Membership of NATO is an instrument for Ukrainians to reach European living standards; therefore Ukraine's steps toward membership of NATO are in the national interests of Ukraine and the interests of every Ukrainian citizen.

Members of the Ukrainian delegation that participated in informal Ukrainian-NATO high-level consultations that took place in Vilnius, Lithuania with the participation of NATO's Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the defence ministers of 26 NATO member-countries expressed this view.

According to the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council's Secretary Anatoly Kinakh, the turning point at the meeting was when the NATO members that previously had reservations about Ukraine's NATO membership aspirations - Germany and Belgium - joined other members in confirming the deepening of cooperation with Ukraine.

Lithuania, Romania, Hungary, Great Britain, and the United States are prepared to assist in training Ukrainian officers, Defence Minister Anatoly Gritsenko said after meeting with his counterparts of these countries.

According to him, several important documents were signed in the meeting, such as letters concerning intentions on creation of a trust fund for financing the reprocessing of surplus ammunition and arms with the participation of many NATO members.

It was also stated that none of a political decision on Ukraine's membership of NATO would be on the agenda.

At the same time, an opportunity to raise this issue will probably arise in the future because history shows that such proposals are the topics of NATO summits.

The next NATO summit will take place in May-June 2006, and this is specifically the time when Ukraine may receive an offer to implement an action plan on NATO membership.

Therefore, Ukraine proposed drafting such a plan at the level of experts during the Vilnius consultations to enable Ukraine to know exactly the steps it needs to take in the future, how much it will cost, and which areas of activity it needs to prioritize.

The document will be completed before the end of March 2006.


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