Russian officials snap at NATO for eyeing enlargement eastwards

Other News Materials 3 April 2008 18:56 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Russian officials in Bucharest expressed relief Thursday as NATO deemed Georgia and Ukraine unready for membership but frowned that the alliance has kept its doors open.

Russia's NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin expressed relief, after the decision Thursday, that he could "now speak with confidence over the fact" the two states "are not ready" to be included in NATO, news agency Interfax reported from Bucharest.

But Russia's deputy foreign Alexander Grushkov criticized NATO for making its decision open-ended.

"Georgia and Ukraine's introduction into the alliance would be a grave strategic mistake which would have the most serious consequences for European security," he said on Thursday.

While the two post-Soviet states' standing as candidates before NATO leaders at the summit in Bucharest received vigorous support from the Unites States, Russia is adamantly against eastward expansion of what it sees as a foreign military bloc pitching camp along its borders.

Rogozin stressed that he did not consider that Georgia and Ukraine's campaign for membership could be relaunched at NATO's next summit in December.

"In my opinion, there is strong doubt that in less than a year's time Georgia can resolve its territorial problems and Ukraine can change low sympathy for NATO in the country today," Rogozin said, referring to Russia's sharpest opposition.

President Vladimir Putin has said he "cannot agree with NATO's attempts to present itself as an organization that plays a democratizing role" in view of very low level of popular support for accession in the country.

Ahead of the summit, Moscow warned that Georgia's inclusion under NATO's umbrella would lead the state to civil war with its two separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russia's parliament passed a resolution calling for the speedy recognition of independence for these two separatist regions if Georgia joined the western alliance.

The veto of several alliance members to Georgia and Ukraine's bid was seen as influenced by fears of destabilizing an already fractious dialogue with Russia.

"The fact that this decision was rejected today, testifies to the healthy opinions in NATO that lead to a sober appraisal of the importance of relations between the alliance and Russia," the head of Russia's International Affairs Committee, Konstatin Kosachyov, was quoted by Interfax as saying from Bucharest.