REDRAWING THE MAP
April 28, 1998
The U.S. Senate will vote this week whether or not to invite Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Opponents worry that an expanded NATO will lack a coherent mission and may antagonize Russia. Supporters counter that the new alliance will ensure a more stable Europe. Following a background report on the issue, four experts debate the wisdom of expanding NATO to the East.
JIM LEHRER: Kwame Holman begins our NATO discussion.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
April 28, 1998:
Two senators and two foreign policy experts debate NATO expansion.
October 30, 1997:
Read a past Online Forum on NATO expansion.
July 9, 1997
Sec. Albright discusses NATO expansion.
NATO offers membership to Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland.
May 27, 1997
A Newsmaker interview with NATO Secretary General Javier Solana.
May 16, 1997:
Czech President Vaclav Havel discusses NATO expansion.
May 12, 1997:
Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander General George Joulwan discusses NATO's future.
May 14, 1997:
Sec. Albright discusses the agreement reached between NATO and Russia.
March 20, 1997:
Debating NATO expansion.
March 20, 1997:
Looking at NATO expansion from Russia's perspective.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of the Europe, international affairs and Bosnia.
A brief history of NATO.
KWAME HOLMAN: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was formed at the height of the Cold War in 1949. Its aim--to form a military alliance that would protect Western Europe from the Soviet Union. Along with the United States and Canada, NATO is composed of 14 of Western Europe's largest countries, from Iceland in the West--to Turkey in the Southeast. To counter NATO, the Soviet Union created the Warsaw Pact made up of the Central European Soviet satellites--including Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.
As the Cold War ended with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Warsaw Pact soon dissolved and most of its former members began to make overtures to join NATO. But Russia consistently opposed any expansion of NATO to the former Soviet satellites. In 1997, however, Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin met in Helsinki and reached an agreement. Russia reluctantly would go along with NATO expansion in exchange for a new security arrangement between Russia and the West.
But the question remained: Which countries would become new NATO members. The United States wanted only three: Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. France and several other nations wanted to add two more-- Romania and Slovenia. The U.S. position prevailed, and at a NATO summit in Madrid last summer, President Clinton made the formal announcement.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: I still remember the Hungarian uprising of 1956, the Prague Spring of 1968, the Gdansk shipyard in 1981. But we also appreciate the fact that when these three nations threw off the shackles of tyranny, they embraced democracy and tolerance; they devoted themselves to reforming their economies and their societies, to settling age old disputes with their neighbors. They have done the hard work of freedom now for over seven years, and they have proved that they are ready to share in the full responsibility of NATO membership.
The debate begins
KWAME HOLMAN: Now, the President needs 67 votes or 2/3 of the U.S. Senate to ratify the NATO expansion treaty. The final round of Senate debate began yesterday after some Senators complained not enough time had been set aside to examine such an important foreign policy issue.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) Maine: The matter of NATO expansion is perhaps the single most important foreign policy or defense issue to come before Congress this year. Because of the complexity of the issues involved, the importance of this decision, and its implications for our relationship with Russia, I have not rushed to judgement on this issue. Today, however, I would like to explain why, after careful consideration and much consultation, I have decided to cast my vote in favor of NATO expansion.
KWAME HOLMAN: With many in the foreign policy establishment, including all the living former secretaries of state, supporting expansion and with the senate leadership strongly on board, approval of the treaty was expected to be overwhelming.
But in recent weeks, a smaller but influential group of foreign policy experts has been speaking out more forcefully against the three-nation expansion of NATO. The group includes: George Kennan, author of the Cold War Doctrine of Containment of the Soviet Union; Sam Nunn, the former Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; defense secretary to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, Robert McNamara; longtime arms control negotiator Paul Nitze; former admiral and CIA Director Stansfield Turner; and President Ford’s and Bush’s national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft. Such opponents say the proposed NATO expansion will alienate Russia, fueling the forces of nationalism there and destabilizing Russian democracy. They also say NATO expansion will impose enormous new costs on the U.S. taxpayer. The Congressional Budget Office estimates those costs could go as high as $125 billion over 15 years, a figure strongly disputed by proponents.
The coalition against NATO expansion grows.
ANNOUNCER: (Commercial Segment) Nuclear war--the threat went away when the Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War ended. But now the Senate is about to vote on spending $60 billion to expand NATO--
KWAME HOLMAN: A business group that opposes expansion based on such budget concerns created this TV ad aimed at blocking ratification of the Treaty.
SENATOR KENT CONRAD,(D) North Dakota: Thank you, Senator Smith and Senator Harkin for organizing this group. What an interesting coalition this is.
KWAME HOLMAN: Last week, the small bipartisan group of Senate opponents of the NATO expansion also jumped into the debate. They hope at least to amend the treaty over the next two days. A final Senate vote is expected by the end of the week.