What can Ukraine offer NATO?

Ukrainian soldiers often take part in joint exercises with NATO. Photo: milnavigator.com.ua 


On 8 June 2017, the Ukrainian Parliament restored Ukraine’s course towards NATO membership. While most Ukrainians (44%) are sure that joining NATO is the best way Ukraine can achieve national security, Ukraine’s membership is still on the very distant horizon. We decided to take a look at what Ukraine can offer NATO with the help of an article written by the Institute of World Policy.

Is Ukraine a recipient, or contributor to regional security? Recently, there have been speculations that Ukraine is becoming a source of insecurity that cannot contribute to the stability and security of the transatlantic region. Over the past few years, however, Ukraine proved that it is not only able to defend itself, but also willing to share its skills and knowledge with strategic partners.

The goal of this memo is to open a discussion about qualitatively new added values for the Alliance that could complement the commonly declared advantages of Ukraine such as its unique geostrategic location, high defense expenditures, and economic potential.
A anti-Russian protest at the NATO summit in Wales on 4 September 2014. Photo: Terry Brown

A anti-Russian protest at the NATO summit in Wales on 4 September 2014. Photo: Terry Brown


Since the inception of bilateral relations in the early 1990s, Ukraine has proved itself as a reliable partner that showed its commitment to values and standards of NATO through joint military operations, counter-terrorism missions, and security sector reforms. For the past two decades, Ukraine demonstrated its commitment to principles of the transatlantic security framework through participating in the wide range of NATO-led operations.

Ukraine took part in a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, ISAF mission in Afghanistan, and training mission in Iraq; contributed its navy to the counter-piracy initiative Ocean Shield off the coast of Somalia and counter-terrorism Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean Sea. It became the first non-member country to contribute its troops to the NATO Response Force. Ukraine provided NATO with unique airlift capabilities and actively participated in joint civil emergency exercises. Although the military cooperation has reached a strategic level, a combination of factors including the lack of political will and opposition from Russia prevented the intensification of the dialogue. Two years of conflict in eastern Ukraine has not only rallied the public and governmental support for the deeper integration in NATO structures, but also forged Ukraine into a much stronger partner with a unique set of capabilities that could be crucial for the Alliance.

Thus, the added value of Ukraine for transatlantic security framework consists of the following:

• Experience in hybrid warfare

Although the term hybrid war generated much debate, there is little doubt that Russian intervention in Ukraine incorporated the elements of the conventional, cyber, asymmetric, and informational warfare. Two years of trial and error in addressing the separatist entities, incursions of Russian troops without insignia, disinformation, and cyber attacks have given Ukraine a unique experience that can be examined to develop strategies in defense of potential targets within the Alliance and in the region as a whole. Through opening a Hybrid War Study Center in Ukraine, it would be possible to closely study the current conflict and generate insights into potential preventive measures.

• Counter-propaganda

A significant part in the success of the Russian advancement in Crimea and eastern Ukraine was due to informational technologies to rally up support before and during the crisis. Blatant disinformation campaigns pouring from domestic and international media outlets of Russian Federation has cultivated supporters not only in the affected areas, but also among the citizens of the Western countries. Not incidentally, the success of Russian informational warfare was partly due to the shortcomings of the cultural and lingual policies of the Ukrainian government toward the “hearts and minds” of its citizens who now live in the occupied territories. There is a long way ahead, but the response from the Ukrainian media, civil society, and government to the well-geared Russian propaganda machine can provide valuable insights for NATO structures, such as the Strategic Communications Center of Excellence.

• Rapid military modernization and the impact of civil resilience

Ukraine has transformed in a short period of time its obsolete armed forces into more mobile and better equipped military force that is able to withstand hybrid threats. The modernization process was in no small part shaped by the active participation of the citizen activists who served as volunteers in the times of crisis. Financial assistance from the diaspora and donations from Ukrainians at home, a synergy between the business and society to support the military cause, the resilience of Ukrainian armed forces and volunteers can serve as a blueprint for a crisis response that can be beneficial for the Alliance members that border Russia.

• Intelligence on the eastern border and the Black Sea region

Ukraine’s geopolitical position and special relations with its neighbors offer a unique perspective to the security dynamics in the Black Sea region. While cooperation in the sphere of civilian control over intelligence sector between NATO and Ukraine dates back to 2006, the recent security crisis gives an impetus for a new-level of collaboration.

• Energy security

Ukraine remains a strategic partner of the Alliance in addressing Europe’s energy security. Although the oil and gas prices are dwindling and Europe has set a course on renewable energy, natural resources would still play a major role in the short- to mid-term perspective. In the light of uncertainty regarding the alternative routes of energy delivery from Russia, the stable and reliable gas-transport system of Ukraine will serve as an indispensable component of the European energy security architecture.


Ivan Medynskyi, PhD, is a Research Fellow at the Kyiv-based Institute of World Policy.



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Source: iwp.org.ua

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  1. Avatar Mykola Banderachuk says:

    Ukraine can offer alot to NATO, most notable is the bravery, courage and committment of the Ukrainian soldiers, if it was not for the Ukrainian soldier Nazi Germany would not have been defeated during WW2. The russians played a minor part in this struggle.

    1. Avatar NotFabio says:

      “The russians played a minor part in this struggle.”
      “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe!” – attributed to Einstein.

  2. Avatar slavko says:

    Originally I was not for Ukraine’s membership in NATO. After the breakup of the Soviet Union Ukraine had given up all her nuclear weapons and declared herself neutral. There was what is called the Budapest Memorandum whereby the UK, US and Russia promised to protect Ukrainian territorial integrity and sovereignty. Then Russia and Ukraine signed Friendship Treaty. So there was no reason for Ukraine to be a part of a defensive organization such as NATO. And the people of Ukraine didn’t much think that NATO was needed at that time given the assurances of Russia AND the mutual understanding of borders with Poland – the two historical countries that had encroached on Ukrainian lands over centuries. But all that ended when Russia broke its promises of friendship and invaded Ukraine, seized Crimea and threatened to split off the Eastern regions of Luhansk and Donbas by instigating a fake civil war there. So the historical Russian belligerence and machinations continue.

    Now it only makes sense for Ukraine to aspire for NATO membership. Russia has no one to blame but its leaders, namely Putin and the Kremlin gang.

    1. Avatar NotFabio says:

      1. You never had nukes in the first place.
      2. Eastern Ukraine was never really part of “Ukraine”
      …and Western Ukraine is historically Polish.

      1. Avatar Tony says:

        1. Russia never really had anything according to your logic, it was all Soviet.
        2. East Ukraine was part of Ukraine before Russia even existed “The oldest mention of the word ukraina dates back to the year 1187. In connection with the death of the Volodymyr Hlibovych, the ruler of Principality of Pereyaslavl which was Kiev’s southern shield against the Wild Fields, the Hypatian Codex says “ukraina groaned for him””
        3. Similarly Poland only temporarily stole some Ukrainian lands like Lviv which were originally Kievan-Rus. After many wars it returned to Ukraine where it belongs.

        We can also joke that neither Moscow nor the eastern half of Russia nor the southern parts are really Russian. The one was Kievan-Rus, the others Mongol and assortment of others and the last was Circassian and mountain people who have historically faught Russia for independence (case in point Chechnya).

        1. Avatar NotFabio says:

          1. True, BUT Russia is the successor state of USSR. That’s why it inherited both USSR’s national debt AND the nuclear weaponry.
          2. Also true, BUT the term was not in wide use until the 20th century. Where Ukraine’s borders were throughout centuries is subject to interpretation. Especially since it did not exist as a state.
          3. True again, BUT “temporarily stole” happened back in 1240s. A rather lengthy “temporary” period, shall we say. And it was “returned to Ukraine” by Stalin.
          Yes, we can joke. Novorossiya was largely settled by the Balkan immigrants; the original term was “Novoserbia” (I am not making this up.)

  3. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

    The RuSSia needs to be dismembered.

    1. Avatar slavko says:

      It only makes sense since the Kremlin has been playing it’s game of dividing Europe, hacking US and European political systems.

    2. Avatar Dirk Smith says:

      Give Siberia to China and chop up everything else like Yugoslavia.

      1. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

        The Chicoms have stolen enough land.

  4. Avatar Tony says:

    250k army(largest or second largest in Europe?), More tanks than the top few EU countries combined, fresh experience from a real war including dealing with hybrid war tactics.

    Let’s be realistic, in terms of war power Ukraine has more to offer than some existing NATO members.

    1. Avatar NotFabio says:

      Being realistic, in terms of war power, Ukraine is not able to control the East, even with Western help. War is expensive business, and the country’s failing economy cannot sustain war effort. The best units seem to be nationalist militias (called the “Nat. Guard.”) Regular Ukrainian army has not shined on the battlefield.
      But I agree that it still has a better military than many NATO members.