This summer, the Western-backed government in Kiev pressured the North Atlantic Alliance to take steps to “immediately” begin the process to accept Ukraine into the alliance, with the country’s ambassador to Germany warning before that that Kiev may be forced to develop nuclear weapons if NATO doesn’t allow it to become a member in a timely manner.
The deployment of additional NATO infrastructure in Ukraine would violate one the “red lines” spoken about by President Vladimir Putin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has indicated.
Earlier Monday, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said he and Putin had discussed the creeping expansion of NATO in Ukraine, and suggested that the Western alliance was creating new bases in the Eastern European nation under the guise of ‘training centres’. Russia and Belarus have agreed to jointly respond to the deployment of any NATO forces in Ukraine, Lukashenko warned.
“These are the kinds of actions that will ensure the strategic interests and security of our two allied states,” Peskov said, commenting on Lukashenko’s remarks in a briefing with reporters.
“The topic of the potential expansion of NATO’s military infrastructure to Ukrainian territory has repeatedly been mentioned by President Putin, and he has said that such steps are beyond those very ‘red lines’ that he has discussed repeatedly in the past,” the spokesman stressed.
Ukrainian lawmakers abandoned the country’s non-aligned status in 2014, in the aftermath of the US and-EU-backed Maidan coup d’état, which ousted unpopular but democratically elected president Viktor Yanukovych. In 2016, lawmakers adopted an additional measure to define NATO membership as a key foreign policy goal for Kiev. In 2019, Ukraine’s parliament approved amendments to the constitution confirming the country’s course toward NATO and the EU.
Russia has expressed concerns over the prospects of yet another Eastern European nation joining the Western security bloc. Despite commitments made to Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 not to expand eastward, NATO has since swallowed up every single former member of the Moscow-led Warsaw Pact, plus the Baltic States and several republics of the former Yugoslavia.
In July, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the West of trying to form a “belt of instability around” Russia and to “surround us with a cordon sanitaire.” In separate remarks, Putin said that the estimated 50 percent or so of Ukrainians who don’t want the country to join the Western bloc were “smart people” who “do not want to find themselves on the firing line – who do not want to become political currency or cannon fodder.”
In June, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer from US President Joe Biden and other NATO members on Ukraine’s accession to the alliance, citing the alleged ‘Russian threat’. Biden, whose own family has been implicated in alleged corrupt dealings in Ukraine, responded by telling Zelensky that Kiev would still have to “clean up corruption” and “meet other criteria” before becoming eligible for the alliance’s action plan for membership.
NATO already regularly carries out drills with Ukrainian ground forces, air defence troops and navy, and occasionally stations limited contingents of troops in the country to train forces to alliance standards. Washington and its allies have also provided the country with hundreds of millions of dollars in lethal and non-lethal military assistance. Moscow has warned that these deployments and exercises serve to undermine regional security. Russia has also expressed concerns about the string of US military biological laboratories near its borders in countries such as Ukraine and Georgia.