Bush Backs Ukraine's NATO Bid

APBush patting Yushchenko's hand during a news conference Tuesday in Kiev.
KIEV -- U.S. President George W. Bush is putting his full weight behind the desire by Ukraine and Georgia to join NATO even though Russia is opposed and the alliance is split.

Bush on Tuesday pledged complete support for the bids despite vehement Russian opposition and French and German objections to allowing the countries to begin the NATO admission process.

His strong stance sets up a showdown in the trans-Atlantic military alliance, whose leaders will decide this week whether to give Membership Action Plans to Ukraine and Georgia.

Bush said Russia would not have a veto on what other countries do. He rejected any trade-off between missile defense and NATO membership and pledged to work "as hard as I can" to open NATO's doors to Ukraine and Georgia. Both countries are ready and worthy to be welcomed, Bush said.

"Your nation has made a bold decision and the United States strongly supports your request," Bush told Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko two days before the NATO summit in Bucharest, Romania. "My stop here should be a clear signal to everybody that I mean what I say: It's in our interest for Ukraine to join."

Bush wants Ukraine and Georgia to win approval for the action plan, which outlines what a country needs to do to win an invitation for full NATO membership.

In Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told the State Duma on Tuesday that Ukraine's accession to NATO would cause a "deep crisis" in Moscow's relations with Ukraine.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said his country would not support starting the membership process because it would upset the balance of power between Europe and Russia.

NATO operates by consensus, so Fillon's comments appeared to quash Ukrainian and Georgian hopes.