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“Associated partnership” instead of Membership Action Plan

The Day’s experts on a new cooperation format to be offered to Ukraine and Georgia at the NATO Warsaw summit
21 April, 2016 - 11:52

NATO is planning to offer Kyiv and Tbilisi a new status of “associated partnership” and closer cooperation in the Black Sea region at its Warsaw summit in July.

Georgia, which hoped to receive the Membership Action Plan (MAP), does not hide disappointment. At the same time, Tbilisi is aware of the existing political realities and considers the status of associated partnership as an important step on the road to the Alliance, New Europe publication reports.

Although the status of “associated partnership” was established recently as a consolation prize for Georgia instead of the promised MAP, it is not just a symbolic step on the part of NATO. Among those who think so is Vakhtang Maisaia, ex-chair of the department for Georgia-NATO relations.

Besides, according to the Georgian publication Rezonansi, the Alliance will also offer Kyiv and Tbilisi the 28+2 format of cooperation in the Black Sea region, which has already been tried out with such NATO non-members as Finland and Sweden. This idea was proposed by NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow at the Kyiv Security Forum, who pointed out that Ukraine and Georgia should make a cooperative effort because “the likely Russian plans to deploy nuclear weapons in the Black Sea region will upset the balance of power.”

Experts believe that the accession of Kyiv and Tbilisi to the 28+2 format will further isolate Russia in the Black Sea region because the three other countries – Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey – are NATO members.

The Day requested some experts to comment on NATO’s initiative to introduce the status of “associated partnership.”


John HERBST, Director, Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, Atlantic Council, Washington, D.C.:

“I have no objections to the concept of “associated status,” but am not sure it is necessary. Georgia and Ukraine need to do what they can to reduce their vulnerability to Kremlin aggression and subversion. NATO should seek to help with that.

“NATO needs to take strong steps within member states in the East to deter aggression from Russia. It also needs a stronger presence in the Black Sea as a form of protection for Georgia and Ukraine. I also believe that the US and other NATO nations should give Ukraine defensive lethal weapons. We should also provide an electronic border monitoring system for Georgia.

“Regarding Crimea, we need to remove the sanctions loopholes to make sure no Western firms are doing business in or with Crimea.”

Steven PIFER, senior fellow, Brookings Institution, Washington, D.C.:

“I am not sure that I see the wisdom in coming up with ever new titles to describe the relationship between NATO and Ukraine and Georgia. At the moment, the fact is that there is no great enthusiasm within NATO for putting either country on a membership track. NATO should not give a country a Membership Action Plan until it has a good answer to the following question: What does NATO do if it gives a country a MAP, and that country becomes a victim of aggression? The problem is that a country with a MAP does not have an Article 5 security guarantee. Sometimes, one gets the feeling that Tbilisi and Kyiv – and Moscow as well – focus too much on titles. The 2002 NATO-Ukraine ‘action plan’ was 95 percent of what a MAP would have been. The title of the relationship is far less important than the content of the plan and whether Ukraine and Georgia are actively fulfilling the agreed actions and building a web of cooperative links with the Alliance.”

Volodymyr OHRYZKO, ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Kyiv:

“There was an exchange of views yesterday on how to intensify cooperation between NATO, Ukraine, and Georgia. Yet it is being done very unofficially, and it would be perhaps too early to speak of any concrete possible decisions now, but the very fact of this discussion shows that NATO is reconsidering its approaches to cooperation with Eastern partners. Turkey’s proposal to speed up the admission of Georgia to NATO is one of the indications that this organization wants to assess the situation more adequately and take the corresponding steps.

“As for the formula and the change of formats, it is undoubtedly not only a purely political and extremely important signal, but also an essential argument in favor of intensified cooperation. For a change of formats is always followed by a change in the quality of cooperation between partners. Therefore, in my opinion, any progress in this direction would be positive, and I hope very much that the NATO Warsaw summit will bring Ukraine and Georgia much closer to the Alliance.

“Naturally, the key point in any cooperation is not the title of a treaty, an agreement or a program but the content the partners are attaching to what is supposed to be effective cooperation. But the form is also important. Accordingly, the country that receives the MAP is an unofficial NATO candidate member, while the country that is deprived of this is one of the very many partners without any prospects of membership. So, I would not like to speak about the content alone – we must speak about both the content and the form. Only then will the interaction be the most effective.”

By Mykola SIRUK, The Day