"Yanukovich's policy is not to move in any direction, but for Ukraine to be a kind of 'bridge' between East and West. The danger is that we are moving into a gray zone, where the security status of Ukraine will become ambiguous."
Since Ukraine achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, most of its leaders have upheld a strategy of gradually integrating the France-sized country of 48 million into the European community of nations. But following the 2004 Orange Revolution, which brought Yushchenko to power pledging to put the country on a fast-track to NATO membership, the issue became a major wedge between Moscow and Kiev.
Though opinion polls over the years have shown Ukrainian majorities favor the idea of eventually joining the European Union, NATO membership has never commanded popular support.
"Our latest poll on this was in October 2009, when 17 percent of Ukrainians supported joining NATO and 53 percent were opposed," says Vladimir Paniotto, director of the independent Kiev International Institute of Sociology. "We've polled on this regularly over the years, and majorities have always been against joining NATO."