Newcomers No More? Contemporary NATO and the Future of the Enlargement from the Perspective of „Post-Cold War” Members

„Newcomers No More? Contemporary NATO and the Future of the Enlargement from the Perspective of „Post-Cold War” Members”
Robert Czulda, Marek Madej (ed.)
Warsaw – Brussels – Prague (International Relations Research Institute)

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The year 2014 for NATO was definitely “a year to be remembered”. Obviously, what decides most the unique character of the last year for the Alliance is the conflict, which has erupted in Eastern Ukraine. It started after the victory of the Maidan protesters against the decision of the Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych – unquestionably Russia-inspired or induced – to refuse to sign an association agreement with the European Union and his escape from Ukraine in February. What followed was the Russian annexation of the Crimea in the name of the “necessity to protect[sic] [the] Russian-speaking minority” – which constitutes the first change in the borders of Europe by force since the collapse of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall – and an even more profound and ominous eruption of Russian-backed separatism in the eastern provinces of the country.

The result is tragic violent conflict between the Ukrainian authorities in Kiev and separatists from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and other ephemeral entities, generously supported in various ways by the government in Moscow. This hybrid war, with acts of indirect aggression by “little green men”, the actions of non-state actors and some kind of (artificially created) ambiguity of the legal status of the fighting parties, has already taken thousands of lives, including the almost 300 passengers of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, mistakenly shot down in July near Donetsk. The conflict has ravaged large parts of Ukraine’s territory, ruining the country’s economy. What is worse, it is still far from being solved or even stopped.

The war in Ukraine definitely changes the NATO perception on European security, threatening the fundaments of regional stability. The Alliance has to adapt to a new reality, in which European security and stability cannot be treated any longer as “finished business”, anchored in norms and principles, commonly accepted by all states from the Euro-Atlantic area, and guaranteed by a network of multilateral institutions, with NATO serving as a central hub. Somewhat surprisingly for transatlantic governments and societies, we had to realize that the use of force to solve political disputes had not been fully eradicated from international relations on our continent, as well as thinking in categories of “special political rights” or “spheres of influences”. Moreover, as the Ukrainian case shows brutally but clearly, aggression and armed activities have transformed significantly from the forms typical for Cold War times, when NATO had been preparing itself for massive confrontations of armoured divisions. Now they have evolved into a much more hybrid, ambiguous and protean form, in which insurgent tactics are mixed with regular military operations, the use of non-military pressure, and psychological warfare and propaganda operations that are large in scale and intensity.

All that means that NATO as such, as well as its members, has to rethink again its priorities and threat perceptions, focusing imminently (even if temporarily) more on regional issues and problems, as well as to reorganize its assets, plans and ways of cooperating with partners and outsiders. Unfortunately, all those changes and accommodations would have to be done when the NATO states and their closest partners and neighbours have still not fully recovered after the deep economic crisis and the world outside Europe seems to be volatile and unstable probably more than in any time after the Cold War. The bloody civil war in Syria and the quick rise in power of the Islamic State, extremely radical and hostile to the West, the constant tensions in Palestinian-Israeli relations and in other parts of Middle East and North Africa, unrest in the Sahel, Afghanistan and its neighbourhood on the verge of a slide into another armed conflict and an increasingly tense security situation in the East Asia – yes, there is a lot to be worried about and for which to prepare for the Allies.

However, despite that gloomy picture, 2014 still could be justifiably also called “a year of anniversaries”, even if celebrated in a less enthusiastic way due to the difficult and ominous realities of today’s world. Nevertheless, we should remember also the success stories of the last two decades. Fifteen years ago, in 1999, three post-Communist states, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, joined the Alliance, confirming its transformation from a primarily collective defence institution of the West to a pivotal element of the European security system, as well as a powerful instrument for democratization and stabilization in the region. Five years later, in the second “big-bang” wave of NATO enlargement, seven more Central and South – Eastern European countries followed suit, extending the zone of democracy and stability deep into the east of the continent. Then, in 2009, Albania and Croatia also joined the Alliance, increasing the number of members to 28. Although this year this “five year scheme” has been broken, and at the Newport summit in September there were no new invitations issued, the Alliance remains an attractive club for many European states, which would like to join in the future. Recent events in Ukraine definitely will complicate that process, but at the same time they could spur enthusiasm towards NATO membership in some European states and stimulate them to take efforts to join. So, it is still possible that we will witness another round of enlargement in the future, and reports of the death of the enlargement process, until now one of the defining features of NATO history in the last 20 years, could be an exaggeration.

Meanwhile, the so-called “new” members – those who joined the Alliance after the end of the Cold War – have matured as allies and are not so new any longer. Their accession has transformed NATO, and they themselves have also been transformed. The 12 members from Central and South – Eastern Europe have brought into the Alliance a variety of perspectives and opinions regarding the tasks, functions and roles of the organization, which have not been always identical – for obvious reasons – with the ideas of the Western Allies. At the same time they have also profoundly transformed their own perceptions of their security needs and interests, as well as their views on their role in regional and global affairs. In addition, “newcomers” have offered NATO certain assets – even if often limited, especially initially. They have created new opportunities and introduced new issues and partners, but also – inevitably – brought to the table new problems and challenges. All this has transformed internal debates among the Allies, as well as NATO strategies and ways of functioning.

Therefore, in the opinion of the editors of this volume, it seems to be a very valuable exercise for NATO to survey the views emerging from Central and South – Eastern Europe on two broad groups of issues. The first is to look at how they see their experience as a NATO member, how they evolved after joining that “club” and how they assess their impact on the Alliance and their position in the NATO burden-sharing scheme or, in other words, their role in the organization. Second are their views on the current shape and condition of the Alliance, how it works, what it should and could do for security and stability in the region and the wider world, and in which direction it should or could develop. NATO enlargement certainly constitutes one of the most fundamental questions of such an analysis, not only because of these countries’ own experiences in preparing for accession and functioning as a “newcomer” in the club, but also because of the fact that support for further enlargement is still – despite the diversity of the newcomers – a rather common characteristic in these countries’ position on the future of NATO, even if the crisis in the Ukraine has most probably changed in some respect their perspective on the issue.

The main purpose of this book is to look thoroughly at these simultaneous transformations of “newcomers” and the Alliance as such, which were the results of enlargement. We wish to present a variety of views on NATO from member states “formerly known as new”, and to assess in this context the prospects for NATO enlargement. The idea was to show the diversity of strategies of functioning within the Alliance, which were adopted by “newcomers” after their accessions. The intention was also to establish what kind of roles “new” members wanted to play in NATO, what functions they tried to perform, the intensity of their involvement in the cooperation among the Allies and the depth of their internal transformations induced by membership. Equally important was to find out how countries from Central and Eastern Europe who joined NATO after the Cold War perceived the Alliance as such – how they assess its current shapes or condition, how they understand its central missions such as collective defence, crisis management and cooperative security and how they define the hierarchy of NATO tasks and functions, what they list as the main challenges and threats to the security of NATO and its members and what kind of future of cooperation between the Allies and partners they predict. Of particular significance was determining how the issue of enlargement – its impact on NATO and accessing states, as well as the future of the whole process in current turbulent conditions – is perceived and assessed among the Central and Eastern European members of NATO.

Obviously, not all of these issues were discussed by every author and every article in this volume. However, we hope that by giving a collection of opinions from various experts from different countries on such a broad spectrum of issues, we would be able to present views on NATO in Central, South – Eastern and Eastern Europe that reveal diversity as well as commonalities. The ambition was to present in the book voices both from the academic and think tank communities, and from practitioners such as diplomats and officials from various nations, as well as international staff, with the goal of formulating a nuanced, but at the same time accurate picture on the issue.

Therefore, the book consists of three parts. The first is a collection of personal remarks, views and reflections on NATO enlargement and the functioning of the Alliance offered by policy makers from “newcomer” or candidate states. The main purpose of this part is to give some kind of “first-hand relations” on the issues discussed in the book, something undoubtedly of extreme importance for understanding the reasons, challenges and results of the development of NATO after the Cold War as well as the transformation of its “new” members after accession. Among those who agreed to share their views here were both some high-ranking officials from Central and Eastern European states who were directly engaged in negotiations on NATO accession, as well as those who are currently involved in formulating and implementing “new” members’ policies in the Alliance, including, something which constitutes a great honour for the editors and readers of this volume, Mr. Martin Stropnický, Minister of Defence of the Czech Republic, Mr. Csaba Hende, Minister of Defence of Hungary, and Mr. Titus Corlățean, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania (till November 2014). The “Brussels perspective” is also represented in the book thanks to the preface to the book generously provided by Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, Deputy Secretary General of NATO.

Articles collected in the second part could be roughly divided into two groups. Those in the first group focus on the experience in NATO of particular “newcomer” states like Hungary, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Estonia or Poland. These papers discuss how the militaries and societies of such countries have been transformed by the accession, how the worldviews of both political elites and the wider public have evolved since becoming an Ally, what were their expectations towards NATO as such and its particular members – as well as what kind of expectations were put on them by “older” members – and, last but not least, to what degree these expectations were met. The remaining articles in this part deal primarily with the (former) newcomers’ perspectives on the current condition and the future roles and problems of the Alliance, showing their current fears, hopes and expectations towards NATO, still perceived as the most fundamental pillar of their security.

The last part of the book is devoted directly to the issues of enlargement and cooperation with the partners. One could find here articles written from the perspective of candidate states like FYROM/Republic of Macedonia, in which both obstacles and opportunities in the process of their accession to NATO are discussed. A couple of other papers here analyse thoroughly the current shape and future prospects of NATO cooperation with partners, with special attention given to the relations with the Russian Federation and other countries from the post-Soviet space, as well as the impact on these relations of the violent crisis in Eastern Ukraine. In addition, in this part the question of the potential NATO membership of Sweden and Finland is also analysed. Although these countries continue to pursue a policy of neutrality, they are among the closest partners of the Alliance in Europe, so especially recently, in light of the current evolution of the security environment on the continent, the issue of their possible accession has definitely grown in importance and is discussed much more intensively than in previous years. Hence, omitting that topic here would be a mistake.

The editors of the volume would like to express their greatest gratitude to all authors of this collection who decided to share with us their views and devoted their time – in all cases really precious – to work on this book. Having the possibility to work with them on the book was a great and educative experience, and a real pleasure at the same time. We have learned a lot thanks to this endeavour and hope that the benefits to readers of this volume will be of similar proportions.

Robert Czulda

Marek Madej

Warsaw – January 2015

  • Foreword by Ambassador Alexander Vershbow
  • Introduction

PART I

  • Martin Stropnický (Minister of Defense of the Czech Republic), Czech Republic in NATO: From Admiration to Reliable Partner
  • Csaba Hende (Minister of Defense of Hungary), The Door Should Remain Open
  • Titus Corlăţean (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania, 2012 – 2014), An Indispensable Alliance. A View from Romania
  • Solomon Passy (President of the Atlantic Club of Bulgaria), NATO Out-of-the-Box vs. the BRICS – SCO System: the Rising World Order (An Open Letter to NATO’s Secretary General and Heads of States)
  • Vasil Sikharulidze (President of the Atlantic Council of Georgia), Toward Europe Whole, Free and at Peace
  • Arian Starova (President of the Atlantic Council of Albania), NATO’s Enlargement as a Great Contribution to International Freedom, Peace and Security

PART II

  • Tamás Csiki (Hungary), Lessons Learnt and Unlearnt. Hungary’s 15 Years in NATO
  • Tomas Janeliūnas (Lithuania), Martynas Zapolskis (Lithuania), Lithuania as a Rational Free Rider in NATO
  • Ieva Karpavičiūtė (Lithuania), Evolution of North-Atlantic Security Community and the Baltic States
  • Sandro Knezović (Croatia), Zrinka Vučinović (Croatia), The Future of NATO in the New Security Environment. A Former Newcomer’s View
  • Zdeněk Kříž (Czech Republic), Disaster or Success? Evaluation of Worst Case Scenario
  • Marek Madej (Poland), Poland and NATO’s Future – Let’s Get Serious About the Basics
  • Péter Marton (Hungary), Péter Wagner (Hungary), The Impact of Hungary’s NATO Membership: Intra-Alliance Adaptation Between Soft Constraints and Soft Subversion
  • Eoin Micheál McNamara (Estonia/Latvia), When Contributions Abroad Mean Security at Home? The Baltic States and NATO Burden-Sharing in Afghanistan
  • Arūnas Molis (Lithuania), Gerda Jakštaitė (Lithuania), NATO’s Transformation and Energy Security: The Perceptions and Role of a “Newcomer”
  • Jaromír Novotný (Czech Republic), NATO’s “New” Mission: Back to its Roots
  • Henrik Praks (Estonia), Estonia and NATO: Back to Basics After a Decade of Membership

PART III

  • Yulia K. Boguslavskaya (Russia), Russia and NATO: Looking For the Less Pessimistic Scenario
  • Dušan Fischer (Slovakia), Slovakia’s Perspective on NATO Enlargement
  • Ryszard M. Machnikowski (Poland), NATO and Ukraine – Russian Crisis
  • Rade Rajkovcevski (Republic of Macedonia), Dimitar Kirkovski (Republic of Macedonia), Macedonian Membership in NATO: From a Clear Perspective to an Uncertain Anticipation
  • Karl Salum (Estonia), Finland and Sweden in NATO: Implications on NATO – Russia Relations
  • Hanna Shelest (Ukraine), Transformation of the NATO Partnership Concept in the Post-Soviet Space: Is Membership the Only Option?
  • Stojan Slaveski (Republic of Macedonia), Ljubica Pendaroska (Republic of Macedonia), The Impact and the Role of NATO on Political and Security Situation in Macedonia: “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow”

APPENDIXES

  • Contributors
  • About Us