Empty promises: Poroshenko's statement on joining NATO is groundless

Author : Anatoliy Martsynovsky

Source : 112 Ukraine

Petro Poroshenko has joined the club of "NATO referendum lovers," like Medvedchuk and Tymoshenko
10:41, 3 February 2017

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President Poroshenko announced his intention to hold a referendum on NATO membership.

"I take into account the opinion of Ukraine's population. Four years ago, only 16% were in favor of Ukraine's membership in NATO. Now there are 54% people," he explained.

It is unclear, to which survey he refers. Leading Ukrainian sociological services show that support for NATO membership is still slightly less than 50%.

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For example, "Rating" at the end of the year reported about 47% support, and in October, Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) said this figure even reached 39%. Significantly higher is support among those who has made his diecision and expresses readiness to attend the conditional referendum: results of KIIS survey – 56%, Democratic Initiatives and the Razumkov Center (in December) – 71%.

However, the key issue of President’s statements is not contradictory sociology.

Unfortunately, the question of joining NATO and the respective referendum have long been subject to speculative politics or political technologies, irresponsible and illogical statements.

Related: Poroshenko to initiate referendum on Ukraine joining NATO

In the time between the Orange Revolution the Yanukovych’s presidency, referendum on joining NATO has been a favorite subject of the pro-Moscow leaders - in particular, Viktor Medvedchuk and the leader of Ukrainian Communists Petro Symonenko.

Kremlin’s interest was obvious. Support of the Alliance was extremely low then, so its predictable result would have powerful anti-NATO effect. In 2006, NATO opponents even collected more than four million signatures for a national vote. In 2009, Medvedchuk won a court which ordered the then President Viktor Yushchenko to hold a referendum - and Petro Symonenko "lobbied" corresponding resolution in parliament.

By the way, now the mechanism of referendum might prevent Montenegro from joining NATO.

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During the presidential elections in the spring of 2014, Yulia Tymoshenko took the subject of the referendum hoping that at the background of Russian aggression, it will add her some votes. This was the same Tymoshenko, who when being prime minister in 2008 strongly opposed to signing the letter to NATO to provide Ukraine Action Plan on gaining membership, leading her game with Putin and the Party of Regions.

Now Petro Poroshenko has joined the company of "referendum lovers."

However, Medvedchuk and Tymoshenko had clear and logical goals and motives, while the motives of the current president are incomprehensible.

But since Poroshenko announced such plans, a number of questions arises.

First of all - what is the point in the referendum on joining NATO, if Ukraine has not officially declared its desire to join the Alliance? After all, abandoning neutrality in 2014, Kyiv did not manage to make the next step to NATO membership.

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Achieving the criteria required for membership in the organization is only a hybrid formulation of laws "On National Security of Ukraine" and "On the principles of domestic and foreign policy." The formula, which means "not yours and not ours."

Secondly, if the president plans to hold a referendum, "taking into account the opinion of the population", why he does not consider this opinion and does not fix the legislation of NATO membership as a goal, which Ukraine seeks for?

Related: Russian aggression against Ukraine woke up NATO, - Klympush-Tsintsadze

Third. Even if the question of joining NATO stood on a practical level, the referendum would not be binding. Joining this organization does not require changes to the Constitution of Ukraine, as it does not limit the  sovereignty: Alliance is an intergovernmental organization. NATO does not require to conduct referendum. For example, from the former socialist bloc, only Hungary in 1997 and Slovenia in 2003 had held consultative referendums on joining NATO - already before signing the relevant protocols.

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Fourth. In theory, the referendum "without entry" would have clear political sense - for example, in January 2008, Georgia has held such a vote. It was several months before the Bucharest NATO summit, where it - like Ukraine – was seeking for Action Plan membership. Therefore, a referendum in which 77% of Georgians support accession to NATO was logical.

However, this did not help – both Georgia and Ukraine refused. It is possible that the need for such a consultative referendum would appear in Ukraine.

Poroshenko as Ukraine’s President has many opportunities to promote Ukraine into NATO without a referendum, and he should use them. Indeed, he has favorable public moods, therefore, a blank check for this geopolitical step.

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