The United States is defending Ukraine's right to join NATO and suggests that criticism of the former Soviet republic by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is not conducive to good relations between the neighbors.
The comments by State Department spokesman P J Crowley were in reaction to a letter from Medvedev to Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko. The Russian leader accused Yushchenko of endangering European gas supplies, much of which flows through Ukraine.
As a sovereign country, Crowley said yesterday, Ukraine can choose how to pursue its interests, which includes membership in NATO.
"It is important for Ukraine and Russia to have a constructive relationship," Crowley said. "I'm not sure that (Medvedev's) comments are necessarily in that vein."