Russia’s vicious, unjustified and illegal war against Ukraine is taking an immense physical and psychological toll on the Ukrainian people, but the nation is united in its resolve to push back against the aggressor with the enduring support of its partners. This was the main message that legislators from NATO countries brought back from Lviv, where they met with their Ukrainian counterparts, as well as Ukrainian military, local and government officials and students.
Ukrainian and Allied legislators met in the framework of the Ukraine-NATO Interparliamentary Council (UNIC), the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s (NATO PA) main forum for cooperation with the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
Lawmakers gathered in Lviv “to reaffirm our iron-clad solidarity with Ukraine – a nation fighting for its survival, for its future, but also for the future of the civilised world,” stressed UNIC Co-Chair and Lithuanian lawmaker Audronius Azubalis. “The NATO Parliamentary Assembly is a faithful and committed friend of Ukraine.”
Mr Azubalis reassured his Ukrainian counterpart that NATO PA members will continue to urge their governments and parliaments and NATO leaders to increase their support and provide Ukraine with everything it needs to prevail – for however long it takes.
“The urgency of the situation cannot be overstated; Ukraine's fate impacts the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic region – and beyond.”
His Ukrainian Co-Chair and first Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada, Oleksandr Korniyenko, stressed that “only by working together can we stop the aggressor, restore justice and ensure a peaceful future for all.”
Ukrainian parliamentarians thanked the Allies for their extensive military assistance, vital to Ukraine’s ability to push back against a brutal, numerically superior aggressor. They urged for even speedier deliveries of advanced weapon systems to enable a more rapid progress of the Ukrainian armed forces.
“The world must not get tired of the war in Ukraine, because the loser is the one who surrenders first. This war is not only a contest of arms, but also a contest of will,” underlined Yehor Cherniev, Head of the Ukrainian delegation to the NATO PA.
“The only way for the West to end the war is to demonstrate its readiness to go all the way and increase its assistance to Ukraine,” he noted. “The alternative is a Russian victory and the destruction of international law and the world order.”
Ukrainian military representatives presented a comprehensive list of capabilities that Ukraine urgently needs on the battlefield – from F-16 fighter jets and long-range missiles to non-lethal, yet vital equipment, such as drone jamming and night vision devices. They stressed that much of these assets are subject to wear and tear, and Ukraine needs constant supplies of them.
UNIC members applauded the 2023 NATO Vilnius Summit decision to transform NATO’s Comprehensive Assistance Package (CAP) for Ukraine into a strategic multi-year assistance programme. Karen McTear, Head of the NATO Representation in Ukraine, and her team reiterated NATO’s commitment to continue providing political and practical support to Ukraine, including on defence institution building, interoperability, medical rehabilitation, post-war reconstruction, demining and defence procurement modernisation.
Parliamentarians present shared the view that the future European security framework will not be complete and durable without Ukraine’s membership in NATO. They acknowledged the important steps taken at the Vilnius Summit in this regard, including the establishment of the NATO-Ukraine Council and the lifting of the requirement to obtain a Membership Action Plan. They called, however, for further steps towards Ukraine’s future membership. Several UNIC members stressed that, while Ukraine must pursue necessary reforms, conditions for membership referred to in the Vilnius Summit Communiqué need to be clearly defined, finite and attainable.
The UNIC Co-Chairs released a statement underscoring many of the points discussed during the meeting. They also agreed on proposals to step up the NATO PA’s practical support to the Verkhovna Rada, which will be presented at the upcoming NATO PA Annual Session in Copenhagen on 6-9 October 2023.
"Sustained engagement between Ukraine and NATO remains important for securing our future. And our parliamentary alliance is of great importance for security and stability not only in Ukraine, but also around the world,” first Deputy Chairman Korniyenko noted. “We see many promising areas of cooperation, including joint defence and security projects, exchange of experience and training.”
During the visit, NATO Parliamentarians also met with academics and students of Lviv’s Ivan Franko National University, who shared their vision of the Euro-Atlantic, democratic future of Ukraine. NATO PA members also visited the “Superhumans” National Rehabilitation Centre, a medical facility helping thousands of injured Ukrainian soldiers to restore their quality of life through the provision of prosthetics, rehabilitation, psychological support and reconstructive surgery.
As part of their fact-finding mission, delegates were briefed in Rzeszow, Poland on the crucial work of the Polish Logistic Hub and of the United States Army 10th Mountain Division in facilitating Western military support to Ukraine.
The Assembly is institutionally separate from NATO but serves as an essential link between NATO and the parliaments of the NATO nations. It provides greater transparency of NATO policies and fosters better understanding of the Alliance’s objectives and missions among legislators and citizens of the Alliance.
UNIC was created in 1998 to bring greater transparency to the implementation of the NATO Ukraine Charter and to demonstrate parliamentary interest and involvement in cooperation between NATO and Ukraine. It has since become a wider forum where members can discuss any issues of mutual concern. UNIC has played a leading role in the Assembly’s response to Russia’s renewed invasion.