“NATO will never accept Russia’s military occupation of Crimea”

Deputy NATO Secretary General Alexander Vershbow and Pavlo Klimkin (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ukraine)
Deputy NATO Secretary General Alexander Vershbow and Pavlo Klimkin (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ukraine)

Speaking at the Kyiv Security Forum, NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow focused on NATO’s response to Russia’s aggression and on the Alliance’s support to Ukraine’s efforts to reform its defense forces and democratic institutions.

The Deputy Secretary General underlined that NATO “will never accept Russia’s military occupation of Crimea”. “NATO stands by Ukraine and its right to be an independent, sovereign nation”, Mr. Vershbow said, as quoted in a NATO press release.

He also stressed a clear need for Ukraine to adopt NATO standards and said that this is not “just a technical exercise”. “Civilian control of the armed forces and democratic oversight of the security and defence sector are essential, interconnected principles shared by all NATO Allies. These are principles that Ukraine needs to embed irreversibly in its own institutional set-up”, he said.

Alexander Vershbow underscored that NATO will continue to support Ukraine’s reforms. “We back this political support with practical assistance through an advisory mission in Kyiv supporting comprehensive reform of the security and defence sector.” NATO also supports Ukraine through capacity building Trust Funds and through the Annual National Programme, which includes reform of its defence forces and democratic institutions, and reform to tackle corruption and strengthen the rule of law.

“Ukraine’s leaders have set an ambitious course towards Euro-Atlantic values and standards; they must now deliver. But so must we. Allies will continue to support Ukraine, through NATO and bilaterally. And we will further improve our own coordination to make the most of the resources we have available for Ukraine”, he said.

Mr. Vershbow went on to say that the Minsk agreements must be implemented in full and that “strengthened security is needed in parallel with the fulfilment of the political aspects of the Minsk agreements”. “NATO will reiterate its insistence on full implementation of the Minsk agreements when the NATO-Russia Council convenes next week”, Mr. Vershbow said.

Speaking about the upcoming NATO Summit, the Deputy Secretary General said that Allies will “reaffirm their continuing commitment to support the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine by holding a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at the level of Heads of State and Government” in July in Warsaw.

Mr. Vershbow highlighted that the security and independence of Ukraine are vital for Euro-Atlantic security and that Ukraine has long been one of NATO’s closest partners. “As we approach the Warsaw Summit, now is the time to make Ukrainian defence forces and Ukrainian democratic institutions truly fit for purpose, in line with NATO standards. Ukraine has missed many previous windows of opportunity in the last 25 years. Let us resolve not to miss this one”, he concluded.

During his visit to Kyiv, Deputy Secretary General Vershbow also met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavlo Klimkin and other senior officials, the quoted source further said.