NATO on Tuesday doubled down on its pledge to eventually admit Ukraine during a meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers in Bucharest, Romania, a position that played a major role in provoking Russia’s invasion.
The Romanian city was where NATO initially made the promise to Ukraine back in 2008, and at the time, US officials acknowledged that attempting to bring the country into the alliance could spark a war in the region.
“We made the decision in Bucharest in 2008 at the summit,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.” I was there … representing Norway as Prime Minister. I remember very well the decisions. We stand by those decisions. NATO’s door is open.”
CIA Director William Burns wrote a cable in 2008, when he was the US ambassador to Russia, that said promising NATO memberships to Ukraine as well as Georgia touches a “raw nerve” in Russia and raises serious security concerns for Moscow.
Burns wrote: “Not only does Russia perceive encirclement, and efforts to undermine Russia’s influence in the region, but it also fears unpredictable and uncontrolled consequences which would seriously affect Russian security interests.”
Burns said in the cable, which was released by WikiLeaks, that Russia was particularly concerned about Ukraine. “Experts tell us that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face,” he wrote.
The pledge to admit Ukraine into NATO didn’t lead to a civil war right away, but one was sparked after former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in a US-backed coup in 2014. Separatists in the eastern Donbas region rejected the more Europe and US-friendly post-coup government and declared independence.