18:1121/07/2009 KIEV, July 21 (RIA Novosti) - The United States supports Ukraine's plans to join NATO, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on Tuesday.
Biden, who is currently in Ukraine, said that both he and U.S. President Barack Obama supported Ukraine's NATO bid.
At a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, Biden told him that the United States did not recognize "anyone else's right to dictate to you or any other country what alliance you will seek to belong to or what bilateral relationships you have."
Ukraine has been pursuing NATO membership since pro-Western Yushchenko was inaugurated in January 2005. However, regular opinion polls show that the majority of Ukrainians continue to oppose joining the alliance.
NATO has enlarged since 1999, admitting three ex-Soviet Baltic republics and four Communist-bloc states in Eastern Europe. The expansion has strained relations between the West and Russia, which is concerned by the new military bases emerging along its borders.
U.S. President Obama paid an official visit to Moscow two weeks ago, causing anxiety in Ukraine and Georgia, another former Soviet republic seeking NATO membership, amid Washington's plans to 'reset' relations with Russia.
However, Biden told Yushchenko that the 'reset' in relations with Russia "will not come at Ukraine's expense, to the contrary, I believe it can actually benefit Ukraine."
Ukraine and Georgia's NATO bids were strongly backed by the George W. Bush administration, but were turned down due to pressure from Germany and France at a 2008 NATO summit in Bucharest.
However, NATO has stated that the two countries will join at an unspecified date in the future. Both countries have also been included in the alliance's Partnership for Peace program, aimed at allowing "partner countries to build up an individual relationship with NATO, choosing their own priorities for cooperation."