AS IN THE INDIAN FABLE of the elephant and the blind men, NATO appears different depending on which aspect of the organization one focuses on. To the United States, NATO is the bedrock of European security. For some Western European countries, NATO has become an organization without a mission, unwilling to solve many of Europe's pressing security problems. Russia believes NATO threatens it with isolation. Many Eastern and Central European states see NATO as a safe haven against the instability farther east and reject Russian veto power over their membership applications. Countries such as Belarus and, until recently, Ukraine, believe NATO expansion would be destabilizing; others, such as Romania, strive to maintain good relations with Russia while seeking NATO membership.

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