Mar. 11, 1997

"Implications of NATO Enlargement"

Address by

Ambassador Donald J. McConnell
NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General
For Political Affairs

It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to return to Greece, birthplace of democracy and a country I always enjoy visiting, to discuss with you some of the truly historic decisions facing European and north American leaders in the months ahead.

Truly we live in interesting times. The shape of Europe is changing before our eyes. We can't be sure yet what the new Europe will look 1ike ten or twenty years from now, but we can be sure it will be different from that which we knew over the past 40 years. It already is. The Berlin Wall has fallen. The Soviet Union has disappeared and 15 independent countries now occupy its space. The Cold War is over and the threat of a major conflagration in Europe has faded.

But dangers continue. From Bosnia to Chechnya, more Europeans have died violently from conflict in the last five years than in the entire 45 years of the Cold War. From Serbia to Belarus, reminders are appearing that Europe's democratic revolution is not complete. And the events next door to Greece in Albania in the last few days show us again the potential for dangerous instability.

The challenge, and the opportunity, of constructing a new Europe peaceful and undivided, whole and free, is before us. NATO is playing a major role in that effort and in my remarks today, I would like to describe to you briefly how NATO is addressing the important challenges before us.

You have seen from your program that the title of the subject I was asked to speak on was given as "The Implications of NATO Enlargement." The first thing I would say is that a mindset which looks at what is happening as "NATO Enlargement" is the wrong way of approaching the issue, even though that term has now gained popular currency.

"NATO enlargement" suggests NATO is moving east at the instigation of the present 16 NATO Allies. What is rather happening is that the countries of central and eastern Europe are moving West. Separated from Western European and Euro-Atlantic institutions for 40 years, these countries now have the freedom and opportunity to join institutions such as NATO, the European Union, and the Western European Union. Eleven have applied to join NATO, now 12 since in recent weeks Bulgaria has also announced its intention to apply.

NATO has always been an open institution. Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty says so, and this is not the first time NATO has taken in new members. Greece itself is one of the countries that joined after the founding of NATO and others came later, such as Germany and, in the last decade Spain. The opening of NATO to additional central and eastern European countries should thus be seen as what it is: a natural part of the wider process of European integration, a means of reinforcing in the new democracies the confidence in their destiny and responding to their sense of belonging.

Let me briefly summarize for you here we are in NATO in that process of opening to new members and then discuss what some, most notably Russia fear will be the negative implications of that process as opposed to what we at NATO see as a much more positive and hopeful vision of an undivided Europe which would include Russia playing a major role in a new cooperative security structure.

First the process itself. Contrary to what you may read in the newspapers every day, where it is said three countries are certain to be invited to join at the NATO summit in Madrid in July, and four or five are possible. NATO has taken no decision on which countries to invite. It is true the basic decision to proceed with the opening of NATO to new countries was taken at the 1994 NATO summit meeting and Foreign Ministers last December made clear at "one or more" countries would be invited to begin accession talks to join NATO at the summit meeting in Madrid on July 8-9.

Already there have taken place two rounds with each of the applicant countries of what is called the individual, intensified dialogue in which each country sits down with a NATO team and describes its internal situation, its reasons for wanting to join, its political and defense structures, and so on. NATO in turn explains the structure of the Alliance, how it operates, and the roles, rights and obligations of members. A third round of this intensified dialogue is about to begin shortly including, should countries request it a session of each applicant individually with all 16 NATO nations.

Internally NATO has tasked a variety of studies of the political, military and other implications of taking in additional members. The final decision of which countries will be invited to join -- and I would recall again that Ministers in December carefully chose the phrase "one or more Countries" in order to leave all options open-- is not expected to be taken until much closer to the Summit meeting in Madrid in July.

And that too. I would note, is not the end of the process, but only the formal beginning. In the months between July and the December ministerial meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers, there will be yet more intensified discussions with each country invited to join and a Protocol of Accession to the North Atlantic Treaty will be agreed. That Protocol, and the basic decision to invite one or more new members, must then be submitted to the Parliaments of the 16 NATO countries for formal ratification, a process which in some countries could take a year or more. That is why the target date for the formal accession of new NATO members is the spring of 1999, which happens also to be the 50th anniversary of NATO.

It is important to note that the process of preparation for membership in NATO and the other west European organisations is already exerting a powerful and very positive influence for stability in the region. With the incentive of possible membership, virtually all the countries interested in joining have speeded up their democratic reforms, accelerated efforts to strengthen market economies, and strengthened civilian control of the military. Most significantly, a number of long-festering inter-ethnic and cross-border disputes have been settled by Treaties or agreements. Hungary has settled its border and minority questions with Slovakia and Romania. Poland has reached across an old divide to create joint peacekeeping battalions with Ukraine and Lithuania. Romania and Ukraine have narrowed the differences between them, and hope to reach formal agreement later this year.

Of course not everyone sees the opening of NATO to central and eastern European countries as a positive development. Critics of the NATO decision to take in new members, including some distinguished analysts in the United - States and western Europe but most notably including the leadership in Russia, argue that NATO "expansion" would be the most catastrophic error of the last half century, creating new dividing lines in Europe, pushing Russia into a hostile reaction such as the refusal to ratify or observe arms control treaties, and potentially leading to a new Cold War and even the possibility of dangerous confrontation.

At the heart of all these criticisms is Russia, and the concern about the Russian reaction. Certainly the Russian leadership has steadfastly opposed NATO's expansion and continues to do so until today, even though they acknowledge Russia has no right of veto over the NATO decision.

The first thing to say in response is that NATO Allies recognize there can be no true security in Europe without Russia. That is why NATO is making a major effort to engage Russia in a new security structure which would include Russia as a major player and an integrated part of a new pattern of cooperation rather than confrontation. NATO has said as long ago as 1991 in its Security Concept that it does not view Russia as an adversary. NATO expansion is not aimed at Russia nor will it create new dividing lines in Europe unless Russia itself chooses its own exclusion and self-isolation.

NATO is making every effort possible to avoid that and instead to engage Russia in helping to create and to play a major role in a new Europe. At the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting in December, Allies designated NATO Secretary General Solana to negotiate with Russia a NATO-Russia Charter which would formalize the new cooperative security arrangement we hope to bring about. The third round of negotiations took place just last weekend in Moscow with Foreign Minister Primakov and several rounds of working-level talks have also taken place. Both sides have agreed that progress is being made, although differences remain.

Without going into the details of the negotiations, which of course must remain confidential, let me just state that NATO is cautiously optimistic that we will be able to find common ground ad reach agreement. A number of Russia's concerns have been publicly and consistently stated, such as the non-stationing of nuclear weapons by NATO on the territory of new members. In December NATO Foreign Ministers made an important declaration on his point by formally declaring NATO has no intention, no plans and no reason for such deployments. Indeed the trend over the past ten years has been in the opposite direction, with the reduction of NATO's nuclear arsenal by over 80 per cent.

NATO has also recently made a substantial move, which should address Russia's concerns about conventional weapons by introducing into the Conventional Forces in Europe, or CFE, negotiations in Vienna a proposal for substantial reductions and the updating of the CFE treaty to reflect the new security situation in Europe.

But I would argue that to look at NATO's opening to new members in terms of balance of forces or weapons levels is missing the point. That is "old-think" and we should open our minds to the new Europe where lines of division should no loner exist but rather new patterns of cooperation.

There too. Russia has latterly voiced concern that NATO's expansion is intended to exclude Russia from decision-making in the new Europe. Nothing could be further from the truth. Allies are making a truly extraordinary effort to include Russia in the circle of cooperation, and the evidence of that is what NATO is offering. In the NATO-Russia Charter I described, NATO is proposing the creation of a formal and permanent mechanism of consultation. A NATO-Russia Council would be established which would meet regularly to discuss political and security issues in Europe of common concern as well as to cooperate in practical terms in a number of areas. Where we could area, NATO and Russia would conceivably even take joint decisions and actions together. Bosnia has proved that NATO and Russia can cooperate successfully on critical matters such as peacekeeping in Europe. In sum, as U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright recently said, Russia would be given an important voice in European security issues, but not a veto in internal NATO decisions.

Let me close by noting that, although I have concentrated in the latter part of my remarks on Russia, because that is where the negative concerns about NATO's opening to new countries is centered, there is much more that could be said about the positive implications with respect to all the other countries of Europe. With Ukraine, for example, another country of critical importance to European security, NATO also hopes to negotiate a special relationship of cooperation formalized by a document to be agreed by the time of the Summit. Those NATO-applicant countries invited to join at Madrid in July will of course have their aspirations fulfilled. But what about the others who hope to Join but who will not be named in July. NATO has already made clear that NATO will remain an open institution in the future as in the past. Article 10 still applies and the door will remain open to future accessions. For these countries, but also for those who have no intention to join NATO at all --and this should be a free and sovereign right of each country to choose its own security arrangements as agreed by OSCE nations at the Lisbon summit in December-- NATO foresees a new pattern of cooperation through its enhanced Partnership for Peace program and the creation of a new Atlantic Partnership Council for multilateral cooperation and consultation.

In sum, NATO is striving for a future in Europe where, working together with the other major organizations such as the OSCE, the European Union, and the WEU, a network of cooperation can be established.

I think you will agree that NATO has set an ambitious agenda. The months ahead will see historic decisions being taken which will affect the lives of all of us and those of generations to come. NATO is well on track not only for the Summit in July but for our entry into the 21st century. President Clinton recently made an interesting comment, which I would repeat for you today. A child born today will have almost no memory of the 20th century. The children of the Euro-Atlantic community will have the chance to grow up in the 21st century knowing a very different Europe from that which we have experienced in the 20th century. As Secretary of State Albright recently observed, in that new Europe, they will know Checkpoint Charlie only as a museum and Yalta as just a provincial city in a sovereign and independent Ukraine. The children of the next century will come of age knowing a very different NATO-- one that masses its energies on behalf of a free and integrated Europe rather than massing its forces on the borders of a divided Europe. All this is possible. It is not guaranteed, by any means, nor a sure thing. But it is possible if we act now to strengthen the arrangements that have served half of Europe so well for so long and to extend them to new partners and allies in an effort to build a new Europe, peaceful and democratic, whole and free. Thank you.

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