By Asmus, Ronald D.
Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly , No. Spring 2003
It is a pleasure to appear before you today to discuss the future of NATO and the accession of seven new Central and East European members to the North Atlantic Treaty. This is a historical moment. The vision of a Europe whole and free stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea set out a decade ago is now within our reach.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the leaders and peoples of each of the seven countries invited to join the Alliance at the Prague summit last November. This is a very special moment for them and a vindication of their hard work and perseverance over many years. While they have been part of the West in spirit for a long time, they will now join the West's premier military alliance to help us defend the territory and interests of the Euro-Atlantic community. As a result, Europe will be more peaceful, democratic and secure.
It is also a special moment for those Americans who have worked with these countries to help make this day become reality. I would like to congratulate the Administration as well as this Committee for its leadership and support of NATO enlargement. Many members of this Committee know how much work and heavy lifting was also required here in the United States to make this day possible. Were it not for the leadership, perseverance and skill demonstrated by Washington, including by the leadership of this Committee, I doubt we would be here today.
We are also meeting at a time when the Alliance is in trouble. While we celebrate the extension of the boundaries of freedom and security eastward, we know that the trans-Atlantic relationship faces one of the deepest crises in its history. The United States is fighting a war in Iraq and many of our key NATO allies are not with us. An Alliance that has committed itself to dealing with the problems of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction as a core mission, finds itself unable to find common ground on how to confront that challenge in the real world in the form of Saddam Hussein. As a result, NATO is divided and marginalized at a time when Western unity, solidarity and support are very much needed.
One only has to read the newspapers to see the growing doubts on both sides of the Atlantic about NATO's future viability. Indeed, in recent weeks I have often been asked why we are even bothering to enlarge the Alliance further when many people consider it to be in a process of decline. My answer has been that it is still in America's interest to successfully complete this round of enlargement in spite of current trans-Atlantic differences. Let me explain why.
First, we must not lose sight of what we set out to accomplish by opening NATO's door to Central and Eastern Europe. From the beginning, the purpose of NATO enlargement was to help lock in a new peace order in Europe following communism's collapse and the end of the Cold War. We wanted to promote a process of pan-European integration and reconciliation that would make the prospect of armed conflict as inconceivable in the eastern half of the continent as it had become in the western half.
To a remarkable degree, we have succeeded in doing so. For much of the 20th century, Europe was the greatest potential source of conflict anywhere in the world. It was there where the great wars of the 20th century had started, and where we feared the Cold War could become a hot one. Today, the continent is more peaceful, democratic and secure than at any time in recent history. And strategic cooperation across the Atlantic between the U.S. and Europe through NATO is a big part of the reason why.
When I was in the State Department, I often told my staff that our goal was to integrate all the countries from the Baltic to the Black Sea within a decade of communism's collapse. If the West failed to achieve this, I told them at the time, future historians were likely to condemn us as having failed to seize this moment of history - and rightly so. …