Speaking to the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel, Steinmeier said “it is possible for NATO to have a partnership with Ukraine, but not membership.”
He also noted that it is not realistic for Ukraine to join the European Union (EU) in the near future as the economic and political modernization of the country is a “project for a few generations.”
The top German diplomat called on Ukrainian authorities to introduce reforms to counter corruption and economic mismanagement in their country.
There have been growing speculations over Ukrainian membership in the NATO following the ouster of former President Viktor Yanukovych in February and the subsequent formation of a pro-Western government in Kiev.
Ukraine’s mainly Russian-speaking regions in the east have witnessed deadly clashes between pro-Russia forces and the Ukrainian army since Kiev launched military operations to silence the pro-Russians in mid-April.
Violence in eastern Ukraine intensified in May after the two flashpoint regions of Donetsk and Luhansk held local referendums in which their residents voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence from Ukraine.
Western powers and the government in Kiev accuse Moscow of having a hand in the crisis in eastern Ukraine, but the Kremlin denies the accusation.