Vilnius, 23 November 2002 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. President George W. Bush welcomed the people of the three Baltic states to NATO as he spoke to a crowd of thousands in Vilnius today. Bush, speaking in a downtown square, said that "in the face of aggression, the brave people of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia will never again stand alone." The U.S. president is in Vilnius following NATO's invitation this week to the three Baltic states to join the alliance.
Earlier today, Bush met with the presidents of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia and accepted Lithuania's highest award from President Valdas Adamkus. The U.S. president next travels to Romania to meet Romanian leaders and speak to the public there. He will head back to Washington at the end of the day.
NATO formally invited seven former communist states to join the alliance during a two-day summit in Prague. The states are Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.