Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Misguided Push to Expand NATO

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Misguided Push to Expand NATO

Article excerpt

Bob Dole and Bill Clinton have begun trying to outbid each other over who will expand NATO faster, in a naked effort to court votes from Americans of Eastern European origin.

In one of his last acts as a senator, Dole, accompanied by visiting Polish dignitary Lech Walesa, introduced a bill that would compel the administration to speed NATO's expansion to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, which Clinton vows to do but at a more cautious pace.

Now, it's always nice to see Dole and Clinton agreeing on a major foreign policy initiative - but not when they're both wrong.

And on this one they're both wrong. NATO expansion is a bad idea.

The NATO expanders argue that after the Cold War a strategic vacuum exists in the heart of Europe, between Germany and Russia, and if NATO doesn't fill it, an inherently expansionist Russia will. The NATO expanders also argue that the best way to consolidate the new democracies in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic is to bring them into NATO.

Next month, Michael Mandelbaum, of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, will publish a highly original and provocative book, "The Dawn of Peace in Europe," which demolishes these arguments. Mandelbaum argues that no strategic vacuum exists in Europe for NATO to fill. To the contrary, he explains, a new, highly desirable security system has taken root there, but no one has noticed.

What is that system? First are the political revolutions of 1989-91, which ended the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe. They not only eliminated the major standing cause of war in that region - the oppressive Soviet occupation - but gave birth to a new set of independent, democratic states west of Russia. These states, from Ukraine to Bulgaria, would not be easily overrun by a Russian army that cannot take Chechnya.

Second are the arms control agreements concluded between Washington and Moscow in the early 1990s, which required both sides to restructure their nuclear and conventional forces in Europe in a way that reduced or eliminated offensive weapons, while emphasizing defensive weapons.

This combination of newly liberated states and newly restructured armed forces, says Mandelbaum, eliminates the main motive for going to war in Central Europe and sharply reduces the means - thereby accomplishing precisely what an expanded NATO is supposed to do: prevent a Russian attack. …

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