Presidents Lennart Meri of Estonia, Guntis Ulmanis of Latvia, and Algirdas Brazauskas of Lithuania issued over the weekend a joint "Statement on Security in the Baltic Region." The statement reaffirmed that only an early accession to NATO can guarantee their countries’ freedom and it requested the alliance to take "the clearest possible" stand on Baltic security. The presidents announced that their countries would intensify diplomatic efforts to obtain political support for their accession to NATO and for developing bilateral security cooperation with its member countries. They also pledged to make "the necessary sacrifices" in order to upgrade their own forces and to participate in NATO’s common defense. (BNS, September 29) The statement was a reaction to official assertions from U.S. secretary of defense William Perry and other Pentagon officials — made at the September 27 NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Bergen (Norway) — notifying the Baltic states officially and publicly that they are "not yet" eligible for admission to the alliance because they are unable to come to the aid of allied countries if necessary.
Other Baltic officials challenged that criterion. Lithuanian foreign minister Povilas Gylys observed that NATO’s enlargement ought to proceed from the principle of indivisible security, and consequently must take into account not only the countries’ level of readiness but also their security needs. Those needs, Gylys noted, are clearly greater in the Baltic region than in Central Europe, where NATO has decided to enlarge first. Other Lithuanian Foreign Ministry officials, said to be "very surprised" at Perry’s criteria for admission to NATO, recalled that immediate military readiness had not been a requirement for admission when NATO was founded. They argued that countries reached that level of readiness as a result of being admitted to the alliance. Latvian Foreign Policy Institute director Atis Lejins pointed out that the Central European countries slated to be admitted first do not currently meet Perry’s criterion either. (BNS, ELTA, September 28)
Ukraine, Russia Review Bilateral Problems.