The legislative and doctrinal definition of Ukraine’s strategic partnership has always been flawed. The lack of clear criteria and approaches to defining strategic partnership was aggravated by the divergence in definitions in different documents and layered over circumstantial definitions by heads of state. In Ukraine’s foreign policy, the concept of strategic partnership was never properly finalised, leading to an excessive expansion of the list of Ukraine’s “strategic partners” in the past.
In the early 2000s, almost 40 countries could be considered strategic partners of Ukraine based on statements from different officials. The problem was that neither reality of bilateral relations, nor agreements, or domestic regulatory documents backed the “strategic” status for most of them. Ukraine did not have an approved foreign policy strategy, and the documents that did exist only defined the foundations of foreign policy while not setting actual priorities.
The change of doctrine in recent years based on a number of approved domestic strategic documents — including the National Security Strategy and the Foreign Policy Strategy of Ukraine — and a well-defined foreign policy course were expected to add clarity to the criteria for Ukraine’s strategic partnership. On the contrary, these new documents expand nominal categories of partnership, leading to a lack of a clear vision or hierarchy of relations and adding unnecessary semantics without proper definition. Comprehensive cooperation of strategic nature, strategic partnership, special partnership, global partnership — these are just a handful of definitions used by the authors of strategies.
This research will not look at strategic partnership with the EU and NATO — integration into these two international organisations is determined as Ukraine’s key foreign policy vector. Instead, this research will focus on bilateral relations with individual countries that the respective strategies list as Ukraine’s strategic partners. This research attempts to analyse possible criteria for strategic partnership and the vision of the key features of strategic partnership in Ukraine and to test it against the status quo based on selected criteria.