U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently participated in her last NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels. In the wake of the Cold War, said Secretary Rice, many wondered whether NATO would have a purpose in the future. But given the critical work in which the alliance has engaged over recent years, and what NATO has come to represent, it must be said that the answer has been a resounding “yes.”
The alliance, Ms. Rice said, “has prospered and grown and reformed and renewed itself.” Twelve of NATO’s 28 current members are former captive nations, including the Baltic States that previously were incorporated within the Soviet Union. These newest members have helped the alliance to effectively pursue its purpose in securing democracy and stability.
That mission now takes NATO beyond its borders. “This is an alliance,” said Secretary Rice, “that has transformed its capabilities and has transformed its mission ... assisting new democracies ... such as Afghanistan, a country that we must remember has had almost 30 years of civil war and one of the poorest countries in the world. NATO’s mission there,” said Secretary Rice, “is difficult but necessary, and it is a mission to which this alliance is greatly committed.” NATO is also training Iraqi military officers and helping with relief efforts in Darfur.
It must also be emphasized that the door to NATO remains open, said Secretary Rice. Georgia and Ukraine continue to aspire to membership in the alliance, but they have many political and military reforms they must make first. To that end, the alliance agreed that the NATO-Georgia Commission and the NATO-Ukraine Commission should intensify their respective efforts to help both countries meet the standards for membership.
NATO members also discussed how the alliance should proceed with its relationship to Russia after the invasion of Georgia. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said, “Allies agreed on what I would qualify as a conditional and graduated reengagement with Russia.” He stressed, however, that this did not mean NATO had changed its position that Russia had used “disproportionate” force in invading Georgia or that it was acceptable for Russia to threaten to station missiles near NATO borders.
The NATO alliance, said Secretary of State Rice, “is one of the most remarkable alliances in human history. It is a voluntary alliance of great democracies committed equally to security and to liberty.” It is these values that will ensure that the alliance continues to play its vital role well into the future.