Spotlight: Ukraine strengthens dialogue with West, but EU, NATO memberships not on agenda

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-02 15:18:04|Editor: Liangyu
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KIEV, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- Frequent visits by senior officials of the UN and the West to Ukraine last month were seen as signals of continuing support to Kiev amid the crisis.

Seen as Kiev's diplomatic climax, the visits, however, showed that the East European country may only count on the partnership with NATO and the EU, without near-term membership prospects.


On July 9, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson paid their first ever official visits to Ukraine.

The visits were followed by the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, which was attended by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and the Ukraine-EU summit, which brought to Kiev European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Notably, the visits took place just after G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, where world leaders have discussed the ways out of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the implementation of the Minsk ceasefire agreement.

The appearance of the high-profile western officials in Ukraine after the summit is apparently a signal that big powers are not going to decide the fate of Ukraine without Kiev involvement.

Analysts believe that the visits are aimed at reassuring Kiev that the Ukraine crisis remains one of the key issues on the current international agenda.

"Visits of high-ranking Western politicians have confirmed that nobody has forgotten about Ukraine. These visits demonstrate the high-quality work made by the Ukrainian diplomats," said Volodymyr Fesenko, director of the Penta Center for Applied Political Studies.


The maiden visit of Tillerson was long-awaited in Ukraine as it was the first trip of a high-profile representative of the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump to Kiev.

The visit, which was perceived as a vital tool to clarify the stance of the current U.S. administration on the Ukraine crisis, has sent a message that Washington policy towards Kiev will remain supportive.

It is illustrated by Tillerson's pledge to further assist the East European country in becoming attractive for foreign investments and to promote partnership in security, cyber security, energy and cultural spheres.

Another aim of Tillerson's visit to Kiev was to introduce Kurt Volker, the newly-appointed U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, who will be responsible for advancing U.S. efforts to achieve the objectives set out in the Minsk agreements.

"The appointment of Volker clearly demonstrates that the resolution of the conflict in eastern Ukraine is one of the priorities of American foreign policy," said Mykola Beleskov, an analyst at the Institute of World Politics.

The UN has also signalled that it is intended to play a bigger role in Ukraine's diplomatic settlement.

During his visit, Guterres emphasized that the UN is ready to support all efforts, including those of the Normandy Four, the Trilateral Contact Group and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

What is also important, the UN chief, who formerly served as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, promised greater support to humanitarian activities in Ukraine.


The 19th Ukraine-EU Summit was held in Kiev on July 12-13 during a favorable period for bilateral relations.

The recent EU decision to grant visa-free regime for Ukrainians and its finally approval of the Association Agreement after three years of postponement have given Kiev a reason for celebration.

During the summit, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said a dividing line has been drawn between Ukraine's "Soviet past and the European future".

However, Tusk was more restrained in his statements. He said that Kiev and Brussels have achieved a lot of progress towards re-rapprochement but they are still only halfway down the road.

The differences in the rhetoric of Ukrainian and European leaders have underscored the differing positions of Kiev and Brussels on Ukraine's EU membership prospects.

The issue was further overshadowed by the absence of a traditional joint declaration at the summit. The statement was reportedly blocked by several EU members over the wording that the political block "support Ukraine's European aspirations".

In another development, the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission was not more fruitful for Kiev regarding its membership ambitions.

While Ukraine has proposed NATO to start talks on the establishment of the Membership Action Plan, the alliance has avoided public comments on the issue, only saying that it would continue support to help Ukraine in implementing reforms and meeting NATO standards.

Experts believe that the reluctance of the EU and NATO to discuss Ukraine's membership prospects came as not a surprise, because currently the country does not meet political, military, legal and economic criteria for joining the alliances.

"According to my expectations, Ukraine's road to NATO as well as to the EU will be very long," said Oleg Starykov, an independent political and military analyst.