History Timeline 2000's

Photo above: World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., opened April 29, 2004. Right: Court of Flags at the United Nations, Mateusz Stachowski, SXC Free Images.

United Nations

U.S. Timeline - The 2000s

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  • Timeline

  • 2002 - Detail

    November 21, 2002 - NATO invites additional members of the former Soviet bloc to join its membership. Seven nations are included in the invitation; Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

    NATO Summit, Washington, 1999

    NATO, the North American Treaty Organization, had been formed by the United States, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom on April 4, 1949 as a response to the end of World War II, as well as the growing threat from former ally, the Soviet Union, with the Berlin blockade and its expansionist policies. Now, over fifty years later, and over a decade since the demise of the Soviet Union and the taking down of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, seven former states of the Soviet Union desired further protection from Russia. An invitation to NATO was what they desired, both for protection, and for further inclusion into the western world.

    Expansion had occurred before. Greece and Turkey joined in 1952, West Germany in 1955, and Spain in 1982. On March 12, 1999, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland had begun the eastern expansion into NATO, as well. There was Russian opposition to that. There had been some flux in the organization over the years since 1949 due to certain conflicts between members. Greece withdrew from 1974-1980 due to problems with Turkey. France withdrew from 1966-2009 when President de Gaulle thought the United States was exerting too much power. West Germany was joined by its East Germany neighbor in 1990 as a united Germany after the Berlin Wall and Soviet Union fell.

    During the Prague Summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 2002 on November 21-22, discussion about an invitation for ascension to the seven new members was high on the agenda. There had been debate within the United States after the fall of the Soviet Union about the speed of NATO expansion. Some within the Clinton administration wanted a phased in policy; others preferred a faster pace. While it is assumed that the faster pace crowd won the argument, it took over a decade for the plan to take action, first with the 1999 ascension of the Czech, Hungarians, and Polish states. The decisions on expansion were further complicated by the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States by Islamic terrorists. President Bush, on June 15, 2001, had already committed to further expansion of NATO, stating, "all of Europe's new democracies" should have a chance to join western institutions. Russian actions during this time had pushed hesitant eastern European nations toward joining; the First Chechen War, among other conflicts and disagreements.

    How the Nations Joined

    During the Washington Summit of 1999, individual Member Action Plans were formalized for nations in line for membership. Article Ten of the original treaty had always been the basis for inviting and agreeing on all new members, as stated in the original NATO Treaty of 1949.

    ARTICLE 10 - The Parties may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area to accede to this Treaty. Any State so invited may become a party to the Treaty by depositing its instrument of accession with the Government of the United States of America. The Government of the United States of America will inform each of the Parties of the deposit of each such instrument of accession.

    The United States, through its Department of State, saw expansion at this time as a positive move, even though its cost was estimated to be $1.5 billion over ten years, with the USA contributing $400 million of that. The State Department noted that, "NATO enlargement will help to enhance the political and economic stability for all countries in the Euro-Atlantic area. By helping Europe's newer democracies as they strengthen good governance, rule of law, and human rights, NATO will also facilitate a better long-term environment for American trade and investment."

    The process for inclusion of the seven new members was not completed in full until the Istanbul Summit of March 29, 2004. Debates on expansion, now with terrorist implications, both in Europe and with Russian cooperation on that front continued in political and press circles. There was Russian opposition to the ascension of its former Baltic states; Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, although it was, in the end, less verbose than some would have thought. Russia had been part of NATO's discussions through the NATO-Russia Council, established on May 28, 2002, an adjunct to the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act. Neither of those actions indicate membership of Russia in NATO itself or a voting right.

    The seven new nations deposited their paperwork with the Secretary of State, Collin Powell, of the United States, the depository nation. A ceremony was held in the Cash Room of the Department of the Treasury. Later, an additional ceremony was held by President George W. Bush at the White House.

    Photo above: NATO Washington Summit at Mellon Auditorium, 1999, R.D. Ward, U.S. Department of Defense. Courtesy Department of Defense via Wikipedia Commons. Below: President Harry Truman signs the North Atlantic Treaty in the White House, August 24, 1949, with (left to right) Sir Derick Boyer Millar, United Kingdom; Ambassador Henrik de Kauffmann of Denmark; W. D. Matthews, Canada; Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson; Ambassador Wilhelm Munthe de Morgenstierne of Norway; Ambassador Henri Bonnet of France; Ambassador Pedro Theotonio Pereira of Portugal; Secretary of State Dean Acheson; Jonkheer O. Reuchlin, the Netherlands; and Mario Lucielli, Italy, 1949, Abbie Rowe. Courtesy National Archives. Info sources: "NATO Enlargement: Moving Forward; Expanding the Alliance and Completing Europe's Integration, 2001, James B. Steinberg, Philip H. Gordon, Brookings Institute; "Seven New Members Join NATO," March 29, 2004, nato.int; "Fact Sheet, The Enlargement of NATO," Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, Washington, DC, October 31, 2002; "NATO-Russia Council," 2010, NATO; Wikipedia Commons; Library of Congress.

    NATA Signing 1949

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