Stuck Between West and East: Ukraine Initiates NATO Membership

Written by | Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Ukraine has taken fresh steps towards joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and has a plan to fulfill membership standards by 2020. Ukrainian President Poroshenko renewed his country’s interest in NATO membership during a visit by the organization’s Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, who also used the occasion to urge Russia to end its insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

“Ukraine has clearly defined its political future and its future in the sphere of security,” Mr. Poroshenko said, adding that “today we clearly stated that we would begin a discussion about a membership action plan and our proposals for such a discussion were accepted with pleasure.” Russia is deeply opposed to Ukraine’s membership in the Alliance, as it sees its NATO’s membership as a threat to its own security. Regarding Mr. Stoltenberg’s comment on Russia’s involvement in the Crimean conflict, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russia had never had troops in Ukraine.

At a 2008 NATO summit, leaders agreed that Ukraine would become a member of the Alliance one day but at that time there was little support for the issue in Ukraine and as such it was never pursued by Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovitch. However, following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in March 2014, popular support for a NATO membership among Ukrainians has soared. Currently about 69% of Ukrainians say that they would like to see their country in the Alliance compared to only 28% under then then-President Yanukovich.

Given the sensitivity of this issue from a geopolitical perspective, President Poroshenko did not specify any dates regarding when talks on membership might begin. He actually cautiously said that this initiation “does not mean that we will soon be applying for membership.” He explained that he was simply seeking to “have a clear schedule of what must be done by 2020 to meet the NATO membership criteria.”

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