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Bush to back Ukraine for NATO membership -

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ELEANOR HALL: NATO politicking is in full swing, before the summit has even begun in Bucharest.

On his way to the summit, US President George W. Bush dropped in on Ukraine and announced that the
US would strongly support the Eastern European country's push to join NATO. He also said he would
back the membership of another former Soviet state, Georgia.

But the prospect of its neighbours joining the powerful western military alliance has Russia
seething - and planning retaliation.

As Moscow correspondent Scott Bevan reports.

SCOTT BEVAN: Before President George W. Bush left for Eastern Europe, the White House said his trip
was about supporting the advance of democracy and freedom, as well as strengthening the NATO

(Sounds of protesters)

SCOTT BEVAN: Even the prospect of his arrival in Ukraine promoted speech, free and loud, in the
capital, Kiev.

(Sounds of protesters)

SCOTT BEVAN: Thousands had gathered to protest against the US President's visit and the push by
Ukraine to become a NATO member.

Still, after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yushchenko, President Bush offered his own
words in regard to the former Soviet state's desire to join the alliance.

GEORGE W. BUSH: Ukraine now seeks to deepen its co-operation with the NATO alliance through a
Membership Action Plan. Your nation has made a bold decision and the United States strongly
supports your request.

SCOTT BEVAN: The US President has said his country also supports the bid by Georgia to be granted
acceptance into the first step of joining NATO, known as the Membership Action Plan, or MAP.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I'm going to work as hard as I can to see to it that Ukraine and Georgia are
accepted into MAP. I think it is in our interest as NATO members and I think it is Ukrainian and
Georgian interests as well.

SCOTT BEVAN: In welcoming the United States' support, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenka said a
collective responsibility for security policy is the best response to international challenges.
Russia is not a NATO member and it's staunchly opposed to Ukraine and Georgia joining the alliance.

One of the major reasons why, according to Irina Kobrinskaya from the Institute of the World
Economy and International Relations in Moscow, is that it's seen by Russia as a threat to its

IRINA KOBRINSKAYA: Russia many times we waited and high officials that if NATO expands that far,
that means Russia in some way has to react.

That means that NATO expresses its distrust towards Russia. There are no security reasons for NATO
countries foreign aid (phonetic) itself to take these countries as the members.

SCOTT BEVAN: In February, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Viktor Yushchenko that if Ukraine
joined NATO and hosted the organisation's military facilities, then Moscow would have to direct
some of its missiles at its neighbour for self-protection.

That sort of talk, Oleg Voloshin says, intensifies many Ukrainians' opposition to their country
joining NATO

OLEG VOLOSHIN: A lot of our citizens are afraid of annoying Russia. Are afraid to pishing
(phonetic) Russia and Mr Putin understands this.

SCOTT BEVAN: In recent years, relations between Russia and Ukraine have been strained, but
politicians in Moscow have said the relationship will slip into crisis if their neighbour joins

Yet Irina Kobrinskaya from the Institute of the World Economy and International Relations, says not
only Russia but also some NATO member countries in Europe are opposed to Ukraine and Georgia
joining the alliance at this stage.

IRINA KOBRINSKAYA: The chances for MAP for Georgia and Ukraine in Bucharest are very low and that
is why Bucharest would be rather the beginning of the positive new stage of Russian native

SCOTT BEVAN: While George W. Bush has flown on to Bucharest, ready to push Ukraine and Georgia's
bids, political analyst Oleg Voloshin says Kiev has to be careful how it tries to manoeuvre between
the interests - and rivalries - of the US and Russia.

OLEG VOLOSHIN: I do think that Ukraine, in this position now, can not afford itself to be
pro-western or pro-Russian or for some other country for some other reason. It should be more

ELEANOR HALL: That's Ukranian political analyst Oleg Voloshin, speaking to Moscow correspondent
Scott Bevan.