Vershbow: Georgia, Ukraine admission to NATO to take years

The US administration admits that the process of admission of Georgia and Ukraine to NATO will take years, US Assistant Secretary of Defence for International Security Affairs Alexander Vershbow confirmed on Wednesday at hearings devoted to the Obama administration policy towards the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The event was organised by the US Congress’ Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (US Helsinki Commission). 

According to the Commission’s press release, the hearing examined US policy toward the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the largest regional security organisation in the world, ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers to be held in Athens in early December. Greece currently holds the chairmanship of the 56-nation OSCE focused on enhancing security, promoting economic cooperation, and advancing democracy and human rights. Kazakhstan assumes the chairmanship in January.

The Commission examined timely issues, including: security arrangements in Europe, simmering tensions in the Caucasus region, relations with Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union, developments in the Balkans, OSCE engagement on Afghanistan and developments in Central Asia. The hearing also assessed ongoing efforts to combat anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance and backsliding on fundamental freedoms.

To a request of Senator Sam Brownback to name the timeframe for the admission of Kiev and Tbilisi to NATO, Vershbow replied that it is extremely difficult to determine this schedule. The high-ranking official of the US Department of Defence further explained that in the view of Washington, it is matter of years. Nevertheless, Vershbow said that he would not want to name the figure.

In this connection Brownback called on the US executive power branch to expand the volumes of military assistance to Georgia and Ukraine with the aim of their soonest admission to the North Atlantic Alliance. However, the assistant secretary of defence made it clear that the Obama administration does not consider a possibility of pursing such a policy. Vershbow also repeatedly stressed that the current US military assistance to Ukraine and Georgia is “transparent.” The tempos of the admission of Tbilisi and Kiev to NATO largely depend on themselves, on the tempo of corresponding military and political reforms conducted by these two former Soviet republics, the US assistant secretary of defence stated. Thus, he said, the lion’s share of the work should be done by Georgia and Ukraine themselves.

Vershbow further said that in the US view, Ukraine has recently considerably slowed down the tempo of reforms needed for joining NATO. Possibly, the situation will change after the presidential election that will be held in Ukraine in January 2010, the Pentagon official noted.

The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), also known as the US Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 56 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the US Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defence, and Commerce. The Helsinki Commission was created in 1976 to monitor and encourage compliance with the Helsinki Final Act and other OSCE commitments. It was established in 1976 pursuant to Public Law No. 94-304.

The Commission contributes to the formulation of US policy on the OSCE and takes part in its execution, including through Member and staff participation on US Delegations to OSCE meetings and in certain OSCE bodies. Members of the Commission have regular contact with parliamentarians, government officials, NGOs, and private individuals from other OSCE participating States.

The Commission convenes public hearings and briefings with expert witnesses on OSCE-related issues; issues public reports concerning implementation of OSCE commitments in participating States; publishes a monthly Digest with up-to-date information on OSCE developments and Commission activities; and organizes official delegations to participating States and OSCE meetings to address and assess democratic, economic, and human rights developments firsthand.

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