Just over four years after a pro-democracy revolution ousted Ukraine’s Russia-allied President Viktor Yanukovych, NATO has decided that Ukraine and three other former Eastern Bloc nations could be allowed to consider themselves as aspirant countries.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko expressed his deep gratitude to NATO and stressed that one of the key priorities for his national security team is to meet the North Atlantic Alliance’s criteria for membership.

“I welcome this important, long-awaited, and logical decision by NATO to increase Ukraine’s ambitions regarding the Alliance,” Poroshenko said on his official Facebook page.

“Our next important goal is a Membership Action Plan for Ukraine,” Poroshenko emphasised.

Poroshenko’s comments came after NATO included Ukraine alongside Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, and FYROM as countries who have expressed their readiness to join NATO.

A Membership Action Plan (MAP)  is a multistage process of political dialogue and military reform to bring a country into line with NATO standards. The process, which can take several years, eventually leads to full membership.

Under Yanukovych, Kiev shunned any cooperation with NATO due to the former government’s close mutual defence pact with Vladimir Putin‘s Russia. After Yanukovych fled to Moscow in the wake of the 2013-2014 EuroMaidan Revolution and Russia’s invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, Kiev has pursued a decidedly pro-Western and pro-NATO path.

Since the Donbass War began in the spring of 2014, Ukraine’s once beleaguered and bankrupt armed forces have received updated equipment and trained extensively with units from NATO countries, including Canada, the US, UK, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

Ukraine’s parliament – the Verkhovna Rada –  passed a law on June 8, 2017, making NATO integration a foreign policy priority for Kiev. That decision was followed a month later with an announcement from that he would seek the opening of negotiations on a MAP with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.