In 2010, Ukraine had dropped a bid to join the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) primarily to address Russia’s concerns. On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said during a meeting of the country’s Security Council that Russian aggression proved there was no alternative to the expansion of NATO. He said staying out of NATO was a “criminal” policy that he was willing to reverse.
The only way to protect Ukrainian territory from Russia
Poroshenko told a press conference that joining the Western military alliance was the only way to protect its people and territory from Russia. More than 8,000 people have died in the country’s fight against Moscow-backed separatists. Poroshenko said the previous government’s non-alliance policy was criminal in terms of strategic and security interests of the country.
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The Ukrainian President said any decision to join the Western military alliance would be subject to a popular vote. Many Ukrainians now see NATO as a credible defense against Russian aggression. A recent opinion poll suggested that 60% people in the country supported NATO membership. NATO officials said Kiev needed to enact economic, political, social and economic reforms before it could be considered for membership.
Russia opposes expansion of NATO in its sphere of influence
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also attended the Security Council meeting in Kiev. Stoltenberg pledged to expand cooperation with Ukraine and offer support to its armed forces. However, he made it clear that the Western alliance would not supply offensive weaponry to Ukraine. NATO officials fear that such a move would threaten a fragile ceasefire.
Russia has opposed the expansion of NATO to former Soviet states, claiming that the communist areas of eastern and southeastern Europe come under its sphere of influence. Russia has even threatened to use nuclear weapons to drive NATO out of the Baltics. Stoltenberg said the alliance would continue to provide Ukraine with practical and political support. He added, “Ukraine can rely on NATO.”