- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 23, 2002

PRAGUE Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld called on NATO's prospective new members yesterday to protect the alliance's military secrets, as the seven ex-communist nations prepared for a tough ratification period before they are accepted into the exclusive club of Western nations.
Mr. Rumsfeld, on his way from a two-day NATO summit in Prague to Bratislava, the capital of one of the invited countries, Slovakia, told reporters the future members would bring "energy, enthusiasm and value" to the alliance.
But we warned that, those nations, which also include Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania and Slovenia, "have to manage their affairs in a way that they can manage classified information."
The secretary noted that the newcomers did not have big militaries, but they could supply "niche" capabilities, such as special forces and expertise in chemical and biological warfare.
"The [training] program that NATO has established is a rigorous one," he said. "Most of them are embarked on a rather substantial program of reforming their militaries. One element of that is structures and procedures and regulations and checks to make sure that you have the best possible way of managing your affairs, so that what ought to be kept private is kept private."
On the second day of their summit, NATO leaders met yesterday with top officials from countries that do not belong to the alliance but are its partners. Those states from Ireland to Finland to nations in the Caucasus and Central Asia promised to assist the allies in the fight against terrorism and other modern-day ills.
One senior NATO diplomat called the Central Asian former Soviet republics the alliance's "next frontier." He said that developing ties with them over the next 10 to 15 years would be a new priority following the organization's expansion into Central and Eastern Europe.
"We have to be bold," said NATO Secretary-General George Robertson. "We have to look beyond traditional roles and infuse the whole process with new substance."
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma provided an element of drama yesterday by showing up, uninvited, at the summit hall yesterday.
With the seating by country in alphabetical order, Mr. Kuchma would have taken Ukraine's place next to President Bush of the United States and Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom.
But with Mr. Kuchma a pariah for human rights abuses as well as his nation's arms sales to Iraq organizers sought to keep him as far away from the American president and the British prime minister as possible.
They deftly accomplished the task by adopting the French alphabet, putting a comfortable distance between Mr. Bush of the Etats-Unis and Mr. Blair of the Royaume-Uni.
In another surprise, two young Russian protesters shouted, "NATO is worse than the Gestapo," and threw a tomato at Mr. Robertson as he wrapped up a final press conference.
The Russians missed their one toss before security guards hustled them away.

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