Ukraine and the NATO Military Alliance

It’s crucial that all our citizens – particularly young people who have grown up in times of peace – understand what NATO is and what we do. Our continued success depends on our citizens understanding the essential role that NATO plays in our security, on which our prosperity is based. We will remain fully transparent and proactive in explaining our essential work to the outside world.

—    NATO, May 22, 2017

STRATFOR’s observations about Libya in September 2012 included the withering and accurate comment that “NATO simply didn’t understand or care about the whirlwind it was unleashing” when it went to war on Libya in March the previous year, but it is unfortunate that the US-NATO military alliance has been so successful in its propaganda intended to convince the world at large that its yippee-shooting jamboree in Libya was a successful intervention in the cause of peace and stability.

—    CounterPunch, October 2, 2015

Corruption Is Killing Ukraine’s Economy

—    Forbes, October 14, 2016

According to the Headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, its “two official languages are English and French,” although it makes selected press releases available in other languages, which is pragmatic and understandable in some circumstances.  But when the subject of an official NATO notification is “NATO Secretary General to address the European Parliament” and the languages used to inform the world of this important event are English, French and Ukrainian, it has to be asked why the last was considered necessary rather than, say, German, Spanish or Turkish.

It is equally intriguing that the media handout on the occasion of the visit to NATO HQ  by US Defense Secretary, General James Mattis, on February 15 was published in the same languages. One wonders how many Ukrainians were involved in the visit by General Mattis (he who nauseatingly considers that “it’s fun to shoot some people”) — and what the reasoning behind the language deal might have involved.

Ukraine is not a member of the US-NATO military alliance that was formed in 1949 “to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law”  which is supposed to “promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area.”  Ukraine isn’t close to the North Atlantic (it’s 3,000 kilometers from Kiev to Brest), nor is it a member of the European Union, and is unlikely to be accepted by that body, for very good reasons. In 2016 there was an attempt to resurrect and expand an EU association agreement of 2014, but it was vetoed by the Dutch who were and continue to be wary that there would be military implications if the EU were to be involved with such a regime.

Holland held a national referendum to decide whether there should be closer EU association with Ukraine, and the result was overwhelmingly against the proposed project, as it indubitably would be in other European countries, were a people’s vote to be permitted on the matter.  The Guardian newspaper reported that “in a bid to assuage Dutch concerns, European leaders have spelled out that Ukraine has not been promised EU membership, nor any help from European armies in the event of invasion, as a result of signing an association agreement,” but the wise Dutch people were having nothing to do with it — although their own Senate, in the way of all politicians, is trying to override them.

The US-NATO alliance doesn’t have to bother with such things as public opinion when it makes its decisions about Ukraine or anywhere else. In spite of its disastrous wars in Libya and Afghanistan which have reduced these countries to political, social and economic chaos, NATO claims that “in times of uncertainty and unpredictability, a strong NATO alliance is more important than ever,” and continues to ignore the uncomfortable fact that its meddling in twenty-first century Europe has contributed more to instability and uncertainty than any other factor.  Nowhere is this more marked than in Ukraine, where NATO’s intrusive meddling is long-standing.

Ukraine tries to establish a positive profile, internationally, and in this it is assisted by the western mainstream media which report selectively about the country. Highlights and headlines are given to the rare positive developments that take place, but it’s difficult to find realistic reporting on a daily basis, because this would be regarded as support for Russia.  As is apparent in Washington, there is no place for objectivity on the subject of Russia, irrespective of facts and events.  From time to time, however, it has to be admitted that Ukraine is far from being a paradise in which a happy population is eternally grateful to the United States for furthering the 2014 coup that overthrew the government, and there are uncomfortable glimpses of the real state of affairs.

Things have not worked out as planned by the US facilitator of the 2014 coup, Ms Victoria Nuland, who was anxious to establish a government in Kiev that would do exactly what was desired by the Pentagon and its sub-office at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels.  She was recorded as telling the US ambassador to Ukraine that “the next phone call you want to set up, is exactly the one you made to Yats [Arseniy Yatseniuk]. And I’m glad you sort of put him on the spot on where he fits in this scenario.”  Meddle, meddle, meddle — and although their compliant tool in the machinations, Arseniy Yatseniuk, duly became prime minister he didn’t last long, because he fell out with US favorite President Poroshenko, who, as reported by the BBC, “came under scrutiny . . . after leaked documents suggested he had set up an offshore company as a tax haven using Panamanian legal firm Mossack Fonseca.”

In April 2016 Carnegie Europe published a think piece, “Fighting a Culture of Corruption in Ukraine” which, although concentrating on what had been flawed and faulty before the coup was engineered, was explicit about post-coup shenanigans, observing that “in the 2015 survey by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, respondents called Ukraine’s parliament the most corrupt political institution in the country, with 60.6 percent of those surveyed saying it was a center of corruption.”  This was blamed on the previous government, but at least there was a modicum of actuality.

A more realistic survey was carried out by Business Anti-Corruption which noted among other matters that “Ukraine’s public procurement lacks transparency due to vague regulations, monopolistic practices and the exemption of state actors from transparency and competition requirements. Ukraine’s Constitution states the president is not allowed to perform any kind of paid professional activity or to be a member of a board of directors at any corporation that aims to generate profit, but President Poroshenko owns a chocolate corporation that saw profits grow by 900% from 2013 to 2014 (Information, March 2015), suggesting extensive corruption and embezzlement by top-level Ukrainian officials.”

It was impossible for the west to totally ignore the resignation of Ukraine’s Central Bank Governor, Valeria Gontareva, in April, although it was not widely reported that she got out while she could because she had received death threats including a coffin with a mock-up of her head in it being left at the main entrance of the Bank’s headquarters.  There were a few paragraphs in US and European papers, noting that Ms Gontareva had “criticized the government’s failure to prosecute private bank owners she accused of corruption and money laundering,” although, as noted by Reuters, she was of course accused of being “a Russian stooge.”

In spite of all the evidence that Ukraine is a corrupt shambles, with many of the decent people in public service being forced out of their positions, the US-NATO  alliance is increasingly intent on supporting it to the greatest extent possible.  The main aim is to have Ukraine as a full member of NATO, and that path is being smoothed by such as its Deputy Secretary General Rose Gottemoeller who recently “reaffirmed the Alliance’s strong support for Ukraine,” while she enthusiastically “highlighted NATO’s Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine, which includes more than forty tailored support measures and six different multi-million-euro Trust Funds.”  One can hope only that the funds are not located in Panama.

There is hope, however, that the pragmatic German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron — in effect the leaders of Europe — will resist the Pentagon-Brussels moves to get Ukraine into the anti-Russia military alliance.  It isn’t that the Ukrainian armed forces can do very much (studies at Western military staff colleges indicated that if Russia had wanted to invade Ukraine in 2014 it could have swept through the country from border to border in a time estimated from twenty to fifty days) but there is the real and present danger that US nuclear weapons could be deployed yet further east.  Closer Ukraine-NATO bonding is wanted by those who seek war, but Europe’s sensible leaders want peace, prosperity and an end to confrontation.

Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.