No Third Country Has ‘Veto’ Over Ukraine’s Aspiration to Join NATO

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said no third country has a veto power over Ukraine’s aspirations to join the NATO military alliance.

“Ukraine … has the right to decide its future foreign policy. We hope they can do so without outside interference,” Austin said during a visit to Kyiv on Tuesday (19/10), when asked about Russia’s objections to Ukraine’s entry into the country. NATO.

Tensions escalated between Russia and the US-led alliance when Moscow announced on Monday that it was withdrawing its country’s permanent mission to NATO in response to the alliance’s expulsion of eight Russian citizens earlier this month.

Austin also called Russia an “obstacle” to any peaceful resolution of the dispute raging in eastern Ukraine.

“Once again we call on Russia to end its occupation of Crimea, end the long-running dispute in eastern Ukraine, and end destabilizing activities in the Black Sea region and along the Ukrainian border,” Austin said.

“We will continue to do everything to support Ukraine’s efforts to develop self-defense capabilities,” he added.

Earlier this year, Russia deployed its largest force near the Ukrainian border since its annexation of Crimea in 2014. The troops withdrew after taking part in exercises near the Ukrainian border.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Taran, left, and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin view the guard of honor during a welcoming ceremony ahead of their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, October 19, 2021. (Photo: AP)

Ukrainian Defense Minister Andriy Taran, left, and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin review the honor guard during a welcoming ceremony ahead of their meeting in Kyiv, Ukraine, October 19, 2021. (Photo: AP)

Austin’s visit to Ukraine is his second stop in Europe this week after visiting Georgia on Monday (18/10).

Bradley Bowman, a defense expert with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, called his trip to Georgia and Ukraine an “important and positive signal.”

“They are important partners, who are literally, not metaphorically, really at the forefront of fighting Russia’s aggression and invasion and continuing occupation,” Bowman told FLY.

Russia still controls about a fifth of Georgia’s territory.

During his press conference Tuesday with his Ukrainian counterpart, Austin also urged Moscow to stop its “continuous cyber attacks and other malign activities” against the United States and its partners.

A White House official said last week Russia had taken “several steps” against ransomware groups operating out of the country after President Joe Biden urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to tackle the group by June 2021.

Russian hackers are accused of being behind last year’s massive breaches of several US federal offices through the SolarWinds software exploit and a series of ransomware attacks on US infrastructure and businesses, including the attack on Colonial Pipeline in May.

On Wednesday (20/10), Austin is scheduled to visit Romania ahead of his participation at the NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels. [mg/jm]

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