It is a great tragedy that the United States did not seize upon the opportunity opened by the collapse of the Soviet Union to explore new models for European security. President Clinton's determination to expand a U.S.-dominated military alliance up to the very boundaries of Russia is guaranteed to provoke the worst kind of Russian nationalism and, over the long run, create precisely those military tensions we are most interested in preventing.
While the Soviet Union was totalitarian in 1945, brutally repressive, and ruthless in installing puppet regimes in Eastern Europe, the Soviets never possessed military superiority over the West. Only late in the Cold War, long after NATO and the Warsaw Pact had been established, did the Soviets come close to achieving military parity, when its missiles might have been able to do to us what the U.S. Air Force had been able to do to the Soviets from the beginning-wipe out the cities in the heartland.
What the Soviet Union represented was more a political threat than a military one, as it positioned itself as the leader of world revolutionary forces. (This was the position laid out by George Kennan, who, as the Cold War went on, became increasingly critical of the Western obsession with the military aspect of the struggle. Today Kennan is a leading voice in opposing Clinton's policy of expanding NATO.) The West, not able or willing to deal with the political aspects of the situation, found it much easier to define the problem as a military one, and proceeded to do so.
THERE ARE FOUR REASONS that can be advanced for the expansion of NATO. First, and this has been talked about openly in Europe but hardly at all in the U.S. media, the admission of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic will play well with ethnic voters in the United States.