Ukrainian experts see no prerequisites for holding a referendum on the country’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the near future, despite the recent declarations made by President Petro Poroshenko.
Viktor Musiyaka, a professor at the Kiev Mohyla Academy, said the intention of Poroshenko to call the plebiscite on NATO accession is quite astonishing at the time, when the alliance has not offered Ukraine even a membership plan.
“We have only received messages that nobody is waiting for Ukraine in the alliance. They said that the cooperation is possible, but the membership is either a remote prospect or something unattainable,” Musiyaka said.
It is clear that holding a referendum is useless until NATO signals it is ready to accept Ukraine as a member, but currently, the military bloc is showing little enthusiasm to incorporate the East European country.
Poroshenko has said earlier this month that Ukraine was considering a possibility to hold a referendum on whether to join NATO, adding the number of Ukrainians supporting the accession to the military alliance has increased more than threefold to 54 percent over the past four years.
The president vowed to do all he can “to achieve membership in the transatlantic alliance” if the people voted in favor.
NATO and Ukraine have had a close relationship since the early 1990s, and their ties are one of the “most substantial” of NATO’s partnerships, according to the alliance’s website.
NATO Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller on Thursday reaffirmed the alliance’s support for Ukraine, urging Kiev to push forward the anti-corruption and other reforms.
“I encourage Ukraine to continue to press ahead with such reforms. NATO will continue to provide political and practical support to Ukraine,” Gottemoeller said.
Commenting on the plans to hold the referendum, the head of NATO Representation to Ukraine Alexander Vinnikov said Kiev must carry out a series of reforms, especially in security and defense, before its bid can be accepted for consideration.
Without doubts, as long as Ukraine is involved in the conflict in the eastern regions and the territorial dispute with Russia over Crimea, its door to NATO is closed.
Besides, the Ukrainian economy and the political environments currently fall short of the alliance’s criteria, which means the road to join NATO will be long.
What makes the referendum even more unlikely is the fact that Ukraine’s military doctrine, which was approved by Poroshenko in 2015, set no prospect for NATO membership.
“The current law does not specify the aim of joining NATO — the ultimate goal is to achieve specific technological criteria that meet NATO standards,” said Yevgenij Marchuk, the head of International secretariat on Security and Civilian Cooperation between NATO and Ukraine.
He suggested that it would take Ukraine not less than 10 years to acquire the membership in the military bloc.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian society itself is not yet fully ready to cast their ballots in the referendum on NATO membership as the country’s possible entry to the alliance is complicated by the internal differences on the issue and lack of information about it.
“I have serious doubts that the Ukrainian people understand the challenges of joining NATO. First, we should give our citizens information and knowledge on the issue and only then we could ask them to make a choice that will decide the fate of our country,” said Anna Malyar, an independent analyst.
Some observers have suggested that Poroshenko’s statements were not a political declaration that the plebiscite will take place soon, but only a signal of his readiness to hold such referendum someday.
This opinion is confirmed by the fact that shortly after the Poroshenko’s announcement, the head of his administration Konstantin Elyseev said the referendum will be held only after Ukraine meets all NATO requirements.
Meanwhile, some other analysts believed that the words of Poroshenko, who said that 54 percent of Ukrainians will likely support NATO accession during the referendum, is nothing but an attempt to push forward the cooperation with the alliance amid fears that it may weaken after the change in the U.S. leadership.
“Obviously, these statements are aimed at putting pressure on our Western partners, showing them that Ukrainian people support NATO aspirations, so the cooperation should be expanded,” said Iryna Bekeshkina, an analyst at Democratic Initiatives Foundation. Enditem