"European security should not be divided in a way that benefits certain countries only, such as Poland and the Czech Republic," Viktor Yanukovich told the German newspaper Die Welt in an interview published Friday. "If we're talking about a global security system, Ukraine can also make a contribution. To date we've been treated as though we do not exist."
Yanukovich is the Russia-friendly strongman in Ukraine's government, which is characterized by an unlikely team-up between Yanukovich and pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko.
Yanukovich believes involving Ukraine in the U.S. missile plans in Europe would ease tensions in Russia, where plans for the system are seen suspiciously.
Washington claims the defense system, which plans for ten bunker-protected rockets to be stationed in Poland and a radar unit in the Czech Republic, is to protect the United States and its allies against long-range rockets armed with nuclear warheads fired by the likes of North Korea and Iran. But Moscow sees the missiles as threats against its territory. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month the plan would spark a new arms race in the region.