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Western Press Review: Expanding NATO And Mounting Concerns

  • Don Hill

Prague, 11 March 1997 (RFE/RL) -- As NATO Secretary General Javier Solana conducts a diplomatic blitz to win support for NATO eastward expansion, a number of Western commentators raise more concerns about the whole enterprise.

LOS ANGELES TIMES: NATO expansion is the most important international issue

Last month, retired U.S. diplomat and sage George F. Kennan published a commentary in which he said that NATO expansion was a badly conceived strategy designed to counter "a highly artificial, unforeseeable and improbable military conflict." Yesterday, in a carefully constructed argument, retired diplomat Raymond L. Garthoff seconded Kennan's objections. Garthoff, former U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria, now is an emeritus senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. He commented: "Expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (is) the most important international issue on the agenda today. Yet, it has received far too little real consideration."

Garthoff wrote: "NATO was a great success story of the Cold War, so why not build on that success?" He said: "Transforming a military alliance inherited from an era of confrontation of opposing blocs (is) best done by changing its role, rather than by taking in new members."

The writer contended: "Expansion stirs Russian fears that NATO would, in fact, impinge on legitimate Russian security interests. Expansion of NATO to provide security for Western and Eastern Europe would marginalize, if not exclude, Russia from meaningful participation in European security arrangements." He wrote: "We should have learned that no one gains security by creating insecurity for others. If legitimate Russian security interests are not met, neither will the long-run interests of Europe, the United States and the world."

FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: There is no valid reason to enlarge NATO

Commentater Jochen Siemens, writing in today's edition, also denounces NATO expansion as ill-considered. He comments: "NATO is sure to enlarge eastwards. Of that there can no longer be any doubt. All that remains unclear is how expensive appeasing Moscow will be and, above all, whether enlargement has not long been more of a lemmings' trail than a foresighted policy on which to base a European security architecture. It is, let us remember, less than ten years since the Cold War began to thaw in the wake of East-West detente."

Siemens writes: "The collapse of the Soviet Union was followed by the demise of the Warsaw Pact. NATO, suddenly lacking an adversary, handled its justification crisis by offering cooperation and partnership of various kinds, partly with a view to keeping at arm's length, for the time being, countries in Central and Eastern Europe that were keen to join the alliance." He adds: "The arguments put forward by the Poles, Czechs and Hungarians carried weight. They all pointed out that, historically, they formed part of the West and that if their membership bids were rejected it would be grist for the mill of reactionary forces, (meaning) the Communists.

However, he concludes: "There is no valid or conclusive reason to enlarge NATO. Security guarantees and economic and political cooperation until such time as they join the European Union would fulfill the Eastern Europeans' needs."

MALCOLM RIFKIND: Eastern Europe could be cut off by a new Iron Curtain

One prominent Western diplomat spoke out yesterday in favor of NATO's eastward growth. British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind warned In a speech to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington that Europe could be plunged into fresh ethnic and nationalistic conflict if Russia succeeds in blocking NATO's plans for expansion. In the speech, widely covered in the Western press, he said that unless NATO accepts new members, Eastern Europe will be cut off by a new Iron Curtain.

Rifkind said: "(The Eastern European nations) would have to make their own security arrangements, independent of the countries to their West whose interests and values they share." He said, "Local and regional alliances would spring up in a frightening facsimile of pre-Second World War Europe." Rifkind said: "There could be new tremors along ethnic and nationalistic faultlines -- dismal prospect indeed and one that could easily draw us in Western Europe and America into new tension and conflict."

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: A possible trap awaits Clinton at the Helsinki summit

Writing in today's edition, foreign affairs columnist George Melloan expresses concern over an imminent summit between U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Melloan asks: "How much will Clinton surrender in Helsinki?"

The summit nine days from now "will be a dangerous moment for Mr. Clinton, who surely can't afford many more displays of moral flaccidity," Melloan writes. He says: "The possible trap that awaits him could be the work not only of the Russians, but of Strobe Talbott, Mr. Clinton's fellow traveler to Moscow's propaganda gin mills in the 1960s. Deputy Secretary of State, Clinton's point man on Russian policy, has been doing the advance work for the Helsinki summit. Lord knows where his Russophile sympathies are leading him and Mr. Clinton."

Melloan writes: "One (wrong) path would be even the slightest suggestion in the Helsinki communique that (Clinton) has consigned the Baltic States to the tender mercies of Moscow." The columnist concludes: "It would be political dangerous indeed for (Clinton and Talbott) to come home from Helsinki with a Baltic sellout to answer for."

NEW YORK TIMES: Russian warheads could pose a danger in the hands of a less responsible government

In an editorial today, the paper examines links between NATO expansion and nuclear arms reduction. The newspaper says: "The collapse of Moscow's conventional forces has made many Russian legislators more reluctant to reduce nuclear weapons. Western plans to expand NATO closer to Russia's borders and America's programs to develop ballistic missile defense systems also increase Moscow's feelings of insecurity.

"But in reality Russia's security will be strengthened by continued nuclear missile reductions and its economy will be spared a taxing drain. American and European security will benefit as well. The future dangers that inspire Washington's plans for ballistic missile defense and NATO expansion are hypothetical. No rogue regime is near developing reliable long-range missiles. Russia's weakened and demoralized land armies will not threaten Central and Eastern Europe anytime soon. But the thousands of nuclear warheads still sitting atop Russia's long-range missiles could once again become a danger to the American people if a less responsible Russian government comes to power."