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Solana: NATO Won't Overtax New Allies

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Jan. 23, 1998 – While NATO expects new members to meet basic membership requirements, alliance officials do not want to overtax the three new member nations, Secretary General Javier Solana said Jan. 22.

NATO's main goal is for new members' military forces to be able to operate with the NATO allies, Solana said. "We need communication systems that can communicate. We need to be able to send reinforcements in times of crises, and we need our soldiers to speak the same language."

Addressing both houses of the Polish parliament in Warsaw, Solana said NATO is not unreasonable and does not expect change overnight. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and other future members will have the time they need to meet NATO requirements. "No one wants our new members to put their economic reforms at risk by overspending on defense," he said.

NATO does not expect new members to spend big bucks on high-tech equipment, for example. At the moment, Solana said, "no threat forces us to spend excessive sums on our common defense."

Poland's 15-year force modernization plan is a step in the right direction, he said. The program involves financial burdens for the relatively new democracy, but it also means Poland will become "a contributor to common security, not just a consumer."

New members will have to make serious military contributions, Solana said. Along with focusing on communications capabilities, new members also need to develop more trained and capable noncommissioned officers and a balanced and streamlined force structure. Being able to fulfill Article V, NATO's mutual defense pledge, is the heart of NATO, he said.

"Once Poland joins NATO as a full member, the other allies commit themselves to the defense of Poland's security and territorial integrity," Solana told Polish government officials. "This is the strongest, most solemn commitment any nation can make to another." New members must understand this commitment and be willing and able to return it. "In order to receive, one must also give -- this is what NATO is all about."

Solana noted that when new members show they are capable of contributing militarily, it will impact on the ratification process under way in the 16 member nations. "It proves that, by enlarging the alliance, we are not compromising its military effectiveness," he said.

In the months ahead, NATO officials will involve the new members' representatives in alliance activities to the greatest extent possible, Solana said. They will receive regular briefings and invitations to attend various committee and North Atlantic Council meetings.

Solana's visit to Poland was "highly successful and highly appreciated," a NATO official told reporters here. The official said Solana concluded Poland is clearly well on track to be fully ready for NATO membership by the spring 1999.

Poland's government is keeping up a strong effort in terms of resources, military reform, interaction with NATO and participation in NATO committees to be ready for membership, the NATO official said.

Solana's message complimented the Poles, but counseled there is no room for complacency -- they should keep up the good work, the NATO official reported. Solana plans similar visits to the Czech Republic and Hungary in the next few months, he said.

The Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland took the first step to membership in July when NATO invited them to join at a Madrid summit. The invitees and the 16 NATO members signed protocols of accession in December at NATO headquarters here. The next step is for each member nation's government to ratify the new members. NATO officials hope to welcome the three as full members by NATO's 50th anniversary in 1999.

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