Center for Strategic Decision Research


NATO Enlargement: An Effective Means for Spreading Stability

His Excellency Valdas Adamkus
President of Lithuania


The shared values of democracy, individual liberty, a market economy, and the rule of law underlie the current developments in Europe. These fundamental values must be safeguarded since they benefit the welfare of our peoples and continue to propel social, technological, and human development.

We often talk about the links that unite us. Democracy, human rights and integration have become the symbols of today. In reality, however, neither democracy nor human rights nor integration are givens. We need to create them, consolidate them, and, if necessary, defend them in order to pass them on to future generations.

Recent history has clearly illustrated that an effective strategy must be developed to defend human rights, democracy, and national self-determination. Bosnia was and is a convincing example, and Kosovo an even better one. The people of Lithuania have also learned from their own historical experience that potential aggressors must not have even the slightest doubt that democracy and freedom will be defended.

NATO and Kosovo

I am certain that the measures employed in Kosovo by the transatlantic community were right and effective. These measures brought about numerous breakthroughs—very positive breakthroughs, I am convinced—in the attitudes of the international community. I expect that soon we will start speaking of a post-Kosovo Europe as a community with effective mechanisms of deterrence and conflict prevention.

As proof of the rightness of NATO measures, the terrifying evidence recently brought to light in Kosovo reveals that an even worse turn in developments could have taken place there had NATO not intervened. The emerging testimonies of atrocities and ethnic cleansing prove that this military action was morally necessary and pragmatically justifiable.

Lithuania’s Backing of NATO

Lithuania expressed its support for NATO’s operations in Kosovo and remains actively involved in assisting the Euro-Atlantic partners’ search for a solution that will lead to peace and stability in the region. Along with Allies and other partners, Lithuania sent humanitarian aid and joined the international effort to relieve the sufferings of the victims of the conflict.

Lithuania is firmly convinced that membership in the Alliance requires not only thinking like but also acting like an Ally. Deployment of Lithuanian peacekeepers and policemen in Kosovo will demonstrate our commitment to the objectives of the international community to restore peace and stability in the Balkans and to ensure the return of refugees to their homes.

Strengthening NATO

The concerted action of the Euro-Atlantic partners and the resoluteness of NATO’s leadership have de facto established the North Atlantic Alliance as the most effective instrument of crisis management and conflict resolution. Now we must build on our experience so that, in the future, conflicts are channeled to the level where diplomats talk and weapons keep silent. If the Alliance continues to adapt rapidly to the realities of European security, it will retain its strength and vitality.

I believe that NATO’s engagement in the Balkans will not reduce its attention to the regions where stability and cooperation have become the rule rather than the exception. The art of crisis management demands more than a mere containment of aggressors; its significance lies in the prevention of conflicts. Again and again we face the persistent issue of NATO enlargement as a means to spread stability and ensure security, and as a way of becoming more effective in dealing with future challenges. NATO was a very important factor in promoting stability in Central and Eastern Europe. By expanding to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, it enhanced the security of the Continent and the entire transatlantic community.

The Need for Lithuanian Membership

By admitting Lithuania into NATO, the Alliance would consolidate the zone of stability and security in Europe. It would also positively affect the traditional attitudes in the East, diminish established stereotypes, and open the way for greater and closer cooperation between NATO and Russia.

Our impression is that all NATO-member countries support the membership of the Baltic States in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but only a few of them speak for the membership of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia now. Most Euro-Atlantic partners believe that quick admission may adversely affect NATO’s relations with Russia. I am convinced, however, that these fears are not well-founded, as is the view that the Russian people fear a contiguous NATO. Still, overcoming this psychological barrier will be a difficult task in the near future. As far as inter-state relations are concerned, I believe that Lithuania and Russia, like most neighboring countries, have the potential to develop mutually productive cooperation. Lithuania maintains pragmatic and dynamic contacts with Russia that will not be endangered by our membership in NATO. In fact, I am convinced that our membership will help to diminish the remaining myths of threats.

A point to remember is that Russia already borders on the Alliance. For decades Norway has been a NATO neighbor of Russia, and since April 1999 Poland, Lithuania’s neighbor, has been a NATO member sharing the northern frontier with the Kaliningrad region. Such geographic proximity has had no negative impact on the relations between the Alliance and Russia. Rather than geography, I feel that other factors are far more important, and that building mutual understanding and setting common goals with Russia will be the most significant and difficult tasks for the transatlantic community. Countries that aspire to NATO, such as Lithuania, can play a helpful role in this regard.

We are well aware that military power will be just one of many factors able to guarantee the security of our country. This understanding, however, does not in any way reduce our determination to preserve an effective NATO and to join the Alliance well prepared for the requirements of membership. We are allocating a considerable portion of our resources to updating appropriate weaponry and making our defense structures compatible with NATO’s. This year, our defense spending amounts to 1.5 percent of our Gross National Product. By adopting a special law, we have made a commitment to increase the defense budget to up to two percent in 2001. The Membership Action Plan approved at the Washington Summit has accelerated our advance toward established objectives, and the Summit’s decision to consider the next round of NATO enlargement in the year 2002 has strengthened our determination.

Concluding Remarks

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright aptly remarked that NATO is the area where wars simply do not happen. Here, we testify to NATO’s effectiveness in coping with the challenges of the approaching millennium. We see the end of the most violent tragedy in post-Cold War Europe and the beginning of a changed Alliance. Today, NATO has expanded in membership, functions, goals, and applicability.

Let me conclude by noting the increased feeling of security that Lithuania has enjoyed during the last decade of the North Atlantic Alliance’s transformation. Let me also say that NATO certainly will enter the next millennium stronger and more relevant, though it is as yet incomplete. I am confident that NATO will meet the challenge.


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