by Alain Pellerin

Canadian Council for International Peace and Security (CCIPS)

14 February 1998


At the historic NATO's July Summit in Madrid, the Alliance leaders invited three former Warsaw Pact members-the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland-to start accession talks. Provided all sixteen NATO parliaments approve, the Alliance intends to admit these three countries at the April 1999 Washington Summit -the 50th anniversary of the Alliance.

NATO enlargement, primarily a German-USA initiative, is a process not a single event. The Madrid invitation is the first phase to that process-some would say the easiest phase. Nine other countries have applied and some of these are likely to be invited at the 1999 Summit. Indeed, NATO leaders confirmed that the Alliance remains open for any European country that meets NATO's standards for democracy and peaceful relations with its neighbours.

NATO enlargement is not an end in itself, but a means to build security and stability within the wider Europe. This vision of a stable and secure Europe, where NATO has a vital role to play, must also include Russia. North America and Russia cannot be disassociated from Europe; they are both extensions of Europe. How to get from where we are today to a Europe "whole and free" for the twenty-first century is the primary policy challenge facing NATO.


In its quest to remain relevant in a rapidly evolving situation, since the July 1990 London Summit, NATO has gone through a major internal and external transformation.

The year 1997 has been, for instance, a most extraordinary year for this new NATO. Within a few months, NATO invited three new members to begin accession negotiations, established new strategic relationships with Russia and Ukraine, created the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council (PJC)and a new Euro-Atlantic Cooperation Council (EAPC) with 44 partners, enhanced the PfP, gave higher profile to the Mediterranean dialogue, and undertook to review the Strategic Concept. In a sense the Alliance changed more during the 45 days from the signing of the NATO-Russia Founding Act in May to the Madrid Summit in July, than it had changed in the previous 45 years. These initiatives hardly suggest an Alliance in decline.

Notwithstanding its successful internal and external adaptation, the future character and identity of the new NATO will likely be one of the key issues in the forthcoming enlargement debate, in the months and years ahead. If, for instance, collective defence against an emerging military threat, such as a resurgent Russia, is NATO's main purpose then it's obvious that the very act of taking in former Soviet bloc countries, particularly the Baltic States and Ukraine, will exclude and alienate Russia. If, on the other hand, the goal is to promote stability and security among NATO members, in essence a cooperative security organization, then there should be no reason not to include Russia in the Alliance.


Despite the radical changes introduced by NATO since the 1991 Rome Summit, NATO enlargement is thus the most symbolic of this new NATO and the most problematic. If all goes well, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland will likely join NATO in April 1999. The reality, however, is that the enlargement debate will not end on the day these new members enter the Alliance.

Indeed the real debate may only be starting. What happens afterward will be a key determinant in concluding whether NATO enlargement succeeds in enhancing Europe's stability and security. After this initial enlargement wave, the Alliance will face a series of difficult options:

None of these scenarios are very attractive. The last one, notwithstanding all its drawbacks, may come to be seen as the least unattractive. The main advantage of this option being that Russia would not be excluded and hence alienated, as well, it would avoid the creation of dividing lines in Europe. On the other hand, with Russia as a member, the Alliance would be so fundamentally changed, that none of these arguments would be relevant. This option, however, would make China very uncomfortable, as NATO's security guarantees would stretch all the way to the Pacific.

Given the harsh facts of their history, it is understandable that several nations in Central and Eastern Europe are eager to join NATO. They want insurance that the past will not be repeated and reassurance that they are considered part of the Western community of nations, not of some antagonistic or potentially antagonistic "East."Both of these aspirations are reasonable and they merit our sympathetic attention. Whether the planned enlargement of NATO, to include, in the first phase, three countries of that region, is the most appropriate remedy, remains a subject of intense discussion.

NATO enlargement has generated a great deal of debate, particularly in the US, largely, thus far, among academics and former diplomats. Some argue that the enlargement issue is a low-cost, low-risk initiative which will reduce tensions, promote stability and improve the security environment throughout Europe. Others assert that the initiative is ill-conceived, ill-timed and above all, ill-suited to the realities of the post-Cold War, and will end up creating new dividing lines across Europe and alienate Russia. George Kennan, the noted American scholar, has argued that enlargement "would be the most fateful error of American policy in the whole post-Cold War era."

The reasoning on both sides of the enlargement issue is, on the whole, familiar and it is not my intention to "reopen" the debate at this late stage in the process.


The first enlargement wave may have been the single most critical decision taken at the Madrid Summit but it must not become the single issue of the future Euro-Atlantic security debate. Successful resolution of the following issues, in the months and years ahead, will be the key determinant in concluding whether the enlargement of NATO will enhance the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area:


Russia has been suffering from what can be described as the "Versailles Syndrome," which affected defeated Germany after the First World War. Moscow thinks it is the victim, with NATO taking advantage of its temporary difficulties. It feels isolated, humiliated and has had great difficulty in adjusting from its past superpower status to its post-Cold War situation.

Moscow's humiliation stems mainly from the major defeat sustained when it lost its two empires: the inner Soviet empire, contiguous to the Russian heartland, which had taken centuries to build; and the outer empire, acquired after 1945, consisting of the CEE satellites. Russia is in a state of "post-imperial" collapse.

In the spring of 1989, the political boundaries of the Soviet sphere extended to the Elbe River, in the heart of Germany. Before the end of 1991, these boundaries had changed to a greater extent than in the disastrous summer of 1941, following the Nazi invasion. Of Russia's major historical boundaries, only that in Siberia remains where it has been for the past several centuries. In the south, in the Caucasus, Russia's formal borders are today as they were at the beginning of the 19th century.

In Central Asia, Russia's borders are now roughly the same as those before the rapid imperial expansion that began in the region in the middle of the nineteenth century. More important still, are those borders that reflect the country's standing as a European great power. Russia's western state borders are now those of more than three centuries ago. The rapid disintegration of the Soviet empire means that some twenty-five million ethnic Russians now live outside Russia the "near abroad." From the foregoing, it is obvious that Russia has undergone traumatic changes in recent years. These changes must be factored into the current NATO enlargement debate.

For Russia, the goal is now to avoid being isolated from the West. NATO's primary goal, on the other hand, in expanding the Alliance, is to "enhance stability and security" in the whole Euro-Atlantic area. The two goals are not mutually exclusive. To achieve its goal, NATO, and the US in particular, must treat Russia as a valued and respected partner. The Allies should be guided by the principles which guided their predecessors in their dealings with vanquished Germany and Japan at the end of WWII: treat former enemies magnanimously.

A stable, open and prosperous Russia is in the long-term interests of the Alliance and Euro-Atlantic security. This is particularly so when, as is the case in Bosnia, Russian cooperation is essential to the successful management of non-Article V security issues in Europe, as well as in reaching agreements in the ongoing conventional and nuclear arms control negotiations, in countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction(WMD)-a serious risk to NATO's security and in ensuring the stability of the Caucasus and Central Asia .

NATO enlargement continues to be opposed across the entire Russian political spectrum. If not handled properly, it risks poisoning the relationship between Russia and the West for a long time. Russia will likely remember that the West exploited their country's temporary weakness to establish "hegemony"throughout CEE (the Caucasus and Central Asia). NATO could, therefore, become the 1990s equivalent of the Treaty of Versailles which sowed the seeds of revenge and an enormously destructive war. The central failure of Versailles lay in the fatal miscalculation of how to deal with a demoralized former enemy. That, above all, is the error the Alliance must not repeat.

Some key negative consequences could be: a rebirth of Russia's sphere of influence among the now independent states of the former Soviet Union, with a particularly negative impact on Ukraine and the Baltic States; a strengthening of the non-democratic opposition, which would undercut those who favour reforms and cooperation with the West; an unwelcome nationalistic influence on internal Russian politics; an intensification of the relationship between Russia and China, to avoid mutual isolation; the annulment of the NATO-Russia Founding Act; encouragement of a new militarism in Russia; and a resistance in the Duma to various arms control agreements.

NATO was slow to realize that its enlargement to the east would not be successful without the active participation of Russia in the development of a Euro-Atlantic security architecture. The "NATO- Russia Founding Act," signed in Paris on 27 May, marks the beginning of a better understanding of Russia's legitimate security concerns and should, hopefully, form the basis of an enduring NATO-Russia partnership. The signing of the Act does not mean, however, that a difference of policy and outlook between NATO and Russia will automatically disappear, particularly on the future enlargement of NATO.

A broader strategy toward Russia - separate from the NATO enlargement issue - reflecting political and economic issues, is also being pursued. The second facet of that partnership reflects political and economic initiatives to draw Russia into institutions such as the G-7, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The overall goal is to persuade Russia that the West is not intent on threatening or isolating it, but in welcoming it into a broader democratic and prosperous Europe.

If the aim of NATO enlargement is the enhancement of Europe's security and stability, Russia's legitimate security concerns need to be addressed satisfactorily. Given that the integration of Russia into the Euro-Atlantic security architecture is one of the most pressing problems facing NATO security planners in the aftermath of the Cold War, an enlargement that infringes further on the Russian sense of insecurity and isolation carries enormous risks.

The main task of Euro-Atlantic security planners, as we approach the twenty-first century, is to find a place for Russia as was done for Germany in the post-Second World War period.

New Members

New members will be joining a different Alliance from the one that existed during the Cold War. They will be joining a new NATO adapted to the twenty-first century. While this new NATO retains its core collective defence obligations and capabilities, it has also embraced new missions, moving away, on a day-to-day basis, from collective defence and resistance to armed attack to cooperative security missions of crisis management and peacekeeping. An important facet to this "softer" NATO approach to Euro-Atlantic security involves a deepened NATO-Russia cooperation, as seen from the recently agreed "NATO-Russia Founding Act." Many of the countries wishing to join, however, are looking at NATO in terms of what it has been in the twentieth century. They wish to join NATO for the "hard" security guarantees which in their view, best meet their historical security concerns vis-a-vis their Russian neighbour.

Enlargement under this scenario may be one of the Alliance's most serious challenges in the years ahead, these differing views could undercut its political and military cohesion and saddle NATO with a group of new members who could be out-of-step with current NATO thinking on Euro-Atlantic security, particularly on the need for the Alliance to have a closer cooperative relationship with Russia. Managing an Alliance that includes one set of difficult partners (Greece and Turkey, without the focus of the Cold War, are again quarreling publicly over Cyprus) is difficult enough, but if the new CEE members cannot overcome their historical anxiety toward Russia, the development of a consensus within the Alliance - traditionally its strength - may not be possible.

Reconciling the aspirations of the new members to a transformed NATO (which involves a strategic NATO-Russia relationship that in itself rekindles memories of Yalta) may be one of the Alliance's most serious long-term challenges.

Non-Invited Countries

The NATO enlargement debate has primarily focused on the countries to be offered membership in the first wave and on the type of "strategic relationship" that needs to be developed with Russia to make enlargement more palatable. Yet, equally important, is how the Alliance deals with countries left out of the first wave of enlargement.

Despite NATO's commitment to an open door policy concerning further accessions, the enlargement of NATO- unless Russia is eventually invited to join -will likely create new dividing lines in Europe. At a minimum, these will be institutional dividing lines. On the West side will be NATO members, current and new, who, under Article V of the Washington Treaty, will receive nuclear and conventional security guarantees. On the other side of that institutional line will be those European nations not invited to join the Alliance. This dividing line issue is, probably, one of the strongest arguments against enlargement.

Just as important in avoiding a division of Europe into a western "we" and a Russian-centred "they" will be the finding of ways to reassure the countries in between, particularly Ukraine and the Baltic States. As the enlargement process moves forward, NATO must dispel any fear that the nightmare of Yalta will be revisited.

Ukraine's future security orientation will have a critical impact on NATO enlargement. Although Ukraine has not yet shown an interest in joining NATO, it does not wish to become a forgotten gray zone between Russia and a new Western bloc.

Ukraine is in a position of weakness, being heavily reliant on the West for economic assistance. As well, Russia has three powerful levers: the close ties between Russian and Ukranian industries, Ukraine's dependence on Russian resources, such as oil and gas, and the presence of some twelve million native Russians (more than 20% of the population) within the borders of Ukraine. If Russia considers itself isolated from the Euro-Atlantic community, it may feel the need to strengthen its historical sphere of influence.

The same situation also applies to the Baltic States. The three Baltic States, which arguably still have the most to fear Russia are also the ones that NATO is the least likely to invite in the foreseeable future. The question of their membership poses enormous problems for which there are no obvious solutions. Inviting the Baltic States would exacerbate tensions with Russia. The Russians have made it clear that while they may have accepted, grudgingly, the addition of three central European countries to NATO, they would respond sharply if NATO were extended all the way to their borders, as would be the case if the Baltic States joined NATO. On the other hand, not inviting the Baltic States and Ukraine -should it wish to join- would send the signal to Moscow that these countries are isolated and subject to its influence.

Russia, therefore, will likely attempt to prevent future waves of enlargement, particularly if the Baltic States were being seriously considered. Thus both the non-invited countries and Moscow will try, in their different ways, to force NATO's hand and win the assurances they seek. Baltic States leaders have publicly stated, after the Madrid Summit, that their NATO membership is not a question of "whether" but rather "when." The Alliance will, therefore, have to walk a fine line between keeping open the possibility of further enlargements - which the Baltic States and Ukraine wish, lest they become permanent buffer zones between an enlarged NATO and Russia - and addressing the legitimate Russian security concerns.

If NATO is to achieve its post-Cold War goal of "stability and security" in the Euro-Atlantic area, it must formulate a clear strategy toward these countries, many of which are unstable democracies with struggling market economies, such as Bulgaria, Albania, Ukraine, and the Baltic States (particularly Latvia and Lithuania).

Developing a long-term strategy toward the non-invited countries is far from a side issue in the NATO enlargement debate; it is front and center. Over the next few years there will be no more visible barometer of the Alliance's priorities and leadership or lack thereof.

Mediterranean Security

As the Alliance prepares to take in three countries from Central and Northern Europe, defence planners say the gravest risks of future conflict spring from myriad forces of instability along NATO's southern flank. For that reason the enlargement of NATO to central and northern Europe for countries like Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, and Greece is not as high on their agenda as it is for Germany, for instance.

At the Madrid Summit, a large number of NATO countries promoted a "southern enlargement"to balance a "central enlargement"by taking in Romania and Slovenia. This French-led group argued that NATO should worry about the Mediterranean and the Balkans as well as Central Europe.


In the new post-Cold War strategic landscape, the Mediterranean and the Balkans have been transformed from a backwater of Euro-Atlantic security into an area of strategic importance to the Alliance. Any conflict in the region, whether triggered by strategic resources, such as oil or water, political revolutions or ethnic, historical, and religious rivalries, would have serious consequences for the Alliance.

As well, within a decade, if not sooner, it is likely that every capital in Southern Europe will be within range of ballistic missiles based in North Africa and the Middle East. The spread of long-range missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is of vital concern to the Euro-Atlantic community architecture.

NATO must, therefore, develop a focused and relevant Mediterranean policy, not only because security and stability in the region is closely linked to security in the whole of Europe, but also because issues such as the current Greece-Turkey imbroglio over Cyprus and Turkey's non-admission to the EU may derail NATO enlargement.


At the Madrid Summit, NATO leaders invited three countries to begin accession negotiations. The invitation is consequential. NATO's glue remains the commitment of its members to treat any attack on one, as an attack on all.

Will the electorate in NATO nations, particularly in the US, be willing to make security commitments to the three new members ( possibly more in the future) and at what price?

The protocols of accession, resulting from the consultations with the new members, were signed by NATO Foreign Ministers on 16 December. The process of formally enlarging the Alliance is not, however, a foregone conclusion. The ratification of these protocols, in 1998, could take up to one year in some NATO countries. The ratification process is easier in countries with parliamentary systems, such as Canada, where ratification involves the issuance of an Order-in-Council authorizing the Minister of Foreign Affairs to sign an instrument of acceptance of the protocols of accession, which Minister Axworthy did on 2 February ,without any parliamentary debate, I might add, making Canada the first country to ratify the enlargement of NATO. Support for the ratification may, on the other hand, be hard to mobilize in some NATO countries-France and Turkey come to mind-but particularly in the United States.

Adding new members to NATO will, in the United States, require ratification of the protocols of accession by a two-thirds vote from the Senate and approval by both Chambers of Congress for resources needed to carry out this initiative. The advice and consent of the Senate will take the form of a resolution of ratification. To this resolution will be appended a set of conditions, reservations and declarations by which the US Senate will establish the legal and political basis for American participation in the amended Treaty regime. This resolution is binding only on the US executive branch. But given the US role in the Alliance, the Senate's decisions will guide the formation of US policy to NATO for years to come. Their views on the ultimate political and territorial extent of the Alliance and on the relationship with Russia, for reasons already discussed in this paper, will be of particular interest.

In this vein, many key questions are likely to be raised by inquisitive US Senators and Representatives during the ratification process. These are likely to include: What will be the cost and will current and new members be ready to pay their share? Why are we still in Europe and what are we getting for it? Will enlargement really produce greater stability and security in the Euro-Atlantic area or will it create new political dividing lines? And by extension, why should the United States provide nuclear and conventional guarantees, when there is no clear and present Russia military threat to these countries? What will be the size and timing of further enlargements? Have we conceded too much to Russia?

The US Senate will take up the enlargement issue in the early Spring of 1998, about the same time the US Congress is likely to consider whether to support President Clinton's decision to keep US troops in Bosnia beyond the US self-imposed 30 June deadline. The two issues are separate and distinct theoretically, but as a practical matter they are intertwined.

European allies and Canada have indicated that if the US was to withdraw its forces from Bosnia, they would also withdraw their own forces. If the US Congress does not support President Clinton's decision and the Bosnian peace effort seems in danger of unraveling, this coincidence in timing could prove very unfortunate for the ratification process in the USA. The spectacle of a European retrenchment on Bosnia, coming at the moment of NATO enlargement, would strike the US Congressmen as a burden-sharing copt-out.


The Cold War has indeed melted away, and taken with it NATO's primary mission to deter and defend against an attack on Western Europe. But the usefulness of the Alliance has endured. Indeed, its members have found it to be in their mutual interest to maintain the Alliance as it continues to perform several vital security functions, both external and internal, particularly the vital linkage of the United States and Canada to European security matters, and the promotion of transparency and trust between allies. As well, the Alliance collective approach to defence discourages the risky and expensive renationalization of defence in Europe and provides an adequate residual insurance against a resurgent Russia.

NATO has also adjusted well to the new Euro-Atlantic security environment and by doing so has demonstrated its ability to remain relevant. It has undertaken a major internal and external transformation since the 1990 London Summit. A key part of that adaptation process is the 1994 Brussels Summit decision to welcome the enlargement of the Alliance to Central and Eastern Europe.

NATO enlargement to three Central European countries may have been the most critical decision taken at the Madrid Summit but it is only the beginning of the process. The major problem is how to manage any enlargement of NATO without risking a return to a confrontational and divided Europe. In this vein, successful resolution of the outstanding issues identified in this paper, in the months and years ahead, will be the key determinant in concluding whether the enlargement of NATO will achieve its stated goal of enhancing stability and security in the Euro-Atlantic area.

To ensure this, NATO now needs a vision of its role in the next century as farsighted as the Marshall Plan was fifty years ago. The Alliance must design a long-term overarching strategic framework to bridge the gap between the likely admission of three new NATO members in 1999 and the distant goal of creating a twenty-first century Europe "whole and free."This vision, with NATO playing the leading role, must also include Russia.