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.
CHARLES KRAUSE: The nations of Central Europe have been pushing to join western institutions ever since their Communist governments were ousted in the revolutions of 1989. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic pushed especially hard to join the North Atlantic Alliance or NATO.
A RealAudio version of of this segment is available.
July 8, 1997:
A debate of the meaning of NATO's decision to expand.
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.
NATO was formed in 1949 to protect Western Europe from Soviet expansion. It is composed of 14 of Western Europe's largest countries, stretching from Iceland in the West to Turkey in the Southeast. It also includes the United States and Canada.
To counter NATO, the Soviet Union created the Warsaw Pact, which included Moscow's Central European satellites--Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. The Berlin Wall came crashing down in 1989, and Russian control over central Europe came to an end. The Warsaw Pact was dissolved. It seemed as if NATO might no longer be necessary.
But the former Warsaw Pact countries soon made it known that even though the Cold War was over, they were fearful of being left adrift. What they wanted was to join NATO and the West. In the spring of 1993, Czech President Vaclav Havel and Polish President Lech Walesa attended the dedication of the Holocaust Museum in Washington. It was there that they lobbied President Clinton, reportedly convincing him that central Europe should never again be left without clear and ironclad security agreements to protect the region from potential enemies--East and West.
Still, the United States was not yet prepared to expand the North Atlantic Alliance. NATO heads of government met in Brussels in January 1994. President Clinton traveled to Prague to announce something less than full NATO membership for the Central Europeans---what he called "the partnership for peace."
PRESIDENT CLINTON: The United States proposed this partnership to lay the foundation for intensive cooperation among the armed forces of our NATO members, all former Warsaw Pact states, and other non-NATO European states who wish to join the partnership.
CHARLES KRAUSE: By the end of 1994, some 27 former satellites and former republics of the old Soviet Union, including Russia itself, had agreed to join the partnership for peace. But the Czechs and the Poles especially continued to press for full NATO membership. During last year's election campaign, candidate Clinton announced that their wish would be granted. The announcement came during a campaign rally in Detroit.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Today I want to state America's goal. By 1999, NATO's 50th anniversary, and 10 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first group of countries we invite to join should be full-fledged members of NATO. (applause)
CHARLES KRAUSE: Russia vehemently opposed any expansion of NATO that would include its former satellites. Negotiations between Washington and Moscow continued through the winter, finally resulting in a meeting between Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin last March in Helsinki---where the outlines of an agreement were announced. Yeltsin agreed to go along with expanding NATO in return for a new security agreement between Moscow and the West.
But even with Russia on board, there was still the question of which countries would become the first new members of NATO since the Cold War ended. The United States wanted only three: Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. France and several other countries wanted five: Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, as well as Romania and Slovenia. But today the United States prevailed.
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.