Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko holds a paper during a joint press conference with the NATO Secretary General after a NATO Summit session on Ukraine during the second day of a NATO Summit in Warsaw, Poland on July 9, 2016
Warsaw (AFP) - Ukraine is making good progress in reforms to bring it into line with NATO norms but membership is not on the agenda for now, secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said Saturday.
Russia bitterly resents NATO's eastward expansion and has made clear that membership for Ukraine would be seen as a life-and-death threat to its security which could not go unchallenged.
"The question of membership is not currently on the agenda. The focus now is how Ukraine can meet NATO standards," Stoltenberg said alongside Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko after talks at a NATO leaders summit in Warsaw.
"We will continue to provide strong political support, practical support enabling them to move forward and then we have to address the question of membership at a later stage," he said.
The two-day Warsaw summit put in place the biggest NATO military upgrade since the end of the Cold War in response to Russia's shock 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine.
Poroshenko came to power after a mass protests in early 2014 ousted the pro-Russian government in Kiev and the country, a Soviet-era satellite, turned to the west for help it modernise.
The president has made sure that Ukraine is an active partner for the US-led alliance and said the talks Saturday had shown "full support" from all 28 NATO nations.
A joint statement said NATO would continue to work very closely with Ukraine and reiterated that it would never recognise the illegal annexation of Crimea, urging Russia to comply with the Minsk ceasefire accords it signed up to.
Stoltenberg stressed that Ukraine should be free to chart its own course.
"For NATO it is an absolute principle... that every nation has their right to decide its own path. No one else has the right to try to intervene or to veto such a process," he said, in a clear reference to Russia.