Ukraine targets Nato membership despite Russian warnings

Moscow believes Nato’s growth threatens its security, vows to take necessary measures

Ukraine's parliament has voted to make membership of Nato a strategic priority for the country, enshrining in law an ambition that Russia has called dangerous for European security.

Of 357 deputies present for Thursday’s vote in Kiev, 276 backed a Bill to make deeper co-operation with Nato a core element of Ukraine’s foreign policy, with the aim of eventually joining the 29-member military alliance.

The vote took place during another surge in fighting in eastern Ukraine, where more than 10,000 people have been killed and 1.5 million displaced in a three-year war between government troops and Russian-backed separatists.

The authors of the Nato Bill argued that Russia’s “aggression towards Ukraine, its annexation of [Crimea], placed before the Ukrainian state the urgent task of genuinely ensuring the national security of the country”.


They said several of Ukraine’s neighbours had found Nato membership to be “the most effective instrument for guaranteeing their safety and preserving their territorial integrity and sovereignty”.

Surveys suggest the Kremlin’s violent reaction to Ukraine’s 2014 revolution has sharply boosted support for Nato in the country of 45 million people, although the prospect of membership remains far more popular in western regions than in areas closer to Russia.


"Four years ago, only 16 per cent [of Ukrainians] favoured Ukraine's entry into Nato. Now it's 54 per cent," Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko said earlier this year.

“As president, I am guided by the views of my people, and I will hold a referendum on the issue of Nato membership.”

The alliance is increasing its co-operation with Ukraine but has made clear that membership is not likely to be offered in the foreseeable future.

Moscow is categorically opposed to the possibility of Ukraine joining Nato, which the Kremlin accuses of aggressive expansion right up to Russia’s borders.

In response to Thursday's vote in Kiev, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia believes Nato's growth "threatens our security and the balance of forces in the Eurasian region. Naturally, the Russian side will take all measures needed to rebalance the situation and ensure our own security."

When Ukraine renounced its neutral military status in December 2014, Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov 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."

Failed coup

Tension between Russia and Nato shows no sign of abating: Moscow has denounced Montenegro’s recent accession to the alliance and its alleged agents are accused of being behind a failed coup in the tiny Balkan state last October.

In the Baltic states and Poland, meanwhile, multinational Nato battalions are now being deployed to allay fears of Kremlin aggression, and both Russia and Nato plan major military exercises in the coming months.

In Ukraine’s parliament, the pro-Russian Opposition Bloc party voted against the Nato Bill and called for the country’s neutrality to be restored.

As Opposition Bloc deputy Yuri Miroshnichenko called for more discussion of the issue, another deputy, Yuri Bereza reminded him of Ukraine's bloody conflict: "We're already having a 'discussion' in the east," he said

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe