Russia said on Wednesday NATO was turning Ukraine into a “frontline of confrontation” and threatened to sever remaining ties with the Atlantic military alliance if Ukraine’s hopes of joining it were realized. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/24/us-ukraine-crisis-russia-nato-idUSKBN0K20J920141224?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&utm_source=twitter
The Kiev parliament’s renunciation of Ukraine’s neutral status on Tuesday in pursuit of NATO membership has outraged Moscow and deepened the worst confrontation between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.
“NATO countries pushed Kiev to this counterproductive decision, trying to turn Ukraine into a front line of confrontation with Russia,” Deputy Defence Minister Anatoly Antonov told the Russian news agency Interfax.
“If this decision in the future takes on a military character (accession to NATO), then we will respond appropriately. Then there will be a complete severing of ties with NATO, which will be practically impossible to repair,” Antonov said.
It is likely to take years for Ukraine to meet the technical criteria for accession to NATO and, even then, there is no certainty that the alliance is ready to take on such a political hot potato.
Yet Russia has made clear it would see the NATO membership of such a strategic former Soviet republic with a long common border as a direct military threat.
A NATO official, who asked not to be named, said it was solely up to Kiev to decide on its foreign policy.
“Should Ukraine decide to apply for NATO membership, NATO will assess its readiness to join the alliance in the same way as with any candidate. This is an issue between NATO and the individual countries aspiring to membership,” the official said.
NATO has already boosted its military presence in eastern Europe this year, saying it has evidence that Russia orchestrated and armed a pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine that followed the overthrow of a Kremlin-backed president in Kiev.
Moscow denies supporting the rebellion, and is currently trying, along with Kiev and the rebels, to renew efforts to find a political solution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine.
A so-called “contact group” is expected to meet in Minsk on Wednesday to try to reinforce a shaky ceasefire and de-escalate the conflict, in which more than 4,700 people have been killed.
A truce agreed in September has been regularly flouted by both sides, but violence has lessened significantly in December.
The rebellion began shortly after Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine in March.
With a Russian-backed separatist insurgency still gripping eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian Parliament voted on Tuesday to take steps toward joining NATO. It was a pointed rebuke to Russia that immediately drew an angry response. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/24/world/europe/ukraine-parliament-nato-vote.html?ref=world
The Parliament, firmly controlled by a pro-Western majority, voted overwhelmingly, 303 to 8, to rescind a policy of “nonalignment” and to instead pursue closer military and strategic ties with the West.
Former President Viktor F. Yanukovych, who was toppled in February and fled to Russia after months of protests in Kiev, the capital, pushed Parliament to adopt the policy in 2010, shortly after he took office.
The law had defined nonalignment as “nonparticipation of Ukraine in the military-political alliances.”
The revised law, which was a priority of President Petro O. Poroshenko, requires Ukraine to “deepen cooperation with NATO in order to achieve the criteria required for membership in this organization.” For now, it still seems unlikely that Ukraine will join NATO, in part because of Russia’s strong opposition.
Russia has denied repeatedly that it set off the separatist violence in eastern Ukraine, but in recent months it has also made clear that preventing Ukraine from seeking NATO membership is one of its top goals. In November, President Vladimir V. Putin’s personal spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told the BBC, “We would like to hear a 100 percent guarantee that no one would think about Ukraine’s joining NATO.”
Speaking to reporters in Moscow on Tuesday, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, sharply criticized Ukraine’s move. “This is counterproductive,” Mr. Lavrov said. “It only pumps up confrontation, and creates the illusion that by passing such laws it is possible to settle a deep domestic crisis within Ukraine.”
Repeating Russia’s longstanding contention that Mr. Yanukovych’s ouster was unconstitutional, Mr. Lavrov added: “A much more productive and sensible path is to start, at last, a dialogue with that part of their own people which has been completely ignored since the state coup was carried out. There is no other way. Only constitutional reform, with participation of all regions and political forces of Ukraine, can give a correct tone.”
Russia has called repeatedly for a new, federalized system of government in Ukraine, which would expand the powers of regional officials. Mr. Poroshenko and his allies have been unwilling to create powerful regional governments, which might be more loyal to Moscow than Kiev. Instead, they have been drawing up a decentralization plan that would increase the authority of local officials.
Even as Russia voiced its annoyance, officials seemed to reach an agreement to resume peace negotiations in Minsk, Belarus, on Wednesday, with the participation of Ukraine, Russia and representatives of the self-declared separatist republics in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine.
Two previous meetings in Minsk in September led to the signing of a formal truce, but it has not held. Separatist leaders told Russian news services on Tuesday that they wanted the renewed talks to focus on political autonomy for their regions. Other participants have generally put a higher priority on securing Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia and ending the fighting.
In Washington, a State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, said that the United States had an open mind on Ukraine’s joining NATO and that the alliance itself had an open door.
“Countries that are willing to contribute to security in the Euro-Atlantic space
are welcome to apply for membership,” Ms. Harf said, describing the general policy
toward enlargement. “Each application will be considered on the merits.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Ukraine’s pursuit of NATO membership posed a danger to European security and that the West was using Kiev’s bid to join the Atlantic alliance as a way to fuel confrontation between Russia and Ukraine. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/26/us-ukraine-crisis-russia-nato-idUSKBN0K30H620141226?feedType=RSS&feedName=topNews&utm_source=twitter
The Kiev parliament’s renunciation of Ukraine’s neutral status this week as a step toward joining NATO has outraged Moscow and deepened the worst confrontation between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.
Lavrov is the latest Russian official to speak out against the Kiev’s bid in recent days, and who have made clear Russia would see the NATO membership of such a strategic former Soviet republic with a long common border as a direct military threat.
“There are a few Western countries that want to maintain the crisis in Ukraine and to maintain and boost the confrontation between Ukraine and Russia, including through provocative efforts toward membership in the Atlantic alliance,” he said.
“The very idea of Ukraine’s efforts to join NATO are dangerous, not only for Ukrainian people, because there is no unity over that issue, it is dangerous for European security,” he said, speaking on state television.
NATO boosted its military presence in eastern Europe this year, saying it has evidence Russia orchestrated and armed a pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine that followed the overthrow of a Kremlin-backed president in Kiev.
Moscow denies supporting the rebellion, and says it is currently trying, along with Kiev and the rebels, to find a political solution to the crisis in eastern Ukraine.