Ukraine is ready to adopt laws to prevent NATO military bases from being deployed on its territory in the event of the country joining the military alliance, Ukraine’s president said on Wednesday.
“If Russia is worried about military bases, [I can say] Ukraine will never move toward this,” Viktor Yushchenko said at a meeting with the Ukrainian community in Moscow. “We are ready to reinforce this constitutionally,” he added. On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine’s moves to join NATO were its internal affair, but went on to say that, “It is terrifying even to think that in response [to Ukraine allowing anti-missile defenses to be deployed on its territory] Russia could target its nuclear missile systems against Ukraine. This is what worries us.”
In mid-January, Yushchenko, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and parliamentary speaker Arseniy Yatsenyuk sent a letter to NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer expressing their hope that the country could join an action plan for NATO membership. The speaker urged parliamentarians to consider holding a referendum on the issue within the next three months, saying that the alliance was highly unlikely to make a decision any earlier. Opposition parties have been blocking the Ukrainian legislature for around a month in protest against the government’s bid to join NATO.
Yushchenko also said on Wednesday that his country would eventually hold a referendum on the issue of the former Soviet republic’s NATO membership. “We must understand that this issue concerns each of us,” Yushchenko said. Later on Wednesday, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said a NATO delegation led by General Ray Henault, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, will visit the ex-Soviet state on February 14-15 for consultations with the top military brass. “The parties plan to discuss routine issues and priority ways of developing cooperation between Ukraine’s Armed Forces and the North Atlantic alliance, and look into the implementation of the Military Committee Work Plan for 2008,” the ministry said.
The former Soviet republic’s moves to seek NATO membership have caused demonstrations in Ukraine, with the majority of Ukrainians said to be against the decision. However, according to Yushchenko, the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians have no clear understanding of what exactly membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization entails. Yushchenko told journalists he will take part in an informal Commonwealth of Independent States summit in Moscow on February 22. (rian.ru)