KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The Ukrainian president on Monday signed a bill dropping his country’s nonaligned status but signaled that he will hold a referendum before seeking NATO membership.
The bill, which Parliament adopted last week and Petro Poroshenko signed into the law at a news conference on Monday, has angered Moscow which called it a threat to its own and Europe’s security.
Poroshenko said he is working to reform the Ukrainian economy and its military forces to meet European Union and NATO standards, but he will leave it up to Ukrainian citizens to decide in a popular vote whether to join NATO or not.
“When we are able to conform to these criteria, the people of Ukraine will make up their mind about the membership,” Poroshenko said and added that this will likely happen in the next five to six years.
However much enthusiasm there is, Ukraine’s prospects for NATO membership in the near term appear dim. With its long-underfunded military suffering from the war with the separatists and the country’s economy in peril, Ukraine has much to overcome to achieve the stability that the alliance seeks in members.
The leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France will get together in Kazakhstan on January 15 to discuss a peace settlement, Poroshenko announced on Monday. This will be the first such high-profile summit on the conflict since June.
Poroshenko added that he still believes that there is “no military solution” to the conflict in the east. Proshenko’s move comes less than a week after the publication by the Kremlin of a document identifying NATO as the No. 1 military threat to Russia.
The paper was signed as a new military doctrine by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday.
NATO flatly denied it is a threat to Russia, and accused Moscow of undermining European security.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.