On June 21, 1996, the Committee on International Relations of the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on H.R. 3564, the NATO Enlargement Facilitation Act of 1996 (“NATO Act”). The NATO Act was introduced by Congressman Benjamin A. Gilman (R-NY), the Chairman of the International Relations Committee. The NATO Act, if enacted, would express the Congress’ view that the “admission to NATO of emerging democracies” would “contribute to international peace and enhance the security of the region.” It further would determine that Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic “have made the most progress toward achieving the stated criteria [of eligibility to move toward NATO membership] and should be eligible for the additional assistance described” in the bill. That assistance involves an appropriation of an additional sixty million dollars for the three designated countries under the NATO Participation Act of 1994.
The International Relations Committee invited the Central and East European Coalition (“CEEC”) to testify on the NATO Act, and Frank Koszorus, Jr. of the Hungarian American Coalition prepared written testimony and orally testified on behalf of the CEEC. In his testimony, Mr. Koszorus expressed the CEEC’s support for the NATO Act because it believes that the rapid enlargement of NATO to include countries of Central and Eastern Europe “which are committed to the concepts of democracy, market economies, civilian control of the military, and human and minority rights” would provide the region with “a sense of security …, shore up the new democracies,” and “ensure Europe’s overall stability.” It also would serve the “foreign policy interests of the United States.”
Mr. Koszorus noted that Russian interests “are not threatened by the expansion of a defensive alliance,” and that, in fact, “stability and economic growth on the borders of Russia can only benefit Moscow.” Although Russia “should not be isolated,” it “should under no circumstances be permitted to veto NATO’s enlargement,” he added. Mr. Koszorus further testified that continued Western hesitation in expanding the alliance “will redraw the lines imposed by Stalin” and signal Russian expansionists that they “enjoy a sphere of influence in Central and Eastern Europe.”
After commending Chairman Gilman and the other members of the International Relations Committee for their leadership in introducing the NATO Act, Mr. Koszorus urged that the passage of the bill “must be followed by concrete steps, eligibility lists, criteria, and unambiguous timetables for NATO enlargement in 1996-1997.”
He concluded his testimony by stating that the United States “cannot afford to squander a historic opportunity to safeguard peace and democracy,” and that with vision and leadership, “we will not have to pose the question, ‘”who lost Central and Eastern Europe the second time this century?”‘
Other witnesses who testified at the hearing included Rudolf Perina, Senior Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs. Mr. Perina expressed the Clinton Administration’s general opposition to the NATO Act and to the designation of specific countries at this time. Also testifying against the bill was Ambassador Jack Matlock, former ambassador to the Soviet Union (1987-1991).
Peter Rodman of the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom, General William Odom of the Hudson Institute, and Richard H. Kosinski of the National Confederation of Ethnic Groups testified in favor of the NATO Act.
Members of the International Relations Committee who favorably commented on the NATO Act either through statements or questions included Douglas K. Bereuter (R-NE); Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL); Tom Lantos (D-CA); James A. Leach (R-IA); and Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ). Members who expressed misgivings or opposed the NATO Act included Lee H. Hamilton (D-IN); Harry A. Johnston (D-FL); and James P. Moran (D-VA).
Copies of the CEEC’s written statement can be obtained at the office of the Hungarian American Coalition.