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Speeches and Interviews

Remarks by Amb. Tefft at the opening of the conference: “NATO-UKRAINE: NEW CONDITIONS AND REALITIES OF COOPERATION”

On June 9, 2011, Ambassador Tefft delivered the opening remarks for the conference: “NATO-Ukraine: New Conditions and Realities of Cooperation.” The conference was sponsored by the George C. Marshall Center and the National Institute for Strategic Studies.

Remarks of U.S. Ambassador John F. Tefft:

Dr. Yermolaiev, Deputy Minister Klimkin, distinguished guests and colleagues:

It is an honor for me to offer welcoming remarks at this conference on NATO-Ukraine cooperation jointly hosted by the National Institute for Strategic Studies and the George Marshall European Center for Security Studies.  Today’s gathering of Ukraine’s leading strategic thinkers to discuss Ukraine-NATO cooperation in the political, military, and military-technical spheres is timely, as we look forward to Ukraine’s concrete implementation of its Annual National Program and consider ways the Ukraine-NATO relationship can be further strengthened in light of Ukraine’s declared foreign policy priorities. 

I would like to briefly talk about the “new conditions and realities of cooperation,” which the co-hosts have highlighted in the title of today’s conference, as well as touch on the ongoing crisis in Libya as an example of a 21st century security challenge that the Alliance and its partners, including Ukraine, can jointly address. 

Last November, NATO's leaders, including President Obama, adopted a New Strategic Concept for the Alliance.  In addition to reaffirming Article 5 -- the central commitment to collective defense -- they decided to focus on 21st century security challenges and emerging threats such as cyber attacks, terrorism, and the proliferation of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.  The Alliance also agreed to address transnational illegal activities like trafficking in arms, people and narcotics.   The Alliance stated that with the changes in the security environment since the end of the Cold War, it is important to continue the process of reducing reliance on nuclear weapons.  All of this is part of an on-going process of modernizing NATO for the long haul.  NATO remains the preeminent security organization in the world today and is unique in that all of its members are democracies who willingly work together and share the costs of maintaining peace. 

Along the same lines, NATO’s leaders also agreed to deepen and expand the Alliance’s partnerships.   This of course includes NATO’s partnership with Ukraine, the subject of today’s conference.  NATO’s leaders reaffirmed that the Alliance’s doors remain open to European democracies such as Ukraine that meet the standards of NATO membership and are prepared to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership. 

In fact, the New Strategic Concept specifically states that NATO aims to continue to develop its partnership with Ukraine within the NATO-Ukraine Commission and taking into account Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations and orientation.  Additionally, the Lisbon Summit Declaration makes clear that a “stable, democratic and economically prosperous Ukraine is an important factor for Euro-Atlantic security…,” and that NATO “respects Ukraine’s policy of non-bloc status.”  The Alliance remains committed to assisting Ukraine with wide-ranging reforms, and welcomes Ukraine’s interest in developing new areas of cooperation.

The United States fully supports Ukraine’s right to choose its own alliances, and to make such decisions independently.  NATO membership is a demand-driven process, which requires aspirants to meet NATO’s performance-based standards.  The Alliance’s door remains open to Ukraine should it decide to pursue membership in the future. 

We fully support Ukraine’s continued engagement through the NATO-Ukraine Commission and concrete, practical cooperation with NATO.  Needless to say, cooperation is a two-way street, and requires active participation and input from all sides, and not just hopeful statements and declarations.

Regardless of Ukraine’s decision not to pursue formal NATO membership with the Rada’s proclamation of Ukraine’s non-bloc status last year, Ukraine’s Annual National Program, or ANP, can be an extremely useful document in guiding Ukrainian defense, political and economic reform. The ANP should form the cornerstone for the practical cooperation that Ukraine seeks with NATO.

When NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen visited Ukraine in late February, President Yanukovych said that Ukraine and NATO “agreed to continue maintaining an active political dialogue and developing practical cooperation…”   The President also confirmed Ukraine’s readiness to continue cooperation with NATO within the framework of peacekeeping operations, as well as to seek opportunities for cooperation in combating both traditional and new security challenges and threats.

The situation in Libya is a good example.  It is the kind of 21st century security challenge that the Strategic Concept envisaged.  As President Obama explained to the American people, “in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre …and heard the Libyan people’s call for help.” The responsibility to protect is a new concept in international relations but an old idea in human interactions – it is the responsibility of the strong to protect the weak. 

Ukraine’s role in Libya has been noteworthy.  Its operation to evacuate both Ukrainian and foreign citizens from Libya is a great example of how your military can help address humanitarian crises.  As many of you know, the Kostiantyn Olshansky evacuated over 100 people from 18 foreign countries including the United States.  With this action, Ukraine reiterated anew its willingness and capability to play a constructive  role in the international community.  

NATO, and members of the Alliance on a bilateral level, can offer the Ukrainian armed forces still other opportunities for further reform and development.  For example, the Ukrainian and U.S. militaries enjoy good, active cooperation on a variety of fronts.  We have been working closely together to further professionalize Ukraine’s armed forces, such as by helping to create a professional Non-Commissioned Officer Corps.  Ukraine has made definite progress in this area. 

The United States has provided tens of millions of dollars in military assistance in the form of advice and equipment, and hundreds of Ukrainians have studied side-by-side with Americans at U.S. military educational institutions.  In addition, we have been sharing best practices in training management and techniques. This benefits us all.

We  continue to work closely together in all of the areas I just mentioned, because developing common approaches to training, maintaining, controlling and sustaining operational armed forces is the core of interoperability.

Interoperability is critical to our future cooperation together, both technical and intellectual interoperability.  In this context, I'd like to mention the SEA BREEZE exercise which just began its active phase off Odesa and where I spent this past weekend. As many of you know, SEA BREEZE is one of several areas of cooperation between the U.S. and Ukrainian militaries.  While not formally a NATO exercise, it is conducted "in the spirit of the Partnership for Peace." The exercise aims to improve maritime safety, security and stability actions in the Black Sea by enhancing the capabilities of PFP and Black Sea regional maritime security forces.  

During the exercise, sailors and Marines will work side by side with other partnering ships while underway and ashore, becoming familiar with participants’ procedures and practices.  Working together, these partner nations will be able to meet future peacekeeping and humanitarian operations as well as counter-trafficking and other challenges.  This training will help ensure that participating forces are able to operate as a multinational task force, and will enhance maritime security capabilities. 


Vice President Biden wrote in early 2010 that sustainable security in Europe requires peace and stability for all of Europe, without prejudice to old or new, East or West, or those parts of Europe within NATO, and those without.  He added that we must affirm that security in Europe is indivisible, territorial integrity is important for all countries in Europe, and states should have the right to choose their own security alliances.  In short the security of all European nations depends on a Europe “whole, free and at peace.”  Such a Europe can play an important role globally and it is a Europe that I know Ukraine aspires to be a part of.  This is a goal we in the US strongly support and it is in this spirit that the United States strongly encourages Ukraine to continue developing its cooperation with NATO in concrete terms, as Ukraine seeks a greater role in the European security architecture.

Thank you.