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NATO’s Duty at 70

As NATO marks the 70th anniversary of its founding and the 20th anniversary of its expansion into formerly communist countries, it must do more than reflect on the past. To continue fulfilling its mission into the future, the Alliance must no longer allow the Kremlin to wield an effective veto over aspiring members' accession.

COPENHAGEN – NATO marks two anniversaries this year: the 70th anniversary of its founding, and the 20th anniversary of its first expansion behind the former Iron Curtain. Looking back, NATO’s status as the most successful peace project in history reflects not just its military might, but also its ability to provide hope to aspiring members. There is no doubt that the prospect of NATO (and European Union) membership has served as a driving force for democratization and liberalization in the ex-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe.

With an “open door policy,” NATO continues to accept new allies. And though the zeal for enlargement 20 years ago has given way to wariness about antagonizing Russia, such reticence is ill-advised. Recent history shows that every time NATO has dithered, Russia has moved in.

For example, in April 2008, NATO allies met in Bucharest to discuss offering a Membership Action Plan (MAP) to Georgia and Ukraine. At the insistence of Germany and France, we decided to postpone that decision until the end of the year. In my view, that was a mistake. Just months after our summit, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the invasion of Georgia, and Russia has occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia ever since.

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