The fruits of victory in the Cold War are being lost by the Clinton Administration through delay and inaction. Even as Russian Communists are regaining control of the government and working to force together again the old Soviet Union, the captive nations of the Cold War are being given the straight arm in their efforts to join the West and the NATO alliance.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is widely recognized as the principal instrument by which the United States and its allies defeated communism and ended the Cold War. For almost fifty years, NATO has successfully kept the peace in Europe, and in addition has provided a fertile environment for democracy and the rule of law to take root in such countries as Germany, Italy, Spain, and Turkey. In addition, NATO membership has encouraged peaceful and cooperative relations between NATO members themselves.
The demise of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact has presented NATO with new challenges and new opportunities. The international environment is fraught with prospects for conflict and instability. Moscow's ultimate intentions are unclear and some of its statements have ominous undertones. The countries that re-emerged from the ruins of the Soviet Empire as free societies now look to membership in NATO just as they would have over four decades ago if they had enjoyed the good fortune to be located West of the Iron Curtain when NATO was established in 1949. These newly free countries have already fought and suffered more than the NATO members themselves to earn the right to their territorial integrity, independence, democracy, and free enterprise--precisely the values that NATO has maintained in the West for almost fifty years. At long last, the pro-Western nations of Central Europe now have the opportunity and the will to help us promote those values, and defend them.
Without question, it is in the interest of the United States and our NATO allies to ensure the integration of these newly free countries into the West. To leave these countries outside of the NATO Alliance would not only divorce them from the Atlantic community of democratic nations, but also perpetuate a security vacuum in the heart of Europe. The result would almost certainly be a spreading instability; even worse, failure to consolidate the gains of our Cold War victory could lead to the reconstitution of the Warsaw Pact. Unquestionably, the democrats and reformers who have come to power in these countries since 1989 would be demoralized and delegitimized, enhancing the risks of a return to despotism.
The Clinton Administration has reacted lethargically and irresponsibly to the challenges of the new era. After announcing in January 1994 that NATO enlargement is not a question of if, but when--over two years ago--it has seen to it that precisely nothing has in fact happened. The Administration's destructive hypersensitivity to Moscow has jeopardized the prospects for reform in the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The Clinton "Partnership for Peace" program, rather than providing a bridge to full NATO membership for these countries, has instead proven to be a cruel detour.
This is a dangerous policy--if "policy" it can be called at all. As Czech President Vaclav Havel observed in an article in The New York Times on October 17, 1993:
"I am convinced that the American presence in Europe is still necessary. In the 20th century, it was not just Europe that paid the price for American isolationism; America itself paid a price. The less it committed itself in the beginning of European conflagrations, the greater the sacrifices it had to make at the end of such conflicts."
Republicans consistently have sought to accelerate the process of NATO expansion. Two years before the Partnership for Peace, President Bush's "North Atlantic Cooperation Council" linked the emerging democracies of Central and Eastern Europe to NATO. The "NATO Participation Act," a Republican initiative enacted into law in 1994, then established a framework for assisting the integration into NATO of the leading candidates for admission to the Alliance. The "Contract With America" contained additional provisions designed to foster more rapid expansion of the NATO Alliance, which in recent months have been enacted into law by the Congress.
Nonetheless, the NATO Participation Act and the Contract With America provisions on NATO expansion have not been implemented by President Clinton. It is obvious why: he does not want to implement them. An unreasonable deference to the rising nationalism and militarism in Moscow is perhaps the greatest reason. But it is also true that in order to implement these laws, he would have to identify the leading contenders for admission to the Alliance. President Clinton prefers instead to preserve the fiction that all countries emerging from the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union will reach the criteria for admission to the Alliance simultaneously.
Since President Clinton is unwilling to rise to the challenge of expanding the NATO Alliance, Congress must take the initiative from him. Building on the NATO Participation Act and the Contract With America, House Republicans declare that, at a minimum, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic are on track for immediate admission to the Alliance. At the same time, the countries anticipating admission to NATO clearly have responsibilities to live up to. It will be incumbent upon these nations to contribute resources and pursue policies that enhance the security of the NATO Alliance and its membership.
Of course, the admission of these three countries to the Alliance is the beginning, not the end, of the expansion process. At the earliest possible time, additional countries, including Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria, should be invited into the Alliance if they meet the criteria for admission. For in the final analysis, preserving the independence and territorial integrity of all of the countries that have emerged from the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union is in the national interest of the United States, and our allies throughout the world.