Speaking at the recent NATO summit in Chicago, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reaffirmed that the door to NATO membership remains open:
“The possibility of NATO membership has proven to be a powerful motivation for countries to implement difficult but necessary reforms, resolve internal differences as well as differences with their neighbors, and contribute to security operations that benefit themselves and all of us. Our open door policy has produced … stability and cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe. And, more broadly, as NATO has grown, Europe has become more secure and prosperous.”
The countries aspiring to join NATO include Georgia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. “We support their aspirations for Euro-Atlantic integration,” said Secretary Clinton, “and we will keep working with each of them, both bilaterally and through NATO, to help them implement finally the reforms needed to meet the standards for membership.”
Georgia will become the largest non-NATO contributor to NATO’s ISAF mission in Afghanistan this fall. The country has undertaken democratic reforms, and the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections are additional opportunities for Georgia to show the world that it is committed to NATO’s democratic values.
Macedonia has also made contributions to ISAF and reforms to its military and security services. The United States supports a resolution of Macedonia’s name dispute with Greece, after which Macedonia will be welcomed into NATO.
Regarding Montenegro, the United States plans to send an advisor from the Department of Defense, and welcomes similar initiatives by other Allies to support Montenegro’s efforts to implement the remaining reforms for NATO membership.
With regard to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the United States welcomes the recent political agreement on defense properties and now urges that it be implemented. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Montenegro should continue to pursue regional initiatives like the Balkan Regional Approach to Air Defense.
The process to join NATO is lengthy and challenging. “But we need to stick with it,” said Secretary Clinton, “and remember our ultimate goal: a stronger, more durable, more effective NATO.”