Vilnius, 9 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- U.S. Defense Secretary William Perry has reassured the three Baltic nations that they are "fully eligible" for NATO membership.
Perry made the comments in a letter to Lithuanian Defense Minister Linas Linkevicius that was reportedly dated October 3.
Last month, Perry told NATO defense ministers in Norway that Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia were ill-equipped to defend fellow NATO members.
In the letter, Perry said that his words had been misinterpreted by the press. He said his remarks had been made in a "spirit of realism and practicality."
Perry said that although Baltic nations are not now ready to join the alliance, he said the United States would work with them to get their defense capability up to alliance standards.
Linkevicius today said Perry's remarks constituted a "not yet" rather than a "no."