NATO’s Council of Ambassadors yesterday approved a blueprint on the alliance’s expansion into central and eastern Europe, an issue which has drawn sharp criticism from Russia. According to this study, new members would enjoy full rights and responsibilities of membership, but, in an apparent concession to Russia, they would not automatically have to have nuclear weapons or NATO forces stationed on their territory in peacetime. As US Secretary of Defense William Perry told reporters September 21 following a four-nation trip to central Europe, joining NATO would not be a speedy process. NATO membership must be approved by all 16 alliance members. New members would have to prove that they have established full democratic control over their armed forces, and settle any ethnic disputes or claims on the territory of neighboring states. Nine countries–Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Albania, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, and Ukraine–have asked NATO to send missions to their capitals for briefings on this issue. Although reiterating that Russia should not feel threatened by NATO expansion, Perry stressed that "no non-NATO nation will have any right of veto over which nations join NATO."
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