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18th Aug 2018

Ukraine keen to begin Nato entry process

  • Stoltenberg inaugurated new building for Nato mission in kiev (Photo: nato.int)

Ukraine is keen to start its Nato application process despite Russia’s ongoing aggression in the east of the country.

“Today it has been emphasised that we should start a discussion about establishing a membership action plan [MAP] and our proposals … were accepted with understanding”, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko told press after meeting Nato head Jens Stoltenberg in Kiev on Monday (10 July).

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  • Stoltenberg (l): “Ukraine moving steadily towards ... Nato standards" (Photo: nato.int)

“We have a clear-cut time table as to what we have to do by the year 2020 in order to meet the membership criteria,” he added.

He said recent polls showed more than 60 percent of Ukrainians wanted to join the Western alliance.

Stoltenberg said Russia would not be able to stop Ukraine’s membership.

“Whether Ukraine is going to become a member of Nato or not is for the allies and Ukraine to decide, no one else has the right to try to veto such a process”, he said.

“Ukraine is moving steadily towards meeting Nato standards,” he added.

He noted that €40 million of Nato money was helping Ukraine to buy high-end satellite surveillance and cyber-defence equipment.

A Nato office in Kiev is also advising Ukraine on military and intelligence reforms.

Piers Cazalet, a Nato spokesman, said in Kiev on Tuesday that Stoltenberg “took note” of Poroshenko’s MAP request.

He said the current “priority” was “the modernisation of its defence and security institutions”, however.

A Nato MAP, in which aspirant states submit annual reports on military and political assimilation, is the first step toward accession.

It does not guarantee future membership and it has no set duration, but in the latest case - Montenegro - the Balkan state began its MAP in 2009 and joined Nato this year.

Russian troops

Stoltenberg also said in Kiev that: “Russia must withdraw its thousands of soldiers from [east] Ukraine and stop supporting the militants [there], with command and control, and military equipment”.

He added that “it is extremely important to maintain the sanctions as long as Russia doesn’t change its behaviour in eastern Ukraine and Crimea”, referring to EU and US economic sanctions.

Poroshenko called for the “withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukrainian soil, withdrawal of Russian artillery, tank, and multi-rocket launch systems back to Russia”.

The Kremlin responded the same day by saying Ukraine’s Nato membership would “not help strengthen stability and security in Europe”.

Dmitry Peskov, its spokesman, added: “Russia has never had and has no servicemen in Ukraine”.

There is a wealth of photographic evidence and eyewitness testimony to the contrary.

There are also high-level statements that contradict the official line.

Sergei Larvov, the Russian foreign minister, told a seminar in Moscow on 30 June: “I have read and heard much criticism that we should not have got involved into the conflicts in Donbass [a region in east Ukraine]”.

Russian president Vladimir Putin said on TV in June 2015: “We never said there were not people there [in east Ukraine] who carried out certain tasks including in the military sphere”.

The Ukrainian parliament said in June by 276 out of 450 votes that Ukraine should join Nato.

A poll in June by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, a Ukrainian NGO, showed that 69 percent of people wanted to join the Western military bloc.

The surge in Nato support came after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. The invasion followed an anti-corruption revolution in Kiev that ousted its pro-Kremlin regime.

EU summit

Poroshenko will meet top EU officials in Kiev on Wednesday.

The summit will discuss progress on an EU-Ukraine political and trade pact which enters into force in September.

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson also visited Kiev on Sunday.

He said “it is necessary for Russia to take the first steps to de-escalate the situation in the eastern part of Ukraine” before the US would consider relaxing sanctions.

The EU recently extended its economic sanctions until January next year.

The US senate voted to expand sanctions, including against Western investors in Russian gas projects such as Nord Stream 2, a pipeline to Germany.

“We see an open sabotage of infrastructure projects … that are economically well founded and attractive for consumers, like for instance Nord Stream 2,” Russian energy minister Aleksandr Novak said at a congress in Istanbul on Monday.

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