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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Growth Will Spell Trouble For NATO

As marriages go sour, couples will sometimes decide to have a child in an attempt to salvage their relationship, almost invariably with disastrous effects. Though the analogy may seem farfetched, NATO's decision to hurry along its expansion into Eastern Europe bears all the hallmarks of such a troubled marriage.

The NATO alliance has bound Western Europe to the United States for several decades now, and in general it has been an extremely happy marriage. But NATO's failure in Bosnia has pushed to the forefront some fundamental questions about the alliance's continued existence.

First among these questions: What is NATO for? That used to be easy enough to answer. NATO was a military alliance that bound the Western powers together in the face of an imperialist Soviet power, offering above all an American nuclear umbrella under which Europe could take shelter.

The Soviet threat, however, has collapsed. So why, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev asked Thursday, is NATO rushing to admit new countries? Does anybody really believe that the crumbling, shrinking, rusting Russian military machine is about to launch into Poland, Hungary or the Czech Republic? Does the United States really want to offer these countries nuclear guarantees?

It could be argued that the NATO alliance has now turned inward and that it is becoming a military alliance designed to regulate conflicts that arise within or between its members. If so, some serious rethinking needs to be done in the wake of NATO's experience in Bosnia. Though immensely powerful, the alliance has proved quite impotent in Bosnia because its members have not been willing to commit ground troops.

Kozyrev is right. Why the hurry? Expansion will only bring NATO new problems that it is ill-equipped to deal with. These problems would inevitably create further tensions between NATO's core members, already drifting apart over Bosnia.

Most important, the sight of a military alliance rushing toward the old Soviet borders would almost certainly alarm Russia into forcing its neighbors in the Commonwealth of Independent States to take part in a security alliance they do not want. By saving Poland from an imaginary threat, NATO risks sacrificing Ukraine to a very real one.

NATO appears to be drawing a new line through Europe, and for all the wrong reasons. The alliance will not be saved by expansion, unless of course that expansion succeeds in resurrecting the threat from the East and with it some form of the Cold War.

Unfortunately, the new Republican wind in Washington, together with President Bill Clinton's announcement this week of a $25 billion increase in defense spending, suggest that this could be the way of the future.