Monday, March 29, 2004

# Posted 11:30 AM by Patrick Belton  

NATO TURNS 26 TODAY: The Baltic republics of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia and the south-east European republics of Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia will officially join the alliance today, as their governments deposit their instruments of accession in a ceremony at the White House.

Albania and Macedonia had participated in the Membership Action Plan but were not extended invitations at the Prague Summit in November 2002, because of concern their militaries could not contribute to peacekeeping and collective defence missions (though they are potentially capable of such specialised functions as transport and medical care).

Each of the successful candidates had quite strong sponsors among the allies. Hungary has urged Slovenia's accession since it would allow Hungary to be contiguous with the Nato nations. Slovakia's candidacy was helped by the victory of reformists in September 2002 elections. Poland was a strong supporter of membership for the Baltic states; their governments also excelled particularly in meeting the MAP requirements. Italy, Greece, and Turkey supported Bulgarian and Romanian entry as assisting in Nato's stability missions in the Balkans; critics have argued that both nations continue to have corrupt civilian government and outdated militaries.

Within Russia, the Duma and the military and intelligence services are strongly opposed to enlargement, but Putin seems to view it as part of a trade-off for acquiescence in Russia's operations in Chechnya, as well as a means toward protecting Russian ethnic minorities in Estonia and Latvia. (Nato and EU regulations both have strictures regarding the treatment of ethnic minorities.)

Amendment of the North Atlantic Treaty to admit new members requires action by each ally in accordance with its constitutional processes for adoption of a treaty. Each of the 19 prior members approved the amendment after the close of accession negotiations on 26 March, 2003, the U.S. doing so by two-thirds vote in the Senate. (The advice and consent motion passed by a 85-6 vote, on May 17, 2003).
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