The largest of a handful of nations considered for prospective membership in the US-led NATO alliance, Ukraine is poised to pass a law that will bar the nation from joining the alliance.
The move would be a major shift in foreign policy, as new President Viktor Yanukovych looks to put his stamp on the nation’s policies after years of pro-Western moves by predecessor Viktor Yushchenko.
Yanukovych, a long-time critic of the pro-West policies, won the election this year on the back of strong support in the Russian speaking east. NATO membership for Ukraine has long been opposed by Russia, who has warned that the move would end the traditionally close ties between the two nations.
But while the new law is seemingly aimed at repairing the rift with Russia, Yanukovych insists that the law is not intended as a slight to the West, but rather will “enshrine Ukraine’s nonaligned status in law.”
In the meantime the deputy head of the opposition faction in Ukraine’s parliament slammed the move, warning that taking Ukraine off the NATO track was “incompatible with the aims to modernize Ukraine’s economy and society.” NATO never formally offered Ukraine membership, though the US repeatedly expressed support for the idea.