In the coming year, the United States and its European allies will take key steps to build a transatlantic security system for the next century. Our core principle is simple: American security and prosperity are strengthened if we overcome the division of Europe - if we bring Europe's new democracies into the West, excluding none who share our values and are willing to help shoulder our responsibilities. That is why the US has led the effort to bring new members to NATO, why the West Europeans will expand the European Union, and why we must work to ensure that a democratizing Russia is a full partner in the new European security system.
The benefits of this strategy are obvious in Central Europe, where the prospect of joining the West has already strengthened reform and bolstered democracy. Leader after leader - Czech President Vaclav Havel, former Polish President Lech Walesa and his successor, Alexander Kwasniewski, Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn - has told President Clinton that movement toward NATO membership boosts pro-Western forces in their countries and enhances regional stability.
The issue of Russia is more complex. Russia's free elections - in which Russians rejected a return to their communist past - increase chances that this great nation will be part of an integrated Europe. Still, the challenge of Russia's transformation, its long history of dominating and intimidating its neighbors, and its sometimes strident opposition in the past to NATO enlargement have fueled concern about Russia's ultimate destination, and more immediately its relationship with the Europe of the 1990s.
We must avoid two bad choices. The first is the "anti-Russia" fallacy, which holds that Russia can be regarded only as an enemy - actual or potential - and that such a vision should be the organizing principle of the new Europe we seek to build. This argument - used by neo-cold-warriors who see NATO enlargement solely in classic strategic, anti-Russian terms - is intellectually lazy, rooted in yesterday's sureties, and strategically short-sighted. It assumes that Russia's darkest past is its fate, ignoring the transformation that already exceeds the most optimistic projections from the recent past.
The second bad choice is the "Russia only" fallacy, which holds that America's European security policy must be run through Moscow. This would be the effect, if not the intent, of freezing NATO in its cold-war membership because of Russian objections to expansion. Some critics seem willing to limit the scope of the West and its institutions to what the Russians can be persuaded to accept. But it is wrongheaded and backward-looking to try to appease nationalists in Russia by sacrificing the future of democrats in Central Europe. Why recognize residual Russian rights to Stalin's empire after that empire has collapsed? To let Russia's fears, rooted in the past, dictate Europe's future would do Russia and Russian democracy no favor.
The only option consistent with our values and the historic opportunity before us is to bring Russia into the new Europe and to move ahead with integrating Europe's new democracies with the West's fundamental institutions. NATO seeks a strategic partnership with Moscow. Its purpose would be to ensure that NATO and Russia respect and enhance each other's legitimate security interests, and that they develop deepening and broadening patterns of cooperation even as NATO evolves and takes in new members.
Actually, a partnership is a reality in Bosnia, where Russian - along with Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Romanian, Baltic, Ukrainian, and other troops - are serving with NATO forces, almost as if they were NATO members. So it can be done.
With time, Russia can understand that NATO is a partner, not a threat; that a stable, secure, and prospering Central Europe is far more in Moscow's interest than angry, fearful neighbors to Russia's west. Just as NATO took in Spain not for military reasons, but to integrate that newly democratic nation with the West, so integrating Europe's new democracies with the West will serve a stabilizing and democratic purpose.
Mr. Clinton has said that in charting America's European security policy we should try for the best outcome. The best outcome for Europe in the 21st century is one in which all of Europe's new democracies can join the institutions of the West; where Europe's borders are defined by the reach of Europe's values, not by spheres of influence; where Russia defines its greatness not by the extent of its might but through its contribution to a democratic community in which it has an honored place. If we stay on the road we are on, we can reach these goals.
*Daniel Fried, Coit Blacker, and Alexander Vershbow are special assistants to President Clinton and senior directors at the National Security Council.