At NATO headquarters in Brussels yesterday, Ukrainian foreign minister Henady Udovenko and Defense and Security Council head Volodymyr Horbulin opened negotiations on a special partnership agreement between Ukraine and the alliance. A meeting of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, held under the 16 + 1 formula, considered a draft document which reportedly includes the following principles: "accessibility of the alliance to all European democracies, including Ukraine; guaranteed freedom of all countries to join any alliance; rejection by NATO of all attempts to establish spheres of influence or domination in Europe; all countries wishing to join NATO must lay to rest territorial disputes with neighboring countries including Ukraine." Kiev further proposes the creation of an "institutional and continually developing mechanism for political consultations" in the form of a "NATO-Ukraine committee;" and the opening of a permanent Ukrainian political and military representation to NATO and a permanent NATO mission in Kiev
The conferees established a working group, headed by NATO’s assistant secretary general for political affairs, Gebhardt von Moltke, and Ukraine’s ambassador to Brussels, Boris Tarasyuk, to finalize the text before NATO’s Madrid summit scheduled for July. Following the meeting, Udovenko stated that Ukraine, as "the largest country in Eastern and Central Europe," can help prevent a "reestablishment of spheres of influence" on the continent. (Interfax-Ukraine, March 20) President Leonid Kuchma and other leaders have most recently begun referring to the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO in the future if forced to do so by Russian pressures. (See Monitor, March 18, 20)
Crimea in the Grip of Internecine Feuding.