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19 June 2002

Decision on NATO Aspirants Will Come Late, State Dept. Official Says

(Bradtke, Ralston, Brzezinski testify before House panel) (780)
By Ralph Dannheisser
Washington File Congressional Correspondent
Washington -- The United States and its NATO partners are unlikely to
decide which of nine new applicants will be selected to join the
alliance until shortly before the Prague Summit in November, a State
Department official told a House International Relations subcommittee
June 19.
All nine aspirants need to make more progress in a range of critical
areas, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian
Affairs Robert Bradtke told the panel, and so the Bush administration
wants to give them "as much time as possible to prepare themselves and
make their cases for an invitation."
"This is also the reason why the administration has resisted the
'naming of names' of the countries we think will be invited, or expect
to support. We believe that all nine aspirants should receive fair and
careful consideration," Bradtke said. "We want to see the candidate
countries work together, as they have in the Vilnius-10, and not
compete or engage in some kind of beauty contest."
Nine countries -- Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania,
Slovenia, Bulgaria, Albania and Macedonia -- are seeking to join the
19 current NATO members.
The ambassadors of three of those -- Bulgaria, Slovenia and Latvia --
along with representatives of the Albanian military, were in the
audience as the House panel heard from Bradtke; Air Force General
Joseph Ralston, commander-in-chief of the U.S. European Command, and
Ian Brzezinski, deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and
NATO affairs.
Bradtke reported that all the would-be members have made "real
progress ... in addressing difficult and sensitive issues." All of
them are "working hard to consolidate democracy and the rule of law,
to strengthen judicial systems, to promote good relations with
neighboring countries, to improve the treatment of minorities, and to
privatize state enterprises," as well as taking steps to reform and
restructure their military and defense establishments, he said.
But further steps are needed in the areas of fighting corruption, the
treatment of minorities and of the political opposition, property
restitution and public education with regard to the Holocaust, and
public support for NATO, Bradtke added.
Ralston, in an opening statement submitted for the record, said that
the successful integration of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic
into NATO starting in 1997 "indicates further enlargement can be
successfully managed, given the needed resources."
With respect to new potential members, he observed, "it is important
to consider the potential cost of not enlarging."
"The aspirant nations have put forth a strong effort in good faith
toward becoming members, and have taken political positions in support
of the alliance in recent conflicts," Ralston said. "Their elected
officials have made membership an important part of their public
agenda and sought to increase public support for NATO."
And from the military standpoint which is his primary focus, "we
should continue to foster and promote the outstanding cooperation and
support we have enjoyed in terms of troop contributions to ongoing
operations and the use of infrastructure and transit rights," the
general said.
Going beyond the question of enlargement to address the rationale for
NATO's existence, the Defense Department's Brzezinski said its
integrated military forces remain "the essence of the alliance's core
mission."
In that context, he said, the so-called capabilities gap between the
United States and its European and Canadian allies continues to grow.
"If this divergence is not reversed," he warned, "it will increasingly
impede the allies' ability to operate with U.S. forces and will,
ultimately, weaken the alliance's political cohesion."
"So our first goal at Prague (at the November summit session) must be
to begin to remedy the capability deficiencies within NATO,"
Brzezinski said. Correcting these disparities will depend not only on
augmenting military hardware but also on how NATO structures and
commands its forces, he said.
Again without predicting the final outcome of enlargement
deliberations, Brzezinski appeared to suggest that many of the
aspirants are receiving favorable consideration at this stage. He
ticked off a list of contributions that he said each of them had made
to NATO operations in the Balkans and to the war on terrorism, and
declared that "through such concrete actions ...(they) have conducted
themselves as de facto allies.
"Not only have they demonstrated the military capability to add
positively to NATO operations, they have demonstrated the political
will to accept the risks and responsibilities of NATO missions,"
Brzezinski said.
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)



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