And last but not the least, among the economic problems that would arise following the demise of the Russian military presence, we should expect the Russian side to claim compensation and/or grievances allegedly due to the lack of budget funds for re-deployment of the Russian Black Sea Navy from the territory of Ukraine to the Russian Federation. Russia will probably demand additional financial compensation or stretching out the time frame allotted for pre-scheduled withdrawal of its military units, or it will demand both.
Thus, the resolution of these very challenging issues related to the withdrawal of the Black Sea Navy from the territory of Ukraine, as Ukraine goes through the process of accession to NATO, will require their discussion on a trilateral or multi-lateral basis with the involvement of the leading NATO nations, first and foremost the USA.
There is another way of addressing this problem: through the signing of a trilateral agreement between NATO, Russia and Ukraine on maintaining the Russian military presence until the expiry of the Agreement about the status, terms and conditions for the deployment of the Russian Black Sea Navy on the territory of Ukraine, by stipulating all relevant military and political commitments. But even this option would require the establishment of conditions for the withdrawal of the Russian troops and this process should start no later than from the year of 2006.
A very important component of Euro-Atlantic integration is the assessment of Ukraine's own readiness for NATO membership and the degree of its compliance with political and military criteria for such membership. In addition of how the Ukrainian public perceives Ukraine's accession to the Alliance.
The public opinion in Ukraine vis-a-vis the North Atlantic Alliance differs from public perception of NATO in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltics. The main difference is the lower support, percentagewise, for NATO membership as compared with the support for accession to the EU. Thus, for instance, the level of support for NATO membership in Ukraine, overall, varies between 19 and 33 percent while the support for accession to the EU is between 45 and 65 percent. By contrast with Ukraine, most countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic countries show that the level of support for NATO membership, overall, surpasses that for accession to the EU. These findings can be explained by two factors. Firstly, the Ukrainian public opinion has retained a deep-rooted stereotyped image of NATO as a hostile and aggressive alliance, which goes back to the Soviet times, and, secondly, Ukraine still has a long way to go in order to qualify for accession to the EU and, therefore, fears and misgivings that eurosceptics in Central and Eastern European countries are holding vis-a-vis the EU, bear little relevance for Ukraine.
In the regional perspective the situation is as follows. The residents of Western and Northern regions tend to regard NATO as a defensive alliance. The perceptions of NATO as a defensive alliance and as an aggressive military bloc are almost equally divided in Kyiv, central, northwestern and southeastern regions. The perception of NATO as an aggressive military bloc is predominant in the Crimea, Eastern, Southern, south-western and north-eastern regions.
In accordance with these perceptions, the Western and Northern regions have the biggest number of proponents of Ukraine's accession to NATO (33.7%) and the smallest number of opponents (21.5%). In the Central region the proponents of NATO accession make up 22.1% and the opponents 39.5%. In the Eastern region these figures are 19.7% and 48.7% respectively. In the Crimea 19.2% of the population are proponents and 44.4% are opponents.
The above-indicated data point to the ambivalence of the Ukrainian public opinion and the big regional and age-related differences. However, each region, just as each age and/or occupational group, has a well-established core group of the population oriented towards the European values and European integration. The majority of these people support NATO membership. But insufficient support for Ukraine's accession to NATO cannot be explained only by Soviet stereotypes, pro-Russian or anti-American sentiments. To a large degree, NATO scepticism is due to people's fear of belonging to whatever "bloc" that may drag Ukraine into a military conflict. A significant part of Ukraine's population believes that accession to NATO is a much too costly project for a poor country like Ukraine. An effective influence on public opinion building should be exercised aiming at eliminating such stereotypes of thinking, which have been shaped up as a result of insufficient public awareness of the true benefits of NATO membership. A decisive role in eliminating such stereotypes should be played by the media.
In addition to theoretically addressing the problems of Euro-Atlantic integration, a number of questions are related to practical implementation of Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic integration and to the procedure for gaining NATO membership. Addressing such questions requires structuring and implementation of a fully tested strategy for gaining NATO membership in a short-term and medium-term perspective.
Such a strategy should take into account the whole range of foreign and domestic policies, objective and subjective conditions, which have emerged within a certain historical time period.
TheAction Plan for a short-term perspective should be subordinated to the task of reaching the overriding aim as well as intermediate goals. The supreme aim for a short-term perspective is gaining invitation from NATO for joining the Alliance. Intermediate goals should be tailored towards reaching the overriding aim. They are about making sure that two major NATO demands are met: Ukraine must ensure its credibility and be able lo make its contribution into the collective capabilities of the Alliance, i.e. the capacity to meet its relevant commitments.
Ensuring credibility means that Ukraine should accomplish the following tasks:
1. Renouncing its twofold orientation in its foreign policy and military-political field, which would mean rethinking of its relationship with Russia in favour of its NATO accession interests. As we stand today, orientation towards Russia in the military-political field has impeded the move of Ukraine towards NATO and undermined its credibility as a reliable partner in the eyes of the Alliance.
2. Ensuring transparency and fairness and freedom in the presidential elections in the year of 2004, the parliamentary elections in the year of 2006 and the elections to the local government.
3. Guaranteeing the freedom of media and civil liberties through approval and enforcement of respective legislative and regulatory acts and pursuance of required administrative, organisational and economic policies.
4. Promoting trust in