Denying Georgia and Ukraine the right to move towards Nato membership this week would amount to appeasement of Russia, according to Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's president, who added that such a move would grant Moscow effective veto power over membership of the alliance.

The decision over whether to grant the two former Soviet republics membership action plans (MAPs) - the final step before becoming an alliance member - heads the agenda of the Nato summit in Bucharest that begins on Wednesday.

The question threatens to split Nato. The US and alliance members from the former Soviet bloc support an invitation, while other allies - mainly from western Europe - oppose such an offer, in part because of strong Russian opposition.

In a telephone interview with the Financial Times, in which Mr Saakashvili also promised to send a large contingent of troops for the Nato mission in Afghanistan, he said Nato would make "a dramatic mistake" by denying invitations to Ukraine and Georgia, saying it would reward hardliners in Moscow.

Mr Saakashvili said some governments were arguing it was better for Russia to see Nato united rather than arguing over MAP for Georgia and Ukraine. "I think this is a very, very wrong argument. Nato united around what? Around appeasement? We've seen Europe united once like this in this last century and we saw where it led," he said.

Mr Saakashvili disputed claims that granting MAP to the two countries would encourage Russia to make trouble, including in Georgia's two disputed territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. "If we get MAP, the aggressive elements will back off. If we don't get it, that's exactly when they are going to start all kinds of trouble," he said.


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