Euro-Atlantic Enlargement: A Baltic Perspective
His Excellency Valdas Adamkus
President of Lithuania
It is gratifying to me that the Atlantic Alliance, which is the most successful partnership of the 20th century, has united so many nations in deeds, values, and ideas. We are meeting in a city that is part of the new Europe, a city that was home to the Cold War confrontation and partition but today has regained its integrity. Berlin was the first capital of the previously divided Europe to return to NATO, and has opened the door to Budapest, Warsaw, and Prague. It is my belief that Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania, will follow those cities' path in the near future.
At the Budapest Workshop last year, we focused on peace implementation in the Balkans. It was a crucial test for NATO and its partners, but the Alliance proved that it is capable of defending the values on which Europe has been built. At this Workshop, I would like to discuss the subject of Euro-Atlantic enlargement, a subject that will remain high on our agenda. I would also like to share the Baltic perspective on this issue.
REFLECTIONS ON THE VILNIUS STATEMENT
In May of 2000, the nine NATO candidate countries gathered in Vilnius to express the belief that in 2002 the Alliance will continue the historic unification of Europe by inviting new members. NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson, who attended the conference, approved the Vilnius Statement as a welcome signal of support for the course the Alliance has chosen. The initiative of the nine countries also has found support at the Florence meeting of the North Atlantic Council and in the Euro-Atlantic community, which for more than 50 years has followed the principle endorsed in the Statement: one for all and all for one.
Since the Vilnius Conference, unity between our NATO partners and us has increased. The successful enlargement of NATO in 1999 set off tectonic changes in the design of the Old Continent that, I believe, will continue to drive us forward until the unification of Europe is completed.
One year has passed since the three new members were admitted to NATO. Yet, I sometimes feel that Europe continues to live by simplistic rules. It clings to one, or at best two, dimensions of security, and tends to overlook their indivisible yet multifarious character. But can some parts of Europe be regarded as "indefensible" because of their size and geographic location? Or should we look for a specific set of security factors that make each country more or less secure?
States cannot choose their place on the map. However, they can and do share the values of democracy and can assume common responsibilities regardless of their geography.
For some people "zones of threat" still exist on the map of Europe. In most cases, however, those zones are just make-believe. We candidate countries are not rife with threats, and we are convinced that cooperation is the master key to modern Europe. Our desire to join NATO stems not from our fears but from the wish to further expand stability and security to all nations of the Old Continent that share common values.
I imagine that all of you remember the heated discussions about NATO membership for the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary. We heard, and still hear, that enlarging the Alliance might disturb the balance of power in post-Cold War Europe. But has last year's NATO expansion triggered conflicts and produced threats? If anything, Europe has become more secure and stable.
One may ask how Lithuania or Latvia or Estonia-the three states of the eastern Baltic littoral-could make a difference to European stability and security. I ask: What threat could they possibly pose? The answer to that question is an emphatic "none."
A REUNITED EUROPE
With your permission, I would like to turn now to history. During the period between the two world wars, Europe was marked by uncertainty. European countries, large and small, were in fact indefensible, certain as they were that war was imminent. They could not be defended because victory in one war could lead to failure in another.
Vestiges of this uncertainty were also present during the Cold War. But in Western Europe, tremendous changes took place after World War II. By joining the North Atlantic Alliance and what was later to become the European Union, Western Europeans did away with uncertainty-the most wearying disease of the Old Continent.
Some of you can probably speak more knowledgeably about the advantages of living in a predictable environment. Germany is a striking example of how a devastated country can re-emerge to become a driving force in Europe. The smaller states that joined NATO and the European Union also enjoy a high level of security and affluence.
Lithuania and the other Baltic countries were deprived of this chance. Sixty years ago their occupation put the Baltic nations on an ill-fated path. Baltic citizens were stripped of the right to freely make decisions. Hundreds of thousands fell victim to deportation or were forced to find homes elsewhere. I personally experienced this.
But hundreds of thousands took up a long-lasting, armed resistance, which in Lithuania ended only in 1953. Our captive nations refused to tolerate oppression. When I reflect on Euro-Atlantic integration, I remember all of this, and I think of the Europe that could have been. For many people in my region, this vision of what Europe can now be is driving our Euro-Atlantic aspirations.
I am certain that our partners in Europe and America also share these thoughts. Their belief in a united Europe was well demonstrated by their non-recognition policy that for 50 years upheld our beliefs and hopes for justice.
I therefore wholeheartedly state that neither NATO nor European Union enlargement has anything to do with a new partitioning of Europe. Enlargement will bring Europe back to normal.
At the Vilnius Conference, I was repeatedly convinced that the other candidates for Euro-Atlantic membership share the same attitude. The solidarity that the nine candidate countries have expressed toward advancing NATO enlargement stems from the damage caused for centuries by the lack of genuine cooperation. All nine of us expect a clear signal from the Alliance that every candidate country is welcome in the Alliance and that no list will be final. We also know that further NATO expansion will be based on the individual merits of each candidate.
PREPARING FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP
I have no doubt that the North Atlantic Alliance must remain a strong and powerful force. Therefore we, the candidate countries, are focusing on getting ready for membership and joining NATO in a prepared and effective state. Lithuania, for example, is committed to increasing defense spending up to 2.0 percent of our GDP. With the help of our NATO partners, we have progressed greatly in upgrading our military force. We have also developed a wide network of international military cooperation that has resulted in our participating in multinational battalions, military exercises, and peacekeeping missions. NATO's Membership Action Plan has provided us with candid and open feedback.
COOPERATION WITH RUSSIA
Later in this conference we will have the possibility of expanding on Russia's role in European security. History has taught us that only through cooperation can we lay the foundation for long-lasting stability in Europe and the world. A democratic and prospering Russia, which maintains good relations with the Euro-Atlantic nations, is a significant factor in European security and stability. Therefore Russia's intensifying dialogue with NATO and the EU is of particular importance.
Since the restoration of independence, Lithuania has also engaged in constructive dialogue with Russia, which has helped to solve a number of topical and complex issues. Today the Lithuanian-Russian dialogue is oriented toward the future, which we see including friendly and mutually beneficial cooperation between Lithuania and its neighbor Russia.
In Vilnius the nine NATO candidate countries issued a statement expressing their solidarity and their commitment to a united and free Europe. Indeed, we envision such a Europe as the foundation for stability and security in the 21st century, where the likelihood of violence will be greatly reduced. For centuries we have had this vision, but finally we are now working together to build our common home and share responsibility for its future.
As the leader of one of the nine candidate countries, I would like to take this opportunity to call again on NATO members to admit the eligible democracies into the Alliance at the next NATO Summit in 2002. Doing so would contribute to attaining our common goal of building a secure and stable Europe.