Ukrainian Defense Minister Yuriy Yekhanurov signed a deal on military cooperation with Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich last week at the end of a two-day visit to Warsaw. According to Warsaw Business Journal, Klich assured Yekhanurov that Ukraine had Poland`s backing in its bid for NATO and EU membership and offered assistance in achieving this goal as part of the agreement.
"Since Ukraine regained its independence [in the 1990s] it has been the most important partner in the region for Poland," said Klich. "Even changing governments could not change that," he added.
Speaking after last week`s meeting Klich said, "Ukraine asked Poland to help it to get into NATO and we naturally agreed." The agreement includes plans to modernize Ukraine`s army and bring it in line with NATO`s requirements. "Poland has also offered internship programs for Ukrainian Ministry of Defense employees with training on NATO`s structure and how it operates," he added.
Yekhanurov explained, "An advisor from Poland`s Defense Ministry will spend some time in our Ministry to advise us on the route to NATO. There are already such advisors working for us from France and Germany. They know how [NATO] works and what is waiting for us after we join, but they do not know what Ukraine should do before it joins NATO."
Despite its desire to one day join NATO, Ukraine has not yet been issued a Membership Action Plan (MAP), which would assure its future membership. However, the Ukrainian government expects to receive its MAP in December.
Aside from the upgrades needed to its army, Ukraine has two major hurdles to overcome. First of all, the government must reverse public opinion - just one-third of the populace supports the country`s NATO membership plan at the moment. And it must placate Russia, which is also heavily opposed.
"We will talk with Russia, but everybody has to understand that Ukraine has its own raison d`Etat, which will be implemented," said Yekhanurov.