NATO Expansion - Are Self-Referencing Mutations in
the Political DNA Good for the Health?

September 1, 1998

Comment: #176


[1] Susan Eisenhower, "A Summit for Listening," Washington Post Op-Ed, September 1, 1998; Page A19 Excerpt attached.

[2] Thomas Magstadt, "Why Big Business Strongly Backed NATO Expansion," Kansas City Star, August 23, 1998. Excerpt attached.

A prime minister, Lester Pearson of Canada (I think), once quipped the role of NATO in European power politics is to keep the Russians out, the Germans down, and Americans in. The United States has become involved militarily in Europe three times in the 20th Century -- WWI, WWII, and the Cold War. In each case that involvement was necessary to correct the power imbalances on the European continent posed by Germany or Russia, hence the correct historical context of Pearson's quip.

The world of European power politics is very different today from that of Pearson's day, yet NATO lives on in a new mutated form, including new members (Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland) and vaguely defined peacekeeping functions that don't seem to be deterring the ambitions of aggressors in the Balkans. The attached articles relate to two thirds of Pearson's formulation: keeping the Russians out and the Americans in.

In Reference 1, Susan Eisenhower summarizes the appalling problems threatening to splinter Russia into a jumble of ethnic and regional states or semi states. She notes that far less money has been lent by the West to Russia for reconstruction than West Germany has spent reconstructing its eastern region.

In Reference 2, Professor Magstadt describes how our domestic political factors are working to "keep the Americans in." He describes how defense contractors, struggling to protect their rice bowls in the post cold war era, used political contributions to buy support for NATO expansion. Their obvious aim is to enlarge their market, even if, as Magstadt points out, NATO expansion has the counterproductive effect of fueling a radical resurgence of Russian nationalism (which Ms. Eisenhower thinks is unlikely in foreseeable future).

Nothing much to report on mutations in Germany, other than the fact that the economic and political absorption of the east is becoming an increasing burden as it struggles to further integrate itself economically and politically with its historical enemies in western Europe.

So why does a cold war dinosaur like NATO continue to exist? Mutation-based evolution, dear reader, is the key to survival when the environment changes. So as a first cut mutation in the political DNA, perhaps the purpose of NATO is evolving to protect the American military-industrial-congressional complex while depending on reunification and European integration to keep Germany down, now that Russia is no longer needed.

Just remember, most mutations are bad for the organism, particularly those changes in DNA that result from self-referencing and inbreeding.

Chuck Spinney

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, the following material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]

Reference #1

A Summit for Listening
By Susan Eisenhower
Washington Post Op-Ed
Tuesday, September 1, 1998; Page A19



While Western advice and aid curbed inflation -- something of critical interest to the foreign investors who, unfortunately, rarely financed projects beyond Moscow or St. Petersburg -- many Russians now understand that these loans and credits tied Moscow's hands in dealing with the country's own unique problems. Simply put: The IMF multiyear "bailouts" were enough to obligate Russia to implement Western-designed programs, but not enough to do the job. Total Western assistance to Russia has been a fraction of what West Germany has spent in East Germany since unification.


If the IMF money seemed like an indispensable lifeline for some, the steep price of it is now becoming apparent. The failure to reach a balanced policy between inflation fighting, social protection and industrial retooling brought about a constitutional crisis in 1993, followed in the next few years by a Communist revival in the Duma and a growing alienation between Moscow and the country's regions.


The writer is the chairman of the Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Washington.

Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

Reference #2

Why Big Business Strongly Backed NATO Expansion
By Thomas Magstadt
Special to The Star
Kansas City Star
August 23, 1998


Advocates airily dismiss these concerns as groundless and alarmist. Time alone will tell who's right, but one thing is clear already: The biggest and most immediate beneficiaries will be America's "military-industrial complex" -- in particular the major U.S. defense contractors who have fallen on hard times since the Cold War's end.


Why do American companies spend so prodigiously on lobbying activities? Obviously, to stack the legislative deck. It may be a bit tawdry, but it's the American way and it's quite legal. They regard such spending, to use one of President Clinton's favorite phrases, as an "investment in the future." They understand that politics is all about "who gets what, when and how" in the felicitous phrase of the late Harold Lasswell.

Thus, the bipartisan consensus on NATO expansion isn't really so strange at all. Here's an issue made-to-order for politicians who need gobs of money to mount campaigns and win elections, an issue the public doesn't understand or care about, but Big Business does. One is hard-pressed to come up with a scenario more likely to ensure that a Senate vote or a president's favor would be put on the auction block. No wonder only 19 senators had the courage to say no to a proposition that is loaded with potential harm to the national interest.


Author: Magstadt is an adjunct professor at UMKC and the author of two college textbooks, Understanding Politics: Ideas, Institutions, and Issues and