This is not the first time the Helsinki Commission has held hearings on NATO enlargement. Back in 1997, this Commission held a series of hearings which addressed the role of human rights and NATO enlargement with OSCE countries that at the time were seeking NATO membership.
Then, as now, we recognize that the prospect of membership has been an extremely important factor in encouraging democratic development, human rights, and the rule of law in those countries as they take the reform steps necessary for full membership. As these countries demonstrate their own commitment to the Alliance’s shared values by fulfilling the military and political obligations expected of all member states, they grow stronger and more secure. This, in turn, enhances security and cooperation in Europe and globally, which is, after all, the purpose of the OSCE process.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about the readiness and possibilities of Croatia, Albania and Macedonia to receive invitations to join NATO at the Bucharest summit. Since 2003, the U.S. Congress has been on record supporting the creation of the Adriatic Charter which intensified U.S. relations with these three countries and brought them closer to the Euro-Atlantic family. Five years later, these countries have accomplished much in the way of reform. I believe we universally support their aspirations and hope to learn more about their preparedness to be called not only friends, but allies.
I also look forward to hearing about the prospects for the Alliance issuing Membership Action Plans (MAPs) in Bucharest to Ukraine and Georgia. I note that the Senate recently passed unanimously a resolution expressing strong support for MAPs for these two countries. I think that both Georgia and Ukraine have displayed an ability and willingness to meet the responsibilities of membership and have made substantial progress in their democratic development, as well as defense and economic reforms. I am confident that intensifying engagement with these two countries through MAPs will only serve to deepen these reforms.
I must say that I was profoundly dismayed by Russian President Putin’s February 12 statement suggesting that Ukraine could be targeted with nuclear missiles if it joins NATO. The decision of any country to seek to join NATO, much less get on the track to join NATO, is the sovereign decision of that country, recognized by the Helsinki Final Act, and should be respected by all OSCE countries, including the Russian Federation.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for calling this especially timely hearing.