KIEV, March 29 – Ukraine and Georgia should be given a "clear prospect" of joining NATO, U.S. President George W. Bush told a German newspaper ahead of a NATO summit in Bucharest, according to Reuters reported Saturday.
Bush is due to arrive in Ukraine on Monday for a two-day visit that is expected to focus on Kiev’s accession to NATO and other issues, such as reducing reliance on Russia’s energy imports.
Ukraine hopes the NATO summit in Bucharest on April 4 will grant it a roadmap towards joining the military alliance but Russia has spoken out sharply against expansion into ex-Soviet neighbors.
In an interview with German daily newspaper Die Welt, Bush said there would be no decision on Ukraine and Georgia joining NATO in Bucharest but instead on their right to apply for it.
"I think it's in our interest to give Georgia and Ukraine a clear prospect here," the paper quoted Bush as saying, in a preview of its Monday edition.
Bush said comments on possible NATO membership for Ukraine by Russia's president-elect, Dmitry Medvedev, in which he said it would pose a threat to Russian security, reflected the opinion of Vladimir Putin, the current leader.
"When I spoke to Putin recently he mentioned those arguments," Bush said.
"I have a clear opinion about that: if someone has democracies on their borders then that's good not bad.
"Democracies tend to be peaceful. Democracies that do the will of their people do not tend to wage war."
Bush said NATO did not plan to set up any permanent bases in Ukraine and insisted that no NATO troops would be permanently stationed there.
"The country should have the chance to reform its military, its economy and its political system," Bush said.
Asked about apparent opposition to joining NATO among the Ukrainian people, Bush said if they voted against it in a referendum "at the appropriate time" it would not happen.
"But the decision should not be made outside the country but by the people themselves," he said. (rt/ez)