The United States has invited new members to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization with a promise and a challenge. The promise is that the U.S. will help these nations defend their hard-won freedom. The challenge is that they bear the responsibilities of membership in the new alliance as it transforms to better meet new threats, including that of terrorism.
As President George W. Bush said, "Our alliance of freedom is being tested again by new and terrible dangers. Like the Nazis and Communists before them, the terrorists seek to end lives and control all life. And like the Nazis and the Communists before them, they will be opposed by free nations. And the terrorists will be defeated."
NATO was created after the Second World War to stop Soviet aggression. NATO voted last week to invite seven more countries -- Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia -- to join the alliance.
After the summit, President Bush visited Romania and Lithuania, both once under the thumb of Communist tyranny. Mr. Bush told tens of thousands of Romanians gathered in Revolution Square in Bucharest, the capital: "The world has suffered enough from fanatics who seek to impose their will through fear and murder. The NATO alliance and the civilized world are confronting the new enemies of freedom, and we will prevail." And, as Mr. Bush told the people of Lithuania in their capital, Vilnius, "The long night of fear, uncertainty and loneliness is over. . . .Our alliance has made a solemn pledge of protection, and anyone who would choose Lithuania as an enemy has also made an enemy of the United States of America."
As President Bush said, the U.S. and NATO "will not permit either terrorists or tyrants to blackmail freedom-loving nations." Mr. Bush has spoken of the importance of disarming the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. In the words of Mr. Bush, "By [Saddam's] search for terrible weapons, by his ties to terror groups, by his development of prohibited ballistic missiles, the dictator of Iraq threatens the security of every free nation, including the free nations of Europe."
The new nations invited to join understand the dangers of terrorism and totalitarianism. As President Bush said, "These nations will bring greater clarity to NATO's purposes because they know, from the hard experience of the twentieth century, that threats to freedom must be opposed, not ignored or appeased."