Seeking a roadmap to NATO membership, Ukraine rolled out the red carpet for the military alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday.
President Petro Poroshenko, whose country is fighting a Kremlin-backed insurgency in eastern Ukraine, has pledged reforms by 2020 to meet the necessary requirements.
Russia is unimpressed. Deeply opposed to enlargement of NATO towards its borders, Moscow warned that Ukarine joining NATO would not boost stability and security in Europe.
It’s none of your business, seemed to be NATO’s response.
“Nato will continue to support Ukraine on the path towards a close relationship with NATO, to implementing reforms and to meeting NATO standards. And then the message is whether Ukraine is going to become a NATO member or not is for the allies and Ukraine to decide. No-one else has the right to try to veto such a process,” Stoltenberg told a joint news conference with Poroshenko.
NATO leaders agreed at a summit in 2008 that Ukraine would one day become a member of the alliance. But there was little popular support for the issue at the time and it was never pursued by Ukraine’s pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovich.
Support for NATO membership however has soared since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014, following the fall of Yanukovich, and the outbreak of the war in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 10,000 people.
Some 69 percent of Ukrainians want to join NATO, according to a June poll by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, compared to 28 percent support in 2012 when Yanukovich was in power.
Most observers say any prospect of NATO membership for Ukraine is years off.
No dates were issued for when talks on a membership action plan might begin and Poroshenko himself said: “This does not mean that we will soon be applying for membership.”
Stoltenberg’s visit celebrates 20 years of partnership between NATO and Ukraine. It takes many forms including military drills.
NATO provided Kyiv with new equipment to uncover the perpetrators of a cyber attack that hit Ukraine in June and spread globally.
Stoltenberg used his visit to call on Moscow to withdraw its troops from Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov repeated Russia’s assertion that it had never had troops in Ukraine.