For more than fifty-years, NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has provided security on both sides of the Atlantic. But the West’s victory in the Cold War and the end of Soviet Communism did not diminish the organization’s importance. Rather, said U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, “The troubles of the past decade have made clear that new threats are rising”:
“We have seen these threats take many shapes, from ethnic cleansing in the Balkans to the terrorist attacks of September 11th . To deal with these new threats, the United States has continued to rely on NATO and will do so in the future.”
At a summit in Prague last November, NATO representatives approved the admission of seven new members: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. NATO expansion, said Mr. Powell, “will help ensure that NATO remains relevant in the days and years ahead”:
“Such an enlargement will help to strengthen NATO’s partnerships to promote democracy, the rule of law, and promote free markets and peace throughout Eurasia. Moreover, it will better equip the Alliance to respond collectively to the new dangers we face.”
All seven of NATO's newest designated members are already acting as de facto allies by providing overflight and basing rights and by providing troops to peacekeeping operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan. All have expressed a willingness to help in post-conflict reconstruction and, in the words of Secretary of State Powell, they have supported the U.S.-led campaign to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq:
“All of the new invitees sent military liaison officers to CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa, ahead of possible operations in Iraq. Several have provided military support to the international coalition.”
NATO will continue to grow as its mission to promote peace and security evolves.