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Dr. Sean Gervasi continued... PART #7:

The Dangers of Extending NATO

Back to the beginning of the article (which was published in January 1996).

The current proposal to expand NATO eastward creates many dangers.

It should be stated that many leaders in Western countries oppose the expansion of NATO, and they have repeatedly explained the dangers of such expansion. It is important to recognize, that despite the official position of NATO and the recent report of the Working Group, there is strong opposition to NATO's moving eastward. Nonetheless, for the moment, those in favor of NATO expansion have won the day.

Four dangers of NATO expansion in particular require discussion here.

The first is that the expansion of NATO will bring new members under the NATO umbrella. This will mean, for instance, that the United States and other Western members are obliged to defend, say, Slovakia against an attack. Where will an attack come from? Is NATO really prepared to defend Slovakia in the event of a conflict with another East European country?

In a country like the United States, this would be very unpopular. As Senator Kassebaum put it in October of last year:

"Are the American people prepared to pledge, in the words of the North Atlantic Treaty, that an armed attack against one or more of these potential new members will be considered an attack against all?" (19)

The issue of extending the umbrella is a critical one. For the NATO powers are nuclear powers. The Working Group report stated that, in appropriate circumstances, the forces of NATO allies could be stationed on the territory of new members. And the Working Group did not rule out, as it should have, the stationing of nuclear wepons on the territory of new members. The failure to rule out such a possibility means that NATO is embarking on a dangerous path, a path which increases the risks of nuclear war.

The Working Group's silence on this matter cannot fail to be taken as a threat by those who are not joining NATO. And, clearly, the most important of these is Russia, because it, too, posseses nuclear weapons -- as do the Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

The second danger is that expansion will jeopardize relations between the United States and Russia, or even lead to a second Cold War. While NATO countries present the organization as a defensive alliance, Russia sees it quite differently. For more than forty years, the Soviet Union considered NATO as an offensive alliance aimed at all the members of the Warsaw pact. The general opinion in Russia is still that NATO is an offensive alliance. The former Foreign Minister, Mr. Kozyrev, made this quite clear to NATO members. How can Russia possibly see things differently in the future?

The expansion of NATO is inevitably perceived by Russia as encirclement. It is seen as assuming that Russia will inevitably again become an aggressive state. This, however, is much more likely to push Russia toward belligerence than to do anything else. It will certainly not calm its fears about the intentions of NATO in moving into Eastern Europe. Referring to the recent NATO decision on expansion, the Director of the Institute of USA and Canada Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, stated recently that:

Russia is still a military superpower with a huge area and a large population. It is a country with enormous economic capabilities which has extraordinary poten- tial for good or ill. But now it is a humiliated country in search of identity and direction. To a certain extent, the West and its position on NATO expansion will determine what direction Russia chooses. The future of European Security depends on this decision." (20)

The third danger in extending NATO is that will undermine the implementation of the START I Treaty and the ratification of the START II Treaty, as well as other arms control and arms limitation treaties designed to increase European security. The Ruyssians, for instance, have made it clear that they will go ahead with the implementation of the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty "if the situation in Europe is stable". The expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe, however, significantly changes the present equilibrium in Europe. So NATO countries are risking many of the achievements of the last 25 years in the field of disarmament. Some argue convincingly that NATO expansion will undermine the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Such consequences will hardly make Europe, or the globe, a safer place in the future.

The fourth principal danger in NATO expansion is that it will unsettle the situation in Eastern Europe. NATO claims that its expansion will help to ensure stability. But Eastern Europe, particularly after the changes of the last five years, is already an unstable place. The piecemeal expansion of NATO into Eastern Europe will increase tensions between new members and those left outside. It cannot fail to do so. Those left outside NATO are bound to feel more insecure when NATO has established itself in a neighboring country. This would place them in a buffer zone between an expanding NATO and Russia. They are bound to react in a fearful, and even hostile manner. The piecemeal expansion of NATO could even trigger an arms race in Eastern Europe.


19. Quoted in THE DEFENSE MONITOR, loc. cit., page 5.

20. Dr. Sergei Rogov, Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences' Institute of USA and Canada Studies, quoted in DEFENSE MONITOR, loc. cit., page 4.


 [ PART #8: Weakness of the Western position ]


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Last revised: Dec. 29, 1998