NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer was scheduled to arrive in Ukraine on Tuesday for a three-day visit aimed at reviewing this ex-Soviet republic's bid to join the Western alliance. De Hoop Scheffer is due to hold talks with President Viktor Yushchenko, Foreign Minister Borys Tarasyuk and other officials to discuss Ukraine's progress in military, political, and economic reforms needed for NATO membership.
After coming to power in January, Yushchenko made membership in both NATO and the European Union key goals. Speaking in London on Monday, Yushchenko expressed hope that talks on possible NATO membership could begin next spring.
NATO has stepped up cooperation with Ukraine since last year's Orange Revolution, but it has stopped short of laying out a clear timeline for membership. The Western alliance has said that Ukraine must first reduce and modernize its bloated military, prove its democratic credentials and fight rampant corruption, the AP reports.
Analysts have said that an invitation to Ukraine to join NATO could come at the alliance's 2008 summit. Top Ukrainian defense officials have also said that this country of 47 million still needs three years to meet NATO's requirements. A.M.