A Russian source has said that Moscow will attempt to divide Ukraine and Georgia if they join NATO, Polskie Radio reports.
During a closed session of the NATO summit in Bucharest, Russia`s President Vladimir Putin threatened that if Ukraine is offered NATO-membership, Russia may consider forcefully incorporating the eastern part of Ukraine and the Crimea into its territory.
The news was reported by Russian daily Kommersant, which, quoting an anonymous source from one of the country`s delegation to the NATO summit, claims that Putin expressed this intention at a closed meeting last Friday.
According to the daily, Putin expressed a view that NATO`s expansion towards Russia`s borders is a palpable threat to the interests of his country, and declared that Moscow would take ‘appropriate counter-measures’.
Putin allegedly made it clear that if Ukraine and Georgia are included in the Membership Action Plan (MAP), then Russia will acknowledge the independence of two of Georgia`s regions, Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia, thus creating a buffer zone between NATO forces and its own borders, and may initiate the process of incorporating eastern Ukraine and the Crimea into its territory.
Political analysts in Russia express the view that Ukriane`s membership in NATO is therefore `highly unlikely`, precisely because it ‘threatens the country`s existence’.
Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov again warned that Georgia`s bid for NATO membership could spark new hostilities in its breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both of which have had limited independence since early in the 1990s.
"It would be a very dangerous game if they secure NATO support and solve conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia by force," Lavrov said. "Abkhazia and South Ossetia can`t even think about Georgia joining NATO. It`s impermissible to play with fire."
Ukraine and Georgia had their appolication to the Membership Action Plan – the initial stage of joining the North Atlantic alliance – blocked, for the time being, by Germany and France at last week’s summit in Bucharest, though Poland’s president, Lech Kaczynski, described the promise by Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.that the two former Soviet countries would be allowed into NATO sometime in the future as a ‘breakthrough.’ Poland’s foreign minister, Radek Sikorski said that both countries’ status within the alliance in the future was ‘inevitable.’
Moscow has threatened before to aim some of its nuclear arsenal at Ukraine if it does eventually join the NATO.