Ukrainian Leaders Give Mixed Views About U.S. Missile Defense Plans In Europe

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine gave mixed signals Tuesday about whether it will support U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in eastern Europe, with the prime minister warning it could hurt relations with neighboring countries while the president indicated tacit support for the plan.

The odd couple of Ukrainian politics - a pro-Western President Yushchenko (L) with his pro-Russian Prime Minister Yanukovych

"We believe that deploying a missile defense system in Poland and Czech Republic will not benefit relations between our countries," Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych told the German newspaper, Handelsblatt, according to his press service.

President Viktor Yushchenko later called on politicians to remember their commitment to Europe's collective security when considering the plan. "We must consider our national interests" and the country's declared aim to participate in creating a unified security system for Europe, Yushchenko said, according to Ukrainian news agencies.

Ukraine has refrained from declaring its official view about Washington's plans to put a radar system in the Czech Republic and a missile interceptor site in Poland, saying it needs to learn more. U.S. experts are due to visit Ukraine in early March to explain the plans, which have angered Russia.

The pro-Western Yushchenko has sought to earn Ukraine a place in NATO and turn Ukraine toward the West, ideas that have been met with skepticism among Yanukovych's more-Russian leaning party, which dominates in Ukraine's largely Russian-speaking east and south.

Washington says the installations are meant to deal with a potential threat from Iran, but Moscow has rejected the assurances, calling them an effort to strengthen U.S. military might in the region.

Some Ukrainian politicians have warned that the defense system could make Ukraine's neighbors targets, raising the risk of military action in Ukraine.

Source: Kyiv Post