NATO Expansion and the Danger of a Second Cold War

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The strong showing by Communists and ultranationalists in Russia's parliamentary elections emphasizes that the current political environment in that country is extremely delicate. It is vital that the United States and its West European allies not take any action that might make an already bad situation worse. Enlarging NATO to include the nations of Central and Eastern Europe would be an especially unwise step. Enlargement would undermine Russia's beleaguered democrats, intensify Russian suspicions about Western intentions, and play into the hands of militaristic elements that argue that Moscow must restore the Soviet empire to protect Russia's security.

Expanding NATO would also require the United States to extend security commitments to the new members--commitments that neither the United States nor the West European powers are prepared to fulfill. Reliable security guarantees must be based on more than verbal declarations, which means that Washington would be pressured to station conventional forces in the new member states. The Russians have emphasized that they would regard that as a provocation requiring countermoves on their part. NATO expansion, therefore, would risk recreating the division of Europe.

Stanley Kober

Stanley Kober is a research fellow in foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute.