Medvedev Lauds New U.S. Stance on NATO

President Dmitry Medvedev praised a U.S. decision to change its strategy for bringing Georgia and Ukraine into NATO, expressing satisfaction Friday that the U.S. administration abandoned a program seen as a key step toward membership.

Medvedev said "reason has prevailed" in the outgoing U.S. administration.

Amid opposition from European allies concerned about angering Russia, the United States dropped efforts to assist the pro-Western leaders of Ukraine and Georgia with preparatory programs seen as a road map toward membership.

Moscow is pressing to keep the two ex-Soviet republics out of NATO, and the issue contributed to tensions leading up to its August war with Georgia. The alliance declined to grant Georgia and Ukraine Membership Action Plans in April but assured them that they would eventually join and promised to revisit the issue at a NATO meeting next week.

However, in the face of continued opposition from France and Germany, U.S. officials have said they would abandon the push to get the action plans this week and try to assist the two countries in joining via different means.

The U.S. ambassador to NATO said last week that he hopes to prepare Ukraine and Georgia for eventual membership by assisting with military, economic and political reforms -- without the diplomatic complication of the Membership Action Plan.

But Medvedev, who was visiting Cuba, described the U.S. decision as a retreat.

"I am pleased that reason has prevailed, unfortunately only at the end of the current U.S. administration," Medvedev said in remarks broadcast on Russian television. "Whether the Americans heeded the Europeans or somebody else, now this idea is not being put forward with such frenzy and senselessness as it was not long ago."

Medvedev's remarks were the latest indication that the Kremlin is hoping the administration of President-elect Barack Obama will back down from policies that have aggravated Moscow.