Germany sheds light on NATO expansion

  • 2001-11-08
  • Jorgen Johansson
RIGA - German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping refused to disclose how Germany will vote on NATO expansion at the Prague summit next year. But he did say that the global war against terrorism would not get in the way of expanding the alliance. Scharping left Latvia on his three-day tour of the Baltic states Nov. 2.

"Germany will not mention any candidate countries. We want a broad understanding of all candidate states. We will not make any decision until countries have concluded the third stage of NATO's Membership Action Plan," he said.

No third party should try to influence the German vote on expanding the alliance, he said. "NATO is a political institution and a military alliance, not a social club."

The Baltic states should not be evaluated as individual countries but together, he went on. "We look upon the Baltic states as a region and evaluate the countries as a region."

Latvia's armed forces commander Raimonds Graube told The Baltic Times that Germany's vote and support for NATO expansion were vital for Latvia.

"Germany has a great influence on security policies and economic decisions in Europe," he said. "It is a security pillar in Europe."

Like other officials before him, the German minister stated that each of the Baltic states has made advancements on certain key issues.

"Latvia, just like its neighbors, has made good progress, and this is a good sign. But there is still a lot to be done."

But Scharping chose to elaborate on the subject, saying there has been good progress on the countries' interoperative capabilities, the new buzz word on NATO expansion.

"Latvia has made advancements in key capabilities such as education, command and control systems and communication systems," the minister said. "This proves there is a strong effort to reach a level of interoperative capabilities, which must be guaranteed."

There have been varying ideas circulating about how Germany will decide to vote on the NATO expansion issue, but Scharping said the German Parliament stood united.

"German political parties basically share the same view on NATO expansion, except for the former Communist party, which is not only against expanding the alliance but against the organization completely," he said.

Scharping met with several top Latvian officials, including his Latvian counterpart Girts Valdis Kristovskis, with whom he discussed Latvian and Estonian plans to set up three-dimensional airspace radar units.

Kristovskis said Latvia would only be carrying out NATO requirements for airspace surveillance, and that after joining the alliance the Latvian radar would be hooked up to the joint NATO system.

Still, Latvia does not have an air force capable of striking back at an invasion of its airspace. Scharping said, however, that it was not important for countries to have every means of defense, just so long as the internal systems were compatible with those used by NATO.