JWR Roger SimonMona CharenLinda Chavez
Jacob SullumJonathan S. Tobin
Thomas SowellWilliam PfaffRobert Scheer
Don FederCal Thomas
Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / March 23, 1998 / 25 Adar, 5758

William Pfaff

William Pfaff NATO's expansion contradicts other American policies

PARIS -- Debate has suddenly vanished in the U.S. Senate over NATO enlargement, where a few weeks ago NATO seemed likely to provide the long-overdue great debate on American foreign policy.

The debate has been swept away by convenient hypocrisy over NATO expansion's costs, NATO and by the Administration's successful re-launch of the enlargement issue as a choice between "appeasement" of Russia and solidarity with the brave Poles and Czechs.

The Pentagon's steadily-shrinking estimates of the cost of expansion have been accompanied by ever-firmer assurances that the Europeans will pay for nearly all of it anyway. No one in the U.S. Senate wishes to be recorded as voting against security for Poles, Czechs, or Hungarians -- or the citizens of the Baltic republics.

There has been a wink and a nod to nervous senators to suggest that a NATO security guarantee does not automatically mean what the East Europeans and Baltic peoples may think it means. The Article V problem -- meaning the U.S. commitment to go to war to defend NATO's new members -- is to be reviewed later.

Many of us have vainly objected that NATO enlargement makes Central and Eastern Europe less secure rather than more secure. The nations which are brought into NATO will feel better off, but those conspicuously left out are worse off, and this is above all true for the three Baltic states.

A better course, which was never explored, would have been to seek an agreement by which the security and frontiers of all the nations of the area were mutually and independently guaranteed by Russia and the NATO powers, which would have meant a guarantee by NATO itself of the independence of the former Warsaw Pact countries.

Instead, NATO's military organization will be weakened by a large and disruptive program of integrating new members and their forces, and the alliance prospectively made less able to take decisions, since there will be more members with a say in those decisions, and more interests -- and fears -- to appease.

Expansion was first promoted as a way to give a new purpose to the organization in the aftermath of the cold war. As part of the same effort, NATO's leadership and the U.S. government have tried to reposition the alliance for missions outside Europe, in the belief, as Senator Richard Lugar phrased it, that unless NATO went "out of area" it would "go out of business."

NATO's actual out-of-area capabilities are slender, since German public opinion is hostile to such missions, the French are highly skeptical, and while the Poles and other new members will do what they are asked to do, they are not joining NATO to solve African or Middle Eastern problems -- nor to fight drugs, crime, terrorism, or nuclear proliferation (to cite some other notions of what an expanded NATO might do).

The fundamental problem in NATO expansion is that by plainly identifying Russia as the potential enemy it contributes to making the new Russia into an enemy, which serves no one's interest.

George Kennan, who in 1947 formulated the successful policy for Soviet Russia's containment, has repeatedly warned that NATO enlargement will damage existing relations with Russia and influence for the worse perceptions within Russia of the West's intentions for the future.

Owen Harries, the editor of the Washington quarterly, The National Interest, has drawn attention to the assurances given Moscow during the mid-1990s that if Russia withdrew from the Warsaw Pact states and accepted German unification, NATO would not move eastward.

Mr. Kennan confirms this. He writes, "We did not, I am sure, intend to trick the Russians; but the actual determinants of our later behavior -- lack of coordination of political with military policy, and the amateurism of later White House diplomacy -- would scarcely have been more creditable on our part than a real intention to deceive."

Mr. Kennan also writes of the ignorance in treating Russia as "inherently and incorrigibly expansionist." This "grossly oversimplifies and misconstrues much of the history of Russian diplomacy of the czarist period," he says. To generalize about Russia's present government and future behavior on the basis of the wartime and postwar record of the Soviet Union is a dangerous error.

Expansion is supported by some in the U.S. government and policy community as part of a larger agenda, the so-called new Atlanticism, which identifies an expanding Atlantic alliance as a vehicle of American-led federation or integration of all the democracies, perceived as the next step in a development that began with Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points and continued with the Atlantic Charter, Marshall Plan, NATO, and U.S. support for the creation of the European Union.

This would seem to reflect a remarkably divided consciousness in the Senate and the Washington policy community. At the same time the alliance is to be enlarged, the Senate displays mounting hostility to the country's existing commitments in the UN, the IMF, Bosnia, and in the Kosovo problem. Against such a background, the Senate's unwillingness to debate NATO enlargement seems very strange.


3/18/98: The New Yorker sought money, but lost it
3/16/98: America's 'strategy of tension' in Italy
3/13/98: Slobodan Milosevic may have started something that can't be stopped

©1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Inc.