There is no dialogue ongoing between Ukraine and NATO regarding the Membership Action Plan (MAP), and so far there cannot be one. This is not my opinion, it is a statement of fact. That’s despite the idea that, probably, Ukraine's authorities are sure that this is not the case. Moreover, it was Kyiv officials who contributed to the fact the Allies are shuddering each time they hear the phrase "a dialogue on MAP for Ukraine".
Perhaps we do not fully understand that today everything doesn’t go as smooth as we would like in our relations with the Alliance, and that the Allies will not do anything we ask for only because Russia is an aggressor state and Ukraine is a victim, standing up in arms to protect peace in Europe at the cost of the lives of its citizens. I’m sorry if it sounds cynical. But this is not about this, it’s more about the real situation at NATO Headquarters, which would be useful to be aware of on Bankova Street.
I’ll come back to the point at which the very issue of the dialogue on the MAP came up - President Poroshenko talked about it on July 10 this year, speaking at a joint presser with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the ambassadorial-level meeting of the Ukraine-NATO Commission held during NATO Council’s Kyiv visit. That’s what he was talking about while answering a corresponding question.
It was Kyiv officials who contributed to the fact the Allies are shuddering each time they hear the phrase "a dialogue on MAP for Ukraine"
But what exactly did the president say? Here it is, word for word: " "We consider it necessary, and today it was clearly emphasized, that we start a discussion about the introduction of the membership action plan, and our proposals for initiating the discussion were accepted gladly.”
Does it follow from these words that Ukraine and NATO have started the discussion? Or was it Kyiv informing the Alliance of the need to launch it? Or should we read something else between the lines? Poroshenko’s statement is more than ambiguous, and one could interpret it in various ways. It would be difficult to deny, given the context, that one can read it as if NATO has accepted the proposal for a discussion on the MAP. But unfortunately, this is just not the case.
I had a chance to visit NATO HQ the following week after the Council's visit to Kyiv. A high-ranking NATO official, speaking of the impressions of the trip, has put it simply: "Everything was fine but your president has surprised us." Later I happened to hear a more harsh description of what happened: "You have actually made things worse for yourself".
Firstly, that’s because the issue of a dialogue has not been discussed during the meeting. Even without the "leak" from behind closed doors, the one who is aware of how the Alliance operates will see all the issues that have been discussed in the joint statement of the Ukraine-NATO Commission of July 10. This is NATO’s traditional practice: all important points of discussion are laid down in the statement.
NATO is waiting for Ukraine to show the results
Another fact is that the allies were really not ready for the Ukrainian president to raise the MAP issue. Therefore, the reaction was, and still remains, extremely negative. No one will start a dialogue on MAP with a country where the war is raging in its east. Incidentally, this also applies to Georgia ...
The other day, answering the question whether there is such a dialogue ongoing with Ukraine, a NATO official said that they have nothing to add to what has been said in July, and that their position has not changed since then. It should be stressed that back in July, Piers Cazalet, a NATO spox, said that Mr Stoltenberg and the ambassadors “took note” of Poroshenko’s MAP request for discussion. By the way, at a Kyiv press conference, Stoltenberg did not say a word about this dialogue. And this fact speaks for itself. Once again, returning to NATO’s routine, such statements are always preceded by serious preparations and negotiations. But this was not the case, either.
So what we have here is that there is no dialogue ongoing and, as of today, there cannot be one, no matter if Bankova wants it. And whatever efforts the recently appointed Ukraine’s Representative to NATO Vadym Prystaiko makes, he appears to have become a hostage to the situation (had there been no notion of the dialogue, he would be embraced in NATO HQ and offered a friendly hand on any issues). The atmosphere at the Headquarters has changed, so Ukraine’s envoy will need years to actually start this dialogue on Ukraine’s MAP with NATO.
That’s not to mention the Hungary factor. It’s about them vowing to block any format of meetings, excluding those at the level of ambassadors.
And here’s the last point, but not the least. NATO is waiting for Ukraine to show results. Real results, not some new format of a talk show.