Bush welcomes NATO's new seven
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has formally welcomed the addition of seven new members to the NATO alliance during a ceremony Monday.
But the inclusion of former communist Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is raising concerns in Moscow.
Bush said: "When NATO was founded the peoples of these seven nations were captives to an empire... They endured bitter tyranny and struggled for their independence.
"They earned their freedom with courage and perseverance, and today they stand with us as full and equal partners in this great alliance."
The 55-year-old alliance was originally set up by the West to counter the Soviet Union's military might during the Cold War.
NATO's expansion to the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania has raised concerns in Russia. All three nations were Soviet republics and hosted Red Army troops barely 15 years ago.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said in a magazine interview last week that Moscow might revise its defense policy unless the alliance revises its military doctrine.
And Konstantin Kosachyov, the head of the international affairs committee of Russia's parliament, told the Russian news agency Interfax on Monday that NATO "has recently been making steps that are unfriendly to Russia."
NATO has tried to convince Moscow the expansion is not directed at Russia, but NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who was at the White House for Monday's ceremony, told CNN much needed to be done to strengthen NATO-Russian ties.
"We need, in the interests of NATO and in the interests of Russia, a strong partnership, which means that we not only discuss the easy things but also the harder nuts to crack in that relationship," he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday the threats that brought the allies together in 1949 have changed, but "no less ominous" dangers remain.
"We still live in a dangerous world, where our enemies seek not only the death of multitudes, but the death of liberty itself," Powell said.
"They will not succeed, for we stand united in the global war against terrorism -- war that compels the resistance of all free peoples, and must be won by free peoples, together, in an alliance."
NATO was established on April 4, 1949 by 12 nations: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom and the United States. Three other one-time Warsaw Pact members -- Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic -- joined NATO in 1999.