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NATO Grows, Shifts Focus to Terrorism

The alliance invites seven nations to join, expanding its reach beyond old Soviet borders. Its leaders issue a warning to Iraq.

November 22, 2002|David Holley | Times Staff Writer

PRAGUE, Czech Republic — NATO leaders approved a historic expansion Thursday that will take the alliance beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union and, moving even further from the old Cold War posture, endorsed a shift in emphasis toward fighting terrorism.

In what Bush administration officials saw as an important diplomatic success, the leaders also warned Iraq to give up all weapons of mass destruction, approving a statement demanding that Iraq "comply fully and immediately" with disarmament demands in a recent U.N. resolution.

"A deadly cocktail of threats is now menacing free societies," NATO Secretary-General George Robertson declared in opening the summit. "Terrorists and their backers, the failed states in which they flourish and proliferating weapons of mass destruction pose a genuine threat.... A transformed and modernized alliance is at the very heart of the free world's response."

The 19-nation alliance issued membership invitations to seven formerly Communist-ruled countries, including the three Baltic states, which once were part of the Soviet Union, the enemy that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed to stand against.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday November 23, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 12 inches; 439 words Type of Material: Correction
NATO members -- In a map on NATO's new members in Friday's Section A, the Kaliningrad enclave between Poland and Lithuania was white, indicating it is a current NATO member. Kaliningrad is Russian territory and should have been gray, indicating it is not a NATO member.

The NATO leaders pledged Thursday to build more mobile and high-tech forces, and streamline command structures, to cope with new threats wherever they arise. They also stressed that enlargement is meant to consolidate democracy and stability in Europe, not threaten Russia.

"By welcoming seven members, we will not only add to our military capabilities, we will refresh the spirit of this great democratic alliance," President Bush said. "We believe today's decision reaffirms our commitment to freedom and our commitment to a Europe which is whole and free and at peace."

The leaders' statement on Iraq set the stage for members to contribute to a U.S.-led war effort if Baghdad flouts the U.N. demands but stopped far short of pledging NATO to fight as an alliance.

The Baltic nations of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania were invited to join, as were Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. They are due to join by May 2004, after their parliaments and those of current members ratify the enlargement.

"It will be no exaggeration to compare today's decision on the enlargement of NATO with the fall of the Berlin Wall," Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov said.

Enlargement marks a "historic moment when Europe is finally reunited, and when Europe and North America reassert the inseparable nature of their security," French President Jacques Chirac said.

Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security advisor, described the meeting to reporters as "the most historic summit since NATO's founding in 1949."

"As we sit here today to celebrate the spread of freedom across this European continent, we should not forget that there are people in the world who still live in tyranny and despotism, and, of course, the people of Iraq are among those people," she added.

The invitees' leaders expressed joy that their nations would no longer feel shunned by the continent's richer and more established democracies.

"Finally, we are not the unwanted child of Europe, a country on the periphery," Romanian President Ion Iliescu told reporters Thursday. "Now we are calm and happy."

The incoming members celebrated joining what they see as not just the world's premier security organization but also a kind of elite club that provides a stamp of democratic legitimacy and promotes full integration in Western economic and political life.

Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga said her nation does not want to be "left out in the outer darkness."

"Latvia lost its independence for a very long time, and it knows the meaning of liberty and the loss of it," she told the NATO leaders. "Being invited to an alliance that ensures our security is a momentous occasion in the history of Latvia. This is a great day for Latvia.

"I hope that this step will be a reminder to those forces in Russia who may still think in terms of the former Soviet empire that those days are gone."

But Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus offered reassuring words to Moscow, which has watched unhappily as NATO expanded first to Russia's borders, with the 1999 inclusion of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, and now beyond the old Soviet frontier. "This is not a Cold War NATO," Adamkus said, stressing that he believes Russia wishes to integrate peacefully with Europe.

Moscow, while not pleased about NATO expansion, has muted its criticism for a variety of reasons, ranging from acceptance of the inevitable to a belief that Russia's future lies in cooperation, not confrontation, with the rest of Europe.

"The remarkable thing about this is that it has been done in a framework that allowed not just the entry of the seven new states into NATO, but the reconciliation of NATO with Russia in the new Russia-NATO Council," Rice said. The council -- a consultative body on issues such as counter-terrorism, peacekeeping and missile defense -- was set up in May.

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