Bush Welcomes Seven New NATO Members
By Gerry J. Gilmore
– President Bush welcomed seven new NATO members at a March 29
White House ceremony, noting the alliance "is made stronger
by their presence."
by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, congratulated
the prime ministers of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania,
Slovakia and Slovenia, pointing out that their countries had once
been imprisoned behind the former Soviet Union’s "Iron Curtain."
people of these seven nations were captives to an empire,"
Bush said, adding they "endured bitter tyranny. They struggled
the new NATO members have "earned their freedom through courage
and perseverance" and now have joined the United States "as
full and equal partners in this great alliance."
noted that NATO’s mission to defend free nations against aggression
harkens back to when the organization was founded in 1949 as a
bulwark against Soviet expansionism in Europe.
He said today’s
global terrorism is "a new enemy which has brought death
to innocent people from New York to Madrid."
hate NATO and "despise our freedom," Bush said. "They
fear our unity" and "seek to divide us." NATO’s
26 member nations "will face the mortal danger of terrorism,
and we will overcome it together."
said NATO is acting to meet present-day challenges. "NATO
forces are securing Afghanistan, (and) NATO ships are patrolling
the Mediterranean," he said. "And NATO is supporting
the Polish-led division in Iraq."
the anti-terror military support provided by the seven new NATO
members. Bulgaria provided refueling assets during the Afghanistan
conflict, he noted, and sent more than 400 troops to Iraq. Estonian
and Latvian military engineers, he added, are clearing explosive
mines in Iraq.
and Slovakian troops, Bush said, also are serving in Iraq. Romanian
troops have been killed fighting terrorists in Afghanistan, he
noted, while Slovenian forces are protecting the Afghan capital
city of Kabul.
praised NATO aspirants Albania, Croatia and Macedonia, noting
their contributions in Afghanistan or Iraq are "proving their
Later in the
day at a National Press Club briefing, Romanian Prime Minister
Adrian Nastase told reporters his country "was ready to share
the burdens" of NATO membership.
also are serving in Iraq, Nastase observed, "not merely for
military purposes," but also for "stabilizing the political
situation and for involving themselves in a very serious way in
the reconstruction of a country which has suffered a lot."
and commitment to freedom "carried us to victory in the Cold
War," Bush pointed out at the White House ceremony. The alliance,
he said, can continue, "to advance freedom and give hope
and support to those who seek to lift the yoke of isolation and
fear and oppression."
come as no surprise to any of us," U.S. Defense Secretary
Donald H. Rumsfeld noted later in the day at a reception for the
new NATO members at the Corcoran Art Museum, "that nations
that so recently recovered their own freedom are at the forefront
of the effort to help the Afghan and Iraqi people to recover their