Ukraine’s Cabinet has asked the country’s parliament to consider dropping the country’s non-aligned status and seek membership of NATO.
Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk’s government submitted to the parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, a draft bill that would cancel Ukraine’s non-aligned status and revive the country’s quest to join NATO – a path ditched by ousted President Viktor Yanukovich in 2010.
The move followed a decision by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council. It also coincided with an emergency meeting of NATO ambassadors in Brussels to discuss the ongoing crisis in east Ukraine.
If passed, the law would ban Ukraine from joining any political unions which would prevent it from eventually achieving “its key and sole goal” – membership in the European Union, Yatsenyuk said, the government’s press service said in a statement.
Following the adoption of the law, Ukraine will be forbidden from being a member of the Eurasian Customs Union and Eurasian Economic Community, and any other unions “which are in essence nothing but Russia’s Soviet Union,” Yatsenyuk stated.
The premier asked President Petro Poroshenko to classify the draft bill as urgent and called on the parliament to immediately consider it.
Defense Minister Arsen Avakov praised the decision as a “very correct one.”
“If the parliament approves it, the path to NATO will be open,” Avakov said on his Facebook page. “Only madmen would counter such a decision in the current situation.”
NATO said it would respect Kiev’s possible decision to seek membership of the military alliance.
“This is a fundamental principle that each and every nation has an inherent right to decide itself, on its security policies and its alliance affiliations,” the bloc’s chief, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, told the media at an extraordinary meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission.
He indicated that the military alliance would be open to discussing Ukraine’s application if it meets the conditions for membership.
“I am not going to interfere with political discussions in Ukraine, but let me remind you of NATO's decision taken at the Bucharest Summit in 2008 according to which Ukraine will become a member of NATO, provided of course that Ukraine so wishes and provided that Ukraine fulfils the necessary criteria,” he said.
However, the issue was not discussed at Friday’s gathering in Brussels, Rasmussen added.
During the meeting, NATO reiterated its earlier accusation of Russia being “engaged in direct military operations inside Ukraine” and supporting “separatists.” It claimed that “Russia continues to maintain thousands of combat-ready troops close to Ukraine’s borders,” Rasmussen said in a statement.
“This is a blatant violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.
“At the Wales Summit next week, we will meet President Poroshenko to make clear NATO’s unwavering support for Ukraine,” Rasmussen said.
Earlier this week, NATO released satellite images that were offered as “proof” that Russian combat troops were taking part in special operations in eastern Ukraine. The images – as before - were provided by a commercial company, DigitalGlobe, operating civilian satellites.
Moscow called such evidence “ridiculous.”
“You know, it has become ridiculous… If earlier, someone would at least put their names on those images, be it [Supreme Allied Commander Europe Philip] Breedlove, Rasmussen, or even [NATO Spokesperson] Lungescu, now, they are hesitant,” Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said, RIA Novosti reported. “It makes no sense to seriously comment on this.”
However, NATO is using the pretext of a Russian “threat” to push for a “readiness action plan” that will bring the military bloc closer to Russian borders than ever, despite objections from some members of the alliance.
Rasmussen said earlier that would attempt to overcome internal opposition and agree to the deployment of military bases near the Russian border.
The military bloc is also establishing four trust funds to finance the modernization of the Ukrainian army. Some member states, Rasmussen said, have already said they were planning to make their donations to these funds.