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4/1/04 - NEW NATO MEMBERS - 2004-04-01

This is an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government:

Seven central European countries -- Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia -- have joined NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. President George W. Bush says that when NATO was founded in 1949, these seven countries lived under Communism as satellites of the former Soviet Union:

“They endured bitter tyranny. They struggled for independence. They earned their freedom through courage and perseverance. And today they stand with us as full and equal partners in this great alliance.”

NATO has succeeded because its members learned to put aside rivalries that had divided Europe for centuries. And the values of NATO’s members served as a beacon of hope, inspiring people in Eastern Europe to tear down the Berlin Wall and replace Communism with democratic governments.

Now NATO is meeting new challenges. The alliance stopped ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and is working to keep the peace in Kosovo. NATO forces are providing security in Afghanistan. But as President Bush says, “NATO’s core mission remains the same”:

“The defense of its members against any aggression. Today, our alliance faces a new enemy, which has brought death to innocent people from New York to Madrid. Terrorists hate everything the alliance stands for. They despise our freedom. They fear our unity. They seek to divide us. They will fail.”

Mikulas Dzurinda, the prime minister of Slovakia, says NATO’s seven new members will continue to be active participants in the global war against terrorism:

“We are sure that it is impossible to negotiate with terrorists, to try to look for compromise. It is possible to win this fight.”

Three more countries –- Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia -- aspire to join NATO. “The United States supports these efforts,” says President Bush. “The door to NATO will remain open until the whole of Europe is united in freedom and in peace.”