Ukraine 'Shelves Bid To Join NATO'

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Ukraine has told NATO it is shelving its aspirations to join the Western defence alliance because of widespread public opposition and to preserve the former Soviet republic's relations with Russia.

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich

"We have explained that because of the political situation in Ukraine, we will have to take a pause, But the time will come when a decision will be made," new Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich told a joint news conference Thursday after talks with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and NATO ambassadors.

"We have to convince society," he added.

Russia fiercely opposed the previous pro-Western Ukrainian government's intention to join NATO's Membership Action Plan, a path towards eventual entry into the U.S.-led military pact.

Yanukovich, regarded as closer to Moscow than reformist President Viktor Yushchenko, who came to power in an Orange Revolution after defeating Yanukovich in a flawed 2004 election, said he did not want to complicate Ukraine-Russia relations.

"We (Ukraine) should be a reliable bridge between the European Union and Russia," he said.

After meeting European External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner earlier, Yanukovich said: "For the time being we are looking at enlargement of our cooperation with NATO.

"Integration with NATO is a question which finds a favourable response of only a small part of the Ukrainian population." One poll last week showed 60 percent of Ukrainians opposed to NATO membership.

Friction

NATO leaders had been due to discuss the issue at a summit in Riga in November. Yanukovich's statement appeared to remove a potential source of friction between the United States and east European neighbours such as Poland, which back Ukrainian membership, and others led by France that are sceptical.

Yanukovich, appointed in August after months of political deadlock, said Ukraine aimed to cooperate with both Russia and the European Union.

"We are going to have policies of reuniting interests," he said.

Yushchenko had a long-stated desire to seek NATO membership despite Russian objections.

On Wednesday, Ukraine won the promise of negotiations early next year on broader ties with the European Union that could include a free trade deal.

Yanukovich stated Ukraine's long-term goal of accession to the EU but Ferrero-Waldner reiterated the EU's position that this was not a prospect for the moment.

She said signing a free trade deal with Ukraine was dependent on Kiev's accession to the World Trade Organisation.

Yanukovich said Ukraine aimed to pass all the laws this year needed to join the WTO and the government was working on reforms to deal with corruption and boost economic growth.

Energy cooperation will be part of the talks with the EU which was alarmed in January when Moscow cut supplies of gas to Ukraine in a dispute over pricing, temporarily reducing supplies to Western Europe.

The EU and Ukraine signed a deal on Thursday paving the way for European financing of oil and gas meters on pipelines across Ukraine's borders.

Ferrero-Waldner said the project was aimed at increasing the transparency, reliability and safety of supplies.

Source: Reuters

Comments

newsman007 said…
DEAR NICHOLAS and to your readers!
....The decision by the current Prime Minister of Ukraine perhaps is respecting what many in the Ukraine apparently desire---at least for now-----BUT man citizens in the Ukraine are not aware of have a thorough knowledge
of the benefits of being a NATO member along with other European countries!!
...Also Russia should not really be trying to influence what may be good for the Ukraine, especially with the Ukraine which just celebrated fifteen years of freedom from the old Soviet Union!!
...Also Russia has still kept close communication and ties with NATO as was expressed at the NATO DEFENSE MINISTERS 2,002 meeting in Colorado Springs Colorado-U.S.A. when Russian Dfense Minister Sergei Ivanov addressed NATO members and an international audience there!
...TRUE..Rusia is not and does not want to be a true member of NATO for their own reasons..but they stay in close contact with NATO and it is a strong belief in
diplomatic circles that Russia is
not comfortable with the UKRAINE-...now independent to have the political and military clout especially whenh the UKRAINE is its next door neighbor!!
..It is proper to say that despite the current prime ministers decision---in the long run---being a member of NATO cannot do anything bad for the Ukraine and would strengthen its negotiating powerwith Russia!
..Perhaps the Ukraine Prime Minister should first ask for Russias´allegance by NOT cutting theoil supply to the UKRAINE people especially when many citizens of the great UKRAINE were not treated so fairly by the country it declared its independence from!!
...As always the vents in the Ukraine are stimulating and the UKRAINE needs to continue on its NEW path and go forward..Sincerely..Wes Rodgers PATRIOTS TV!!
P.S. An international correspondnet specializing on Homeland Security in the U.S. and also Europe..www.patriotstv.com