NATO membership is mentioned in the programs of both candidates. However, in one case it is about the irreversibility of the course, and in the other – about the key role of a referendum. How do Zelensky and Poroshenko treat membership in the Alliance, whether their programs coincide their public statements, and who manipulates – Opinion finds out.
What is NATO and why Ukraine needs it?
NATO (or North Atlantic Alliance) is an international intergovernmental organization, a military-political alliance that consists of 29 states of Europe and North America. The main role of the alliance is to ensure the freedom and security of NATO member states by political and military means. Among the basic principles of the union is also support for the values of democracy, individual freedoms and the rule of law.
The need for Ukraine to join NATO really exists because the main principle of the alliance is the system of collective security. In other words, in the case of aggression against one of the NATO member states, other members of the alliance won’t stand by. Given the imperial ambitions of Russia throughout its entire history, in particular, in recent years, the guarantee of protection and assistance from the Alliance is truly important and necessary for our country.
In addition, on the way towards NATO membership, Ukraine will continue the reform process in order to bring everything to the standards of the Alliance. So in this point, the Alliance should be considered not only as security because the norms prescribed are actually European standards.
Nowadays, the course towards NATO and the EU is enshrined in the Constitution, and Ukraine itself has the status of an aspirant country that’s on its way of joining the Alliance. That is, the organization recognized Ukraine’s desire to join. Although the organization’s charter does not indicate that the war in the country blocks accession to the Alliance, the principles of NATO enlargement stipulate that the candidates for accession must resolve territorial or ethnic conflicts.
The course towards joining NATO: the position of Volodymyr Zelensky
1. Position stated in the candidate’s program
In the program itself, Volodymyr Zelensky devoted only one paragraph to the topic of joining NATO, in which he assured: “Ukraine’s movement towards NATO and other security associations is a guarantee of our security, in which I believe.”
However, the candidate adds the following: the course for membership in the Alliance should receive confirmation during an all-Ukrainian referendum. Obviously, regardless of the theoretical outcome of the referendum, Zelensky promises to raise salaries of the military to the NATO standards.
2. Position voiced in public
The showman’s public position is somewhat different from the one mentioned in the program. So in one interview, Zelensky assured that he would negotiate with NATO if we need it. However, he will do it quietly.
“In my opinion: I never pay a visit to places where nobody is waiting for me. I do not want to feel miserable, a second-class person. Of course, it’s cool to access… I have a question about NATO. What is it? An army that will protect us from aggressors? If it will – well, go and make a deal quietly. Who needs posters? Who needs it in the Constitution? I don’t understand are you diplomats or God knows who? If it will be necessary – I will make a deal with NATO. Although they have such conditions… We have the war on our territory – it already prevents us from joining the Alliance.”
In the same conversation, Zelensky hinted that NATO, as well as the European Union, may simply not want Ukraine.
“Any union on the conditions under which we don’t lose the independence of our state is great! Maybe they will tell us where they are waiting for us. Maybe the EU is knocking on our door, ‘Dear friends, please, why are you refusing?’. No. Nothing like that.”
It is interesting that the thesis “who needs this in the Constitution” from an interview with Dmytro Hordon Zelensky repeated while responding to questions of foreign journalists. According to him, he wants to see Ukraine both in the EU and NATO. However, the incorporation of such a course in the Constitution of Ukraine showman characterized as a political decision that was made on the eve of the elections.
By the way, VoxCheck, a project that checks words of the politicians for truth, characterized Zelensky’s statement that enshrining of the course towards NATO integration in the Constitution will change nothing, as a manipulation. After all, now, it is harder to change this provision: it will require votes of the parliament’s majority. Secondly, according to the authors of the project, this can be considered another evidence of Ukraine’s serious intentions and determination in negotiations with the Alliance. So it will be wrong to name this step useless.
Fact checkers also criticized the idea of joining NATO “quietly” (that is, without public discussion), which the candidate voiced in the very first quote. The reasoning is simple: for this purpose, it is necessary to carry out complex reforms that require budgetary resources. Secondly, one of the unofficial demands of the Alliance is the support of the population, which Zelensky himself, according to his program, wants to prove on a referendum. So, it also does not fit into the concept of “quiet”.
The course towards joining NATO: the position of Petro Poroshenko
In the program of the incumbent president, NATO is mentioned at least seven times. Moreover, Poroshenko is convinced of the absolute need for such a vector of the country’s movement, without any other options: “Our mission is to join the European Union and NATO. Only full-fledged membership in the European Union and the North Atlantic Alliance definitively and irrevocably guarantees our independence, our national security.”
According to Poroshenko, thanks to membership in the Alliance, we can rely on the security and defense of the state, since the basic principle of NATO is “all for one and one for all”. The candidate also assures that now, there’s no non-NATO member state that has such close relations with the North Atlantic Alliance as Ukraine.
The politician is positioning Ukraine as a country that has substantially strengthened the eastern flank of the alliance and defended “entire European civilization” from the Russian aggression. Poroshenko promises to receive a NATO Membership Action Plan in 2023.
2. Position voiced in public
Poroshenko quite often appeals to the topic of NATO in public. In the end, this is one of the key positions in his program and on what, apparently, the candidate “bets”. The guarantor considers this vector of Ukrainian foreign policy decisive, he stressed it after the results of the first exit polls: “On April 21, we either confirm our movement towards the EU and NATO, or we will go back and events of 2013 will seem quite good.”
We can say for sure that the position of the candidate in the public completely coincides with what is written in his program. For example, the thesis about 2023 was put forward by the politician, when he was speaking in the Verkhovna Rada.
“I see my strategic mission in ensuring the irreversibility of European and Euro-Atlantic integration. No later than 2023 we will apply for membership in the European Union and get the NATO Membership Action Plan. This is our common task.”
In addition, on the president’s website, we can find quite different from the position of Zelensky approach regarding the need to enshrine the course for joining NATO and the EU in the Ukrainian Constitution.
“At the last NATO Summit, which I had the honor to attend, 21 leaders of NATO states were speaking. Each of them stated that they must confirm the decision of NATO’s Bucharest summit that NATO’s doors are open for Ukraine. We must emphasize that this decision is made solely by the Ukrainian authorities and the Ukrainian people. And that’s why it’s so important that for Parliament to vote this Thursday, ” said the president on the eve of the vote in Verkhovna Rada.
However, Petro Poroshenko, according to the results of fact-checking by VoxCheck, is also not always open on this topic. It is about the presidential statement: “The course towards the EU and NATO is supported by an overwhelming majority of citizens, as evidenced by the dynamics of public opinion.”
In fact, as it was emphasized by VoxCheck, the candidate resorted to exaggerations. More than 50% of Ukrainians really support integration into the European Union, however, joining NATO is less popular among citizens, it’s about 40%, that’s by no means is the majority. However, less than 35% of the population does not support the accession to Alliance. So, appealing to the “majority”, the current president didn’t take into account people who have not yet decided on their attitude.
To sum up, the fundamental difference between the participants of the second round on NATO membership issue is that Petro Poroshenko believes that such a move is inevitable and inflexible, although he also repeatedly said about the need for a referendum. Instead, Volodymyr Zelensky puts the decision on this issue at an all-Ukrainian referendum, that’s why there is a possibility that Ukraine can theoretically refuse to join the Alliance. In this case, everything depends on the will of the people.
By Dmytro Zhuravel