Talbott Predicts NATO Approval: Thinks Admission of 3 Will Be OK'd
Barber, Ben, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott predicted yesterday that the Senate will ratify the addition of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to NATO despite concerns over costs and repercussions.
"We have about a year to persuade two-thirds-plus [of the 100 senators] that NATO enlargement is in the national interest," Mr. Talbott said in a meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Times. "We are not taking for granted Senate approval."
The 16 NATO nations are to decide at a summit Tuesday and Wednesday in Madrid whether to invite the Eastern European nations into the Western alliance. President Clinton, who will attend the summit, has said Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic should be admitted in the first wave of expansion.
Most NATO members also want Romania and Slovenia in the first wave. The Clinton administration has said it will not close the door to what Mr. Talbott called future "manageable enlargement" of the alliance but has set no timetable.
NATO decisions are made by consensus, so any nation can veto a decision. Because all 16 NATO members support inviting the three U.S. favorites, Mr. Talbott predicted the United States will have its way. After that, he said, the Senate will go along.
"We have a fairly high degree of confidence that at the end of the day . . . after the kind of vigorous and healthy debate that this issue deserves, the Senate will indeed ratify it by a comfortable margin, and it will do so because enlargement is in the national interest of the United States," he said.
The deputy secretary said that in order to "keep the door open" to future NATO enlargement, "it is essential that the first tranche be an unqualified success. [Expansion] should be steady, deliberate and manageable."
The three U.S. favorites have for seven years since the collapse of communism maintained democratic governments and free markets. They have also upgraded communications and other systems needed to operate effectively within the alliance, other administration officials said.
Twenty senators issued a list of concerns last week that did not so much oppose enlargement as raise questions about whether NATO's power and effectiveness would be diluted and about how much military standardization would cost. Some senators and experts also fear expansion will spark Russian concerns about being isolated.
Adding the three Eastern European countries would cost the United States $1.5 billion and cost all of NATO up to $35 billion over 10 years, Mr. Talbott said. But the price would be higher if each nation armed itself against its neighbors, he said. …