July 8, 1997
Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic were invited to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization today. The decision must be ratified by the parliaments of all 16 current NATO members. A background report on the Madrid announcement is followed by a debate on its ramifications for European peace and US-Russian relations.
MARGARET WARNER: Now, how what happened today looks to three naturalized Americans of Central and East European descent, of whom there are nearly 20 million in the United States. Jan Nowak fought in the Polish Resistance during World War II. He left Poland in 1945 and went on to found Radio Free Europe's Polish Service. He was also director of the Polish American Congress. Czech-born Vladimir Kabes was a lawyer in Prague before leaving in 1948; he spent most of his career in the international law and human rights field. He now advises foreign companies doing business in the Czech Republic. And Charles Fenyvesi was a student activist in the 1956 Hungarian Revolution; he's been a journalist ever since and is now a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report. Mr. Nowak, how do you feel in personal terms about what happened today?
A RealAudio version of of this segment is available.
July 8, 1997:
Background report on NATO's decision to admit three new member nations.
May 20, 1997:
The new defense plan as seen by John McCain, a Republican from Arizona and Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan.
May 12, 1997:
Retiring NATO Commander General George Joulwan on the future of NATO and what should happen to Bosnian war criminals.
March 20, 1997:
The Clinton-Yeltsin summit: Russia asks for a ban of troops and nuclear weapons in new member states.
February 7, 1997:
Vice-President Al Gore's National Security Advisor Al Fuerth discusses NATO expansion.
February 7, 1997:
Two Russian experts discuss how America's former Cold War enemy views NATO expansion.
JAN NOWAK, Former Broadcaster: I feel very happy. I believe it's a great step forward, but at the same time I realize that the most difficult battle is ahead--and get the consent of the 2/3 majority in the Senate, this will be the most difficult.
MARGARET WARNER: But why are you happy?
JAN NOWAK: Well, I am happy because----and I went through World War Two, I was a participant. I saw the Holocaust and all of these terrible atrocities. And I would like to live long enough to see both--not only just Poland but Europe and United States to be safe from any repetitions of this terrible tragedy that's occurred in my lifetime, and I will live long enough to see it.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Kabes, how do you feel in personal terms?
VLADIMIR KABES, Consultant: Well, I feel very much like Mr. Nowak does, understandably so. First of all, I am delighted that there are three of us here--a Pole, a Hungarian, and a Czech by background, by birth. And all three of us are linked with the 1,000-year tradition of Western pertinence. The Hungarians, the Czechs, and the Poles date their western community spirit from the year roughly 1000, just about a millennium from now, we celebrated it in the--more or less in the religious garb this year--with the celebration of St. Paul--who was the patron saint of both the Poles and the Hungarians, and a Czech bishop. And even that in itself is not enough to feel good about it. It's not only the historical aspect; it's also the present and the future.
We feel that becoming members of NATO, the three countries are going to be reintegrated into a western spirit, into a western community, from which they were torn barely 70 years ago, 60 years ago. The Nazi occupation from 1938 on and the conquest of Poland by Germany and by Russia in 1941, all that is helping us out of very tragic period of our histories, but those histories should now be forgotten. We are reaching out not only to each other but to the rest of Europe not in a bellicose spirit of getting ready for a confrontation. I mean, that's the most catastrophic scenario, and we don't want that, but to help to forge a European unity that will be based on those western ideals which we all belong to and which would now be safe against intrusion of both foreign ideologies or foreign military interventions.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Fenyvesi, do you share these feelings?
CHARLES FENYVESI, U.S. News & World Report: I wish I could. I sympathize with both gentlemen but I don't think that we are there. I don't think it is in the American national interest to integrate these three countries in NATO right now. I would hope that the process would go on and on and on and I'm afraid that the economies of these three countries will not be able to take the burden. They still--a lot of people in all these three countries believe that somehow the United States is going to help them out and will pay for the cost of NATO membership. I think they will be very upset when they find out that, number one, NATO is not the ultimate approval of what has happened in that part of the world since 1989. It's not the joining of a very distinguished club, but it is a military alliance and all three countries have militaries, particularly Hungary, that are not exactly up to par. And these people were born and raised under the Red Star. They have intelligence services, all three of them, that originally served another master, Moscow. And both--in two countries--Poland and Hungary have ruling parties that are deeply rooted in the former Communist Party.
MARGARET WARNER: So I don't quite understand what your concern is; that it's going to be too expensive for these countries.
CHARLES FENYVESI: Which these countries do not realize, and it's going to cause a backlash. I think it's going to be very good for the extreme right and for the extreme left, and they are going to say that American equipment is extremely expensive, and we were forced to buy this, and in the end, they will say this is sort of a protection racket.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Nowak, do you think some of these dangers are real?
JAN NOWAK: No. I entirely disagree. I believe that twice in this century the United States was dragged into war, two wars, by conflicts in East Central Europe, and I think that NATO enlargement is the most effective tool to remove the conflict and to stabilize democracy in this area. Democracy would never take such deep roots in Germany without Germany being integrated into NATO. And also I think to leave this area as a gray zone, well, you know, unguarded property, unprotected property invites thieves. We should listen to what Kozyrev said in his article in Newsweek last February.
MARGARET WARNER: The former Russian foreign minister.
JAN NOWAK: The foreign minister. He warned that refusal to a large NATO would be a victory of what he called old guard. This kind of political ruling elite which are former aparatchiks, KGB people, managers of state-owned enterprises, and I think that frankly this is where the dangerous is, not--it's not coming from the Russian people. It comes from the old ruling elite which has not reconciled itself with the loss of its empire.
MARGARET WARNER: What about really those two points? Mr. Kabes made one of them also, that first of all these countries, if they're not brought in, won't be reintegrated into the West.
CHARLES FENYVESI: I think the best way to integrate in the West is by joining the European Union and joining NATO will be considered, at least in some West European countries, as an alternative. And they are not going--the West Europeans are going to be even slower than they have been in integrating the economies, or opening themselves to the economies of these three countries.
VLADIMIR KABES: It's a chicken and egg problem--the European Union will of course be difficult to reach and to knock on its door because Western Europe is full of problems of economic nature. The Eastern markets will open to them, and they will find the door now closed, so it is hard to break into. And the problem here is less--I'm not exactly a financial wizard, but I would say the point is this: From the United States' points of view--and let's look at them for a moment--the question of isolationism that--the grace it's had--in whatever decision those three countries would be rejected, and from that point of view--
MARGARET WARNER: You're talking about, for instance, if the U.S. Senate were to--
VLADIMIR KABES: Let's say the U.S. Senate, and all the other European states because they have the right of veto, each of them, would vote against it. The consequence for us here on the American side will be that we will be living exactly through the period which, the post--era in the United States in the 20's. Had we had a firm American commitment in the 20's and not vicariously passed on to France, which was unable to cope, certainly later on with the problem, had we not had that, had we had an American commitment, we wouldn't maybe have Hitler. We wouldn't have had Holocaust; we wouldn't have had the millions of victims, not only in Europe, but hundreds of thousands of victims in the United States.
MARGARET WARNER: Is that, Mr. Nowak, a good part of what this is all about, wanting a firm American commitment, that the countries that you are from will never again be left unprotected, undefended, and you see that NATO membership as that?
JAN NOWAK: Yes, I do. I believe that the commitment under Article 6 is not--does not mean that America has to push the war button if Poland is attacked.
MARGARET WARNER: You're talking about the NATO charter in which--
JAN NOWAK: The NATO charter--Article 6 of the treaty. It only says that if let's say Poland is attacked, then the United States, either independently or collectively with others, will have to decide what kind of measures to take to assist the victim of aggression. That does not mean that next day after the invasion United States is in state of war. It may decide to use non-military means, but even this ambiguous commitment under Article 6 was enough to assure peace for last 50 years. It was an effective deterrent.
MARGARET WARNER: What kind of a commitment do you think it means from the United States to these three countries?
CHARLES FENYVESI: Well, it's complete commitment. I disagree with Mr. Nowak on this. This is a commitment of blood and treasury. This is not a what if and let's try this and let's try that. I think it is a military alliance, and it's a very serious one. And I'd also draw attention to the fact that these three countries joining NATO and others who may join will not be happy in taking part in an Albanian type or a Bosnia type rescue operation, peacekeeping operation, and the United States is going to have to make its power known to these people to talk them into joining these very questionable, very dangerous military operations.
I think that I will not speak for the Czech Republic, but I know that in Hungary there's a very strong sentiment against getting involved anywhere. They do not realize that NATO doesn't simply mean that they are joining a very expensive club. They have to do something in case the others decide on a joint action. And I think that in both Hungary and the Czech Republic, there will be a lot of resistance to do that and a lot of resentment when it is being done and people lose their lives.
MARGARET WARNER: I'm afraid we're going to have to leave it there. I wish we could go on. Thank you all very much.