Yanukovich kills Ukraine's bid to join NATO
Russia-leaning president Viktor Yanukovich has scrapped Ukraine's plans to join the Western military alliance, dissolving the commissions on European and NATO integration established after the Orange Revolution.
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"Our latest poll on this was in October 2009, when 17 percent of Ukrainians supported joining NATO and 53 percent were opposed," says Vladimir Paniotto, director of the independent Kiev International Institute of Sociology. "We've polled on this regularly over the years, and majorities have always been against joining NATO."Skip to next paragraph
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Finances push Ukraine East
As financial crisis struck last year, hammering Ukraine's economy, Ukrainian voters became even less interested in geopolitical issues and more concerned about fixing relations with Russia, Ukraine's top trading partner.
"I don't believe that Yanukovich is thinking in any grand terms, such as positioning Ukraine as a neutral or non-aligned international player," says Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs, a leading Moscow foreign policy journal. "I think his key goal is to save the Ukrainian economy from collapse, and for this he needs help from all sides, including Moscow. Meanwhile, you don't hear any European countries pressing to have the question of Ukrainian NATO membership put back on the table. Yanukovich is simply behaving in a pragmatic way," he says.
However, the agenda for Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's visit to Ukraine next week does include a meeting of a new parliamentary group on Russian-Ukrainian security cooperation, and some Russian experts say Ukraine may be moving toward a formal declaration of neutrality.
"Ukraine is turning away from NATO and correcting its foreign policy," says Kiril Frolov, an expert with the official Institute of Commonwealth of Independent States Studies in Moscow. "It is moving toward neutral status, and the next step will be a law to establish that."
Mr. Sushko, a longtime advocate of Ukraine's accession to NATO, says he worries that a drift toward Russia could end up undermining Ukraine's democracy.
"Yanukovich and the people around him are not noted for their strong commitment to democratic values, and it's a big question what might happen if Ukraine's economy continues to deteriorate," he says. "This is certainly a chance for Russia to erode the democratic choices that Ukraine has made."