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Russian pundits offer different responses to NATO summit

Moscow, 3 April: President of the Politika foundation Vyacheslav Nikonov believes that Georgia and Ukraine will join NATO sooner or later but Russia must continue fighting against the bloc's expansion.

"The decision (to postpone Georgia's and Ukraine's joining NATO's Membership Action Plan - Interfax) has been expected since at least six NATO members, first of all Germany and France, were against this because they did not want to exacerbate the already difficult relations with Russia. But even they are noting the Georgia and Ukraine must be part of NATO," Nikonov told Interfax today.

"Therefore, NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine is just a matter of time - if the two countries do not undergo some internal radical changes, of course. However, the coloured revolutions were not staged to let anybody else to power," Nikonov added.

At the same time he believes that despite the inevitability of Georgia's and Ukraine's joining NATO "Russia must still fight against the bloc's expansion because this expansion is a threat to the existence of our state".

"This is because the Washington Agreement has a clause on providing all possible assistance to any NATO country. A conflict between Russia and Georgia or Ukraine is quite possible, for instance a conflict with Ukraine over the Crimea and this small conflict can result in a nuclear strike against us," Nikonov said.

President of the Effective Politics foundation Gleb Pavlovskiy believes that NATO's decision to postpone Georgia's and Ukraine's joining NATO's Membership Action Plan gives Russia an opportunity to prevent their NATO membership altogether.

"If Russia plays this game correctly, neither Georgia nor Ukraine will ever join NATO," Pavlovskiy told Interfax today.

Explaining his position, he noted that the decision to postpone NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine and postpone the discussion about US antimissile defence elements in Eastern Europe until the next summit "shows that America has forever lost its previous role and its ability to pursue a one-sided policy in principle".

"We must make good use of this. Probably it will make sense to meet Europe more than half way. European countries have made a very serious positive step towards Russia, a step towards a new partnership," Pavlovskiy stressed.

At the same time he believes that "one should not think that the problem of NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine has been resolved once and for all".

"I think there will be a lot of various provocations here but the next time this question may arise in case of a serious conflict between Russia and Europe," Pavlovskiy said.

He believes that consultations with Georgia and Ukraine on their possible NATO membership may continue.

Pavlovskiy also said that decisions made at the Bucharest summit are "a very strong affront to President Bush, who literally demanded that Ukraine and Georgia join NATO's Membership Action Plan".

He also said that "the question of deploying US antimissile defence in Eastern Europe will be resolved before the next US Administration comes to power, and they will probably view the issue differently".

"Now Bush, who will not come back with a decision from Bucharest will, have to come back with decisions from Sochi (from a meeting with Putin). Maybe now he is even ready for decisions for which he was not ready before, and we must use this," Pavlovskiy said.

He also believes that "Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, who staked all on NATO membership for Ukraine, suffered a defeat no less than Bush".

Pavlovskiy believes this weakens Yushchenko's position in the internal fight with Ukrainian Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko.

Pavlovskiy also noted that "Georgia is still in effect a NATO anonymous member and probably is currently the USA's only satellite".