* Your April 16 editorial's headline, "NATO's Pending Expansion: Silence Is Not Golden," should remind us of one additional silent group, the extremists in Russia. While we hear about President Boris Yeltsin being too weak to resist the forthcoming expansion of NATO, the Russian extremists are strangely quiet. And why shouldn't they be?
If NATO expansion eastward goes ahead over Yeltsin's strong objections, the Russian extremists will have been handed a genie who can open their way to ultimate power in Russia with the unintended help of the American government. A "renewed Soviet threat" could then become a reality. We would be responsible for reigniting the Cold War by playing into the hands of the extremists.
* As a member of the military staff of the programs division in the NATO Supreme Command for four years and a subsequent assignment to the staff of the U.S. ambassador to the political headquarters of the North Atlantic Alliance, I would participate in briefings that would often be concluded with a question-and-answer session by the supreme NATO commander.
My task was to outline structures and procedures in both the political and military environments. I would describe the political decision-making process as one of reaching a narrow consensus, which I defined as "the least common denominator," as contrasted with the military need for broad guidelines for rapid response under a variety of alternatives.
Fortunately, the need for rapid response never materialized during the Cold War, but recent events that called for NATO participation in trouble spots have revealed the lack of rapid response capability. Adding additional members to NATO will only dilute the least common denominator and decrease the effectiveness of the military.
Lt. Col., U.S. Army (Ret.)
* Re "Poland, Estonia: Tale of 2 NATO Hopefuls," April 14: There are several reasons why it is in America's best interest to admit Poland into NATO. Poland is the most politically stable democratic, former Soviet bloc nation. The country's GNP surpasses its neighbors and inflation has been kept to a low and manageable level.
Poland has historically maintained close ties to our country. Casimir Pulaski and Thaddeus Kosciusko fought in the American Revolution; the latter, at the request of George Washington, created West Point Military Academy.
The final compelling reason for admission into NATO is correcting the moral debacle of FDR at Yalta, who condemned Poland to Stalin's Soviet domination.
JOHN E. LAZAR