NATO has not yet decided whether to allow the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia to join the military alliance, its Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer was quoted on Wednesday as saying, according to Reuters.
Asked when NATO plans to offer Ukraine and Georgia a Membership Action Plan, the first step to membership, Scheffer said: "We are debating on this issue".
"Remarks on this from the Moscow side have happened often. We treat our Russian partners seriously ... We must engage them in the discussion," he told the daily Gazeta Wyborcza.
Russian ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin warned on Tuesday that Georgia`s Moscow-backed rebel regions will secede if NATO moves to make Georgia a member.
Russia says NATO expansion threatens its national security due to fears that Washington will use former Soviet republics like Georgia as a new beach-head to deploy troops and weapons close to Russia`s borders.
Georgia`s Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions broke with Tbilisi following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union that weakened Moscow`s imperial dominance in the south Caucasus. They have relied on Moscow`s support since.
The Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions already run their own affairs but have no international recognition.
Scheffer also said he expected NATO`s April summit to take a joint stand on U.S. plans to install parts of global missile defenses in central Europe.
He said the possible installation of 10 rocket interceptors in Poland and a radar facility in the Czech Republic would have consequences for the security of Western Europe.
"I hope it will be stated (in the documents), we share the threat of ballistic attack, that American installations are a serious element of addressing this threat and that NATO has a major role in this regard," Scheffer said.