Bush supports Ukraine’s NATO dream

George Bush is backing Ukraine's bid to join NATO. The U.S. leader is holding talks with President Viktor Yushchenko in Kiev on Ukraine's request to be admitted to NATO's membership action plan – a first step towards full membership of the west

Earier, thousands marched on the U.S. embassy in Kiev to protest against the bid to join. More rallies are promised if NATO accepts Ukraine's application at its summit in Bucharest on Wednesday.

Several dozen protesters remained in the street in the evening, but earlier, according to police estimates, there were around 10,000 people. Demonstrators started gathering from early morning. Some erected tents, intent on staying put throughout the night, and possibly longer.

Thousands marched on the U.S. embassy. Some effigies of Bush were burnt at a rally.

Opinion polls conducted in Ukraine over the last 15 years show that more than half of its population are against joining the alliance.

Almost 62% of Ukrainians voted against NATO membership. Even an ‘information’ campaign has not helped the government.

'We won't give away Ukraine!' the slogan reads
'We won't give away Ukraine!' the slogan reads

Despite these figures, Ukraine’s government continues to push for membership.

Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko pointed to the economic benefits of co-operation and promised Ukrainians a referendum on the issue.

“Politicians will not decide for the people of Ukraine. No one will take us there by force. At this stage of our relations, we are talking only about enhancing co-operation. Russia’s cooperating with NATO as well. I don’t see anything to worry about now,” she said.

But as the saying goes, ‘there’s no smoke without fire’.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said that possible admission of Ukraine into the alliance would put Russia’s security at risk and that “one can’t theoretically exclude the possibility that Russia will have to point its warheads at Ukrainian territory”.

Another former Soviet republic, striving to join NATO, is Georgia.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has warned NATO members against preventing the country moving towards the alliance at the upcoming summit in Bucharest.

Saakashvili said it would appease Russia and grant Moscow effective veto power over NATO membership.
 
Two weeks ago Saakashvili was in the U.S. seeking support for obtaining the so-called Membership Action Plan. It's a programme that advises future NATO members how to meet the organisation's standards.
 
However, Georgia's chances of receiving the Action Plan face opposition from some older NATO members over fears the country will be a security taker, not provider. That's because of the existence of two frozen conflicts on Georgian territory – the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

There are also concerns among NATO members that strong opposition to the idea by Russia could escalate tensions in Europe.