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.
The Action 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 the area of protection of restricted information.
5. Raising of a new generation of government officials and civil servants that shall be committed to the idea of Euro-Atlantic integration. It must be a unique "euro-atlantic" elite that would enjoy authority and trust within NATO structures. It would enable the formation of core groups, which would be responsible for practical implementation of Ukraine's NATO accession idea in key ministries and government departments involved in the process of Euro-Atlantic integration.
6. Submitting an official written bid with a clearly spelled-out intention to join NATO. This step is an indispensable political and legal condition, which gives grounds to the Alliance to perceive the intention of a nation as a serious and tangible one so that NATO can respond to Ukraine by offering the Membership Action Plan and then extending invitation to join the Alliance. An intensive dialogue between both sides should precede the submission of the bid in order to agree on terms and conditions for making such step and on procedural matters.
7. Launching a wide-ranging programme of political and diplomatic events in NATO nations in order to form a positive image of Ukraine and convince policy-makers in those countries of the benefits of Ukraine's joining NATO.
Thus, credibility of Ukraine, as a necessary prerequisite for gaining NATO membership, can only be established by creating relevant objective and subjective preconditions.
An important condition, which creates credibility and enhances chances of Ukraine for joining NATO, is its capacity to make a tangible contribution to the fulfilment by the Alliance of its functions. Building up and demonstration of Ukraine's capacity to meet its commitments as a member of the Alliance can be ensured by addressing the following priority tasks:
1. Conducting Defence Review and elaboration of goals and implementation plans of the reform and development of the Armed Forces of Ukraine with a view to ensure its NATO membership in the future.
2. Conducting Defence Review in the other elements of security sector, such as State border guards, Ministry of Interior, civil emergencies troops. On the other hand carrying out such a review in the said power structures, is significantly easier due to their small numbers. But on the other hand, it is also more complicated due to their closed nature and their lack of experience of co-operation with NATO structures. But the reform of these structures is the trustworthiest indicator of truly democratic transformations in Ukraine.
3. Introduction of a transparent system of defence planning and budget-making procedures, embracing NATO principles of elaboration of defence programmes and their financing.
4. Transition to NATO standards in the air traffic control system, including the functioning of the air traffic control services and monitoring the air space.
5. Standardisation of means of communication, command and control and staff procedures with a view to attain interoperability between the Armed Forces of Ukraine and those of the Allied powers. This includes such steps as publication of topographical maps of Ukraine's territory and drawing up of electronic maps of geo-informational system for theArmed Forces of Ukraine in accordance with NATO standards, introduction of NATO system of codes, etc. 6. Continued participation of units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in NATO-led multinational peacekeeping operations.
Fulfilment of the said tasks should lay down strong grounds for Ukraine gaining NATO invitation to implement the Membership Action Plan (MAP), which is necessary to obtain as early as during the Istanbul summit so that at the NATO summit of 2006 Ukraine could get invitation to join the Alliance. The year of 2006 could become the year of completion of Ukraine's Action Plan aimed at joining NATO in the short-term perspective.
Ukraine's Action Plan aiming at joining NATO in the short-term perspective will have to be implemented after receiving an official invitation to join the Alliance at the NATO summit of 2006, given favourable domestic environment within Ukraine and conducive international situation.
Such Action Plan is expected to implement, first and foremost, the legal procedure of accession to NATO. Normally, it takes about two years to have it completed. Therefore, in the best-case scenario, we can expect Ukraine to gain NATO membership no sooner than in the year of 2008. Translating this opportunity into reality depends, above all, on Ukraine itself.