Q: What is NATO?
A: After the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II, a dozen nations signed the North Atlantic Treaty in 1949 to form a strategic, transatlantic security alliance known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Each member-nation is committed to the collective defense of the other members. The organization has expanded to 19 members, including: Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.
Q: Which countries did the U.S. Senate ratify for admission as new NATO members?
A: The U.S. Senate unanimously ratified in May seven eastern European nations: Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. Cloaked for 40 years behind the Iron Curtain, these seven nations understand oppression. And now after a decade of freedom, they appreciate the need to defend their liberty and protect their people and their allies against national security risks. I welcome their addition to NATO. The security threats in the 21st century may differ from those when NATO was formed 54 years ago. But whether it’s tyranny or terrorism, NATO is designed to help free nations help each other. Their addition to NATO will serve symbolic and strategic purposes. First, it will advance the effort to unite the countries of Europe into a free, democracy-based continent. And second, it will bring NATO membership to 26 and increase its troop strength by 200,000. This will provide key logistical and operational support as the United States and its NATO allies combat terrorism. Since 9/11, the Atlantic Alliance has proved instrumental to assist the United States in its mission to defeat terrorism. As the war on terrorism continues, expanding NATO membership will accelerate our efforts to track down terrorist cells, thwart future terrorist attacks and choke off financing used to train and fund terrorists around the world. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is one of the most successful defense alliances in history. Membership should be made available to those democracies that are willing take on the responsibilities of a collective defense pact. Expanding a network of freedom-loving nations across the Atlantic will strengthen world stability and help forge key military partnerships and economic relationships. Before the seven countries may join NATO, 16 remaining member-nations still need to approve their ratification.