The Kremlin said on Thursday that Ukrainian membership in North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) would be dangerous for Russia.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made the remarks a day after US President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met in Washington.
President Zelensky said after Wednesday’s meeting that the US president supported Ukraine’s bid for membership in NATO.
At the same time, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that “this is not a decision that the United States makes,” adding that Ukraine should first advance the rule of law reforms, modernize its defense sector, and expand economic growth.
In a joint statement issued by the White House administration on September 1 following the Biden-Zelensky meeting, Washington pledged to continue “robust training and exercise program in keeping with Ukraine’s status as a NATO Enhanced Opportunities Partner.”
Peskov said Moscow was following the situation closely.
“This is potentially very dangerous for us because NATO will thus continue to move its military infrastructure closer towards our borders,” RIA Novosti quoted Peskov as saying.
He further added that such actions could cause countermeasures from Russia.
Ukraine and Russia have been at odds since the 2014 crisis in Ukraine’s southern and eastern regions. Ukraine accuses Russia of annexing the Crimean Peninsula that extends into the Black Sea. The Moscow-backed referendum held in March that year reportedly revealed that over 90 percent of Crimea’s residents wanted the peninsula to be under Russian control. However, the vote was declared illegitimate by Ukraine, Western countries, and the United Nations.
Russia has also been accused of fueling conflict in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions and supporting the separatist regimes with weapons and troops. Moscow, however, has repeatedly denied those claims.
The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine has so far claimed the lives of some 14,000 people and left as many as 40,000 wounded, according to Kyiv’s estimates.
In June, Zelensky urged NATO members to accelerate Ukraine’s entry into the alliance after a massive buildup of Russian troops near Ukraine’s border. Russia did not deny the troop movements but insisted that Moscow had no intentions of threatening Ukraine. For two weeks, more than 10,000 servicemen, 1,200 units of equipment, as well as 40 warships have been positioned in Crimea, in what Russia said was a part of a snap training exercise.
In 2014, the Ukrainian parliament voted to abandon the country’s military non-aligned status which was adopted under Viktor Yanukovych’s presidency in 2010 and rejected any ambition to join NATO.
The Ukrainian authorities expect to join the military alliance by 2030.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin has repeatedly warned Kyiv that Ukraine’s admission to NATO would only exacerbate the situation. Russia has long complained about the deployment of NATO troops to Eastern Europe, up to Russia’s borders, which threatens its stability and may force Moscow to take extra measures to ensure its security.