MOSCOW, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Joining NATO will require Ukraine to spend large amounts to rearm its armed forces with Western equipment, because Russia will most likely stop supplying spare parts and components for the majority of Ukraine's Soviet weapons.
Kiev will have to say good-bye to many of its leading defense enterprises, notably aerospace ones, which cannot survive without Russia. NATO does not need Ukraine's defense sector, because it needs its own sector to work to its full potential. As for Russia, its politicians, including First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov and Ambassador Viktor Chernomyrdin, have said that Russia would terminate its military cooperation with Ukraine if it joins NATO.
Additionally, Ukraine will have to provide troops for participation in NATO operations around the world, including in Afghanistan. Washington allowed Ukraine to withdraw its troops from Iraq before Viktor Yushchenko was elected president for his first term, which largely helped him to defeat Leonid Kuchma. But after Ukraine becomes a NATO member, it will have to supply its troops to fill the gaps in NATO's armor, like the other new members are now doing.
In fact, Brussels expects Ukraine to do this because many European governments and their electorates are dissatisfied with their losses in Iraq and Afghanistan. NATO also needs Ukraine as one more brake on Russia's influence in former Soviet space. If Ukraine joins the bloc, Russia will have to work hard and spend large amounts to ensure its security in the southwest, which may slow down Russia's rapid economic progress.
In addition, Ukraine is a better place for the U.S. ballistic missile systems than Poland or the Czech Republic. Military experts are confident that these systems would be deployed in Ukraine.
Lt. Gen. Henry "Trey" Obering III, director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, likes to speak about ABM cooperation between Kiev and Washington. He does not say how Kiev is doing this, but after joining NATO it will most certainly have to please its ally.
If Ukraine joins the bloc, it will control the Black Sea and hydrocarbon routes from Central Asia to southern Europe, jointly with Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania -- and possibly Georgia. This group will be able to put pressure on the countries of the Caucasus, the Middle East and Central Asia that dare to displease Washington and Brussels.
What can Moscow do in this situation? First, it should not do anything at the moment. Ukraine may still fail to join NATO because anti-bloc sentiments in the country are strong, especially in its southern and eastern regions. If Ukrainians knew all the possible consequences of joining the bloc, they would never vote for it.
Second, it will not be the end of the world even if Ukraine joins NATO. Russia will have to develop relations with it and the enlarged bloc, cooperating where it fits and refusing to work jointly if it runs contrary to Russia's national interests. The Kremlin will need to be flexible, patient and wise, and above all practical.
And last but not least, Ukraine will be able to join NATO no sooner than 2017, after -- and if -- the military base of a non-European Union country -- Russia -- is withdrawn from it. This is a long time during which anything can happen.
(Nikita Petrov is a military commentator for RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.)
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)