Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images
On April 3rd at the NATO summit in Bucharest,attended by the leaders of all three Baltic countries, member statesunanimously called attention to the notion that Ukraineand Georgiawill become NATO member states. During the summit, Latvia expressed firm support foroffering a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) to both states.
"The agreement reached in Bucharestis a clear political signal of support by the member states regarding theintegration of Georgia and Ukraine intoNATO," said Foreign Minister Maris Riekstins.
Foreign Minister Paet confirmed that Estoniahas always supported issuing a MAP to Georgia. He also emphasized thatthe Georgian government must guarantee that reforms will continue.
According to the foreign minister, "a strong signal must be sent to Georgia during the Bucharest summit. We should inspire them totry even harder to implement the necessary reforms".
Estonian President Toomas Ilves had this advice, based on hisown country's experience with NATO membership:
"Don't be a Marxist" he said, "and by thatI mean Groucho Marxist". He then told the audience of the scene whereGroucho Marx walks into a bank with a gun to his head claiming that he'll takehis life unless they give him all their money.
Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomes the EuropeanCommission's determination to continue cooperation based on close mutualrelations with the countries which had expressed their willingness and havenecessary capabilities.
"It is very important to evaluate properly the progress ofthe eastern EU neighbours in implementation of the Neighbourhood Action Plan inthe future also. In their turn these countries should continue to implementinternal reforms and strengthen bilateral relations with the EU," LithuanianMinister of Foreign Affairs Petras VaitiekÅ«nas said.
Despite the overwhelming support, several NATO member statesare opposed to the expansion. U.S. President Bush is in favor of the move,while France and Germany are voicing their opposition, insistingthat the step would put stress on already strained relations with Russia.
Earlier today, Russian President Putin expressed hisunhappiness at NATO's eastward expansion plans.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called the expansion plan "agreat strategic error."
Russia'sambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rozogin, stated "I doubt very much that in less thana year Georgia can solve itsterritorial problems and Ukrainecan change the current proportion of NATO sympathizers,".
The request for NATO expansion to Georgia and Ukraine will be reviewed again in December 2008