Enlarge NATO or weaken it Senate vote: No good can come from rejecting expansion to include three new member countries.

March 26, 1998

A GOOD CASE could be made a year ago that enlargement of NATO to include former Soviet satellites should be delayed so as not to inflame Russian nationalism and insecurity. Worries about the cost of re-equipping new members to NATO specifications fed the doubt.

But the issue before the Senate -- ratifying a North Atlantic Treaty Organization expansion to include Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic -- is not what it was then. The alliance, under strong U.S. pressure, accepted the three. President Boris N. Yeltsin of Russia came to terms with that.

A rejection of NATO enlargement in the Senate would not mollify Russia. Rather, it would humiliate Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

All are developing -- as best post-Communist countries can -- into democracies with market economies, seeking a place in Europe. Rejection would also fan resentments among the other 15 members at being jerked around by Washington, by being first persuaded to take in the three, then repudiated at the ratification stage. Neither effect would serve U.S. interests.

A good case could be made for enlargement, which is why it prevailed. While most neutral and former Soviet bloc states of central and eastern Europe crave acceptance in economic Europe, participation in the continent's security is another proof of their acceptance. Better for them to be on the inside, contributing to stability, than outside jeopardizing it.

NATO lost part of its mission when the Cold War ended, but only part. Its enlargement while retaining the United States and Canada contributes to world stability.

When Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott allows the issue to be decided in April, the Senate should contribute to Europe's stability by ratifying enlargement. A rejection would be destabilizing, in no nation's interest.

Pub Date: 3/26/98

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.