Azerbaijan may be offered Nato membership

Azerbaijan may be offered Nato membership

Nato countries agreed to beef up their military presence on Russia’s borders last night following the seizure of Crimea.

The alliance dramatically stepped up the confrontation with Vladimir Putin as Russia’s defence minister Sergey Shoigu claimed the worst crisis since the Cold War ‘may turn into a tragedy not only for Ukraine, but also for all of Europe’.

Nato foreign ministers ordered an end to all civilian and military cooperation with Russia and told their generals to quickly devise ways to better protect alliance members that feel threatened by the Kremlin.

At the summit in Brussels they agreed to deploy further military assets in eastern NATO nations like Poland and the Baltic states to deter Russia from further aggression.

A leaked document also revealed that the alliance wants to go still further, offering military support and even Nato membership to countries like Armenia, Azerbaijan and Moldova, which have no formal links with Nato.

Citing a seven page ‘Nato Restricted’ document, German magazine Der Spiegel said the alliance was ‘committed to maintaining the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty’ of all three countries.

The document suggested that the three countries would benefit from ‘increased western military support’, should take part in joint training and exercises.

Nato is also reported to be planning to send a NATO liaison officer to Moldova’s capital, Chisinau, and the former Soviet state could even join Nato’s rapid reaction force - a move likely to enrage the Kremlin.

NATO General Secretary Anders Fogh Rasumssen insisted that 'every European country' could apply for NATO membership as he rounded on Mr Putin.

Issuing a new warning over Vladimir Putin’s ambitions in Ukraine, Mr Rasmussen strongly denied that Russia had pulled back its troops from Ukraine’s borders, despite the Russian President’s personal assurances to German leader Angela Merkel.

In the strongest warning from a Nato leader for years, he said: ‘This is not what we have seen. And this massive military buildup can in no way contribute to a de-escalation of the situation.

‘The crisis in Ukraine is a wake-up call for all Europeans. It reminds us that security and peace are not matters of course.’

Referring to Mr Putin, he said: ‘He is guilty of several glaring and undisputed breaches of international law. I am afraid that he has not yet had enough.

‘My concern is that we have less to do with rational thinking here rather than emotions - longing to re-establish Russia’s good old sphere of influence in its immediate neighbourhood.’


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