Russia has now added Ukraine to the list of countries it has threatened with nuclear retaliation for cooperation with the United States missile defense system.
Speaking at the Kremlin February 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko addressed the contentious issues of Ukraine joining NATO or allowing the U.S. to station components of a missile defense system on its soil. Putin said, “It is frightening not only to say but even to think that Russia, in response to the emergence of such positioning areas on Ukrainian territory, which cannot be ruled out in theory, will target its offensive missile systems at Ukraine…Can you imagine that for a second? That is what we are concerned about.”
Yushchenko responded that he understood a number of “sensitive issues” would emerge from Ukrainian membership in NATO, but hoped they could be discussed with openness and trust. The leaders were meeting in Moscow to hold urgent talks over a gas dispute. Ukraine agreed to pay $1.5 billion to the Russian gas company Gazprom in return for a freeze in the price of gas exports to Ukraine.