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Pax NATO: The Opportunities of Enlargement

Authored by LTC Raymond A. Millen.

August 2002

46 Pages

Brief Synopsis

The author examines NATO's extraordinary performance and incisive initiatives during the immediate post-Cold War years. He scrutinizes the impact of enlargement on the Alliance, not only from a military but also a geopolitical perspective. He is quick to point out that, without the needed reforms, new members will bring more fat than muscle to the Alliance. However, the process of enlargement has served to harmonize Central and Eastern Europe with Western Europe in a remarkable manner. That achievement alone has made enlargement worthwhile. He goes beyond the next round of enlargement and makes a case for a reorientation of NATO enlargement towards the Middle East and North African regions. They may never receive the full security umbrella of NATO, but they can enjoy the shade.


In addition to choosing new members, the NATO summit in Prague, to be held November 20-22, 2002, should strive to resolve two burning issues—the continued relevance of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Alliance’s future orientation. If managed well, the summit could lay the foundation of European security and stability for the next century.

NATO has made and continues to make a profound contribution to European security and stability. Unlike all other security organizations, NATO has evolved as the strategic environment changed during the post-Cold War period and is well-positioned to resolve near term challenges. The Partnership for Peace (PfP), the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF), and NATO Enlargement initiatives reflect a dynamic and vibrant organization. Given its military component, NATO matches enforcement with words, something the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Western European Union (WEU), and the much vaunted European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) cannot.

The variegated Balkan conflicts exposed the inherent weaknesses of attempting to resolve conflicts with diplomacy but without the enforcement mechanism of a military arm. In each case, NATO broke the cycle of violence in a matter of weeks and set the conditions for peace. One fact has emerged that no others can lay claim to—NATO produces results.

Critics are quick to point out that NATO’s relevance must be tied irrevocably to an imminent threat: no threat, no NATO. This simplistic approach to security presupposes that threats will never arise again, or if they do, sufficient time will exist for a coalition to form. Historically, aggressors are not so accommodating. NATO acts as a hedge against future threats. Moreover, instability along Europe’s border represents an insidious threat with an influx of refugees burdening the economies as well as criminal and terrorist organizations stressing the law enforcement and legal systems.

NATO enlargement and the membership action plan ( MAP) enhance security and stability beyond expectations. Assured security provided by collective defense is responsible for creating the current conditions of stability in Central and Eastern Europe. Enlargement with its intrinsic transparency replaces the antiquated balance of power system that had destabilized Europe for centuries. NATO membership is a milestone process that permits candidates to institute reforms gradually through participation in OSCE, PfP, EAPC, and finally MAP. Participating in PfP exercises and peacekeeping operations reinforces the process. Selection for MAP is no guarantee for NATO membership, but participation pays big dividends and contributes to stability.

Since their induction into NATO, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have been making a positive contribution. In many areas, they are exceeding veteran members’ contributions, and their inclusion has resulted in greater budgetary burden sharing. Unfortunately, their military contribution will lag until reforms and modernization take root.

The current MAP participants— Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Rumania, Slovakia, and Slovenia—are in various stages of progress towards membership. Slovakia and Slovenia have the greatest chance of membership since they have made the greatest progress, and their geographical position enhances NATO’s tactical position. The prospects for the three Baltic states are also favorable because they have made significant progress, and membership paradoxically would end the friction between them and Russia. Their geographic location detracts from NATO’s defensive disposition and may require a greater naval presence in the Baltic Sea if a crisis erupts. Bulgaria and Rumania’s chances more likely depend on their geographical location than any other factor. Although making progress, both need to continue with reforms before they are completely ready for membership. Nevertheless, they do provide a land bridge to Turkey and by extension the Middle East. Since the European NATO members rely heavily on road and rail for power projection, this land bridge may become crucial for potential crisis management operations in the Middle East. Albania and Macedonia are not ready in any capacity for NATO membership and are unlikely to become members in the near term.

NATO needs to institute several substantial organizational reforms that can harness the military potential of new (and old) members and transform the Alliance into a proficient expeditionary force.

The Alliance should rely on the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) as its high readiness force, composed of 10 integrated multinational divisions (IMD). The IMD comprises a host nation headquarters with member states contributing designated units according to their relative size and wealth. Integration is achieved by stationing allied units together, permitting the various allies to train and operate as a coherent whole. New members have the opportunity to buy or lease western equipment for the contributed units thereby allowing them to reduce domestic military expenditures. Common stationing also results in language immersion for soldiers and their families as well as exposing them to western culture and values. NATO members have the option of converting other divisions outside of the ARRC as well, but the ARRC must comprise IMDs. As a result, each member of the Alliance, from the smallest to the largest, can participate in NATO operations instead of allowing the few to shoulder the burden, and do so without sovereignty and command authority becoming issues.

Even though the ARRC has sufficient depth to counter all but the most dire threats, NATO must designate two other corps headquarters (e.g., European Corps [EUROCORP] and European Forces [EUROFOR]), fully staffed and with modern, redundant command, control, communications, and computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities to conduct sustained contingency missions. Each member also contributes combat support and combat service support units to form an area support group to provide the ARRC with a robust and sustainable logistical package. An integrated Special Operating Forces group would greatly enhance the shaping capabilities of NATO as well. Lastly, rotating the ARRC commander every 2 years permits each member country to experience the burden of command.

These reforms will allow members to lower the readiness of their other divisions as appropriate to the reduced threat. Behind the bulwark of the ARRC, member states can conduct timely partial or full mobilization as the strategic environment warrants.

With the reduced threat from the East, NATO can reorient its focus to the North African and Middle East regions to enhance their stability. In this regard, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Cyprus, and Malta gain greater importance and should be considered for MAP. Additionally, Austria, Finland, Ireland, Sweden, and Switzerland should receive open invitations to join the Alliance at their convenience because they will further strengthen the Alliance.

NATO enlargement and the structural reforms permit the U.S. Army to downsize its forces in Europe without downsizing its commitment to NATO. Although enlargement beyond Slovakia and Slovenia does result in geographical over-extension, the threat from the East is not there and the benefits outweigh the risks. The reforms permit greater interoperability between the United States and its Allies without exorbitant military expenditures. In some future conflict, the U.S. Army will be gratified that NATO made these decisions.

The following recommendations will strengthen NATO and ensure that it remains the preeminent security provider for Europe:

    - Offer NATO membership to Slovakia and Slovenia to extend access to Hungary and improve NATO’s defensive disposition.

    - Offer membership to the Baltic States to achieve closure with this troubled spot, and allow Russia and the Baltic States to move beyond a troubled past.

    - Offer membership to Romania and Bulgaria for NATO to improve access to the Middle East region.

    - Make a standing offer of membership to Austria, Finland, Ireland, Switzerland, and Sweden since they will strengthen the Alliance.

    - Offer the MAP to Croatia, Bosnia, Cyprus, Malta, and Serbia to enhance stability and security in the Balkans and permit greater access to the Mediterranean basin.

    - Convert the ARRC divisions into IMDs to assist in the assimilation of new members into the Alliance.

    - Designate the ARCC as NATO’s high readiness force, comprising 10 IMDs, an integrated area support group, and an integrated Special Forces Group.

No other security organization can compete with NATO. It is time for NATO to end the relevancy debate at the Prague summit and focus on more important manners. Enlargement will continue the wave of stability throughout Europe and beyond. The structural reforms will pay dividends beyond expectations. As in the past, a bold vision from America will serve to energize Europe.

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