Accusing the Clinton administration of “misguided romanticism” in post-Cold War Europe, Robert J. Dole Tuesday said he would restore American decisiveness in the region by pushing to admit Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to NATO by 1998.
In what his campaign billed as a major statement on the American role in Europe, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee charged that President Clinton has allowed himself to be bullied by Russia, which Dole said has exercised a de facto veto over the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Dole also called for building a “Europe-wide” system to defend against ballistic missile attacks.
In calling for the Western alliance to adopt a deadline for expansion, Dole said, “Russian officials have conducted a campaign of threats against NATO expansion, and President Clinton got the message. He deferred and delayed - placing the threats of Russian nationalists before the aspirations of democrats.”
The Clinton administration supports the admission of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to NATO but has declined to seek a deadline. The White House also has played down the matter this year in an attempt not to jeopardize the re-election of Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
Yeltsin, who is in a runoff vote early next month, needs the support of nationalist voters who see any expansion of NATO as an anti-Russian threat.
Clinton cannot make the decision on expanding NATO on his own, but needs the support of the alliance’s other members and the Senate.
Speaking to the Philadelphia World Affairs Council, Dole also criticized the Clinton administration for pushing for elections in Bosnia at a time when “the Bosnian people do not have freedom of movement, but war criminals do.
“Despite the fact that conditions for free and fair elections quite plainly do not exist in most of Bosnia, the Clinton administration continues to push for them anyway,” Dole charged.
Dole did not say in his speech that he supported postponing the Bosnian elections, and a foreign policy adviser traveling with the campaign said that Dole was not explicitly demanding that the elections be delayed.
“Now the whole world knows the Clinton administration has its eye more on American elections in November than Bosnian elections in September,” Dole said.
Dole, by emphasizing Eastern Europe in his speech, also appeared to have his eye on the November election. Nearly 19 percent of Pennsylvanians - more than 2 million people - are of Eastern European ancestry.
Tuesday evening, Dole traveled to Cleveland for a Slovenian independence day banquet. Nearly 13 percent of the population of Ohio is of ethnic Eastern European origin.
Trailing badly in polls across the industrial Midwest and Northeast, Dole needs to close the gap in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois (where 10 percent of population is of Polish descent) if he is to mount a strong challenge to Clinton in the fall.