The divisive issue of whether Ukraine should join NATO will be put to a vote years from now, after the necessary reforms have been completed, President Petro Poroshenko announced Monday.
Russia’s steadfast opposition to its neighbor and longtime ally becoming a member of the Western military alliance is a major factor in the armed conflict racking eastern Ukraine as Moscow attempts to thwart what it sees as the Kiev leadership’s about-face to align instead with Europe.
An Oct. 26 parliamentary election has empowered a coalition in favor of pursuing membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as soon as possible, although all parties recognize that it will take years to meet the alliance conditions for new members.
Poroshenko has taken a more go-slow approach to NATO membership in view of Moscow’s aggressive action in protest of Ukrainians’ ouster of Kremlin-allied President Viktor Yanukovich in February. Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops to seize Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula days after Yanukovich was toppled by a pro-Europe rebellion and he is accused by a broad array of foreign governments of arming and instigating separatists fighting government forces in eastern Ukraine. More than 4,300 people have been killed since fighting broke out in April.
“The decision on accession to NATO lies solely in the competence of the people of Ukraine,” Poroshenko said at a news conference Monday with visiting Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.