In a desperate and potentially catastrophic move, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk has asked the parliament in Kiev to assist in gaining Ukraine membership in NATO.  If Ukraine successfully petitions to become a member of NATO then Ukraine could be ground zero for a nuclear war between Russian and NATO forces. Under the rules of NATO, any attack – real or perceived as real – on a member must be responded to by all members.

Before Ukraine can formally seek membership it must reverse its currently codified status as non-bloc which was put in the Ukrainian Constitution by couped out former President Viktor Yanukovich in 2008. Not only does being a member of NATO risk nuclear war it also drops any pretense of not being alligned with the European Union and United States – something Russia has made increasingly clear it will not accept.

“The government is entering a bill to Verkhovna Rada [parliament] about the cancellation of Ukraine’s non-bloc status and resumption of Ukraine’s course for Nato membership,” Mr Yatsenyuk said.

Ukraine’s previous President Viktor Yanukovich, ousted earlier this year, enshrined the country’s non-aligned status in the constitution in 2008. At a government meeting, Mr Yatsenyuk said Ukraine’s main aim remained membership of the European Union.

The provocation comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin called separatist fighters in East Ukraine the “army of Novorossia.” Novorossia, or New Russia, is a reference to the old Russian Empire and aligns with terminology used in declarations made by the separatists. Analysts have argued that one of Putin’s chief aims is to rebuild the Russian Empire which, notably, included Ukraine.

The question that remains, and one that is of great consequence, is whether or not NATO will accept Ukraine as a member. If they do and follow their own rules the head to head military exchange between the US and Russia that was successfully avoided during the Cold War could take place. Managing to keep a ground war between Russia and the US – which NATO membership would likely lead to – limited to conventional weapons may prove impossible.

Photo by Jarekt under Creative Commons license.