Albright, Cohen Say "Yes" to NATO Expansion
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 26, 1997 Some people "who knocked the teeth out of totalitarianism in Europe" are now ready to join NATO, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told members of Congress April 23.
Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee to support NATO's plan to accept new members. Sen. Strom Thurmond, committee chair, noted the event reflected the importance of NATO enlargement. He said it was the first time in his 38 years in Congress the secretaries of state and defense had appeared together before committee.
NATO officials will name several nations to become member candidates at a summit this summer in Madrid, Albright said. The U.S. Senate will be asked to ratify NATO expansion in 1998, she said.
Albright said NATO expansion is in America's interest. It will bolster the alliance's political and moral cohesion, and it will further protect against war in Europe and defend Europe's gains toward democracy, peace and integration, she said.
"Three times in this century American troops have had to go to Europe, in two hot wars and one cold one, to end conflicts that arose in Central Europe," Albright said. "Yet, in the last half century, American has never been called upon to go to war to defend a treaty ally."
Many of the nations being considered for membership served with allied forces during the Gulf War and are now part of NATO's mission in Bosnia, Albright said. "They are heeding our call to stop dealing with rogue states, and they have lent their support to the expansion of democracy and respect for human rights around the globe."
Cohen told the committee an expanded NATO will be capable of defending all its members. "The Article 5 commitment that an attack against one is an attack against all is not a commitment we would undertake, or expand, lightly," the defense secretary said.
The United States has a vital national security interest in maintaining peace, democracy and prosperity in Europe, Cohen said. "The most efficient and cost-effective way to guarantee stability in Europe is to do so collectively with our European partners, old and new, through NATO," he said. "If we fail to seize this opportunity to integrate, consolidate and stabilize Central and Eastern Europe, we would risk paying a much higher price later."
Albright and Cohen both told the committee NATO must also engage with Russia to ensure peace and stability continue to spread throughout Europe. NATO officials are working to establish a charter for practical cooperation with Russia, they said.
"Russia's willingness to work with NATO is an opportunity to be seized, not a reason to hide the silverware," Albright said. Strengthening NATO-Russia relations will allow NATO to work with Russia to fight proliferation, keep nuclear arsenals safe, and respond to humanitarian crises and threats to peace, she said. "We will build on the cooperation our troops forged in Bosnia."
A new joint council will give Russia a voice, but not a veto, Albright said. The council will serve as a forum for consultation and possible joint action. "It will not have the power to dilute, delay or block NATO decisions, nor will it supplant NATO's North Atlantic Council," she said. "It will grow in importance only to the extent Russia uses it constructively."
Despite the effect NATO expansion may have on the developing NATO-Russia relations, enlargement will go forward, Albright said. No European nation will be excluded from participation, and new allies will be full members, she said.