WASHINGTON, D.C.: Seen from Eastern and Central Europe NATO is an alliance with a great future. Seen from the United States, NATO is an alliance in deep crisis. From Poland to Hungary, from the Czech Republic to Romania, the citizenry and the governments want their countries to be admitted to NATO as soon as possible. From Washington to Los Angeles, many Americans worry that NATO is an alliance without a purpose, has become weak, and has miserably failed in Bosnia (even though NATO never was committed to keep the peace among or within the former Yugoslav republics).
Interestingly, those Americans who fret about NATO's decline and fall, and the Central and East Europeans who have such great faith in NATO, both arrive at the same recommendation: expand NATO eastward!
Actually, in every decade since the 1950s, throngs of foreign policy experts have asserted that NATO faced some new crisis. Now comes the crisis of the 90's-- the fragility of democracy in Eastern Europe and Russia, and the loss of a common enemy -- and therefore, it is said NATO must admit Poland, The Czech Republic, Hungary, (please include your country in his list), and other nations of the Warsaw Pact. This remedy may seem all the more urgent as Russian forces keep inflicting wanton destruction on Chechnya.
Americans who question the wisdom of this eastward expansion fear that it might cause Russia to refurbish its military and expand westward. But this is only half the problem. Far from solving an alleged crisis, expanding NATO now would fatally weaken it. The Atlantic alliance must not become a chain letter -- some Ponzi scheme that escapes bankruptcy only by signing up new members.