Staunton, December 31 – Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and former Prime Minister Yevgeny Marchuk have formed a new group to press Kyiv to apply now for membership in the Western alliance, a step that is possible now that the Verkhovna Rada has voted to end Ukraine’s policy of non-alignment.
That action, Kravchuk and Marchuk say, “requires that the Ukrainian authorities immediately restore the Euro-Atlantic foreign policy course, apply for membership in NATO, and conduct an all-Ukrainian referendum in support of the membership of Ukraine” in the Western alliance.
In addition to Kravchuk and Marchuk, the initiative group for the formation of a Ukraine in NATO movement includes the poet Dmitry Pavlychko, former foreign minister Vladimir Ogryzko, former Hague tribunal judge Vladimir Vasilenko, former Verkhovna Rada deputy Ivan Zayats, and former ecology minister Yury Shcherbak.
The group plans to set up branches in all cities and villages of Ukraine and to collect signatures to press for a referendum as soon as possible. But the group’s leaders are under no illusions that the way forward will be necessarily easy or quick.
Marchuk pointed out at the press conference yesterday that “the procedure of joining NATO is quite complicated, both technically and in terms of the demands” the alliance places on potential members. Moreover, he pointed out, “not all NATO member countries are inclined in the direction we would like.”
According to the former prime minister, “Ukraine will only be able to acquire the status of a country with a NATO Membership Action Plan [MAP] after it holds a referendum. And consequently, he and his colleagues hope to meet that requirement as soon as possible. Ogryzko for his part said he hopes it can take place in 2015.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has said in the past that he hopes Ukraine will be able to create the conditions that will allow it to join NATO sometime over the next five to six years. The new group, fearful of Moscow’s intentions, clearly wants to advance that timetable in a significant way.