Programs.
“Of course, we must recognize the efforts of the deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, who prioritized resuming the public education program and made a major effort to get this program developed and approved.
“This program is important primarily because it provides an opportunity to unite the efforts of the government and NGOs working in the field of educating the public about NATO and NATO-Ukraine cooperation, also involving the NATO Information and Documentation Center, embassies of member countries, and the NATO contact embassy (the Embassy of the Lithuanian Republic in Ukraine is performing the latter role at the moment). This program is a kind of a marker for consolidation of resources and efforts and working to achieve the set objective.
“This is an important mechanism and platform that enables NGOs to closely interact and cooperate with the authorities in educating the public about NATO, and we support it.
“In addition, the education program is an important political signal that Ukraine approves dissemination of information about NATO and that this work will be carried out precisely by Ukrainian official bodies together with civil society groups.”
Did you witness such government involvement in educating the public about NATO before?
“I came to the position of director of the NATO Information and Documentation Center in Ukraine when the previous Ukrainian government public education program had been completed, and the new one was not developed yet. However, our center still existed and operated as a mechanism to inform and involve people in the discussion of current issues in cooperation between Ukraine and NATO. The new program provides new impetus and opportunity to convey information about NATO so as to ensure growing local support for the Alliance and NATO’s cooperation with Ukraine. In fact, we have a lot to talk about, since our cooperation is growing, expanding, and deepening. And, unlike previous years, there is now a greater demand for such information coming from the Ukrainian society.”
And what role do you see in that for the NATO Information and Documentation Center in Ukraine?
“We will join as implementation partner in the activities and programs that will be outlined in this program.”
“EVERY COUNTRY HAS THE RIGHT TO CHOOSE ITS FOREIGN POLICY ORIENTATION”
Recently, President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said he was ready to hold a referendum on NATO membership. Many experts believe it is necessary to consolidate and entrench the nation’s aspiration to reach this objective, while others oppose it. What do you think about this, do you believe that such a vote is needed?
“We heard a similar statement from the Ukrainian president during the 2015 visit of the NATO secretary general in Ukraine. I think that it is up to the Ukrainian government to hold such a referendum or not. We adhere to the principle that every country has the right to choose its foreign policy orientation and act independently.”
And what would be NATO’s reaction should a majority of Ukrainians support the idea of NATO membership in a referendum?
“Of course, it would be taken into account by NATO, but nevertheless, the main focus would remain on reforms that will enable Ukraine to meet the standards and criteria required by NATO.”
You probably know that back in 2003, the nation’s aspiration to join the Euro-Atlantic collective security system, that is, NATO, was enshrined in the Principles of Domestic and Foreign Policy. In 2010, this clause was changed to non-alignment, and the present government has set the achievement of standards and criteria for NATO membership as our objective. Is such wording, which lacks NATO membership as our ultimate objective, an obstacle to deeper cooperation between Ukraine and NATO?
“Firstly, NATO standards are the best in the world. And Ukraine, in my opinion, is right to seek to achieve NATO standards, especially in such a critical and important time for the country. Secondly, NATO accession is off the agenda at the moment, and Ukraine’s primary focus is on reforming the country and achieving these standards and criteria. NATO has stepped up its assistance to Ukraine for the achievement of its ambitious goals. In particular, the Strategic Defense Bulletin, which NATO was involved in developing, is an important document that serves as a road map of reforms in defense and security sectors and efforts to achieve NATO standards.”
How, then, does the NATO headquarters perceive the fact that Ukraine still has no ambassador at the NATO station?
“In fact, this question should be addressed to the Ukrainian side. But I know that the acting ambassador who is leading the Mission of Ukraine to NATO is doing his job well.”
A CHANGE OF STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS MENTALITY AND CULTURE
During the visit of the NATO secretary general in September 2015, the two sides signed a Strategic Communications Partnership Road Map between the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine and the NATO International Staff. Can you name some results brought about by this document?
“I would like to outline three areas where we have seen changes and progress. In fact, the Ukrainian side has done a lot of work since the signing of this document, and it was systemic work. In my opinion, our partnership has largely fulfilled its role in laying the foundation for building the future strategic communications system at the government level. I mean the changes in perception and understanding of strategic communications. We see that the new understanding is already enshrined in the documents of strategic importance. First of all, it is present in the new military doctrine, which includes the definition of strategic communications. As a separate objective, strategic communications have been included in the Strategic Defense Bulletin. Strategic communications were mentioned extensively in the president of Ukraine’s address to its parliament, and the doctrine of information security was adopted in late 2016 which outlined the main areas of strategic communications. So we see a change of strategic communications mentality and culture.
“Changes are also occurring in practical terms, for example, with increased understanding of the need for coordinating words and actions from the top-level leadership of the state down to individual battalions. And it is important for Ukraine now that it is conducting hybrid war and anti-terrorist operation in eastern Ukraine.
“Speaking of the practical level, we get requests for various trainings and other activities on strategic communications. The main feature of these requests is that they are focused on interdepartmental cooperation. Coordination and synchronization of words and actions are important. Accuracy, speed, agility, truthfulness – these all are words describing the field of strategic communications.
“For me personally, it is a great pleasure to watch Ukraine’s achievements as it works on developing its system of strategic communications, but there is still quite a long way to go, and Ukraine needs comprehensive assistance.”
But can you explain in a few words the importance of NATO for Ukrainians, particularly those who do not support the world’s only functioning system of collective security?
“To use three words, NATO stands for security and shared values, and is a lighthouse that serves as a guiding light for partner countries.”
How, in your opinion, can we spread the word about NATO so that every Ukrainian sees clearly advantages of this defensive block?
“This work is being done. For example, we have the TV program The Security Factor, which we have supported since 2009, and we also hold and sponsor information events in Kyiv and the provinces which involve our partners. And so, it seems to me that this educational program will be able to consolidate, guide, and coordinate our efforts.”
“UKRAINE IS A COUNTRY OF LIMITLESS OPPORTUNITIES...”
What was your most memorable and most remarkable impression during your stay in Ukraine?
“Firstly, Ukraine is a country of limitless opportunities, many of which are not yet exploited. Second, it is a country that has great potential. Thirdly, citizens of Ukraine are strong-willed, and its civil society is the driving force of change in the country. This is the time when despite the difficulties it faces, Ukraine is moving forward and is firmly on the right track. Ukraine has many friends, big and small, who are standing by it and will help Ukraine move in this direction.”
What advice would you offer your successor Barbora Maronkova, who will take office on March 1?
“I would like to wish her success and to use this time to really learn about and understand Ukraine. May she leave Ukraine with memories lasting a lifetime. In a bit of advice, she would do well to continue cooperation with Den/The Day, which is included in our information plan, by the way.”