Historic Day for NATO

Article excerpt

Byline: James Morrison, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Historic day for NATO

Donald H. Rumsfeld remembers that when he was appointed U.S. ambassador to NATO in 1972, the alliance had 15 members and the Cold War was raging.

Now secretary of defense, Mr. Rumsfeld recalled his earlier service as he stood with prime ministers from seven former communist nations celebrating their admission to the Western military alliance. Their inclusion boosted the membership to 26 and expanded NATO's eastern boundary to a solid border with Russia from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea.

"When I was ambassador to NATO, the nations here tonight were trapped behind the Iron Curtain. Now here we are, and it shows how much the world has changed," he said, smiling at the political leaders and their foreign and defense ministers crowded onto the massive marble staircase in the grand hall of Washington's Corcoran Gallery of Art at a reception Monday evening.

Mr. Rumsfeld noted that most of the nations have troops in Afghanistan or Iraq.

"Each has contributed significantly in the war on terrorism," he said.

Earlier in the day, the prime ministers of the new member states told reporters about their pride and gratitude on the historic day. The leaders of three other countries that have applied for membership spoke of their hope for another round of expansion.

"Today, history has been made," Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase said in the news conference at the National Press Club. "For my country, the Cold War is indeed over today."

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas called the latest expansion of the alliance a "decisive step toward creating a Europe whole and free."

"We join the family of countries with common values of freedom, human rights and the rule of law," said Slovenian Prime Minister Anton Rop.

Latvian Prime Minister Indulis Emsis expressed a common sentiment when he thanked the United States for its support "during all those long years of Soviet occupation" and domination. …