EASTERN Europe now seems a secure neighborhood. The bloc's old
bogyman hardly looks fearsome anymore: When the last Red Army
soldier leaves Germany in 1994, 40-plus years of Soviet occupation
will end with a whimper.
But the newly free nations of the old Warsaw Pact can still see
shadows that might hide threats to their security.
Yugoslavia's chaos could spill over its borders, and who knows
what disputes quarrelsome ex-Soviet republics could cause?
So Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland want to be on much better
terms with the only real policeman left in the region - the North
Atlantic Treaty Organization. Their overtures are raising difficult
questions for less-than-enthusiastic NATO nations.
In a visit to Washington this week, Czech President Vaclav Havel
told Congress his country wants "the fullest possible cooperation
with the North American alliance."
He made clear that meant some sort of institutional link or
The White House, in response, said President Havel was asking
for more than NATO was willing to provide.
"NATO extends its security guarantees to members," said one
administration official at a briefing for reporters. "It doesn't
extend them to non-members."
The issue will not go away when Havel returns to Czechoslovakia.
The Czech leader met with his Polish and Hungarian counterparts in
Cracow earlier this month and agreed to continue to press for
greater participation in all Western institutions - security pacts
Hungarian Prime Minister Jozsef Antall has explicitly called for
NATO's defense umbrella to be stretched over Central Europe.
Perhaps, Mr. Antall has said, new, full-scale NATO members should
Leaders to meet
When NATO heads of state meet in Rome early next month, they are
sure to discuss what to do about this knocking on their door.
The United States and Germany have already put forward one joint
proposal. On Oct. 2, German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher
and US Secretary of State James Baker III suggested establishment
of a "North Atlantic Cooperation Council," a sort of NATO
This council would entail "an enhancement of the existing
liaison relationship," said US Assistant Secretary of State for
European and Canadian Affairs Thomas Niles at a briefing.
In other words, East European nations, and maybe even what's
left of the Soviet Union, could chat with NATO from time to time
about its nondefense activities. …