Danish Minister of Defense: “Baltic Counties Are Ready for Membership In NATO”
Military reforms by the Baltic states are sufficient to earn them invitations to join NATO at the Alliance’s summit in November stated Danish Minister of Defense Svend Jensby at a press conference in Riga, reports AFP (9/18). It is our main goal in Denmark to have an ambitious enlargement, first of all with the three Baltic countries,” declared the Minister. He did not rule out Baltic participation in Central Asia in future support of western military operations in Afghanistan. The Danish plan to deploy Baltic engineers and other specialists in Kyrgyztan wa aborted earlier this year due to opposition by the Central Asian state.
Baltic Officers Posted at NATO Regional Headquarters
Baltic liason officers will be posted at the joint German, Olish, and Danish corps regional headquarters recently set up in Szczecin, Poland. his will provide the Baltic officers with the experience in daily operations of army corps as well as an opportunity to participate in planning regional NATO excercises.
President Bush’s Trade Representative Says “Invest in Lithuania”
Grant Aldonas, US Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade, speaking before executives from biotech, consumer product, pharmaceutical and building material companies in Vilnius declared “our goal is to extend the traditional ties between Lithuania and the United States in terms of trade and investment,” reports the U.S.-Baltic Foundation (10/8/02).
Latvian Government Submits Proposal for Cross-Border Cooperation to Russia
In an effort to further improve cooperation and contacts between cross-border communities, the Latvian government submitted a draft proposal on cross-border cooperation to the Russian government reports Latvia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (9/24/02). According to the MFA, good relations and cooperation between the Latvian and Russian municipalities have already developed and are making a positive contribution to the overall development of relations between the two countries. What is needed next to further expand the relations is a legal framework for such cooperation, explained the Foreign Ministry’s spokeperson.
Russian Warships Visit Lithuanian Port
Two Russian warships visited Lithuania’s port of Klaipeda for five days during September reports Lithuania’s Ministry of Defense. The visit was a first since Lithuania regained its independence. The purpose of the visit was to develop better relations between the armed forces of the two countries. Visits to museums, sport events and other activities were arranged for the Russian sailors.
Nato Logistics Excercise in Estonia
A week long high level NATO logistics excercise organized by NATO’s South Atlnatic Command Headquarters based in Norfolk, Virginia was conducted in Estonia during October, according to BNS (10/9/02). The purpose of the excercise was to familiarize NATO and partner nations with NATO procedures for multinational joint operations. Over 150 officers from 26 countries including the Baltic nations participated. It was the first such high level excercise and took a year and a half of planning.
Lithuania to Send Troops to Afghanistan
According to AFP (10/1/02), the Lithuanina parliament agreed to send a military intelligence unit of approximately 40 soldiers to Afghanistan to participate in the US led operations against Taliban and Al Queda forces. The unit will remain in Afghanistan for six months, Lithuanian troops have participated in peacekeeping operations since 1994.
Jewish Survivors of Latvia Endorses Latvia’s Membership in NATO
BNS reports (9/18/02) that in a letter to the ambassadors to the United Nations of the 19 NATO member states, the President of the US based organization Jewish Survivors of Latvia, Steven Springfield, has expressed his organization’s support for Latvia’s entry into NATO. In his Sept. 4 letter, Mr. Springfield emphasizes that the government of Latvia and its President have cooperated fully with the Jewish community in Latvia to make the country a hospitable place for Jews to live. The letter also points out the sincere efforts that the government is making “to confront events that transpired in Latvia during the Holocaust.” Recently the Simon Wiesenthal Center welcomed the cancellation of the rehabilitations granted to two Latvian Nazi war criminals by the Latvian authorities.
Senator Robert Bennett and Four California Representatives Join the Baltic Caucus
Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT), who visited Latvia in July to attend the Summit of NATO Aspirant Countries, announced that he has joined the Senate Baltic Caucus. Joining the House Baltic Caucus during the past months were the Chairman of the House of Rules Committee David Dreier (R-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA). All three visited the Baltic countries this summer. Another House member joining the Caucus was Brad Sherman (D-CA), the Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Europe. The altic Caucuses are comprised of Senate and House members with and interest in promoting good US relations with the Baltic nations and in helping them to develop as healthy and vigorous democracies and strong, loyal friends of the United States. The Senate Baltic Caucus has eleven members and the House 76 members.
The Baltic Countries to join European Union in 2004
According to Paul Meller of The New York Times (10/11/02), the EU took a significant step toward unifying Europe when its executive body announced that 10 countries including the Baltic republics are set to join the EU in 2004. The European Commission said that negotiations with the ten candidate countries should be completed by the end of 2002. The countirs are Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus.
Latvia’s MP Calls for Europe to Stand Next to US on Iraq
BNS reports (9/26/02) that Latvian parliamentarian Vaira Paegle urged the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to back the US in case of war with Iraq. “Support your partner in democracy, the United States of America. Even if it means sacrificing part of our prosperity and complacency, so be it. If it means sacrificing some of our economic interests, so be it. If that means committing our military to action…so be it,” stated Paegle during the Assembly’s debate on Iraq. The Assembly adopted a resolution opposing unilateral action by U.S., and called on Baghdad to fully cooperate with UN inspectors.
Washington Post: “NATO Ready to Admit Seven Eastern Bloc Countries”
“After months of intense but virtually unnoticed diplomacy, the NATO alliance is set to invite seven easternEauropean countries to be new members,” writes Robert Kaiser in the Washington Post (9/25/02). Invitations would be issued to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia according to U.S. and European officials writes Kaiser. The consensus of the enlargement reflects the consequences of the September 11 attack on the US, a concerted effort by the administration, and softening of Russia’s opposition to Baltic membership. Enlarging NATO would expand the area of democeracy, free markets and stability in Europe, and would provide the US staunch new supporters inside the alliance, notes Kaiser.
President George Bush to Meet Baltic Leaders in Lithuania after Prague Summit
AFT reports (10/14/02) that President George W. Bush is scheduled to visit Lithuania to meet Baltic leaders after the Nato summit in Prague, the clearest sign yet that the three Baltic republics will be invited to join NATO. The news of the trip was confirmed by M. Boyle, the public affairs officer of the US Embassy in Lithuania. It would be President Bush’s first visit to Lithuania. Former President Clinton visited Latvia in the mid-1990’s. The US is expected to announce in early November the countries to be nominated to join NATO. On a recent trip to the Baltics, the US Ambassador to NATO, Nicholas Burns, qualified the three countries as “serious” candidates for NATO membership.
“A One, Two Punch for Baltic Membership in NATO”
On October 7, 2002, the U.S. House of Representatives approved resolutions HCR 116 and H.Res. 468 reaffirming US support for Baltic membership in NATO. HCR 116, sponsored by John Shimkus (R-IL) and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), calls for extending an invitation to the Baltic countries to join NATO at the Prague Summit contingent on completion of the Membership Action Plan. The resolution was adopted by an overwhelming voice vote. H.Res. 468, introduced by the Chairman of the House SAubcommittee on Europe, Elton Gallegly, noted that the seven candidate states including the Baltic countries “have met in satisfactory manner the criteria established by NATO…and should be invited to start accession process.” The vote was 358 to 9, with one abstetion. Sixty-three members did not vote. Valdis Pavlovskis, President of the Baltic American Freedom League, ststed that the House is not only behind the Baltic countries, but also in front of them. It’s a one, two punch for Baltic membership in NATO.”