Rising tide may float Latvia's boat to NATO

  • 2000-07-06
  • By Ieva Raubishko
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Latvian Defense Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis
said he had received many positive signals about extending
simultaneous invitation to NATO candidates to join the alliance by

The opinion that supported gradual expansion of the alliance by
inviting small groups of countries has changed, Mr. Kristovskis told
The Baltic Times last week after several high-level meetings in

"Vilnius initiative [where the nine NATO aspirants expressed the wish
to be invited to the alliance together] has been welcomed by U.S.
senators and many officials involved in security policy issues," the
minister said. "The ability of the candidate countries to work
together has been appreciated here."

Aides of both U.S. presidential candidates seem to approve of a
widened NATO enlargement, said Kristovskis, who met with security
advisors to George W. Bush and Al Gore. "There is a clear
understanding of the necessity not to divide Eastern Europe in
several sectors, but to form a united region. One of the arguments is
that, instead of dealing with small countries with the population of
2 to 3 million, there is a possibility to unite a region of 54
million people."

Mr. Kristovskis, who took part in the Washington Conference of the
Western European Union Transatlantic Forum, stressed thatx the close
cooperation between the NATO candidates creates stronger
preconditions for these countries to enter NATO together. All the
countries are interested to continue the existing military
cooperation projects, he said. If only a couple of the countries are
invited to NATO, that will create a need to re-structure current
cooperation initiatives.

Kristovskis' opinion was echoed by Lithuanian Defense Minister
Ceslovas Stankevicius at a recent Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty
briefing. Mr. Stankevicius said the cooperation among the Big Bang
[Vilnius initiative] countries had reached the point where it was
unlikely that NATO would fail to consider them together, RFE/RL

The defense ministers of the nine NATO candidate countries will meet
again to discuss the common policy towards NATO in October 2000, in
Sofia, Bulgaria.