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From the February 2003 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 50, No. 2)

Eastern European Press Review

NATO Expands Eastward

Comment from Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, and Macedonia

NATO graphic
Estonia:
An Expensive Toy

Economically, what does the invitation to join NATO mean for Estonia? ...[What] comes to mind is the 2 percent of gross domestic product in the Ministry of Defense budget. Next year, that’s 2.2 billion kroon [US$140 million]....At the Prague summit, “every NATO member country pledged to provide in a concrete time frame concrete military equipment.” Estonia doesn’t have a sufficient quantity of armaments, so it will have to purchase them. How many air or naval transport components can one buy for 2 billion kroon? Not many, obviously.
Delovye Vedomosti (Russian-language business weekly), Estonia, Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 2002

Lithuania: The Enemy Within
For Lithuania, the door has been opened to the prestigious club of democratic countries. Lithuania got a chance to become an integral part of the Western world. The environment has changed, and so has the attitude toward us. We have received a new opportunity. Our foreign policy, if carried out in the proper way, might jump-start our national economy. [But] we need to get rid off the enemies within: doubts and inertia.
—Ramune Sotvariene, Lietuvos Rytas (independent), Vilnius, Lithuania, Nov. 25, 2002

Slovenia: Good Day, NATO!
Had Slovenia been invited...five years ago, that invitation would have meant more than anything to many Slovenians. [Now], there is little satisfaction in coming closer to a political alliance from which the United States has been scraping the last remnants of power....[President Bush] invited seven countries to join NATO, killing seven birds with one stone: The East is experiencing the climax; the United States has gained the most pro-American allies, the most faithful front in the war against terrorism; Europe is humiliated, NATO is marginalized, demoralized; Bush—with his war—is on the top, the leader of the world.
Delo (independent), Ljubljana, Slovenia, Nov. 22, 2002

Slovakia: Our National Interests
Do our national interests have a better chance of fulfillment if we stay outside NATO?...Is it to our advantage to sit at the same table with member countries of NATO...or should we stand outside and be merely the object of its policy? Is it better in an era of global terrorism to adopt a lower level of national security than the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland, and not to have at our side such influential allies as our neighbors have? Will it really be certain...that [our] acceptance into the European Union will be ratified...if we decline the invitation to join NATO? Our future depends on the answers to these questions.
—Peter Weiss, Pravda (left-wing), Bratislava, Slovakia, Nov. 26, 2002

Romania: A Tough Test and High Costs
Over US$4 billion—that is the bill that Romania will have to pay....The main costs [of joining NATO] will be the modernization of the army and payment for missions abroad. The acquisition of modern military equipment will cost another $2.5 billion. [But], we will improve our image in the world, from investments in tourism to our credibility on foreign markets.
Monitorul (independent), Bucharest, Romania, Nov. 29, 2002

Bulgaria: A Bitter Milestone
Political arguments have dominated our real readiness to join NATO....Beyond the confines of propaganda, the majority of Bulgarians are aware that our country is still unfit for the pact. Membership benefits aside, we lack the required qualities to become a member. We cannot join NATO with our corrupt system of government, which would sell NATO secrets as easily as it betrays the interests of its people. Not to mention our flimsy military spending and the slave labor system in our perfunctorily “reformed” army. NATO membership is a bitter milestone in Bulgaria’s march toward its European Union accession. Should we fail the test in the former, we’ll bid farewell to the latter.
—Ivan Atanasov, Komentari.com(online magazine), Bulgaria, Nov. 11, 2002

Albania: Our Failure to Get In
Albania could have been chosen to become a member of the alliance....But the truth about NATO enlargement contains an unspoken condition that Albania cannot handle....What “better” condition could NATO have placed on Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary than the modernization of their armies?....These countries have to buy combat airplanes...and weapons....Although Romania and Bulgaria are poor countries, they still offer large markets with interesting perspectives. Albania and Macedonia, on the other hand...are both...poor [and] wouldn’t bring any profit for the alliance. Rather, they would cost the alliance money.
—Genc Burimi, Shekulli (centrist), Tirana, Albania, Nov. 25, 2002

Macedonia: Next In Line?
Macedonia should welcome the invitation to Sofia and Bucharest to join NATO. Having two neighbors to the east and one to the south (Greece) within NATO will mean getting closer to NATO not only in terms of geography but also in terms of a time frame....The lack of guarantee regarding when [our acceptance] will happen is disappointing, despite the acknowledgment that significant progress has been made to overcome internal challenges for democratization. Those reforms were insufficient; [without] reforms and democratization, Macedonia cannot seriously be considered for acceptance.
—Dimitar Culev, Utrinski Vesnik (pro-opposition), Skopje, Macedonia, Nov. 23, 2002

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