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Referendum regarding NATO membership as a borderline faulty game

Vadym Triukhan

The topic of joining the NATO became one of the hits in Ukraine’s media space. What is more, some parties even initiate holding a referendum regarding block membership on October 26, during the elections of national Parliament members.

At the first glance it might seem that the issue is pertinent at this moment, as non-block status did nothing to protect Ukraine from the annexation of Crimea and the war in the east.

What is more, the government already proposed a bill to the Verkhovna Rada, according to which our country should rid itself of this Yanukovych-era rudiment.

However, not everything is as easy as it looks.

There are several issues the initiators of the referendum should have taken into account.

First, bill #4561a regarding the abolition of non-block status proposed by the government at the moment has ghostly perspectives of being approved by the current Parliament. It is obvious that a referendum before its approval looks illogical, to say the least.

Second, society has no established consensus over the issue of our membership in the Alliance. Some may boast high numbers of Ukrainian national support, but let us look at regional distribution.

Despite quite a high number of supporters of Ukraine’s membership in the NATO in the west and center, in the east, only 21,4% as of now positively regard this issue, as do 24,3% in the south (survey conducted by Razumkov Center between June 6 and 11, 2014)…

In the situation when the tension in Donbas has reached a critical limit, the movement of this idea now is unlikely to be long-sighted. As our ‘friends’ from the northeast, which take advantage of all possible and impossible excuses for propaganda, will surely accuse Kyiv of trying to ‘beat its own citizens in the east into submission.’

Third, throughout the past four years, there has been no significant educational campaign regarding Euro-Atlantic integration in Ukraine. On the contrary, the former government engaged in counter propaganda, making society think that the only right way for Ukraine is not being part of any block.

Despite the fact that this policy obviously failed, we now need time for full-scale informational work. We need to form a new security paradigm, which would be acceptable for most Ukrainian citizens, including those in the south and east.

1,5 months before the elections are clearly not enough for such work.

To wit, neither the government nor the parties, which are currently popularizing the idea of joining the NATO, as of this moment have not declared any programs to inform the public regarding Euro-Atlantic integration, which would give an understanding to society what the NATO is, what are the upsides and downsides of joining the NATO, what norms and standards in the security sphere are implemented by its member states etc.

Fourth, in relation to the NATO every country that declares its intention to join, has to go through several preparatory stages. Ukraine has not even begun talking about receiving a membership action plan, having lost this chance in 2008.

What is more, during the last NATO summit, which was held in South Wales on September 4-5 of the current year, Georgia (which is better prepared for membership than us) was essentially refused an action plan. Therefore, in our case the issue of membership at the moment cannot be on the agenda at all, so far it is unrealistic.

Fifth, a number of leaders of NATO member states in the past few weeks have been publicly expressing caution regarding Ukraine’s membership in the alliance in the short-term perspective. And us holding the referendum now can be viewed in the West as an unreasonable act.

Finally, last but not least.

The rating of the initiator of any initiative directly influences how society perceives it. Therefore it is highly dangerous to execute such an idea under conditions of unprecedented unstable levels of support by the voters of those who are lobbying it.

Plus, the end result of the parliamentary elections and their carrying out by itself will depend on how the situation develops in the east of the country.

Taking this into account, the politicians should not risk the future of the country and put forth an underdeveloped and out-of-place initiative regarding a referendum on NATO membership.

As its possible failure will benefit a sole geopolitical player – Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

Instead of a conclusion

Yes, obviously Ukraine needs to immediately renew the integration format of relations with the NATO and prepare to join the alliance. However the referendum on this issue itself should be held during a good time – only after the necessary reforms are carried out, after informing and dialogue inside the country.

At the moment the initiative regarding the referendum would rather damage Ukraine nor save it. Under conditions of war a faulty game with such serious things is a road to nowhere.


Source: EuroIntegration

Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina

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