US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin may have gone too far in publicly voicing strong support for Ukraine joining NATO during a visit to Kiev, analysts told Sputnik.
Earlier in the day, Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club said that Austin's recent comments about Kiev's membership in the alliance could be interpreted as "opening the doors" for Ukraine to enter NATO.
On Wednesday, commenting on prospects for Ukraine's NATO membership, Austin confirmed Washington's support for Kiev's aspirations and emphasized that third countries have no right to veto the accession, in an obvious reference to Moscow.
"Putin's words leave no doubt that he seriously takes Austin's statement about opening doors for Ukraine to NATO," American University in Moscow President Edward Lozansky told Sputnik. "Taking into account his previous repeated warnings about crossing red lines means that Austin overplayed his role."
Given the Russian leader's experience on the geopolitical chessboard, Lozansky added, Putin likely has a clear scenario in mind of how to respond in case "the crossing does take place."
"We don't know, of course, the details of his scenario but I do not think Biden and many responsible European leaders are ready to find out what they are," Lozansky said. "Fortunately, the final decision will be made by them and not Austin."
Former CIA station chief and analyst Philip Giraldi told Sputnik the Biden Administration has sent every possible signal to indicate that it favors inclusion of Ukraine and Georgia in the security alliance.
"We can expect the pressure to increase in the next several months and there is no NATO member who will be engaged enough on the issue to try to oppose it," Giraldi said.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko told Sputnik on Thursday that Ukraine's possible NATO entry would be an extremely dangerous step that would force Moscow to react.
Russia has repeatedly warned that NATO's expansion and reckless military buildup in the region threatens to spark an unnecessary confrontation.
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