The New NATO: Why and How?
A Czech View
Czech Republic First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexandr Vondra

Few places are as suitable as Dresden for discussing the significance of the Atlantic Alliance and its enlargement. Once a commercial and cultural crossroads, later beset by wartime hardships and subsequent communist-rule decay, Dresden today symbolizes the positive effects of political, economic, and cultural freedom.

When, along with the former German Democratic Republic, Dresden became part of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Alliance's eastern border extended to less than 100 kilometers from Prague. No one in my country perceived this change as a serious threat. On the contrary, the government of the former Czechoslovakia explicitly supported NATO membership of the newly united Germany as a significant step toward stability in Europe. There was no need to fear an enlarged NATO. For a long time, however, enlargement was not even part of the agenda.

In December 1994, the United States--despite hesitations by its Western European allies--put through in the North Atlantic Council the first declaration to state that "NATO will expand."At the same time, NATO announced that a study of "how" and "why" the Alliance should be enlarged was to be prepared in 1995. The legitimacy of asking "how" NATO should expand is indisputable. But asking "why"it should expand after declaring it will expand is puzzling. Why does the Alliance declare an objective and then start seeking its justification? What could better illustrate its reluctance to seek a new European order?


Those who cast doubt on NATO's continuing existence and on the purpose of its enlargement mainly employ two arguments. One is the loss of a clearly defined enemy; the other is the alleged failure of the Alliance in Bosnia. Let me briefly analyze both arguments.

The Loss of a Clearly Defined Enemy Argument. First, it is true that the Alliance's main political mission over the last 40 years has been to contain the communist threat and Soviet expansion; it is also true that this threat disappeared with the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union. But containing communism was not the only mission of the Alliance. The 1949 Washington Treaty does not even explicitly refer to it. On the contrary, the collective self-defense treaty, pursuant to Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, specifically refers to the need to safeguard freedom, common heritage, and Western civilization and to promote stability, peace, and security in the North Atlantic area.

Therefore, common purposes, just as much as common fears, have provided cohesion and cooperation in the Atlantic Alliance area. NATO has been and shall remain the guarantor of transatlantic bonds, which are in the vital interest of both Europe and America. NATO also has been  and shall remain the environment in which European integration will flourish. NATO has been and shall remain the efficient force that prevents any single European power from playing a power game with Russia, the country incapable of full integration into the European Union. And, last but not least, in our continually growing complex world, NATO will prevent open antagonism among the major global power centers. In summary, there are many reasons why the transatlantic community should stop worrying about defining its main enemy and instead set about enhancing further cooperation. The project of the North Atlantic Free Trade Area might serve as the best example.

The Alleged Failure of the Alliance in Bosnia. Second, it is not true that the Balkan crisis means that the Alliance has failed. Instead, disintegration of the former Yugoslavia and the Bosnian tragedy mean that Balkan politicians have failed--politicians driven by self-preservation, who lack respect for anything, and who have exchanged their red membership cards for national flags. The Balkan crisis is also the result of the haphazard and unprincipled policy of many other states, including NATO members and their Partners. Those of us who insisted on the integrity of Yugoslavia (which, after Tito's death, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and the discreditation of communism has lost its raison d'être) but were not interested enough to sacrifice more than words for its preservation, made a mistake. Those of us who, rejoicing over regained freedom or the so-called right to self-determination, poured oil onto the flames, made a mistake as well. Once more, they did it without being able or willing to sacrifice more than words. And those who, at the time when peace enforcement was still feasible, kept arguing about the future of the European security architecture, made a mistake too.

Nevertheless, all of these failures have nothing to do with the Alliance, which is by definition only an organization for the collective defense of its members. The one-time discussion about "out of area" deployments was an intellectual construction created in the euphoria over the success in the Gulf War, as opposed to the growing helplessness in the Balkans. Of course, NATO can provide technical equipment for use by the U.N. if the U.N. agrees. It can provide protection for the servicemen from member-countries serving under the UNPROFOR flag. But that is all. Therefore the December 1994 session of the North Atlantic Council, for fear of internal discord, could do nothing but wisely refrain from discussing the Bosnian crisis and, instead, focus on the enlargement of the Alliance.


Why should NATO be enlarged? The Czech Republic believes it should be enlarged because, in the past, NATO has justified itself as an organization that can guarantee transatlantic bonds; because NATO does not and never shall lose its purpose (despite the current absence of a clearly defined enemy); because NATO protects only its members from external threat; because the Czech people want to share in the responsibility for safeguarding stability and security in the transatlantic area; because we advocate the same values and are willing to defend them; because we are convinced that it is more effective and cheaper to guarantee security in cooperation with others; and because, having learned a lesson from history, we regard the stabilization of Central Europe as the task of our time, and as the precondition for stability in all of Europe.

The power vacuum between Germany and Russia has been and continues to be a key risk factor "par excellence." It has remained so despite the fact that the principal risk is no longer represented by a concrete enemy, but by the general unpredictability of future developments. And this unpredictability is the challenge that the Euro-American community is facing when trying to formulate a future coherent strategy.

Let us therefore keep in mind, as we discuss how NATO should be enlarged, the crucial position of Central Europe. In principle, there are three possible paths toward enlargement: evolutionary,  reactive, and stability-promoting.

The Evolutionary Path. The evolutionary scenario is based on a "European Union first" strategy, also called the "royal way." While this path would be relatively problem-free and inexpensive, it would not solve the dilemmas of the Central European space. It would link stability in Central Europe with the dubious future of negotiations on the Common Agricultural Policy and reform of European institutions. It would also gradually marginalize the role of the Alliance in European policy, resulting in the potential abandonment of the principles of collective defense for the vague principles of cooperative security.

The Reactive Path. The reactive scenario is based on the "Russia first" or, at best, "Wait and see" strategy. This scenario would be primarily conflict-free and hold regard for Russia's position in global politics, but it too would fail to solve Central Europe's dilemmas and might increase them by indirectly inviting Russia to be the first to move. While the West waited and looked on, Russia would assert its influence. This approach would open the door to the disintegration of the West, and indirectly strengthen and integrate Russia.

The Stability-Promoting Path. The stability-promoting scenario gives preference to the "NATO first" option. It supports the conviction that Central Europe must be anchored and stabilized with U.S. assistance. While this approach would be both financially and politically more demanding, it would not needlessly provoke Russia and would preserve Alliance cohesion and flexibility. This  approach would also take into account the vital interest of the Alliance itself, that is, to confirm its viability and significant position in the future formation of transatlantic and European security. Last but not least, it would offer a clear and active answer to the dilemmas of the Central European region. I am confident that two countries at least--Poland and the Czech Republic--welcome this approach and are also able to support it.


Much attention has been paid to the impact the enlargement of NATO would have on countries that will not be among the first to join the Alliance, on those that will wait a long time for admission, and on those that will never be admitted. Russia plays a pivotal role in all such considerations. It is in the best interest of the West and Russia therefore to avoid Russia's isolation and to keep the door open to strategic cooperation between them. The U.S. Administration has been following this dual strategy in Central Europe and Russia.

In this regard, it is worthwhile to mention the last ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Council and NACC that took place in Noordwijk in late May. The meeting's most important result was that Russia would join the Partnership for Peace program and accept NATO's offer of enhanced dialogue. In doing so, Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev reversed what he did in December 1994 when he rejected both offers on the grounds that his country disapproved of NATO's enlargement.

Why did Russia eventually accept NATO's offer? Did the Moscow Summit convince it that more may be gained by cooperation than confrontation with the West? The answer is unclear. Although Andrei Kozyrev accepted NATO's offer, he once again voiced his stance against enlargement. Many people were astonished by this attitude, but it is difficult to find a single rational reason why Russia would rejoice over NATO's enlargement. Such an enlargement would be inconsistent with all of Russia's state interests. It is far better for Russia to have small states for neighbors than the most powerful alliance in the world.

The strategic objectives of the West are to integrate the countries of Central and Eastern Europe into NATO and the European Union, and to engage in strategic cooperation with Russia. On the other hand, Russia's objectives are to prevent the enlargement of NATO, to reassert its influence in "the near abroad," and to become a fully qualified Partner in the "concert of nations." The protocol and seating arrangements at the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow in May symbolized these objectives very well: the G-7 members and the permanent members of the Security Council were placed in the center, while the other heads of states sat with Russian officers and their wives.

Russia has no reason to change its negative attitude toward enlargement. It wishes to gain enough time to restore its political and economic strength and strategic importance. Within a few years' time, Russia will probably be more stable and stronger than it is today. So, why should it surrender the positions it has already achieved? Moscow applies this approach to former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries and also to Finland and Austria, which were both forced into a special status by the USSR after World War II. Their current attempts to change this status are encountering opposition from one single country--Russia. As Minister Kozyrev stated at the last NACC session, serious consideration should be given to the idea of common security guarantees being granted by the West and Russia to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, but so far not a single country in this region has requested that Russia provide them.


Today's reality should warn us. While NATO members are engaged in complicated discussions about their own future and slowly prepare their study on enlargement, another form of real and dynamic enlargement is well underway in the East. How else can one perceive the Tashkent Pact; the agreements on the activities of Russian Secret Service agents in some CIS countries; the agreements on Russian military bases in Belarus, Ukraine, and Georgia; and the agreement on common border defense of the CIS? The states of Central and Eastern Europe continue to declare their intention to join the European Union and possibly NATO, yet there is an increasing number of examples that "pro-Western policy" has started to recede in some countries and is being replaced by a sort of new "Eastern policy." For example, the Bulgarian Prime Minister, during a recent visit by his Russian counterpart, did not hesitate to deny his country's intention to join NATO. There is also talk about the need to transform NATO into a loose collective security system, something like another ineffective OSCE.


Who then wishes to join or, more accurately, will be admitted to NATO? Any candidate must have a consistent and continuous policy and demonstrate a lasting and continuous willingness (for at least two election periods) to join the Alliance, supported by decisive political forces. The group of such countries is smaller than many people might imagine. All candidates must also be states that present NATO members wish to admit and that will not jeopardize the functionality of NATO as a whole.

The Czech Republic has made NATO membership a priority goal. This fall, we will hold the first major exercise on Czech territory--COOPERATIVE CHALLENGE--within the framework of Partnership for Peace. We are also expecting to be part of the presentation and discussion of the internal study on the conditions of NATO enlargement. We are firmly convinced that this study will be approved at the December session of the North Atlantic Council. Then we will be able to move on to answer the final two parts of the enlargement question--which countries will join, and when?

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