US President George W Bush signed legislation that backs NATO membership for Ukraine, Georgia and three Balkan countries, the White House said Tuesday.
The Senate bill calls for the “timely admission” of Georgia, Ukraine, Albania, Croatia and Macedonia to the trans-Atlantic alliance.
By signing the bill, Bush also authorizes US funds for military assistance to the five countries provided they continue to implement democratic and economic reforms, DPA reports.
Georgia and Ukraine are participants in the alliance’s Partnership for Peace program and have sought to join, but have yet to receive a Membership Action Plan from NATO. But both countries face several significant hurdles to NATO membership, not least of which are security concerns from neighboring Russia.
But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in an April 10 roundtable with foreign journalists that Moscow should support its neighbors as they seek closer ties with the United States and Europe. “We believe very strongly that a network of strong democratic, independent states that are growing and prospering and therefore, stable are going to be beneficial to Russia, not harmful to Russia.”
Both Georgia and Ukraine have contributed to the Multinational Force-Iraq, with Ukraine completing its role in December 2005 and Georgia currently seeking to increase its current contingent of 850 troops to 2,400, usinfo.state.gov reports.
Russia on Tuesday criticized a U.S. bill that will allow military aid to Ukraine and Georgia and strengthen their ties with NATO.
The bill has been turned into law after signed by President George W. Bush earlier that day.
"Such moves do not contribute to the political stabilization in Ukraine within the constitutional framework," the Itar-Tass quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin as saying.
The law regarded Ukraine, Caucasus nation Georgia and the Balkan countries of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia as eligible for military assistance under a NATO Participation Act.
The aid is for the current budget year, which ends next Sept. 30, Xinhua reports.
"We should not forget that the question of Ukraine's NATO membership brought about the current crisis," Kamynin said.
Prepared by Alexander Timoshik
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