Roadmap to NATO Accession: Preparing for Membership

By Simon, Jeffrey | Strategic Forum, October 2001 | Go to article overview

Roadmap to NATO Accession: Preparing for Membership


Simon, Jeffrey, Strategic Forum


A nation's effective integration into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an arduous, time-consuming, and resource-intensive task. The nine countries now aspiring to Alliance membership should heed the problems that Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have encountered since accession and redouble their efforts on defense integration and civil-military reforms in the Membership Action Plan (MAP) program.

During the past year, MAP has become a more versatile instrument for forging defense and civil-military reform. With further strengthening, the process will help not only to inform Alliance decisions on choosing new members at the 2002 Prague Summit but also to ease post-accession challenges for invitees.

Upon accession to the Alliance, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic were disqualified from important bilateral assistance programs as NATO shifted attention to the nine MAP partners. After the next round of invitations, the United States and NATO need to keep the new allies eligible for and engaged in assistance programs after accession.

The first MAP cycle (1999-2000) put NATO and its partners on a steep learning curve as they sought to implement a new and untested Annual National Plan program. This program, a core element in membership action planning, established standards but issued no assessments. In marked contrast, augmented NATO teams dealing with all aspects of MAP rationalized the planning process and generated real assessments that partners considered fair and frank during the second MAP cycle (2000-2001). MAP partners view the third cycle (2001-2002) progress reports as playing a critical role in the next enlargement decision.

Indeed, while allied governments will rely heavily on MAP performance to begin membership negotiations, NATO should link the date of actual accession to the completion of specific (to be determined) core requirements from each of the five chapters.

The MAP process has positively influenced the growth of interministerial coordination within MAP countries and enhanced international cooperation among those countries.

MAP has become an increasingly important tool for member governments to build public support for NATO as well as parliamentary support for necessary resources. NATO-related educational programs are necessary to help MAP partners implement public information strategies to build public opinion support for the Alliance.

NATO and the European Union need to make further efforts to help MAP members delineate the relationship between the two organizations because some partners are finding it difficult to establish priorities for NATO and the European Union.

Partnership for Peace

When NATO adopted the Partnership for Peace (PFP) program at the Brussels Summit in January 1994, few had any notion of how important and essential PFP would become. Many aspiring members were disappointed with PFP, perceiving it as a "policy for postponement" of NATO enlargement. In response to persistent pressures from partners to join, NATO produced a Study on NATO Enlargement in September 1995 that outlined Alliance expectations of new members. The study noted that

PFP would assist partners to undertake necessary defense management reforms [such as] transparent national defense planning, resource allocation and budgeting, appropriate legislation and parliamentary and public accountability. The PFP Planning and Review Process (PARP) and PFP exercises will introduce partners to collective defense planning and pave the way for more detailed operational planning.

After the December 1995 North Atlantic Council (NAC) Ministerial launched enhanced 16+1 dialogues with those partners interested in joining the Alliance, 12 partners expressed such an interest by early 1997. When the Madrid Summit invited Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic in July 1997, NATO reiterated its Open Door policy, strengthened the role of partners in PFP decisionmaking and planning, and adopted new terms of reference under the enhanced Partnership for Peace to broaden cooperation beyond peace enforcement operations. …

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