Roth's Rx for NATO

When NATO leaders convene in Madrid this July, their principal objective will be to extend invitations to "accession negotiations" to several democracies of Central and Eastern Europe.

NATO members are currently deliberating over which democracies should be invited to this first round of negotiations. The Clinton administration has made it clear that it will support the application of just three countries: Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. My view is that we should add Slovenia to this list. Each of these four nations has made clear progress concerning human rights, democratic self-government, market-based economies, and dedication to the rule of law. Each would be an asset to, and a valuable ally within, the alliance.

There is also the issue of how the alliance should conduct the process of enlargement. Four conditions are needed to achieve a successful outcome:

* NATO must ensure that enlargement remains a continuous process. The first nations to join must not be the last. The alliance has repeatedly stated that it will be an ongoing process, open to all European democracies that apply and that are in a position to make a net contribution to NATO's roles, missions, and security. To give credibility to this assurance, NATO should establish annual consultations with the European nations that have applied for membership but are not among the first invited.

* As NATO expands eastward, it must enhance not only its members' security but also that of all European nations. Toward this end, the July summit should be used to reaffirm that the political independence and territorial integrity of the emerging democracies of Central and Eastern Europe are vital to European peace and security. This would help reassure nations like the three Baltic states and Ukraine, giving them confidence that the alliance perceives them as vital to its interests, whether or not they are candidates for membership.

* The Founding Act between NATO and Russia, signed last month, must be properly managed. The act establishes a historic partnership of cooperation and transparency between Russia and NATO. It demonstrates that NATO enlargement and good relations with Russia are not contradictory goals, but can be mutually reinforcing objectives. However, like all successful international agreements, the Founding Act begins a process whose outcome will be determined more by deeds than by words.

For example, the rules and guidelines of the Joint Consultative Council have yet to be determined. It will take strong leadership to guarantee that the council does not become a tool of those who seek to undercut NATO enlargement, derail the NATO-Russia partnership, or undermine the alliance's consensus-building process.

* NATO must openly and fairly address the costs associated with enlargement. A commitment in Madrid to publicly address the matter of costs will help member states and applicants prepare psychologically, politically, and budgetarily for the enlargement process. How the costs of NATO expansion will be shared will be critically important in the ratification debates, especially in the US Senate. If this issue is not addressed publicly and decisively, it could emerge as the Achilles' heel - not only of NATO enlargement but of the alliance itself.

These four conditions must be openly and unambiguously addressed at the Madrid summit this July. They not only will ensure that NATO enlargement moves decisively forward but also will ensure that the process supports the spread of peace, stability, and democracy throughout post-cold-war Europe.

* William V. Roth Jr. (R) of Delaware is chairman of the Senate NATO Observers' Group and president of the North Atlantic Assembly.

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