Following a decision by Allied Foreign Ministers in December 1994,
the "why and how" of future admissions into the Alliance
was examined by the Allies during 1995. The result of this
examination, the "Study
on NATO Enlargement", was shared with interested Partner
countries in September 1995 and made public.
1995 - Defining the "Why And How" of NATO Enlargement
With regard to the "why" of NATO enlargement, the Study concluded that, with the end of the Cold War and the disappearance of the Warsaw Treaty Organisation, there is both a need and a unique opportunity to build an improved security architecture in the whole of the Euro-Atlantic area, without recreating dividing lines. NATO enlargement will be a further step towards the Alliance's basic goal of enhancing security and extending stability throughout the Euro-Atlantic area, complementing broader trends towards integration (notably the enlargement of the EU and WEU and the strengthening of the OSCE). Enlargement will threaten no one; NATO is and will remain a purely defensive Alliance whose fundamental purpose is to preserve peace in the Euro-Atlantic area and to provide security to its members.
The Study on NATO Enlargement further outlined that NATO enlargement will contribute to enhanced stability and security for all countries in the Euro-Atlantic area by encouraging and supporting democratic reforms, including civilian and democratic control over the military; fostering patterns and habits of cooperation, consultation and consensus building which characterise relations among present members of the Alliance; promoting good-neighbourly relations in the whole Euro-Atlantic area; increasing transparency in defence planning and military budgets and thus confidence among states; reinforcing the tendency toward integration and cooperation in Europe; strengthening the Alliance's ability to contribute to European and international security and to support peacekeeping activities under the UN or OSCE; and by strengthening and broadening the transatlantic partnership.
With regard to the "how" of enlargement, the Study on NATO Enlargement confirmed that, as in the past, any future extension of the Alliance's membership would be through accession of new member states to the North Atlantic Treaty in accordance with its Article 10. Once admitted, new members will enjoy all the rights and assume all obligations of membership under the Treaty; and will need to accept and conform with the principles, policies and procedures adopted by all members of the Alliance at the time that they join. The Study made clear that willingness and ability to meet such commitments, not only on paper but in practice, would be a critical factor in any decision to invite a country to join. Allies also wish to avoid a situation where a new member might "close the door" behind it to new admissions in the future by other countries which may also aspire to membership. States which have ethnic disputes or external territorial disputes, including irredentist claims, or internal jurisdictional disputes, must also settle those disputes in advance of accession, by peaceful means, in accordance with OSCE principles. The Study also stipulated that the ability of interested countries to contribute militarily to collective defence and to peacekeeping and other new missions of the Alliance would be a factor in deciding whether to invite them to join the Alliance. Ultimately, the Study concluded, Allies will decide by consensus whether to invite each new member to join, based on their judgment of whether doing so will contribute to security and stability in the North Atlantic area at the time such a decision is to be made No country outside the Alliance has a veto or 'droit de regard' over the process of enlargement or decisions relating to it.
In December 1995, Allied Foreign Ministers decided, on the basis of the Study on NATO Enlargement and Partner country reactions to it, that the next phase of the enlargement process would consist of three elements: intensified, individual dialogue with interested Partners; further consideration of what NATO must do internally to ensure that enlargement preserves the effectiveness of the Alliance; and further enhancement of the Partnership for Peace to help those interested Partners to prepare to assume the responsibilities of membership and to strengthen long-term partnership with others. In this latter regard, Ministers also expressed a particular interest in developing the Alliance's relations with, respectively, Russia and Ukraine.
1996-1997 - Towards the "Who And When" of Enlargement
During 1996 and 1997, a NATO Staff team conducted a series of individual dialogue sessions with delegations from 12 Partner countries interested in NATO membership. Most of these countries also took up the Alliance's offer of a "16+1" dialogue meeting with Allies during the Spring of 1997. The dialogue process allowed Partners to gain a fuller understanding of the rights and obligations of Alliance membership and to review their efforts in relation to the precepts and principles included in the Study on NATO Enlargement. NATO, in turn, was able to acquire a better appreciation of what individual Partners might or might not contribute to the Alliance.
As became clear during the dialogue process, the drive to join NATO has been a strong motivation for Partner countries to actively seek peaceful solutions to bilateral disputes with neighbouring countries. It has also encouraged efforts to strengthen domestic democratic reforms and, in particular, to establish sound civil-military relations and democratic control of armed forces.
It also became clear that the principles, policies and procedures reflected in the Study on NATO Enlargement were widely shared. By the beginning of 1997, all 12 participants in the dialogue process interested in NATO membership had clearly stated their desire for the earliest possible integration into the Alliance, including participation in its military structure and in Alliance collective defence planning. The individual dialogue sessions provided a useful opportunity to reiterate that the Alliance has no 'a priori' requirement for the stationing of Alliance troops or nuclear weapons on the territory of new member countries, as was made clear in the Study on Enlargement.
Through the dialogue process, NATO Military Authorities were also able to obtain detailed information on defence assets and capabilities of participating countries. Together with information obtained in the framework of Partnership for Peace and from published sources, this enabled them to analyse the military factors associated with the possible accession of each of the 12 Partner countries interested in NATO membership, in accordance with the request made by NATO Defence Ministers in December 1996.
In preparation for the discussion and decisions to be taken by Heads of State and Government at the July 1997 Madrid Summit as to which countries to invite to start accession talks with the Alliance, a comprehensive report was compiled. This brought together the analysis of the military and other relevant factors associated with the admission of new members, the results of the latest round of intensified dialogue sessions, information on the necessary adaptation of Alliance structures to integrate new members, as well as a plan for conducting accession talks.
The Madrid Summit represents a major milestone in the history of the Alliance, but by no means the end of the enlargement process. The Alliance remains open to further accessions in accordance with Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty.
The next steps in the enlargement process, following the decisions
taken at Madrid, involve accession preparations with those
prospective new member countries identified at the Summit,
leading to the signature by all NATO Allies of Accession
Protocols which will be subject to national ratification
procedures in each Alliance member country. Once the ratification
procedures are complete, prospective new members will
be invited, in accordance with their own national procedures,
to deposit their instrument of accession with the Government
of the United States of America. This accords with the
procedure laid down in Article
14 of the North Atlantic Treaty which identifies the
United States Government as the depositary of the Treaty.
The countries concerned then formally become members of
The Alliance aims to welcome new members into the Alliance by the time of its 50th anniversary in 1999. At the same time, it is determined to develop relations with all other Partner countries as well, whether they are interested in membership or not. This will include strengthening political consultation and practical cooperation in the context of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, developing more individualized cooperation under the enhanced Partnership for Peace, as well as giving substance to the specific arrangements agreed during the Spring of 1997 with Russia and Ukraine.