Again with the NATO expansion?
Nine countries in Central and Eastern Europe are asking to join NATO by 2002. This would expand NATO to 28 members. The request to join was made by the foreign ministers of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Albania, and Macedonia.
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
This would expand NATO eastward to include all the former satellite countries of the USSR, three of the old Soviet republics, parts of the old Yugoslavia, and the former Chinese ally Albania. Only the former Yugoslavian republics of Croatia and Bosnia would be left out, along with the Yugoslavia remnant.
The NATO allies must now decide whether to have this great expansion. One can understand the desire for countries formerly under Soviet domination to be protected against a future Russia whose economy is restored and which seeks to get back its old empire. But this expansion would create many difficulties.
This would increase the number of countries that need to agree on policies. These new members would require expensive military aid to become fully capable allies. But the worst problem would be the effect on Russia.
The NATO allies lost a great opportunity after the collapse of the Soviet Union. There was really no more reason to keep NATO. The elimination of NATO would have shown that the western countries mean no harm to Russia, which was no longer a threat to western Europe. The expansion of NATO into Poland, Czechia, and Hungary was an aggressive eastward thrust against Russia.
The war on Yugoslavia clinched the aggressive nature of the new NATO (see my previous editorial of April 1999). Russia's president Putin has signed a law describing the expansion of military alliances at Russia's border as a threat to Russian security.
Not just the government but many of the people of Russia turned against the United States and NATO. Rather than admit these nine new countries and bring NATO right up to Russia's western border, NATO could instead invite Russia to join. If the Cold War is really over, Russia should be welcome in NATO. The Russian nuclear force could then be allied with that of the USA, the UK, and France until there is global disarmament.
Any further expansion of NATO requires the ratification by the legislatures of the member states, including the US Senate. Unfortunately, the cold-war mentality plus the desire to expand power and influence may prevail. Russia would then strengthen its ties to China, and the US would face a new division of the world into rival alliances. That is what brought on World War I.
The foreign ministers of Lithuania and the other countries are seeking this collective "big bang" entry in order to simplify the ratification. This should be an opportunity to rethink the purpose of NATO. The election of Putin and the 2000 elections provide a splendid opportunity for dialogue. But NATO is not a hot topic, so we are unlikely to see this discussion from the major parties. Maybe the minor parties will take up the slack.
-- Fred Foldvary
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Copyright 2000 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.