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NATO Enlargement and the Transformation of the Alliance

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. President, today we begin consideration of an amendment to the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949 to admit to NATO seven new members - Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. If we approve this legislation - as I hope we will - it will mark an important step in the strategic transformation of the Alliance to respond to a new security environment.

I would like to discuss the history of this strategic transformation and then to examine the qualifications of each of the seven candidate countries.

Mr. President, the process of transforming the Alliance actually began shortly after the collapse of communism in Europe in 1989. The first major change in the post-Cold War NATO was an absolutely critical event that is all-but-forgotten today: the accession to NATO, without fanfare, of the former East Germany when it reunited with the Federal Republic of Germany on October 3, 1990.

The following year, in June 1991, the Warsaw Pact disbanded, and in December 1991, the Soviet Union dissolved.
At the Madrid Summit in July 1997, NATO invited three countries from the former Warsaw Pact - Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary - to enter into final accession negotiations with the Alliance.

Mr. President, I might say a word about the care with which this body scrutinized that round of NATO enlargement. The Committee on Foreign Relations alone held a dozen detailed hearings and published a 550-page book containing hearing transcripts, policy analyses, a detailed trip report, and other documents. Other committees also held hearings on enlargement.

Then, during March and April of 1998, came seven full days of intense debate on ratification here on the floor. I had the privilege of being floor manager for the ratification, which was approved by a 80-19 vote on the evening of April 30, 1998. Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic formally joined NATO on March 12, 1999. Less than two weeks later, the Allied air war was launched against Serbian aggression in Kosovo.

The events of the 1990s, and the increasing instability in the Middle East and Central Asia, led my farsighted colleagues Senator Lugar and former Senator Nunn to the memorable conclusion that the NATO Alliance had to "go out of area, or out of business."

Still, most analysts remained skeptical. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, dispatched any remaining doubts about the nature of the threats we now face. The unanimous decision on the following day by the NATO Allies to invoke Article 5 for the first time in NATO's history confirmed the vitality of NATO's collective defense principle.

At the NATO Ministerial Meeting in Reykjavik in May 2002, the Allies agreed that in order to meet security threats, NATO needed forces that could be deployed quickly to wherever they are needed and sustained over time to complete their mission. This agreement effectively settled, at least conceptually, the "out-of-area" debate. Meanwhile, in Brussels and among NATO members a discussion had begun on the merits of a so-called "Big Bang" next round of enlargement to give meaning and force to the new missions ahead. Recognizing that potential members in Central and Eastern Europe would individually require years to reach all of the military standards of NATO, members began to view their entrance as a regional grouping as politically and geographically strategic.

Initially, I had been skeptical of this perspective and concerned about the abilities of these countries to contribute to the Alliance. But the determined response of these countries to the war against terrorism, their participation in SFOR and KFOR peacekeeping in the Balkans, their participation in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and the progress they have all made on their NATO Membership Action Plans - - the so-called "MAPs" - - convinced me that all seven of these countries would serve us well as formal allies. I declared my support for all seven in an article I wrote for the Los Angeles Times on September 1, 2002.

The crucial turning point in defining new tasks for the Alliance occurred at Prague in November 2002 at NATO's so-called "Transformation Summit." Prague crystallized the debate over NATO's new missions, new capabilities, and new members, and it afforded members the opportunity to set forth a strategic agenda for a revitalized NATO. Among the accomplishments at Prague, the Alliance agreed to the Prague Capabilities Commitment (PCC). The PCC replaced the overly ambitious and broad Defense Capabilities Initiative (DCI) of 1999 with a more concrete framework for force modernization and adaptation, including the acquisition of equipment and technology through consortia of members and the development by individual countries of so-called "niche" capabilities, which I will describe in my discussion of the candidates for membership.

NATO also adopted an American proposal to develop a NATO Response Force (NRF), a high-readiness, mobile combat unit that would allow NATO to go out-of-area to meet threats where they arise.

Finally, the Alliance invited the seven countries whose qualifications we are considering today to begin final negotiations with the Alliance on joining as full members. NATO issued the invitation knowing that the militaries of most of the seven candidate countries would not greatly enhance the war-fighting ability of the Alliance, at least in the short-term. Taken together, however, they will measurably increase NATO's military potential. The seven invited countries will add 220,000 active duty troops to the Alliance immediately, or about 175,000 by the end of the decade, once current reform and restructuring of forces are completed in Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. This represents a six percent overall increase in NATO military forces.

This round of enlargement will also yield strategic infrastructure benefits. The membership of the seven countries will increase the number of airfields with long runways available to the Alliance by six percent (and the number available in Europe by 13 percent). Airfields and ports in these countries also factor into the Pentagon's initial plans to reshuffle its forces in Europe, including possibly building U.S. bases at the Sarafovo airfield in Bulgaria and the nearby Black Sea port of Burgas, as well as at the Romanian air base of Mihail Kogalniceanu and the Black Sea port of Constanta. In addition, Romania has unmanned aerial vehicles and C-130 lift capability, while Slovakia has air-to-ground training ranges.

Moreover, enlargement will add important, so-called "niche" capabilities to NATO's array of professional forces, several of which could be directly applicable to future out-of-area missions. These specialized capabilities include Bulgarian and Slovak anti-nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons teams; Slovenian de-mining units; Romanian elite forces and mountain troops; Lithuanian special forces and medics; Estonian explosive detection teams; Latvian explosive ordinance destruction specialists, including underwater demolition; and a joint Baltic Sea air surveillance network. And while their forces may be small in number, the seven invited countries have shown no hesitancy in deploying their uniformed men and women in the Balkans, in Afghanistan, and in some cases, in the Middle East, as coalition operations have required.

In February of this year Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined NATO candidates Albania, Croatia, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as the so-called "Vilnius Ten," in bravely standing with the United States and its coalition partners in declaring the importance of the transatlantic relationship and calling for action by the international community in response to the clear and growing danger posed by Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. Mr. President, a short excerpt from their declaration demonstrates the vigorous spirit these nations will bring to NATO:

"Our countries understand the dangers posed by tyranny and the special responsibility of democracies to defend our shared values. The trans-Atlantic community, of which we are a part, must stand together to face the threat posed by the nexus of terrorism and dictators with weapons of mass destruction."

So, Mr. President, in word and deed, these countries have already demonstrated their value as partners and de-facto allies, and it is in the interest of the United States to see that this partnership be made formal by their acceptance as NATO members. The governments of the seven invited countries have also taken tremendous steps, and in some cases faced considerable political risks, to align their institutions and policies in accordance with NATO standards and values. Let me summarize their individual qualifications for NATO membership.

Bulgaria has committed to spend around 2.8 percent of GDP on defense in 2003, a higher percentage than that of several of our current Allies, and to continue to downsize its armed forces by the thousands. On October 31, 2002, Bulgaria announced that it had destroyed all its FROG, SCUD, and SS-23 missiles, remnants of its old Soviet arsenal. To shut down any further proliferation of gray arms, Sofia has adopted supplemental export control legislation, drafted a new Border Security Act and adopted new regulations on border checkpoints. Moreover, it took immediate and decisive action against those involved in the illegal shipment that occurred last year from the Terem military complex.

Bulgaria, a rare country that protected its Jewish citizens during World War II, has generally been tolerant of all its religious, ethnic, and political minorities. An exception was the anti-Turkish campaign of the late 1980s - - the dying spasms of a discredited communist regime. Today a largely ethnic Turkish party is a member of the governing coalition. Bulgaria is now moving to complete the process of property restitution to its Jewish community with only one property still under legal procedure.

Estonia leads the Baltic region in free market reforms. Tallinn increased defense spending last year to 2 percent of GDP, and is developing a light infantry brigade, the first battalion of which should be equipped and trained by the end of this month. The organization "Transparency International" has rated Estonia the least corrupt country in Central and Eastern Europe. Building on an already good record, Tallinn last year adopted an Action Plan to Improve Administrative and Judicial Capacity.

Estonia has amended minimum language requirements in its laws on citizenship and employment to address needs particularly of its large ethnic Russian community. As a result, in the most recent national elections the ethnic Russian parties failed to clear the five percent hurdle necessary to enter parliament. In other words, the majority of Estonia's ethnic Russian citizens cast their votes for multi-national parties on the basis of substantive issues, not ethnicity. In August 2002, overcoming a few voices of intolerance, the Estonian parliament voted to recognize January 27 as a day of remembrance of the Holocaust.

Latvia has enacted a law to require that 2 percent of GDP be spent on defense beginning this year. By the end of 2003, Latvia's first professional infantry battalion will be ready to participate in NATO-led operations, with three additional mobile reserve battalions ready by 2004. Riga's economic reform efforts have been well-funded and generally successful, and Latvia is now assisting other post-communist countries such as Georgia and Ukraine with their own reform efforts. After a somewhat contentious start in the early 1990s, Latvia has had considerable success in integrating its large Russian-speaking minority by dismantling citizenship and bureaucratic restrictions to full social and political participation.

Lithuania increased its spending on defense to 2 percent of GDP in 2002. By the end of 2004, Lithuania will be able to deploy and sustain a mobile, professional infantry battalion, and by 2006 a Rapid Reaction Brigade. A small, elite unit of Lithuanian special operations forces is currently serving in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Recently this unit was involved in ground combat against Al-Qaeda forces during a strategic reconnaissance mission and together with allied reinforcements captured several of the enemy.

Lithuania signed a border treaty with Russian in 1997, which the Russian Duma is expected to ratify later this month, and has reached an agreement to permit Russian military traffic to transit Lithuania on its way to Kaliningrad. In 2002, Vilnius launched a Program for Control and Prevention of Trafficking in Human Beings and Prostitution. The government has established a public center for the Roma in Vilnius, launched a program to integrate Roma into Lithuanian society, and developed information campaigns to promote tolerance. Conscripts in Lithuania's armed forces have a unit in their training on the history of World War II and the Holocaust in Lithuania, and the government is working with international non-governmental organizations to establish legal procedures for Jewish communal property restitution. Romania, by far the largest of the seven candidate countries, spends $1 billion or 2.38 percent of its GDP on defense. Moreover, Romania is committed to being a "net contributor" to NATO and is upgrading its twenty-one MiG-29 fighter aircraft, its navy ships, and its missile launching systems. An elite Romanian infantry battalion - - the "Red Scorpions" - - served in Afghanistan and was replaced by the "Carpathian Hawks," who are currently there. I might add that Romania flew these units to Afghanistan in their own C-130s, a feat which many of our current NATO allies were unable to duplicate.

The Romanian economy has grown substantially over the last three years (by 4 percent in 2002), and inflation, although it remains high, has been brought under the IMF target rate of 22 percent. Romania opened a National Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office in September 2002 and has begun a judicial reform effort that includes prosecuting judges for bribery and corruption - - an act called "unprecedented in the region." Romania's relations with Hungary have improved following a 2001 agreement on the Hungarian "Status Law" for ethnic Hungarians outside Hungary's borders. Slovakia has made great progress in democratic reform and is the first country to re-elect a center-right reform government in Central and Eastern Europe since the end of the Cold War. Under Prime Minister Dzurinda, Bratislava committed to raise its defense spending and maintaining it at 2 percent of GDP in 2003 and beyond. A sweeping defense reform plan, known as the Slovak Republic (SR) Force 2010, will establish by 2010 a small, well-equipped, interoperable armed force integrated into NATO military structures. In February 2003, Slovakia opened a new department to fight corruption, which is overseen by the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice. Bratislava is preparing new laws to create an Office of the Special Prosecutor and to prevent corruption in public administration and the judiciary.

Alone among the seven candidates, Slovenia comes out of a tradition of non-alignment as a part of the former Yugoslavia. Also alone among the candidates, it won its independence by force of arms - - in a short, successful war against Federal Yugoslav forces in June 1991. Moreover, Slovenia has won widespread acclaim for aspects of peacemaking activities. Its International Trust for De-mining and War Victims Assistance (ITF) is currently responsible for two-thirds of all de-mining operations in Southeastern Europe.

Although the wealthiest in per capita terms of the candidate countries, Slovenia has lagged behind the other six in terms of defense spending as a percentage of GDP. Ljubljana has committed to reach 2 percent of GDP by 2008. Slovenia has focused on creating two battalions of rapid reaction forces for combat and peacekeeping operations. Freedom House gave Slovenia the highest ratings of all the candidate countries with respect to rule of law and preventing and combating corruption. Slovenia is the only country among the seven candidates to have held a referendum on NATO membership. On March 23 of this year 66% of those participating voted in favor of membership, a considerable achievement during the first week of the highly-televised military operations in Iraq.

Mr. President, no society anywhere is perfect, and despite their outstanding record of accomplishment, significant challenges remain in each of the seven candidate countries. They include permanently curtailing all gray arms sales in Bulgaria; implementing strict control over classified information in Bulgaria and Latvia; eliminating discrimination against ethnic minorities, especially Roma, in Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovakia; abolishing remaining restrictions on the freedom of the news media in Romania; completing the restitution of religious and communal properties that had been seized by the communists or by fascists during the Holocaust in all the countries; educating the publics of all the countries about the Holocaust and the poison of anti-Semitism; and fully implementing legislation designed to eradicate corruption in all seven countries.

Membership in NATO, however, will reinforce the processes of democratic and economic reform ongoing in these countries. Each country has worked with NATO under the Membership Action Plan process and has developed a subsequent Timetable for the Completion of Reforms to identify strategies to conclude and build on the steps necessary to assume the full responsibilities and obligations of NATO membership. As Ambassador Nick Burns, the United States Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Council, recently told the Foreign Relations Committee, "we have pushed these countries hard to be ready," and "they will be among our most committed allies when they walk through NATO's doors as full members."

The Resolution of Ratification before the Senate today is similar to the resolution approved during the last round of NATO enlargement. Let me briefly summarize it.

The text reflects bipartisan agreement, in accord with the view of the Administration, that U.S. membership in NATO remains a vital national security interest of the United States.

The Resolution of Ratification makes clear that any threat to the stability of Europe would jeopardize vital U.S. interests. It reaffirms that the security and prosperity of the United States is enhanced by NATO's collective defense against aggression that may threaten the territory of NATO members.

It affirms that all seven countries have democratic governments, have demonstrated a willingness to meet all requirements of membership, and are in a position to further the principles of the North Atlantic Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area.

The Resolution underscores the importance of European integration, mentioning the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union in that regard.

The Resolution also contains positive declarations on the Alliance's "Open Door" policy toward potential future members, on the Alliance's successful Partnership for Peace program, on the NATO-Russia Council created last year, and on compensation for victims of the Holocaust and of Communism. The Resolution contains three substantive and sensible conditions relating to costs and burden-sharing, on intelligence matters, and on full cooperation with efforts to obtain full accounting of captured and missing U.S. personnel from past military conflicts or Cold War incidents.

In summary, I believe the Resolution of Ratification accomplishes the objective of providing the strategic rationale for the accession of these seven new members and preserving U.S. interests with respect to future enlargement.

This round of enlargement isn't the end of the road. Rather it is a historic milestone in a process that began with the end of the Cold War. Thus, it is essential that the door to membership remain open for candidates states Albania, Croatia, and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as well as down the road for potential candidates like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, Ukraine, and perhaps other countries. By endorsing NATO enlargement, we recognize the soundness and relevance of the vision of a Europe whole, free and at peace. We acknowledge that a larger, stronger transatlantic relationship anchored in NATO will better serve us in confronting the transnational terrorist threats of the twenty-first century. And we affirm that the United States will continue to play a leadership role in the security of the North Atlantic area.

I urge my Senate colleagues to vote in favor of the resolution of ratification and endorse the accession of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia as full members of the NATO Alliance. I thank the Chair and yield the floor.

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