Tallinn, 31 March 1997 (RFE/RL) - A prominent member of the U. S. House of Representatives says NATO's expansion in the East will not end with the first wave of enlargement.
Gerald Solomon (Republican-New York) told RFE/RL late last week in the Estonian capital Tallinn that there is broad consensus in the U.S. in favor of admitting the Baltic countries to the defense alliance.
Solomon is well-known in Baltic states for his move in the U.S. Congress calling for admitting Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into NATO as soon as possible. The resolution also called for inviting the Baltic states to the NATO summit in Madrid this summer.
Solomon said that the aim of the resolution was to involve the Baltic states in the enlargement process.
Solomon went on to say that all candidates for entry must fulfill certain criteria. The congressman said that these criteria include the maintenance of a democratic political system, a market economy, civilian control over the military, respect for human rights, and an effective capability of cooperating militarily with other members of the alliance.
Solomon said that in his view, Estonia has fulfilled these requirements, although it must improve its military potential.
NATO is an open alliance, Solomon said, and all candidates should be offered a possibility of joining.
Solomon was in Estonia as head of a U.S. congressional delegation. The delegation met with Estonian President Lennart Meri, Prime Minister Mart Siimann, and the Parliament's deputy Speaker Tunne Kelam. During its trip, the delegation was also scheduled to visit Latvia, Norway, Poland, the Czech Republic, Iceland and Bosnia.
Any agreement on NATO's expansion will have to be ratified by the U.S. Senate and the parliaments of the other 15 alliance members.