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Examining enlargement

Barry Adams reviews two recent books on NATO enlargement.

The British poet Alexander Pope once wrote that lovers "dream in courtship, but in wedlock wake". The same might be said of post-enlargement NATO at 19, at least according to Zoltan Barany. His The Future of NATO Expansion: Four Case Studies (Cambridge University Press, 2003) contains a litany of the shortcomings of NATO's new members - both current and prospective - and a plea to not repeat what the author considers the mistakes of the 1999 round of enlargement. With the accession of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia to the Washington Treaty on 29 March of this year, his plea fell on deaf ears.

The first post-Cold War round of enlargement was flawed, the University of Texas professor argues, because the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland had failed to fulfil the obligations required for membership, yet the Alliance accepted them anyway. Barany is even more critical of the four countries covered in his study: Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. And he laments their indulgence by NATO Headquarters. As a remedy Barany proposes among other things amending the Washington Treaty to include a procedure for expelling members who fail to meet their obligations. In this and other specific points relating to NATO policy, the author reveals a certain lack of familiarity with the official and especially unofficial workings of the Alliance.

Barany's methodology and research are in contrast solid. He states his approach clearly at the outset, first providing an excellent review of the most common arguments for and against enlargement, then defining the structure of the case studies. In this way, he seeks to examine the general conditions of each state reviewed (its domestic politics, economic performance and security situation); its campaign for NATO membership; the status of its civil-military relations; and that of its military reform. In this way, Barany elegantly and competently combines three otherwise separate research agendas: systemic transformation; domestic decision-making analysis; and defence reform. Such data fill a gap, since NATO - unlike the European Union - chooses not to publish annual progress reports on prospective members' standing.

Barany's meticulous research uses a wealth of interviews and documents and brings little-known details to light. Ironically, however, the more the author points his finger at the candidates' failure to adhere completely to their pre-accession obligations, the more obvious the positive impact of the enlargement process becomes. In this way, the reader learns that the desire for NATO membership played a critical role in preventing Slovakia's Vladimir Meciar from returning to power in 2002, in nudging Slovenia towards a more engaged stance in the Balkans, and in improving Romania's minority legislation. Moreover, Barany's belittling of new members' military capabilities rings hollow in light of recent developments, such as the scale of Poland's presence in Iraq, the Czech Republic's lead role in NATO's new anti-CBRN battalion, and the substantial contribution of all new Allies to NATO-led peacekeeping operations. Indeed, as Barany himself admits, most older Allies are unable to meet such benchmarks as three per cent GNP on defence spending. In measuring progress according to the letter of the law, he risks overlooking the revolutionary nature of the current Central and Eastern European transformation process and losing sight of the big picture.

Anatol Lieven and Dmitri Trenin's edited Ambivalent Neighbors, The EU, NATO and the Price of Membership, (Carnegie Endowment, 2003) takes a different approach. As Trenin, who like Lieven is from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, explains in his introductory comments, there is no longer any institutional alternative to an EU- and NATO-dominated Europe. In a post-Cold War period which produced no Marshall Plan or grand conference and where "bold wise people were nowhere to be seen", Western enlargement has become "the equivalent of the post-confrontational settlement". Through this conceptual filter Ambivalent Neighbors' contributors seek to reflect the perspectives and interests of all actors, from the European Union and NATO to the new members and those states still left out. Rather than simply re-tagging states with the existing concepts of "East" and "West", Trenin suggests the emergence among them of a new common identity, that of the "North". The central question of this volume then becomes how best to create this "North" and level its currently uneven terrain. Defining "Europe" according to the strict fulfilment of current EU and NATO membership criteria alone seems inadequate. Rather, the actors must develop a comprehensive and flexible vision of "Europe whole and free", if the established Western democracies are to tackle the difficult issues of the post-9/11 world and if those states currently left out are not to be abandoned to their daunting economic and political challenges.

As is all too often the case in compilations of essays by a disparate group of writers, the quality of the contributions is uneven. Worse still, several were clearly dated before the book was actually published. Nevertheless, there is more than enough interesting and stimulating material for any student of NATO enlargement.

Using the examples of both the first and second post-Cold War enlargement rounds, Karl-Heinz Kamp of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation offers insight into the workings of NATO. He depicts an essentially conservative organisation, reluctant to upset Russia by addressing the Baltic Republics' desire for membership. It took a combination of national and inner-organisational factors, he argues, to ensure the second round of enlargement. On the one hand, NATO's political heavyweights pushed the issue. On the other, NATO as a whole had to assess whether candidates had fulfilled commonly determined membership criteria. Kamp dedicates some time to Russia's opposition to Alliance enlargement and addresses - albeit sceptically - the issue of possible Russian membership of NATO. He also dismisses concerns about a loss of effectiveness for NATO with 26 plus members and stresses the need for the European Union and NATO to coordinate their enlargement policies.

Three authors depict the situation of accession states. Zaneta Ozolina, a Latvian professor of international relations, describes the experience of the Baltic Republics, which were united after independence by their common Soviet legacy, even as they jockeyed for the best starting position for Europe. First tempted to take advantage of an economic position at the crossroads between East and West, the Baltic Republics re-oriented themselves more clearly towards the West after the 1998 Russian financial collapse. Politically the choice was clearer. It was dictated by their size, since the only way small states can influence "international processes is by joining larger groups or alliances of countries with roughly congruent goals". This necessity was offset by the desire of small states to maintain their cultural uniqueness and new-found sovereignty against what conservatives and nationalists considered the "dilution, corruption, or even destruction of the distinctive Baltic cultures as a result of their subversion in the vastly larger and richer European Union". These fears were not exactly allayed by the West's insistence that the Baltic Republics improve the status of their large Russian minorities and were further compounded by problems relating to privatisation, the region's backward agriculture and rural development.

As Christopher Bobinski, a magazine publisher and former Financial Times correspondent, writes, Poland's desire to join Western institutions was fuelled by a mix of security concerns, desire for economic development and clear cultural identity with Europe. It resulted in the initially overwhelming public support for membership, which was gradually to give way to a more critical, even sceptical stance. Bobinski contrasts the "discrete" NATO accession with EU negotiations, which were almost invariably conducted in an "atmosphere of open dispute over the conditions of membership and thus had a direct effect on the way the public viewed EU membership". Of almost equal impact was the changing perception of Western culture, which conservative groups came increasingly to view as "atheist and decadent". Bobinski also dedicates considerable time to the dynamics of membership and expresses his countrymen's misgivings towards recent developments, such as the greater integration of Russia in NATO post 9/11, the European Union's nascent ESDP and its plans to reform the Common Agricultural Policy. He aptly describes the phenomenon of new members' concerns as a "trap of their own making", since "The very act of their joining threatens to dilute those organisations and change them in such as way as to not permit them to deliver the same benefits in the future."

The contributions on those states currently without a clear perspective of membership provide some of the most controversial and insightful reading. Charles King of Georgetown University, Washington DC, looks at the obstacles on the way to the Euro-Atlantic integration of Romania and Moldova, a comparison which itself seems contrived, inasmuch as the two states differ greatly in their national identities, their attitudes towards Europe and in their actual level of integration. He tracks the partial erosion of Moldovan public support for the European Union and NATO since the early 1990s, as the country moved closer to Moscow. By contrast, Romanian support for the European Union and NATO remains unchanged, with three-quarters of the Romanian population desiring EU membership, half of them unconditionally, this despite Bucharest's consistent last-place ranking among EU candidates in Western European polls. As King notes: "Europeans have not been nearly as enthusiastic about Romania as Romania about them." He documents Western concerns about the country's political course, the radical nationalism of the Greater Romania Party and the treatment of minorities. King's conclusion that "Neither Romania nor Moldova will become members of the European Union any time soon", is dated and needs differentiation. Whereas Romania has since acceded to NATO and has a clear timetable for EU membership, Moldova seems lost in no-man's-land between the Russian-dominated Comonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the West.

Popular attitudes and policy are often at odds, Leonid Zaiko of the Belarusian think tank Strategy finds in his study of Belarus, among whose population he detects greater acceptance for democracy and free markets, the more the country's authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, seals it off from the West. Even so, the West must overcome negative associations from Belarus' tempestuous past and compete for influence with its mighty neighbour Russia, which has a considerable economic and media presence in the country. The result can be seen in a foreign policy with a clear leaning towards Russia, a tendency likely to be strengthened, Zaiko predicts, by the negative impact of EU enlargement on trade, travel and the political situation in Minsk. He concludes by warning that: "Ignoring Belarus, or simply writing it off as a failure, is a bad and dangerous policy".

Both Alexander Motyl of Rutgers University, New Jersey, and James Sherr of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst offer similar words of caution in their analysis of Ukraine's foreign policy. As in the case of Belarus, Motyl sees serious problems emerging from the effectual closing of the border to the West as a result of Poland's Schengen commitments. Moreover, he depicts the fear that "exclusion means deliverance to Russia", which has the advantage of more functional institutions, as well as an impressive arsenal of soft-power means. He goes on to paint three possible negative scenarios of Ukrainian development, if not given a perspective for membership in Western structures.

The costs of not integrating Ukraine is Sherr's starting point. He then goes on to compare the different approaches of the European Union and NATO towards partnership. For Sherr, the Alliance's partnership programme has tended to draw partners, including Ukraine, closer to Western institutions, while the European Union, less radically transformed by the end of the Cold War, "continues to apply an old model of enlargement" that could become a process of moving barriers eastwards. While the European Union still has no equivalent of NATO's cooperation programme, which achieved a remarkable total of 500 NATO-Ukraine events in 2000, he hopes that the European Union's increasing focus on security policy will change this. Switching to the domestic scene, Sherr notes that the Ukrainian population, though on the whole less negative in its attitudes than the Russian public, "is distinctly more sceptical towards NATO than the country's elite; whereas in Russia the elite is decidedly more critical of NATO than the population". Despite problems, 1999 witnessed the beginning of an intense phase of NATO-Ukraine cooperation centred around defence reform. Sherr provides an excellent analysis of this cooperation and calls on the West to maintain such channels of influence, while "taking Ukraine's European aspirations seriously".

No analysis of enlargement can be complete without Russia. Vladimir Baranovsky of Moscow's Institute of the World Economy and International Relations traces the changing mutual perceptions of "Europe" and Russia in his contribution. While stating clearly at the outset that Cold-War confrontation has been replaced by the necessity of cooperation, he notes that relations with the West are no longer characterised by the idealism of the early 1990s, but by ambiguity. Nonetheless, he sees "the pro-European arguments by and large more attractive for the majority of those involved in the debate because Russia is believed to have better chances in Europe than elsewhere to be accepted as a prominent actor". Baranovsky provides a balanced portrayal of the key milestones of NATO-Russia relations: Yeltsin's initial ambiguity towards enlargement; the subsequent formulation of a broad, if disparate Russian domestic consensus against it; the negotiations leading to the Founding Act of May 1997; and the impacts of NATO's 1999 Kosovo campaign. Regrettably, however, the analysis of President Vladimir Putin's pragmatic stance towards the Alliance does not include the most recent developments, such as the post 9/11 warming of NATO-Russia relations in the framework of the global war on terrorism and the NATO-Russia Council.

By now, the second post-Cold War round of NATO enlargement has already taken place. There are 26 Allies around the North Atlantic Council table and all 26 plus Russia work together in the NATO-Russia Council. Anyone present at the ceremony at which the flags of the seven new members were formally raised at NATO Headquarters for the first time will not be able to forget either the event itself or the raw emotions that accompanied it. For many present from the new member countries, that day represented the fruit of more than a decade of work. It was, however, also but the beginning of a very new chapter in both the history of those countries and the wider Euro-Atlantic area. If, to return to Pope's acerbic take on courtship and wedlock, membership may be compared to marriage, it is now up to the Allies, new and old, to make sure that it works.

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