“Fifteen years ago, I was honored, as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, to lead the fight for Poland’s admission into NATO,” he said.
But, Bloomberg said, Biden was not chairman of that committee when the issue was debated. That job belonged to Sen. Jesse Helms, a conservative Republican from North Carolina. Biden did not become the chairman of the committee until 2001 -- two years after Poland was admitted into NATO.
Initially, Biden was skeptical about expanding NATO, but eventually led minority Democrats in approving the resolution.
"If we are really going to alienate the Russians,” he asked in 1997, “what are we going to get for it?”
“Right now, if I stand up and start talking with my constituents about the price, if I tell them, ‘We are about to extend our nuclear umbrella to Slovakia,’ I wonder how many people in Dagsboro, Del., are going to say, ‘Hey, that’s a great idea,’” he reportedly said at the time.
According to Bloomberg, Biden said the issue needed more public discussion to have popular support.
He got it, Bloomberg added, and by the time it got to the floor for a debate, he had signed on.
“The committee, under Chairman Helms’ leadership, has been holding a series of comprehensive hearings since October on the pros and cons of enlarging NATO,” Biden said on Feb. 11, 1998. “For 40 years, the United States loudly proclaimed its solidarity with the captive nations of Central and Eastern Europe who were under the heel of communist oppressors. Now that most of them have cast off their shackles, it is our responsibility, in my view, to live up to our pledges to readmit them into the West through NATO and the European Union as they qualify.”
The Senate approved the expansion of NATO to include Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in a 80 to 19 vote, and Poland became a member in April 1999.
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