NEW MEMBERS, NOT NEW MISSIONS
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 decisions...today, 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,
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
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
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
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
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
- 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.
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