Ukraine drops Nato membership bid
The Ukrainian Parliament on Thursday (3 June) approved a bill barring the country from joining Nato, a move seen as a further concession to Moscow by the new government in Kiev, which was quick in reversing the pro-Western policies pursued by its predecessor.
The draft law, which is expected to sail through the remaining parliamentary readings and be signed by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich in the coming weeks, excludes the goal of "integration into Euro-Atlantic security and Nato membership" from the national security strategy.
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Submitted by the president himself, the bill commits Ukraine to "a non-bloc policy which means non-participation in military-political alliances."
Nato membership was one of the main goals of Mr Yanukovich's pro-Western predecessor, Viktor Yushchenko. But the prospect of Nato enlargement to former Soviet republics has irked Russia, which claims this poses a threat to its national security.
At a Nato summit in 2008, when both Ukraine and Georgia expected to be granted formal candidate status, the US failed to rally enough support for the move, with countries such as Germany and France opposing it. Still, the two countries were promised they would join in the future, after meeting all criteria.
A special mechanism – the Nato-Ukraine and Nato-Georgia commissions – were established to try to prepare the countries at a technical level for when the political decision of joining might meet with less hostility.
Those plans are now on ice, although the Yanukovich bill does not exclude co-operation with the military alliance. It also keeps the goal of European integration.
But opposition voices said such a position is disingenous, as Nato and EU enlargement have always gone hand-in-hand in former Communist countries.
"The only guarantee of Ukraine's national security is membership in the system of collective security of Nato," Borys Tarasyuk, who had served as foreign minister in the previous government, told Associated Press.
Serhiy Sobolev, an opposition member from the bloc of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said the new pro-Russia policies are a "direct course away from European values and European integration," according to Radio Free Europe.
Since coming to power Mr Yanukovich has sought to mend ties with Moscow, a relationship which was strained by the previous government. His first gesture of goodwill was to extend a lease allowing the Russian fleet to be stationed for another 25 years in the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Sevastopol.
The same one-page deal included a deep discount on Russian gas, which prompted the opposition to accuse Mr Yanukovich of selling the country's security interests for cheap energy.
Critics also point to the fact he has made no moves on economic liberalisation or on restarting talks with the International Monetary Fund, which last year froze a multi-billion bail-out. The talks stalled over disagreements on social spending and changes to the gas market.