The Russian Federation would not have annexed Crimea if Ukraine had been a NATO member as of 2014, because other members of the Alliance would have stood up for Ukraine, said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in his speech at the College of Europe in Bruges, RBC-Ukraine reports.
"My short answer is that this would not have happened, because the purpose of NATO is to protect every ally," Stoltenberg said.
He added that NATO uses a "one for all and all for one" rule if one of the Allies is attacked.
Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke by phone with Stoltenberg and called the membership in NATO Ukraine's immediate goal.
In February 2014, armed people in uniforms without insignias appeared in Crimea and captured the Supreme Council of Crimea, the Simferopol Airport, the Kerch ferry crossing and other strategic objects, and prevented the Ukrainian army from taking action. Initially, the Russian government refused to acknowledge that these armed people were Russian soldiers, but President Vladimir Putin later admitted it.
On 16 March 2014, a referendum on the status of Crimea was held in Crimea and Sevastopol, in which the inhabitants supposedly voted for the peninsula to become part of Russia. The outcome of the so-called referendum is not recognized by Ukraine, the EU or the US. On 18 March, Putin announced the “annexation” of Crimea to Russia.
International organizations have declared the annexation illegal and condemned Russia’s actions. Western countries have imposed economic sanctions on Russia in connection with the annexation. Russia claims to have “restored historical justice”. Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, declared 20 February 2014 the start of Russia’s temporary occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol.