Foreign Policy Briefing No. 44

Nato Expansion Flashpoint No. 1: The Border between Poland and Belarus

Executive Summary

The decision to invite Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to join NATO creates the prospect of far-reaching, dangerous security obligations for the United States in Eastern Europe. Part of NATO’s expanded defensive perimeter will lie along the border between Poland and Belarus. That should greatly concern all Americans, because Belarus is a political and economic volcano waiting to erupt. The repressive, erratic regime of Alexander Lukashenko and the country’s moribund economy provide ideal conditions for the same type of armed chaos that has engulfed such countries as Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Somalia, and Zaire.

If Belarus explodes, Poland is going to expect help from its NATO allies to contain the effects and protect Polish security. At the very least, that would mean a Bosnia-style morass for NATO. Even worse, Belarus is Russia’s last remaining security ally in Eastern Europe, and the two countries are closely linked politically and militarily by a treaty approved in the spring of 1997. A NATO military presence along the Polish-Belarusian border, much less any attempted coercion of Belarus by NATO, risks a collision with a nuclear-armed Russia. The dangerous situation in Belarus is one reason among many why the U.S. Senate should reject the proposal to expand NATO.

Read the Full Foreign Policy Briefing

Ted Galen Carpenter is vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute and the author of Beyond NATO: Staying Out of Europe’s Wars. Andrew Stone was a research assistant at the Cato Institute during 1997.