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To the Editor:
We are troubled by the assertions made by John Newhouse ("Diplomacy, Inc.," May/June 2009) about NATO enlargement -- an initiative in which we both played direct roles -- as well as by his broader thesis about the role of ethnic population groups in shaping U.S. foreign policy.
The idea of adding central and eastern European states to NATO garnered strong congressional and public support because of its moral and strategic merits. Yet many critics of enlargement have long consoled themselves with the assertion that enlargement only prevailed because of the perverse influence of Americans of central and eastern European descent, an argument Newhouse now revives.
It is time to bury this canard once and for all. The problem is not just that it insults and strangely disqualifies the views of millions of Americans whose roots are traced to the eastern half of Europe. It is also simply erroneous. From direct experience, we can testify that the support of central and eastern European ethnic groups for NATO enlargement, although certainly welcome, was not decisive. What was decisive was the wide, bipartisan array of serious figures -- from then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to then Senator Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), from former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell to ALF-CIO President John Sweeney -- who thought this policy was morally right and good for the security of the United States and its allies.
Newhouse writes that there was "an assumption" that the Clinton administration saw enlargement as a way to woo ethnic eastern European voters ahead of the 1996 presidential election but never attributes this assumption to anyone or provides any evidence that it existed. He ignores surveys showing that the idea had strong support from all segments of the public -- not just ethnic minorities. He implies that the policy was aimed solely against Russia, ignoring the views of distinguished figures, such as Czech President Václav Havel, who argued that NATO enlargement would help anchor democracy in the region, solve regional disputes, and erase Europe's historical division.
Newhouse may believe that "by the mid-1990s, the risks of expanding NATO were clear" -- as if it were accepted wisdom that anchoring central and eastern Europe to the West was a mistake -- but the past decade tells another story. Just imagine what Europe might look like today had NATO not been enlarged. The continent would likely be far less stable and prosperous, and the Obama administration would have one more major foreign policy challenge on its hands. Instead, Europe today enjoys more democracy and security than at any time in history, and the United States has new NATO allies fighting alongside it in places such as Afghanistan.
We heartily agree with Newhouse's call to strengthen the Foreign Agents Registration Act and the Lobbying Disclosure Act, so that Congress, the media, and the public can have full information about which foreign and domestic groups are lobbying for which interests and policies. But we are offended by the implication that when one's own foreign policy views fail to prevail in the democratic process, the result can only be explained by the nefarious influence of "foreign agents."
RONALD D. ASMUS
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, 1997–2000
JEREMY D. ROSNER
Special Adviser to the President and Secretary of State for NATO Enlargement Ratification, 1997–98