Thursday, February 14, 2008

Muted response in Ukraine to Putin's comments on NATO

Yesterday's and today's comments from Vladimir Putin on possible retargeting of its missiles against targets and objects in neigbouring countries, including Ukraine, "which we consider threaten our national security", have resonated through the world's mass media.

Curiously, in Ukraine, as a contrast, the response has been muted. An article on the "4post site" reveals Putin's muddled thinking, and suggests other possible reasons for his rather bellicose statements.

During his joint press conference with Yushchenko on Tuesday, his first comment was in response to a question about the possible appearance of a NATO base in Sevastopol. The Ukrainian consitution forbids any foreign military bases to be situated on its territory [with the exception of the Russian naval base in Sevastopol] In fact, there is not such thing as NATO bases. Co-operating member countries have their own military bases in their own countries.

Today's follow-up comments from Putin may have been in response to Condoleezza Rice's "reprehensible rhetoric" observation.

"4post" asks why Putin did not complain when, in 2003 the Ukrainian parliament passed a law "on the principles of national security" in which the country officially declared its aim to join NATO. The bill was supported by Party of Regions at that time.

In 2006, one of the points of the Yushchenko/Yanukovych 'Universal' was an affirmation of their joint desire to pursue Ukrainian integration with the European Union, NATO, and the World Trade Organization.

In the 1994 Budapest memorandum, the United States, Russia, Great Britain, Germany and France gave Ukraine security guarantees in exchange for Kyiv's renunciation of its nuclear weapons. In view of this, Putin's remarks look rather premature.

Putin may be trying to induce a siege mentality amongst the Russian electorate ahead of presidential elections in a few weeks time. He may also be attempting to polarize Ukrainian society over the NATO question even more - hence the muted response from the Ukrainian pro-NATOites who do not want to rise to the bait and make matters even worse. Putin's remarks may have even helped their cause a little.

LEvko's view is that in their heart of hearts, a majority Ukrainian politicians are not too keen on NATO. They do not believe absolutely that other NATO countries would rush to their rescue, if they were to be attacked by one of their neighbours. They associate the US's and its allies' failure in Iraq with NATO. In their eyes, NATO membership for Ukraine would be a one-way street.


Anonymous said...

NATO is not popular in Ukraine. A poll done in Kyiv indicated only 20% support for Ukraine joining NATO and 51% against. Tymonshenko said as much recently in Brussels. Putin said if Ukraine joins NATO it will point its missiles toward Ukraine. And, Ukraine responded: Ukraine set to outlaw Nato bases after Russian threats
Shaun Walker in Moscow
Thursday, 14 February 2008

Anonymous said...

Nato may not be popular in ukraine,
but is it in Russia's interest to threaten Ukraine?- The Russians by by their actions in Georgia,and continued aggresive statements towards Ukraine - have shown the ugly face of Russsia's ambitions and makes NATO a more attractive anchor for Ukraine and her territory