Ukraine Ambiguous On European Missile Defense System

KIEV, Ukraine -- NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made an official visit to Ukraine on Thursday in an attempt to persuade Ukraine into participating in a European anti-missile system.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (L) and Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich attend a news conference in Kiev.

Although both sides agreed to set up an expert group to assess the issue, analysts said this was only a delaying tactic adopted by Kiev and whether Ukraine joined the system would completely depend on Russia.

NATO INVITATION

NATO invited Russia and Ukraine to be part of its missile shield in Europe in November 2010 at the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal.

Before traveling to Kiev, Rasmussen told reporters that he hoped to reach consensus with Ukraine on this issue.

After his talks with Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych, Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn and Foreign Minister Kostyantyn Gryschenko, Rasmussen told reporters in Kiev that Ukraine was interested in the European anti-missile system.

He said the European anti-missile system was still in its infancy. "We have not yet completed the final design of the architecture, and we are at the initial stage of this process. Only two or three months have passed after NATO decided to develop a system on the basis of NATO," he said.

Recalling that Russia has also been invited to cooperate in this project, he stressed the future architecture of the anti-missile system would depend on contributions of Ukraine and other partners.

Yanukovych took office in February last year and completely discarded the bid of former President Viktor Yushchenko to join NATO.

The parliament has passed a law, ruling out the possibility of the nation joining NATO and declaring the country's non-aligned status.

But Ukraine does not refuse to cooperate with NATO in order to maintain normal relations with the United States and Europe, attract more foreign investments and have a say in European affairs.

Analysts said there was a huge gap between "willingness to join NATO" and "willingness to cooperate with NATO."

Ukraine now wants to work with NATO within the existing framework, but it is not interested in raising bilateral relations to a new level.

As it is still unclear how to build the anti-missile system in Europe and Russia's stance on this issue is unknown, Ukraine has to take a wait-and-see stance, analysts said.

NOTHING NEW

Rasmussen and Yanukovych talked for more than two hours instead of the planned 30 minutes.

After the meeting, Yunukovych told the press that Ukraine was willing to strengthen effective cooperation with NATO under the existing mechanisms.

He welcomed NATO's bid to make bilateral partnership more specific and results-oriented.

Yanukovych said Ukraine pays great attention to NATO's reforms under the new situation.

"Ukraine regarded participation in creating a new European collective security system as its obligation," he said.

Analysts noted that the collective security system in Yanukovych's words is different from NATO's plan.

Ukraine believes that the new European collective security system should include all European countries in the principle of equality and security of every country in the region.

In fact, Ukraine's stance is identical with Russia's plan to construct a new European security architecture.

Although aware of that Ukraine has lost its enthusiasm to join NATO, Rasmussen stressed that NATO respected Kiev's non-aligned position, but NATO's door remained open to all democratic countries.

He pledged to continue to help Ukraine in its military reforms and its integration into the European Union, calling on Kiev to take an active role in combating terrorism, piracy, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other transnational crimes.

He also asked Ukraine to send more military instructors to Afghanistan.

Experts pointed out nothing new really happened during Rasmussen's visit to Ukraine and that the main issues concerning NATO were not responded by the Ukrainian side positively.

RUSSIAN ATTITUDE IS ESSENTIAL

Ukraine's foreign policy underwent a profound adjustment after Yanukovych took office.

To enhance good ties with Russia became a key priority of Ukraine's diplomacy.

Kiev is, of course, willing to develop relations with the European Union, the United States and NATO to pursue maximization of national interests, but at a premise -- no damage to relations with Russia.

After the Lisbon summit, Moscow found that NATO's plan on the anti-missile system in Europe was deviating from Russia's expectations.

During his meeting with Russia's permanent representative to NATO Dmitry Rogozin, President Dmitry Medvedev warned of a new arms race if it was not given an equal say in creating the missile shield for Europe.

In fact, the alliance plans to create separate but coordinated Russian and NATO missile defense systems, but the Kremlin seeks an integrated European missile shield.

Experts believed it was very difficult for NATO and Russia to reach a compromise on this issue due to each side's concerns on safeguarding its own strategic interests.

Ukraine is acutely aware of its own situation in the squeeze, so the best choice is to keep its attitude ambiguous, analysts said.

Source: Xinhua

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