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Bush says he supports extending
NATO membership to Ukraine
0 Comments come as Ukrainian
President Yushchenko visits the
WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States
supports expanding NATO to include Ukraine, a
former Soviet republic now trying to loosen his-
toric ties to Russia, but membership in the West-
ern alliance is not guaranteed, President Bush
"There is a way forward in order to become a
partner of the United States and other nations in
NATO," Bush said during a joint press conference
.with Viktor Yushchenko, the populist politician
whose Orange Revolution forced out Ukraine's
pro-Russian government last year.
"It's not a given. In other words, there are
things that the Ukrainian government must do,"
NATO membership is by invitation of the mem-
ber states and requires guarantees of political,
military and economic openness. For Ukraine,
joining NATO would mean taking more decisive
steps away from Russian influence and cleaning
up systemic corruption.
"We want to help your government make the
,difficult decisions and difficult choices necessary
to become available for membership in NATO,"
"The ideals for the new Ukraine are the ideals
shared by western civilization," Yushchenko said
through an interpreter.
Yushchenko called corruption the No. 1
problem at home. He has promised a thorough
investigation of corruption and alleged political
skullduggery during his predecessor's 10 years as
Yushchenko later spoke to the largest U.S.
business lobbying group, the U.S. Chamber of
Commerce, and sought to assure business lead-
ers that Ukraine is trying to fight corruption and
"I would like to clearly state that the rules of
the game (have) changed in Ukraine, that the law
is working in Ukraine," he said through an inter-
preter. "From now on the Ukrainian state, the
Ukrainian government are going to protect your
He asked business leaders "please, do not give
any bribes in Ukraine to anybody," saying he hoped
that by cutting bribes from their budgets, they would
save enough money to become more profitable.
Yushchenko is on a three-day trip to the United
States to lobby for aid and investment, win Wash-
ington's support for joining NATO and greet
Ukrainian-Americans. He will address Congress
later in the week.
The trip comes a little more than two months
after Yushchenko took office following a dramat-
ic popular uprising. Masses of supporters camped
out in Kiev, claiming that a Kremlin-backed can-
didate stole a disputed election. The government
was forced to allow a second vote, which Yush-
After the election, Yushchenko claimed that
the Russian-backed regime of his predecessor,
Leonid Kuchma, had tried to assassinate him.
Yushchenko suffered near-fatal dioxin poisoning
during last fall's presidential election, which left
his once-smooth face sallow and pocked.
Bush frequently points to Yushchenko's peace-
ful rise as an example of the power of democratic
ideals. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice have said that advancing Ukrainian-style
democratic change is the unifying theme of
Bush's second term.
Yesterday, Bush called Yushchenko "an inspi-
ration to all who love liberty" and said Yushchen-
ko was the first world leader he called after his
inauguration for a second term in January.
The two leaders stepped quickly past the most
visible irritant in their new friendship. Yush-
chenko is withdrawing Ukraine's troops from
Iraq, a campaign promise. that acknowledges the
deep unpopularity of the Iraq deployment among
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