Biden says US supports Ukraine bid to join NATO
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has long pushed to bring Ukraine into NATO and was strongly supported in his quest by former American president George W. Bush.Kiev -- The United States continues to support Ukraine's goal of joining NATO and believes Russia has no right to block it, US Vice President Joe Biden said here Tuesday.
"If you choose to be part of the Euro-Atlantic integration, which I believe you have, then we strongly support that," Biden told journalists following talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.
Biden studiously avoided using the acronym NATO, but made clear in subsequent remarks that he was referring to the Atlantic alliance and Kremlin designs for influencing it.
"We do not recognise -- and I want to reiterate it -- any 'spheres of influence,'" Biden said.
"We do not recognise anyone else's right to dictate to you or any other country what alliance to belong to or what relationship to have."
Yushchenko has long pushed to bring Ukraine, a former Soviet republic of 48 million people bordering Russia, into NATO and was strongly supported in his quest by former US president George W. Bush.
That drive by the Yushchenko and Bush administration to bring Ukraine into NATO however proved a major irritant over the years for Russia, which has for centuries looked on Ukraine as practically part of Russia itself.
Biden acknowledged that his boss, President Barack Obama, was intent on repairing US relations with Russia, but assured Ukrainians that Washington would not abandon its separate support for Ukraine.
"I ensure you and all Ukrainian people that it will not come at Ukraine's expense," he said.