by Jesse Helms

Washington, D.C. -- As NATO leaders meet in Madrid today to discuss the enlargement of the Alliance, some words of caution are in order. The Clinton Administration's egregious mishandling of NATO expansion is raising serious concerns in the U.S.Senate, which must approve any enlargement treaty.

There is growing distress among supporters of enlargement (like myself) that the administration's plan for NATO expansion may be evolving into a dangerous and ill-considered plan for NATO transformation; that we are not inviting new nations into the NATO that won the Cold War, but rather into a new, diluted NATO, converted from a well-defined military alliance into a nebulous "collective security" arrangement.

To date the Clinton administration has failed to present the Senate with any credible strategic rationale for NATO expansion -- that is, no explanation of the threat posed to the Atlantic Alliance, nor why an expanded NATO is needed to counter it. Instead, all sorts of misguided proposals are floating around for transforming NATO's mission and purpose , in an effort to justify Alliance expansion.

Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbot, the Clinton administration's pointman on NATO expansion, argues that while "during the Cold War, military and geopolitical considerations mainly determined NATO's, with the end of the Cold War, other non-military goals can and should help shape the new NATO." NATO's primary mission, Mr. Talbott is saying, should no longer be the defense of Europe, but rather "promoting democracy within NATO states and good relations among them" -- in other words, nation-building.

Others see this "new NATO" serving as a stand-in peacekeeper for a United Nations discredited by its failures in Somalia and Bosnia. Indeed, the NATO-Russia "Founding Act" largely negotiated by Clinton administration, enshrines this new role for NATO, hailing NATO's "historic transformation" in making "new missions of peace-keeping and crisis management in support of U.N.'s primary Alliance functions.

Advocates of NATO transformation make a better case for the Alliance to disband than expand. NATO's job is not to replace the U.N. as the world's peacekeeper, nor is it to build democracy and pan- European harmony or promote better relations with Russia. NATO has proven the most successful military alliance in history precisely because it has rejected utopian temptations to remake the world.

Rather, Nato's mission today must be the same clear-cut and limited mission it undertook at its inception: to promote the territorial integrity of its members, defend them from external aggression, and prevent the hegemony of any one state in Europe.

The state that sought hegemony during the latter half of this century was Russia. The state most likely to seek hegemony in the beginning of the next century is also Russia. A central strategic rationale for expanding NATO must be to hedge against the possible return of a nationalist or imperialist Russia, with 20,000 nuclear missiles and ambitions of restoring its lost empire. NATO enlargement, as Henry Kissinger argues, must be undertaken to "encourage Russian leaders to interrupt the fateful rhythm of Russian history... and discourage Russia's historical policy of creating a security belt of important and, if possible, independent states around its borders.

Unfortunately, Clinton's administration does not see this as a legitimate strategic rationale or expansion. "Fear of a new wave of Russian imperialism...should not be seen as the driving force behind NATO enlargement," says Mr. Talbott.

Not surprising, those states seeking NATO membership seem to understand NATO's purpose better than the Alliance's leader. Lithuania's former president, Vytaultax Landsbergis, put it bluntly: "We are an endangered country. We seek protection." Poland, which spent much of its history under one form or another of Russian occupation, makes clear it seeks NATO membership as a guarantee of its territorial integrity. And when Czech President Vaclav Havel warned of "another Munich," he was calling on us not to leave Central Europe, once again, at the mercy of any great power, as Neville Chamberlain did in 1938.

Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and other potential candidate states don't need NATO to establish democracy. They need NATO to protect the democracies they have already established from external aggression.

Sadly, Mr. Havel's admonishments not to appease "chauvinistic, Great Russian, crypto-Communist and crypto-totalitarian forces" have been largely ignored by the Clinton Administration. Quite the opposite, the administration has turned NATO expansion into an exercise in the appeasement of Russia.

After admitting East Germany in 1990 (and giving the Soviet Union neither a "voice" not a "veto" in the process), the U.S. delayed NATO expansion for nearly seven years in a misguided effort to secure Russian approval. Russia, knowing an opportunity when it sees one, has used its opposition to NATO expansion to gain all sorts of concessions, ranging from arms control capitulations to the NATO- Russia "Founding Act."

That agreement concedes "primary responsibility... for international peace and security" to the U.N. Security Council, where Russia has a veto. It gives Russia (the very country NATO is constituted to deter) a voice at every level of the Alliance's deliberations. And it gives Russia a seat at the table before any new candidate members (now being brought in to protect them from aggression) get a seat at the table.

It is my sincere hope that the U.S. Senate can approve NATO expansion. But if we are to do so, some dramatic changes must be made. As chairman of the Senate committee that must approve the resolution of the ratification, I urge the administration to take the following steps before presenting NATO expansion to the Senate.
  • Outline a clear, complete strategic security rationale for NATO expansion.
  • Agree that no limitations will be placed on the numbers of NATO troops or types of weapons to be deployed on territory of new member states (including tactical nuclear weapons) -- there must be no second-class citizens in NATO.
  • Explicitly reject all efforts to establish a "nuclear weapons- free zone" in Central Europe.
  • Explicitly reject all efforts to (submit) the NATO decisions to U.N. Security Council approval.
  • Establish a clear delineator of NATO deliberations that are off- limits to Russia (including, but not limited, to arms control, further Alliance expansion, procurement and strategic doctrine).
  • Provide an immediate seat at the NATO table for countries invited to join the Alliance.
  • Reject Russian efforts to require NATO aid for Russian arms sales to former Warsaw Pact militaries joining the Alliance, as a quid pro quo for NATO expansion -- NATO must not become a back channel for new foreign aid to Russia.
  • Reject any further Russian efforts to link concessions in arms- control negotiations (including the antiquated ABM treaty and the CFE Treaty) to NATO expansion.
  • Develop a plan for a NATO ballistic missile defense system to defend Europe.
  • Get clear advance agreement on an equitable distribution of the cost of expansion, to make certain American taxpayers don't get stuck with the lion's share of the bill.

Strategic Threats
Is renewed Russian aggression the only strategic threat NATO must consider? Of course not. There are many potential threats to Europe, including the possibility of rogue states like Libya and Iran one day threatening the continent with weapons of mass destruction. But the Clinton administration has failed to define NATO expansion in terms of any strategic threat.

If the Clinton administration views NATO not as a tool to defend Europe but as a laboratory for social work, then NATO should not only eschew expansion, it should declare victory and close shop. The costs of maintaining NATO, much less expanding it, cannot be justified if its mission is democracy-building and peacekeeping. There are other, less expensive and more appropriate forums for such ventures (such as European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe). Nato is a military alliance -- it must remain so or go out of business.
Mr Helms, Republican of North Carolina, is chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.
THE NEW REPUBLIC, JULY 14 & 21, 1997, p. 27