Ukraine Spring, NATO Springboard

25 January 2014 — Everything Left

As the coordinated clashes in Kiev intensify and the city burns, will the embers light the way for NATO’s Trojan horse to enter Ukraine?

Fires, fatalities and funerals gripped Kiev this week and as the city continues to burn, protesters are still gathering to voice opposition to President Viktor Yanukovych’s failure to sign the “Association Agreement” with the EU. In a country with an average monthly national minimum wage equivalent to around 100Euros, 15 billion dollars in IMF loans being suspended, a zero growth forecast and a danger of default, it isn’t hard to understand how perceptions of being denied economic lifelines would bring people out in protest. On closer inspection however, it appears that the Association Agreement, which the New York Times described as “sweeping political and free-trade agreements with the European Union” is not merely a customs and economic agreement but is also a military agreement that paints a very different picture to that which is being portrayed in the mainstream media.

The military component is actually the first substantial section of the agreement and outlines “increased participation of Ukraine in EU-led “civilian and military crisis management operations as well as relevant exercises and training” and “Cooperation…shall aim at increasing policy convergence and effectiveness, and promoting joint policy planning. To this end, the Parties shall make use of bilateral (i.e., including US-Ukrainian), international (ie NATO) and regional fora” which gives the impression that protests based on misinformed support for an economic agreement that would bring prosperity and no visa requirements for travel within the EU are actually being exploited to pave the way for a new military agreement under the guise of economic reform.

On June 24, 2013 the EU-Ukraine Cooperation Council which was established to implement the agreement published the “EU-Ukraine Association Agenda to prepare and facilitate the implementation of the Association Agreement” including: “increased interoperability where appropriate between Ukrainian peacekeeping units and EU Member States forces through lessons learned from relevant EU crisis management operations to which Ukraine participated, and through involvement of the units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine into the formation of EU Multinational Tactical Battle groups.” and links the country to “ever closer convergence of positions on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest” including the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) of the European Union and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP)”.

The agenda as well as the agreement itself hardly mentions NATO by name but considering the emphasis on the Ukrainian military in the agreement and the fact that 22 of the 28 European Union states are also NATO member states, there is very little doubt that Ukraine is being drawn into a military agreement with the EU and NATO. The geopolitical significance of this cannot be underestimated considering that Ukraine shares a 1,426 mile border with Russia and would hand NATO a new front line for western missile defence right on Russia’s doorstep. This would grossly violate once again the promise given by James Baker to Gorbachev, that “NATO will not expand one inch east of Berlin” after former Soviet republics Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania all became NATO members alongside Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovenia. Any attempts to refute the expansionist agenda of NATO lack any real credibility given that it has been clearly expanding into Eastern Europe for decades and if and when the Ukraine becomes part of the EU, and NATO, the whole geopolitical map will be dramatically reshaped and Russia’s defence significantly weakened.

Since joining the EU, Latvia, Romania and Bulgaria have seen their industry and agriculture completely destroyed and their population drop in levels exceeding those of World War Two as they watched their younger generations spread throughout western Europe to work in menial jobs for higher wages. However, the Association Agreement offered to the Ukraine is even worse than those given to these states as there aren’t even guarantees with regards to the freedom of work and travel within the EU. The Agreement is vague on the subject, calling for the visa issue to be introduced “in due course.” and also asserts that EU nations could block the movement of self-employed Ukrainians to other job markets. The austerity measures required to receive any IMF loans or financial packages from the EU would also be disastrous for the country in the long term and President Yanukovych had agreed to such conditions initially in attempts to delay the inevitable collapse of the economy through the acquisition of desperate loans.

In the scheme of Russia’s economic interest as well as geopolitical position, Ukraine’s accession to the EU spells trouble. Should Yanukovych sign the agreement and EU products be given a window of opportunity to be imported through Ukraine into Russia, then Putin has warned that Russian tariffs would have to rise which could result in hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost immediately. The agreement did not give adequate answers to questions regarding how Ukraine would deal with the fallout from losing Russia as its cheaper source of gas either. When issues such as these are put into context alongside the tough austerity demands of the IMF and the recent package offered by Russia of $15 billion in loans and a further cut in gas prices which would see Gazprom charge Ukraine’s Naftogaz energy company only $268.5 per 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas, compared to $400 currently, we see that the U-turn decision of the Ukrainian government is less to do with Russian intimidation and more to do with economic logic.

It’s hard to understand how an agreement that demands harsh rounds of austerity without the promises of free travel within the EU can ever be used as a means to achieve higher wages and more economic freedom for the people of Ukraine. As well as austerity and inevitable unemployment, should Ukraine eventually become a NATO member state, it would have to agree to at least 2% of GDP on to be spent on defence which means domestic expenditure will go down. The people taking to the streets in Kiev are shouting slogans for economic reform whilst pushing for an agreement that would line the pockets of Lockheed Martin, BAE and Boeing, expand a missile defence shield on the borders of Russia and leave Ukraine weak, poor and destabilised in semi-colonial dependence to the West propping up NATO bases with their economy.

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