ROAR: The CSTO is “alternative” to Ukraine’s NATO bid

Vladimir Kremlev for RT
As Ukraine gears up for the second round of the presidential election, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and NATO have invited the country to participate in their alliances in one way or another.

CSTO Secretary General Nikolay Bordyuzha said on January 18 that the alliance would “welcome cooperation with Ukraine in any option.” He stressed that “it is impossible to provide security in the Western direction without the participation of Ukraine.”

The CSTO is interested in any form of cooperation with Kiev, “whether it is based on membership or in the form of any single operations,” Bordyuzha noted.

The alliance comprises of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. These countries will fulfill the plans for 2010, and the main one is forming full-fledged rapid reaction forces.

Bordyuzha made it clear that the organization where Russia plays the most important role is closely watching the Ukrainian election. “Taking advantage of the forthcoming change of president, he actually proposed to the neighboring country an alternative to joining NATO,” Vremya Novostey daily said. However, neither Viktor Yanukovich nor Yulia Timoshenko, the rivals in the run-off, supports the NATO bid, it added.

The CSTO Secretary General made his statements answering a reporter’s question about prospects of the pro-Russian military organization cooperating with Ukraine after the election. The alliance of former Soviet Union republics wants Kiev to “take the initiative of determining variants of cooperation,” he noted.

The deputies of different factions of the Ukrainian parliament created a group last year to inform citizens about CSTO activities. Bordyuzha also mentioned the cooperation between the CSTO and Ukrainian special services during an operation against drug trafficking.

Meanwhile, Ukraine has also been invited to participate in NATO rapid response forces without being a member state of the organization. Many Ukrainians do not want their country to join NATO.

“A unique proposal has been made to Ukraine – to participate in NATO’s rapid response forces without joining the alliance,” Gazeta daily said. “It seems that NATO is testing Yanukovich and Timoshenko for possible cooperation in the future,” it added.

If Ukraine joins NATO’s rapid response forces in 2015-2016, it will be the first country participating in them without the status of a member state, the daily said. Chiefs of Staffs of the alliance and Ukraine will discuss the details of a possible agreement in Brussels on January 26 during the meeting of Ukraine-NATO commission.

On the same day Russian and NATO Chiefs of Staffs are meeting in Brussels for the first time since the 2008 events in the Caucasus. Kiev applied for NATO membership action plan in 2008, but the countries of the alliance have not supported the bid.

They explained that Ukraine’s armed forces were not prepared to participate in the alliance, online newspaper said. However, analysts believe that NATO “decided not to provoke Moscow once more,” it added, as Russia opposes NATO’s eastward enlargement.

Nevertheless, NATO promised to Ukraine and Georgia annual “plans of cooperation” to prepare the both countries to more close relations with the alliance. President Viktor Yushchenko in August 2009 issued a decree to launch the national NATO program “to prepare the country” for full membership.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in August last year that Ukraine and Georgia are not ready for membership because they “have not fulfilled the necessary terms at this stage.” But he expressed hope that Kiev and Tbilisi may join NATO in the future.

However, presidential candidate and leader of the Party of Regions Viktor Yanukovich made it clear that he is against Ukraine’s participation in any military blocs. He said that Kiev “will not be striving to join NATO if he is elected.” However, the same is true for the CSTO so far, Gazeta said.

Timoshenko wants the issue to be decided at a national referendum, the paper added. She is considered to be more pro-Western than Yanukovich. All the same, analysts think that Ukraine’s answer to NATO depends on the outcome of the election.

It was no accident that NATO invited Kiev to participate in the rapid response forces prior to the second round of elections, Gazeta stressed, citing analysts. Both candidates will have to speak about their views on membership in NATO in more detail, it added.

Also, politicians in Kiev started to talk last year about Russian conception of the European security, and NATO wants to “hinder such integration,” the paper said. Yanukovich said that, if he is elected, “Ukraine will be supporting Dmitry Medvedev’s initiative.”

Military analyst Viktor Litovkin described the NATO proposal to Ukraine “as a provocative step.” More than 60% of Ukrainians are opposing the membership in NATO,” he said. “Ukraine is only cannon-fodder for the alliance,” he stressed.

Troops from Ukraine and other new NATO member states “may be deployed at the most difficult places,” the analysts said. And soldiers will agree on this “out of desperation or to earn money,” Litovkin said.

Russia’s NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin said that the alliance’s idea of Ukraine joining rapid response forces “was not new.” It was expected because, during Yushchenko’s presidency, Ukraine, as well as some other countries, was making practical steps towards joining NATO, he told

Timoshenko wrote a letter to NATO which “was considered in Bucharest in April last year,” Rogozin said. Yushchenko and then-speaker of the Ukrainian parliament Arseny Yatsenyuk also signed the letter.

“The idea of joining NATO is not popular in Ukraine,” the envoy said. “Yanukovich says Ukraine is interested in closer ties with Europe, but not with NATO,” he added.

Sergey Borisov, RT