The House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to endorse further enlargement of the NATO alliance which will allow admission of two former Soviet republics -- Ukraine and Georgia, the Reuters news agency reports. A brief debate took place before the voting, in which no one mentioned Moscow's nervousness about such an expansion.
House of Representatives Approves NATO Membership for Ukraine and Georgia
Created: 07.03.2007 10:22 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 12:44 MSK
The House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to endorse further enlargement of the NATO alliance which will allow admission of two former Soviet republics -- Ukraine and <>mnuser=georgiaGeorgia, the Reuters news agency reports. A brief debate took place before the voting, in which no one mentioned Moscow's nervousness about such an expansion.
On a voice vote, the House backed a resolution calling for the "timely admission" to the alliance of Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, and two former republics of the old Soviet Union, Georgia and Ukraine. Identical legislation was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.
The goal is to encourage those five countries to continue working to join the military alliance, the legislation's sponsor, Rep. John Tanner, a Tennessee Democrat, said.
"It is a statement from Congress that we believe what they are doing is important, and we believe they are moving in the right direction," Tanner told the House during debate.
Recently Moscow's leadership has harshly criticized U.S. foreign policy, including its support for another round of NATO enlargement. "We have the right to ask, against whom is this expansion directed," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in widely-noted speech last month to a conference in Europe.
NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was set up in 1949 as a military alliance to deter the Soviet Union from expanding into Western Europe.
But lawmakers said the U.S. resolution was a routine expression of support for the next crop of NATO aspirants. NATO has expanded before into Eastern Europe, including right up to Russia's borders when the former Soviet states of the Baltics joined NATO in 2004.
"I would counsel the president of Russia not to be defensive," the sponsor of the Senate version of the legislation, Indiana Republican Richard Lugar, told Reuters.
"From the beginning whoever the Russian leader has been at the time, that leader has expressed sensitivity with regard to any expansion of NATO,"
The NATO summit last November welcomed reform efforts in Albania, Croatia and Macedonia and said those that met alliance criteria could expect to receive invitations to join at a 2008 summit. NATO also declared support for membership of Georgia and Ukraine, but without promising to accept them.
One analyst said U.S. lawmakers were sending an important signal.
"Given the new assertiveness of Russia, it's really important for Congress to voice continued support for what is in fact our major military alliance," said Gary Schmitt, director of strategic programs at the American Enterprise Institute think-tank in Washington.