Wednesday, January 20, 2010

NATO Recruits Ukraine As First Non-Member In Rapid Deployment Force

RIA-Novosti reports:

Ukraine may join NATO Response Force in 2015-16

Bruessels: Ukraine has been invited to join the NATO Response Force as a partner country in 2015-16, a spokesman for the NATO military committee said Wednesday.

Colonel Massimo Panizzi said Ukraine would become "the first non-NATO country to join the Response Force."

The Response Force consists of rapid deployment forces with land, air and sea components, capable of swiftly reacting to crisis situations.

Panizzi added that the matter would be discussed at a meeting of Ukrainian and NATO chiefs of staff on January 26 in Brussels.

He described the move as "a significant step forward in the implementation of military reform" that NATO is expecting from Kiev "on its way" toward NATO candidate status.

Asked whether other NATO partners could join the Response Force, Panizzi said: "All partners are invited to cooperate within the framework of the process."

Ukraine was one of the first NATO partner countries to offer to play a role in the NATO Response Force.

The country's pro-Western leadership has been pursuing NATO membership since 2004, when President Viktor Yushchenko came to power.

Ukraine failed to secure membership in the NATO Membership Action Plan, a key step toward joining the alliance, at a NATO summit in April 2008.

Russia vehemently opposes the post-Soviet country's NATO ambitions, and in February 2008 the Kremlin threatened to retarget missiles at Ukraine if it joined NATO.

The NATO Response Force is capable of performing missions worldwide across the whole spectrum of operations, including evacuations, disaster management, counterterrorism, and acting as 'an initial entry force' for larger, follow-on forces.

Russia is creating a similar force with its partners in the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.