The Annual National Programme under the auspices of the NATO-Ukraine Commission is a document that brings Ukraine closer to NATO membership. It outlines specific reforms and steps that our country must take on its way to membership.
Until recently, the ANP consisted of about 400 pages of very detailed and sometimes impossible to implement reform steps. However, after a series of negotiations, the content of the document became quite achievable. Now, nine pages contain the points that Ukraine has to fulfil in 2024 and beyond. This approach is fundamentally different from the one that has been in place since 2009, when the first ANP was signed by President Viktor Yushchenko, which is why it has now been called adapted to the realities of the full-scale war waged by Russia against Ukraine.
The programme still consists of five main sections: political and economic issues (although the latter will be reduced), defence and military challenges (this will be the focus), resource and legal issues, and security issues.
"The adapted ANP is as practical as possible, focusing on reforms in the security and defence sector. As for political issues, which include the problem of corruption, NATO agreed that they should be addressed during the EU accession negotiations in order not to duplicate the same tasks. In the area of democratic transformation, there is a clear reference to the tasks that Ukraine is performing on the path to European integration," Olha Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, said.
The new ANP fully prescribes the agenda of reforms that the Ukrainian government must implement in order to start accession negotiations with the EU and implement the recommendations of the Group of Seven (G7), the International Monetary Fund, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation, etc. These measures also correlate with the Women, Peace and Security agenda.
As for 2024, the programme focuses on strengthening the defence capabilities of Ukraine's security and defence sector through the development of appropriate planning, management and control systems.
The main tasks are to introduce effective democratic civilian control over the security and defence forces, transparency, final transformation of defence policy and planning, command and control systems, digital security, cyber and information security, transformation of the defence industry, and expanding opportunities for rehabilitation and reintegration of war veterans.
Fight against corruption is also mentioned. This time, however, NATO will only monitor how the MoD's procurement is reformed. This is among the priorities of the ANP. Several chapters deal with increasing the production of weapons and ammunition in Ukraine with the help of allies and Western manufacturers.
So, not a failure?
In a statement by NATO Foreign Ministers, the Allies reaffirmed their close cooperation in the areas of energy security, innovation, cyber defence and resilience. "We will continue to develop these areas of cooperation."
After the NATO-Ukraine Council meeting, the organisation confirmed that it would provide Ukraine with emergency non-lethal assistance. "Together, we are turning the Comprehensive Assistance Programme into a multi-year programme that will help Ukraine rebuild its security and defence structures and develop a long-term national deterrence and defence system."
New cooperation projects have also emerged in the areas of humanitarian demining, medical rehabilitation of wounded Ukrainian servicemen, and the development of Ukraine's defence industry potential based on a strategic review of defence procurement.
In fact, NATO is preparing us for the format of accession negotiations. When this will happen is a difficult question. There are debates behind the scenes, and so far they say that it will not be during the 2024 summit in Washington, as the Ukrainian side wants. However, this does not mean that this scenario is ruled out.
The NATO foreign ministers discussed Ukraine's path to membership and provided recommendations on priority reforms, including fighting corruption, strengthening the rule of law, and supporting human and minority rights.
At the same time, the adapted ANP does not contain additional measures. In many points, it does have a "one-year target" – by the end of 2024. But there are also issues that need to be addressed for longer. For example, we are talking about the reform of the law enforcement system. It is unrealistic to complete it in 2024. It seems that all this is left for the future.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that "Ukraine is closer to NATO than ever before" and added that "we will support it on its path to membership".
How will the programme be monitored? The answer to this question lies in one word - "periodically". We asked some of our Alliance colleagues on the sidelines what this might mean. So: consultations will take place with ministries and agencies, as well as with the public. There will be constant attention. And this is good news.
Does the implementation of the ANP mean NATO membership?
No, it does not. Meeting even all of the ANP goals by either 2024 or 2025 does not automatically grant Ukraine NATO membership. While reforming, Ukraine must work in parallel with the political elites of Germany and, above all, the United States because these states are currently blocking Ukraine's accession to NATO. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's statement in Brussels confirms that the USA is not ready to raise the issue of negotiations for Ukraine's membership in NATO during the summit in Washington.
In Brussels, Dmytro Kuleba and Antony Blinken also discussed preparations for the Defence Industrial Base Conference to be held next week in the United States, which will focus on joint military production for Ukraine's defence needs.
The road to NATO will be a thorny one for Ukraine. It is still unclear what the outcome of the NATO summit in Washington will be. Everyone needs to prepare for it: Ukrainian politicians, diplomats, experts and civil society. And it's worth remembering that this meeting will take place against the backdrop of the US election race. So far, we have the first positive result – an adapted ANP, which may help open the door to NATO for Ukraine in the future.