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NATO-Ukraine Partnership Grows

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Belgium, July 20, 1998 – NATO's top civilian leader recently saw the Ukrainian factory where the Soviets once built SS-18 long-range nuclear missiles, and he said his visit highlighted the growing NATO-Ukraine partnership.

"Not long ago, this famous factory would have been 'off-limits' to me," Secretary-General Javier Solana said to local officials at the Pivdenmash rocket factory in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine. "Standing here in front of you today reinforces my conviction that in the Europe of the 21st century, nothing should be 'off- limits' anymore."

Ukraine, which borders the Black Sea, Poland and Russia, emerged as an independent state with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Solana said Ukraine willingly gave up nuclear weapons and signed the Nonproliferation Treaty.

In so doing, he said, the nation of nearly 51 million people demonstrated "the political leadership and maturity to put Europe's wider security interests above the temptation of becoming a new nuclear power."

Today, Solana said, Pivdenmash represents Ukraine's growing cooperation with its neighbors. As part of a joint project with the United States, Norway and Russia, the factory now produces missile systems for launching satellites.

"We owe to you the fact that those fearsome missiles, the SS-18s, are no longer made here," Solana said. "And the former director of the factory [Leonid D. Kuchma] has gone on to serve his country in a far different way -- as president of a democratic and sovereign Ukraine."

Seeking ties with Western Europe, Ukraine joined NATO's Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. Ukrainian troops have joined in numerous exercises with U.S. and other NATO-member forces. Ukraine was one of the first countries to open a full-fledged mission to NATO headquarters here, Solana noted.

As a further sign of Ukraine's willingness to join the international community, the country has been involved from the start with the NATO-led peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. A mechanized infantry battalion and an on-call helicopter squadron serve among the 31,000 multinational troops, including about 7,000 Americans, in Bosnia. Solana called the Ukrainian units a useful, welcome contribution to the stabilization force.

In May 1997, Ukraine took a further step toward deepening relations with the alliance. Kuchma signed a charter establishing what Solana termed a "distinctive partnership" with NATO. He said the relationship involves consultation and cooperation.

A NATO-Ukraine Commission confers on security issues -- military strategy, defense policy and proliferation. NATO and Ukrainian officials cooperate on defense industrial restructuring and conversion, retraining retired military officers and civil emergency planning. A joint working group supports Ukraine's ongoing defense reform, Solana added.

NATO also opened an information and documentation center in Kiev, the first in any Partnership for Peace country. The center helps ensure Ukrainians know about and support the new partnership, he said. It also provides information about changes occurring in NATO. "It is not enough to do good, we also need to talk about it," Solana said.

"The NATO of today is not the NATO of the past," Solana said. "Instead of concentrating exclusively on defense of our territory, the alliance is now focusing on the contribution it can make to help manage regional crises and promote a broad network of security cooperation across the Euro-Atlantic area."

Ukraine, through its partnership with NATO, has a role in this new agenda, the secretary-general said. "We all share the same continent," he said. "We share the risks of instability, but also the possibilities that flow from progress, wealth and cooperation. I invite you, let us all work together for a better future."

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