The White House
September 12, 1997
PRESIDENT CLINTON'S RESPONSE TO SENATORS' QUESTIONS ON NATO ENLARGEMENT
President Clinton's cover letter to Senator Hutchison, along with the 11-page series of questions and answers on NATO enlargement, was released by the White House September 12, 1997.
(Note: In the following text, "billion" equals 1,000 million.)
Dear Senator Hutchison:
Thank you for your recent letter concerning NATO enlargement. As you so rightly point out, NATO is the most successful defense alliance in history and the decision to accept new members is one of profound significance. As we proceed in this historic endeavor, our touchstone must remain American national security interests and the many ways in which those interests will be served by an enlarged and renewed Alliance.
As you know, I joined other allied leaders at the NATO summit in Madrid to issue an invitation to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to begin accession negotiations. I took this step out of the firm conviction that these states are committed to NATO's principles, will make strong contributions to the Alliance and will enhance NATO's collective defense capability. At the same time, I am also convinced that the on-going process of enlargement, and our unwavering commitment to keep the door open to other aspiring member, will foster stability and democratic reform throughout the European continent.
Europe has changed dramatically over the past decade and NATO must also adapt if it is to continue to serve our interests in the future as well as it has done in the past. The acceptance of new members is part of a broader process of the Alliance's transformations, one which also includes: adaptation and streamlining of internal political and military structures; development of new capabilities to meet evolving challenges; and outreach to non-members through the Partnership for Peace, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the NATO-Ukraine Council, and the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council. Each of these steps is designed to ensure that NATO remains poised to serve our security needs and those of our allies.
Since its inception almost 50 years ago, NATO has been the bedrock institution of the transatlantic community. It has safeguarded our collective defense and has fostered close cooperation among its members. In the coming decades, the Alliance will continue in this pivotal role as it adapts to the changed circumstances of the post-Cold War period. Our overarching goal of a Europe that is peaceful, democratic, and united is within reach for the first time. By making the right decisions now concerning NATO, I believe we can make that goal a reality for the next century.
However, we can only succeed with the full support of the American Congress and the American people. As we move to ratify the addition of new states to the Alliance, your endorsement and leadership will be crucial in building the necessary bipartisan support. I welcome the thoughtful questions you have submitted and believe that they will help ensure a more informed public debate. Toward that same end, I have asked the Departments of State and Defense to prepare detailed answers to each of your questions, and I am sharing them with all members.
I look forward to discussing NATO enlargement with you in greater detail over the coming months, and I hope we can work together closely as the national debate proceeds.
WILLIAM J. CLINTON
The Honorable Kay Bailey Hutchison
Question: What is the military threat that NATO expansion is designed to counter? How does expansion increase the security of Europe and the American people?
Answer: Europe's security is a vital American interest, as we have seen through two World Wars and the Cold War. Over the past half century, NATO has been our primary shield to protect that interest. With the Cold War over, NATO remains the foundation of transatlantic security. A larger, stronger NATO that includes Europe's new democracies will be even better able to provide for Europe's security and make America safer. It will help deter future threats, expand our collective defense capability to address traditional and non-traditional security challenges, and secure the historic gains of democracy in Europe. It is a key part of our strategy to build an undivided, democratic, peaceful Europe for the first time in history.
NATO's very existence is an important reason its current members and prospective new members face no imminent threat of attack. By adding new members to its strength, the world's most effective deterrent force will be even better able to prevent conflict from arising in the first place.
Enlargement will help NATO address the security challenges that do arise. It will make NATO more effective in meeting its core mission: countering aggression against its member states. In addition, rogue states, the poisoned appeal of extreme nationalism, and ethnic, racial and religious hatreds continue to threaten transatlantic security -- as we know from Bosnia. A larger, increasingly cohesive community of transatlantic states able to combine their security resources will be better able to address whatever contingencies arise.
Enlargement will help guard against non-traditional security threats from outside Europe that threaten NATO members, such as the spread of weapons of mass destruction and long-range delivery systems. None of us can deal effectively with such threats alone. Enlargement will help broaden and intensify multinational coordination through NATO -- one of our most effective instruments to counter these problems.
The Alliance must be prepared for other contingencies, including the possibility that Russia could abandon democracy and return to the threatening behavior of the Soviet period, although we see such a turn as unlikely. Through our policy of engaging Russia we seek to provide strong incentives to deepen its commitment to democracy and peaceful relations with its neighbors. These efforts, combined with the process of NATO enlargement and the NATO-Russia Founding Act, increase the likelihood that Russia will continue on the path of democratic and peaceful development.
Finally, enlargement will help secure the historic gains of democracy in Europe and erase Stalin's artificial dividing line. For 50 years, NATO has helped prevent a return to local rivalries, strengthen democracy, and create a stable environment for prosperity. Each previous instance of enlargement -- Greece and Turkey in 1952, West Germany in 1955, and Spain in 1982 -- strengthened democracy and stability within the new member states and added to the Alliance countries committed to defend the transatlantic community. Now, enlargement can do for Europe's East what it did for the West. Already the prospect of membership has helped consolidate democracy in Central Europe, strengthen free market reform, and encourage NATO aspirants to settle disputes with their neighbors.
Question: How will NATO expansion strengthen stability in Europe when the nations that face the greatest potential threats to their own security -- including the Baltic states and several other nations -- will not be included in the first NATO expansion?
Answer: NATO enlargement will enhance stability throughout Europe and improve the security of all Europe's democracies, not just those admitted first. This is true for a number of reasons.
Enlargement had to start with the strongest candidates or else it would not have started at all. The Baltic States understand that NATO enlargement, as a process which extends stability toward their own borders, increases their security even though they have not yet been invited to become Alliance members. They have expressed support for our policy and have publicly endorsed the decisions taken at the Madrid Summit. Ukrainian leaders have taken a similar position, seeing the presence of prospective NATO members on their western borders as a contribution to Ukraine's long-term security.
Question: Are we creating a new dividing line that will breed instability and friction in Europe?
Answer: No. We are erasing the old, artificial dividing line and fostering integration and partnership in its place. Because NATO enlargement has been designed as an ongoing process rather than a one-time event, states not initially invited into the Alliance have no reason to believe they are permanently excluded. On the contrary, the Madrid Summit sent a direct message to them that any European democracy remains eligible for membership, and that the NATO leaders will consider the next steps in the process of enlargement before the end of this decade. Moreover, the Alliance's outreach to the East -- through the Partnership for Peace, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, and the NATO-Russia and NATO-Ukraine relationships -- is designed precisely to promote an undivided European security system and ensure that no new dividing lines are created.
Virtually all neighbors of those states invited to become members, including states that have not applied for membership, support the Alliance's enlargement. Indeed, after Madrid the President and Secretaries Albright and Cohen were met with enthusiastic crowds and warm receptions in Romania, Slovenia, the Baltics, Ukraine, and other states in the region that will not be in the first round of new members.
One reason for the lack of tension between states that will and will not initially be admitted to the Alliance is that NATO has no offensive aims or record of aggression. Moreover, states in the region understand that the distinction between those invited and not invited for membership is based on various objective factors -- such as a state's present ability to contribute to NATO's military and strategic goals, and the depth and durability of its democratic and military reforms. The distinction between those invited and not invited is unlike the arbitrary line that would divide Europe if NATO stood still and declined to enlarge. And those not invited understand they have a stake in the successful integration of the first new members, whose success will contribute to the overall process.
That is why the bigger danger of instability and friction would come from a failure to enlarge NATO. That course would represent an abandonment of NATO's founding principle, reaffirmed by Allied leaders at their 1994 and 1997 Summits, that the Alliance remains open "to any other European State in a position to...contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area." A failure to enlarge would set Stalin's dividing line in stone, and subject Europe's new democracies to double jeopardy -- punished first by being under Soviet domination, and punished again by being barred from membership in NATO for reasons that have nothing to do with present-day circumstances. With the process of enlargement that NATO has begun, no European democracy is permanently excluded; without NATO enlargement, every new European democracy would be permanently excluded.
Question: Under Article V of the treaty, NATO's security guarantees will extend to all new NATO members. U.S. troops will be committed to respond to conflicts involving any of the new member nations of Central Europe. Is a border dispute involving one or several of the new NATO members so vital a national security threat to the United States that we are willing to risk American lives?
Answer: Article V states that members will consider an attack against one to be an attack against all. It does not define what actions would constitute "an attack" or prejudge what Alliance decisions might then be made in such circumstances. Member states, acting in accordance with established constitutional processes, are required to exercise individual and collective judgment over this question.
While it is not possible to delineate in advance what NATO's response would be to a "border dispute" involving a NATO member, we do know that NATO enlargement makes such disputes less likely by creating an incentive -- namely, membership in or partnership with NATO -- for countries to resolve their problems peacefully. Already, we have seen ten major accords in the region settling old border and ethnic disputes: each of these achievements was driven, at least in part, by the desires of the states involved to demonstrate their credentials for membership in NATO and, more broadly, for fuller integration into the western community of liberal democracies. These accords include:
It is important to remember that no NATO nation has ever been attacked, and during its half century of existence NATO has never once had to fire a shot in anger in order to fulfill the security guarantees in the Washington Treaty of 1949. Bringing Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic into NATO will make it less likely, not more likely that American troops might be drawn into another war in Europe.
Question: The nations of Central Europe have a long history of border, ethnic, nationalist, and religious disputes. What guidelines will NATO establish to resolve these types of disputes or other problems that may well arise among the new member nations? What would be the impact of extending coverage of the U.S. nuclear umbrella to them?
Answer: The process of NATO enlargement will make such disputes less likely and increase the chances that they will be peacefully resolved. While the Alliance's core mission is collective defense, NATO's normal operation also functions as a conflict prevention mechanism. In part, this is because states must settle disputes with their neighbors as a precondition for entry into NATO. The three states NATO has decided to invite to begin accession talks -- Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic -- already have settled all outstanding border and ethnic disputes with their neighbors.
Once states join NATO, their ongoing participation in the Alliance will give them a powerful incentive to resolve any future problems with their neighbors peacefully. Constant consultation in the North Atlantic Council and other NATO structures will provide members with a means to resolve any disputes. For this and other reasons, NATO has tended to moderate those tensions that do arise among its members, such as between Greece and Turkey.
While it is true that there have been many strands of conflict within Central and East European history, it would be a mistake to think of this condition as either unique or immutable. Western Europe also had a long history of border, ethnic, nationalist and religious disputes, and none of these flared during the half century of NATO's existence -- in part, because NATO has helped its members transcend them. There is nothing in the historical record to suggest that current Central and East European disputes are more deep-rooted or violent than, say, past disputes between France and Germany.
If disputes ever were to occur within Central and Eastern Europe, once again the Alliance and its members would need to exercise their judgment on a case-by-case basis in formulating the appropriate response. NATO has never operated through mechanistic guidelines, and it should not.
The benefits that would accrue to these states would be the same that have accrued to all other members of NATO: enhanced security and the assurance of U.S. commitment to their security. The supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies is provided by the strategic nuclear forces of the United States. During the Cold War, U.S. nuclear forces provided the principal means by which NATO deterred conventional and nuclear attack by the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact. Despite the absence of an overwhelming threat today, they still fulfill an essential role in preserving peace and preventing coercion of any kind.
Question: In the Administration's February 1997 "Report to Congress on the Enlargement of NATO," you assumed that the United States would pay only 15 percent of the direct enlargement costs, with the new members paying 35 percent of the bill, and the current (non-U.S.) members paying 50 percent. Will the new members or the current members pay these amounts? Will you make the cost-sharing agreement part of the expansion negotiations? If not, how will yours and future administrations handle shortfalls?
Answer: The cost estimates in the Administration's February 1997 report to Congress relied in part on standard NATO cost-sharing arrangements. Under these procedures, each country pays the cost of maintaining its own national military. The February report assumed that countries would pay for their own direct enlargement enhancements, except for those programs that would qualify for common funding. As a result, the Department of Defense estimated that about 40 percent of direct enlargement enhancements could be nationally funded and 60 percent could be common-funded. Out of a total estimated cost of $9-12 billion, this would mean that new members would pay for approximately 35 percent ($3.0-4.5 billion total through 2009, or about $230 to $350 million per year) of direct enlargement enhancements; current (non-U.S.) members would pay about 50 percent ($4.5-5.5 billion over the period, or around $350 to $425 million per year); and the United States would pay its 24 percent share of the common-funded enhancements (about 15 percent of the total direct enlargement bill, or approximately $1.5-2.0 billion over the 2000-2009 timeframe), averaging between $150 and $200 million per year.
In addition to the direct costs of enlargement, individual allies will need to continue to improve their capabilities for force projection, consistent with their commitments under the Alliance's new strategic concept adopted in 1991. Force projection capabilities will take on increased importance as NATO enlarges, in view of the Allies' conclusion that the defense of new members' territory will be based primarily on reinforcement in times of danger rather than through the permanent stationing of substantial combat forces. Because the United States already possesses substantial force projection capabilities, the United States will not bear a significant portion of this category of costs. We will continue, through the NATO collective force planning process, to encourage our European allies to continue to develop their force projection capabilities.
Past estimates of enlargement costs, including those produced by the administration, have necessarily been notional. Now that NATO has decided which states to invite to begin accession talks, it will be possible to assess more precisely their security needs and assets, and to define the implications for NATO's budgets. This process will begin immediately and will be tied closely to the accession process. While each of the three invited states has indicated its willingness to contribute to the NATO-funded and national costs of membership, the accession talks will help to clarify those obligations and commitments.
Enlargement will not be cost free. However, it is affordable for both current and prospective members. In light of the enormous benefits which enlargement will bring to both Europe and the United States, it represents extraordinary value for the money.
Question: Many of us view the principal threat confronting the 12 nations seeking NATO membership as less a military threat than a struggle for economic stability. Fierce competition exists among these 12 states. By conferring NATO membership on a few nations now, those nations will have a distinct advantage over their neighbors in the competition to attract new business and foreign investment. This type of economic competition and imbalance could well breed friction and instability in Central Europe. Will NATO be obligated to step in and resolve the very conflicts that could be caused by the NATO selection process? Would European Union membership be a better option to achieve the economic stability NATO aspirants are seeking?
Answer: Economic challenges do remain critical for Central and East European states. Most of these states need to advance and deepen aspects of reform -- from privatization, to improved regulatory regimes, to efforts against corruption. This is one reason we support the enlargement of the European Union to include Central and East European states.
While the role of the EU is critical, there is no reason to insist on a choice between EU enlargement and NATO enlargement. Both are important. Both make independent contributions to European prosperity and security. EU enlargement alone, however, is not sufficient to secure our nation's security interests in post-Cold War Europe. Unlike NATO, the EU lacks a military capability. Military capability remains the heart of NATO's strength and continues to be needed to preserve European security.
As free markets take root in Central and Eastern Europe, it is certainly reasonable to expect that economic competition among the region's states will intensify, just as it has in Western Europe and other parts of the world. There is no historical evidence, however, that would suggest NATO membership will become a meaningful distinction in economic competition within Central and Eastern Europe. NATO membership was never used over the past half century to draw foreign investment from, say, Sweden to Norway.
What matters most to firms and investors are economic fundamentals. Central and East European states will attract business through privatization, sound management of their budgets and money supply, and efforts to create a talented workforce and reduce unemployment. For those European states that are economically less developed today, the right answer for them is to deepen such reforms, and the prospect of NATO membership gives them some additional incentive to do so. In addition, NATO enlargement, together with closer security cooperation through the Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, will help stability take root throughout Central and Eastern Europe -- in member states and non-member states alike -- making all of its countries more attractive to investors. Conversely, a failure of NATO to enlarge could undermine the business climate for the entire region. While firms are unlikely to invest in a country solely because it is a NATO member, they might well invest less heavily in a region such as Central and Eastern Europe if its security future were called into question.
Question: Does NATO membership by the new eastern European democracies force them to spend money for arms, when expenditures for the infrastructure critical to economic growth are more pressing?
Answer: The new NATO members will need to invest in order to upgrade their militaries. But these states were already planning to make substantial improvements in their militaries, quite apart from their possible membership in NATO. These investments were needed because these states emerged from the Warsaw Pact with military forces that were poorly structured and inadequately equipped for modern warfare. The impact of NATO membership will not be so much to increase Central and East European defense budgets as to ensure that anticipated increases result in greater compatibility with NATO defense plans and equipment.
Moreover, alliances save money over the long term. Many leaders in the region have said their states might well spend more on their militaries if they were not included in NATO, because then they would feel less secure outside the Alliance's collective defense structure. States that have remained outside of NATO in the past have not necessarily enjoyed lower defense budgets. Sweden, for example, has higher per capita defense expenditures than many of its NATO neighbors.
Central and East European countries will face difficult decisions between defense and domestic spending, as does the United States and all of our current allies. Yet the necessary investments needed to participate in the Alliance do not need to take place overnight. The Defense Department's analysis foresees a gradual process of modernization, with new members attaining a "mature capability" over a period of about a decade. Moreover, projected real GDP growth rates in Central and Eastern Europe as high as 4-5% suggest that the new members will be able to make needed defense investments without damaging their domestic economies and social efforts. In fact, the Defense Department has urged these countries to concentrate first on personnel, training, communications, logistics, and infrastructure improvement needed to make them compatible with NATO before devoting large sums to purchase new weapons systems.
Question: Do Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic have the military capabilities to make a positive contribution to the security of NATO, or will they be net consumers of security for the foreseeable future?
Answer: Poland, Hungary, and the Czech republic have all taken significant steps to reform their militaries, upgrade their military capabilities, and contribute to European security beyond their borders. The Defense Department estimates that they can achieve a "mature capability" within about a decade after joining the Alliance. The new members will be expected to contribute to the range of NATO security functions and missions.
Even today, the three states bring significant assets to NATO's security work. Together, they bring over 300,000 troops to the Alliance. All three have firmly established civilian control of their militaries. Their initial defense reform efforts have focused on low-cost, high-return enhancements to interoperability to allow effective near-term security contributions. Over time, they will increase their ability to operate with NATO forces in their own countries and elsewhere.
Moreover, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have demonstrated their readiness to contribute to security beyond their borders. Both Poland and the Czech Republic contributed forces to the Gulf War coalition. Poland has been a leader in its region, helping Lithuania and Ukraine develop their armed forces and creating joint units with both countries. Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic now provide over 1,500 troops to the NATO-led Stabilization Force (SFOR) mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Hungary provides the base from which U.S. forces deploy into Bosnia. Through individual efforts and participation in numerous Partnership for Peace exercises, the three states have begun to improve their abilities to work with NATO forces.
Each of the states will need to pursue an active and sustained program of reform and modernization in order to achieve a higher level of NATO interoperability and broader military capabilities over the next decade. Leaders from all three states have stated their willingness to do so and have demonstrated that their countries will become net security producers over time as full members of NATO.
Question: When one looks at the threats to American national security interests, foremost among these is Russia's substantial nuclear arsenal. Considerable progress has been made to lessen nuclear tensions through dramatic arms reductions in the past decade. And, for the moment, the current leadership in Russia is becoming reconciled to the likelihood of NATO expansion. But what of tomorrow's Russian leaders? By expanding eastward, are we not creating an incentive for Moscow to withhold its support for further strategic arms reductions and perhaps even develop an early first-use nuclear policy?
Answer: The objective of our transatlantic security policy is an undivided, democratic, and peaceful Europe. NATO enlargement is an important part of that strategy. So is our effort to support the development of a Russia that is democratic, prosperous, at peace with its neighbors, and cooperating with us and other states on a range of security challenges, including mutual reductions in our nuclear arsenals. So also is our effort, which bore fruit in May in the signing of the NATO-Russia Founding Act, to institutionalize a broad and cooperative relationship between the Alliance and Russia.
President Yeltsin and other Russian leaders oppose NATO enlargement, reflecting in part a lingering misperception among many Russian political leaders that the Alliance poses a threat to Russia's security. That is an issue on which we have decided to disagree, while working together to manage that disagreement. But, judging by the evidence, it is unlikely that NATO enlargement will undermine Russian reform or strengthen Russian hardliners. Those who suggest this would be the case see Russian democracy as far more fragile than has proven the reality over the last few years. NATO enlargement is not a significant concern for most of the Russian public, which understandably remains far more concerned about wages, pensions, corruption, and other domestic issues.
Over the past year, against the backdrop of NATO enlargement, Russian reform and security cooperation have continued to advance. President Yeltsin was reelected. He brought new officials into the government who are committed to economic modernization and integration with Western and global structures. He brought in a new Defense Minister who supports the START II nuclear arms reduction treaty. At the Helsinki Summit in March, President Yeltsin agreed to press for Duma ratification of START II, and to pursue a START III treaty with further reductions once START II has entered into force. And of course, Russia joined with NATO in May to conclude the Founding Act. Indeed, as NATO enlargement has gone forward, Russia has drawn closer to the West.
These recent positive developments call into question the theory that NATO enlargement erodes Russian reform and security cooperation. In any case, it would be counterproductive to make our NATO policies hostage to Duma intransigence on START II. Doing so would send a message to the Duma that we will hold up NATO enlargement as long as they hold up START II. In that case, we likely would get neither.
Question: What have we given up in terms of NATO's own freedom of action to deploy forces throughout the expanded area of the Alliance in order to obtain Russian acquiescence to the expansion plan?
Answer: The NATO-Russia Founding Act was not an effort to buy Russian acquiescence to enlargement. It was instead driven by our judgment -- and that of the Alliance -- that a robust NATO-Russia relationship could make an important contribution toward the goal of a peaceful and undivided Europe.
The Founding Act institutionalizes this relationship and provides the basis for increased cooperation. At the same time, NATO equities remain fully protected. The North Atlantic Council remains the supreme decision-making body of the Alliance. The Founding Act, in establishing a Permanent Joint Council between NATO and Russia, provides for consultation, coordination and, to the maximum extent possible, where appropriate, joint decision-making and action. The Founding Act is equally clear, however, that NATO retains its independence of decision-making and action at all times. The Permanent Joint Council offers Russia a forum in which to express its views and, where possible, to facilitate cooperation between NATO and Russia. But there is not now and will not be a Russian veto over NATO decisions or any restrictions on NATO's freedom of action.
If Russia adopts a constructive approach to its relationship with NATO, there is enormous potential for cooperation on a wide range of issues, from non-proliferation to humanitarian assistance. If Russia chooses not to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Founding Act, no impediment has been created. NATO retains its strength, autonomy, and ability to act.
Nothing in the Founding Act restricts NATO's ability to station troops, deploy weapons, or carry out any of its missions. The final section of the Act contains restatements of unilateral NATO policy that existed prior to the Founding Act about how the Alliance intends to act "in the current and foreseeable security environment." In its 1995 enlargement study, NATO concluded that enlargement did not require a change to the Alliance's nuclear posture; on this basis, NATO declared in December 1996 that NATO members "have no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members, nor any need to change any aspects of NATO's nuclear posture or nuclear policy." The Founding Act also restates NATO's March 1997 unilateral declaration that it "will carry out its collective defense and other missions by ensuring the necessary interoperability, integration and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces." Moreover, none of NATO's unilateral statements regarding military policy cited in the Founding Act restricts the Alliance's ability to conduct exercises, establish headquarters, or build and maintain infrastructure. Indeed, the Founding Act acknowledges that NATO will "have to rely on adequate infrastructure commensurate with (these) tasks," given that NATO's strategy now revolves around the ability of states to receive reinforcements.
The Founding Act reflects Alliance policy in the current and foreseeable security environment. Should we see an unexpected change for the worse, NATO retains the prerogative to reconsider its policies with regard to nuclear and conventional deployments, and the Founding Act would in no way constrain that. It is our hope and expectation, however, that the recent very positive trends within Europe will continue and that the Founding Act will provide a vehicle for greatly expanded cooperation between NATO and Russia.