MOSCOW (Reuters) – Ukraine told Russia on Tuesday it would press on with attempts to join NATO despite the former imperial master’s staunch opposition to the plan, but also assured Moscow this would pose no threat to its security.
“Ukraine has made its choice. This choice is well thought-out,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko told a news briefing after meeting Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
“This is not only the political will of our leadership, but it is also Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic future, which is set out in its legislation,” he said. “NATO is our choice of how we safeguard our security.”
Russia fiercely opposes NATO’s expansion eastwards, saying it would threaten its national security and upset the delicate strategic balance in Europe.
President Vladimir Putin said in February that Moscow could be forced to redirect its missiles towards Ukraine if Kiev joined NATO and hosted elements of the U.S. missile shield.
Ohryzko, sitting next Lavrov at the news briefing, said: “Our constitution does not allow Ukraine to deploy foreign bases on its land. I want to repeat yet again: Ukraine in NATO is not Ukraine against Russia”
“We are talking … about Ukraine developing its ties with NATO while not violating its good, strategic relations with Russia,” Ohryzko said.
Earlier this month NATO members at a summit agreed to give Ukraine and fellow ex-Soviet state Georgia eventual alliance membership, but they did not grant them Membership Action Plans, a formal roadmap for entry.
Lavrov said Moscow could not understand “the logic of NATO’s mechanical enlargement eastwards, performed in the spirit of old approaches based on bloc thinking”.
“NATO is saying all the time the Cold War is over and it is undergoing transformation into a global security body,” Lavrov said. “At the same time, they bypass a question of how this bloc … will interact with the United Nations Security Council.”
Opinion polls show only a minority of Ukrainians back NATO membership. Ohryzko said the authorities hoped to change public opinion before putting the issue to a referendum.
“We will do whatever we can for the people to get ample and objective information about the alliance,” he said.