Washington, 8 May 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The U.S. Senate is set to vote later today on admitting seven Eastern European countries to NATO. The Senate is expected to approve the measure to open NATO membership to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania.
On the eve of the vote, Senator Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the seven candidates for membership are developing niche military capabilities that will be useful in meeting the alliance's new military demands.
Lugar added that the alliance should be restructured so that it can be a mechanism of burden sharing and mutual security in the war on terrorism.
NATO was founded more than 50 years ago to counter the Soviet threat.
The seven new members would bring the alliance's membership to 26 next year.