United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, has reaffirmed that NATO doors remain open to Georgia and Ukraine, referring to the 2008 Bucharest Summit decision that the two countries will eventually become members of the Alliance.
“If they continue to seek membership and meet the requirements,” the process will move forward, he told NBC News on December 12. The comments come after Moscow has insisted the Alliance “formally disavows” the Bucharest Summit decision.
Discussing the complaints of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin over increased NATO presence in eastern Europe, Secretary Blinken pointed out that “everything president Putin says he wants to prevent, he’s actually been provoking by his actions.”
He noted that there “was not a lot of public support for Ukraine joining NATO immediately, [but] that has changed” after Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea in 2014. “Similarly, NATO has had to defend itself better and have forces that are better prepared close to Russia – all of which Mr Putin says he does not want, he has basically precipitated what he sought to prevent.”
Alluding to the Russian military buildup near Ukraine’s borders and fears of Russian military aggression, Secretary Blinken offered de-escalation and diplomacy as “a much better path forward.”
The remarks come as Moscow demands the U.S. and other NATO allies to issue “long-term guarantees” preventing the Alliance’s further enlargement into Eastern Europe, among others.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has reiterated the Alliance’s stance that it cannot accept Russia to “control or decide” what Allied states will do and that every nation, including Georgia and Ukraine, have “the right to choose his own path.”