There are a lot of press reports today that President Bush continues to push for Georgia and the Ukraine to be given Membership Action Plans (MAPs), the last step before actual NATO membership. (See, for example, the Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune). Indeed, yesterday at his press availability with President Yuschenko of the Ukraine, President Bush did say:
Ukraine now seeks to deepens its cooperation with the NATO alliance through a Membership Action Plan. Your nation has made a bold decision, and the United States strongly supports your request. In Bucharest this week I will continue to make America's position clear: We support MAP for Ukraine and Georgia. Helping Ukraine move toward NATO membership is in the interest of every member in the Alliance and will help advance security and freedom in this region and around the world.
However, the key words are the ones that I have emphasized. The US does still support a MAP for the two former Soviet countries. But, with strong opposition from Germany and other western European states, President Bush knows he cannot persuade NATO to move forward on this in Bucharest. Chancellor Merkel of Germany has got him off the hook, and it is safe to stick to a firm US position in the knowledge that Russia will not be offended by an actual offer to Kyiv and Tbilisi.
So, President Bush pleased the Ukrainians by announcing his continued support for their accession to NATO, but without actually promising a thing. This pleases the Russians and sets the scene for a smooth NATO-Russia Council meeting this Friday, and a potentially successful US-Russia Summit in Sochi on Sunday.