The US Congress is doing its part to escalate the tensions with Russia over Ukraine. The Russian Aggression Prevention Act of 2014, which is introduced in Senate, has been read twice and is referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. It provides major non-NATO ally status for Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova. Actually, the bill provides a blueprint for US intentions in Ukraine and Eastern Europe for the coming years.
Major non-NATO ally (MNNA) is a designation given by the United States government to close allies who have strategic working relationships with US military but are not members of the NATO. While the MNNA status does not automatically include a mutual defense pact with the US, it does confer a variety of military and financial advantages that otherwise are not obtainable by non-NATO states. MNNA status was first created in 1989. It stipulated that cooperative research and development agreements could be enacted with non-NATO allies by the Secretary of Defense with the concurrence of the Secretary of State. In 1996 major non-NATO allies received additional military and financial benefits like, for instance, bring added to many of the same exemptions from the Arms Export Control Act that were enjoyed by NATO members. Totally there are 15 states enjoying the status, for instance: Australia, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Jordan, New Zealand and South Korea.
On 17 the U.S. Congress passed in two readings the bill that provides major non-NATO ally status for Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova (during the period in which each of such countries meets specified criteria) for purposes of the transfer or possible transfer of defense articles or defense services. Congress said that in order to be treated as a major non-NATO ally the country must fully cooperate with the United States on matters of mutual security concern. The progress of Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova will be monitored by the U.S government. Once a year the U.S President should provide to the appropriate congressional committees a report assessing whether Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova should continue to be treated, for purposes of the transfer or possible transfer of defense articles or defense services, as major non-NATO allies and whether the treatment should be expanded or reduced. So the bill is not just an offer of cooperation, it has strings attached to limit the wiggle room and curb the political independence of the states in question.
According to the official website of the U.S. Congress, the bill directs President Barack Obama to increase U.S. Armed Forces interactions with the armed forces of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia; and U.S and NATO security assistance to such states. The bill amends the Natural Gas Act to apply the expedited application and approval process for natural gas exports to World Trade Organization members, and urges the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Trade and Development Agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the World Bank Group, and the European Bank for Reconstruction to promote assistance to Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova in order to exploit natural gas and oil reserves and to develop alternative energy sources. The document prohibits any federal department or agency from taking any action that recognizes Russian Federation sovereignty over Crimea. The document directs the Secretary of State to boost educational and cultural exchanges and strengthen democratic institutions, the independent media, and political and civil society organizations in countries of the former Soviet Union, something that quite often seen by other countries, including Russia, as meddling into internal affairs, including inciting «orange revolutions».
The bill directs the US Department of Defense to assess the capabilities and needs of the Ukrainian armed forces. It authorizes the President, upon completion of such assessment, to provide specified military assistance to Ukraine» and «Expresses the sense of Congress that the President should: (1) provide Ukraine with information about Russian military and intelligence capabilities on Ukraine’s eastern border and within Ukraine’s territorial borders, including Crimea; and (2) ensure that such intelligence information is protected from further disclosure».
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Last week the accords were reached on the urgent enhancement of Lithuania – Poland – Ukrainian brigade (LITPOLUKRBRIG) bringing it up to operational status. On July 4 Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – Visegrad Group (V4), made a statement to confirm the commitment to make further progress in defence cooperation. The plans envisage the operational status of a joint body would comprise 3,000 soldiers contributed by the four countries added by a contingent from Ukraine. The Visegrad battle group needs to be able to conduct a whole range of missions, from providing assistance in case of humanitarian disasters to intervening in armed conflicts. Its forces need to be able to respond to crises far beyond EU borders within ten days. Visegrad Group defence ministers made the decision at a meeting on June 1 before the formal meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels about the Ukraine's participation in the military unit of the Visegrad Group. Hungarian Defence Minister Csaba Hende said that they have already discussed with Ukraine the forms of its involvement in the military formation. Ukraine, in particular, proposed to provide the unit with Ukrainian helicopters and use its strategic air transport capacity.
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The proposed legislation is to capitalize on the crisis in Ukraine, using it as a convenient pretext for the expansion of NATO, continued militarization of Eastern Europe, promotion of oil and gas interests among other things. It reflects the desire to take advantage of the situation in Ukraine and strengthen the Western hegemony in the post-Soviet space. It plans to make Ukraine a springboard in case of hostilities against the Russian Federation. The bill presupposes putting the idea of dialogue with Russia aside in favor of saber-rattling and stepping on the path leading to conflict. In fact Ukraine, as well as Moldova and Georgia, are to become part of NATO enlargement going around the North Alliance own procedures. The bill is not solely about Ukraine’s security, it’s also about energy exports could be expedited to undermine the Russian economy. Talking about the contacts related to fracking, the US is chomping at the bit to launch lucrative business in Ukraine well protected by allied military power. So it’s not only military producers but also US fracking firms who are to gain.
Major non-NATO allies typically host US military bases and are recipients of US military aid. Ukraine is a large Russian neighbor. The MNNA status would be qualified as an open provocation against Russia. The bill is being considered against the backdrop of additional NATO military buildup in the Baltic States which is seen as a provocation considering the short distance to Russia’s naval fleet base at Kaliningrad. Moscow will hardly be idle watching the situation evolve this way. Iskander tactical missiles will surely be deployed, Russian tactical aviation reinforced with a string of other measures to follow. Do the countries which are about to get the «coveted» MNNA status realize they’ll not only be the guards of US economic interests (fracking gas extraction ) but also targets for retaliatory strikes if push comes to shove? The US congressmen are facing a serious decision; the «yes» vote will mean pushing the situation in the heart of Europe to the brink of military confrontation. The bill has not become a law. There is still time to think long and hard about the choice the congressmen will make, the responsibility to follow and the implications to ensue.