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Ukraine’s potential privileged US partner-status political, not military step - experts

July 28, 2014, 16:20 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

MOSCOW, July 28./ITAR-TASS/. Ukraine is seeking status as a US privileged partner outside NATO, or Major Non-NATO Ally of the United States (MNNA), to expand military co-operation with Washington amid military operations in Ukraine’s east. The government in Kiev hopes soon to receive the ranking. Experts differ over possible consequences if the US confirms such status: Some say this is solely political propaganda, others see the plan as a military challenge for Russia.

Former chief of Ukrainian Security Service foreign intelligence Nikolay Malomuzh last week quoted sources in Washington as saying Senate and Congress had supported the initiative and could officially approve it in the following days. This privileged-partner status, he added, would open the door for Kiev to expanded foreign financing for buying and leasing US military equipment. Several days earlier, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko told a CNN interviewer that MNNA status was possible.

Fifteen countries that are not members of NATO are now in privileged partnership with the US, which means special relations in terms of military and technical co-operation. Among them are Afghanistan, Argentina, South Korea, Thailand, Australia, Austria, Israel, the Philippines and Japan. The level of military ties the countries maintain with the US differs.

“Granting Kiev such status would rather be a political support factor and a lunge against Russia as there are other ways of providing Ukraine with military aid,” head of political science and sociology at Plekhanov Russian University of Economics Andrey Koshkin told ITAR-TASS. “This does not pose any military threat to Russia.”

“Privileged military partnership is as insignificant as EU associate membership. A country can be a privileged partner for decades and see no serious results, depending on circumstances,” Director of MGIMO university's Centre of Military and Political Studies Alexey Podberezkin told ITAR-TASS. “Russia will by no means initiate a military response.”

“This is a political gesture, but even politically insignificant gestures can lead to many unpleasant consequences. For instance, sanctions against people in Russian law enforcement authorities would practically mean an end of Russian-Western co-operation in security and fighting terrorism,” the expert added.

“It is primarily a political and psychological reaction,” said Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council Andrey Kortunov, quoted by Kommersant daily. “It surely does not mean that the US will take on legal responsibility to provide Ukrainian security that could entail a hypothetical conflict with Russia.”

Some experts voice a different view.

“This is a serious military challenge for Russia,” said member of the Association of Military Political Scientists Alexander Perendzhiev. “It means emergence of a US military ally near the Russian border that can not only receive US military aid but also allow it to deploy its troops on Ukrainian territory.”

Russia’s response can take various forms, first vice-president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems Vladimir Anokhin told Svobodnaya Pressa (Free Press) portal. “If Ukraine becomes a US privileged partner without entering NATO, it gives us reasons for some serious strengthening of our Western borders - with weapons we did not place on the border with Ukraine during all this time,” he was quoted as saying.

ITAR-TASS may not share the opinions of its contributors