- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Historic day for NATO

Donald H. Rumsfeld remembers that when he was appointed U.S. ambassador to NATO in 1972, the alliance had 15 members and the Cold War was raging.

Now secretary of defense, Mr. Rumsfeld recalled his earlier service as he stood with prime ministers from seven former communist nations celebrating their admission to the Western military alliance. Their inclusion boosted the membership to 26 and expanded NATO’s eastern boundary to a solid border with Russia from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

“When I was ambassador to NATO, the nations here tonight were trapped behind the Iron Curtain. Now here we are, and it shows how much the world has changed,” he said, smiling at the political leaders and their foreign and defense ministers crowded onto the massive marble staircase in the grand hall of Washington’s Corcoran Gallery of Art at a reception Monday evening.

Mr. Rumsfeld noted that most of the nations have troops in Afghanistan or Iraq.

“Each has contributed significantly in the war on terrorism,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the prime ministers of the new member states told reporters about their pride and gratitude on the historic day. The leaders of three other countries that have applied for membership spoke of their hope for another round of expansion.

“Today, history has been made,” Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said in the news conference at the National Press Club. “For my country, the Cold War is indeed over today.”

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas called the latest expansion of the alliance a “decisive step toward creating a Europe whole and free.”

“We join the family of countries with common values of freedom, human rights and the rule of law,” said Slovenian Prime Minister Anton Rop.

Latvian Prime Minister Indulis Emsis expressed a common sentiment when he thanked the United States for its support “during all those long years of Soviet occupation” and domination.

NATO membership comes with responsibilities, Estonian Prime Minister Juhan Parts added.

“We understand that membership in NATO is not a one-way street,” he said.

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda of Slovakia added that the new members know what is at stake in the war on terrorism.

“We understand … that it is impossible to negotiate with terrorists, to try to look for compromise,” he said. “It is possible to win this fight.”

Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha predicted that the former enemies’ coming together under the NATO umbrella will show the rest of the world that “there are other ways to settle injustices or problems that come through history” besides armed conflict.

Prime Ministers Branko Crvenkovski of Macedonia, Fatos Nano of Albania and Ivo Sanader of Croatia said their countries are working hard to qualify for NATO membership.

“We now are making the hard decisions and actions to institute democracy, rule of law and a free-market economy,” Mr. Nano said.

Praise for Canada

The U.S. ambassador to Canada this week heaped more praise on Canadian efforts to keep terrorists from crossing the border into the United States.

Canada has made the border “open to trade, but closed to terrorism,” Ambassador Paul Cellucci said at a meeting of U.S. and Canadian officials in Montreal on Monday.

“This has been a great accomplishment for both Canada and the United States that we have a border that is much more secure than it was on September 11, 2001,” he said.

Canada last week pledged to spend an additional $454 million in the next five years to combat terrorism. The new prime minister, Paul Martin, also has promised to repair damage done to Canadian-U.S. relations under his predecessor, Jean Chretien.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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