Magazine article National Defense

NATO Expansion Saddled by Host of Economic Military Variables

Magazine article National Defense

NATO Expansion Saddled by Host of Economic Military Variables

Article excerpt

NATO is a tested and proven force. It is widely believed to be a significant contributor to European stability since the end of the second World War.

Turning points such as the end of the Soviet Union, and the opening of the Eastern Bloc, however, have forced NATO to re-evaluate its role in the changing world order and consider necessary steps to ensure its continued viability.

The alliance is expanding its membership to include the former Warsaw Pact states of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

There is a plethora of foreign policy and defense related issues subject to debate. Questions concerning the weakening of the alliance because of its expansion, whether the U.S. will maintain the office of supreme allied commander in Europe, and what effect the expansion of NATO will have on its relationship with Russia all need to be addressed.

NATO Enlargement

Perhaps the most contentious issue for the United States concerns burdensharing with its allies. The end of the Cold War made the matter somewhat less pressing. The costs of NATO enlargement and its participation in various regional peacekeeping missions, though, have brought this issue back to the front burner.

With the steady decline in U.S. defense budgets-particularly in the areas of research and development and procurement-and prevailing doubts about the availability of funding for the modern U.S. military, Congress may be leery to allocate funds earmarked for incorporating new NATO members.

Debates in the committees and on the Senate floor will focus a great deal on the expected costs of NATO expansion. As is to be expected, skepticism about various cost estimates will be prevalent. Congress has noted that participation in Bosnia has already exceeded cost estimates by $5 billion.

Although U.S. forces are scheduled to leave Bosnia when the Stabilization Force's (SFOR) mandate concludes in June, the possibility that some U.S. troops will remain is likely. Many members of Congress believe that the European allies should assume more responsibility for their own security and postSFOR operations. Thus, the debate over burdensharing in Bosnia may have an effect upon congressional approval of additional funds for NATO expansion.

To date, the U.S. has provided considerable financial support to help Central and Eastern European states modernize their defenses through various programs. In 1997, the U.S. awarded Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic $60 million in foreign military financing. In addition, Congress appropriated $242 million under the Central European Defense Loan Program, along with a $20 million subsidy.

For Fiscal Year 1997, the U.S. contribution to the three common budgets of NATO-the NATO security investment program, the military budget, and the civil budget-was $470 million, or about 25 percent of the total funding. Exactly how much more the U.S. will have to pay in order to help the expansion of NATO is unknown, as there are varying cost estimates that are dependent on multiple assumptions and scenarios.

In coming up with its estimates, the Defense Department assumed NATO would rely on its existing post Cold-War strategy-meaning each member-state would have a selfdefense capability-instead of relying on permanently stationed forces.

The Defense Department's estimate also assumes no significant, military threat to NATO appears in the foreseeable future. …

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