United States promotes NATO enlargement

  • 2000-12-07
  • Ilze Arklina
RIGA - Shortly before U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen's visit to Europe, the Pentagon has published a security policy report, expressing support for the Baltic states' movement towards NATO.

The report, called "Strengthening Trans-Atlantic Security: The United States' Strategy in the 21st Century," expresses support for the movement of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania towards NATO but does not predict when NATO enlargement will take place. The document states that it's unclear as of yet when NATO member countries could reach an agreement on enlargement.

"The U.S.A. supports the efforts of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to join NATO, and our efforts will be geared to help each of these countries become as strong a candidate as possible," the document says. "It is difficult to predict when a consensus will be reached within the Alliance to invite one or more of the Baltic states or other partners to join. This ultimately will depend upon their respective efforts to prepare for the burdens and responsibilities of membership," the U.S. military said. "One point of particular importance to the Baltic states, among the principles regarding enlargement adopted at the Washington summit and reflected in the U.S.A.-Baltics charter of partnership is clear: no non-NATO country will have a veto over Alliance decisions," the document states.

A Latvian Foreign Ministry expert said that this document, released just a couple of days before the new U.S. president is to be officially named, is nothing more than "a catalogue of options for the new administration."

"It is not a political document, it's rather a draft paper giving various options for NATO enlargement," the expert noted.

The document refers to the Baltic states' progress as "encouraging." "Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have become solid democracies with promising market-oriented economies, which have made them viable candidates for admission to the EU." In addition, the Baltic states have demonstrated their commitment to promoting stability and security in Northeast Europe and beyond in several ways: through national effort, by building their defense literally from scratch, by developing regional cooperation and forming several joint military units such as the Baltic Battalion, the Baltic Naval Squadron, the Baltic Regional Airspace Surveillance Coordination Center and the Joint Baltic Defense College, as well as by their activities related to the partnership for peace program.

In the document the United States voices its commitment to extending assistance to the Baltic states on the path to NATO so they become member countries. The report also stresses the special relations of the United States with Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia taking into account the U.S.-Baltic states charter signed in 1998.

"The charter highlights our shared goal of "the full integration of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into European and trans-Atlantic political, security and defense institutions," the document says.