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Western Press Review: NATO Expansion Issue Ignites War Of Words

  • Don Hill

Prague, 21 May 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Debate in the Western press over the expansion of NATO continues.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Moscow must be nudged to join the West economically and politically

"Tens of thousands of words have already been written in favor of and against the expansion of NATO," the U.S. newspaper said yesterday in an editorial. The newspaper said: "The final word will not be written till some future crisis within or along the new NATO borders tests the mettle of the big club members. So we will not know whether the pros or cons are proven right for years -- perhaps decades. That is often the case with great historic enterprises."

The editorial said: "How Moscow reacts to treatment by the enlarged Western club will test the club's stomach for remaining true to its aim: defending member democracies from external threat." It concluded: "In short, (U.S. President Bill) Clinton, (British Prime Minister Tony) Blair, (German Chancellor Helmut) Kohl, and (French President Jacques) Chirac cannot rest on their oars once this summer's club expansion is done. They need to go on nudging Moscow to join the West economically and politically, if not militarily."

NEW YORK TIMES: U.S. national interest lies in strengthening democracy

Commentator R. W. Apple Jr. wrote in Sunday's Times that the principal stated goal of NATO expansion -- strengthening democracy in Central and Eastern Europe -- is in the U.S. national interest.

He said: "With Germany mobilizing for war in September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain told his nation in a fateful radio broadcast that as 'a man of peace' he had no stomach for war in Czechoslovakia -- 'in a faraway country,' as he put it, 'between people of whom we know nothing.' Ever since, his words have stood as a synonym for spinelessness. They were much quoted during the agonizing debate in Western Europe and the United States about the recent war in Bosnia. With the Cold War a fading memory, the European allies were reluctant, and the United States until very late in the day was unwilling, to commit troops to stabilize another dangerous situation in an equally remote place.

"Where, people asked, does the national interest lie? The Clinton administration, with its 15 partners in NATO, appears ready now to give an answer to the question as they expand its membership and transform the organization in the process. The national interest lies in strengthening democracy in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, for starters, and probably in Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia before too long."

Apple concluded: "Lord Isamy, NATO's first secretary-general, once said with famous indiscretion that the goals of the organization were "to keep the Americans in, the Russians out and the Germans down." Keeping the Germans down has long since been abandoned. The new NATO clearly has kept the Americans in; continued U.S. engagement in Europe was a big reason for British, French and German support. Whether the Russians will be kept out, and how much they will resent it if they are, is the imponderable."

KNIGHT-RIDDER SYNDICATE: It's time for NATO to go away

U.S. activist Samuel H. Day Jr., in a commentary distributed Monday by the American newspaper group, said that the real U.S. national interest lies not in enlarging NATO but it dismantling it. Day put it this way: "The prospective expansion of NATO into Central and Eastern Europe is bad news both for Europe and the United States. NATO ought not to be going east, west, north or south. It ought to be going away."

Day wrote: "Peacekeeping is the proper role of nations acting collectively through neutral international bodies like the United Nations, not that of foreign armies serving narrow national interests. Let Europe and other regions look to themselves for regional security -- with help, if needed, from the United Nations. And let America get back to the work of democracy at home. It's time for NATO to go."

JOURNAL OF COMMERCE: NATO expansion is a sound business investment

The U.S. newspaper published yesterday a pair of commentaries favoring and opposing NATO expansion.

William E. Odom, a retired lieutenant general and former director of the U.S. National Security Agency, wrote that the expansion is good business. "Why should the United States help pay for stability and economic growth in Central Europe? First, as the Bosnia case shows, the European Union is not yet sufficiently advanced to do it alone. Second, U.S. trade with prosperous Central European economies will more than pay for U.S. contributions to expanding NATO. Third, if those countries flounder, the United States will end up paying vast sums for humanitarian aid, support to refugees and peacekeeping activities. These costs could be larger than those for NATO expansion. At the same time, potential profits from trade will be lost. Clearly, NATO expansion is a sound business investment, not just good military strategy and diplomacy."

SECURITY INFORMATION COUNCIL: The West should fill stomachs, not arsenals

The director of the British-American Security Information Council, Daniel T. Plesch, and council research assistant Kirsten Ruecker wrote that, to the contrary, the West should be looking to material aid not military expansion. They said: "In Eastern Europe, the West's priority should be to fill stomachs, not arsenals. The Marshall Plan remains one of the positive legacies of American foreign policy in the 20th century. Making the analogy that NATO expansion is the Marshall Plan of the 1990s distorts the function of the program as an instrument for rebuilding a peaceful Europe and misinforms the American public about the objectives of extending a military alliance further East."

NEW YORK TIMES: NATO must ensure the independence of the Baltics

Freidbert Pfluger, a Christian Democrat member of the German Parliament, commented recently in an article that NATO may have gone too far in placating Russia and not far enough in reaching out to former Soviet vassals. He wrote: "To soften the pain of NATO expansion, the West has offered Russia a number of carrots: Membership in the Group of Seven industrialized nations, steps toward a new strategic arms treaty, economic aid packages, no nuclear weapons in new NATO member states and the establishment of a NATO-Russia council for security matters.

"Russia may complain about losing the war over the alliance's enlargement, but it has won nearly all the battles. Indeed, in addressing Moscow's legitimate security concerns, NATO might have gone too far. It must clarify or re-evaluate its position with Russia in four areas: First, and most important, NATO must overcome the lag between this year's establishment of the NATO-Russia council on security and the entry of new member states in 1999. It is a paradox. With the creation of the new council, Moscow will be included in NATO decisions at least a year and a half earlier than the candidates for full membership."

Pfluger said: "NATO must insure the independence of the Baltic states. Since the Baltics, once controlled by the Soviet Union, will not be considered for NATO membership in the first round, we must reassure them that they will be able to enter at a later stage. Russia should not possess a de facto veto over their memberships. Reducing the anxieties of Central and Eastern European countries is the precondition for a real partnership with Moscow. It is also the precondition for peace and stability in Europe. NATO must dispel any fear that the nightmare of Yalta will be revisited."