Senator John Ashcroft's misgivings about extending NATO
Date: Wed, 4 Mar 1998 15:02:23 -0500
Dear On-Line Friend:
Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts about the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Your insight into this important foreign affairs issue assists me in considering policies which further the national security interests of the United States.
The collapse of the Soviet Union after 1989 marked the end of the Cold War and the triumph of liberty and free enterprise over dictatorship and centralized economic planning. Throughout this conflict, NATO played a central role in deterring Soviet aggression and promoting security cooperation between democracies of the West. The defense of the territory of Western Europe was NATOís original mission, and the NATO Alliance fulfilled this objective with undisputed success.
Now that the Cold War is over, NATO faces the challenging task of defining security objectives for the Twenty-first Century. Expansion itself is no substitute for a mission. The debate over including Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic in the Alliance should focus on the underlying objectives of maintaining a strong and effective NATO in the decades to come.
President Clinton has made NATO expansion a priority, and the Senate is likely to vote on enlarging the Alliance this Spring. The 16 current NATO members must unanimously approve the membership of any new countries. These negotiations are scheduled to conclude early this year so that any new members can be incorporated into NATO in 1999 -- the fiftieth anniversary of the treaty.
Both sides in the debate over NATO expansion present compelling arguments. Solidifying democratic reform, extending U.S. influence in Central and Eastern Europe, and ensuring the security of new democracies are all potential benefits of NATO enlargement. The cost of extending security commitments to new countries, however, both in terms of American lives and financial resources, demands a sober assessment of the risks entailed in expanding NATO.
The most important question regarding NATO expansion concerns the future mission of the alliance. If U.S. leadership in NATO is not disciplined and coherent, the effectiveness of this important organization will be undermined in the future. In two separate hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I have asked Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to define NATOís future mission, specifically if the alliance would be shifting from its traditional defense of Western Europe to an organization which advanced its membersí interests ó interests which could extend from the Middle East to Central America.
Secretary Albright responded on both occasions that NATO would be advancing those Ďout-of-areaí interests in the future. Her failure to define or give realistic limits to those interests was of great concern to me. In other forums, she has been quoted as saying that NATO should evolve into Ďa force for peace from the Middle East to Central Africa.í
I fear such broad mission statements threaten the future of an alliance with such historical distinction. Without a clear post-Cold War mission, NATO could become nothing more than a mini-United Nations with a standing army for ill-defined peacekeeping operations. As we have seen in Bosnia -- an operation which has cost the United States over $6 billion since 1996 -- potentially endless peacekeeping missions divert scarce resources from a seriously diminished defense budget.
As I weigh the arguments in the NATO expansion debate, please be assured that I will work to support U.S. policies to maintain a strong Alliance whose mission is clear and attainable and in which each member is a contributing ally. Thank you again for contacting my office. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future concerning NATO expansion or any other issue.
Senator John Ashcroft