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NATO on Friday urged Ukraine's overhauled government to stop talking about its hopes of joining the alliance and the European Unionand get on with turning itself into a strong democracy.
While the EU is seen as reticent about any further enlargement, some in NATO believe Kiev could receive an invitation as early as 2008 to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation -- but provided it sees through political anddefence reforms.
"The key message this morning was: 'Actions speak louder than words'," NATOSecretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters after talks with new Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov, on his maiden visit to Brussels.The message was strikingly similar to that delivered by European CommissionPresident Jose Manuel Barroso on Thursday, who urged Kiev "not to talk allthe time about (EU) membership but to achieve concrete results".
Ukraine has strong backers within NATO such as Poland and the United States, which is keen to reward Kiev for sending around 1,000 troops to helpfight the insurgency in Iraq.
"If they get a grip on corruption and if the March elections go well, there is a strong chance Ukraine will get a membership action plan," Poland'sambassador to NATO, Jerzy M. Nowak, told Reuters.
A membership action plan (MAP) is one step short of an invitation to join NATO but does not make membership automatic. De Hoop Scheffer refused to forecast in public when Kiev might be offeredan invitation. Nobody rules out that happening at a NATO summit tentatively scheduled for 2008, even though Yushchenko has much work to do beforethen.
But there is still concern over how the former Soviet state will manage relations with Moscow as it strengthens ties with NATO, and how it willhandle the social impact of plans to turn its army into a smaller, professional force.
An Oct. 23-24 meeting of NATO defence ministers in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius will aim to add impetus to Ukraine's military reforms.
Action Ukraine Report