Tags: NATO | Admits | Seven | New | Members

NATO Admits Seven New Members

Thursday, 21 November 2002 12:00 AM

The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which were Soviet republics until a decade ago, received the green light to enter the alliance, along with Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

NATO's biggest enlargement increases the alliance's numbers from 19 to 26, but will add little to the military strength of the 53-year-old bloc. Most of the new members, which are formally due to enter the Brussels-based organization in May 2004, are small, poor and militarily weak.

However, U.S. President George W. Bush said Thursday the former Warsaw Pact members would boost the alliance's power.

"The addition of seven new member states will not only add to our military capability, it will refresh the spirit of this great alliance. It reaffirms our commitment to freedom and a Europe that is whole, free and at peace," Bush said.

In a speech on the eve of the alliance's first summit behind the former Iron Curtain, Bush also held out the prospect of a further enlarged alliance encompassing all the continent's law-abiding states.

"Every European democracy that seeks NATO membership and is ready to share in NATO's responsibilities should be welcome in our alliance," he said.

Offering reassurance to Albania, Croatia and Macedonia, which have applied to join the club but did not receive invitations in Prague, NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said: "The door remains open. Today's invitees will not be the last."

Thursday's decision to enlarge the alliance was steeped in symbolism. It was taken in a country which was invaded by both Nazis and Communists in the past century, in a city where the Warsaw Pact was wound up and in the congress hall where the Czech Communist Party once met.

Danish Premier Anders Fogh-Rasmussen, whose country has the presidency of the European Union, said the meeting "leaves the remains of the cold war division of Europe behind."

In less than a month, five of the seven new NATO members -- along with three other former communist countries -- are expected to be invited to join the European Union at a summit in Copenhagen.

Rasmussen said the "enlargement of NATO and the European Union will be of unprecedented historic importance for European integration and for freedom, peace and security on our continent."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair added that the addition of seven central and eastern states would "deepen the stability of Europe," while Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi described Thursday's decision as a "further step towards the reunification of Europe."

In addition to expanding the alliance to the borders of Russia, the summit is due to endorse plans aimed at modernizing NATO's military hardware and setting up a 21,000-strong rapid reaction force capable of fighting anywhere in the world.

Bush said the changes represented the "most significant reforms to NATO since 1949," the year the bloc was founded.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

All rights reserved.

© 2019 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

   
1Like our page
2Share
Pre-2008
The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, which were Soviet republics until a decade ago, received the green light to enter the alliance, along with Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. NATO's biggest enlargement increases the alliance's numbers from 19 to...
NATO,Admits,Seven,New,Members
476
2002-00-21
Thursday, 21 November 2002 12:00 AM
Newsmax Media, Inc.
 

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved