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USIA - Reprint: 'Enlarging Nato: Why Bigger is Better' by Madeleine Albright, 97-02-14

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From: The United States Information Agency (USIA) Gopher at <gopher://>


(SecState defends NATO enlargement in "The Economist") (2770)

(This article first appeared in the February 15th-21st, 1997, issue of THE ECONOMIST. The article is in the public domain, and there are no restrictions on use.)

It is an old diplomatic tradition that American secretaries of state begin their terms by visiting our closest allies and partners. That is why this week I will be meeting with officials in Europe, and later in Asia, to forge a common agenda. The dominant questions of the day in virtually all of these countries, as in my own, involve matters close to home -- educating children, building businesses, cutting deficits, fighting unemployment. At a time when our continents enjoy relative peace, we run the risk of forgetting the decades-long work of diplomacy and institution- building that has made it possible for the great majority of people to worry about domestic improvements rather than national survival.

My message on this trip is that we have our own work to do -- and quickly -- if this space of tranquillity is to endure and spread, rather than be written off by history as a pleasant time of tragically wasted opportunities. That message applies with special force to Europe. Today, the continent is no longer sliced in two, but dangers remain: From Bosnia to Chechnya, more Europeans died violently in the last five years than in the previous 45. From Serbia to Belarus, we see reminders that Europe's democratic revolution is not complete.

Even so, a goal that would have seemed like Utopian delusion just years ago lies within our grasp: a peaceful and undivided Europe working in partnership with the United States, that welcomes every one of the continent's new democracies into our transatlantic community.

An ambitious goal, to be sure. Yet our shared progress toward its realization has been remarkable. Western Europe is moving toward economic and monetary union. Most of Europe's fastest growing economies lie east of the Elbe. Russia has made a choice for democracy and markets and defied the most dire predictions about its evolution. An independent and robustly democratic Ukraine is casting its lot with Europe. American and European resolve has stopped the fighting in Bosnia. The military coalition there contains so many former adversaries that no sober student of history would have predicted it: France and Germany, Poland and Lithuania, Turkey and Greece, Russia and the United States.

Many institutions are playing their part in this effort, and all face critical tests this year. The European Union has promised to expand again and will soon make decisions. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has taken in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic; it is now looking to other market democracies, including Russia. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is promoting the democratic standards that will enable Europe to come together; it is still treading a rough road in Bosnia.

But it is NATO, the linchpin of European security and the principal mechanism for American involvement in Europe, that is playing the leading role in bringing Europe together. It is changing its internal structure to create a stronger role for Europe. Its Partnership for Peace, under which other countries can train, plan, exercise and cooperate with NATO, has brought together old adversaries and long-time neutrals. In the wake of such changes, France and Spain are participating more fully in the alliance. NATO is now more attractive to more nations because it is addressing new challenges in Europe and beyond. The next six months will be among the most ambitious and demanding in its history.


At the NATO summit this July in Madrid, allied leaders will reform NATO's internal structures and invite several nations to become members by 1999. President Clinton and I have no higher priority than to work with our allies, and with our people and Congress to build this new NATO. The debate in America will be spirited, as it should be. But I am confident the American people and their representatives will affirm that a new and broader NATO serves our security as well as Europe's.

Too often, the debate about NATO's future reduces the alliance's past to a one-dimensional caricature that discounts its relevance to today's European challenges. Certainly, NATO's Cold-War task was to contain the Soviet threat. But that is not all it did. It provided the confidence and security shattered economies needed to rebuild themselves. It helped France and Germany reconcile with each other, making European integration possible. With other institutions, it brought Italy, then Germany, and eventually Spain back into the family of European democracies. It denationalized allied defense policies. It has stabilized relations between Greece and Turkey. All without firing a shot.

Now the new NATO can do for Europe's east what the old NATO did for Europe's west: vanquish old hatreds, promote integration, create a secure environment for prosperity, and deter violence in the region where two world wars and the Cold War began.

Just the prospect of NATO enlargement has given Central and Eastern Europe greater stability than it has seen in this century. Hungary has settled its border and minority questions with Slovakia and Romania. Poland has reached across an old divide to create joint peacekeeping battalions with Ukraine and Lithuania. Throughout the region, support for NATO membership has rallied political parties of every ideology in favor of joining the West. Country after country has made sure that soldiers take orders from civilians, not the other way around.

To align themselves with NATO, these states are resolving problems that could have led to future Bosnias. This is the productive paradox at NATO's heart: By extending solemn security guarantees, we actually reduce the chance that our troops will again be called to fight in Europe. At he same time, we will gain new allies who are eager and increasingly able to contribute to our common agenda for security, from fighting terrorism and weapons proliferation, to ensuring stability in trouble spots like the former Yugoslavia.

NATO enlargement will involve real costs, to the United States, our allies and our partners. But the costs are reasonable and many would arise whether NATO expands or not. Countries aspiring to membership will have to modernize their armed forces whether they are in or out of NATO -- if anything, military spending would be higher in an insecure, unattached Central Europe. A decision not to enlarge would also carry costs: It would constitute a declaration that NATO will neither address the challenges nor accept the geography of a new Europe. NATO would be stuck in the past, risking irrelevance and even dissolution. Those are costs we cannot afford.


NATO and its members have laid out the reasons for enlargement. It is high time that critics came forward with a rationale that might possibly support a policy of fossilized immobility in the face of Europe's sweeping changes. Now that democracy's frontier has moved to Europe's farthest reaches, what logic would dictate that we freeze NATO's eastern edges where they presently lie, along the line where the Red Army stopped in the Spring of 1945? President Clinton said it in Prague two years ago: "Freedom's boundaries now should be defined by new behavior, not old history." Or for that matter, by old thinking. To define them otherwise would not only create a permanent injustice, mocking the sacrifices made in this century on both sides of the Iron Curtain, it would create a permanent source of tension and insecurity in the heart of Europe.

Some critics point out that none of NATO's prospective members faces an immediate military threat. True enough. But then, neither does Italy. Or Denmark. Or Britain. Or Iceland. Or the United States. If NATO were open only to countries menaced by aggressive neighbors, virtually no current ally would qualify.

Those who ask "where is the threat?" mistake NATO's real value. The alliance is not a wild-west posse that we trot out only when danger appears. It is a permanent presence, designed to promote common endeavors and to prevent a threat from ever arising. That is why current allies still need it and why others wish to join. NATO does not need an enemy. It has enduring purposes.

Other critics say that if we want to reunite Europe, the EU can do the job. Besides, they argue, what Central Europe needs is stocks and bonds, not stockpiles and bombs. They are certainly right that EU expansion is vital. Though the United States has no vote in the process, we do have an interest La seeing it happen as rapidly and expansively as possible.

But the security NATO provides has always been essential to the prosperity the EU promises. What is more, EU enlargement requires current and new members to make vast and complex adjustments in subsidy schemes and regulatory regimes. If NATO enlargement can proceed more quickly, why wait until, say, tomato farmers in Central Europe start using the right kinds of pesticides? And because NATO, unlike the EU, is a transatlantic institution, it can ensure that a united Europe maintains its strongest link to North America. The question is not which institution strong democracies should join, but when and how they are prepared to join each.

Critics also say that NATO enlargement will somehow redivide post-Cold War Europe. To the contrary. NATO has taken a range of steps to ensure that the erasure of old lines of division does not leave new ones on the map. NATO is strengthening its Partnership for Peace, reaching out to Ukraine and Russia, and giving every new democracy -- whether it joins the alliance sooner, later or not at all -- a say in its future through the Atlantic Partnership Council we will launch this Spring.

Of course, the enlargement of NATO must begin with the strongest candidates; otherwise, it would not begin at all. But when we say that the first new members will not be the last, we mean it. And we expect the new members to export stability eastward, rather than viewing enlargement as a race to escape westward at the expense of their neighbors.

The core of that challenge -- and one of the most important tasks for NATO - - is to build a close and constructive partnership with Russia. This will take vision and political will. It requires abandoning Cold War stereotypes and no longer looking at European security as a zero-sum game.

NATO enlargement is not taking place in response to a new Russian threat. It is motivated by the imperative of creating an integrated Europe -- one that includes, not excludes, Russia. The purpose of enlargement is to give Central and Eastern Europe, a region whose future stability is key to the future of Europe as a whole, the same kind of security that has become commonplace in Western Europe. Russia, no less than the rest of us, needs stability and prosperity in the center of Europe.

I recognize that many Russian leaders express opposition to NATO enlargement. Yet the NATO Russia claims to oppose bears little resemblance to the Alliance we are actually building. NATO's conventional and nuclear forces have been dramatically reduced. We have no plan, no need and no intention to station nuclear weapons on the territory of new members. NATO's actions over the past six years reveal an alliance focused on building cooperation, not confrontation, an alliance working shoulder-to-shoulder with Russia -- as it is in Bosnia -- not trying to isolate it.

We recognize that Europe cannot finally be whole and free until a democratic Russia is fully part of Europe. Now we hope that Russians will recognize that their suspicions about NATO and its enlargement are misplaced. After all, if Russia wishes to be part of an undivided Europe, then it cannot look at countries like Poland or Estonia or Ukraine as a buffer zone that separates Russia from Europe.

It is a mistake to think that the fate of Russian democracy is somehow at stake in the enlargement debate. Russia's future as a free and prosperous nation will depend upon the ability of its leaders and citizens to build an open society, to defeat crime and corruption, to spark economic growth and spread its benefits. The Russian people know that their future will be written in Moscow, in Perm, in Irkutsk, and certainly not in Brussels. Poll after poll has shown that few ordinary Russians express concern about an alliance that many of their leaders concede poses no actual military threat to Russia.

It would not be in our interest to delay or derail enlargement in response to the claims of some Russians that this constitutes an offensive act. Doing so would only encourage the worst political tendencies in Moscow. It would send a message that confrontation with the West pays off. Waiting to integrate Central and Eastern Europe's new democracies would do nothing to help Russian democracy. It would make it harder, not easier, to create the kind of NATO-Russia relationship we are striving for today.


NATO has proposed defining that partnership in a charter with Russia. The charter would establish clear principles and arrangements for consultation, cooperation, and joint action in peacekeeping, defense and arms control, nuclear safety, non-proliferation and emergency relief. It would establish a permanent NATO-Russia joint council. We want Russia and our other partners to participate in NATO's Combined Joint Task Forces, which will allow us to respond to crises together. We want Russian officers to help plan the missions we jointly undertake. As a nation not bound by NATO decisions, Russia would have no veto. But its voice would be sought and heard.

We are also negotiating to update the treaty governing Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE), which limits conventional military deployments throughout Europe. We invite Moscow to join us in an agreement that will lower levels of forces and promote stability and transparency on the continent. This can assure Russia that NATO enlargement will not result in any major buildup of NATO forces along its borders. Indeed, it can ensure there is no destabilizing concentration of military equipment anywhere in Europe.

We have every chance to make progress on these issues before the July NATO summit. I will be seeing Russian leaders in Moscow on February 20th. President Clinton will meet President Yeltsin in Helsinki in March. He will be in Europe again in May for the US-EU summit. The G-7 leaders will meet with President Yeltsin in Denver in June. Russia has a strategic opportunity to secure its interests in an integrated Europe. It should seize it now.

I approach this challenge, and all the challenges we face in Europe over the next few years with confidence. And why not? For half a century now, Europeans and Americans have worked together to shape events, instead of being shaped by them.

Today's Europe stands in such stark contrast to the Europe I knew as a child after World War II. For those who were not there, it must be hard to imagine the days of Franco, Tito and Stalin, the refugees, the hunger, the constant fear that peace was just an interlude, the Europe Winston Churchill described as "a rubble heap, a charnel house, a breeding ground for pestilence and hate." Thank heaven leaders like Marshall, Monnet, Bevin and Adenauer had the fortitude to make the hard and controversial decisions needed to build the institutions that gave us 50 years of peace and prosperity. Now it's our turn.

President Clinton observed in his State of the Union address that a child born today will have almost no memory of the 20th century. Just the same, the children of the transatlantic community who are born today have the chance to grow up knowing a very different Europe. In that new Europe, they will know Checkpoint Charlie only as a museum, Yalta as just a provincial city in a sovereign Ukraine, Sarajevo as a peaceful mountain resort in the heart of Europe. The children of the next century will come of age knowing a very different NATO -- one that masses its energies on behalf of integration, rather than massing its forces on the borders of division.

All this is possible if -- and it is not a big if -- we act now to strengthen the arrangements that have served half of Europe so well for so long and to extend them to new partners and allies. Then, having come together, we will be able to concentrate on what we must do together. That is a goal worth every measure of our common effort.

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