Ukraine, Georgia will join NATO when ready: Rice
They have a "long road" ahead to meet the entry criteria
Ukraine and Georgia will eventually become NATO members, but they have a "long road" ahead to meet the entry criteria, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday, AFP reported.
She was speaking a day before NATO foreign ministers meet in Brussels, where they are likely to back away from offering the two former Soviet states a fast-track process to join the world`s biggest military alliance.
Rice also defended NATO`s suspension of ties with Russia following its brief war in August with Georgia. Moscow strongly opposes the NATO aspirations of both Georgia and Ukraine.
"Georgia and Ukraine will be members of NATO," Rice said in a joint press conference in London with British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who will also attend the Brussels NATO talks.
"We believe strongly in NATO`s open-door policy that states that are prepared for NATO membership and can assume the responsibilities therein should be welcomed into the organisation.
"But there is a long road ahead for both Georgia and Ukraine to reach those standards. The United States stands resolutely for those standards, meaning that there should be no shortcuts to membership of NATO.
"No one wants to see a circumstance in which Ukraine and Georgia are shut out," she said.
Meanwhile Rice added that Washington is not opposed to the resumption of ties between the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Russia, suspended after Russia`s occupation of part of Georgia in August.
"We have in principle no problem with the resumption of our ties between NATO and Russia. Indeed there have been at lower level the resumption of those discussions.
"It`s simply a matter of what is appropriate, and what was appropriate at a time when clearly Russia`s behaviour in Georgia was quite contrary to all of the values and principles on which NATO stands."