COMAIRNORTH welcomes new members to NATO

1st Lt. Elizabeth Aptekar
U.S. Air Forces in Europe

***image1***The Commander Allied Air Forces Northern Region welcomed seven new nations as full members of the NATO Alliance March 29 here, raising the number of countries in the Alliance from 19 to 26.
The accession of the new countries comes after a process that started at the Prague Summit held November 2002 when NATO’s Heads of State agreed to invite seven countries from the Membership Action Plan to engage in Accession Talks.
Of the seven new countries, Slovakia and the three Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, will come under the umbrella of NATO’s Northern Region, while Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia will join the Southern Region.
“I’m absolutely thrilled at the progress we have made toward integration in the past few years and I’m proud to be a member of NATO at this historic time,” said Gen. Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, COM-AIRNORTH. “Although there are challenges ahead for the Alliance to successfully integrate its new members, the prospects for future peace and stability are greatly improved with these additions.”
General Foglesong marked the accession date by officially welcoming two members of the Headquarters Air North staff at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, and congratulated them on their change in status to full NATO members.
Previously working as interns within the Air North Partnership Work Program, Lt. Col. Roman Timofejev, a pilot from Estonia and Maj. Augustin Klus, a fighter controller from Slovakia, were delighted to represent their countries as part of the new, larger NATO.
“It is a real honor to be one of the first from my country to be able to work with the Alliance nations,” said Colonel Timofejev, an Estonian helicopter pilot who also trained on the Mig-21 fighter. “Working within the Defensive Air Operations team here at Headquarters AIRNORTH, I feel I can contribute firsthand to defending our sovereign territory.”
NATO was formed in 1949 in response to the threat and expansionist policies of the then Soviet Union. Faced with this threat, 12 founding countries created the North Atlantic Alliance whose unifying creed is summed up in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty – “An armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all”.
Article 5 was invoked following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, and led to NATO’s nations playing a far more active role in the Global War on Terrorism.
This will be the fifth expansion in the Alliance’s history: Greece and Turkey joined in 1952; Germany in 1955; Spain in 1982; and the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in 1999.
The accession of the new member nations will be highlighted with a formal flag raising ceremony with a staff parade at the Headquarters Air North compound April 2 at 10 a.m. The ceremony will add seven new flags to those already flying.