2. NATO Expansion Questions

By Morrison, James W. | McNair Papers, April 1995 | Go to article overview

2. NATO Expansion Questions


Morrison, James W., McNair Papers


RECENT HISTORY

With the revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe beginning in 1989 and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, many public officials and private citizens in Central and Eastern Europe began expressing the desire for their countries to join NATO. The Visegrad states Poland, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia), and Hungary--were the first to press seriously for membership in NATO. Largely in response to this, NATO initiated an outreach program.

The efforts of CEE states to gain NATO membership and NATO's outreach responses to these have gone through a series of four stages (these are elaborated in the Europe chapter of Strategic Assessment 1995, published by NDU Press). (1)

In 1991, NATO created the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC), which has grown to 38 members and has an agreed work plan of political and security activities and cooperation.

When Russian President Boris Yeltsin visited Poland and the Czech Republic in August 1993, Polish President Walesa and the Czech leadership pressed Yeltsin and appeared to gain his acquiescence on the issue of Polish and Czech membership in NATO. Walesa and Yeltsin on 25 August issued a declaration that in part stated, "The presidents touched on the matter of Poland's intention to join NATO. President L. Walesa set forth Poland's well-known position on this issue, which was met with understanding by President B.N. Yeltsin. In the long term, such a decision taken by a sovereign Poland in the interests of overall European integration does not go against the interests of other states, including the interests of Russia." (2) Yeltsin reportedly told the press, "In the new Russian-Polish relations, there is no place for hegemony and diktat, the psychology of a 'big brother' and a 'little brother.'" (3)

After this statement, Polish Presidential spokesman Andrzej Drzycimski stated that "Now the West has no argument to say no to Poland. Until now the West has been using the argument 'We don't want to upset the Russians.' Now that is no longer a viable argument. Now we will see the true intentions of the West toward Poland." (4)

On 26 August in Prague, Yeltsin reportedly stated that Russia "has no right" to hinder the Czech Republic's joining of any organization, indicating that Moscow would not object to a possible accession to NATO by the Czech Republic. Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev at a meeting with his Czech counterpart reportedly pointed out that the Czech Republic is a sovereign state and that it has the right to join any organization it wishes to. (5)

About the same time, however, Russian officials were making cautionary remarks about NATO. The Warsaw press reported that on 23 August Kozyrev warned that if the countries of Eastern Europe joined NATO, the reactionary nationalist hardliners in Russia would be strengthened. He reportedly said that the East European countries should be friendly to both democratic Russia and democratic Western Europe including Germany, saying, "These states should not become a new 'little entente,' a buffer which could be crushed at any time, but should take on the role of a connecting link." (6) Russian Prime Minister Chemomyrdin, in remarks made to reporters sometime between 25 and 27 August apparently referring to NATO, called for an end to military blocs, suggesting that "blocs" should only be formed to promote joint economic goals. (7) After Yeltsin returned to Moscow, Russian government officials began speaking out against any NATO expansion that included Central and East European states and not Russia.

In the fall of 1993, Yeltsin wrote a letter to key Western leaders opposing NATO's admission of East European countries. According to the text of this letter as carried in a Prague newspaper, Yeltsin indicated that the opposition and moderates in Russia would view NATO expansion as a "new kind of isolation" for Russia. He observed that the treaty on German unification bans deployment of foreign troops in the eastern leader of Germany; he assessed that the spirit of these stipulations "rules out any possibility of a NATO expansion eastwards. …

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