Baltic and Nordic Countries Call for More Active EU Policy Vis-à-vis Islamic States
Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports (6/19/03) that the three Baltic and three Nordic countries–Denmark, Finland and Sweden–have sent a letter to the European Commission President Romano Prodi and the Prime Minister of Greece, currently President of EU, calling on the EU to develop a model for cooperation with Islamic countries in building democracy in these states. The letter proposes that the EU together with the U.S. and the Arab League develop a framework similar to the OSCE aimed at promoting democratization and economic development in the Arab countries. The letter stresses the need for cooperation with the U.S. in this endeavor in order to achieve progress,” said Kristi Liiva, advisor to Estonia’s Prime Minister.
U.S. Chairman of U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Praises Baltic Military
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers while on a recent tour of the Baltic countries told Baltic leaders that quality is what matters to NATO. “Quality means a well-trained, well equipped and competent military,” said the General. He noted the “impressive progress that the Baltic countries have made over the past 12 years” and observed that the Balts are able to make a strong contribution to NATO when they become members of the alliance. Commenting on the mission of Baltic soldiers in Iraq, General Myers said they are doing a great job. He also noted that rebuilding of Iraq is a team effort, and that the U.S. cannot carry it out alone. He told Lithuania’s President Rolandas Paksas that the Lithuanian troops serving in Afghanistan “are carrying out their mission perfectly. The coalition forces serving in Afghanistan admire their work,” according to FRE/RL Baltic States Report (7/3/03).
Russia Wants to Sell Arms to the Baltic Countries
Interfax-Military News Agency reported on 5/22/03 that Andrey Belyaninov, the General Director of the Russian owned state arms trading company, has discussed Russian-Estonian military technical cooperation and arms sales with officials of the Estonian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense. A high ranking official in the Russian defense industry told Interfax that sales of Russian weapons and munitions to Estonia is probable, as well as cooperation in making Soviet and Russian made equipment now used by the Estonian military compatible with NATO standards. Mr. Belyaninov, said that the Russian defense industry has retooled to produce arms to NATO standards and is ready to sell arms to the Baltic countries as well as NATO countries.
Baltic and Georgian Defense Ministers Sign Cooperation Plan
According to the Latvian news agency LETA, on June 13 the Defense Ministers of the Baltic countries and the Minister of Defense of Georgia signed a cooperation plan for 2003-04. The Baltic countries pledged to help Georgia to reform its defense forces, to bring its military into line with NATO standards, to plan its defense policy, to establish civilian control over its armed forces and on military training issues.
Military Cooperation with Israel Considered
BNS reports (6/9/03) Lithuania’s Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius told reporters after a meeting with the chief of Israel’s Air Defense Forces Brigadier General Yair Dori in Vilnius June 9, that agreements on military cooperation and the protection of classified information between their countries are in the final states of preparation. General Dori is heading a delegation of 200 military officers on a two-day visit to Lithuania as part of the “Witnesses in Uniform” program of the Israeli Defense Ministry, to send troops to visit countries where Jewish communities were destroyed during the German Holocaust.
German Chancellor Lauds Estonia for Integration of Minorities
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder told Estonia’s President Arnold Ruutel in Berlin on June 18 that Estonia serves as an example for other countries on how to integrate ethnic minorities into their societies, BNS reported (6/19/03). The German Chancellor also stated that Germany backs Estonia’s membership in the EU and that relations between the two countries could not be better. Earlier in his visit President Ruutel stated at a conference on Partnership for Peace that cooperation with both the United States and Russia is necessary to ensure Estonia’s security. As a small country, Estonia is well aware of the need for collective security and realizes that terrorism is a global problem, said the Estonian President.
Denmark Ratifies EU Accession Treaty
Latvia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports (6/16/03) that on June 11 Denmark ratified the Accession Treaty with ten candidate countries including the Baltic countries. Denmark is the first among the 15 current members and the ten future member states to ratify the Accession Treaty. Germany’s Bundestag ratified the Accession Treaty on July 3, 2003 with 578 votes for, one against and four abstaining. The Bundesrat (upper house) will vote on the treaty on July 11 of this year. Most of the states are expected to ratify the treaty this fall. The new members are to join EU on May 1, 2004.
Poland wants Balts to Join Polish-German-Danish Corps
At a meeting of Polish, German and Danish Defense Ministers on June 24, Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski proposed that troops from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania join the German-Polish-Danish NATO corps stationed at the Polish port city of Szeczecin. The 49,000 soldier corps consists of one division each from Germany, Poland and Denmark. In peacetime, the three divisions are based in their home countries and remain under their respective national commands (RFE/RL Vol. 4/21 7/3/03)
Estonian Peacemakers Head to Iraq
A unit of Estonian troops arrived in Iraq in June to take part in the U.S. led operation, reports Baltic Times (7/3/03). The unit will conduct security and search operations while in Iraq. Earlier in the month, the Estonian government approved sending a 55 man unit to Kuwait. The Iraq and Kuwait Mission will cost Estonian taxpayers $1.5 million.
Latvia to Send Infantry Unit to Iraq to Assist U.S. War Effort
On June 17, Latvia’s Minister Cabinet approved a proposal to send an infantry unit to serve in Iraq, reports RFE/RL Rep. Vol.4/21 (7/3/03). The troops will arrive in Iraq in early August and will serve with the Polish multinational division. Their primary mission will be to ensure public order and security. A Latvian field engineer unit is currently serving with Danish troops in the northeastern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. The unit participates in land mine clearing operations and munitions destruction.
U.S. Congresspersons Propose Amendment to Help Prospective NATO Members
Representatives John Shimkus (R-IL), Doug Bereuter (R-NE) Duncan Hunter (R-CA), John Mica (R-FL) James Oberstar (D-MN) and Ike Skelton (D-MO) have introduced HR 2550 to amend the American Service Member Protection Act of 2002 allowing the six NATO candidate states de facto membership in NATO for purposes of the Act. This would mean that the six candidate states would not be required to sign an immunity agreement for the interim period prior to becoming members in 2004. A similar bill, S. 1317, has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR), Richard Durbin (D-IL) and the Ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph Biden (D-DE). So far the White House has not commented on the two bills. The bills are supported by American Eastern and Central European communities.
U.S. Suspends Military Assistance Funding to Prospective NATO Members
The U.S. has suspended $50 million in military assistance to 35 nations, including six prospective NATO members, that have not signed a bilateral immunity accord exempting U.S. nationals from prosecution by the new International Criminal Court (ICC), reports Washington Post (1/7/03), LA Times and RFE/RL (2/7/03). Under U.S. law, President George W. Bush has the power to waive the suspension of military aid to any country of his choosing. Yet, the President decided to suspend aid for six of America’s strongest allies in Central and Eastern Europe. All six, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia ignored EU objections this year by strongly supporting the U.S. war in Iraq. The EU, particularly France and Germany, has strongly urged the six countries not to sign exemption deals with America. Twenty-two other nations—in addition to NATO members and “major” non-NATO allies—are exempted from the sanctions because they have signed immunity deals or because a waiver was in Washington’s interests. Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Tajikistan were exempted, but are not America’s future NATO allies.Rolandas Kacinskas, a press officer with the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington, stated “Of course we were expecting—knowing that we are good allies of the United States and having participated in the war against terrorism—that the President of the United States would waive the cut-off of assistance.” Rihards Mucins, Latvia’s charge d’affaires in Washington, said the six countries will remain third party victims unless Brussels and Washington can find a way to agree.Baltic American community leaders are appealing to President Bush to reconsider his decision and grant a waiver to the Baltic countries.