Great Seal

Fact Sheet: NATO Adaptation/Enlargement

Prepared by the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs, February 12, 1997

Blue Bar

The NATO Alliance, reformed and enlarged to meet the security challenges of the 21st century, is a key element in the New Atlantic Community that Secretary Christopher described on September 6 in Stuttgart. The U.S. has led the way in building a new NATO by giving the Alliance capabilities for new missions; opening NATO's doors to Europe's emerging democracies; and forging a strong, cooperative relationship between NATO and Russia.

At the January 1994 Brussels summit, President Clinton initiated a process of NATO external and internal adaptation. This process will reach new milestones at the July 1997 summit. The U.S. expects the summit to agree on NATO's internal reforms, launch enlargement negotiations with one or more countries, and deepen NATO's partnership with Russia and other European states.

New Roles and Missions: Bosnia

The new NATO emerging from this process of internal and external adaptation is capable of meeting the security challenges of the 21st century. European and Atlantic systems will be intertwined to create a true security partnership. NATO will continue to enlarge both the scope and depth of its cooperation with all European nations.

Circumstances have already forced NATO to demonstrate its new capability, and the Alliance has proved its mettle. Bosnia encapsulates the new kind of challenge. IFOR has been a brilliant response, and the new NATO-led Stabilization Force--SFOR--is continuing to secure the peace. Under the NATO umbrella, Allies and former adversaries have joined together to conduct the most important and successful peacekeeping operation since World War II.

Internal Adaptation

In 1990, NATO began its adaptation from a Cold War institution to a modern instrument of North Atlantic and European security, revising strategy and restructuring force posture to reflect the changed European security environment and the disappearance of the Soviet threat. One major development has been NATO's decision to adapt its standards to the growing European capabilities in the security field. The June 1996 North Atlantic Council--NAC--Ministerial in Berlin took major steps to give Europeans a larger role within a single, flexible Alliance structure. NATO Foreign Ministers agreed that the European role--known as the European Security and Defense Identity--ESDI--would be developed within the Alliance. ESDI will permit creation of coherent military forces capable of cooperating under the political control and strategic direction of the exclusively European security organization, the Western European Union--WEU.

NATO experts are working on detailed terms through which NATO assets, such as logistics or headquarters units, could be made available to the WEU on a case-by-case basis, as well as the appropriate command arrangements to support and conduct operations under WEU leadership. When ready, these arrangements will allow Europeans and the WEU to conduct security operations by drawing upon some of the Alliance's unique military assets.

The Berlin Ministerial also agreed on the concept of Combined Joint Task Forces--CJTF--which is being developed in more detail by NATO's Military Committee. When implemented, this concept will provide the Alliance with more flexible and mobile forces and headquarters elements to be used, for example, in WEU-led operations or in missions including non-NATO countries.

External Adaptation: Partnership for Peace

President Clinton's initiative in January 1994 led the Alliance to reach out to non-member states and extend the zone of security and stability eastward in Europe. At his suggestion, NATO established the highly successful Partnership for Peace, a framework for practical cooperation with, currently, 27 Partners. PFP has become an integral part of the European security scene, helping young democracies restructure and establish democratic control of their military forces, develop transparency in defense planning and budgetary processes, operate effectively with Alliance forces, better understand collective defense planning, and learn new forms of military doctrine. The December NAC further strengthened the Partnership for Peace.

In September 1996, then-Secretary Christopher called for creation of an Atlantic Partnership Council--APC--to serve as a forum for consultations and cooperation between Allies and Partners on such issues as peacekeeping, peace enforcement, humanitarian and search and rescue missions, and PFP exercises. The APC will become a vital organ of Allied-Partner relations, giving Partners a greater voice in political consultation and planning of joint military activities. While PFP assists prospective members, it has become an institution in its own right which builds permanent cooperation among a large number of Partner states.


President Clinton's January 1994 initiative also launched a process of steady, transparent enlargement of the Alliance. In September 1995, NATO completed a study on the "how" and "why" of enlargement. During 1996, NATO and prospective new members engaged in intensified dialogue on potential accession to the Alliance.

At the December 1996 NAC, the Ministers called for a NATO summit to be held in July in Madrid. At that summit, one or more countries that want to join NATO will be invited to begin accession negotiations, with actual membership targeted for 1999--NATO's 50th anniversary. The U.S. has consistently stated that the first accession will not be the last and that the door to membership will remain open.

NATO enlargement is not directed against anyone, and it will not create new dividing lines. It will advance the security of everyone--NATO's old members, new members, and non-members alike. Enlargement will not be free of cost for the U.S. and current Allies or for new members, who must demonstrate that they are willing and able to shoulder the burdens and responsibilities of membership.

Special Relationships with NATO

A major U.S. goal is to integrate Russia into a stable European security system. The U.S., therefore, seeks a cooperative NATO-Russia relationship, which will strengthen the cooperative and consultative mechanisms between NATO and Russia. President Clinton has proposed concluding arrangements that permit NATO and Russia to consult broadly and act jointly when possible to meet new security challenges. NATO Secretary-General Solana is leading the efforts to develop this relationship.

Also, an independent, democratic, and stable Ukraine is another essential element of the New Atlantic Community. The U.S. is developing its own strategic partnership with Ukraine and supports the Alliance's efforts to enhance the NATO-Ukraine relationship.