Ukraine is taking steps to formally join NATO after President Petro Poroshenko met with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, a day after she called Russia a “terrorist state.” Lithuania is also a former USSR state and a member of NATO and the European Union.
Poroshenko did not provide details on the criteria to join NATO. There is not a list on NATO’s website, but it admits countries that “will contribute to security and stability in the North Atlantic area.” Former President Viktor Yanukovych depleted Ukraine’s armed forces and whatever is left is used to fight off the pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine.
On November 20, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitri Peskov told the BBC that Moscow demands a “100% guarantee” that Ukraine will never join NATO. Peskov also accused NATO of pushing too close to Russia’s borders. In 1997, NATO agreed not to build permanent bases in Eastern Europe if Russia did not violate another country’s sovereignty. Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, all countries from the former Soviet bloc, joined in 1999. More followed in 2004, including the Baltic states. Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said Russia already violated the agreement due to aggression towards Ukraine, which includes annexing Crimea in mid-March.
“No-one in history ever managed to achieve this with Russia, and no-one ever will,” he said.
Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine forced other nations to reconsider security options. Sweden and Finland want to join NATO, but Russia issued a stern warning during Finland’s National Defense Courses Association.
“Military cooperation between Russia and NATO is progressing well and is beneficial to both parties,” said Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia Nikolai Yegorovich Makarov. “In contrast, cooperation between Finland and NATO threatens Russia’s security. Finland should not be desirous of NATO membership, rather it should preferably have tighter military cooperation with Russia.”
Lithuania and other NATO countries vowed to help Ukraine with military aid against Russia. Grybauskaite urged NATO and European Union countries to do more for Ukraine because if Moscow’s aggression “is not stopped, then that aggression might spread further into Europe.” While she met with Poroshenko, her country claimed Moscow blocked “its vehicles and goods at the Russian border, and summoned its ambassador to protest.”
“The drivers report that all traffic from Lithuania was blocked as of this morning,” said Algimantas Kondrusevicius, president of the Lithuanian truckers’ association Linava, after no Lithuania trucks entered Russia’s Kalingrad region over the weekend. “Our truck companies, our warehouses are already losing clients who are afraid of delays and trying to hire trucks from other countries.”