WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- The integration of Ukraine into NATO needs a consensus among fractious government interests in Kiev, a report from the Council on Foreign Relations said.
The nonpartisan foreign policy think tank said in a report that while the population and politics of Ukraine remain divided over Western-leaning policies and strong ethnic ties to Russia, the country is increasingly of strategic importance and in need of support for stability, the council reported.
Ukraine is a vital transit link for Russian energy resources in Europe. The conflict over gas at the end of 2008 between Russian gas supplier Gazprom and Ukraine that resulted in major gas shutoffs in Europe highlights the growing importance for the country's stability.
Additionally, Russia's ongoing presence off Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea and the potential of Ukraine's NATO membership remain sources of widespread disagreement and conflict.
The report, titled "Averting Crisis in Ukraine," recommends the eventual acceptance of Ukraine in NATO but calls for the initiation of a high-level dialogue between leaders in the United States and in Ukraine.
Despite the call for continued support of Ukrainian integration with the alliance, officials recommend waiting to back NATO membership until there is a political consensus and "effective governance in Ukraine" along with a reduction of the country's "susceptibility to Russian pressure," the release said.