Kiev hails NATO recognition of Ukraine’s ‘aspiration’ to join the bloc

After NATO finally took note of Ukraine’s “aspiration” to get into the military alliance, ten years after its first application, Kiev praised the gesture and stated that its ambitions extend far beyond the symbolic status upgrade.

The military alliance mentioned in a Friday press release that, among others, it recognizes Kiev’s interest in entering the bloc, inviting it “to engage in an Intensified Dialogue” about its “membership aspirations and related reforms.” 

Although the gesture is rather symbolic and doesn’t provide any guarantees, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has praised this “important long-awaited and logical decision by NATO to raise Ukraine’s ambitions” regarding the alliance. “Our next ambition is a Membership Action Plan (MAP),” the president declared in a Facebook post, referring to the bloc’s program on preparations, specifically tailored for nations wishing to join NATO. 

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Kiev, Ukraine, July 10, 2017 © Valentyn Ogirenko

Ukrainian representative to NATO, Vadim Pristayko, also stressed that Kiev is “not going to stop on the status of an aspirant country, we’re continuing to work.” “The only formal mechanism [to get accepted in the bloc] is the MAP. We will be asking for it separately,” the diplomat told Interfax-Ukraine.

Indeed, the MAP constitutes “a key preparation mechanism” on the way to NATO membership, yet even it does not guarantee admission for an aspirant country, according to the alliance’s guidelines. Among the potential candidates, which include Ukraine, Georgia, Macedonia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, only the latter two participate in the MAP. 

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Ukraine’s official request for the MAP at the 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest, Pristayko noted. While Ukraine always stated its willingness to join the bloc, it had “deviations from the course during the Yanukovich presidency,” the representative said, pointing out to the non-alignment policy, adopted in 2010.

However, that non-bloc status, preventing Ukraine from joining any military alliances, was dropped after the 2014 Maidan coup under the new government’s pro-Western course. Last July, Ukrainian lawmakers even passed an amendment making NATO membership “one of the key priorities for government policy.”

Having admitted that Ukraine didn’t meet the membership criteria, Poroshenko said at the time that the country was determined to conduct reforms and meet the necessary criteria by 2020.

In the meantime, senior Russian senator Vladimir Dzhabarov expressed doubts over the prospects of Ukraine’s bid, calling it Poroshenko’s “pipe dream.” Moscow, however, has repeatedly voiced concerns over NATO’s steady expansion to the East, saying it does not help strengthen stability and security in Europe, and that is reserves the right to protect Russia’s national security.

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