In Kiev, Bush Pushes NATO Membership for Ukraine, Despite Russian Hostility

In Kiev, Bush Pushes NATO Membership for Ukraine, Despite Russian Hostility

George W. Bush completed his first (and probably last) trip to Ukraine as president this week. Although the two countries signed a Trade and Investment Cooperation Agreement and other bilateral accords during the visit, Bush's public meetings in Kiev were dominated by questions concerning both governments' desire for Ukraine to strengthen ties with NATO, despite strong opposition from other alliance members, Russian leaders, and many Ukrainians themselves.

"Your nation has made a bold decision, and the United States strongly supports your request" for a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP), Bush told a news conference following talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. "Helping Ukraine move towards NATO membership is in the interest of every member in the alliance and will help advance security and freedom in this region and around the world."

Ukraine has been moving closer to the alliance, but slowly. In July 1997, the two parties signed a NATO-Ukraine Distinctive Partnership Charter, which gave the relationship special status. In November 2002, the alliance's Prague summit agreed to a NATO-Ukraine Action Plan that has provided a framework for negotiating annual NATO-Ukraine Target Plans. These yearly documents specify the military and other reforms Ukraine will try to implement to align its policies more closely with those of existing NATO members. NATO-Ukraine ties increased somewhat in 2005, when both agreed to an Intensified Dialogue. Recent activities have included helping eliminate Ukraine's large stock of surplus conventional weapons and providing language, civics, and other courses to Ukrainian military officers.

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