BALTS ALIGN WITH UNITED STATES AND NATO.

Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 169

In response to the September 11 terrorist assault upon the United States, and following NATO’s first invocation of its Article Five on September 12, the Baltic states are evidencing their willingness to assume the obligations and risks of allies. Although the three Baltic states are not yet members of the alliance, their response indicates that they are prepared to act as such if by the Washington and NATO.

In a September 13 statement, the Estonian Foreign Affairs Ministry announced that “as a candidate country for NATO membership, Estonia is prepared to provide to the United States any assistance to the full scope of its capabilities.” In remarks the following day, Foreign Affairs Minister Toomas Ilves anticipated that the process of NATO’s enlargement may temporarily be sidetracked, but “would not come to a halt. That process is governed by a clear-cut logic of its own. Once the normal situation is restored, the same working groups and institutions will continue operating in this well functioning system.” Meanwhile, however, “in a crisis such as this, you can’t dwell on your own viewpoint. The central issue is solidarity.” For his part, Defense Minister Juri Luik told the press that, well before this crisis, it had been “no secret” that Estonia’s security agencies were already working closely with the United States and NATO.

Latvia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Indulis Berzins declared on September 13 that “where possible, we will participate in NATO actions.” Anticipating, furthermore, that the United States would organize a “global antiterrorist coalition” of wider scope than the Atlantic alliance, Berzins stated that “Latvia’s one and only place is within this coalition, among NATO member countries.” Also on September 13, Latvia’s parliament adopted a statement affirming that “we stand united with the U.S. president, the Congress and the whole American nation,” and that “Latvia is ready to contribute” to the American-led antiterrorist effort.

For his part, Latvia’s Defense Minister Girts Kristovskis suggested to the press that the North Atlantic Treaty’s Article Five should apply also to candidate countries. Berzins qualified that suggestion by citing the political and legal procedures Latvia would have to follow, preparatory to any operational decision. Those procedures include a specific request from the country attacked and a parliamentary resolution on Latvia’s involvement in military operations. On September 14 the U.S. ambassador to Latvia, James Holmes, handed over a note expressing appreciation for the offer and the intention “to discuss the ways to work together” in combating terrorism.

Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus was paying a visit to Washington–as was [Latvian Foreign Minister Indulis] Berzins–when the terrorists struck. In an address to the country upon returning, Adamkus termed the assault a “declaration of war against Western civilization; hence we must stand up for it and defend it together with America and Europe. We should act with America not only in Bosnia and Kosovo, but, together with NATO member countries, defend the entire democratic world.” Refuting the “assertion of terrorists and their defenders that the United States and NATO have been in the wrong,” the Lithuanian president termed NATO’s enlargement “the enlargement of democracy,” and “the United States–the stabilizing power in the world, a source of security and progress.”

With his September 14 address, Adamkus signaled the country’s wish to act and be recognized as a de facto member of the alliance. That same date, the Foreign Affairs Ministry expressed support for NATO’s decision to invoke Article Five and expressed Lithuania’s readiness “as a candidate for membership” to join in any allied measures for the common defense. Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius was equally explicit on September 13: “Although Article Five does not apply to Lithuania as yet, we are prepared to contribute to the alliance’s measures in meeting common challenges, and to join in the antiterrorist efforts as proof of that.” In remarks paralleling those of his Estonian counterpart, the Lithuanian minister cited the country’s already existing cooperation with US and NATO security agencies, and suggested that such cooperation would intensify as required by the challenges ahead.

At NATO headquarters in Brussels, Lithuania presented a joint statement by the ambassadors of the “Vilnius Ten” group of countries–which include the Baltic states–aspirant to NATO membership. The statement declares these countries’ solidarity with the United States and readiness to “support all measures” in response to the terrorist assault. The Vilnius Ten countries assert that the assault “was directed not just against one country, but against all”–a wording that virtually paraphrases the alliance’s Article Five (BNS, ETA, LETA, Lithuanian Television, September 13-15; see the Monitor, July 5, 13, 30, August 27, 31, September 6).

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