Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko on Wednesday answered questions from a Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa reporter in an exclusive interview. Following are Q&A excerpts:

Q: Will there be a default in Ukraine?

A: The real question is, how strong will our budgetary policy be? How realistic will it be? How ambitious will it be? And critically, will the budget be balanced? How much will we be able to make a strong, measured policy? That will determine whether or not we can service our obligations.

You have to ask, what are we trying to do? What are our intentions? And here I have to say there are the political factors. I am absolutely convinced that Prime Minister (Yulia Tymoshenko) has made the Presidential elections the top priority. This year, 2009, is a year in which we need to produce a strong, anti-crisis packet (of laws). The government must speak honestly with the people.

If we look at Europe, there are anti-crisis programmes being implemented everywhere...but only three countries, China, India and Ukraine, are still planning growth...I won't try and make any observations about China India, but that sort of economic planning for inadequate and irresponsible, utopian and unprofessional.

If we take the right, responsible steps, I assure you, there will be no problems, we can deal with this crisis, we can get a positive result. But if the government is going to busy itself further with populism, with playing politics, there also is going to be an economic result, but it will be different.

Q: Will you run for re-election?

A: Now is not the time for this question. I came to Ukrainian politics on certain basic principles. I am not going to compromise them. I am proud of what we have done in four years. We have a democracy now. This gives us colossal potential for growth. We now have free and open elections, parliamentary, local, and we have made them democratic. This is an outstanding base for further development. This will give our voters the ability to select the best way forward for themselves.

I came to this job, with the intention to bring political and economic freedom. In the four years I've been here, we've built the groundwork for a country with European values. And now we can't go backward. We have come closer intellectually and practically to a nation of European people. I am proud, that in four years, we can say we have a nation.

Just think, we now are in talks so that we can become associate members of the European Union. Just think: four years ago, was it even possible to imagine such a thing? And the same for integration with Europe of our transport, trade, energy, and communications. All these things are happening now - we couldn't even think of such things four years ago.

The value of these achievements, we can't really determine today. But you know, I am convinced, that I demonstrated my values. And I could not have acted in any other way. I behaved in such a way, so that I am not ashamed before my children. I am not going to be a marionette for the goals of another nation. And later, when I have time, I will make a properly weighted decision.

Q: How do you see Ukraine's hopes for NATO? Isn't it true that so many Ukrainians oppose NATO, that it makes little sense for your or any other government to try and lead into Ukraine?

A: I want to absolutely clear. If you had asked the Bulgarians in 2000, in 1998 if you had asked in Slovakia, if people want to be in NATO, if you asked in any place that was once part of the Warsaw Pact, about NATO when they were independent, the answer was not clear. Four years ago 17 per cent of Ukrainians were for the number is about 33 per cent. The number is not getting smaller.

This is not a question for one Presidential administration. Membership in NATO is a long-term project, a question of time. In our country, for 70 years, people never had the truth. You have to give them time to learn.

But one thing is for sure, the only solution for our country, for any country, is collective security. A country does not exist, unless it is secure. And in Europe is no alternative. We are part of Europe, and the only policy for us can be participation in that security system. And I am absolutely optimistic on that.

But the Ukrainian people and no one else will decide.


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