Expanding NATO: The Case for Slovenia

By Hendrickson, Ryan C. | Parameters, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview

Expanding NATO: The Case for Slovenia


Hendrickson, Ryan C., Parameters


Since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization first formally raised the issue of expanding its membership in 1994, most of Central and Eastern Europe's new democracies have lobbied extensively for invitations into Europe's preeminent security alliance. In 1997 at the Madrid Summit, only three states--the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland--were offered invitations to join. They became full members in 1999. In 2000, nine states known as the "Vilnius Nine" came together in Vilnius, Lithuania, to promote their joint membership appeal. These states included Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Since that time the momentum for expansion has grown as Croatia has joined in the call for membership in NATO.

Although US President George W. Bush's Administration was quiet on the question of NATO's expansion in its first months in office, upon his first presidential trip to Europe in June 2001, Bush called for NATO's enlargement "from the Baltic to Black Sea." (1) Such robust appeals for expansion increased after the 11 September 2001 terrorist strikes on the United States.

Among all applicant states, Slovenia has been viewed by both politicians and analysts as the most likely candidate to be invited at NATO's forthcoming summit in Prague in November 2002. On 21 June 2000, US Senator Joe Biden remarked that Slovenia was "eminently qualified for NATO membership" and a "shoo-in in Prague." (2) On 31 May 2002, Senator George Voinovich similarly stated, "I do not know of any of the aspirants that are interested in NATO that [is] more qualified than Slovenia." (3) Thomas S. Szayna also argued in a recent study that Slovenia was the best prepared of all applicants for membership. (4) Such beliefs were echoed at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, in the summer of 2001. (5)

While Slovenia is known to many defense specialists and military experts, most Americans know little about this small European state, which has a land mass similar in size to New Jersey and a population of only two million people. This article attempts to bridge that gap by providing a political and military assessment of Slovenia's potential contributions to the alliance as a formal member-state. Such questions will become increasingly important to the parliaments of the NATO allies, and especially to the US Senate, once the eventual invitees undergo NATO's domestic ratification processes. Excellent research has already been conducted on the applicant states, but no widely available analysis on Slovenia includes the political changes that came with the 9/11 terrorist strikes, or the military adaptations that have continued in this aspiring NATO state in 2001 and 2002. (6)

In this article, the 1995 Study on NATO Enlargement will be used to assess Slovenia's ability to meet the alliance's political and military goals. These benchmarks for the applicants were refined in 1999 at the Washington Summit, but in no way guarantee an applicant's automatic acceptance into NATO if it meets the ostensible criteria. (7) These expectations, though, will undoubtedly be used by NATO and its constituents' legislatures to assess which states are ready for membership. This article also includes analysis of Slovenia's cooperation in the war on terrorism, a security challenge for NATO that became increasingly important after 9/11, and likely a crucial political variable to the US Senate in the ratification process. These findings suggest that Slovenia's membership in NATO serves the alliance's interest, especially due to its geographic location and its implemented military reforms. Recent domestic political developments in Slovenia, however, raise some concerns regarding public support for NATO and the alliance's broader mission in European security.

Slovenia voted for its independence from Yugoslavia on 13 December 1990. In a ten-day war that began on 25 June 1991, Slovenia fought and gained that independence from Yugoslavia and its dictator, Slobodan Milosevic. …

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