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Ukraine distancing itself from NATO

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, April 8
Since the Presidential elections in Ukraine and the change of Government there the Western and Georgian media have tried to suggest nothing has changed in Ukraine's foreign policy at all. However this is just wishful thinking. It is already clear that new President of Ukraine Yanokovich has started adjusting the country’s foreign policy to bring it closer to Russia.

Of course Georgia will be seriously affected by this change of direction because from being one of our strategic partners Ukraine will now become an ally of Georgia’s enemy Russia. But one issue of vital importance for the rest of the civilized world and Ukraine itself is what Ukraine’s relations with NATO will be. NATO accession was one of the priorities of former Ukrainian President Yushchenko, but Yanukovich stated during his election campaign that if he became President Ukraine would withdraw its NATO membership application. He has already started taking steps in this direction, withdrawing from different Ukraine-NATO cooperation projects.

It should be said that Ukraine’s population has recently shown less interest in joining NATO. In the most recent polls available, although these were probably conducted by Yanukovich-supporting institutions, 56% of those questioned were against NATO accession whereas only 15% voted for Ukraine to enter NATO. The rest of those questioned had no firm opinion. As everybody knows, and here in Georgia it is generally acknowledged, NATO made a crucial mistake at the Bucharest summit in 2008 by refusing to grant Ukraine and Georgia Membership Action Plans, even though it stated that its doors are still open for those countries. This refusal gave the green light to the Russian aggression, which has seriously damaged, if not completely destroyed, Georgia’s chances of entering NATO and now Ukraine is closing NATO's doors on itself.

So far, unlike in Ukraine, Georgia’s population is still largely pro-NATO. However the percentage of Georgians supporting NATO accession is slowly but steadily decreasing. This is a reflection of the Georgian population's disappointment and frustration at the consequences of trying to join NATO. Pro-Russian forces inside and outside Georgia work very energetically to arouse anti-NATO sentiments in the country.

So far Georgia is the only country in the post-Soviet space which has adopted a clearly pro-NATO stance. As for Ukraine its new pro-Russian stance is already quite evident. Apart from distancing the country from NATO Yanukovich will also most probably undermine GUAM, as this body has been upsetting Moscow ever since it was founded. It has not actually done anything effective, so if Ukraine withdraws it will eventually die.

It is also evident that Ukraine will cease its military cooperation with Tbilisi, as Russia has long demanded. This is yet another reason for Russia to celebrate victory.