Ukraine's signing of an agreement extending the lease of a Russian naval base in Crimea does not affect its prospect of eventually joining NATO, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday.
Rasmussen said NATO policies had not changed since it promised Ukraine eventual membership at a summit in 2008. "It's a bilateral agreement and it will not have an impact on our relationship neither with Russia nor with Ukraine," he said of the base deal.
"We stated that Ukraine, and Georgia, by the way, will become members of NATO, provided of course if they so wish and fulfil the necessary criteria. And this is still our position," he told a news conference at a NATO meeting in Estonia.
Referring to the base deal, he added: "It's a bilateral agreement and it will not have an impact on our relationship neither with Russia nor with Ukraine."
Ukraine's newly elected President Viktor Yanukovich has said membership of the U.S. military alliance is no longer on the agenda and earlier this month he scrapped a state body set up to oversee the country's eventual accession to the alliance.
At the same time, he was careful not to close off all cooperation with NATO.
Russia agreed on Wednesday to a 30 percent cut in the price of its gas supplies to Ukraine in exchange for a 25-year extension of the lease of its Black Sea fleet based on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.
The concession on the Black Sea fleet was the clearest sign yet of a foreign policy shift by Kiev towards Moscow, which was angered by NATO's promise of membership to Ukraine and Georgia, former Soviet republics it sees as part of its sphere of influence.
ReutersLast Mod: 23 Nisan 2010, 10:21