PARIS (Reuters) - France will not support bids by the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Ukraine to become members of NATO, putting it at odds with the United States, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said on Tuesday.
“France will not give its green light to the entry of Ukraine and Georgia,” Fillon told France Inter radio.
“France has an opinion which is different from that of the United States on this question.”
NATO leaders hold a summit later this week in Romania where Georgia and Ukraine hope to obtain a Membership Action Plan (MAP) — a road map to eventual entry already secured by Croatia, Macedonia and Albania.
President George W. Bush arrived in Ukraine late on Monday ahead of the summit, and officials accompanying him remained optimistic that the alliance could extend the plan to both countries at the summit.
“We think it’s very, very, very important (for) Georgia and Ukraine, that we welcome their aspirations to be part of NATO, that we have an active engagement in helping them move in that direction,” National Security Council adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters aboard Air Force One.
“And the president has made clear we think the best way to do that is to offer MAP at Bucharest and that’s what the president is pushing hard for.”
However, French officials are reluctant to embrace Ukraine and Georgia because of fierce Russian opposition to their NATO membership drive.
“We are opposed to the entry of Georgia and Ukraine because we think it is not the right response to the balance of power in Europe and between Europe and Russia, and we want to have a dialogue on this subject with Russia,” Fillon said.
“That’s what the president of the Republic will say in Bucharest tomorrow,” he added.
Reporting by Francois Murphy and James Mackenzie; Editing by Crispian Balmer and Ibon Villelabeitia