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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NATO Plans to Freeze Out Ukraine

BRUSSELS - NATO will exclude Ukraine from planned military cooperation agreements with former Warsaw Pact states unless Kiev agrees to get rid of nuclear weapons on its soil, Belgian Foreign Minister Willy Claes said Thursday.

Claes said that NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels had agreed to the move to put pressure on Ukraine, which has not yet signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty nor agreed to scrap all former Soviet nuclear missiles on its territory.

At a summit next month, the 16-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organization is expected to offer East European and former Soviet republics bilateral "partnership for peace" deals - involving military cooperation programs - instead of the NATO membership some are pressing for.

But Claes said that this would not be offered to Ukraine if it continued to fail to keep its promises to get rid of nuclear weapons.

"That's what it amounts to", he said. "It would be unthinkable".

Claes said that NATO Secretary General Manfred Worner had been asked by foreign ministers to try to convince Ukraine that it was in its best interest to give up the weapons and promise that cooperation with the West would then follow.

Worner later denied that the NATO meeting had even talked about threatening to exclude Ukraine from the "partnership for peace" deal.

"I can only tell you this was not discussed in the meeting nor was it decided", he told a news conference.

U. S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher sidestepped the question when asked by reporters.

"Ukraine is eligible", for such deals, he said "but we would certainly encourage them to carry out their commitments".

A senior British official, however, said that offering the deal to Ukraine "would depend on them coming clean on the NPT", referring to the 1968 Nonproliferation Treaty to which the parliament in Kiev has yet to adhere, despite strong pleas from the existing nuclear powers.

Ukraine also angered the West and Russia last month when its parliament ratified the START I strategic arms reduction treaty with a proviso that it only applied only to 42 percent of the nuclear arsenal left to Kiev by the Soviet Union.

In Kiev, President Leonid Kravchuk appealed to the West not to apply pressure to force Ukraine to get rid of nuclear arms.

"We should not have to take a decision on our knees", he told reporters.

Ukraine's refusal to give up its nuclear weapons has ranked high on Russia's list of foreign policy concerns in recent months along with the possible eastward expansion of NATO.

But in Brussels there was clear agreement among NATO foreign ministers that the alliance should not now risk upsetting an unstable but still powerful Russia by granting membership to countries such as Poland and Hungary.

"There was unanimity that enlargement is not on the immediate agenda of the alliance", one NATO source, who asked not to be identified, told reporters.

U. S. Secretary of State Christopher told the meeting that "partnership for peace" could be a "key step towards NATO membership" but made clear it would not automatically follow.

German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said that NATO should move toward taking on Eastern European nations as members, but also made clear what NATO officials have been saying in private for months - that there will be a limit to any NATO expansion.

"For Russia and Ukraine, membership is out of the question", Kinkel said.