Background and context
The decision whether to enlarge the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation from its present membership of 19 States to include the States of Eastern Europe, the Baltic and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) stems from the admission of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary at the Madrid summit of the alliance in 1997. The subsequent 50th anniversary summit in Washington DC in April 1999 brought strong statements of support for NATO enlargement. In adherence to the pledge made in the Republican Party’s ‘Contract for America’, President Bush has maintained the impetus for enlargement through speeches made during his official trip to Europe in June 2001. In response, NATO Secretary General George Robertson has affirmed that NATO expects to proceed to further enlargement at the November 2002 summit in Prague.However, the debate has received more critical attention in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Russia holds a pivotal role in the alliance against terrorism and President Vladimir Putin has evinced significant willingness to cooperate with American strategy in Afghanistan. The question is whether the US and NATO States are prepared to risk this novel alliance for the enlargement of their Cold War one. The discussion turns on the persuasiveness of the threat posed by Russia now and in the future, and conversely the view taken of the stability of the myriad republics of the CIS.
Although old threats have disappeared or receded, new ones have arisen. More Europeans have died violently in the past five years than in the previous 45. The combination of actual and potential dangers requires a robust, capable collective defense pact, and NATO is the best ever.
Russia still has a large influence on its neighbors. The dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the protracted collapse of the Soviet Union into the Commonwealth of Independent States did remove the overwhelming threat of the USSR against Western Europe. However, the threat persists in a different form. The newly independent republics remain vulnerable to the vast political and military influence of Russia. The new threat is the destruction of stability of the new republics, and thus Russian expansion that is hostile to both the republics and the Western European states in their proximity. The solution is pre-emptive expansion in the other direction. The broadening of NATO to include the Eastern republics shall offer a bulwark against Russian expansion. NATO shall continue to perform the role of a defensive alliance against a putative military threat.
Russia can no longer offer the conventional military threat of the Cold War. The acceptance of this reality by the US is evidenced by the fact that there are no longer 300,000 troops stationed in Germany. The indebted and demoralised Russian infantry is presently overstretched in the persistent conflicts in Chechnya and Tajikistan. The combination of the weakness of Russia’s conventional forces and the antagonism that would be created by the deployment of NATO troops on its borders in the new republics would be dangerously counter-productive. Russia would be obliged more than ever to depend on her nuclear arsenal. Therefore, expansion is not only unnecessary but it is also likely to increase the threat of nuclear conflict in Western Europe.
“It is morally wrong for the NATO to expand without limit – that would ultimately enforce NATO values on the whole planet. That, in turn, will block alternative future worlds – a classic form of conservatism.”
The Russian people are concerned about hardship and hazard within their own borders rather than without. Moreover, now that the promise of NATO enlargement exists, a failure to offer the promised protection would raise grave doubts regarding the steadfastness of the NATO States. Moreover, the nationalism and belligerency of the Russian parliament would be implicitly rewarded. NATO should not be teaching Russia the lesson that hostility in Eastern Europe gets results that lessen the security of all.
“Russia needs Western investment, technology, and cooperation to integrate into the global economy. In addition, the Western media overemphasize anti-NATO sentiment among Russians. Polls show that Russians worry more about payments of chronically delayed wages, low living standards, crime, and corruption. Russia’s real security concerns, moreover, are with its Islamic neighbors and the People’s Republic of China, not with the democratic West. Finally, even the Yeltsin administration, which vehemently opposes NATO enlargement, admits that the major threats to Russia are domestic, and that no foreign country currently endangers Russia’s security.”
“Eventually bringing Russia into the Western orbit will benefit both Russia and the United States. Post-communist Russia needs to be engaged–not isolated–on the global scene, including on issues of European security. Russian objections to the current round of NATO enlargement are not widespread popular sentiments but rather a facet of Moscow’s political games. The United States should mount a comprehensive program, using the USIA and other avenues of public diplomacy, to explain the truth about NATO enlargement to Russia’s media and general public. Once the facts are known, Russians will understand that the ascendancy of the new members into the alliance in no way prevents the United States from continuing to work with Russia to enhance bilateral and multilateral security cooperation.”
The realisation of this policy shall only serve to manufacture the expansionist demon that NATO fears. The election of the ultranationalist Duma in 1996, the choice of the hardliner Yvegeny Primakov as foreign minister, and the failure of the reformist party ‘Russia’s Choice’ under Yegor Gaidar even to clear the 5% hurdle for Duma membership can be attributed, in whole or in part, to the Russian sense of isolation from Western Europe. This sense is dramatically emboldened by such provocative actions as threatening to station NATO troops on its borders. The Russian people are unlikely to consider that the forward deployment is not directed against them, but instead is only designed to maintain internal stability in the neighbouring republics. By inflaming Russian nationalism, NATO expansion is obstructs democratic development for Russia and undermines the security of its neighbouring republics.
“The Economist and the Eurasia Monitor both point out that Russia might likely move to open land and air supply routes to Afghanistan through Russia for NATO operations, a significant move both for tactical and symbolic reasons. And recent discussions with Russia on the missile shield in Eastern Europe have finally begun to show signs of progress. Foreclosing on these two potential strategic gains for a couple of ambivalent NATO members who bring few military assets to the table seems like a poor trade.”
People as high up as President Putin are saying that NATO’s expansion eastwards is a direct threat to Russia’s security.
Russian news organization Russia Today has reported that “Generations of Russians feel betrayed by NATO’s expansion.” Often, when people feel betrayed by a foreign organization, they will become nationalists.
“NATO is not just a military alliance; it is an alliance of values, and NATO’s success in the past and promise for the future reflect its fusion of strength and democratic values. I will speak today about how the Alliance is transforming itself to address global security challenges; its current missions and challenges, including ongoing operations in Afghanistan; and our goals for the Bucharest Summit and beyond.”
The criteria for NATO membership include stable democracy ; civilian control of the armed forces ; a sufficient military capacity to make a meaningful contribution to collective security ; and the absence of active disputes on or within the borders of the State. This incentivisation is critical given the indication from the European Union at the Cologne conference that the majority of these countries will not be permitted to accede to EU membership within the coming decade. NATO membership will help these fledging States to help themselves.
“Are the aspirants perfect? No. Have they done significant work and put themselves on a trajectory for success? Yes. The United States and our Allies need to consider whether it is better for the security of the Alliance and the stability of the Balkans to have these countries in or to keep them out. We know from experience that countries who join NATO continue to address remaining reforms, and build security in their region and the world. An invitation for membership is not a finish line and these countries know that.”
“Proponents of NATO enlargement argue that it will help spread democracy in Eastern Europe. The experience of the Cold War and post-Cold War periods demonstrates, however, that NATO enlargement has not and will not have a significant impact on the survival of democracy. During the Cold War, some states flipped between democracy and autocracy with no effect on their status within NATO. Since the end of the Cold War, former communist states have successfully pursued democracy, demonstrating a willingness to democratize regardless of whether NATO membership is in the offing. This does not mean that the West is powerless in advancing the laudable goal of promoting democracy in Eastern Europe. The EU is likely to be equally if not more effective than NATO at democratizing Eastern Europe, without the costs or the geopolitical risks incurred by enlarging the alliance. More broadly, NATO’s inability to spread democracy exemplifies limits in the democratizing potential of international institutions, providing an important caveat to the liberal optimism of the synergy between democracy and international organization.
NATO’s inability to spread democracy is a telling blow against arguments for further enlargement. NATO did not push democratization during or after the Cold War, and there is no reason to believe that it will do so in this decade.”
The policy that received strong support under the Clinton administration involves regular consultations, exercises and opportunities for education that seek to professionalize the civilian and military institutions of the republics of the former Soviet Union. This policy of genuine aid is preferable to the wish-list of democratic ideals that compose the criteria for NATO membership. Paradoxically, were one of the republics actually able to achieve all the criteria delineated, the necessity for their NATO protection would be marginal. Conversely, were the republics predictably unable to realize these goals, the protection of NATO through expansion or PFP would be genuine. Yet, it is in these situations of tenuous stability that States will be denied proper civilian and military aid from NATO.
“The alliance is determined that the enlargement strengthen Europe as a whole, to benefit nonmembers as well. In particular, the Madrid Summit will provide an impetus for bolstering the Partnership for Peace, which for the past three years has fostered joint exercises and closer coordination of defense planning among the allies and 27 neutral and former Warsaw Pact states.”
Former United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick explained, “There is . . . only one reliable guarantee against aggression. It is not found in international organizations. It is found in the spread of democracy. It derives from the simple fact that true democracies do not invade one another and do not engage in aggressive wars. . . . Preserving and strengthening democracies in Central and Eastern Europe should be the United States’ central goal and top foreign policy priority in Europe, in my opinion. Membership in NATO will help to achieve those goals and strengthen the alliance.”
The further expansion of NATO is in reality a cover for increased US interventionism in Europe and beyond. It will be a conduit for more unconstitutional US foreign aid and US interference in the internal politics of member nations, especially the new members from the former East.
It should not be perceived as a standing military force, but a holding company whose individual members can draw upon a collective infrastructure and military support in the event of intervention in and around Europe. The expansion of NATO should be the opportunity to re-examine the current force deployment and strategic capability of the alliance. For example, the US maintains significant permanent deployment of infantry, aircraft and armour in Germany that could possibly be transferred to a more active role in protecting the borders of the newly independent republics. Similarly, the NATO ‘After-Action’ report into ‘Operation Allied Force’ in Kosovo highlighted the dependence of the offensive on the US capacity for strategic airlift. The acquisition of the requisite air transport by the Western European States would allow more credible guarantees of security throughout Europe. Forward deployment of NATO troops into the new republics is not a prerequisite for expansion. The core of the alliance is the pledge to protect which is undiminished by the addition of new members.
The credibility of the commitment of article V of the NATO Charter in which every member pledges to come to the defence of another has already been undermined by the inclusion of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic. NATO runs the grave risk of becoming so large and diverse it resembles a political organisation rather than a military alliance. The military contribution of the new members would be by definition limited. Were these republics already capable of providing sufficient security to their borders, there would be no necessity for NATO membership. At the point where the NATO commitments become more declaratory than real, the security of every State including the new members is called into question. Thus NATO expansion might in fact assist any State eager for its own expansionism in Eastern Europe.
“Ten years ago, the idea that NATO would be running a major military operation half way around the world would have seemed preposterous. Even five years ago, just after the U.S.-led ouster of the Taliban, I can still remember officials in many allied countries questioning whether the Alliance should take on such a challenging task so far beyond its original mission. Today that theoretical debate about missions is over – every one of NATO’s 26 members not only supports but has forces in Afghanistan. NATO has 42,000 troops in country, 28,000 of which are from countries other than the United States. NATO’s mission began in 2003 with the provision of a single headquarters in Kabul alone, when no single country was willing to take on that task and it has gradually expanded to the north, west, south and east so that it now covers all of Afghanistan. Despite the perception that European allies are losing faith in the mission – indeed a serious concern – it is none the less the case that there are 5,000 more non-U.S. troops in Afghanistan this year than there were last year, and there are decent prospects that more European (likely French and British) troops will be pledged at the Bucharest summit and deployed later this spring.”
Stanley Kober, a research fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute. – “We’re now talking about NATO being in an existential crisis because of Afghanistan. It seems to me that before you make promises to other countries, we should be able to resolve the existential crisis first.”
The US defence expenditure alone for the fiscal year 2002 is $344 billion. Further, the correct equation is not between the expense of stationing troops in these new States and the current saving from non-deployment. The balance is between the expense of forward deployment or other military investment and the prohibitive cost in dollars and lives from a conflict between NATO and Russia, or a conflagration in any of the Eastern republics. NATO expansion is nothing more than a cost-effective insurance policy against a very real risk.
It is estimated that expense of ten years of protecting the borders of Eastern Europe are between $10 and $50 billion. Moreover, the bill for stationing forces permanently in the territory new Eastern European members would likely exceed $100 billion per decade. Given the fragile economies of the new republics, the existing NATO States will be obliged to absorb the expense of expansion. The proper question is whether the taxpayers of the US and Western European States wish to pay to protect citizens of distant republics from phantom threats.