Ceremony dedicated to the seven Eastern European and Balkan states joining NATO took place Monday evening in Washington D.C. in the building of the U.S. Ministry of Finances.
Such people as George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, leaders of the seven states-newcomers, as well as leaders of Macedonia, Croatia and Albania who would like to join NATO.
The entire ceremony wasn't pompous at all. However, it did not prevent the guests from making rather emotional speeches concerning the overall importance and significance of the moment.
George Bush: People of these seven countries were all captives of the empire at the time when NATO was formed. They had to endure bitter tyranny…Today, they are standing together with us, as full members of this great alliance. … NATO's door will remain open until the entire Europe will unite in freedom and peace.
State Secretary Colin Powell: Welcome to the greatest and the most successful alliance in history. Bright future awaits us!
Prime Minister of Lithuania Algirdas Brazauskas has thanked George Bush and “the American people for support” after the official ceremony ended. According to him, he was taught to fear NATO in times of the Soviet regime. “We were fearful because we were constantly told that NATO was an aggressor that destroys people. Now we understand that it is not a beast, but an organization that simply wants to consolidate peace.”
Prime Minister of Romania Andrean Nestase: “I am very glad—today, Cold war has finally ended.”
Prime Minister of Croatia Ivo Sinader: “NATO for us, first of all, represents such values as democracy and market economy.”
Russia's reaction towards the new alliance with the new members was rather conservative, if not negative. According to head of the Committee of foreign Affairs of State Duma Konstantin Kosachev, Russia could be “provoked for counteractions”. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov has once talked about one of such actions. Namely, about refusal of one-sided circumstances of military reserves in north-eastern regions of the country. Several years ago, Russia has reduced its army there by approximately 40%.
Former Air Force Commander Anatoli Korkunov made perhaps the most shocking remark: “We must take affirmative actions. This also concerns NATO's airplanes. You cross the border-you get shot, without hesitation! Proper documents allow us to do so.” (what is meant here is NATO's patrolling of air borders of Baltic states).
First Vice Speaker of the State Duma Lubov Sliska declared that delegates plan to accept an important document Wednesday. The document outlines the fact that NATO's expansion to the East brushes upon the subject of Russia's national security.
The fact that the new members of the alliance are excited like little kids is understandable. After all, there cannot be another reaction when one is getting introduced to the values of democracy and market economy for the first time.
The fact that Russian officials were so full of negative commentaries can also be quite understandable. After all, militaristic-political bloc located right by the border can indeed pose danger to the country's national security, even though at the moment it is minimal.
However, what does appear to be quite strange is Russia's emotional reactions concerning the subject of NATO's expansion days before the actual ceremony. Why? It seems like all those words were said simply for the sake of saying something.
NATO's expansion eastwards is not the main problem between Russia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The main problem between NATO and Russia is such that Russia still has not come up with a straightforward strategic plan regarding the subject matter. Obviously, no matter how much Moscow opposes this, it is unable to stop NATO's expansion. Do we really need this anyway? However, Russia should not simply ask to have its interested to be taken into consideration, but must demand them to do so.
Yesterday, such countries as Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia have entered the alliance. Perhaps, one day Georgia and Ukraine will join as well. One pose a valid question: does Russia have any strategic plans regarding this issue today?
Officially, neither Russia nor NATO consider themselves enemies. Nonetheless, certain Russian organizations should develop certain tactics of cooperation with the alliance. They should also warn Brussels of counteractions in case NATO's actions will be regarded as hostile towards Russia (be it either patrol of air borders of Baltic states or creation of radar control centers there). All this however should be done in a timely manner, and not after the fact; so that this time those declarations from Moscow will be treated with appropriate respect.