Voting former foes into NATO Easy Senate victory marks transition of alliance to seek unity of Europe.

May 03, 1998

RATIFICATION of the treaty enlarging the North Atlantic Treaty Organization was so overwhelming in the U.S. Senate, 80-19, it was anticlimactic. As should be the case in great issues of global security, the majority was bipartisan. NATO enlargement looms as the major foreign policy achievement of the Clinton administration.

Five of 16 NATO members have ratified enlargement. If all do in time, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic will join the alliance on its 50th anniversary, April 4, 1999.

These countries were once in the forefront of European culture and commerce, destroyed by Hitler's Germany and shackled by Soviet communism. Joining NATO and then the European Union will put them back where they belong, in the center of Europe.

This physical enlargement into areas once controlled by the enemy Warsaw Pact heightens the need to show that NATO is not a threat to Russia. It is meant to make war in a democratic Europe impossible, to unite against destabilization, to produce a unified military force when required.

The danger in Russia now is not a mighty military force but a disintegrating army that has performed poorly and threatens domestic breakdown. It is through the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council and the Partnership for Peace that NATO invites Russia to observe its decisions and, with other nonmembers, undertake joint activities that will enhance their own serenity.

The new NATO must offer security, not menace, to nearby states, and must quash quarrels among its own members, such as Greece and Turkey.

As long as NATO is thought of in these terms and not just its original mission of containing Soviet expansion, a goal it achieved, this ratification makes sense. The opponents brought up theoretical dangers. It is the job of the new NATO to see that they do not materialize.

Pub Date: 5/03/98

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