Read the original article at 112.ua
President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko wants to hold a referendum on Ukraine's accession to NATO being confident that the majority of Ukrainians support the Alliance. Just whether such plebiscite could brings us treasured membership, which the head of state always calls Ukraine's strategic goal? We answer to some common questions about the NATO referendum and its role.
Could referendum be the first step toward membership in NATO?
No, it is not necessary to conduct the referendum to join the Alliance. The first step to it should be the country's accession to the Partnership for Peace program. Then the country receives the status of the side of “NATO intensive dialogue " (Ukraine received it in 2005). The next step is taking the Membership Action Plan (MAP). Most often, it requires from the countries to appoint the civilian defense minister, show the lack of territorial disputes with neighbors and foreign military bases on the territory, and bring the army to NATO standards.
After that accession negotiations start: country submits an application about the intention, NATO countries ratify protocols on the accession, and Secretary General invites the country to join the North Atlantic Treaty. After that parliament ratifies the agreement, documents are taken to the US State Department and then the country becomes a member of NATO.
What would happen if Ukrainians vote for joining NATO?
Nothing. The result of the referendum is not a guarantee of membership. Rather, it has a political character. With the help of referendum the country shows to the Alliance seriousness of its intentions and support of the population, therefore it will be consultative. However, NATO will be looking at how Ukraine fulfills the requirements of the Alliance. For them, a referendum is not enough.
And what about past referendums in Ukraine and their results?
Over the history of Ukraine's independence there were two referendums: in 1991 and 2000. In the first case, Ukrainians have voted for the Act of Independence of Ukraine, and in the second there were several issues: to limit the immunity of MPs, reducing their number to 300, the introduction of a bicameral parliament and the president’s right to dissolve the parliament if within a month the coalition is not formed. Ukrainians have answered yes to all the questions, but in fact only the last point was implemented.
Why then Poroshenko needs this referendum?
Probably the main thing is putting pressure on Russia. Ukraine once more reaffirmed its intention to join the Alliance, which the Kremlin obviously does not want to see. Perhaps in order not to aggravate the situation, the Russian Federation will become more responsible regarding the Minsk agreements. Plus, the president wants to have the rating among the right-wing forces and those Ukrainians who support joining NATO (according to various estimates, it’s from 40% to 70% of the population).
How much will the referendum cost?
Presidential election 2014 in Ukraine cost little more than a billion hryvnia, and in 2016 in the Committee of Voters of Ukraine predicted that the referendum will cost about the same.
Why NATO does not want to see Ukraine in the Alliance?
The main reason is Crimea and Donbas. The NATO rules do not allow the country, which has unresolved territorial disputes and conflicts to join the organization. Our army, despite the beginning of Alliance's standards implementation in it, is still not fully compliant with them and at the same time NATO is waiting for reforms. Besides, we have not adopted Membership Action Plan (MAP), that is, we have nothing to draw on.
Once Ukraine already had joined NATO, and what was the result?
In 1994, Ukraine joined the military cooperation program Partnership for Peace. In 1997 the mission of Ukraine opened in NATO. President Yushchenko has been actively promoting the idea of joining the Alliance, and for 2008, the signing of Membership Action Plan was scheduled. But in the end this plan was not adopted, in many respects because of the opposition of Russian Federation. In 2010, Viktor Yanukovych refused to join NATO, having preferred cooperation with Russia.
He abolished the Interdepartmental Commission of Ukraine on preparation to join NATO and National Centre for Euro-Atlantic integration. After the Revolution of dignity and presidential elections Petro Poroshenko said that NATO membership is a strategic goal of Ukraine. Whatever it was, today Ukraine has not even received the status of the main ally outside NATO.
Here it is difficult to predict something, for example, Macedonia adopted its MAP in 1999, but has not yet been accepted as member of the Alliance. In 2015, President Poroshenko said that Ukraine could join NATO in 5-6 years. Please note that for this purpose Ukrainian army should fully complain with Alliance standards until 2020. So, it is the most optimistic forecast. And first we should provide the cessation of hostilities in Donbas and the settlement of Crimean status issue.
Will the NATO fall apart for that time?
Recently voices of NATO opponents get louder, for example, the US president Donald Trump called it "obsolete institution" and proposed to change the system of contributions paid by the Member States. Nevertheless, the new defense minister James Mattis said that "NATO is vital," and held its first working day, reassuring European allies that the US is still "unswervingly" committed to NATO. Yes, and Trump during a telephone conversation with Merkel acknowledged the importance of the Alliance.
The growth of eurosceptics’ popularity in Europe could lead to a weakening of NATO's influence in the Old World. First of all, we are talking about France, where the main contenders for the presidency - Marine Le Pen and Francois Fillon - are critical to the Alliance. Ultra-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon also promises to withdraw France from NATO in the case of his victory. However, the full collapse of NATO in conditions of increasing appetites of Russia seems improbable.