Senate Votes to Expand NATO
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 4, 1998 In a historic move April 30, the U.S. Senate approved adding three former Warsaw Pact countries to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
President Clinton said he was delighted with the Senate vote to add Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic to the alliance. "This vote is a major milestone on the road to an undivided, democratic and peaceful Europe," he said.
The addition of the countries will expand the zone of security in Europe and reduce chances American service members will be called on to fight another major European war, he said.
The 89-19 vote was far above the two-thirds vote needed to approve the additions. The United States is the fifth NATO country to assent. The others are Canada, Denmark, Germany and Norway. All 16 alliance members must approve before expansion becomes reality.
Officials would like the process to be finished before the alliance's 50th anniversary summit, to be held here April 24-25, 1999. The three invitees would be the first new members of NATO since Spain joined in 1982.
The Western allies formed NATO in 1949 in response to Soviet aggression. The original members were the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Canada, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Greece and Turkey joined the alliance in 1952. West Germany joined in 1955.
Critics have said expansion would needlessly endanger U.S. relations with Russia and would cost too much. President Clinton, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and a host of administration officials stress that expansion is not a threat to Russia. DoD officials estimated the U.S. contribution to NATO expansion would be $400 million over 10 years.