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Part IV

The Process of NATO Enlargement

LTHOUGH HENRY KISSINGER and Ronald Asmus, among others, advocated NATO enlargement as early as 1991-1992,101 the Clinton administration initially took up the policy of the Bush administration. “The latter was marked by the prevalent view that an enlargement of NATO to include eastern Central European countries, would be a provocation for Moscow and was thus out of the question.”102 President Clinton initially followed this example, and thus the new administration began to discuss the problem in earnest in the autumn of 1993.103

The Clinton administration was divided over this issue. National Security Council (NSC) adviser Anthony Lake was most receptive to enlargement. Partly because the defense budget and the U.S. military presence in Europe had declined, the Pentagon opposed enlargement. Furthermore, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin considered that until the end of the century Russia would not become a military threat to other CEE countries. Although no one in the State Department called for the early accession of new NATO members, Secretary of State Warren Christopher favored the view stressed that the Alliance was open to new members if they fulfilled certain criteria. But then he accepted the arguments presented by Strobe Talbott in October 1993,104 which basically promoted the view that NATO’s expansion toward CEE would create new dividing lines in Europe, and fuel fears that the Alliance wanted to contain and isolate Russia.105 The Clinton Administration therefore came to the conclusion that a carefully weighed compromise had to be found between consideration for Russia’s position and the desire of CEE states to join NATO; and this compromise was the PFP.

Criticism of the PFP by, among others, still prominent voices such as Kissinger and Brzezinski, pressure from the “Polish-American Congress,” and the fact that the Republican-led Congress discovered that the issue of NATO enlargement was a welcome vehicle for criticizing the administration’s “Russia-first” policy pushed President Clinton to accelerate efforts to define the concept of NATO enlargement.106

After President Clinton’s remarks in July 1994 in Warsaw107 and the involvement of Richard Holbrooke108 in the enlargement debate in September 1994, the administration emphasized that the demand for a contribution to collective defense and for inter operability with NATO armed forces were criteria for early NATO membership. In addition, the acceding countries had to introduce democracy and establish a market economy and be willing to accept consensus decision making in NATO. There would be no rigid timetables; all applications for membership would be individually examined.109

On the German side, despite the fact that Defense Minister Ruhe repeatedly called for a discussion of NATO enlargement in the spring of 1993, the main concern was that moving quickly to expand the Alliance would trigger a backlash in Russia that would endanger European security. As German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel argued: “We cannot risk reviving East-West strategic rivalry. It would be tragic if reassuring some countries, we alarmed others.”110 “Chancellor Kohl, as always the stickler for political correctness, sometimes hinted that he supported the idea and sometimes regarded it as ‘premature’, depending on whom he was speaking to.”111 The German government was not pushing for the rapid expansion of the Alliance.

In this setting, in the run-up to the December 1994 ministerial meeting of the NAC, the United States proposed a six-to-eight-month study of enlargement. Germany, along with France, argued successfully in favor of a longer study and played a leading role in modifying the American proposal.112 NATO subsequently decided to study the questions of “why” and “how” before tackling the questions of “who” and “when.” Thus, the answers to the first two questions were set out in the Alliance’s September 1995 Study on NATO Enlargement—a document that laid out seven rationales for enlargement.113

The study reflected the summer 1995 debate on the long-term effects of NATO enlargement inside the U.S. administration. The administration hoped that the enlargement would have two effects: the consolidation of the new democracies and the prevention of big-power rivalries and spheres of influence in Europe.114 Talbott, now Deputy Secretary of State, considered that the prospect of NATO membership might push reforms further in CEE and that various border and minority conflicts might receive a peaceful settlement.115

Holbrooke tended to reflect the geopolitical perspective.116 The U.S. engagement would be necessary also in the future in order to assure stability and a balanced relationship between the CEE countries and to prevent the resurgence of historic rivalries. The possible spread of unrest and destruction from this region to Western Europe raised serious security concerns. Furthermore, the uncertainty there had repeatedly triggered aggressive behavior by the two big nations on the flanks of Central Europe, Germany and Russia.117

At least parts of the Administration, therefore, stick to the traditional logic which contends that Europe is threatened by old security dilemmas and rivalries if the USA fails to assume the leading role there. There is an unspoken underlying conviction that an unstable Europe has negative repercussions on the security and economy of the USA. A continuation of the policy of “benign hegemony,” therefore, seems expedient, in which the interests of other countries are incorporated into the definition of [America’s] own national interest. From this viewpoint, the enlargement of NATO is primarily attributable to the interest of the USA in a continuation of its role as a European power, not to any desire for the “neo-containment” of Russia.118

The study allowed the Germans once more to repeat the official rhetoric of the enlargement process. Arguments in favor of near-term enlargement honoring West’s moral responsibility to democratic European neighbors were combined with those against early enlargement as a reflection of the debates that took place in the traditional German classe politique. Thus, considerations such as projecting stability eastward, not allowing Russia a veto over NATO’s security arrangements, fulfilling the West’s moral responsibility to democratic European neighbors, and providing a framework for the long-term consolidation of democratization and free-market economic reform and for more effective resolution of minority and border disputes among CEE countries were opposed to the risks of provoking nationalist reactions in Russia and the paralysis of NATO’s decision-making abilities, the importation of new instabilities into the Alliance in the form of minority and border disputes, and the drawing of new dividing lines in Europe.119

Moreover, the official rhetoric also brought together, as any document of German foreign or security policy that involves the overlapping responsibilities of the ministries of foreign affairs and defense, as well as the pervasive overall responsibility of the Chancellor’s Office, the divergent positions among the Kohl-Kinkel-Ruhe troika.120

For Germany, integration of the CEE countries in Western security structures was the main aim. Thus, the study reflected Germany’s request not to regard the geographical enlargement of the security guarantee as an aim of enlargement, but as the result of membership121 and Germany’s interest in establishing a clear link between integration, stability and peaceful relations.122 This attitude, which represented generally far more grounds for skepticism than support, characterized also the analyses on NATO enlargement published by German experts in Britain and the United States.123 However, in NATO Europe Germany was probably the strongest proponent of enlargement.

It should be also noted that “the development of American policy with regard to NATO enlargement was strongly influenced by domestic policy aspects”124 in which pressure from the Congress played a major role. At least three factors were decisive in shaping the decision to formally invite the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland at the NATO summit in Madrid in July 1997 to begin accession talks with a view to signing protocols of accession in December 1997 and completing the ratification process in “time for membership to become effective by the 50th anniversary of the Washington Treaty in April 1999.”125

    First, Senator Richard Lugar and others expressed concern about the United States’s leadership role in Europe and the continued existence of NATO. His motto “out of area or out of business” encompassed NATO’s extension and the assumption of new tasks.

    Second, the surge for “neo-containment” had its influence. The call for NATO enlargement become louder following growing doubts in 1994 about Russia’s willingness to cooperate (especially the difficulties regarding the acceptance of the PFP initiative and the ratification of the SALT II Treaty).126

    Third, domestic politics and both presidential and congressional elections had their particular input. The Republicans wanted to dissociate themselves from Clinton’s “Russia first” policy and, at the same time, to win votes from the Americans of Polish, Czech and Hungarian origin. The prevention of a “second Yalta” became their favorite slogan, targeting especially “those sixteen states in which 6 to 18 percent of the population are of eastern Central European and Eastern European origin.”127

Taking into account the plurality of ideas in American political debates and the fact that there is often a high degree of congruence between public opinion and political decisions—not only in the field of foreign policy, but in the United States as a whole—the following overview might provide a more accurate picture of the NATO enlargement debate and its final result in the Congress:

Despite the lopsided 82-13 Senate vote in favor of ratification of the North Atlantic Treaty, the Truman administration faced opposition from three elements: isolationists, defense hawks, and liberal internationalists. This political triangle shows signs of forming again, possibly more potently that in 1949.128

On the German side, from the beginning there “has never been much open criticism or strong public opinion against the idea itself.”129 Acknowledging that NATO enlargement serves Germany’s political, strategic, and moral interests, the parliamentary groups of the ruling coalition parties (Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union—CDU/CSU Demokratische Union and Free Democratic Party-FDP) in the Bundestag, as well as those of the Social Democratic Party—SPD (notwithstanding a dissenting minority of pacifists), strongly supported enlargement. The Green Party Coalition ‘90 (with a strong anti-NATO history) was deeply split between the anti-NATO faction and the one that has seen enlargement as the lesser evil, while the only opposing party remained the Party of Democratic Socialism—PDS (the heir of the former Socialist Unity Party/Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands—SED).130

Thus, “German ratification of NATO enlargement is likely to give raise to little argument and be concluded by the early summer 1998, before parliament goes into recess and the heated phase of the national election campaign begins.”131



101. Ronald D. Asmus, “Germany and America: partners in leadership?” Survival, vol. XXXIII, no. 6, (November/December 1991), p. 563; and Henry Kissinger, “The Alliance Needs Renewal in a Changed World,” International Herald Tribune, 2 March 1992.

102. Peter Rudolf, “The USA and NATO Enlargement,” Aussenpolitik, vol. 47, no. 4 (1996), p. 1. Available [On line]: [http://www.isn.ethz.ch/au_pol/47_4/rudolf.htm]. [20 January 1998]. Admittedly, this was not stated publicly; the Bush administration maintained silence on the issue.

103. Goldgeier, pp. 87-88.

104. Then special adviser to the President on the successor states of the Soviet Union and a close friend of President Clinton.

105. Rudolf, p.1.

106. Ibid., p. 2.

107. For President Clinton’s exchange with reporters in Warsaw after meeting with President Lech Walesa in July 1994, see William J. Clinton, Public Papers (1994), p. 1206.

108. Talbott encouraged Christopher to bring Holbrooke back from his post as ambassador to Germany to be Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs in summer 1994, both to fix the Bosnia policy and to work on NATO enlargement. Goldgeier, p. 96.

109. Speech by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry during the Wehrkundetagung conference in Munich, in U.S. Policy Information and Texts, 12 (2 July 1995), pp. 10-14.

110. Klaus Kinkel, “NATO Requires a Bold But Balanced Response to the East,” International Herald Tribune, 21 October 1993.

111. Eyal, p. 704.

112. Michael E. Brown, “The Flawed Logic of NATO Enlargement,” in Philip H. Gordon, ed., NATO’s Transformation: The Changing Shape of the Atlantic Alliance (London: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1997), p. 127.

113. See Study on NATO Enlargement, par. 3.

114. Warren Christopher, “America’s Leadership, America’s Opportunity,” Foreign Policy, vol. 98 (Spring 1995), pp. 6-27.

115. Strobe Talbott, “Why NATO Should Grow,” The New York Review of Books, 10 August 1995, pp. 27-30.

116. Talbot encouraged Christopher to bring Holbrooke back from his post as ambassador to Germany to be Assistant Secretary of State for European affairs in summer 1994, both to fix the Bosnia policy and to work on NATO enlargement. Goldgeier, p. 96.

117. Richard Holbrooke, “America, a European Power,” in Foreign Affairs, vol. 74, no. 2 (March/April 1995), pp. 38-51.

118. Rudolf, p. 3.

119. See Karsten Voigt, "The Enlargement of the Alliance," Draft Special Report of the Working Group on NATO Enlargement, North Atlantic Assembly, November 1994.

120. Usually the party coalition politics in Germany led to positions characterized by less than total coherence and by mild to serious discord. For a complete analysis of the different profiles of Kohl, Kinkel and Ruhe see Roger Morgan, “Foreign Policy and Domestic Policy,” in Bertel Heurlin, ed., Germany and Europe in the Nineties (London: Macmillan Press Ltd., 1996), pp. 152-178.

121. This was an attempt to remove as far as possible Russian fears of enlargement.

122. de Wijk, p. 91. In this way the importance of NATO’s internal pacifying function was stressed.

123. See Holger M. Mey, “New Members—New Mission: The Real Issues Behind the New NATO Debate," Comparative Strategy, vol. 13, no. 2 (April/June 1994), Karl-Heinz Kamp, “The Folly of Rapid NATO Expansion,” Foreign Policy, no. 98 (Spring 1995); and Josef Joffe, “Is There Life After Victory? What NATO Can Do, “ The National Interest (Fall 1995).

124. Rudolf, p. 4.

125. Madrid Declaration on Euro-Atlantic Security and Cooperation, published at the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Madrid, 8 July 1997, par. 6.

126. The anti-Russian motive was strongly voiced by the conservative Republican Jesse Helms, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

127. Rudolf, p. 3. This was reflected, among others, in the new version of the National Security Revitalization Act (H.R. 7) adopted by the House of Representatives in February 1985, which includes (as Title VI) the NATO Expansion Act of 1995; the NATO Participation Act (adopted by the Congress on 2 November 1994); the draft version of the NATO Participation Act Amendments of 1995; and, the NATO Enlargement Facilitation Act of 1996.

128. Jeremy D. Rosner, “NATO Enlargement’s American Hurdle,” Foreign Affairs, vol. 75 (July/August 1996), pp. 14-15. In March 1997, Mr. Rosner became the special adviser to the President and to the Secretary of State for NATO Enlargement Ratification.

129. Kamp and Weilemann, p. 4.

130. Ibid.

131. Ibid., p. 3.


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