Reader feedback: Mečiar's return a setback for Nato entry

Dear Editor,

I'm sceptical that Nato expansion to countries like Slovakia would do much strategic good for the alliance, and as an American being asked to pay an ever growing share of my tax dollars for defence, I'm doubly hesitant about the idea of further commitments by Nato.

That said, I find your suggestion that the West has been intentionally vague about Mečiar and his effect on Slovakia's chances for Nato membership very hard to swallow ("Mečiar: We'll survive without Nato", News Briefs, March 4 - 10, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 8).

For many years, the Americans, the west Europeans and even the Czechs have been explicitly warning Slovakia that it won't be invited to join Nato so long as Mečiar's government is in control. In 1997, the American ambassador gave a speech explaining that Slovakia's bid for Nato membership was put on the slow track because of concerns about Mečiar's leadership. Václav Havel, speaking at the Nato summit in Madrid that same year, told a group of Slovak journalists the same thing. Nato Secretary General Javier Solana again warned the Slovaks about Mečiar's leadership in a 1998 speech. Solana's successor George Robertson made the same point again after meeting Slovak Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda in Brussels in December 2001. Most recently, on January 7, 2002, US Ambassador Ronald Weiser gave an interview for the Slovak daily Pravda in which he made it clear that Mečiar's return would be a setback for Slovakia's Nato entry.

The West's feelings about Mečiar are very plain, and have long been made very clear. Slovaks (young or old) can freely choose whether to vote for Mečiar, and it is none of the West's business how they vote. But if they do choose Mečiar, they cannot, it seems to me, be heard to complain later on that they didn't understand the consequences for Slovakia's relationship with the West.

Patrick Gunn

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