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Poroshenko wants to hold NATO vote

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Poroshenko wants to hold NATO vote

Photo: AP/Sergei Chuzavkov
Photo: AP/Sergei Chuzavkov

Ukraine’s president dropped a bombshell on Wednesday: he wants to hold a referendum on NATO membership.

Viktor Poroshenko justified his comments by saying polls show 54% of Ukrainians favour NATO membership, up from 16% four years ago. While this trend is accurate, the recent inaccuracy of polling data raises questions about whether it should form the basis of such a consequential decision.

Regardless of whether such a vote is held, Petro Poroshenko’s remarks will provoke anger – both within his own country and in neighbouring Russia.

At its root, Ukrainian instability can be attributed to whether the country – less than 600 km from Moscow – forges closer ties with the West or looks eastwards to Russia. A sizeable portion of Ukrainians, mostly in the east, feel more Russian than they do Ukrainian. For these people, NATO membership is out of the question.

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Photo: VCG

Even if Poroshenko makes good on his promise, whether Ukrainians will vote to join the Western military alliance – and, indeed, whether it will have them – is a major question. A 1995 NATO study provides that states that have “external territorial disputes” must seek their settlement before membership is granted. This provides NATO leaders with a legitimate justification to hold off on Ukrainian accession, which is unlikely to make Europe (or NATO members) safer.

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