STUTTGART, Germany — NATO will forge closer ties with Ukraine and intensify efforts to help build up the country’s military, the alliance’s secretary general said Monday, a day after a controversial referendum in Crimea on secession.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Ukraine’s acting Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsya discussed the referendum in which residents of the Crimea peninsula voted overwhelmingly to join Russia.
“The secretary-general reiterated the alliance’s firm commitment to support Ukrainian sovereignty and independence, and the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine’s frontiers,” a NATO news release stated.
The two officials also discussed NATO’s intent to boost cooperation with Ukraine, including “strengthening efforts to build the capacity of the Ukrainian military and more joint training and exercises.”
Deshchytsya also said Ukraine would submit within days a request to NATO for unspecified technical equipment.
On Sunday, voters in the autonomous Crimea region elected to break off from Ukraine and join Russia. What comes next is uncertain.
In a statement, NATO called the referendum “both illegal and illegitimate,” saying it violated Ukraine’s constitution and international law. “Allies do not recognize its results,” the statement said. The alliance called on Russia to de-escalate the situation and cease all military activities against Ukraine.
In response to the crisis along NATO’s border, the alliance deployed E-3 AWACS reconnaissance aircraft to Poland and Romania to monitor the unfolding crisis in Ukraine.
The alliance also has beefed up its air policing mission in the Baltics as part of an effort to reassure allies in the region. Meanwhile, the U.S. has sent F-16 fighters to Poland and dispatched the Navy’s USS Truxtun, a guided-missile destroyer, into the Black Sea for training activities.
But while the U.S. and Europe are moving to impose sanctions on Russia in connection with its intervention in Crimea, no Western political leaders of consequence have called for a U.S. or NATO troop presence in Ukraine.