Missile defence clouds Russia's win in halting NATO enlargement

(dpa) - Russia won a reprieve from NATO on further eastward expansion, but lost big in the feud with the United States over its plans to deploy a missile defence system in Eastern Europe, Russian newspapers reported Friday.

The ongoing summit of NATO-plus-Russia leaders in Bucharest was narrated in Moscow through the lens of old Cold War paradigms as observers described a US-Russian wrestling match over Europe's trust.

The US was seen as the keeper of thorny hedges that have grown thicker between NATO and Russia in recent years over Kosovo, missile defence plans and NATO's openness to further spread eastward.

"Bush could not prevail over his European NATO allies to give the green light to Ukraine and Georgian membership," wrote Russian daily Kosomolskaya Pravada Friday.

The newspaper called US support for the two post-Soviet states' membership bids a partisan effort "to show that the Republican administration could spread 'the zone of western democracy' far into the east."

Analyst Fyodor Lukyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs magazine, poked fun at the outgoing US president, giving a run down of his fumblings and verbal gaffes in state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

This line deflected from the main question of how much influence Moscow's protests had over NATO's decision to postpone entry for Georgia and Ukraine.

Russia's NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin summed up his country's reaction in an interview Friday: "Bravura, victorious exclamations and uncorking of champagne there was not and will not be."

"Now it is necessary to emphasize that there is no winner in this situation," Rogozin demurred.

But business newspaper Kommersant was more critical in its evaluation of the summit.

"While some experts viewed NATO's decisions as a triumph for Kremlin diplomacy, overall, Russia more likely lost in Bucharest," the newspaper wrote.

The US success in securing NATO and the Czech Republic's backing for its missile defence plans, which Russia views as a threat to its security, the daily said, far outshadowed NATO's minor rebuff of Georgia and Ukraine.

The outgoing Russian and US presidents are set to meet for what has been hailed as their last tete-a-tete meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on the heels of the NATO summit.

A Kremlin spokesman said the two leaders would sign an agreement to serve as "a road map" for future relations, including a compromise on missile defence.

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