A Win-win Solution for Enlarging NATO and the EU
by Ulf Terlinden and Otfried Nassauer
NATO holds a special Council meeting in Brussels on June 13, 2001. This meeting will be dominated by US-European quarrels over missile defenses, European defense integration and other controversial high profile issues. However, it is likely to also set the stage for informally opening the debate about NATO's next round of enlargement. By late 2002 the Alliance intends to announce which countries will be invited to join next. Current members have begun to silently argue for their favorite aspirants, the potential new members are in the process of lining up their lobby efforts. With all likelihood diverging national views and interests will force NATO's current members to forge a compromise, whose outcome will depend heavily on the influence they can execute in NATO.
This policy note suggests a different approach. NATO should opt for a strategy driven decision-making on its next round of enlargement. It should take into account how to most effectively share work with the European Union which is preparing for enlargement, too. Both NATO and the EU have unique capabilities to promote and strengthen stability. NATO's greatest strength is its capability to support stability by military means. The European Unions greatest strength is to promote stability by economic and political means. Thus both can make a unique contribution to a future cooperative European Security Architecture while following asymmetric strategies of enlargement. Within a stability oriented enlargement process:
NATO's strengths would be used best if the Alliance decides to enlarge into the area where it is needed most, the Balkans. Thus NATO should engage in developing a strategy of integrating some South Eastern European countries now and providing all others - including the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - with a perspective of future NATO membership. Thus the Alliance would strengthen its commitment to collective security, disillusion regional factions which hope to make gains from fighting additional wars and demonstrate the Alliance's long-term commitment to bringing peace and stability to the Balkans. NATO's efforts could effectively be supported as well as promoted by enhancing economic reconstruction via the Stability Pact championed by the EU.
The European Union would best play its strengths if it does not limit enlargement to NATO's new members, but also integrates the Baltic countries. Stability in the Baltics can be best served by economic and political integration, while integration into NATO could easily have destabilizing results by further alienating Russia from the West. Indirect security guarantees resulting from EU membership and bilateral ties between the Baltics and the US provide sufficient backup in the security field for the time being.
In addition, this asymmetric and stability oriented enlargement approach would serve the development of a cooperative future European Security Architecture. It could help to convince Russia that NATO is neither primarily interested in exploiting her current weaknesses by crossing "red lines" nor intends to strike at Moscow's vital national interests. To the opposite, it could buy time for Russia's relations with the West to recover and to allow her to become a regional strategic partner to both, the EU and NATO. Neither EU-enlargement to the Baltics nor NATO expansion to the Balkans violate vital Russian interests. If accomplished cooperatively, EU-enlargement to the Baltics can benefit both, the EU and Russia and thus strengthen EU-Russia cooperation. NATO-enlargement to the Balkans offers opportunities for intensified practical cooperation in stabilizing the troubled region, where both, NATO and Russia are already engaged.
To argue the case for a strategy oriented stability enlargement, this Policy Note will look at the coming debate on NATO enlargement, the risks involved in the conventional approach to it, present arguments in favor of the proposals made, and examine US and European perspectives.
At the Alliance's first Summit Meeting after taking in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, NATO heads of state and government stated in April 1999: "We direct that NATO Foreign Ministers keep the enlargement process, including the implementation of the Membership Action Plan, under continual review and report to us. We will review the process at our next Summit meeting which will be held no later than 2002." Preparations for that meeting, currently scheduled to take place in Prague by the end of 2002 will soon trigger a new intense debate over NATO's further expansion.
So far, most politicians and Alliance officials have confined themselves to general statements regarding NATO's "open door". Neither NATO's spring ministerial meetings nor the Alliance's Secretary General Lord Robertson have recently made substantive public arguments in this respect. Behind the scenes, pressure to address the next round of NATO enlargement is mounting. The new US government is developing its position on NATO enlargement. Some initial elements could be unveiled during President Bush's first trip to Europe in June . The subject is likely to be discussed by NATO Heads of State and Government for the first time during their special meeting in Brussels on June 13, 2001.
The question whether NATO should enlarge again has seemingly been answered before it is seriously posed. In line with NATO's "open door policy", the enlargement process is seen as a fact, and the effort of translating it into concrete initiatives and schedules has begun. Recent statements indicate that the Prague Summit in November 2002 will take the decision on the next candidates. According to Ronald Asmus, Senior Fellow of the influential Council on Foreign Relations, "the U.S. will not have to make any decision until early next year" but "the President will in all likelihood have to set the direction of future U.S. policy sometime next autumn" .
Until the Prague meeting NATO will be faced with the challenge of balancing its own strategic agenda, the interests of aspiring Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC), and - in particular - Russia's opposition to any further expansion of the Alliance. Having in mind the debate that accompanied NATO's first expansion, this process is likely to provoke renewed trouble for NATO-Russia-relations.
Voices from all quarters in Russia's elites have begun to utter their concern over another expansion. After a meeting in Brussels last week, Russia's Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov on June 8, 2001 reaffirmed Moscow's view that "[t]he expansion of NATO symbolizes the creation in Europe of a security structure in which Russia is not an equal participant. And this is a direct infringement of Russia's vitally important interests".
In fact, the evolving confrontation might become worse than the first round of dispute over this issue. Many Western politicians and senior advisors have recommended that NATO invites at least one of the Baltic States to join the Alliance . Such a step would likely cause an outcry in Moscow: The three Baltic States used to be part of the Soviet Union, and they continue to have a large Russian minority population. Russia has repeatedly signaled to the West that the Baltic states are beyond an imaginary "red line". While the Russian Federation might have eventually gotten used to the NATO membership of e.g. the Visegrad states, the accession of any of the Baltic states would be totally unacceptable to her.
Estonia and Latvia border the mainland of the Russian Federation, and after Lithuania's admission to NATO, Russia's Kaliningrad region would find itself encircled by NATO. As a consequence the "buffer zone" between NATO and Russia would be lost - a development that the Russian Federation with its desolate military could not welcome.
Russia's response to the NATO membership of the Baltic states is expected to be strong. Alexander Vershbow, the US-representative to NATO and future ambassador to Russia, recently warned that the Alliance should be prepared for another suspension of Russian cooperation with NATO . "Evidently, politicians of the Alliance should think again about the possible losses for the European community if, having chosen expansion, NATO ignores Russia's view," Sergey Ivanov (re-)mirrored such concerns.
Some members of the Duma have begun to issue rhetorical threats: Russia could turn Kaliningrad into an "unsinkable air-craft carrier" or revise her nuclear weapons targeting plan to include the Baltic countries in response to their accession to NATO .
Only one year and a half have passed since relations between Russia and NATO began to recover from the disruption caused by the Alliance's first enlargement and the Kosovo war. Another full-fledged confrontation over NATO's enlargement would ruin the little progress that has been made, further alienate Russia and weaken rather than strengthen European security.
In order to avoid such an enormous step back, this policy note proposes an alternative cause of action. It examines a NATO enlargement process which seeks to accommodate the contradicting interests and reduces the potential for new friction. Having in mind the implicit promises which accompany the Alliance's "Membership Action Plan" (MAP), and being aware that it will not be possible to ignore the CEEC's aspirations forever, it argues that NATO should concentrate on enlarging to the Southeast and postpone enlargement to the East, i.e. to the Baltics. NATO's next rounds of expansion should grant membership to some states on the war-torn Balkans and open up a membership perspective to all Balkan nations. NATO made its first move towards such a "stability enlargement" while trying to reassure Serbia's neighbors via security guarantees during the war over Kosovo. In April 1999, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana remarked: "[O]f course the security guarantee will be exactly the same as the guarantee that the NATO countries do have but the difference will be very slight. Any problem that those countries may have stemming from the presence of NATO troops on the ground will be taken with the utmost concern by the Alliance and therefore the response will be very strong and very rapid but of course, they are not members of NATO and article 5 would not apply to them but very close to that."  Since, NATO did not revoke this commitment and thus it could be build on.
A cautious enlargement process which successively issues invitations to Albania, Bosnia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, and the Former Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) would clearly demonstrate that NATO pursues its expansion and transformation not only to its own strategic benefit, but also to make a long-term commitment to stability and security in a region where these are actually at risk.
Thus NATO enlargement would become a tool to address the political situation in the wider Balkan region. By including these countries and their potential for conflict, NATO would signal to Moscow that it obtains further elements of collective security, and that the organization is less likely to become a threat to Russian security, both in the short term and in the long run.
Thereby, the "stability enlargement" would have two equally important dimensions: It would support the peace processes in the Balkans and by taking Russia's interests serious, it would simultaneously provide time and (to some extent) stable and reliable conditions to develop NATO-Russia relations.
Furthermore, Russia herself is engaged in the maintenance of security and stability in the Balkans. Both NATO's and Russia's forces are deployed in SFOR and KFOR, and will have to remain so for quite some time if they are to support peace in a sustainable manner. This offers an opportunity to combine NATO's further enlargement with an intensified cooperation between the Russian Federation and the North Atlantic Alliance. An invitation - perhaps together with the European Union - to Russia to jointly develop a new sub-regional security arrangement for the wider Balkans could provide a common political framework.
By simultaneously pursuing EU enlargement to the Baltics, this approach offers considerable opportunities for increased cooperation between Russia and the European Union, particularly in the economic sphere. Not only would such a step avoid confrontation, it could be combined with an offer to Russia for a cooperative approach to solving the problems of the Kaliningrad region by political and economic means.
The asymmetric enlargement process suggested could provide a strategy to the benefit of all parties involved. Instead of putting European Security at risk, it could result in the desperately needed push forward in NATO-Russia relations, support the further development of EU-Russia cooperation and have enormous positive side-effects for both the Balkans and the Baltics.
The US Perspective
The developing position of the United States will be decisive for the decision on NATO's next enlargement. With the transition to a Republican administration earlier this year, a fundamental foreign policy shift has been initiated. President Bush has not yet outlined the details of his policy on enlargement. And the shift of the US Senate to a Democratic majority could complicate the development of a clear-cut policy. Meanwhile, hard lobbying by the Baltic diaspora, embassies, the US defense industry and the "US Committee to expand NATO" is underway.
Although only the contours of the new US government policy are yet known to the public, there are a number of indications that the Bush Administration is unlikely to take Russia's interests into account. Administration officials repeatedly stressed that Russia cannot have a veto in NATO's decision-making on enlargement. They point out that all aspirant countries will be treated equally and that none of the European democracies shall be discriminated against for reasons of geography or history. This is an obvious reference to the Baltics, which border Russia and used to be part of the Soviet Union. Before his nomination as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs in the new US administration Peter W. Rodman has even claimed that "the political support that exists in the United States for a new round of NATO enlargement clearly includes the Baltic States" .
On this background, the "Stability Enlargement" to the South-East proposed here does not look very likely at a first glance. However, despite the US interest in the Baltics, there are a number of arguments which run counter to the current mainstream thinking.
First of all, the Balkan conflicts are the biggest challenge NATO is currently struggling with. The crises in Macedonia and Southern Serbia have painfully reminded the Alliance of the actual extent of this task and the risks associated. Some analysts have realized that NATO membership of Bulgaria and Romania could support the Alliance's efforts to stabilize the region, and that - in the words of Ronald Asmus - "the best exit strategy is an integration strategy" . Such an expansion would have to go beyond the two countries mentioned, demonstrating both a longer-term commitment on NATO's side and opening up a membership perspective for all Balkan nations, including war-torn Macedonia, Bosnia and the FRY. However, the mentioning of enlargement as a tool to stabilize the region shows a convergence of interests which could be explored further.
Secondly, the United States seem to be working on their relationship with Russia. Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's National Security Adviser, speaks of a "new security framework" in which the US would seek to build a constructive and realistic relationship with Russia. As a consequence, the US government itself could perceive Baltic enlargement and good relations to Russia as competing interests, should the current diplomatic initiative towards Russia be more than lipservice. It could therefore seek to pursue NATO enlargement in South-Eastern Europe rather than in the Baltics.
Although US moves to improve relations to Russia could merely be an attempt to appease the Russian Federation in her anger over NATO's next enlargement and a range of other issues, there are two motivations which could lead to (at least a temporary) change in mind in the United States. Demonstrating the ability to "manage the relationship with Russia properly" would enable President Bush to reduce his unilateralist image and to diminish doubts about his personal ability to act in international affairs .
Secondly, the US could aim at a more constructive relationship with Russia and seek to end her alienation from the West because there are growing problems between United States and China. The US may prefer to have Russia as a partner rather than as another adversary, should relations to China deteriorate further.
An enhanced cooperation in the Balkans would mean to improve relations between Russia and NATO in a location where they were disrupted through the Alliance's air strikes in 1999. It therefore represents an almost ideal setting for NATO to make a constructive move towards Russia.
If the US and if NATO were planning to work on their relations with Russia - either in general or to balance out her reservations against expansion - it would be wise to build on and expand further the existing successes of practical cooperation in the Balkans. Both sides regard these on-going peacekeeping efforts positive experiences  and there is potential for constructive exploration.
Nevertheless, in the long run the question of a NATO membership of Russia will have to be addressed. The Russians are disappointed by the non-committal nature of the consultations in the Permanent Joint Council. Though this institution is often praised by officials as a serious achievement, it merely represents a "talkshop" initiative effectively denying Russia a say in NATO's political matters. Aware of this frustration, an enlargement to the Southeast and intensified regional cooperation would still serve the perspective of Russia's potential NATO membership well - and far better than a short-sighted accession of the Baltics.
In the framework of a "stability enlargement" approach, substantive cooperation with Russia could be sought by initiating a new sub-regional security arrangement for the wider Balkans as mentioned above. The Balkan conflicts present a political sphere which so far is not part of the Washington Treaty commitments of NATO. This would make it easier for the Alliance to join into political agreements in which Russia and NATO jointly develop stability oriented initiatives. This could e.g. be piloted by jointly presenting a new initiative to the roundtables of the Stability Pact. Such an effort could follow the example of the sub-regional confidence and security building measures and arms control mechanisms which were developed in the OSCE context. In parallel to MAP activities, such efforts could also be means for the first new members in the region to promote security to the remaining candidates.
The European Perspective
From a European perspective, two main issues are on the agenda regarding NATO's aspirant countries: EU enlargement and the efforts in the context of the Stability Pact.
The group of EU aspirant countries differs from NATO's. The twelve countries currently under consideration involve NATO's three youngest members, the Baltic States, Slovakia and Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria, as well as Malta and Cyprus. Up to now, Macedonia, Albania, along with Croatia, Bosnia and the FRY are not under discussion for EU membership negotiations.
The enlargement of the European Union follows a clearer procedure and more objective criteria than NATO expansion. Among others, the economic situation in the individual countries plays a decisive role in the process. In the group aspiring NATO membership, the Baltic states, Slovakia and Slovenia have the best chances of joining the EU in the foreseeable future. Bulgaria's, Romania's and other South-Eastern European economies remain weak and fragile, compared to say Estonia's or Slovenia's.
The proposed enlargement of NATO to South-Eastern Europe could be complemented by an EU enlargement to the East. On the background that current South-Eastern Europe cannot be fully stabilized only by economic and other civilian means, NATO would be widened to provide stability militarily. The EU and others would continue to further economic development in these countries via the Stability Pact as long as a full integration cannot be pursued because their economies would not be capable to stand such a process.
In an asymmetrical move, the EU would enlarge to the East, including the Baltics. The Baltics thus would be stabilized and gain security via economic means, while the destabilizing effects of enlargement in the military realm of NATO would be avoided. This would also serve the European interests in strengthening ties with Russia in order to achieve more stability. Russia's relations to Europe and to Germany in particular, have improved since President Vladimir Putin took office. There are fears that this progress and the increasing EU-Russia cooperation would be undermined by renewed confrontation over a Baltic NATO membership.
By implementing the asymmetrical scenario proposed here, the Balkans and the Baltics would benefit and both institutions, NATO and the EU, would employ their respective and most effective strengths to each region.
It would also mean a differentiation regarding opportunities: While the economic opportunities in the Baltics (and Slovenia and Slovakia) could be explored to mutual benefit (markets and investments) through their accession to the EU, security in the Balkans could seriously benefit from an increased and long-term commitment by NATO and Russia. That is not to say that economic progress was not needed in the Balkans or that the Baltics would not continue to have an interest in NATO membership. However, the proposed scenario would take into account that an invitation of the Baltics into the North Atlantic Alliance would by all likelihood not improve their security situation, and that it could throw European security years back by provoking renewed trouble in respect to Russia. Likewise, EU enlargement to the Balkans would be postponed until their local economies would be capable to cope with European integration.
Meanwhile, the remaining desires would be answered in other, more appropriate ways. The Baltic states' security interests would be served by indirect guarantees resulting from both their membership in the European Union and their bilateral relations with the US. The economic needs of the Balkans, and their repercussions for the political situation in particular, would be met within the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe, championed by the EU, and the Stabilization and Association Process and accompanying programs for the time being. These seem to be more appropriate and realistic instruments than immediate membership negotiations with the European Union. These programs aim - inter alia - at preparing the countries in South-Eastern Europe for an EU membership perspective in the long run.
This could have the effect that the efforts of both organizations would complement each other in terms of their professional area of engagement and expertise.
Finally, it should not be overlooked that the prospect of NATO membership for the successor states of Yugoslavia could provide both a stumbling block to local factions seeking their gains from violent conflict and an additional incentive for peaceful conflict resolution and reconciliation between the ethnic groups and nations in the region.
The Aspirants' Perspective
There is a high degree of expectations regarding the next round of NATO enlargement among the elites and the political leadership of the Central and Eastern European aspirant countries. In part, this is a consequence of the range of cooperation programs which NATO has offered since the end of the Cold War. E.g., participation in the MAP is often perceived as a guarantee for a membership in NATO.
However, the internal debates on NATO candidacy have changed following Poland's, the Czech Republic's and Hungary's admission to NATO. Seemingly unlimited euphoria has given way to a more balanced and careful debate. This is a result of several developments: First, the EU's moves on the road to its enlargement have become much more concrete. There is a list of candidates, accession talks have begun and the debate about institutional reforms needed prior to EU expansion has been concluded. This development indirectly raises a question of priorities: Should CEEC direct their efforts at joining NATO or at joining EU? Which of these will be more beneficial?
This development is mixed with some degree of disillusion over NATO membership. The process of change in NATO's three new members has not accelerated much, not even in the military sector. No enormous improvements happen to be felt since NATO's new members themselves have to pay the bulk of the modernization costs.
And finally, the war over Kosovo clearly demonstrated what NATO's Study on Enlargement described as the "roles, risks, responsibilities, (...) and burdens of common security and collective defence" which new members would have to share . Hungary risked to be torn into the war, an experience which must have been noticed very consciously in other aspiring countries.
While the intention and expectation to join NATO will persist particularly in the Baltic countries, there is good reason to believe that an invitation into the EU as a first step would find acceptance. The postponement of their NATO membership would provide the Baltic states and Russia with time and political space to improve their relations. A trusted relationship could then serve as the basis for the Baltic's inclusion into NATO at a later point. Thus, an asymmetrical enlargement process of NATO and EU could be portrayed as a step on the way towards a Baltic dimension of NATO enlargement in the longer run. By inviting e.g. Bulgaria, Romania in the Southeast to join the Alliance, NATO would demonstrate that its door remains open.
A "Stability Enlargement" could mean a serious engagement in the interest of long-term European security. While the first round of Eastern expansion merely constituted a kind of simple and cheap enlargement with very limited commitments on NATO's side, the proposed scenario contains tough tasks for the Alliance. Picking up this challenge could also impress Russia to an extent that reduces her general opposition to NATO enlargement and increases her willingness to cooperate since the Balkan's stability is in Russia's interest, too.
In contrast to an expansion to the Baltic states, the admission of countries in South-Eastern Europe could be used to offer Russia a new and closer type of cooperation, not least because the Russian Federation herself is engaged in the region, but does not have vital interests here.
If this scenario of enlargement was presented to Russia as a confidence building measure, it would allow NATO to stick to its open door policy - which is particularly important for the perception by the CEEC - without jeopardizing its relations to Russia. It would also win NATO time to further develop its relationship with Russia.
The accession of the Baltic states to the European Union and the exploration of the resulting potential for economic cooperation could effectively turn these countries - which were a "hot spot" of European security during the early years after the Cold War - into an attractive model for the design of the future cooperative European Security Architecture.
In respect to the Balkan conflicts, a South-Eastern enlargement could guarantee a long-term engagement by NATO. This would help to ensure a more serious peace building effort instead of merely extending the "negative peace" which is currently maintained through NATO's military presence. Furthermore, it would support NATO's credibility and end speculations about the Alliance's withdrawal from the Balkans. This would also send a clear message to the Albanian factions which continue to threaten KFOR's mission and destabilize the Balkans.
During the coming debate on NATO enlargement, the presentation of the arguments exchanged publicly on and between either side of the Atlantic will by all likelihood differ from the approach which was chosen in this policy note. In the official discourse, the engagement and progress by aspirant countries in the context of the MAP is often referred to as the most important criterion in the decision on their future membership . The question of whether the inclusion of a country is in the "strategic interest" of NATO is frequently quoted as a crucial element in the decision-making process. However, arguments of this type often remain on a proclamatory level, covering up the "national interests" (policies) of individual NATO member states. Having said that, the scenarios published and the rhetoric which accompanies them will deserve critical examination. At the end of the day, the decision on successful enlargement candidates is likely to depend much more on politics, geopolitical rationale and on the weight of the NATO members promoting the more prudent enlargement strategy. Awareness for this situation could provide room to hold a more strategy-oriented debate on enlargement - an effort to which this policy note is intended to contribute.
Ulf Terlinden works as a researcher at BITS. Otfried Nassauer is the Director of BITS.
 AFP, 09.06.2001: Rumsfeld reassures Baltics on NATO membership bid.
 Asmus, Ronald: The State of the North Atlantic Alliance, Testimony before Subcommittee on European Affairs, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 27.02.2001. http://www.senate.gov/~foreign/testimony/wt_asmus_010228.txt (05.04.01).
 E.g. General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Commander of Allied Powers in Europe, stated on February 27, 2001 in his testimony before the US Senate's Committee on Foreign Affairs: "[I]t is my belief that NATO must invite new members, and these invitees must include a Baltic dimension of at least one Baltic country, perhaps more." http://www.senate.gov/~foreign/testimony/wt_clark_010228.txt (05.04.01). Similar statements have been made by Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, Peter W. Rodman, and a number of German members of parliament (Friedbert Pflüger, Peter Zumkley, Markus Meckel).
 Vershbow, Alexander: U.S. View of NATO Enlargement. Speech delivered at Fort McNair Conference, 12.04.2001. http://www.usembassy.it/file2001_04/alia/a1041204.htm (7.6.2001)
 See Sköld, Thomas/ Riggle, Sharon: NATO Enlargement: Embedding Nuclear Reliance. NATO Nuclear Series No.2, BASIC, Washington.
 Rodman, Peter W: U.S. Leadership and the Reform of Western Security Institutions: NATO Enlargement & ESDP. Paper presented at a conference of the German Foreign Policy Association (DGAP) in Berlin, 11.12.2000 http://www.nixoncenter.org/publications/articles/12_11_00Berlin.pdf (16.05.2001).
 Asmus (2001).
 Perlez, Jane and Frank Bruni: Bush Trip Aimed at Winning Over Europeans, New York Times 09.06.2001
 See e.g. AFP, 09.06.2001 and Vershbow (2001), p.4.
 For the period between 2000 and 2006, a budget of about 5,5 billion Euro has been envisaged for Bosnia, Macedonia, Croatia, Serbia and Albania, and an additional 6,2 billion Euro for Romania and Bulgaria. See "BERICHT über die Mitteilung der Kommission über den Stabilisierungs- und Assoziierungsprozeß für die Länder Südosteuropas, (KOM(1999) 235 - C5-0124/1999 - 1999/2126 (COS)), Ausschuß für auswärtige Angelegenheiten, Menschenrechte, gemeinsame Sicherheit und Verteidigungspolitik."
 Asmus (2001), Vershbow (2001).
BITS would like to thank the Ford Foundation for its generous support of our program on NATO-Russia-Relations.