Bush pleads for Georgia and Ukraine NATO path

President George W. Bush (L) shakes hands with Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko after visiting St. Sofia Cathedral in Kiev, April 1, 2008. Bush vowed on Tuesday to press for Ukraine and Georgia to be allowed to start the process of joining NATO despite resistance from Russia and scepticism from the alliance's European members. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - President George W. Bush pressed reluctant west European allies on Wednesday to reward democratic revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine by setting both former Soviet republics on a path to NATO membership.

“My country’s position is clear -- NATO should welcome Georgia and Ukraine into the Membership Action Plan,” Bush said in a keynote speech, hours before an expected clash on the issue at a summit of the 26-nation defense alliance.

France and Germany have made clear publicly they believe neither country meets NATO’s criteria and putting them on the road to membership would be an unnecessary provocation to Russia just before President-elect Dmitry Medvedev takes office.

reporting by Matt Spetalnick, writing by Paul Taylor