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NATO Secretary General Attributes Alliance Expansion to the Will of Eastern Europe

The NATO Secretary General confirmed plans for establishing command points and rapid reaction forces in six East European countries

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This article originally appeared at LentaTranslated for RI by Natasha Naydenova

“NATO’s expansion to the East is not due to the Alliance’s focused policy, but to the wish of Eastern European countries to join it,” stated the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, in an interview to the Canadian edition of Maclean’s, published on Friday, 27 March.  

<figcaption>NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg</figcaption>
NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg

“Independent countries knocked on our door and asked for membership. It’s not NATO moving to the East; it’s the East that’s willing to join NATO and/or the European Union. And each sovereign state has the right to make such decisions,” said Stoltenberg.

According to the NATO Secretary General, the idea that something that is lost by Russia is gained by the EU is false. “Every nation has the right to choose its own way; this includes choice of security system. This basic principle is recognized in the Helsinki Final Act, signed also by Russia. Nobody was forced to become a member of the European Union and NATO; everyone who joined the EU and NATO did it of their own free and democratic will,” added Stoltenberg.

Speaking of the possible entrance of Georgia and Ukraine into the North Atlantic Alliance, Stoltenberg mentioned that NATO follows a policy of open doors. According to him, if Kiev decides to make a membership application, this request will be processed.

In February 2015, during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Stoltenberg asserted that the recent steps in expansion of the Alliance’s boundaries are defensive. Moscow, for its part, claimed that NATO is creating additional tension and that it “provokes confrontation and undermines the Euro–Atlantic security system” by expanding its boundaries as well as increasing military presence and potential.

At the end of January, the NATO Secretary General confirmed plans for establishing command points and rapid reaction forces in six East European countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Poland and Bulgaria. It is also expected that the NATO Response Force will be increased from the current 13,000 to 30,000.

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