US president George W. Bush, visiting Kiev just before the summit, stated that he would act in favour of the inclusion of Ukraine and Georgia in the Membership Action Plan (MAP), thus opening the door to NATO membership without guaranteeing it.
Several EU heavyweights (Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium) are opposed to such a project.
In the meantime, several representatives of the new EU members expressed their support for opening the NATO door to Kiev and Tbilisi.
President Bush said today (2 April) during his Bucharest speech that Romanian people have "looked evil in the eye" and transformed their country from a communist dictatorship into a free nation and a NATO member, suggesting that the young democracies Ukraine and Georgia deserve the same chance.
"My country's position is clear: NATO should welcome Georgia and Ukraine into the Membership Action Plan. And, NATO membership must remain open to all of Europe's democracies that seek it, and are ready to share in the responsibilities of NATO membership," he said.
France and Romania divided
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said that President Nicolas Sarkozy would oppose the idea at the Summit in Bucharest. "France is not green-lighting Ukraine and Georgia's accession. Paris has a different opinion to that of the US on the matter", Fillon told France Inter Radio, quoted by Rompres.
Romanian President Traian Basescu, who is hosting the largest-ever summit of NATO's 26 member states, stated that including Ukraine and Georgia in the MAP is "a logical step from the Romanian point of view".
He reiterated the other main topics of the summit: the decision to extend invitations to join NATO to three applicant countries (Croatia, Albania, Macedonia), the situation in Afghanistan and the Western Balkans and the threats facing the Alliance in the 21st century: terrorism, energy security, missile defence and IT security.
Russia voiced its opinion on Tuesday, with deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin warning that the prospect of Ukraine's NATO membership would create a profound crisis between Kiev and Moscow, with a negative impact on the security of Europe.
But Russia's Special Representative to NATO Dmitry Rogozin dismissed US ambitions to include Ukraine and Georgia in the MAP as unrealistic.
Speaking to Dziennik, Mr. Rogozin said: "As far as I know NATO, and the people who work there - I don't think they will take such a decision. The US is very much in favour, but Bush is leaving soon and he will not take responsibility for the consequences of such an action. Those who will remain will be confronted with the issue. Therefore I don't think there will be any MAP".
Macedonia's NATO accession up in the air
But the invitation to Macedonia to join NATO is not yet sealed. NATO member Greece has threatened to veto Macedonia's invitation to join the alliance if the former Yugoslav republic does not change its constitutional name, which is the same as Greece's northernmost province.
The US mediation failed to achieve a solution ahead of the summit and efforts are now continuing behind the scenes at the Bucharest summit itself.
Macedonia uses its name in bilateral ties with many states, but is called "The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" at the United Nations as well as by NATO and the European Union. It split from Yugoslavia in 1991.