By Michael Haltzel
Sunday, June 29, 2014
THE WASHINGTON POST
In reacting to Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine, President Obama has reassured exposed NATO members Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia of firm U.S. support, but he has shown little inclination to show needed leadership by putting another integral element of NATO policy on the agenda of September’s Cardiff summit : enlargement of the alliance. Obama’s hesitation, which has allowed NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to put off the question of enlargement until next year, is unwise and unnecessary.
NATO enlargement, a bipartisan effort that has spanned the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, has been one of the most successful U.S. foreign policy achievements of the past two decades. As a result of their countries joining NATO, more than 100 million Central and Eastern Europeans in 12 nations from Estonia to Albania can freely elect their own governments and pursue national priorities without fear of foreign invasion.
Moreover, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the alliance has benefited from the contributions of the new members, even if few of them are yet spending at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense, the NATO target. In the face of Moscow’s destabilization of Ukraine, one can only imagine the mood of the Baltic states and Poland if they were not protected by NATO’s Article 5 common defense guarantee.