Kurt Volker, the U.S. special envoy for efforts to end the conflict in Ukraine, says that the country is not ready yet to join NATO.
Speaking in an interview that aired late on August 26 on Ukrainian Pryamyi TV, Volker said preparations for accession to the western security alliance take a long time, though he believes the country will be able to carry out all of the reforms, including in the area of security, needed to join NATO.
"The United States, the EU, and Russia should all understand that Ukraine is an independent country and it is up to Ukraine to determine when it will be ready to join NATO," Volker was quoted as saying.
"But this does not mean that Ukraine is close to receiving an invitation to NATO," he added.
Volker applauded Kyiv’s decision in 1994 to abandon nuclear weapons, saying he did not “think that nuclear weapons were something positive for Ukraine."
In response to a question on the joint Belarusian-Russian military exercises due next month (September 14-20), Volker said the exercises, dubbed Zapad 2017 (West 2017), show that Western nations must develop their own security system together and be prepared for all possible scenarios.
A 2011 agreement between the member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) known as the Vienna Document, sets thresholds for the number of troops allowed to take part in exercises before the opposing side is allowed to demand a mandatory inspection.
Exercises involving 13,000 or more troops are subject to mandatory inspections. In the case of exercises involving 9,000 or more soldiers, the other side must be notified.
Russia and Belarus say the Zapad 2017 strategic exercises, which are conducted every four yearsy, are due to be attended by some 12,700 troops. However Lithuania, which has a common border with Belarus, and other critics say the actual number of troops taking part in Zapad 2017 could be as high as 100,000.