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Perry Says Baltic Nations Not Yet Ready for NATO Membership

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BERGEN, Norway, Oct. 3, 1996 – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are on the right path to joining NATO, but not yet ready for membership, according to U.S. Defense Secretary William J. Perry.

NATO will announce which countries have been selected as membership candidates at a summit next year, Perry said during a press interview here recently.

"Even if the organization does not offer these Baltic states membership [at this time]," Perry said, "the answer is not a definitive 'no,' it is merely 'not yet.'

"The Baltic nations have struggled to restore freedom and rebuild the institutions of a democratic society," Perry told European defense ministers at a conference on Baltic security in Copenhagen. "They have maintained exemplary participation in Partnership for Peace, not only in exercises, but in the real work of peacekeeping in Bosnia and other places around the globe. They have made impressive commitments and have shown that we can count on them to do their part."

The Baltic states are making progress toward meeting NATO's criteria, Perry said, but they are not yet ready to take on NATO's Article V responsibility. Article V, the heart of the alliance, states an attack against one member is an attack against all.

"NATO is a military alliance," Perry said. A key feature of the military alliance is the ability of all members to come to each others' defense. Each nation must contribute to this defense and have some degree of compatibility with NATO forces.

"In my judgment, the Baltic nations do not have that kind of capability yet, but they are working very hard to get it," Perry said. "The United States [and] the Nordic nations are working with them to help make that happen. "

Perry asked other nations at the conference Germany, Poland, and the United Kingdom to help get the Baltic states ready for NATO membership.Once NATO announces candidates nations at the summit, NATO officials will conduct negotiations with the nations, a DoD officials said.

NATO officials have already conducted more than 50 hours of discussions with 13 Partnership for Peace nations seeking membership, according to NATO Secretary General Javiar Solana.

"We have learned a great deal about the partners' respective policies, and they, in turn, have learned more about the requirements of NATO membership," Solana said.

NATO may need to create an expanded "Superpartnership for Peace" so they can stay within the European security circle while working on becoming members, Perry said. Peacekeeping exercises could expand so member candidates could participate in combined joint task forces, for example.

Many European nations are applying for NATO membership, Perry said. It is unlikely they can all be accepted or are ready to be accepted, he said. "It is quite clear that some of them cannot meet the criteria yet, but that does not mean that they might not be able to meet it two or three years from now," he said.

Membership criteria include having a strong, established democracy; a functioning market economy; no disputes with neighboring nations; civilian control of the military; and military forces compatible with NATO.

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