US Congress is now considering second round of enlargement, an issue addressed at the allied summit in Prague, in November 2002. During the last round of enlargement, the Senate voted in favour of admitting Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary to NATO. Other members of the alliance followed suit, and the three countries became members in March 1999. It was the fourth time that NATO had admitted new states, with membership increasing from the original 12 to 19 today.
At the previous NATO summit in April 1999, the allies underscored that they were open to further enlargement. They created a, mentioned earlier, Membership Action Plan (MAP), outlining structured goals for candidates, such as ending the danger of ethnic conflict, developing a democratic society with transparent political and economic processes and civilian control of the military, and pledging commitment to defence budgets to build military forces able to contribute to missions from collective defence to peacekeeping. At Prague, on November 21, 2002, the current members’ heads of state designated the three Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia), Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania, as prospective members.
In 1998, the debate over NATO enlargement covered such issues as costs, mission, and qualifications of the candidates. The issue of costs has now seemingly been put to rest because entry of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary does not appear to have required extra funds from other members. Most observers believe that the three countries have contributed to stability in Europe, and have made significant political contributions to the alliance in such matters as enhancing NATO’s understanding of central and eastern Europe, Russia, and the Balkans, given the history of the new members’ involvement with these regions. Militarily, their contribution is less apparent; each of the three contributes forces to the NATO-led peace operations in the Balkans, and is building forces to defend its borders. Pentagon officials believe that Poland has made the greatest strides in restructuring and modernising its military, and that the Czech Republic and Hungary have made considerably less progress. Personally I have no doubts that US Senate negative opinion derives from both Czech and Hungarian lack of interest for American F-16 jet fighters.
It should be noted that a period of years is normally necessary to rebuild a military that has had an authoritarian tradition and convert it to one having civilian control, purge it of old-guard elements, reform its training, and purchase equipment compatible with a new set of allies.
There has been some sentiment that NATO should delay invitations to candidate states until democratic processes are firmly entrenched. For example, the recent Hungarian government of Victor Orban was criticised for an ethnic “status law” that some interpreted as cloaking Hungarian aspirations for territory from neighbouring states having Hungarian minorities. Others reject such sentiments, noting that Orban was freely elected, and dismissing the status law as nothing more than a passing example of nationalist politics before a close election. Nonetheless, it is possible that the period between naming candidate states for accession negotiations at Prague in November 2002 and the moment when current NATO member governments decide whether to admit those candidates (such as the vote in the U.S. Senate), could see debates over whether each candidate continues to meet criteria for democracy, particularly if there is an election bringing in a government that member states view as extremist. The North Atlantic Treaty does not contain a provision for expelling or disciplining a member state.
Another factor for consideration could prove to be a prospective member’s efforts to persuade its people that NATO membership is desirable. Slovenia held a referendum on March 23, 2003; 66% of those voting, 66% supported NATO membership, despite popular opposition to the war in Iraq that approaches 80%. No other candidate state intends to hold a referendum on NATO membership (one of MAP’s essential requirements is full, popular, support for enlargement). The essence of the current enlargement debate is over qualifications, with no apparent consensus. Of an original nine candidates, two candidates, Albania and Macedonia, did not receive invitations at Prague.
Each of these countries is small, with comparably small militaries potentially capable of specialised functions, such as transport or medical care, for example, but only minimally capable of building forces able to contribute to high-intensity conflict. In the view of some observers, to adhere to the letter of the military qualifications outlined in the 1999 summit communiqué, requiring new members to contribute to missions from peacekeeping to collective defence would be tantamount to excluding their entry.
Many participants in the debate favour different standards that, in their view, reflect the current political situation in Europe, where Russia is no longer a military threat but ethnic conflict, nationalism, and terrorism are a danger. In such circumstances, they contend political stability and a modernised military at least able to contribute to border defence and to peace operations are an appropriate standard. Secretary of State Powell seemed to suggest such a standard in his confirmation hearing when he stressed a need for candidates to modernise their militaries, and to strengthen their democratic structures.
An opposing view is that NATO should first clearly define its mission, above all with an agreement on what types of out-of-area threats, such as terrorism, proliferation, or a disruption of the flow of oil, should be met with a possible military response. At that point, enlargement should be considered, with a determination about which prospective members might contribute to the mission. Some observers, also hesitant about enlargement, note that the United States flew over 60 percent of combat missions in the Kosovo conflict. They prefer prospective members that could relieve the U.S. burden.
Yet another view is that there is no clear dichotomy between collective defence (high-intensity conflict undertaken in response, for example, to the attacks of September 11, 2001) and collective security (peace operations and humanitarian assistance). In this view, countries contributing to peace operations assist in building stable societies and preventing “black holes,” such as Bosnia or Afghanistan, where terrorism may take root. Countries involved in peace operations, then, are contributing to the prevention of terrorism, and thereby to collective defence.
The terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001 are affecting the enlargement debate. A likely part of the enlargement debate will be how prospective members might contribute to the conflict against terrorism or act to stem the flow of weapons of mass destruction. NATO seemed partially to settle one aspect of the debate over its mission shortly after the attacks when member states invoked Article V, the alliance’s collective defence clause, to come to the aid of the United States in the conflict against terrorism. Previously, the European allies had resisted any statement that Article V should be invoked in an out-of-area action against terrorism. At a NATO ministerial meeting in Reykjavik in May 2002, the allies agreed that they must be able “to carry out the full range of... missions, ... to field forces wherever they are needed, sustain operations over distance and time, and achieve their objectives.”
However, not all member states have sufficiently mobile or appropriately trained forces for the current tasks in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example. Few allies besides the United States have special forces or mobile, large-formation combat forces with the potential to contribute meaningfully to such conflicts. At the same time, a number of allies have an intelligence capability, transport, medical units, and political influence that might assist in such conflicts.
As the terrorism conflict unfolds, current members may examine how prospective members might be able to contribute. Contributions might include political influence and support, for example in the United Nations or with Russia or Muslim states, and not necessarily military potential. They might also examine the level of internal security in the candidate countries and ability to control borders, disrupt terrorist financial networks or apprehend terrorist suspects on their soil. Elements of the MAP that emphasise an end to corruption may be increasingly underscored, given the post-September 11 importance of preventing money-laundering, and combating a black economy.
The alliance experienced sharp divisions over whether to use military force against Iraq. In January 2003, Bush Administration officials applauded the decision of the 7 candidate states (and others) to sign a letter that, in general, endorsed the U.S. position on Iraq; some candidates state representatives complained that they had been bullied by the Administration into signing the letter. Six of the seven candidate states joined the coalition. Slovenia was the exception, but allowed overflight by U.S. and UK forces. The failure to achieve consensus in the North Atlantic Council over how and whether to aid Turkey in the event of an attack by Iraq exposed serious divisions in the alliance.
Finally, and most importantly, how does enlargement contribute to NATO’s overall transformation and new missions? This question needs to be addressed before the second round takes place. The answer will significantly influence both the timing of the second round as well as which countries are included in it. These dilemmas underscore the need for NATO to develop a coherent strategy for managing further enlargement. Otherwise, NATO could face new security dilemmas as difficult, if not more difficult, than those it faced during the initial round.
The debate over enlargement is quite different in 2001 than it was in 1998. In 1998, several European allies strongly supported enlargement. Today, most member states couch discussion of enlargement in careful terms.
First, the strategic rationale for the next round is not clear. The rationale for the first round – to stabilise Central Europe – was widely accepted within the Alliance as a strategic imperative. But there is no shared consensus about the rationale for the second round. Some Alliance members think it should be to stabilise Southeastern Europe while others feel it should be to complete the stabilisation of Central Europe. Others feel the Baltics should be included.
Second, in contrast to the first round, there is no strong European leader on whom the U.S. can rely to do the heavy lifting. In the first round, Germany played a critical role in shaping the NATO debate in Europe. Indeed, NATO enlargement was largely an U.S.-German endeavour. Germany, however, has largely achieved its strategic agenda – the integration of Central Europe. It does not have the same strong strategic interest in further enlargement that it had in the first round. While it will probably support the admission of Slovakia and Slovenia – this would extend the Central European periphery of NATO – the U.S. cannot rely on Berlin to play the role of the "European locomotive" that it played in the first round.
Most member states agree that Slovenia is politically qualified for membership; in addition, Hungary urges Slovenia’s membership, once NATO criteria for entry are met, for strategic reasons. Hungary is not contiguous with any other NATO state. Slovenia’s entry into the alliance would provide Hungary with a land bridge to Italy, a clear advantage given neutral Austria’s refusal during the Kosovo war to permit NATO overflights to Hungary. Slovakia is a credible candidate in some NATO capitals, given the return in September 2002 elections of key elements of its reform government. Some northern European allies, such as Poland, strongly support membership for the Baltic States; they contend that the Baltic states have met OSCE and EU political guidelines for democracy, and cite the three countries’ work to build stability in the region and to establish better relations with Russia. U.S. officials state that the Baltic states have made the most progress in meeting MAP requirements, although there is some criticism of how Latvia has handled sensitive documents.
Italy, Greece, and Turkey are strong supporters of Bulgaria’s and Romania’s entry. They contend that these two countries can contribute to stability in the Balkans, where Europe’s greatest security needs lie. Critics counter that Romania and Bulgaria continue to suffer from corruption in their governing structures, and that each must make stronger efforts to modernise its military. Bulgaria has also had a succession of governments that have followed an uncertain course towards political and economic reform.
The views of the Russian government play a role in the debate. Putin’s softer rhetoric against NATO enlargement since the September 11 terrorist attacks has allayed concerns that his government would strongly oppose enlargement. It is possible that Putin now views a unified front against terrorism, in part due to Moscow’s ongoing conflict in Chechnya, as more important than potential divisions with the allies over enlargement. The Duma and much of Russia’s military and intelligence bureaucracy remain adamantly opposed to enlargement, which they view as a U.S.-led effort to move a military alliance closer to their territory. Officials from allied states often counter such an argument by underscoring that enlargement’s purpose in large part is to ensure stability in Europe, and that the addition of new member states provides stability, and therefore security, to Russia’s west. Putin may also view the entry of Estonia and Latvia into NATO (and the EU, in 2004) as a means to protect Russian minorities in those countries, given NATO and EU strictures over the treatment of ethnic minorities.
George Bush, in his 2001 speech in Warsaw University, spelled out an expansive vision of NATO "from the Baltic to the Black Sea" and made clear that the "zero option" was not an option. His speech strongly suggested that the U.S. is thinking in broad geo-strategic terms, even if Washington has not yet formally decided on which specific candidates should be admitted. Moreover, by specifically mentioning the Baltic region and opposing "false-lines," Bush explicitly rejected the Russian thesis that there was some "red line" which NATO should not cross.
This is the underlying logic of NATO’s enlargement, to integrate the countries to the east of NATO, former members of the Soviet Union, into the community of shared Western values, and into the Western institutions – of which NATO is the most important – that define and defend those values. As the President Bush observed in Warsaw, "Yalta did not ratify a natural divide, it divided a living civilisation." He made it clear that his goal is to erase the false lines that have divided Europe and to "welcome into Europe’s home" every European nation that struggles toward democracy, free markets, and a strong civic culture.
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