Ben & Jerry's is against expanding NATO. So is Phyllis Schlafly, the arch-conservative activist. So is Sam Nunn, the retired Georgia Democrat who was the Senate's most authoritative voice on national security matters.
From left, right and center - and all points in between on the political compass - an unlikely coalition of arms-control advocates, business leaders, United Nations-bashers and foreign-policy experts have launched a grass-roots campaign to derail the addition of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic to the military alliance.A business group headed by Ben Cohen, the chairman of Ben & Jerry's, aired a 30-second commercial on several network talk shows Sunday warning that NATO expansion would alienate Russia and rekindle Cold War tensions. The same group took out a full-page ad in The New York Times on Monday with the headline, "Hey, Let's Scare the Russians!"
The right-to-left coalition has set up "electronic town meetings" on talk-radio shows in more than 20 cities, including broadcasts in Raleigh, N.C., Monday and in Concord, N.H., on Tuesday.
Opponents of NATO expansion know they face an uphill struggle trying to reverse the tide of support for NATO expansion in the Senate, which is expected to resume debate on the issue later this week. Two-thirds of the Senate - 67 of 100 senators - must approve the expansion.
"We need 34 converts, and that's a long way to go," said Sen. Robert Smith, a New Hampshire Republican who has championed the fight against NATO expansion.
Indeed, administration officials say they are confident they have the votes now to win but acknowledge there is always some tightening up as a final floor vote approaches, and senators hone in on the issue.
Many conservatives in the coalition fear that expanding NATO will dilute the military alliance and subject the United States to myriad new military commitments.