NATO foreign ministers led by Germany managed to forestall fast-track membership for Georgia and Ukraine, and likewise reached an agreement to resume limited ties with Russia. The move was described as “conditional and graduated re-engagement” by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

The move is seen as something of a defeat for the Bush Administration, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she wasn’t opposed “in principle” to contacts but thought that they were problematic so long as Russian forces remain in the separatist enclaves of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Ties between Russia and NATO have worsened in recent days, both over disputes about NATO’s expansion and NATO condemnation of Russia’s actions during a brief August war with prospective NATO member Georgia.

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