Ukraine’s Yushchenko ad­vo­cates NATO as Black Sea bal­ance

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security - BY NATALIA A. FEDUSCHAK

| Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yushchenko blamed the Rus­si­aGe­or­gia war on a se­cu­rity im­bal­ance in the Black Sea re­gion that he said could be cor­rected by NATO’s fur­ther ex­pan­sion to the East.

But he down­played fears that his coun­try is vul­ner­a­ble to mil­i­tary ag­gres­sion by Moscow even if it does not gain ad­mis­sion to the West­ern al­liance.

“I don’t be­lieve that kind of dan­ger ex­ists for Ukraine, be­cause Ukraine is not Ge­or­gia,” Mr. Yushchenko told The Wash­ing­ton Times on Sept. 17. “Ukraine has a dif­fer­ent po­ten­tial, dif­fer­ent pos­si­bil­i­ties. In other words, our re­la­tions [with Rus­sia] can only bring about a di­a­logue.”

Asked about re­cent re­marks by Repub­li­can vice-pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Sarah Palin that NATO mem- bership for Ge­or­gia would re­quire a mil­i­tary re­sponse from the West­ern al­liance, Mr. Yushchenko spoke in broader terms of the need for col­lec­tive se­cu­rity through­out the re­gion.

“This showed that the Black Sea re­gion is un­bal­anced and that it can be a source of dan­ger,” Mr. Yushchenko said. “This is a prob­lem not only for Ge­or­gia. I am con­vinced this is a prob­lem not only for our re­gion. This is a prob­lem for the Euro­pean con­ti­nent and, in a wider sense, even a world prob­lem.”

Looking com­posed and re­laxed, the sil­ver-haired Mr. Yushchenko, 54, has re­gained the youth­ful vigor for which he was fa­mous be­fore dioxin poi­son­ing left his face badly scarred in a pur­ported 2004 as­sas­si­na­tion at­tempt.

He an­swered ques­tions for nearly an hour, touch­ing on a wide range of is­sues, in­clud­ing his na­tion’s quest for mem­ber­ship in NATO and the Euro­pean Union and his de­sire for Rus­sia’s Black Sea Fleet to even­tu­ally leave its base in the Ukrainian port of Sev­astopol.

He also ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment at the ri­valry with a one-time po­lit­i­cal ally, Prime Min­is­ter Yu­lia Ty­moshenko, that led to the col­lapse of a par­lia­men­tary coali­tion last week.

Ukraine’s re­la­tion­ship with Rus- sia sparked the dis­pute, with Mrs. Ty­moshenko ac­cus­ing Mr. Yushchenko of un­nec­es­sar­ily an­tag­o­niz­ing Moscow af­ter last month’s in­va­sion of Ge­or­gia.

The two are ex­pected to run against each other for the pres­i­dency when Mr. Yushchenko’s fiveyear term ends in Jan­uary 2010.

Mr. Yushchenko will travel to the United States next week to at­tend the 63rd ses­sion of the U.N. Gen­eral As­sem­bly, where he will have an op­por­tu­nity to dis­cuss with dozens of world leaders the war in Ge­or­gia and its im­pact on the cen­ter­piece of his four-year pres­i­dency: Ukraine’s quest for NATO mem­ber­ship.

“When we talk about the best an­swer for Ukraine, in­clud­ing its ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity, and the in­vi­o­la­bil­ity of our bor­ders, the an­swer is only one — join­ing a col­lec­tive sys­tem of de­fense,” he said.

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Dmitry Medvedev has stated re­peat­edly that for­mer Soviet re­publics lie in his coun­try’s sphere of in­ter­est.

“I’m not go­ing to say, how­ever, that there aren’t go­ing to be ways for desta­bi­liza­tion. In this coun­try, there are in­stru­ments, and there are many of them,” Mr. Yushchenko said of Rus­sia.

He said he was un­happy that the lead­er­ship in Moscow has kept si­lent when some Rus­sian politi­cians have laid claim to Crimea.

The penin­sula has a large eth­ni­cally Rus­sian pop­u­la­tion and was ceded to Ukraine in 1956. Both the Ukrainian and Rus­sian Black Sea fleets are based there, on op­po­site sides of the same har­bor at Sev­astopol.

Mr. Yushchenko said it was crit­i­cal that Kiev and Moscow shore up the agree­ment that al­lows Rus­sia to base its fleet in Sev­astopol un­til its lease ex­pires in 2017.

“The Black Sea Fleet should not be a neg­a­tive in our re­la­tion­ship with the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion,” Mr. Yushchenko said. At the same time, he said, he prefers that the fleet leave Ukraine when its lease ends.

‘DI­A­LOGUE’: Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yushchenko em­pha­sizes that “Ukraine is not Ge­or­gia.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.