Viable Candidates: Michael Corgan Reviews the Future of NATO Expansion

By Corgan, Michael | Harvard International Review, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

Viable Candidates: Michael Corgan Reviews the Future of NATO Expansion


Corgan, Michael, Harvard International Review


The split between the United States and "Old" Europe over Iraq has had reverberations far beyond the chambers of the UN Security Council. The clash had a divisive impact on relations between NATO and the European Union, as well as within the organizations themselves. As NATO evolves from an organization centered on collective defense into one that focuses on collective security, and the European Union tries to achieve the last prerequisites of a sovereign state through the development of a Common Foreign and Security Policy, the rift created by the differences over Iraq undermines the overlapping interests of the two organizations in their efforts to adjust to the end of the bipolar order of the Cold War.

In November 2002, NATO invited seven countries to join the alliance--the same seven who were invited, along with three other states, to join the European Union. For both organizations, the addition of new members is vital to their continued growth and evolution, the analysis of which is the most significant contribution of Zoltan Barany's The Future of NATO Expansion: Four Case Studies. In his distinctive case studies of Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, and Bulgaria, Barany argues that these countries regard NATO membership as a prelude to joining the European Union. These countries, particularly Romania, are acquiring an additional significance as many in the US security establishment now believe they will be the sites to which the United States and Europe will redeploy forces currently in Germany and Italy.

The analysis of the domestic political, economic, and military situation in these countries during the period roughly from 1989 to the present is helpful to any student of Central and Eastern European affairs. Information on mid-rank countries outside the political and cultural centers of Western Europe is difficult to find for those who are not familiar with their languages, but Barany has used his broad knowledge of these languages to gain unmediated access to officials and gather his own data. Indeed, his argument for the selection of the case studies is that not only were they turned down for NATO membership in 1997, but that they are the "least studied" of all applicants for membership.

Barany notes that he was himself an opponent of the early round of post-Cold War expansion of NATO to the so-called Visegrad countries of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. The assimilation of these countries would unnecessarily provoke Russia, he reasoned, and the admitted countries would contribute little substantive military resources. They would be "free riders," likely to become sources of increased vulnerability for the alliance. Having changed his opinion on the matter, Barany has assembled the rare data by which the readiness of these four countries to join NATO can be assessed. Although Barany believes that membership should not be granted until the countries meet NATO's criteria for democracy, economic well-being, and military competence, he also notes that some of the charter members themselves may not yet have met these conditions.

After reviewing the arguments for and against expansion before the first round of negotiations took place, Barany lays out a clear framework for the study of each country, including domestic politics, relations with both NATO and Russia, civil-military relations, and the military situation. The first case study is Slovakia, the one Visegrad country that was initially omitted in the first round of expansion. Economic troubles, close relations with Russia even several years after the breakup of the Warsaw Pact, and resentment toward the NATO bombing campaign in Serbia all worked against its admission.

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Viable Candidates: Michael Corgan Reviews the Future of NATO Expansion
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