Russian commentary website looks at NATO accession debate in Ukraine

Text of report by Russian political commentary website on 28 May

[Article by Serhiy Slobodchuk: "Words by Tymoshenko, music by NATO ensemble"]

Appearing before the media for the first time since the presidential elections, Yuliya Tymoshenko acknowledged the results of the 25 May ballot. And she immediately repeated what she had said before about her resolve to initiate a referendum on the issue of Ukraine joining NATO. Is it not strange that the elections have passed, but the idea remains? And so, what hidden agendas are concealed behind the calls to vote to join NATO?

Initially Tymoshenko proposed combining the referendum with the voting on 15 June, but the Ukrainians’ expression of their will "has changed things", as they say, eliminating the prospects of a second round. Nevertheless, the Fatherland party leader does not intend to abandon the idea of holding a referendum on Ukrainian’s attitude towards NATO. The first purpose of Tymoshenko’s statement was of course her own image. Today the Ukrainian media, the ruling Turchynov-Yatsenyuk administration, politicians, experts, and in general everyone who influences public opinion are actively moulding Russia to fit the "image of the enemy". So the fashionable trend this season is to do everything to demonstrate your own patriotism and "profound concern" for Ukraine’s security. And it is in that key that Tymoshenko’s initiative is working to form a "patriotic" image. In general an image, simply an image, nothing more.

It is another matter that it might be time for ordinary Ukrainians to start wondering: Who is responsible for the loss of control over Crimea? Who brought the Ukrainian army to the point of complete collapse and the loss of its combat capability by selling off army property and introducing ever new schemes for cutting up defence expenditure? Surely not the same people – newly elected President Poroshenko (National Security and Defence Council secretary in 2005, foreign minister under Yushchenko and economy minister under Yanukovych), twice Prime Minister Tymoshenko, former Defence Minister Anatoliy Hrytsenko, etc. – who today are rending the shirts on their breasts and swearing to "lay down their lives" for their native land? But to judge by the results of the vote at the presidential elections, ordinary Ukrainians are so far not giving the matter particular thought.

Interpretation No 2 – this is Tymoshenko’s attempt to respond to the mass demand for security. The Maydan, the Crimea situation, the tragedies in Odessa and Mariupol, the emergence of the armed volunteer militia in Donetsk and Luhansk regions and later the full-scale military clash near Slovyansk and in Donetsk have sharply exacerbated the mass alarm. As a result millions of Ukrainians today are generating a mass demand for their own personal safety and the safety of their near and dear ones. That is why Tymoshenko is acting precisely in accordance with the pattern characteristic of a Ukrainian politician – "if there is a problem, you have to talk about it". Talk about it even if you have no idea of how to resolve it. Of course, there is a risk that Ukrainians will start wondering – what kind of condition has the Ukrainian elite reduced its armed forces to if we have to run to the "NATO umbrella" for urgent protection?

The third interpretation is typical political spin doctoring. How might the subject of the referendum be tied to the elections, one might wonder? Let us remind you that initially Yuliya Tymoshenko proposed holding the referendum on the same day as the second round of the presidential elections – had it not been for Poroshenko’s victory in the first round, the second round would have been held 15 June. As already stated, Ukrainians are experiencing en masse a state of alarm for their own safety – and here is Tymoshenko proposing to resolve the problem by just ticking a ballot paper! Is there the motivation for the ordinary Ukrainian citizen to go to the polling place to "vote" for his own safety? Of course there is! That is we have before us typical spin doctoring working to increase the turnout on voting day.

And finally the last reading of the initiative can be understood as candidate No 2 seeking, with the aid of the referendum, to create a new topic for bargaining between Tymoshenko herself and her political party Fatherland and the next Supreme Council and newly elected President Poroshenko. The point is that Ukraine’s non-bloc status is enshrined in the Law "On the Foundations of Domestic and Foreign Policy." Article 11 of the law reads: "Ukraine as a European non-bloc state pursues an open foreign policy and seeks to cooperate with all interested partners, avoiding dependence on individual states, groups of states, or international structures." Ukraine’s military doctrine by analogy contains a norm whereby "Ukraine adheres to a non-bloc policy". Military doctrine goes through a procedure of coordination at the cabinet of ministers and the National Security and Defence Council and the Ukrainian president definitively approves it with an edict. So even if 99 per cent of Ukrainians of those who have taken part in the referendum express themselves for NATO, in actual fact the final decision will be made by the Supreme Council and President Poroshenko. How could this not be a pretext for a new wave of PR and at the same time horse trading with new political rivals?

In conclusion, to be fair, it must be admitted that the idea of holding a referendum on Ukraine’s accession to NATO is far from new. In the 1990s and early 2000s the Ukrainian socialists in the form of the Ukrainian Socialist Party and its leader, Oleksandr Moroz, spent a long time "working up" the "into NATO via a referendum" topic. So the status of inventor of the scheme by rights belongs to them. And finally we must consider above all that the North Atlantic Alliance has its own procedure for admitting new member states. Just one small point – Article 10 of the Washington Treaty requires that the decision to admit new members be approved by consensus. That is, at present all 278 member countries must express themselves in favour of admitting Ukraine to the bloc. And no referendum can compel them to demonstrate unanimous consent unless there is consensus among the elites of the United States, France, Germany, and the other "heavyweights" in the Alliance.

Yes, the results of the 25 May vote proved graphically that the idea of using spin doctoring to increase turnout did not work – simply because Yuliya Tymoshenko did not get into the second round of the presidential election. However, we should not be in a hurry to see Tymoshenko’s idea as entirely stillborn. Immediately after the announcement of the results of the exit polls, Petro Poroshenko confirmed his intention to seek the dissolution of the Supreme Council with a view to early parliamentary elections. And the Rada election campaign will help revive the topic of a referendum on Ukraine’s accession to NATO. So that we may predict that at least a few political projects will try to use the "patriotic theme" in order to earn additional points in the voters’ eyes.

Source: website, Moscow, in Russian 28 May 14



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