Accessibility links

Western Press Review: U.S. Debates NATO Expansion

  • Joel Blocker

Prague, 4 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - The prospect of a decision to enlarge NATO at the 16-nation Alliance's summit in Madrid on July 8 and 9 next week has evoked much commentary in the U.S. press in recent days.

Commentators and analysts agree that the summit will almost certainly invite not more three Central European nations --the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland-- to begin accession talks with the Alliance. But there is large disagreement among them about other critical aspects of NATO's likely expansion to the East.

WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: Clinton should mobilize Americans to support NATO enlargement

The issue of the cost of NATO expansion to the U.S. as well as to Central European nations is the subject of diametrically opposed views in two U.S. dailies today. Bruce Jackson, an executive of the Lockheed Martin Corporation -- which makes and sells war planes -- writes: "It is difficult to overstate the importance of NATO's expansion for the future of Europe and the security of the U.S." He argues that the U.S. government has deliberately understated the costs of future expansion to the American people by endorsing the Defense Department's figure of $200 million a year for 13 years. By doing so, Jackson believes, Washington has "opened itself up to the charge that it underestimates the demands of a military alliance."

Jackson also calls on President Bill Clinton to respond forcefully to what he describes as the growing U.S. opposition to the Alliance's enlargement. He writes: "Unless Mr. Clinton mobilizes the American people to support the invitations to join NATO, he could find this bold initiative deadlocked in domestic debate." If Clinton does act forcefully, Jackson concludes, "it seems likely that 12 months from now more than two-thirds of the U.S. Senate will support NATO expansion..."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: NATO enlargement will benefit U.S. defense contractors at the expense of Eastern Europeans

In the West Coast daily, two other analysts see the issue of NATO enlargement costs very differently. Daniel Plesch of the U.S. and Britain's Alistair Millar say that "NATO expansion is a military project estimated to cost between $27 billion and $125 billion over the next 15 years," which is much higher than the U.S. Defense Department estimate. They write that NATO enlargement's "only assistance package will be for U.S. defense contractors (such as Lockheed Martin) and the cash-strapped East Europeans who will foot much of the bill."

Plesch and Millar continue: "According to West European military sources, U.S. officials charged by President Clinton to secure arms deals are telling (Central European) states that they must sign up for expensive equipment or jeopardize their chances of (NATO) membership. Since the end of the Cold War, defense contractors have been hurt by falling orders from the Pentagon. The NATO candidates look like an attractive market. U.S. taxpayers are already paying the promotional costs as the Air Force helps Lockheed Martin sell the F-16 (fighter plane)..." They conclude: "NATO expansion...will benefit U.S. defense contractors and the East Europeans will pay the bill."

WASHINGTON POST: Will Americans be ready to die to defend Gdansk?

In a news analysis published today in the "International Herald Tribune," correspondent Michael Dobbs discusses the U.S. debate over NATO which, he says, is "just getting started." Dobbs, too, believes that much of that debate will center on the costs to Americans. He writes: "Widely differing estimates have been made about costs of NATO expansion and how much the U.S. will be required to pay. The Congressional Budget Office has calculated the U.S. portion of the costs at $330 million to $1.2 billion a year, over 15 years." He contrasts this with the Clinton Administration's adoption of the much lower Pentagon estimate that, he says, many analysts believe is "unrealistic."

Dobbs mentions another important issue which, he writes, "seems likely to resonate in the Senate...whether Americans should be ready to die to defend places like Budapest and Gdansk." He also discusses the objections of many members of what he calls "the U.S. foreign-policy establishment." For them, Dobbs says, "the strongest argument against NATO expansion is that it would draw a new political dividing line across Europe. The countries finding themselves on the wrong side of the line, including Ukraine and the former (Soviet) Baltic republics, could fall victims to a renewed bout of great-power rivalry."

NEW YORK TIMES: NATO enlargement widens the American-European security connection

To such arguments, two former U.S. National Security advisers provided a rebuttal earlier this week published in the "International Herald Tribune." Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served under President Jimmy Carter in the 1970s, and Anthony Lake, Clinton's adviser from 1993-96, write: "NATO expansion is a creative response to three strategic challenges: to enhance the relationship between the U.S. and the enlarging democratic Europe; to engage the still-evolving, post-imperial Russia in a cooperative relationship with that Europe, and to reinforce the habits of democracy and the practices of peace in Central Europe."

Brzezinski and Lake conclude: "The enlargement of NATO creates a larger and more stable architecture of peace in Europe and widens the scope of the American-European security connection."