Ukraine Will Not House Nuclear Weapons If It Joins NATO: Minister

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine will not allow the deployment of nuclear weapons on its territory by NATO members if it joins the alliance, Defense Minister Anatoly Hrytsenko said June 30.

”If someone is convinced that after Ukraine joins NATO there will be nuclear weapons on our territory, I want to assure them: there will be no nuclear weapons on our territory,” Interfax quoted Hrytsenko as saying.

Ukraine's Defense Minister Anatoly Hrytsenko

The administration of President Viktor Yushchenko, who came to power last year vowing to steer ex-Soviet Ukraine toward membership in both the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union, has been struggling to overcome deep public mistrust of the Cold War-era alliance.

A May opinion survey showed that 55.7 percent of the Ukrainians were against their country joining NATO, up from 48 percent in February.

NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who visited Kiev earlier this week, sought to reassure skeptical Ukrainians, saying that the alliance had changed since its Cold War-era beginnings.

”I know that many people here in Ukraine still think of the Cold War when they think of NATO,” Scheffer said June 27. But the alliance today “is a different NATO than the NATO of the Cold War... Today’s NATO is designed to help provide security in a new world.”

Separately, Hrytsenko said that NATO members were ready to give Ukraine up to 10 billion euros toward a program to decrease its weapons stockpiles and that Kiev hoped to destroy up to 20,000 tons of weapons with the funds.

Details of the program were still being worked out and would have to be approved by the Ukrainian government, he said.

Source: Defense News