Several Newspapers Taunt Tbilisi, Kiev

Several national newspapers on Friday taunted Ukraine and Georgia over NATO's decision to postpone bringing them into the alliance.

But Komsomolskaya Pravda, the country's most widely read daily, suggested that U.S. President George W. Bush was on a muscle-flexing mission for the Republican Party ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November.

"You can understand the Europeans," it wrote in its Page 3 roundup of Thursday's developments at the NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania. "Why would they want to use their [NATO] votes just to fan the flames of the presidential campaign in the United States?"

The pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia wrote in its Page 2 report that the singular achievement of the Western-leaning governments of Ukraine and Georgia has been a blindly pro-American -- and anti-Russian -- foreign policy.

NATO's expansion to Russia's doorstep would bring "a whole world of conflict and problems" for Ukraine and Georgia, a fact not lost on West European governments -- namely Germany and France -- wary of aggravating relations with Russia, Izvestia wrote.

With the exception of the independent-minded Kommersant daily, most papers gave short shrift to the fact that NATO backed a U.S. plan to place elements of a missile-defense system in Central Europe, a plan Russia vigorously opposes.

"NATO Swaps Georgia and Ukraine for Missile-Defense System," Kommersant said in its front-page headline.

Though many experts called the opening day of the summit a victory for the Kremlin, Russia had in fact probably lost out, Kommersant wrote. The consequences for Russia of a radar-tracking station in the Czech Republic and an anti-missile base in Poland are greater than a temporary obstacle in Ukraine's and Georgia's path to NATO membership, it said.

Stalwart communist newspapers Sovietskaya Rossia and Pravda, meanwhile, were not shy about needling the alliance. "The Road Map Tells Bush: NATO -- Get Lost!" Sovietskaya Rossia's front-page headline read Friday. The newspaper rendered the phrase "get lost" using a Ukrainian colloquialism. "It is strange that [Ukrainian President Viktor] Yushchenko claims he is acting in his nation's interest and to protect independence when he came to power in a special operation bankrolled by the West," Sovietskaya Rossiya wrote.

Pravda's front-page "Slogan of the Day" feature read: "Stop the Orange forces that have swept through NATO."

Vremya Novostei, generally a centrist-minded daily, teased Ukraine and Georgia in a front-page headline suggesting that they had missed the boat.

"Kiev and Tbilisi were counting on the fact that a direct path to the alliance would be opened," Vremya Novostei wrote. "However, the alliance has so far hoodwinked them."

NATO's decision to postpone consideration of their membership "should hardly be considered the result of Moscow's tough stance," Vremya Novostei conceded. The decision, rather, was aimed at easing NATO-Russian relations as President-elect Dmitry Medvedev prepares to take office next month, it said.