Muted welcome for three new Nato members
An event that constituted one of the signal achievements - perhaps the sole lasting foreign policy achievement - of the Bill Clinton presidency was hailed in three sentences - not even spoken by the President, but issued by his office.
The presence of the three new members, it said, would "make America safer ... It will make Nato stronger. For years they struggled with dignity and courage to regain their freedom. And now they will help us defend it for many years to come."
Mr Clinton, along with the massed ranks of the White House press corps, was in his home state of Arkansas, where he dedicated his childhood home in the small town of Hope as a national monument.
The formal Nato accession ceremony was banished to the small town of Independence in Missouri. Here the foreign ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland signed the accession documents and handed them to the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.
The venue was explained by its historical relevance. Independence is the home town of the late President Truman and the small university campus includes his memorial library, where the archives relating to the creation of Nato are kept. But the original Nato treaty was signed in Washington, and although the main speech was made by Dean Acheson, the Secretary of State, President Truman stood behind him. Ms Albright had brought only a US Senator for support.
The spectre at Friday's feast was Russia. Washington, it was believed, did not want to offend Russian sensibilities by making overmuch of the West's Cold War victory and the recovery by the three central European countries of their sovereignty. It did not want the new members' accession, with the inevitable references to 1956, 1968 and Poland's Solidarity, to cloud next month's 50th anniversary of Nato. Nor did it want to tip the delicate mission to Belgrade by the Russian foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, the wrong way.
Not even the ultra-modest surroundings of the Truman Library, however, nor Russia, nor the absence of the President could prevent the ceremony from becoming a moving postscript to the Cold War. In sentiments echoed by all three ministers, Bronislaw Geremek spoke of "Poland returning where she has always belonged, in the free world". Jan Kavan for the Czech Republic said Nato membership meant his country would "never again become a powerless victim of foreign invasion", and all three pledged to meet their obligations as fully as they would enjoy the benefits of membership.
- 1 I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' near to camp
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Jeremy Hunt: 'I took my children to A&E because I didn't want to wait for GP appointment'
- 4 Girl, 7, gets Tesco to remove 'stupid' sign suggesting superheroes are 'for boys'
- 5 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
Sarah Vine criticises lesbian mother Jack Monroe: 'If she was unsure about her sexuality, she should have taken greater precautions'
'Kidnapped boy may have been abused and murdered by VIP paedophile ring,' say police
Black Friday 2014: Opening times for Asda, John Lewis, PC World, GAME and Argos
Jeremy Hunt: 'I took my children to A&E because I didn't want to wait for GP appointment'
Michael Brown shooting: Driver smashes into crowd as protests erupt across the US during a second night of unrest
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...
£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...
£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...
£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...