House Republican Policy Committee

Report to the Conference 

The Key to Peace and American Security is NATO Expansion

May 23, 1997
    On March 6, 1997, House Republicans released their Legislative Priorities for the 105th Congress.  Priority 11, Rebuild a Strong National Defense, included a call to "Expand NATO to ensure peace for future generations."  This Report summarizes current progress and challenges in implementing this priority.
    America's victory in the Cold War, which liberated the nations imprisoned in the Warsaw Pact and the former Soviet Union, is President Reagan's greatest legacy. Consolidating and safeguarding that victory through expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has long been a key priority of the Congressional majority.  The NATO Participation Act, a Republican initiative enacted in 1994, created a framework to assist the leading candidates for admission to the Alliance.  And the NATO Enlargement Facilitation Act, a key plank of the Contract with America enacted in 1996, fostered the impending expansion of the NATO Alliance to include, at a minimum, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
    Today, the Congressional majority is committed to a broader and deeper expansion of the Atlantic Alliance.  The European Security Act, introduced by Chairman Gilman of the House International Relations Committee on April 24, 1997, paves the way for expansion of NATO and a free and secure Europe.
    But successful expansion of the Alliance is threatened--by a Russian diplomatic offensive, and by the Clinton Administration's ill-considered responses to it.  The "Founding Act" agreed to by Russia and NATO, as well as the expected adoption of a restricted program of expansion at the Madrid Summit in July, threaten both NATO expansion and the integrity of the existing NATO structure.  Congress must ensure that freedom's victory in the Cold War is not compromised in its aftermath.

Defending Central and Eastern Europe

    The fundamental geopolitical reality in Central and Eastern Europe is the inherent imbalance of power between Russia and its immediate and near neighbors, either individually or in combination.  This age-old reality is reflected in Russian dominion over Poland, the Baltic nations, Finland, Belarus, and Ukraine in the 18th and 19th centuries, and over the vast imperium of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact in the 20th century.
    The current eclipse of Russian military and economic power should not blind us to centuries-old realities of geography and economics.  An expanded NATO remains an essential shield against a resurgence of Russian power.  Even today, there is clear evidence of a revival of Russian expansionism:
    Russia has achieved a "reunion" with Belarus, a nation of 10.5 million the size of Romania.   On April 2, 1997, Russian President Yeltsin and Belarussian President Lukashenka signed a treaty creating a union of the two countries with joint armed forces and common citizenship and currency, as well as a binational ruling body.  The union will again bring Russian power, after an absence of only six years, to the eastern borders of Poland and the Baltic states--700 miles farther west.  Russian commentators stressed that the "union" was a riposte to NATO expansion, and that it is open to other members.  As a result, Russia will have achieved an expanded union before NATO does.
    Russia has serious border disputes with Ukraine, and has refused to define its thousand-mile border.  Russia continues to claim the strategic Crimean Peninsula, as well as significant units of the former Soviet Black Sea fleet.
    Russia has repeatedly and brutally threatened the three Baltic Republics.     Russia maintains significant military forces in the Kaliningrad enclave bordering Lithuania and Poland--forces not restricted by the CFE Flank Agreement limitations.
    Russia's armed forces have seized control of portions of Moldava, a small state physically separated from Russia by 325 miles of Ukrainian territory, but contiguous to NATO candidate Romania.
    Russia  has repeatedly intervened to destabilize and subvert the strategic Republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasus Mountains--the latter of which has newly-found, exceptionally important gas and oil reserves whose transit routes westward Moscow seeks to control.
    Russia has stationed its armed forces in Ukraine, Armenia and Tajikistan.
    And while tolerating dramatic deterioration in its Soviet-era force structure, the bankrupt Russian state still commits vast resources to military research and procurement that will bear fruit in the intermediate future--like the defeated German Reichswehr of the 1920's.  Russiaís revised military doctrine in essence neglects current military assets to concentrate on leapfrogging potential foes by developing next-generation technologies.  Since Russia observed the performance of U.S. high-tech assets in Operation Desert Storm, its doctrine "places new emphasis on the need for military technology advancements in C4I (command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence), long-range smart weapons, and increased mobility, especially in air and space."    Russian spending for research and development of high-technology weapons has increased nearly sixfold over the past three years, rising from $2.1 billion in 1994 to almost $13 billion today--versus other defense spending of $19 billion.  Current high-priority projects include production of an upgraded mobile ICBM, tactical nuclear weapons, miniature nuclear warheads, and a new Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile--all already in development or production.   And Janeís of Britain reports that Russia has developed several new chemical and bacteriological weapons, including a new strain of anthrax which antibiotics cannot counteract.
    Russiaís entire negotiating posture on NATO expansion reveals not a fear of aggression--which Russiaís leaders from Boris Yeltsin on down have disclaimed--but a conscious desire to dominate both the former Soviet Union and the former Warsaw Pact.  Why else would the current Russian Foreign Minister (and former Soviet KGB head) Y.M. Primakov have opened negotiations with the following demands:     These negotiating positions made sense only if Russia seeks the ability to blackmail or actually occupy the whole former Warsaw Pact, and direct military dominance over the mis-named "Commonwealth of Independent States."  Indeed, given the unfolding sequence of events, NATO expansion might fairly be characterized as a Western response to accelerating Russian efforts to revive the Soviet imperium.

Promoting Democracy and Stability in the Former Warsaw Pact

    Beyond defending Western Europe from Soviet imperialism during the Cold War, NATO proved essential to fostering democracy and the rule of law in Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Turkey.  So too will NATO membership today lend stability to states still trying to revive or create capitalism and democracy after generations of Communist autocracy.  NATO membership will in particular help inculcate the norm of civilian control of the military.  And just as membership in NATO helped abate the historic rivalry between Germany and France and contain disputes between Greece and Turkey, so too will NATO membership help diminish longstanding animosities between Central European nations.  Already, the mere prospect of NATO membership has helped promote settlement of outstanding issues predating the Second World War between Germany and the Czech Republic, and led Hungary and Romania to resolve their centuries-old territorial disputes.
    The alternatives, then, are not the current status quo and NATO expansion.  Rather, they are a stable, prosperous, democratic Central and Eastern Europe, secure against external coercion but threatening to no one, or an insecure zone of 160 million people in the heart of Europe, riven by social, economic, and national tensions, and subject to intimidation or worse by outside forces.  The latter choice would threaten Russia, Western Europe, and therefore the United States, which has already twice been drawn into world wars originating in Central Europe.

The Clinton Administrationís Policy

    Unfortunately, the Clinton Administration has badly mismanaged what ought to be a bipartisan policy.  President Clinton delayed concrete steps towards NATO expansion throughout the entirety of his first term, losing the most favorable opportunity for securing an enlargement of the Alliance without significant Russian opposition.  He refused to designate anticipated new members so that they could receive accession facilitation funds the Republican Congress repeatedly provided.  Then, after waiting until far more nationalist forces were in the ascendant in Russia, the President used their opposition as a further excuse both to delay the first round of expansion until 1999 and to negotiate it on dramatically unfavorable terms.  Laborious negotiations with Russia before, during, and after the Clinton-Yeltsin summit in Helsinki on March 20-21 have resulted in a NATO-Russian "Founding Act"--not subject to Senate ratification--that will be signed on May 27 in Paris.  The Founding Act, and the severely limited expansion likely to be approved at the Madrid Summit in July, threaten the candidates for the first round of NATO expansion, those nations excluded from the initial expansion, and the integrity of NATO itself.
    Undermining NATOís Structural Integrity.  Ostensibly designed to reassure Russia before expansion decisions are made at the Madrid NATO summit in July 1997, the Founding Act could critically undermine the structure of the existing Atlantic Alliance.  Its most troubling feature is the creation of a NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council at NATO headquarters to supplement the existing NATO Council, the highest decision-making body for the Alliance.  It will be co-chaired by the NATO Secretary General, a Russian Ambassador, and a rotating representative of the other NATO powers.
    As former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote recently:     And, since the Administration is introducing Russia into NATOís deliberations well before the admission of even the first tier of candidate nations, Russia will in effect enter the NATO decision-making process years before our prospective allies.
    Russia and NATO are currently in apparent disagreement over Russiaís new role in NATO.  President Yeltsin said categorically on the day that the agreement was reached that Russia would enjoy a veto, stating that "[s]hould Russia be against any decision, the decision will not pass"--just as, after the Helsinki summit, he stated that "the way we solve these issues is by consensus.  Thatís how it is today among the NATO countries.  And that is how it will be once we conclude an agreement between Russia and NATO."
    The Administration maintains that this veto extends only to joint actions by Russia and NATO, and that both sides will retain their freedom of unilateral action in the event of disagreement.  But even if the Clinton Administrationís construction of the Founding Act were technically correct, it ignores the clear political ramifications of creating a parallel council with concurrent jurisdiction over the same subject: proposed NATO action.   As Secretary Kissinger wrote shortly after the Helsinki summit,     More broadly, the Administration appears to envisage a transformation of NATO from its current form--an alliance committed to the defense of a defined territory against largely identified threats--into a much looser collective-security relationship, without clear territorial definition or commonly-understood threats and interests.  Such organizations, from the League of Nations to the 1925 Locarno Pact between future World War II adversaries Germany, Italy, France, and Britain, to the United Nations, have not kept the peace or secured their members in war.
    Second-Class Citizenship for New NATO Members.  Russia has insistently demanded throughout the negotiations that NATOís current members commit in a legally binding fashion never to station nuclear weapons, military bases, or military forces, nor to upgrade military infrastructure, on the territory of even the first round of candidates--Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and possibly Romania and Slovenia--nations that no longer have even a significant common frontier with Russia.  In the Moscow agreement, NATO elaborated on the Administrationís already conceded "three noís"--that NATO has "no intention, no plans, and no reason" for nuclear deployment in the new member-states, and no current need for "substantial" deployment of combat forces.  The Founding Act additionally pledges that infrastructure in the new member-states can be built or upgraded solely to promote better integration and interoperability of NATO forces or to facilitate reinforcement in the event of a crisis--not to station NATO troops there, as they have been stationed for decades in other NATO countries.
    Taken as a whole, these limitations--even if expressed in an ostensibly non-binding document--could make the new NATO members second-class citizens.  Article V of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty guarantees that an attack on any NATO member will be considered an attack on all NATO members.  But this guarantee is meaningless without the military capability necessary to deter or resist attack.  And the dramatic imbalance between the military potential of Russia and all of its neighbors in the so-called "Near Abroad" of the former USSR and the former Warsaw Pact--individually or collectively--means that in future such defensive capabilities could largely depend on the presence of military forces or infrastructure from other NATO members on the territory of the newly-admitted nations.
    Moreover, delaying deployment until there is a clear and present danger to the new members--the "strategy of reinforcement" espoused by the Administration and codified in the Founding Act--may fail in such a crisis.  As a practical matter, it might be possible for Russian military capabilities to expand incrementally and with little visibility over a course of years, gradually creating a viable threat to the new NATO members.  But a Western response could not proceed incrementally or with little visibility.  Deployment of NATO troops or weapons to the new member-nations, unlike a gradual Russian buildup, would immediately cross a bright line.  As a result, the Alliance would face the dilemma of either deploying troops before a Russian threat had fully matured--a decision that by definition could be denounced as premature--or waiting until a crisis occurred--a decision that would inevitably be inhibited by fear of further escalating the crisis.  (Significant upgrading of military infrastructure, of course, could not occur in a crisis.)
    The new NATO members themselves, caught between an existing threat from Russia and the possibility of effective assistance from other NATO members, might be reluctant to solicit or accept such assistance--just as Belgium and the Netherlands refused all offers of Allied assistance during the runup to the Nazi blitzkrieg in May 1940, for fear of further angering the Reich.  And such NATO reinforcement could in any event come too late to provide an effective defense of the new members--just as in 1940 British and French forces suffered the greatest military catastrophe ever to befall the Western Allies when, pursuant to the disastrous "Dyle Plan," they advanced into Belgium without any predeployment after the blitzkrieg began.
    Despite these compelling arguments against such limitations, the Administration appears to be attempting to give Russia precisely what it wants--binding NATO arms limitations.  Rather than writing them into a NATO-Russian treaty, the Administration instead is proposing to write them into a revised version of  the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Agreement that Russia is currently violating.  As one high official in the Clinton Administration told the Washington Post on May 3, 1997, "the agreement would respond to Russiaís insistence that NATO not move large amounts of equipment into former Warsaw Pact countries.  NATO would not agree to any such limitations, but the CFE limits would apply to the individual countries.  Thus, if NATO moved, say, 1,000 tanks into Poland, Polandís own forces would have to be reduced accordingly."
    In short, it is not surprising that some of the highest praise for the Founding Act has come from the strongest opponents of NATO expansion.
    Denying NATO Membership to Those Who Most Need It.   The likely outcome of the Madrid summit--a very restricted expansion of the Alliance--is also a missed opportunity.  Though the Administration pays lip-service to the idea that the first round of new NATO members will not be the last, it appears unwilling to support early NATO membership for European nations that need it even more urgently than the three current candidates for admission.  Romania, for example, is directly threatened by Russian forces stationed on the territory of neighboring Moldava, and has recently made significant progress in democratization and economic reform.  The exposed geographic position of this nation of 23 million people makes it particularly vulnerable to Russian coercion or attack.
    And Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are even more vulnerable:  these three Baltic republics share extensive common borders with Russia, its Belarussian ally, and the Kaliningrad salient now occupied by at least 25,000 Russian troops.  Russian officials have frequently  threatened all three nations, making illegal military overflights over Lithuania, and attempting to dictate the Baltic nationsí treatment of the Russian minorities forcibly settled in the Baltic states during the decades of Soviet occupation.  Clearly if need for NATO membership were a criterion, the Baltic republics would rank at the head of the list.  Yet the U.S.-Baltic charter being drafted by the Clinton Administration reportedly merely recognizes the Baltic statesí "aspirations" to NATO membership, without holding out any assurance that those aspirations would ever be fulfilled.  And on November 24, 1996 then-Defense Secretary William Perry told Baltic leaders in Copenhagen that their nations "are not yet ready to take on Article V responsibilities of NATO membership."  In other words, Perry suggested they were not yet ready for NATO membership because of their inability to contribute militarily to the alliance.  Yet it is precisely the relative military weakness of the Baltic states that makes the NATO common-defense guarantee essential to their independence--an independence the United States recognized throughout the darkest days of the Cold War.  And the Administrationís purported insistence on military capacity rings hollow in an alliance that welcomed Luxemburg and Iceland as charter members, and vowed to go to war if the USSR attacked militarily indefensible West Berlin.
    Despite these strong arguments for a broader expansion at Madrid, the Administration seems likely to support a restricted one.  Its reported rationale is revealing: if Romania and Slovenia were admitted in the first round, the question of the Baltic republics would be squarely presented in the second round.  By deferring Romania and Slovenia, Administration officials reportedly believe that they can create a respectable roster of second-round candidates even without the Baltic nations, whose membership would be deferred still further.
    This strategy reveals the Administrationís fundamental ambivalence to the very idea of NATO expansion, and creates a significant risk that further expansion will not occur.  Although all reports confirm that NATO expansion is not an important issue for the Russian public, over the past five years opposition to it has steadily gained strength within the governing elite.  There is little reason to think that these attitudes will improve as NATO contemplates expanding across the former USSR state border.  And since agreement in 1997 on the first round of will result in actual expansion of the alliance only two years later, in 1999, further rounds of expansion would occur well into the next century.  Thus, under the current plan, propitious political conditions in Russia will have to endure for the better part of decade if further NATO expansion is to occur with Russiaís acquiescence.  As a result, the window for a smooth expansion of the Alliance may be closing before our eyes.
    The Administration has also been remiss in laying the groundwork for what could ultimately be the most important accession to NATO--that of Ukraine, a nation that has surrendered its independent nuclear arsenal to Russia at our insistence, is currently involved in border disputes with Russia, and is key to ensuring an effective military equilibrium in Eastern Europe.  Only if this of this large, populous, strategically located nation remains politically and militarily independent can Central and Western Europe be truly secure.

Congressional Response: The European Security Act of 1997

    The correct response to the deficiencies of the Administrationís NATO policy and the "Founding Act" is not to abandon expansion but to improve it.  The Founding Act is in its incipiency, and is not binding on the Allies in the same way that the North Atlantic Treaty is.  And the pace of expansion can be accelerated.  All of the dangers described in this Report would be exacerbated by abandoning or curtailing existing plans for expansion.  Congress must instead work to improve them.
    The "European Security Act of 1997" represents a congressional initiative to put NATO policy back on track.  Specifically, it has three main components.  First, it works to promote the timely expansion of NATOís membership.  It expresses the Sense of the Congress that the Baltic nations and Romania should be admitted to NATO.  It requires the President to designate multiple nations as future NATO members eligible for accession facilitation aid (beyond Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia--which have already been so designated).  Second, it warns that Congress will not approve further revisions of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty that embody Moscowís demands in the expansion negotiation--including CFE revisions "restricting the construction of defense infrastructure" in newly admitted member-nations, one of the key points in the Founding Act.  Third, the bill requires congressional approval of any agreements with the Russians to revise the ABM Treaty on "demarcation" between national and theater missile defense.  It expresses opposition to any constraints on theater missile defense systemsí technological capabilities--which could protect American troops in Europe, as well as the citizens and troops of NATO states--including new members in Central Europe.


    Congressional Republicans have played the leading role in securing President Reaganís legacy of victory in the Cold War by integrating newly liberated nations into NATO.  Today, the congressional majority must ensure that NATO continues to expand, without conditions that will undermine the structure of the Alliance or the equal rights of its members. 
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