The Next Round of NATO Enlargement

By Simon, Jeffrey | Strategic Forum, October 2000 | Go to article overview

The Next Round of NATO Enlargement

Simon, Jeffrey, Strategic Forum

Key Points

The next administration will need to devise a policy on NATO enlargement in preparation for the 2002 summit meeting soon after it takes office.

Political, geostrategic, and technical factors will frame policy options on enlargement, though the shifting importance of these factors will likely influence any decision on enlarging the Alliance.

The political argument for maintaining enlargement momentum in order to demonstrate Alliance credibility and the geostrategic argument for a NATO land bridge gradually have become less persuasive as a result of the Kosovo conflict.

Four policy options exist, each with a different impact on the objective of enhancing stability and security beyond NATO and building a Europe whole and undivided.

If NATO were to extend no invitation, the credibility of Article 10 open door policy would be called into question. If it were to invite one or more countries for accession negotiations, momentum would be maintained but perhaps not sufficient development demonstrated to the excluded Membership Action Plan countries. And, if it invited all nine aspirants to join, it might temporarily remove unpleasant political pressure but incur substantial political and geostrategic costs in the future.

Barring political or geostrategic upheavals, the United States should support a 2002 Summit announcement that NATO will invite one or more new members at a future summit, perhaps in 2005 or 2006.


Since the revolutions of 1989-90 and the fall of the Berlin Wall, NATO has emerged as the backbone of Europe's security architecture. In response to the demands of outsiders for collaboration, NATO has consistently adhered to a strategy of inclusion to create a Europe whole and undivided. This was a conscious effort at the July 1990 London Summit, where NATO invited the Soviet Union and non-Soviet Warsaw Pact members "to establish regular diplomatic liaison with NATO," and at the November 1991 Rome Summit, where it launched the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) to include them. When the Soviet Union disintegrated in January 1992, NATO decided to include former Soviet republics in the NACC, thus attempting to ensure a Europe free and whole. The same strategy prevailed at the Brussels Summit in January 1994, which launched the Partnership for Peace (PFP) comprising members of NACC and those members of the Conference (now Organization) on Security and Cooperation in Europe that were able and willing to contribute. The July 1997 Madrid Summit decision to invite the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland to begin accession talks also was portrayed in terms of inclusion; the Alliance reaffirmed that it remained open to new members under Article 10, adding that "[N]o European democratic country. . . would be excluded from consideration."

The NATO Summit scheduled for 2002 will have enlargement on the agenda, not just because the April 1999 Washington Summit stated that the next summit would review the enlargement process, but also because the nine Membership Action Plan (MAP) foreign ministers launched a political initiative on May 18-19, 2000 in Vilnius, Lithuania, to remind the member states of NATO "to fulfill the promise of the Washington Summit to build a Europe whole and free ... [and] at the next NATO Summit in 2002 to invite our democracies to join NATO." This political initiative is to be followed by another gathering of the nine MAP defense ministers in Sofia in October 2000. In sum, although internal conditions may not yet be ripe for consensus on enlargement, NATO will be faced with increasing political pressures from the nine MAP aspirants, and a new U.S. administration will need to develop a policy on this issue well before 2002.

Framing Enlargement Policy

Political Factors The guiding principle behind all NATO activities with MAP partners is that all enlargement decisions remain political. …

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