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WHY NATO EXPANSION
- Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1999 13:23:23 -0400 (EDT)
Former Canadian Ambassador to the UN for Disarmament
NATO’s EXPANSION: Provocation, Not Leadership
by Douglas Roche, O.C.
NATO claims that by bringing Poland, Hungary and the Czech
Republic into the 16-member Organization, the new NATO will
"meet the challenges of the 21st century." But 50 American former
Senators, diplomats and officials maintain that NATO expansion
would be "a policy error of historic proportions." George Kennan,
the father of the U.S. containment policy on the Soviet Union, says:
"Expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American
policy in the entire post-Cold War era."
Why is NATO so determined to enlarge? Why is the opposition
so strong? Why is the U.S. Senate rushing to judgment on such a
I am an opponent of NATO expansion. I see the expansion of a
nuclear-armed Alliance up to Russia’s borders as provocative, not
an act of leadership for peace. In fact, NATO’s expansion
undermines the struggle for peace.
I want to set out my reasons in three main categories: instilling
fear in Russia; setting back nuclear disarmament; and undermining
the United Nations.
Instilling Fear In Russia
It is claimed that the idea of NATO expansion started with the
leaders of Central and Eastern Europe who wanted to look West in
confidence rather than East in fear. President Clinton was
impressed with this stance and U.S. policy set out reasons for
widening the scope of the American-European security
NATO expansion would respond to three strategic challenges: to
enhance the relationship between the U.S. and the enlarging
democratic Europe; to engage a still evolving Russia in a
cooperative relationship with Europe; and to reinforce the habits of
democracy and the practice of peace in Central Europe.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright set out the case cogently:
"Now the new NATO can do for Europe’s east what the old NATO
did for Europe’s west: vanquish old hatreds, promote integration,
create a secure environment for prosperity, and deter violence in
the regions where two world wars and the Cold War began."
Russia’s early objections to NATO expansion were met by
NATO’s assurances that it wanted a strong, stable and enduring
partnership with Russia based on the Founding Act on Mutual
Relations. Russia would be consulted; a Russian military
representative arrived in Brussels; the NATO-Russia Permanent
Joint Council began meeting at the ministerial level. NATO insisted
it was moving away from forward defense planning and reducing its
But that is not what Russian leaders see. They maintain that,
despite Moscow’s disbanding of the Warsaw Pact, deeper
reductions in nuclear and conventional forces than in the West, the
hasty withdrawal of half a million troops from comfortable barracks
in Central Europe to tent camps in Russian fields, the most
powerful military Alliance in the world started moving toward
Offered only membership in a limited "Partnership for Peace"
rather than full membership in the new NATO, Russia is now
having a much harder time achieving the goals of Russian
Russians are little impressed with Western benign assurances.
And their apprehension increases at the prospect of more East and
Central European countries joining NATO in the next expansion
wave. Worst of all, they fear the entry of the three Baltic States of
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—Russia’s intimate neighbors—into
NATO. A Charter of Partnership has already been signed between
the U.S. and the three Baltic nations in which Washington has
promised to do everything possible to get them ready to join
How can the West expect the Russians, a proud people who
have suffered the ravages of war throughout the 20th century, to
calmly accept such isolation? They see a ganging-up of nations
against Russia as a travesty on the end of the Cold War.
Why, Russians ask, cannot the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) be the guarantor of security for the
whole of Europe? The OSCE was started a quarter of a century
ago to serve as a multilateral forum for dialogue and negotiation
between East and West. As a regional arrangement under Chapter
VIII of the UN Charter, the OSCE was established as a primary
instrument for early warning, conflict prevention and crisis
management in Europe. In the Charter of Paris for a New Europe,
the OSCE was called upon to contribute to managing the historic
change in Europe and respond to the new challenges of the post-
Cold War period. It was believed that the OSCE would replace
NATO as the principal security watchdog in Europe. Russia would
like to have NATO subservient to the OSCE. But in NATO’s
resurgence, the OSCE is fading.
Why? One reason is because all states in the OSCE have equal
status and decisions are made on the basis of consensus. This does
not sit well with the lone superpower in the world whose military
might exceeds the combined power of most of Europe.
Why should the U.S.— exercising its military might through
dominance of an expanding NATO — create such a permanent
source of friction with Russia? NATO expansion is a backward
step in drawing Russia into the community of nations.
The expansion process should be stopped and alternative actions
Open the European Union to all the countries of Europe.
Develop a cooperative NATO-Russian relationship that implements
arms reductions and builds trading relationships.
Setting Back Nuclear Disarmament
The setting back of nuclear disarmament is the most serious
consequence of NATO expansion. Global security will suffer. In
fact, it is NATO’s insistence that "nuclear forces continue to play
an essential role in NATO strategy" that poses such a threat to
peace in the 21st century.
The nuclear weapons situation in the world is at a critical stage.
Nearly a decade after the end of the Cold War, more than 35,000
nuclear weapons remain in the world. No new nuclear negotiations
are taking place; the Conference on Disarmament is paralyzed. The
Russian Duma, fearing NATO’s expansion, has not ratified START
II; START III is immobilized. Some Russian politicians and
militarists, concerned about Russia’s crumbling conventional force
structure, are once again talking of nuclear weapons as a vital line
of defense for Russia. Even if START II were ratified, there would
still be at least 17,000 nuclear weapons of all kinds remaining in
2007. More than 8,500 will be in Russia.
Under Gorbachev, Russia started to move down the road to
nuclear disarmament, starting with a no-first-use pledge and other
unilateral moves. When he came to power, Boris Yeltsin projected
a sweeping foreign policy on democracy, a market economy, the
slashing of weapons, a pan-European collective defense system and
even "a global system for protection of the world community." "A
new world order based on the primacy of international law is
coming," Yeltsin said.
Such talk has ceased as Russia, ever more desperate for hesitant
Western financial assistance, became mired in constant economic
and political crises. Instead of offering a 1990s Marshall Plan-scale
of help to Russia (which would be in the economic and political
interests of the West, not least in cleaning up the "loose nukes"
peril), the West offers an expanded NATO. Since Russia so
desperately needs the new eighth seat at the G7 Economic Summit,
its protests, though not its resentments, are weakened.
Despite the indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty
(NPT) and the signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
(CTBT), a new technology race in the quest for more innovative
nuclear weapons, led by the U.S., has broken out. Since the U.S.
so clearly intends to keep producing better designed nuclear
weapons, there is virtually no hope that other nations will forego
seeking the technology to allow them to keep up with this race.
The world is poised to enter the 21st century in a "cold peace"
atmosphere in which the CTBT will go unratified by some of the
required states and the NPT may begin to unravel.
The continued retention of nuclear weapons by the five
permanent members of the UN Security Council who insist that
they are essential to their security and that of their allies, while
denying the same right to others, is inherently unstable. This is an
essential point made by the International Court of Justice (ICJ)
whose unanimous call for the conclusion of nuclear weapons
negotiations continues to be rejected by the Western NWS and the
bulk of NATO.
NATO’s continued deployment of nuclear weapons in Europe,
even at reduced levels, along with a refusal to respect the ICJ and
enter into comprehensive negotiations, is in direct violation of the
pledge made by the Nuclear Weapons States at the time of the
indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1995: to
pursue with determination "systematic and progressive efforts to
reduce nuclear weapons globally, with the ultimate goal of
eliminating those weapons."
To lessen fears of the growth of a nuclear-armed Alliance,
NATO insists that it has "no plan, no need and no intention" to
station nuclear weapons on the territory of new members. That is
not the point. Not stationing nuclear weapons in Poland, Hungary
and the Czech Republic does nothing to get them out of Western
European countries. Nothing less than the removal of all of
NATO’s nuclear weapons from all of Europe will suffice to
demonstrate NATO’s sincerity.
Though NATO operates in great secrecy, it is clear that the
Alliance has no intention of renouncing nuclear weapons, is
determined to maintain a nuclear war-fighting capability, and is
prepared to use low-yield nuclear warheads first. It is unacceptable
that NATO even refuses to release the Terms of Reference used for
its current review of the Strategic Concept.
The expansion of such a nuclear-armed Alliance is not an aid but
a challenge to the development of peaceful relations with Russia. A
nuclear NATO sets back peace.
Undermining the United Nations
The evolution of a world system is imperative if civilized life is to
continue in the coming millennium. The United Nations is the
essential centre-piece of that system. Its over-arching purpose is to
maintain international peace and security. For this reason, the
Security Council is given strong powers to enforce its decisions.
But the UN is undermined by military alliances that threaten
force as a standing policy. The long years of East-West animosity
during the Cold War virtually immobilized the UN’s efforts to
maintain peace. In despair during one of the worst moments of the
Cold War, former UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar
castigated the nuclear superpowers for their militarism, contrasting
it to world poverty of vast proportions—"a deprivation inexplicable
in terms either of available resources or the money and ingenuity
spent on armaments and war." He criticized governments for
ignoring their own signatures on the UN Charter: "We are
perilously near to a new international anarchy."
Despite the end of the Cold War, the world still spends $800
billion a year on the military, most of this amount is spent by the
U.S. and its NATO allies. NATO expansion will send arms
expenditures even higher. NATO has already said that new
members will have to make a "military contribution."
Estimates of the cost of NATO expansion vary from $27 billion
to several hundred billion dollars over the next decade, though the
U.S. Administration, fearful of a taxpayers’ backlash, has been
playing down the U.S. share of the bill. Whatever the final cost, the
many billions of dollars to be devoted to new military hardware,
thus enriching the leading arms merchants of the world, is a direct
theft from the fifth of humanity that is poor and marginalized and
that needs but modest investment in their economic and social
development to stabilize regional conditions. This is the old
anarchy writ new.
The UN has shown time and again that promoting disarmament
and development at the same time enhances security. In the post-
Cold War era, human security does not come from the barrel of a
gun but from the quality of life that economic and social
Sustainable development needs huge amounts of investment in
scientific research, technological development, education and
training, infrastructure development and the transfer of technology.
Investment in these structural advances is urgently needed to stop
carbon dioxide poisoning of the atmosphere and the depletion of
the earth’s biological resources such as the forest, wetlands and
animal species now under attack. But the goals for sustainable
development set out in the 1992 Earth Summit’s major document,
Agenda 21, are blocked by political inertia, which countenances
continued high military spending.
It is clear, as the Director-General of UNESCO put it, that "we
cannot simultaneously pay the price of war and the price of peace."
Budgetary priorities need to be realigned in order to direct financial
resources of enhancing life, not producing death. A transformation
of political attitudes is needed to build a "culture of peace." A new
political attitude would say No to investment in arms and
destruction and Yes to investment in the construction of peace.
A nuclear-armed NATO stronger than the United Nations is an
intolerable prospect. Yet the residual militarist mentality in the
world continues to sideline the UN and even force it into penury.
The lavishness of NATO contrasted to the poverty of the UN
mocks the most ardent aspirations of the peoples of the world.
The Role of Civil Society
Put in strategic terms, the risks of NATO expansion far outweigh
any possible contribution to security. The issues are complex and
need careful examination and extended public debate. A headlong
rush into this abyss could indeed be a "fateful error." The U.S.
Senate needs to hear from informed citizens before giving its advice
and consent to such an ill-considered policy.
Is it too late to stop NATO expansion? Has the U.S.
Administration gone too far to pull back? Could a five-year waiting
period be invoked for time for sober reflection? What is so sacred
about getting expansion done in time for NATO’s 50th anniversary
If NATO expansion is to be stopped by the U.S. Senate, civil
society will have to mobilize as never before. The enlightened
elements of the public will have to lead the way. Much of
government seems mesmerized by the superficial appeal of the
politics of an enlarged NATO.
It was once said of King Philip of Spain: "No experience of the
failure of his policy could shake his belief in its essential
excellence." The stakes are too high today for trial-and-error. We
must shake the Government and Congress of the United States of
the belief that NATO expansion serves the people’s interest. It
does not. It serves only the interests of the producers of arms.
NATO expansion is folly. We must proclaim this from the roof-
tops and help both government and public recover the vision of a
Douglas Roche, O.C.
Former Diplomat and Parliamentarian
Author, parliamentarian and diplomat, Mr. Roche was Canada's
Ambassador for Disarmament to the United Nations from 1984 to
1989. He was elected Chairman of the U.N. Disarmament
Committee at the 43rd General Assembly in 1988. Prior to his
work with the U.N., Mr. Roche served as a Member of the
Canadian Parliament from 1972 to 1984, specializing in
development and disarmament issues. Mr. Roche also serves as
Special Advisor on disarmament and security matters on the Holy
See's delegation to the U.N. General Assembly. He is currently a
Visiting Professor at the University of Alberta, President of Global
Security Consultants, and serves as Chairman of Canadian Pugwash
and the Millennium Council of Canada.
Douglas Roche is an outstanding leader in the movement for a
world free of nuclear weapons. He is the author of fifteen books,
one of which was co-published by the Nuclear Age Peace
Foundation, An Unacceptable Risk, Nuclear Weapons in a Volatile
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