NATO Chief: Decision Made to Integrate Georgia and Ukraine as Members

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has stated that the western alliance has decided to admit Ukraine and Georgia as new members, with the matter having been resolved as early as 2008. He emphasised, however, that the timing of their accession remained uncertain. The expansion of NATO has been a central issue in recent talks between the alliance and Russia, with Moscow viewing its continued growth as an imminent threat to its own security. The issue of Georgia’s accession has been central to tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi since the mid-2000s, culminating in a brief war in 2008, while concerns in Moscow over Ukraine’s possible accession became serious following the overthrow of the Ukrainian government in 2014 and coming to power of a new more overtly pro-Western leadership.

Both countries’ militaries have increasingly integrated themselves with NATO, but their full membership would pave the way for much larger arms sales and eventually the stationing of Western nuclear-capable assets on their territory. This would be seen as an imminent threat to Russian security and allow NATO to strike key targets across Russian territory with much less warning time than strikes from further away. With the Russian Military currently seriously outnumbered by NATO and its defence budget dwarfed by that of the alliance, its ability to afford an acceptable level of security should the alliance expand further into the territory of the former Soviet Union remains in serious question. Russia views the expansion of NATO as a violation of an agreement made by the Soviet Union that the alliance not to expand east of Germany, although Secretary General Stoltenberg has stated that no such agreement was ever made and pledged that the alliance would never rule out further expansion.

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