SUBMITTED TO THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE **)
On behalf of the members of the Baltic American Freedom League, the Board of Directors respectfully request that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee support the membership of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in NATO and recommend their membership in NATO to the full Senate.
Since the Baltic countries regained their independence, Congress has supported the integration of the Baltic nations in western defense structures. In support, in 1994 Congress enacted the NATO Participation Act, in 1996 it passed the European Security Act, and in 2002, by an overwhelming vote, the Freedom Consolidations Act. In addition, last year the House of Representatives passed HCR 116 and HCR 468 recommending Baltic membership in NATO.
Congress has supported Baltic aspirations to join NATO by annually providing funding through FMF and IMET for the development of Baltic armed forces. For a decade, American military advisory teams have served in the Baltic countries training the Baltic military, and hundreds of Baltic soldiers of all ranks have graduated from U.S. military schools. Baltic military forces have participated in joint military exercises with NATO forces. Recent NATO inspection teams as well as visits by U.S. Congressional delegations have concluded that the Baltic countries are qualified for NATO membership.
In the short period since they regained their independence, the Baltic countries have developed strong and responsible democratic governments, viable free market economies and transparent and democratic armed forces. OSCE, the U.S. Department of State, and various international bodies have found that the Baltic countries respect and fully comply with international standards of civil and human rights.
The early fears that Russian opposition to Baltic membership in NATO would give rise to Russian nationalism and have a deleterious effect on U.S.—Russian relations have not materialized.Today, the Baltic countries participate in the Partnership for Peace program and Operation Enduring Freedom. Baltic troops are serving in the Balkans and Afghanistan.
The Baltic countries were one of the first to support U.S. action in Iraq, and they were the initiators of the Vilnius Ten declaration in support of the U.S., in spite of retaliation threatened by their larger neighbors France and Germany. All three Baltic countries are preparing to assist in reconstruction of a post Saddam Iraq.
The Baltic countries have demonstrated their willingness and capability to assume the responsibilities of NATO membership. They share our values and have proved to be loyal friends of the United States. As Americans of Baltic heritage, the Baltic American Freedom League is proud and confident to support Baltic membership into NATO. We hope that you will too.
We look forward to working with you to gain support for amending the Protocols to the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949 to include Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.**) A similar statement was presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee.