Congressional Documents

27 April 1998


Washington -- Senator Jesse Helms says the debate on NATO enlargement
has shown that "most senators...are reaching the correct conclusion
that bringing Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic into the NATO
alliance is the right thing to do."

Helms spoke April 27 on the Senate floor as debate resumed on NATO
enlargement, with a vote anticipated later in the week.

Following is the text of Helms' statement:

(begin text)

Mr. President, prior to the Easter recess there was some spirited
discussion on the question of NATO expansion. And the debate so far
has shown that most senators, I believe, are reaching the correct
conclusion that bringing Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into
the NATO alliance is the right thing to do.

To be sure, there are some commentators who vow that they know more
than the rest of us and who bloviate for a living on the TV talk shows
and in newspaper op-ed pages. They have been wringing their hands
declaring how awful it is that the Senate is not taking this vital
foreign policy issue seriously. How awful, they lament, that the
Senate is not paying adequate attention to this important issue.

It perhaps should be responded to these commentators: "Heal
thouselves!" In fact, most of them have ignored the debate that the
Senate has been having for months on this issue. Most of the
commentators have just tuned in.

If they had paid attention, they would know why the Senate today
appears to have reached a broad consensus on the wisdom of NATO
expansion. And they would not be confusing that consensus with a lack
of serious discussion and debate.

The fact is, we have been working with the Administration leaders for
nine months now to fix their approach to NATO expansion. The Senate
Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate NATO Observer Group have
made concerted efforts to address the contentious issues early on,
precisely to ensure that the major problems with NATO expansion were
addressed by the time we reached the Senate floor.

Last Fall, when we began the Foreign Relations Committee's extensive
hearings on NATO expansion, I gave the Administration a clear warning,
emphasizing that there was a right way and a wrong way to expand NATO
and that, in my view, and in the view of many senators, the
Administration was doing it the wrong way.

When Secretary Albright first came to testify before the Foreign
Relations Committee, I told her that while I wanted to be helpful to
her in achieving Senate ratification of NATO expansion, it was
essential that we work together to fix what was wrong with the
Administration's approach, and make sure it was done the right way.
And, during the ensuing months, that is exactly what we did.

We held eight separate hearings in the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee to discuss and debate all aspects of the Administration's
plan for NATO expansion. We heard from 38 different witnesses and
produced a hearing transcript that is 532 pages long.

And the Foreign Relations Committee began working with Secretary
Albright to make the necessary course corrections in the
Administration's approach to expansion. I can report that we have
successfully made those course corrections. When we finally vote on
the Senate's Resolution of Ratification, we are not just voting to
expand NATO -- we are voting to expand NATO the right way.

The Clinton Administration has agreed to a tightly-worded Resolution
of Ratification, which includes strict, legally-binding language that,
among other things:

-- Requires that "the core purpose of NATO must continue to be the
collective defense of the territory of all NATO members" -- not
peacekeeping, or the achievement of so-called "non-military" goals;

-- Requires that NATO defense planning, command structures and force
goals be centered on ensuring the territorial defense of member

-- Builds impenetrable "fire walls" in the NATO-Russia relationship,
ensuring that Russia will have neither a voice nor a veto in NATO
decision-making, and that the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council be a
forum for explaining -- not negotiating -- NATO policy decisions;

-- Requires extensive consultation with the Senate in the case of any
proposed changes in the "strategic concept" of NATO;

-- Reaffirms that NATO does not require the consent of the United
Nations, or any other international organization, to take any actions
it deems necessary to defend the security interests of its members;

-- Requires the Administration to develop, and report to Congress, on
a plan for a NATO ballistic missile defense system to protect Europe;

-- Places strict limits on the costs to the American taxpayers for
expansion, ensuring that our current NATO allies pay their fair share,
and that the American taxpayers are not required to subsidize the
national expenses of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic for them
to meet their NATO commitments;

If the Administration had refused to accept these and other conditions
contained in the resolution, we would not have the consensus we have
here today. I, for one, would be on the Senate floor this week leading
the fight to delay NATO expansion until they did accept those
conditions. And the professional commentators would probably be
criticizing the Senate for holding up this important treaty, and
holding this important Administration priority hostage.

Now consensus is not unanimity. A number of my Senate colleagues, for
whom I have enormous respect, still have concerns.

For one, we have heard some senators raise the issue of NATO
"dilution". I am concerned about the dilution of NATO as well.

But let's not confuse the issue: No one should be concerned that
adding these new members will somehow dilute NATO. What we need to
prevent is the dilution of NATO's mission and purpose. We need to make
sure that peacekeeping and nation-building do not eclipse territorial
defense as primary Alliance functions. I believe we have done that
with our Resolution of Ratification by requiring that NATO defense
planning remain focused on territorial defense, and tied to the
security of NATO members (not vague concepts like "stability" in

Now, the most important step we can take to stop NATO dilution is to
bring Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic into the NATO alliance.
These countries know better than anyone the need to keep NATO focused
on territorial defense. They each spent the better part of this
century either under foreign occupation, or as satellites of a hostile
superpower. They represent three more votes within the councils of
NATO for the view of a NATO with a clear-cut, limited mission.

Some have suggested that we take steps to curtail NATO's ability to
act "out of area" (i.e. outside the North Atlantic area). That would
be a serious mistake. The threats to the NATO alliance are changing
and evolving; the day may not be far off when the principal threat to
the territory of NATO members will be not a resurgent Russia, but a
missile strike or terrorist attack launched by rogue states such as
Iran, Iraq, Syria, or Libya.

Would we really want to constrain NATO's ability to respond "out of
area" with disproportionate force against a regime which dared to use
chemical or biological weapons on the territory of a NATO member?
Would we want to bar NATO's ability to strike "out of area" to prevent
such an attack? Of course not. With the end of the Cold War, NATO's
ability to act out of area will be more important, as threats to the
territory of NATO members change and evolve.

Some have said that NATO expansion is unnecessarily provocative to
Russia. That is just plain wrong. NATO expansion in no way threatens
Russian democracy or precludes building friendly relations with

If anything, it will make it easier for us to maintain friendly
relations with Russia, because an expanded NATO will shut off Russia's
avenues to more destructive patterns of behavior. As Henry Kissinger
has pointed out, NATO expansion will "encourage Russian leaders to
break with the fateful rhythm of Russian history...and discourage
Russia's historical policy of creating a security belt of important,
and, if possible, politically dependent states around its borders." In
other words, Russia will no longer have the option, should the
temptation ever arise, of seeking to restore its hegemony in Central
Europe. With that avenue shut off, Russia is more likely to seek
constructive options in its relations with the West.

Some others have suggested the Senate require that Poland, Hungary and
the Czech Republic first gain admission to the European Union before
we admit them into NATO. With all due respect to our friends in
Europe, the European Union could not fight its way out of a wet paper
bag. Giving the EU a veto over who does and who does not get into NATO
would be nothing less than the abdication of American leadership in

The fact is this: Admitting Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to
NATO is in America's security interests. These nations will be among
the most reliable, pro-American NATO allies we could hope for. Indeed,
I'd go so far as to say that, not only do these countries need NATO,
America needs these countries in NATO.

That was certainly clear to this senator during the standoff with Iraq
earlier this year. While many of our current NATO allies stuck their
heads in the sand, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic
immediately, and without hesitation, said they would send their troops
in alongside American forces if a military response was necessary in
Iraq. Further, while many of our friends in Europe pursue mercantilist
policies in Cuba and China, these countries stand with us in working
to promote human rights and democracy in those last bastions of

I am convinced that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic will be
among the first to stand with us in times of crisis, and will support
America as we work to ensure that NATO remains what it is today -- the
most effective military alliance in human history. As I have made
clear, through the efforts of many senators, we have ensured with this
Resolution of Ratification that NATO expansion is done the right way.
I urge my colleagues now to vote for this Resolution, right the
historical wrong of Yalta, and support NATO expansion.

(end text)