By Alexey Stukalo
– Should the question of Ukraine’s accession to NATO be a subject for a nation-wide referendum?
– I do not think that such a referendum will do any harm. Why not? In any case, it will show the sentiments of the Ukrainian society today. I think that most of Ukrainian population will vote for the membership in NATO. But the result of the referendum will only mean the opinion of Ukrainians, rather than real steps towards the accession to NATO. It is a useful referendum, I suppose.
–Nevertheless, the Ukrainian army and, to be exact, the whole society is not ready for the accession to the Alliance yet. What do you think, how long can the preparation stage last?
– There is rich world experience on accession of different countries to NATO – Eastern Europe and all Baltic States. There are the so-called roadmaps that NATO will help draft. It will be necessary to carry out a big national program for the training and modernization of the Ukrainian army. The way is long, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
– And what to do with conflict territorial zones in Ukraine? I mean the Crimea and part of Donbass. After all, the NATO does not accept countries with controversial and hot spots.
– Ukraine has serious problems with temporarily occupied territories in the Crimea and unlawful terrorist formations in the east. It will be very difficult to agree with NATO on inclusion to the Alliance during the critical stages of the territorial conflicts. But it seems to me that this specific problem is exaggerated by people in Ukraine who do not want to join the NATO, and, naturally, it will be fully used by Putin and Russia.
I claim that this problem is exaggerated. NATO is not only military, but also military and political alliance, and, accordingly, Ukraine has to join the competent lobbyist company and primarily focus on Washington rather than the European Union.
The problem will disappear if such a lobbyist operation is carried out. But it has to be done in a serious way, not with the help of homemade Ukrainian patriots – naive natives, but by people who work in the Ukrainian government, are knowledgeable and have wide international experience. It will be necessary to hire the best lobbyists in the world and not just cheap ones.
All actions in Washington will have to be coordinated together with them. Thus, all effects of current and threatened territorial disputes in Ukraine will be minimized. NATO will then consider conditions to accept Ukraine in the Alliance, even under the circumstances.
–And how long can be this process?
– Not a single country in the world was accepted to NATO by pressing a button or holding a referendum. The process of accession of NATO is very long. Some countries manage it faster, some move more slowly, simply because fulfilment of conditions is different. In my opinion, Ukraine has to aim at developing a mutual roadmap with NATO and go on working in this direction. And to work along the lobbyist line before or after it so that the disrupted territorial integrity of Ukraine would not become a cause of NATO’s refusal.
–Many Ukrainian politicians and political scientists say that we should not use NATO to tease the big bear standing nearby, when we do not even have a stick in the hands. To what extent does the question of Ukraine’s membership in NATO tease Russia?
– I consider that Ukraine has no other way out, but only to follow the strategy of the West: to hold back Putin's Russia. Such measures will sooner or later yield results from the point of view of Russian economic collapse. And Ukraine had better be NATO member to fully join this strategy.
Putin's disagreement concerning the fact whether Ukraine can choose this way or not should not bother you in any way. For example, if he attacks Mariupol with tanks, the Russian economy will collapse in the following three months, not even in 2015. I wish Ukrainians not to be cowardly and Ukraine not to be afraid.