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To Die for Slovenia?
June 11, 2001

At the spring session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, when asked if the 19-nation alliance should be expanded to include Baltic and Eastern European countries now petitioning for entry, Secretary-General George Robertson warned, "When walking on eggs, it is best not to jump."

Unfortunately the secretary's caution has not crossed the Atlantic. As Mr. Bush embarks on his excellent European adventure, his advisors are plotting new NATO dimensions akin to an angler's tale: bigger with each telling. By the time he lands in Poland, the President could call for admission of nine candidate countries - three Baltic states and six Eastern European nations - in a needless move certain to sour the week's most critical meeting before it ever begins.

On deck after the Poland speech: Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is sure to remember the no-expansion pledge we made when the Red Army went home. He will not be charmed by our come-one-come-all approach. After smashing Serbia, colluding to cut Russia out of the Caspian oil trade, and putting off a face-to-face meeting until now, we should be nurturing this natural ally. Instead, we are seeking antagonistic bonds with its former republics and butting a Cold War alliance up to its nuclear-armed border.

Proponents claim that NATO admission will fortify democracy in Eastern Europe, though it did nothing to prevent dictatorship in Turkey or Greece. They say the alliance will unify Europe in the pursuit of peace, but fail to explain how partitioning the continent anew will advance the post-Cold War priority of cementing Russia in the camp of free nations. They promise that expansion will minimize any future Russian threat while the pincer pressure of Islam in the South and NATO in the West drive Moscow into Beijing's embrace. Finally - and perhaps most illogically of all -- supporters of a super-sized NATO claim that the alliance will strengthen America's hand. By enlisting the vital aid of Slovenia on our behalf? By committing future generations to hypothetical conflicts not yet conceived? That is a promissory note no President should sign.

In 1992, the New York Times unearthed an internal Pentagon memo written by now Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. He envisioned a future scenario that "casts Russia as the gravest potential threat to U.S. vital interests and presumes the United States would spearhead a NATO counterattack if Russia launched an invasion of Lithuania." This is the way the world ends? In a twilight showdown over Lithuania? The clash has been scheduled, and though Europe's sickman is in no condition to don superpower armor, we are forcing Russia's feeble hand.

As he plays getting-to-know-you with the Europeans this week, Mr. Bush would do well to acquaint himself with the motives of his own advisors. There is no European enemy to contain, no American interest at stake, and no historical precedent for making the Baltics a U.S. protectorate. The real threat comes from Wilsonian warmongers willing to wager peace on outdated alliance against a beaten enemy. President Bush would do well to leave them behind in Brussels.

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