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NATO: Defense Department Calls NATO Expansion 'Money Well Spent'

Washington, 13 March 1998 (RFE/RL) -- A U.S. Defense Department official says it will cost the North Atlantic Treaty Organization about $1.5 billion spread over an initial 10-year period to bring Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into the military alliance.

Steve Campbell says the United States pays about one fourth of NATO's expenses. He says America's share of NATO's expansion would be a total of $4 billion dollars, or 40 million dollars a year.

"Obviously, we think it's money well spent," Campbell said in an RFE/RL interview Thursday.

Campbell says he could not give an accurate estimate of what it would cost the new countries to join NATO. He says overall costs depend on how much new equipment they would need. Initial costs, he says, would deal with upgrading communications systems, improving the infrastructure and training in the English language.

English is a language used by NATO's command structure.

But whatever the costs, Campbell says, it will still be cheaper for new members to join NATO than to maintain their defenses outside the alliance.

The alliance helps individual countries save money by pooling resources together, he says.

"You're not having to go alone," Campbell says.

The Pentagon official noted that the idea behind the alliance is that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

The United States Senate is expected to vote on NATO expansion this month. Ratification is widely anticipated.

In a recent report to the U.S. Congress, the Defense Department called NATO enlargement "a crucial element of the U.S. and allied strategy to build a broader, undivided, democratic and peaceful Europe."

The report noted that the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union changed the nature of the threats to the alliance. And it stressed that Europe's peace, stability and well being are vital to America's security.

"The accession of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic will improve the ability of the United States to protect and advance our interests in the transatlantic area," it said.

The Pentagon study also dealt with the "unlikely event" that a direct, large-scale territorial threat would emerge to NATO members.

In that case, the United States and its allies would need to reassess the overall security environment and respond accordingly, it said.

"There can be no question that the cost of responding to such threat would be substantial," the report said.

The study noted that 10 years ago the United States and its allies were spending nearly twice as much of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defense as they do today.

Accordingly, the report said, if a new threat would emerge, the added manpower, military capability, political support and strategic depth afforded by NATO enlargement would amply justify whatever the additional costs might be.

"Such a threat does not exist nor is there an expectation that it will emerge," the report concluded.

It said NATO would have considerable warning and preparation time in the "very unlikely event that such a dramatic change in the European security environment were to occur."