No country has ‘veto’ on Ukraine’s NATO aspirations, Washington warns as Moscow tells Kiev joining bloc goes ‘beyond red lines’
Ukraine is free to decide its future and foreign policy, with no foreign entity having a say in its aspiration to join the NATO alliance, the US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday.
"Ukraine… has a right to decide its own future foreign policy and we expect that they will be able to do that without any outside interference," Austin said at a joint press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Andrey Taran in Kiev.
No third country has a veto over NATO's membership decisions.
The statement apparently came in response to a harsh warning against Ukraine ever joining NATO, voiced by Moscow a day earlier. Speaking to French journalists for a program called 'Vladimir Putin: Master of the Game,' the Kremlin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Kiev's accession to NATO would be "the worst-case scenario."
"This is a scenario that goes beyond the red lines of Russia's national interests. This is a scenario that could force Russia to take active measures to ensure its own security," he stressed. Peskov did not elaborate how far such "active measures" may go.Also on rt.com Red line: Ukraine joining NATO would be ‘worst-case scenario’ for Moscow, response would involve ‘active measures,’ says Kremlin
By throwing his weight behind Kiev’s NATO bid while on a visit to the country, Austin is “playing politics,” and while his remark might be for Ukraine’s domestic consumption it risks ratcheting up tensions “at a time when that’s the last thing either Russia or NATO need,” former US Marine Corps Intelligence Officer Scott Ritter told RT.
Ritter noted that until now “there has been a hesitancy on part of both the United States and NATO to encourage Ukraine joining NATO because of the ramifications” that both Kiev and NATO may face in the aftermath.
Since Ukraine cannot win a hypothetical “shooting war” with Russia, and the US “is not in the position to come to their aid,” any potential showdown can spell doom for the military alliance, Ritter argued.
“NATO will face defeat and this could be the end of NATO. I don’t know if NATO can take another defeat, another embarrassment like they had in Afghanistan,” he said.
Former Pentagon security analyst, Michael Maloof, argued that Austin’s rhetoric and promises he seems to be giving Ukraine shows that Washington “has not learnt anything from the lessons going back to 2008, when the US was trying to push Georgia and Ukraine into NATO.”
Maloof pointed out that the Biden administration has also been courting Georgia, another country that borders on Russia. Austin, who visited Georgia on Monday as part of his three-nation tour to the Black Sea region, tried “to excite the Georgians and give them a false promise that they will be able to increase their military assistance and undertake military maneuvers,” Maloof said, adding that such strategy already backfired in the past, resulting in the war in South Ossetia in 2008.Also on rt.com After ‘burying’ idea of discussions with Moscow, NATO must take first steps if it wishes to improve relations – Russian FM Lavrov
“It’s like they have not learnt lessons from the past whatsoever, and this is all a pressure tactic as far as I’m concerned.”
Russia is not the only "third country" opposing Ukraine's NATO aspirations, with no unity on the issue existing within the bloc itself either. Hungary, for instance, has been actively opposing bot Ukraine's NATO and its EU aspirations, calling Kiev out over a lack of "democratic standards" as well as alleged persecution of an ethnic Hungarian minority living in the west of the country.
"In order to have a conversation on the issue [of joining NATO], any country has to achieve democratic standards, and Ukraine has not yet done so," Hungary's Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said back in September. Until these issues were sorted out, it would be "very difficult" to even discuss Kiev's NATO aspirations, he stressed.
Ukraine has been actively courting NATO for the most part of its independent history following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Kiev authorities got especially cozy with the North Atlantic alliance after the 2014 Maidan coup, that resulted in Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich's ouster and prompted the years-long conflict in the east of the country.Also on rt.com EU has already made up its mind about whether Ukraine can join bloc, so it’s ‘pointless’ even asking questions, Zelensky blasts
The low-intensity fighting, still continuing between Ukrainian government troops and the self-proclaimed Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk, was brought up by the Pentagon boss during the press conference as well. Austin squarely blamed the conflict on Russia, effectively repeating the talking points commonly used by Washington hawks and Kiev authorities.
"Let's be clear, that Russia started this war and Russia is the obstacle to a peaceful resolution," Austin said. "So we again call on Russia to end its occupation of Crimea, to stop perpetuating the war in eastern Ukraine, to end its destabilizing activities in the Black Sea and along Ukraine's borders, and to halt its persistent cyber attacks and other malign activities against the United States and our allies and partners."
Such stance effectively makes any dialogue on Ukraine between the US and Moscow impossible. Russia has repeatedly denied partaking in the war in eastern Ukraine, pointing out that it's an internal conflict, triggered by the Maidan events.Also on rt.com Russia’s dramatic decision to cut direct diplomatic ties with NATO further proof that Moscow no longer cares what the West thinks
Moscow also repeatedly rejected any possibility of talking about Crimea, stating that the country does not negotiate its territorial integrity with anybody. The Crimean peninsula broke away from Ukraine after the 2014 Kiev coup, subsequently joining Russia through a referendum.
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