U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee passes NATO expansion bill

RIA Novosti Press
February 15, 2007

WASHINGTON, – The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs approved a draft document Thursday promoting future NATO expansion eastward. According to the draft, the NATO Freedom Consolidation Act of 2007 reaffirms U.S. support for the continued enlargement of NATO to democracies able and willing to meet the responsibilities of membership.

The draft legislation calls for the timely admission of Albania, Croatia, Georgia and Macedonia to NATO, and authorizes security assistance to those countries and Ukraine in fiscal 2008.

The bill also affirms U.S. readiness to consider, and if all applicable criteria are satisfied, to support efforts by Ukraine to join NATO, if Ukraine declares its willingness to meet the responsibilities of membership in the alliance.

The committee has forwarded the draft document to the House of Representatives for further approval.

Both Georgia and Ukraine have long announced their plans to pursue integration with NATO, but the Russian leadership has repeatedly voiced concern over NATO’s ongoing eastward expansion.

As well as being uneasy about the opening of NATO bases on the territory of Russia’s former Soviet allies in the Baltic Region and Central Asia, Moscow strongly opposes efforts by Georgia and Ukraine to join the Western military alliance, saying the prospect threatens the security of the Russian Federation.

Addressing the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin said NATO’s eastward expansion is affecting Russia’s relationship with the North Atlantic alliance and has nothing to do with modernizing the military bloc.

“It is evident that the process of NATO expansion has nothing to do with modernizing the alliance or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it is seriously eroding mutual trust,” the Russian leader said.

Putin said NATO’s expansion toward Russia’s borders has nothing to do with countering global threats, specifically terrorism.

“Why do they have to move their military infrastructure closer to our borders?” he said. “Is this connected with overcoming global threats today?”

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, 10 Eastern European countries – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia – have formally signed up to the North Atlantic Treaty, and become members of the organization.

At present, three countries – Albania, Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – are part of NATO’s Membership Action Plan, a program designed to provide support for countries wishing to join the alliance.

Ukraine and Georgia are not yet part of the Membership Action Plan.