BEFORE NATO can take a single step to the east, the U.S. Senate
will have to render a salute.
The reason: NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organization
- and the key word is "treaty." The Constitution lets the president
enter into treaties, "provided two-thirds of the Senators present
So far, the expansion of NATO into Central Europe has just been
talk, generating little debate in Congress.
But now that the Russians have agreed, if only grudgingly, the
issue goes to the Senate, which can dig in as tenaciously as
"This is no easy sell," says Sen. Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind.
Indeed, one complaint has been the lack of deliberation on the
That complaint should fade as the Senate takes up the matter.
Here, in summary form, are some of the arguing points.
* A Russian backlash. Critics say that pushing NATO eastward
will only push the Russians' backs farther into the wall.
Many Russians still see NATO as the enemy. (As preposterous as
it may seem to us, many Cold War Russians thought NATO - prodded by
a revanchist Germany - had aggressive eyes on Mother Russia.)
In the '90s, the Russians have suffered the loss of great-power
status - a blow to the national pysche. To the east, they face a
China on the upswing. To their south, they face Islamic unrest. And
now, to the west, N ATO wants to edge closer, nuclear weapons and
The critics say NATO will reinforce Russian hard-liners and
frustrate Russian reformers. What's more, they say, the Russians
will back out of arms-control talks in a huff and maybe even
retreat into Cold War militarism.
* Removal of Europe's buffer zone. NATO's writ now stops at
the German border. That leaves a buffer zone in Poland, Hungary and
the Czech Republic - the very countries expected to sign up for
The Russians grow vexed at the thought of losing this space
between themselves and Germany, which twice in this century has
marched its gray legions into Russia.
After the Cold War, the Russians pulled their soldiers out of
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. They think it's hardly
cricket now for NATO to move its soldiers in.
* Misplacement of forces. Few people expect the Russians to
march on the Poles, Czechs and Hungarians. The people who really
need protection live next door to Russia, in Ukraine and the Baltic
states. These critics ask: Why isn't NATO going where it's needed?
(The answer: Because the Russians would go berserk. Although
today's wretched Russia resembles a Third World country, it's a
Third World country with nuclear missiles.)
* The expense of expansion. The Czechs, Poles and Hungarians
built their armies around Soviet weapons and tactics. So did the
Iraqis, and look where it got them.
The new NATO members would have to scrap the Soviet gear and
modernize with Western arms. The cost: somewhere near $30 billion.
In an age when NATO countries are shrinking arms budgets,
that's a lot. The United States thinks it can kick in only $2
billion, with Europe picking up the rest. The Europeans are
* A dilution of unity and purpose. Critics say NATO succeeded
because it was a tightly knit group of common-minded democracies.
But in Central Europe, democracy is a dream, not a tradition. The
critics worry that NATO could water itself down into just another
international organization that talks a lot.
* A loss of credibility. Article 5 of the North Atlantic
Treaty makes NATO one for all, all for one. Members must treat an
attack on one as an attack on all. …