Putin has warned 'irresponsible' policy would have unspecified consequences
Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko expressed Kiev's wish for NATO membership over the weekend, despite strong opposition from neighboring Russia and some other Eastern Europe countries.
Poroshenko said that by joining the military bloc, Ukraine could bring down 4 percentage points of defense and security spending in its GDP and improve the security situation in the country.
"Due to the aggression (by Russia), Ukraine is now forced to spend 6 percent of GDP on the defense and security sector, while the NATO rate is 2 percent. This means, simple science of numbers,－that being a NATO member, we will be able to reduce our military spending thrice and allocate it to socio-economic development," he said on Friday in an interview with the Ukraina TV channel.
Crimea was incorporated into Russia in March 2014 following a local referendum. Ukraine said the peninsula was annexed.
Poroshenko said that Ukraine's entry into NATO would also increase security in the country.
"And the third position: Ukrainians will stop dying (in the combat zone)," said Poroshenko, adding: "That is why being in the military bloc is so important."
Russian President Vladimir Putin had warned NATO earlier against cultivating closer ties with Ukraine, saying such a "irresponsible" policy would have unspecified consequences for the bloc.
Putin said there was a need to restore trust in Europe and spoke out against what he said was NATO's attempts to deploy new bases and military infrastructure near Russia's borders. "We will respond appropriately to such aggressive steps, which pose a direct threat to Russia."
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko earlier this month also excoriated the proposal to deploy NATO medium－and shortrange missiles to Ukraine.
"If such missiles were deployed to Ukraine, that would be a disaster," he warned.
Poroshenko said Kiev had made a time schedule for trying to join the NATO. "Ukraine can get an action plan on NATO membership by 2023, and it will contain a list of steps and a date as a road map," Ukraine state news agency Ukrinform quoted him as saying on Monday.
According to the Ukrainform, Poroshenko said that he planned to raise an issue of providing Ukraine with a Membership Action Plan at a NATO summit in London in December.
"There is no other mechanism in the world to protect the national interests and security of the state, except NATO, which has proved its effectiveness," Poroshenko said.
As the presidential election draws near in Ukraine, the government has increased its contacts with the NATO to deal with its conflict with Russia.
Ukraine newspaper The Kyiv Post reported that a French navy warship had been docked in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa since March 23, making it the second visit of NATO warships to the country this year.
It is also the third such visit since December, with NATO's three most powerful maritime forces－the United States, the United Kingdom and France－having sent a warship into Ukrainian waters, The Kyiv Post reports.
The French warship Capricorne, a mine-hunting reconnaissance vessel, is expected to stay until March 26. It entered the Black Sea on March 21.
According to a statement of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the French warship will take part in "joint PASSEX training to increase interoperability, work out cooperation within multinational tactical units, mine countermeasures in line with NATO standards and to support bilateral French-Ukrainian cooperation in the naval and maritime security field".