Ukraine lawmakers aim to pass law prohibiting membership in military alliances such as NATOBy Simon Shuster, AP
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Ukraine to pass law scrapping NATO ambitions
KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s new governing coalition in parliament said Tuesday it will pass a law against joining military alliances such as NATO, a move that is sure to please Russia while tilting Ukraine away from its previous pro-Western course.
In a statement of purpose published Tuesday in the parliament’s official newspaper, the coalition supporting President Viktor Yanukovych said new legislation will “enshrine Ukraine’s nonaligned status in law.”
Such a move would kill one of the key initiatives of Yanukovych’s predecessor, the staunchly pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko, who had struggled to gain admission to NATO since he was vaulted to power by the Orange Revolution protests of 2004.
Although Yushchenko’s NATO ambitions never gained broad public support, they managed to infuriate Russia — which recently published a military doctrine naming the alliance’s possible eastward expansion as the country’s top external threat.
Moscow’s effort in recent years to restore its own influence over Ukraine and other former Soviet states got a powerful boost with the election of Yanukovych, who has pledged to cooperate with Russia on key energy and military issues.
On Tuesday, Ukraine’s opposition had a bristling reaction to the governing coalition’s statement. It signed its own formal agreement to work together against Yanukovych and his supporters in parliament.
“Today we are forming a union of opposition parties,” said opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who lost to Yanukovych in the hard-fought presidential race last month.
“It will allow us to coordinate our efforts, giving us the ability to protect Ukraine and its democratic path,” Tymoshenko said at a signing ceremony with seven other senior lawmakers who oppose Yanukovych.
The new governing coalition behind Yanukovych was formed last week in parliament, and quickly moved to appoint a prime minister loyal to him, Mykola Azarov.
The statement of purpose from the coalition made no mention of the European Union, which Ukraine had also sought to join under Yushchenko’s presidency, but also without success.
“Essentially, it is additional evidence of the intention to change the strategic course of Ukraine,” said Hryhoriy Nemyria, the deputy head of Tymoshenko’s fraction in parliament. “It is incompatible with the aims to modernize Ukraine’s economy and society,” he said in a statement Tuesday.
Analysts also criticized the new statement of purpose, saying it would play too much into the Kremlin’s hands.
“This is what Russia has been waiting for,” said Vadim Karasyov, head of the Global Strategies Institute, a think tank in Kiev. “But this is a dead end. A country in Ukraine’s position cannot remain unaligned.”
As part of its effort to assert influence over the post-Soviet sphere, Russia has been promoting the Cooperation and Security Treaty Organization, or CSTO, which is seen as its answer to NATO.
Analysts have said Yanukovych could be pressured to join the Russia-dominated bloc, but the statement published Tuesday appears to apply to all military alliances, including the CSTO.