Gen. George Joulwan, commander in chief of U.S. forces in Europe and Supreme Commander of NATO forces, conferred with President Leonid Kuchma and other Ukrainian leaders in the course of a two-day visit to Kiev. Joulwan stated that "Ukraine as NATO Partner will always be able to turn to NATO for consultations in case of a military conflict with any neighboring country." But Joulwan described that contingency as unlikely because, he said, Ukraine’s active participation in NATO’s Partnership for Peace "helps prevent such conflicts."
The agenda of the talks included: preparations for the Sea Breeze naval exercise and the Cooperative Partner ground force exercise, both scheduled to be held this year in Ukraine and to include Ukrainian, U.S., and NATO allied forces; adoption of NATO military terminology to enable Ukrainian forces to cooperate with NATO forces; gradual upgrading of Ukrainian forces’ technical standards to bring them closer to NATO’s; and the imminent opening of a NATO information center in Kiev and a visit by Secretary-General Javier Solana. Joulwan stated that NATO welcomes Ukraine’s "increasingly substantial role in the resolution of regional problems," including its "deepening strategic relationship with Poland." He noted Kuchma’s "leadership role in these processes."
Kuchma described Ukraine’s cooperation with NATO as "developing deliberately along an evolutionary path." He cited recent opinion polls showing a growth in positive attitudes toward NATO — a development of political significance in the eastern part of the country. Ukrainian defense minister Col. Gen. Oleksandr Kuzmuk asserted that Ukraine retains its non-bloc status while "seeking close relations of special partnership with NATO" and recognizing that it can not qualify for "accession today."
The Ukrainian leaders conferred in parallel with the U.S. ambassador to NATO, Robert Hunter, on the current negotiations toward a NATO-Ukraine special partnership agreement. Hunter evidenced support for a document that would include — as Kiev hopes — some legal elements in addition to political ones. The agreement, probably to be signed at NATO’s July summit in Madrid, would mark "Ukraine’s full entry into the European family of nations," Hunter predicted. (Interfax-Ukraine, UNIAN, Ukrinform, March 1-2)
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