Ukraine Vows to Join NATO Despite Kremlin Opposition

Ukraine said Tuesday that it would press on with attempts to join NATO despite the Russian opposition to the plan, but also assured Moscow this would pose no threat to its security.

"Ukraine has made its choice. This choice is well thought-out," Ukrainian

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko told a news briefing after meeting his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.

"This is not only the political will of our leadership, but it is also Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic future, which is set out in its legislation," Ohryzko said. "NATO is our choice of how we safeguard our security."

Russia fiercely opposes NATO's expansion eastward, saying it would threaten its national security and upset the delicate strategic balance in Europe.

President Vladimir Putin said in February that Moscow could be forced to redirect its missiles towards Ukraine if Kiev joined NATO and hosted elements of a U.S. missile shield.

Ohryzko, sitting next to Lavrov at the news briefing, said: "Our constitution does not allow Ukraine to deploy foreign bases on its land. I want to repeat yet again: Ukraine in NATO is not Ukraine against Russia"

Earlier this month NATO members at a summit agreed to give Ukraine and fellow former Soviet state Georgia eventual alliance membership, but they did not grant them Membership Action Plans, a formal road map for entry.

Lavrov said Moscow could not understand "the logic of NATO's mechanical enlargement eastward, performed in the spirit of old approaches based on bloc thinking."

"NATO is saying all the time the Cold War is over and it is undergoing transformation into a global security body," Lavrov said. "At the same time, they bypass a question of how this bloc … will interact with the United Nations Security Council."

Opinion polls show that only a minority of Ukrainians back NATO membership.

Ohryzko said the authorities hoped to change public opinion before putting the issue to a referendum.

"We will do whatever we can for the people to get ample and objective information about the alliance," Ohryzko said.