s 50th anniversary summit, held on April 23-24 in Washington, met half-way the Baltic states’ goal to elicit a specific commitment and timetable regarding their admission to the alliance. The summit decided to place the Baltic states behind Romania and Slovenia in a queue of nine countries recognized as candidates for admission to NATO. The allies adopted a Membership Action Plan designed to help the candidate countries meet membership requirements, particularly the interoperability of their forces with NATO forces.
U.S. President Bill Clinton added a degree of encouragement by stating in general terms that the door to the alliance would be open to new members “from the Baltics to the Black Sea.” In a more factual vein, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright discussed with the three Baltic presidents what their countries need to do in the next few years before they are able to “walk through [NATO’s] open door” and how the United States proposes to assist the Baltic states toward that goal. Presidents Lennart Meri of Estonia, Guntis Ulmanis of Latvia and Valdas Adamkus of Lithuania welcomed the Membership Action Plan, pledged to take full advantage of it and reaffirmed their countries’ will to shoulder the responsibilities and obligations of NATO membership. Foreign Ministers Toomas Ilves of Estonia, Valdis Birkavs of Latvia and Algirdas Saudargas of Lithuania told a conference on Baltic security at the Heritage Foundation that the Balts would use the interval until the next round of NATO’s enlargement to prepare for admission.
The United States and other allied countries praised the three Baltic states for expressing political support to NATO’s actions in the Balkans and for offering to contribute platoon-size units to NATO forces there. Baltic officials regard the Washington summit as progress over the 1997 Madrid summit in terms of advancing their states’ candidacies for admission to the alliance. In that sense, the Balts’ limited common goal of turning the Washington summit into a “Madrid plus” can be said to have been attained (BNS, AP, Reuters, UPI, April 23-25).
UKRAINE’S UNEASY BALANCING ACT AT NATO SUMMIT.