Ukraine has officially taken NATO membership off its agenda in a volte face on policy ardently pursued by the previous President, Viktor Yushchenko.
The Ukrainian Parliament on Thursday approved in first reading a Bill that amends a 2003 national security law to exclude the goal of “integration into Euro-Atlantic security and membership in NATO”. The Bill submitted by President Viktor Yanukovych commits Ukraine to “a non-bloc policy which means non-participation in military-political alliances”.
Kiev formally applied to join NATO in 2008, and even though the alliance failed to immediately give the green light to the Ukrainian bid, Mr. Yushchenko vowed to win NATO membership as the only way to “safeguard Ukrainian sovereignty”.
Since coming to power three months ago, Mr. Yanukovych has pushed to rebuild the “strategic partnership” with Russia that was all but destroyed by his predecessor. He has extended for 25 years the Russian lease of the strategic Black Sea naval base at Sevastopol, proposed integrating the aviation and nuclear power industries of the two countries and mulls setting up a joint venture with the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom that would give Russia control over its gas transit to Europe.
Russia in turn has agreed to slash 30 per cent off its gas price for Ukraine and to extend a $500-million credit to help stabilise the Ukrainian budget.