Courtesy Reuters

From Prague to Baghdad: NATO at Risk


The concrete is crumbling in the foundations of the labyrinth of drab low-rise buildings that house the main offices of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization just off Boulevard Leopold III in the outskirts of Brussels. Fresh paint can no longer hide cracks in the plaster along the winding corridors. Captains, majors, and colonels in a variety of uniforms share cubbies with diplomats and civil servants.

When the complex was hurriedly assembled 35 years ago, it was intended to be the temporary command center of a permanent alliance squared off against a robust and implacable enemy. Leonid Brezhnev was in the Kremlin, the Cold War was at its height, and Charles de Gaulle had pulled France out of NATO's unified military command, forcing the other allies to move from Paris to Brussels. But before they got around to putting up a more durable and dignified set of buildings, the Soviet monolith came tumbling down and escapees from its wreckage were knocking on NATO's door. The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland joined three years ago, bringing the membership up from 16 to 19. There may soon be as many as 26 if, at their summit in Prague in November, the leaders of NATO have the foresight to accept the applications of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. That move would, in one stroke, increase stability from the Baltics to the Balkans.

In addition to admitting new allies, NATO has established a network of so-called partnerships with 27 states. They include five neutrals (Austria, Finland, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland), all 15 former Soviet republics, four other members of the defunct Warsaw Pact, and three remnants of Yugoslavia. On the second day of the Prague summit, presidents, premiers, ministers, and other officials from all these countries will join the allies around a giant table for a session of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC). For the past 11 years, this body, created and administered by NATO, has sponsored joint defense, peacekeeping, and civil emergency operations. It has also

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