By Martin Kelly
NATO must remain open to any country that can contribute to its allied security, US President Barack Obama has said.
In a speech in Estonia, President Obama urged the North Atlantic Alliance to give ‘concrete commitments’ in order to assist other members in a bid to help Ukraine.
“NATO must make concrete commitments to help Ukraine modernise and strengthen its security forces. We must do more to help other NATO partners, including Georgia and Moldova, strengthen their defences as well,” he said in a speech in the Estonian capital.
The US President also called for NATO to open its doors to new members, adding: “And we must reaffirm the principle that has always guided our alliance, for countries that meet our standards and that can make meaningful contributions to allied security, the door to NATO membership will remain open,”
The comments from the US President are the clearest signal yet that the US has decided to jettison its softly-softly approach to Russian President Vladimir Putin in relation to the situation in Ukraine. There have been growing concerns of an escalation of fighting after claims that Russia had sent troops into Eastern Ukraine, something Russia has denied.
The calls from Obama that NATO keep open its doors to new members has repercussions for the Scottish independence referendum with both sides making counter claims relating to a newly independent Scotland’s own membership.
Yes supporters are likely to seize on Mr Obama’s words as proof that a newly independent Scotland, with its key strategic location in relation to the North Atlantic, will be welcomed as a new member. No campaign supporters have said that a newly independent Scotland would not be allowed into NATO.
Yesterday the Yes campaign received a boost after the UK’s former Ambassador to NATO announced she would be voting Yes in the independence referendum.
Dame Mariot Leslie also told the Scotsman newspaper that a newly independent Scotland would be welcomed into NATO.
She said: “”I am sure that it would be in Scotland’s interest to join Nato and to continue to anchor our own defence in a wider alliance of Western democracies.
“But I am also in no doubt that the other 28 Nato allies would see it in their interests to welcome an independent Scotland into Nato. No ally would wish to interrupt the integrated Nato defence arrangements in the North Sea and North Atlantic – least of all at a time of heightened tension with Russia.”
President Obama’s calls for an open door to new members are at odds with comments from Better Together member Lord George Robertson after the Labour peer claimed a newly independent Scotland would likely be prevented from joining NATO.
Robertson, who is a former general secretary of NATO, claimed the removal of nuclear weapons from the Clyde would lead to Scotland’s bid being blocked: “Expelling the UK deterrent – especially when president Putin is reminding the world about his – would be a serious block to Scottish membership.” he said.
President Obama is due to arrive in the UK where he will attend a NATO summit which is being held in Newport in Wales.