Ukraine, locked in conflict with Russian-backed separatists in its east, announced a new security doctrine on Thursday (9 April), denouncing Russia’s “aggression” and setting its sights on joining the US-led NATO military alliance.
Oleksander Turchynov, head of the national security council, told a session of the body that Ukraine saw Russian aggression as a “long-standing factor” and viewed NATO membership as “the only reliable external guarantee” of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Turchynov’s comments, and the move to draft a new security strategy, were certain to raise hackles in Russia, which annexed the Crimean peninsula in March 2014 after a pro-Western leadership took power in Kyiv in the wake of an uprising that ousted a Moscow-backed president.
Russian officials have said that the radical change of leadership in Kyiv raises the strategic threat of US and NATO warships one day being based in the Black Sea, off Crimea.
Moscow has backed separatists fighting Kyiv government forces in eastern Ukraine, in a conflict in which more than 6,000 people have been killed.
Turchynov said the five-year strategy was based on the reality of military aggression unleashed by Russia.
“For the first time in history, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which possesses the nuclear weapon, uses this factor to intimidate the international community and uses its military potential for annexation and seizing the territory of a European country,” he said.
Turchynov stated that European and Euro-Atlantic integration was now a priority for Ukraine’s policies, and that the country would aim to coordinate its armed forces and intelligence services with those of the Western alliance.
Ukraine, at the centre of a geopolitical tug-of-war between Russia and the West, has grown close to the NATO alliance during since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
The pro-Western leadership has prepared the way for a change in strategic direction by scrapping the “non-bloc” status introduced under ousted former president Viktor Yanukovich.
NATO has said that membership is one day possible for Ukraine, but has declined to arm the Kyiv government on the grounds that, as a non-member, it does not qualify for military help under NATO’s collective defence rules.
The new military doctrine drawn up by the National security and defence council will become policy once it has been endorsed by a decree from President Petro Poroshenko.