Washington, 7 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - The dangers in Europe's past, present and future make expansion of the NATO alliance into Central and Eastern Europe imperative, says U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. In testimony prepared for delivery to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee today, Albright said there are still threats to the peace and security of Europe that only NATO can meet.
The alliance has invited the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to become full members. In the U.S., the Senate must approve any amendments to the NATO treaty in order for the U.S. to participate. Albright was the first witness before the Foreign Relations Committee, which will hold hearings over the next few weeks before treaty amendments go to the full Senate early next year.
Another reason for expanding the alliance, said Albright, are the questions about the future of Russia. She said no one should dimiss the possibility that Russia will "return to the patterns of its past."
However, she said enlarging NATO gives Russia every incentive to deepen its commitment to democracy and peaceful relations with its neighbors.
The chairman of the committee, Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina), has already told Albright he will support the Clinton administration's position on NATO. But Helms also has said there are many questions that need answers, including how much enlargement will cost the U.S. and what new military obligations an expanded alliance will impose on the United States.