NATO Welcomes Seven Nations, Ministers Discuss Terror
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 2, 2004 The world's most successful defense alliance welcomed seven new countries into the organization today.
Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Slovakia officially joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during a ceremony at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels. Following the symbolic flag-raising outside the headquarters building, the foreign ministers of the seven new countries took their seats as full NATO allies.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the seven nations all once members of the Warsaw Pact demonstrate that "freedom is irrepressible."
At the heart of NATO is Article 5, which says an attack on one ally is an attack on all. The seven new nations join in the "commitment to defend each others' security and territorial integrity," Scheffer said. "This is the strongest, most solemn commitment nations can undertake."
Secretary of State Colin Powell represented the United States at the ceremony. On April 1, he held a press conference with reporters from the new NATO nations. He said the growth of NATO might make it more difficult to achieve consensus for the alliance, but that it is worth it.
"At 26, it will be that much more difficult (to achieve consensus)," he said. "But if we're going after the right kinds of issues, and if we're doing something that really is in the best interest of all of our people, then we'll be able to achieve the consensus necessary."
Following the ceremony, the NATO foreign ministers discussed strengthening NATO's contribution to the fight against terrorism. Ministers also considered the situation in Kosovo in the aftermath of the recent upsurge in violence, and assessed NATO's operations in Afghanistan.
In the press conference, Powell spoke about the threat of terrorism to NATO. He said that terrorist acts draw the NATO countries together, and said this was the case following the Madrid bombings, the bombings in Istanbul and the attacks of Sept. 11. "More and more people have come to the realization that they are not safe," he said.
Terrorism is not a result of the coalition deposing Saddam Hussein, he said. "(Terrorism) has been with us in many forms," Powell said. "It is particularly virulent right now because of al Qaeda and because of their determination to show that they can dictate to civilized nations, what civilized nations will do, just because they're afraid of being bombed.
"We cannot let that happen," he said.
Powell said that even the new Spanish Prime Minister Jose-Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who has threatened to pull Spain's troops out of Iraq, still agrees that it is important to defeat terrorism. "This is not the time to get fearful or to take counsel of our fears," Powell said. "This is time to go after these terrorist organizations. Organizations such as this have been defeated in the past - when people got tired of them, got tired of their false political agenda and were willing to take them on."
Powell pointed out that terrorism in Europe has been defeated in the past. He told the reporters that when he was assigned to Europe in the 1970s as an Army officer, the Baader-Meinhoff Gangs and the Red Brigades were terrorist problems. "They're all now gone," he said. "Those people are in jail. So terrorism can be defeated and we have to defeat it."