Change may be afoot in Ukraine.
A vote of 303 to eight in the Ukrainian parliament today showed overwhelming support for the country to renounce their non-aligned status, a position they’ve held since 2010 when Viktor Yanukovych was president. The vote signals that Ukrainian MPs are ready to eschew their neutral military and political status, thereby opening the door to Western international organizations like the European Union and NATO.
According to the BBC, Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said Ukraine was determined to pivot towards Europe and the West before the vote. “This will lead to integration in the European and the Euro-Atlantic space,” Klimkin said.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko also pledged his support for Western integration. He has made clear that Ukraine will seek NATO membership over Russian support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine, a conflict that continues almost a year since Russia illegally annexed the Crimean peninsula.
To be sure, joining NATO membership would take time – it can’t be done overnight and would likely take years. But a NATO spokesman in Brussels offered that the “door is open” for Ukraine to join. “Ukraine will become a member of NATO if it so requests and fulfills the standards and adheres to the necessary principles,“ the official commented.
Russia was quick to respond – and decry – the Ukrainian vote. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov condemned the move, calling it counterproductive and an impediment to a lasting peace in eastern Ukraine.
“This is counterproductive and only worsens confrontation, creates the illusion that the path of taking up such laws can solve the deep inner crisis in Ukraine,” Lavrov told journalists.
Moscow continues to maintain that they are in favor of peace talks between the Ukrainian government and the pro-Russian separatists, despite supporting the rebels with arms, some of its own military units and economic backing.