U.S. Supports Bid By Ukraine For NATO Membership

NEW YORK, NY -- The United States told Ukraine on Sept. 25 it would back an application by the former Soviet republic to join NATO, even though the country’s new prime minister has put membership of the alliance on hold.

Condoleezza Rice (L) and Borys Tarasyuk (R)

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed possible NATO membership with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.

"She reiterated that the U.S. supports Ukraine’s integration with Euro-Atlantic institutions," said a senior State Department official after the meeting, referring to potential membership of NATO.

"The pace of that evolving relationship will depend on continued reforms in Ukraine and the Ukrainian government’s comfort with the pace of that evolving relationship," added the official.

Ukraine’s new Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich told NATO this month his government was putting on hold its aspirations to join the alliance because of public opposition and to preserve relations with Russia.

A day later, reformist President Victor Yushchenko said that decision was wrong and should be reversed.

Yushchenko, who came to power in the Orange Revolution after defeating Yanukovich in a flawed 2004 election, sees Ukraine’s future as being entwined with Europe and the West.

Yanukovich wants to orientate the country more towards Moscow.

Local polls show low support for NATO membership in Ukraine, where many people remember Soviet-era campaigns against the alliance. One recent survey put support at less than 20 percent.

The State Department official said Rice had made clear that the United States was ready to work closely with Ukraine’s new democratically elected government and discussed the possibility of a visit to Ukraine.

Source: Reuters