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This House would expand NATO
This House would expand NATO
Editor's Note: The article below has been retained as a guide to the debates that preceded further NATO expansion in 2004 (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Slovakia) and 2009 (Albania and Croatia). The reader can judge whether the arguments used below were an accurate prediction of the benefits and drawbacks of NATO expansion. This debate has been partially updated so that it can be useful for any potential new members. In 2011, the key issue of NATO expansion is whether the alliance should take in Ukraine and Georgia, both of which are seen by Russia as being close neighbours in which it has a key strategic interest; there is a separate Debatabase topic on this.
The decision whether to enlarge the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation from its membership of 19 States to include the States of Eastern Europe, the Baltic and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) stems from the admission of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary at the Madrid summit of the alliance in 1997. The subsequent 50th anniversary summit in Washington DC in April 1999 brought strong statements of support for NATO enlargement. In adherence to the pledge made in the Republican Party’s ‘Contract for America’, President Bush maintained the impetus for enlargement through speeches made during his official trip to Europe in June 2001. In response, NATO Secretary General George Robertson has affirmed further enlargement at the 2002 Prague summit inviting a further seven countries to start talks on NATO membership; Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. The expansion continued with invitations to Croatia and Albania in 2008. At the same time Ukraine and Georgia were also told they will eventually be able to become members.
The debate has received more critical attention in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Russia holds a pivotal role in the alliance against terrorism and evinced significant willingness to cooperate with American strategy and now forms a vital supply link to NATO forces in Afghanistan. The question is whether the US and NATO States are prepared to risk this novel alliance of convenience for the enlargement of their Cold War one. The discussion turns on the persuasiveness of the threat posed by Russia now and in the future, and conversely the view taken of the stability of the myriad republics of the CIS
Although NATO enlargement eastwards is temporarily further down the agenda there are still countries that could join; Ireland, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden and Finland have all been unwilling due to commitments to neutrality. Further East Ukraine and Georgia may eventually join and NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council includes states as far east as Kyrgyzstan.
|Points For||Points Against|
|NATO expansion would benefit eastern European and post Soviet states||Russia is no longer a threat|
|NATO expansion was, and is, necessary for international stability||Further expansion of NATO will antagonise Russia|
|NATO is a fundamental part of the international architecture used to further peace and prosperity in Europe||Expanding NATO will overstretch the resources of its core members|
|The cost of expansion is prohibitive|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
NATO expansion would benefit eastern European and post Soviet states
The opportunity of NATO membership creates the incentive for the newly independent republics to achieve internal stability. The criteria for NATO membership include stable democracy; civilian control of the armed forces; a sufficient military capacity to make a meaningful contribution to collective security; and the absence of active disputes on or within the borders of the State. This incentivisation is critical given the European Union was and still is expanding slower than NATO – many new NATO members such as Albania are years away from achieving EU membership. NATO membership will help these fledging States to help themselves.
[NATO, ‘NATO enlargement’, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 4 May 2011, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_49212.htm
 BBC News, ‘Albania applies for EU membership’, 28 April 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8023127.stm
The objectives of creating stability in these fledgling democracies could be better achieved under the existing ‘Partnership for Peace’ (PFP) programme. The policy received strong support under the Clinton administration involves regular consultations, exercises and opportunities for education that seek to professionalize the civilian and military institutions of the republics of the former Soviet Union. Moreover this was individually tailored to each member based on their own requirements. This policy of genuine aid is preferable to the wish-list of democratic ideals that compose the criteria for NATO membership. Paradoxically, if a country was actually able to achieve all the criteria delineated for membership, the necessity for their NATO protection would be marginal. Conversely, were the republics predictably unable to realize these goals, the protection of NATO through expansion or PFP would be genuine. Yet, it is in these situations of tenuous stability that States will be denied proper civilian and military aid from NATO.
 The NATO Handbook; Partnership for Peace, Aim and scope
NATO expansion was, and is, necessary for international stability
Enlargement was necessary to prevent Europe “reverting to type”. The rise once again of the ethnic and religious causes of war. And this is still a reason for NATO to expand to help stabilise Europe. The Balkans is only the worst area for Ethnic tensions; there are similar cases all over Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The history of Eastern Europe has been one of empires not the nation state. Stalin had a policy of divide and rule; he made sure each soviet republic included substantial minorities in order to prevent the growth of nationalist movements. Stalin only continued a long tradition of ethnic movements within empires in Eastern Europe. The Balkan problem for example is considered an effect of the Ottoman empire; hence the Christian/Moslem divides in Bosnia and Kosovo. The Austrian Empire settled people on its frontiers in much the same way; the result is that none of the eastern European states is ethnically homogeneous. The Violent break-up of Yugoslavia showed the way many other states could potentially go, NATO wished to avoid this and enlargement was its best solution.
 Coker, Christopher, ‘The Geopolitical Implications of the Expansion of Europe’ pp5-12 NATO looks east ed. Piotr Dutkiewicz and Robert J. Jackson (Westport, Praeger publishing, 1998) p.8
 Keylor, William R., The Twentieth Century World (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001), p.460
Stability could have been ensured without a military alliance like NATO. The European Union could have managed to create stability on its own, the EU itself since the Lisbon Treaty has gained the role of the West European Union security organisation. Additionally admission to NATO (and incidentally the EU) require social harmonisation and stability to occur before a new state can join, to quote the NATO Handbook directly; “States which are involved in ethnic disputes or external territorial disputes, including irredentist claims, or internal jurisdictional disputes, must settle those disputes by peaceful means in accordance with OSCE principles, before they can become members.” If these nations had to sort out their problems first what was the point of enlargement, it is not enlargement per se that is meaning that these disputes are solved.
 NATO, The NATO Handbook; The 1995 Study on NATO's Enlargement, 1995, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_24733.htm
NATO is a fundamental part of the international architecture used to further peace and prosperity in Europe
Peace has many foundations and no one international organisation can create all these foundations itself. NATO is therefore just as necessary to the peace of Europe as the OSCE or EU and all of these organisations need to expand to cover the states within Europe to promote peace. NATO therefore in its Message from Turnberry – its response to the end of the cold war - “express our determination to seize the historic opportunities resulting from the profound changes in Europe to help build a new peaceful order in Europe, based on freedom, justice and democracy.” Collective defence is as necessary as economic cooperation in creating peace, this is something that in Europe only NATO can provide. Peace is also promoted by NATO through the security cooperation that it provides; building trust between the member states. This need for trust and equality between the parts of Europe was also explicitly stated by NATO’s Secretary General when he stated “Without enlargement, we would permanently frustrate the ambitions of countries of Central and Eastern Europe for inclusion in the transatlantic security and defence community. That would perpetuate an unnatural and potentially dangerous division between a prosperous, secure and self-confident West and an insecure and uncertain East.” NATO enlargement helps heal this fault line and shows the cold war in Europe is really over.
 NATO, ‘The Message from Turnberry’, NATO website, 1990, http://www.nato.int/docu/comm/49-95/c900608b.htm
Again NATO need not have been the method why which these were fulfilled; the EU could equally provide collective defence within Europe and create the trust between member state’s militaries. It is also the European Union that has done most to turn Robinson’s ‘insecure and uncertain East’ into being part of ‘a prosperous, secure and self-confident West’. While it may be able to unite East and West Europe NATO is itself a symbol of division to others – particularly to Russia.Improve this
Russia is no longer a threat
Russia no longer presents a credible threat to Eastern Europe or the existing NATO States which NATO expansion could counterbalance. Russia can no longer offer the conventional military threat of the Cold War. The acceptance of this reality by the US is evidenced by the fact that troop numbers in Europe are much reduced from a peak of 277,000 troops and will be reduced further to 30,000 in the next few years. This is the key question for a military alliance as defence is the key purpose. Expansion should therefore be decided based upon the yardstick of whether the expansion is necessary for the security of NATO members. If there is no credible threat then there is no reason to expand the alliance. At the same time while Russia is no longer a conventional military threat it still has its immense nuclear armament. This will remain a threat no matter how many of Russia’s neighbours join NATO but Russia could feel increasingly obliged to focus on its nuclear arsenal to respond to NATO expansion – something which would create a threat to western Europe.
 Shanker, Thom, and Erlanger, Steven, ‘U.S. Faces New Challenge of Fewer Troops in Europe’, The New York Times, 13 January 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/14/world/europe/europe-weighs-implications-of-shrinking-us-troop-presence.html
The dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the protracted collapse of the Soviet Union into the Commonwealth of Independent States did remove the overwhelming threat of the USSR against Western Europe. However, the threat persists in a different form. The newly independent republics remain vulnerable to the vast political and military influence of Russia. The new threat is the destruction of stability of the new republics, and thus Russian expansion that is hostile to both the republics and the Western European states in their proximity – worry that this would occur lead to many eastern European states applying to NATO as soon as they could. The solution is pre-emptive expansion in the other direction. The broadening of NATO to include the Eastern republics shall offer a bulwark against Russian expansion. NATO shall continue to perform the role of a defensive alliance against a putative military threat.
 Keylor, William R., The Twentieth Century World (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001) pp.455, 458, 461-2, 475
Further expansion of NATO will antagonise Russia
Russia considers NATO expansion to be very antagonistic towards it. Continued NATO expansion would only serve to manufacture the expansionist demon that NATO fears. The election of the ultranationalist Duma in 1996, the choice of the hardliner Yvegeny Primakov as foreign minister, and the failure of the reformist party ‘Russia’s Choice’ under Yegor Gaidar even to clear the 5% hurdle for Duma membership was in whole or in part, due to the Russian sense of isolation from Western Europe. President Putin has also made a lot out of his opposition to NATO expansion which he has opposed since he was first elected President. This sense is dramatically emboldened by such provocative actions as threatening to station NATO troops on its borders. The Russian people are unlikely to consider that the forward deployment is not directed against them, as is shown by Russia’s worries about and threats in response to National Missile Defense which is not aimed at them, but instead is only designed to maintain internal stability in the neighbouring republics. By inflaming Russian nationalism, NATO expansion is obstructs democratic development for Russia and undermines the security of its neighbouring republics.
 BBC News, ‘Putin warns against Nato expansion’, 26 January 2001, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1137859.stm
 Quetteville, Harry de, and Pierce, Andrew, ‘Russia threatens nuclear attack on Poland over US missile shield deal’, The Telegraph, 17 January 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/2566005/Russia-t...
NATO expansion is not the cause of nationalism in Russia, rather the Russian leadership stokes nationalism in order to direct attention away from the government. The Russian people are concerned about hardship and hazard within their own borders rather than without. Yes it is true that the expansion of NATO antagonises Russia but this should not be a major concern of NATO, any expansion of a military alliance is likely to worry those countries that are outside that alliance. Moreover, failing to expand NATO to countries that are potentially threatened by the same nationalism and belligerency of Russia would be implicitly rewarding that belligerency. NATO should not be teaching Russia the lesson that hostility in Eastern Europe gets results that lessen the security of all.Improve this
Expanding NATO will overstretch the resources of its core members
NATO expansion can in the long term only lead to the overstretching of the organisation and thus the undermining of stability for the entirety of Europe. The credibility of the commitment of article V of the NATO Charter in which every member pledges to come to the defence of another has already been undermined by the inclusion of small countries that would be unable to defend themselves and are practically indefensible. NATO runs the grave risk of becoming so large and diverse it resembles a political organisation rather than a military alliance. The military contribution of the new members would be by definition limited. Were these republics already capable of providing sufficient security to their borders, there would be no necessity for NATO membership. At the point where the NATO commitments become more declaratory than real, the security of every State including the new members is called into question. There are already worries, particularly from the United States, that the U.S. provides a free guarantee while Europe free rides, this is even more of a problem with smaller countries who cannot defend themselves even if they did spend NATOs agreed 2% of GDP on defence. Thus NATO expansion might in fact assist any State eager for its own expansionism in Eastern Europe.
 Haddick, Robert, ‘This Week at War: Moral Hazard at NATO’, ForeignPolicy.com, 17 June 2011, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/06/17/this_week_at_war_moral_...
It ought to be accepted that the NATO alliance is already diluted. It should not be perceived as a standing military force, but a holding company whose individual members can draw upon a collective infrastructure and military support in the event of intervention in and around Europe. The expansion of NATO should be the opportunity to re-examine the current force deployment and strategic capability of the alliance. For example, the US maintains significant permanent deployment of infantry, aircraft and armour in Germany that could possibly be transferred to a more active role in protecting the borders of the newly independent republics. Similarly, the NATO ‘After-Action’ report into ‘Operation Allied Force’ in Kosovo highlighted the dependence of the offensive on the US capacity for strategic airlift. The acquisition of the requisite air transport by the Western European States would allow more credible guarantees of security throughout Europe. Forward deployment of NATO troops into the new republics is not a prerequisite for expansion. The core of the alliance is the pledge to protect which is undiminished by the addition of new members.Improve this
The cost of expansion is prohibitive
The costs of NATO expansion are prohibitive at a time when the Western European members are scaling back their defence budgets and the reducing the size of their conventional forces. The Clinton administration estimated the costs of the initial expansion to be $27 to $35 to 2010, but this is mostly the costs restructuring and of making forces interoperable rather than the costs of protecting the new members. The cost of stationing forces in Eastern Europe would be considerably higher and if NATO ever had to defend these countries the cost would be higher still. Given the fragile economies of the new republics, the existing NATO States will be obliged to absorb the expense of expansion. Even a decade after expansion the new members have mostly not succeeded in reaching the 2% of GDP the alliance targets and their combined defence budgets are only a third of Russia’s. The proper question is whether the taxpayers of the US and Western European States wish to pay to protect citizens of distant republics from phantom threats.
The expense of NATO expansion is marginal when compared to the defence budgets of the major NATO States. The US defence expenditure alone for the fiscal year 2012 is $553 billion. Further, the correct equation is not between the expense of stationing troops in these new States and the current saving from non-deployment. The balance is between the expense of forward deployment or other military investment and the prohibitive cost in dollars and lives from a conflict between NATO and Russia, or a conflagration in any of the Eastern republics. NATO expansion is nothing more than a cost-effective insurance policy against a very real risk.
 Department of Defence, US budget, gpoaccess, http://www.gpoaccess.gov/usbudget/fy12/pdf/BUDGET-2012-BUD-7.pdf
‘Administration Releases NATO Expansion Cost Report’, Arms Control Association, March 1997, http://www.armscontrol.org/node/2148
BBC News, ‘Albania applies for EU membership’, 28 April 2009, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8023127.stm
BBC News, ‘Putin warns against Nato expansion’, 26 January 2001, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1137859.stm
Coker, Christopher, ‘The Geopolitical Implications of the Expansion of Europe’ pp5-12 NATO looks east ed. Piotr Dutkiewicz and Robert J. Jackson (Westport, Praeger publishing, 1998)
Department of Defence, US budget, gpoaccess, http://www.gpoaccess.gov/usbudget/fy12/pdf/BUDGET-2012-BUD-7.pdf
Haddick, Robert, ‘This Week at War: Moral Hazard at NATO’, ForeignPolicy.com, 17 June 2011, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/06/17/this_week_at_war_moral_hazard_at_nato
Keylor, William R., The Twentieth Century World (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001)
NATO, ‘NATO enlargement’, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 4 May 2011, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/topics_49212.htm
NATO, The NATO Handbook; The 1995 Study on NATO's Enlargement, 1995, http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/official_texts_24733.htm
NATO, ‘The Message from Turnberry’, NATO website, 1990, http://www.nato.int/docu/comm/49-95/c900608b.htm
Quetteville, Harry de, and Pierce, Andrew, ‘Russia threatens nuclear attack on Poland over US missile shield deal’, The Telegraph, 17 January 2012, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/2566005/Russia-threatens-nuclear-attack-on-Poland-over-US-missile-shield-deal.html
Robertson, George, "NATO: Enlarging and redefining itself" Speech 18 February 2002 http://www.nato.int/docu/speech/2002/s020218a.htm
Shanker, Thom, and Erlanger, Steven, ‘U.S. Faces New Challenge of Fewer Troops in Europe’, The New York Times, 13 January 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/14/world/europe/europe-weighs-implication...
The Economist, ‘Scars, scares and scarcity’, 12 May 2011, http://www.economist.com/node/18682793
The Economist, ‘Georgia’s prospects’, 19 October 2006, http://www.economist.com/node/8068850
Curate this debate
If you are an academic or highly knowledgeable about a particular debate could you give an hour or two a month to curate a debate?