Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

No Need to Rush NATO Expansion

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

No Need to Rush NATO Expansion

Article excerpt

To enhance their stability and to gain a measure of security, some Eastern European and former Warsaw Pact countries would like to join NATO. The current issue of The NATO Review includes an article by the prime minister of Poland unambiguously titled, "Building Poland's Security: Membership of NATO a Key Objective." The Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia also want in.

NATO expansion need not stop with these four. The Baltic nations might feel that their security would be enhanced by NATO membership, and the Ukraine could be next in line. Unquestionably, the wind seems to be blowing in favor of NATO enlargement. But there are several reasons to question what is fast appearing to be the conventional wisdom.

NATO is primarily important as a military alliance, designed initially both to deter and to defend against Soviet advances into Western Europe. Ultimately, NATO, with American leadership, brought Western European nations under the protection of American forces and particularly the strategic nuclear umbrella. At the time of NATO's creation in 1949, it was clearly in the interest of the United States to take prudent steps to reduce the risk of Soviet aggression west.

But with the Cold War over, the Soviet Union in the history books, Russia much weakened and United States forces shrinking, it is not clear that it is in the interest of the United States to guarantee (ultimately with nuclear weapons) the security of Eastern European countries.

Eastern Europe has a history of political instability and uncertain borders and is a region in which the United States has no strong interests. Bringing these countries into the shelter of NATO may benefit them, but is unlikely to benefit either NATO in general or the United States in particular.

It might well be plausible for Eastern European countries to be welcomed in to the European Union and even its military arm, the Western European Union. But NATO expansion is not just a European issue. It involves American interests and American resources. And expansion may not be in our interest.

Expanding NATO would be expensive. Much effort, training and treasure have gone into ensuring that NATO forces can work together. From common ammunition calibers to a common command structure to joint exercises, the goal has been to create national forces that can operate as one.

To bring Eastern European countries up to NATO standards would take significant amounts of time and money, but not to standardize would show expansion to be simply a symbolic gesture. Unless they are brought to NATO standards, the newest members would only be in NATO, not really with it. And NATO would be not so much enlarged as diluted.

The cost of NATO expansion takes on added significance in the face of today's realistic threats. …

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