Going to War over Warsaw NATO Expansion Means the Ultimate Commitment. Should the US Make It?

By Holt, Pat M. | The Christian Science Monitor, July 3, 1997 | Go to article overview

Going to War over Warsaw NATO Expansion Means the Ultimate Commitment. Should the US Make It?


Holt, Pat M., The Christian Science Monitor


Next week in Madrid the North Atlantic Council is expected to approve expanding NATO to include Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. This is a bad idea. Fortunately it cannot be put into effect unless the United States Senate concurs by a two-thirds vote. The Senate needs to think hard and long before it does this.

The reason NATO was created in 1949 was to provide a collective defense mechanism for Western Europe against a real and palpable Soviet threat.

The signatories of the treaty agree "that an armed attack against one or more of them ... shall be considered an attack against them all; and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them ... will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith ... such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force." A drastic step When the Senate approved this provision, it committed the United States to react to an attack on Copenhagen or Paris or Rome the same way it would react to an attack on New York or Boston or Washington - that is, to go to war. This was, and is, serious business. Even in the chilliest days of the cold war, the United States was careful about making such a drastic commitment. In all, it was a party to seven defense treaties during this period. In only one besides NATO is there such a categorical promise to go to war. That one is the Rio Treaty covering Latin America, an area with which the United States has had a protective relationship going back to the early 19th century. All the other defense treaties covered countries in Asia, and the commitment is fuzzier. It is that an attack on any party "would be dangerous to {the} peace and safety" of the other parties and that each party "would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes." This weaker language was used on the insistence of key senators. The threat to Asia in the 1950s was commonly thought to be as great as the threat to Europe. Yet the Senate was skittish about the perils of entanglement in Asia and refused to make the same guarantee that it had approved for Western Europe. Is the Senate now prepared to go further and commit the United States to go to war over Warsaw or Budapest or Prague? The threat to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic has vanished. The impetus to enfold them in NATO's embrace comes not from an imminent danger, such as led to NATO's creation, but from other sources. …

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Going to War over Warsaw NATO Expansion Means the Ultimate Commitment. Should the US Make It?
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