Whether or not to expand NATO is a question that deserves debate. Would it help or hurt U.S. national security?
Does adding countries such as Albania and Montenegro increase our security or ensnare us in possible regional disputes? Are we willing to risk war with Russia by including countries that already are mired in military conflict with Russia?
To understand what NATO expansion does to our relations with Russia, one must at least be aware of Russia’s perspective. Such awareness does not mean we agree with their point of view, but rather that we are aware our actions lead to reactions, and that NATO expansion does not occur in a vacuum.
We once had robust and thoughtful debate in our country over diplomacy and our desire to avoid war. Both parties now tend to shake their fists and declare to our adversaries: “Take this sanction.” “Take this expansion of NATO.” “Take this travel restriction” — under the misguided notion our unilateral actions will lead to capitulation.
Instead, we’ve often seen rising tensions, increased nationalism and a ratcheting up of a Cold War-like fever.
There was a time when many cautioned against reckless expansion.
Perhaps the most famous diplomat of the last century, George Kennan, wrote that NATO expansion would be a “fateful error” that would “inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion” and “restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations.”
Similarly, Daniel L. Davis, retired lieutenant colonel with Defense Priorities, said, “Extending NATO membership to Georgia — or Ukraine, as others advocate — in no way strengthens U.S. security, but rather unequivocally increases America’s strategic risk.”
I prefer we think of our interests first, and that the U.S. Senate return to being a deliberative body on foreign policy, where ideas are considered, and dissent is heard and debated.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was one of two senators who opposed Tuesday’s nonbinding motion to support and expand NATO.
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