NATO’s Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is in Ukraine to assess its bid to enter the military alliance. Kiev wants a “Membership Action Plan” to open the door to joining the club.
Ukraine’s moves in that direction have rattled Russia, which has warned of serious consequences.
It regards NATO’s encroachment on its borders as a security threat, despite reassurances.
“It does not mean, ladies and gentlemen, NATO bases on Ukrainian soil,” the NATO chief told a news conference.
“It does not mean bases on land or naval bases. It does not mean that Ukraine, any Ukrainian soldier, will be forced to take part in NATO’s operations and missions. That is a myth, a big myth”
The Ukrainian people themselves are divided. While a group of activists demonstrated today in support of the project, others protested against NATO membership.
Under the alliance’s Partnership for Peace programme, Ukraine has taken an active part in joint military manoeuvres.
While both it and fellow former Soviet state Georgia were denied a “Membership Action Plan” at a NATO summit in April, both were given an undertaking that they could eventually join. Ukraine’s President Viktor Yushchenko is hoping for official candidate status by the end of the year.