Russia will cut off cooperation with NATO if Ukraine joins the Western military alliance – a move that “will be practically impossible to repair," the deputy defense minister warned Wednesday. Moscow has been outraged since Kiev announced its renunciation of neutral status Tuesday – a possible step toward joining NATO.
"NATO countries pushed Kiev to this counterproductive decision, trying to turn Ukraine into a front line of confrontation with Russia," Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told the Russian news agency Interfax. "If this decision in the future takes on a military character [accession to NATO], then we will respond appropriately. Then there will be a complete severing of ties with NATO, which will be practically impossible to repair."
Kiev first announced its interest in joining NATO in August following months of fighting Russian-backed separatist rebels in the eastern provinces. Kiev has accused Russia of arming the separatists after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was sympathetic to Moscow, was overthrown. Russia has denied the claims.
On Tuesday, Ukraine’s parliament voted to drop the country's non-aligned status in a 303-8 vote and take steps to align itself formally with the West.
"This will lead to integration in the European and the Euro-Atlantic space," Ukraine Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimki said.
While NATO membership for Ukraine is years away – and is no certainty – Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took to Facebook on Monday warning that “in essence, an application for NATO membership will turn Ukraine into a potential military opponent for Russia.”
A NATO official, who asked not to remain anonymous, told Reuters that the military alliance would review Ukraine’s candidacy if the country applies.
"Should Ukraine decide to apply for NATO membership, NATO will assess its readiness to join the alliance in the same way as with any candidate. This is an issue between NATO and the individual countries aspiring to membership," the official said.