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NATO: Congress Addresses Expansion of the Alliance

by Paul E. Gallis, 1996
Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division

On June 4, 1996, identical bills (H.R. 3564 and S. 1830) calling for NATO enlargement were introduced in the House and Senate. The bills stated that the United States has important security interests in Central Europe that could be served by enlargement; name Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary as the most qualified early candidates for NATO membership; authorize greater defense assistance to these three countries, and prospectively to other states in the region; endorse Partnership for Peace as a successful program; name other Central European countries as having made important progress towards eventual qualification for membership; and call for a cooperative relationship with Russia. The legislation did not include a date by which enlargement should occur.

H.R. 3564 and S. 1830 reiterated aspects of earlier legislation that candidate states must meet certain criteria before qualifying for assistance and entering the alliance. These criteria include significant progress towards establishing democratic institutions and free market structures; civilian control of the military; and policies prohibiting transfer of arms to countries supporting terrorism.  Congressional supporters of the legislation believe that some central European countries have made substantial progress towards democracy, and that membership in NATO for these countries would consolidate that progress and fill the security vacuum between western Europe and Russia. Because NATO is a defensive alliance, supporters do not view expansion as a threat to Russia.

Opponents of legislation calling for enlargement have contended that NATO's futureis not clear, that admitting new states could weaken the alliance's core mission of collective defense, and that expansion could fuel nationalistic tendencies and instability in Russia. They believe that the American people are not fully aware of the security commitments that would be extended to new members, and that NATO may lack the forces to provide adequate defense. They also express concern that the United States may have to bear much of the financial burden for modernizing candidate states' militaries. On September 23, 1996, the President signed the Defense Authorization bill, which contains an amendment, offered by Senator Nunn and others, for FY1997 that requires a study of the financial costs and strategic implications of enlargement.

In July 1996 the Administration dropped its opposition to H.R. 3564. Slovenia was added to the Senate bill as a country having made significant steps towards qualifying for NATO membership. On September 30, 1996, the President signed the Omnibus Appropriations bill into law  it contains the compromise version of H.R. 3564 and S. 1830. On October 22, 1996, he called for the admittance of new members to NATO by 1999.

Many European officials believe that enlargement, if it proceeds, must do so slowly. In general, they are wary of expanding NATO at a moment when such a decision might antagonize or isolate Russia. They believe that bringing new members, some with ethnic tensions, into the alliance could dilute the political like-mindedness of the organization.

The 104th Congress considered legislation that could have important implications for future U.S. security interests in Europe. Legislation in the first session before the House and Senate called for NATO expansion and would have required a program of financial assistance to selected candidates for membership. The debate over alliance expansion, or "enlargement," is taking place at a moment when NATO's mission is unclear. The legislation addressed NATO's mission in a general manner, but resolution of the alliance's purpose, and therefore of its future, most likely hinges upon the ability of the United States and its allies to come to an agreement over their mutual security interests, and how best to protect them.

A central factor in the debate over enlargement is how to build stability in central Europe, and to do so without threatening or isolating Russia. Both proponents and opponents of NATO expansion wish to avoid a return to the era of enmity between Russia and the West. Some Members of Congress believe that enlargement would enhance stability by providing NATO's security guarantee for candidate states working to construct viable democracies and free-market systems. Other Members believe that too rapid expansion of the alliance could fuel nationalist sentiment in Russia, where some political groups contend that NATO is intent upon circumscribing Moscow's influence in a region of traditional interest.

For the United States and its allies, the conflict in Bosnia has thrown into relief some of the differing perceptions of interests among NATO states. Some European allied governments believe that ethnic violence in the Balkans, by spreading nationalistic sentiments and a continuing flow of refugees, could unsettle west European societies. Divergences between the Clinton Administration and allied governments over how to bring peace to Bosnia diminished with the signing of the Dayton peace accords, but many Members of Congress are opposed to the deployment of U.S. forces in Bosnia.

Disagreements over Bosnia are relevant to the debate over enlargement because expansion would bring countries into NATO with political cultures very different from current members, and, in several cases, ethnic tensions of their own. The several years of wrangling among alliance members over how to respond to Bosnia has led some Europeans to ask whether U.S. and European interests may be diverging. A senior French official, for example, has said that "in the management of post-Cold War crises,... a priority for the Europeans may not be a priority" for the United States. (See Additional Reading: France and the WEU.) Some allies are hesitant to view NATO's commitment to implement the Dayton accords as a test case for the alliance, in part because there is no alliance consensus over any future commitment to undertake such a mission should ethnic violence erupt elsewhere in Europe, in part due to concern that the Bosnian conflict could reignite should NATO forces leave, before peace is secured. The success or failure of efforts to bring peace to Bosnia will affect the enlargement debate in the coming months because those efforts will be viewed by some as a test case for the Administration's and NATO's commitment and capacity to build stability to central and eastern Europe.

Some believe that the geographic location of central and east European candidate states for NATO membership gives them a potential strategic vulnerability should instability in Russia grow and an aggressive regime come to power in Moscow. Some European members of NATO are concerned that expansion could further dilute the sense of commonality of interests in NATO and further blur the alliance's mission.

The NATO Enlargement Study. The Administration sought a clear decision and direct steps to expand the alliance at the December 1994 NATO summit. However, other member states wished to go slowly. In a compromise, the Administration and the allies decided to undertake a study of the issue of expansion. On September 20, 1995, NATO announced the findings of the study (See Additional Reading: Study...). The study does not name prospective members and lists only general criteria (democratic structures, a free market economy, respect for human rights) necessary in prospective members. New members must accept the full range of NATO responsibilities, such as building a military able to contribute to collective defense, providing humanitarian assistance and undertaking peacekeeping missions. According to the study, enlargement will be gradual and undertaken in consultation with other states -- a likely effort to reassure the Russians that an expanded alliance at their doorstep will not be thrust upon them. The study does not state that new members must enter NATO's integrated military command; the United States has contended that NATO should require all new members to be within the integrated military command, in order to minimize the ability of states to except themselves from duties required of others. U.S. officials state privately that Washington will back states for membership only if those states agree to enter the integrated command structure. The study promises new members a guarantee of protection by NATO's strategic nuclear forces. Finally, the study sees no near-term need for basing of nuclear weapons or other member states' conventional forces on the territory of new members, but leaves the option of doing so "when and if appropriate." It does state that NATO headquarters, pre-positioning of materiel, and frequent training and exercise by NATO forces would likely be necessary "to demonstrate NATO's commitment to collective defense" and to become "familiar with terrain and conditions."

Administration officials indicate privately that they wish to see candidate states named at the summer 1997 NATO summit, if alliance members can reach a consensus. A key factor in the length of the negotiations with prospective new members for entry could be the readiness of current member states' parliaments and populations to accept the inherent strategic responsibilities of admitting new members. Administration officials state that there is an "emerging consensus" among current NATO members on prospective candidates, but at the same time concede that not every current member is fully ready to move forward to enlargement.

Partnership for Peace. The Administration's Partnership for Peace program was adopted at the January 10-11, 1994, NATO summit. PFP provides a framework for NATO's evaluation of states considered to be candidates for alliance membership. PFP is intended to assist a state intending to establish civilian control over its military; develop "transparent" defense budgets that outline military capabilities to its public and to its neighbors; learn new military doctrine; and work with NATO states to develop specific capabilities, such as peacekeeping. Since 1994, many PFP states have held joint training exercises with NATO states.

Candidates for NATO Membership. Criteria for NATO membership specified in previous legislation and incorporated (sometimes by reference) in the current legislation include progress towards building democratic institutions and free market economies; civilian control of the military and of the police; a willingness to accept the responsibilities of building modern defense structures and accepting NATO defense doctrines; and policies prohibiting the transfer of arms to countries supporting terrorism. Title VI of H.R. 4278, the Omnibus Appropriations bill, reflected the House- Senate consultations on H.R. 3564 and S. 1830, and supplanted them. It "finds that Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic [these were added in 1999] have made the most progress toward achieving the stated criteria" and should be eligible for additional assistance. The Senate wished to add Slovenia to this list. Under the Omnibus bill, Slovenia will be eligible for assistance within 90 days of the passage of the bill, unless the President within that time period certifies that Slovenia has not met the necessary criteria. The President signed the bill into law (P.L. 104-208) on September 30, 1996.

A second group of countries is designated by the legislation as falling into another category. The legislation authorizes the President to designate Slovakia, the Baltic states, Romania, and "any other emerging democracy in Central and Eastern Europe" (including Albania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Ukraine) as eligible for certain types of assistance if those countries are taking steps to draw closer to NATO and can contribute to NATO strategic strength. In addition, it states that the United States should support military exercises and peacekeeping operations involving these countries and the current members of NATO, and Russia.

Program of Assistance. The legislation authorizes $60 million of FY1997 funds for the military assistance program established by the NATO Participation Act of 1994. Funds supplied are to be made available to support the Regional Airspace Initiative and PFP. The law appropriates:

The subsidization for FMF loans, under current OMB estimates, would make available loans totalling approximately $200 million in FY1997. FMF is provided to selected states in order to improve their defense capabilities. FMF finances acquisition of U.S. military articles, services, and training. Its purpose can also be to enhance interoperability with U.S. forces. With regard to Central Europe, the Clinton Administration, under its Warsaw Initiative, has designated FMF funds for the purpose of strengthening Partnership for Peace and encouraging reform of the region's militaries. For FY1997, the Administration requested $60 million in FMF grants for Partnership for Peace. The Omnibus Appropriations Act states that $30 million for FMF grants "shall be available" for Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, and $20 million for FMF loan subsidies at current market rates.

IMET provides training for the military forces of friendly states. For Central European states, past IMET funding has been primarily for (English) language training for officers likely to work with U.S. and other NATO forces in peacekeeping and other joint operations.

The Omnibus Appropriations Act creates a new category of states eligible for excess defense articles (EDA). EDA are military equipment no longer needed by U.S. forces and designated by the U.S. Government as available to certain countries that contribute to U.S. security. EDA are either sold or granted to other countries under the provisions of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. First priority for transfer of EDA is for countries designated under section 541 of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing Act (P.L. 103-106), such as Greece, Turkey, Portugal, Egypt, and Israel. The Omnibus Appropriations Act gives the President authority under P.L. 103-106 and under the NATO Participation Act of 1994 (for states meeting the criteria of significant progress towards democracy, free market economies, etc.) to designate countries in Central Europe as being in the next category of priority of eligibility for EDA before "all other countries".

The Omnibus Appropriations Act also addresses the issue of military modernization. It endorses "efforts by the United States to modernize the defense capability of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia" and any other states designated by the President under the NATO Participation Act of 1994. Specifically, it states that through sale or lease the United States may provide to these countries weapons systems compatible with NATO systems, "including air defense systems, advanced fighter aircraft, and telecommunications infrastructure."

Defense Capabilities. The Omnibus Appropriations Act addresses requirements for defense capabilities of prospective NATO members in a general way. It states that "new members will be full members of the Alliance, enjoying all rights and assuming all the obligations under the Washington Treaty" (which established NATO in 1949, and contains a mutual defense commitment by all member states, discussed below). It also states that new members must enhance NATO's security.

Assessment of the Debate

NATO's Mission. What is NATO's purpose? How would U.S. security interests be affected by enlargement? These questions are at the heart of the alliance debate over enlargement. During the Cold War era, the NATO Treaty's Article V commitment to collective defense was the core mission of the alliance. By the 1970s and 1980s, over 300,000 U.S. troops were stationed in NATO Europe. A heavy conventional force presence was viewed by political and military leaders of NATO states as an important instrument to put off the moment, should a conflict begin, when the West would have to make a decision to resort to nuclear forces; in addition, the very engagement of large-scale U.S. conventional forces sent a signal to the Soviets that the United States would use its nuclear forces to prevent a defeat of allied states. The United States stationed nuclear systems -- missiles, gravity bombs, and a range of tactical weapons -- in Europe, and backed its commitment to the allies' security by strategic nuclear systems as well. The heavy presence of U.S. conventional forces in Europe and the U.S. nuclear guarantee sent a strong political message that the fate of the European allies was tightly linked to that of the United States. This guarantee was intended to deter Soviet aggression, and initially to reassure a rebuilding, and later a flourishing, western Europe.

The U.S. conventional and nuclear presence gave a stronger message of guaranteed assistance in the event of conflict than a literal reading of Article V implies. Article V notes that "an armed attack against one or more [allies] shall be considered an attack against them all." But additional language makes clear that the commitment to come to the assistance of a Treaty party under attack is not unconditional. Rather, it states that each signatory will assist the ally under attack with "such action it deems necessary, including the use of armed force...." Such language could mean that an ally would provide no assistance, or political support only, or, of course, full military engagement.

U.S. conventional forces in NATO Europe are declining, and now stand at approximately 109,000. Few U.S. nuclear systems are now in Europe; Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) were eliminated under the 1988 INF Treaty, tactical nuclear weapons have been withdrawn, and only a reduced number of gravity bombs remains. In 1991, NATO declared that the (then) Soviet Union was no longer an "enemy" of NATO. These steps are a reflection of dramatically improved East-West relations since the end of the Cold War. Given that Russian military forces are suffering from severe budgetary constraints, conscription shortfalls, sharp deterioration in morale and readiness, and uncertain leadership, the threat posed by Russia has markedly declined.

Senator Roth believes that enlargement will "project security into a region that has long suffered as a security vacuum...." He believes that the eventual incorporation of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, should they continue on the road to reform, will be an important step forward in the economic and political integration of Europe, and spur other states to follow the same course. Enlargement will also consolidate Germany's longstanding contributions to western security by further locking "German interests into a transatlantic security structure...." (See Additional Reading: Sen. Roth, Congressional Record.)

Senator Lugar has called for consideration of the idea of "double enlargement" -- enlargement in geographic terms, but enlargement also in the sense of NATO taking on new missions that will give the alliance new and clear purpose. He has specifically mentioned crisis management and peacekeeping "perhaps beyond alliance borders" as such missions to which new members might contribute and which might also serve to enhance their security. (See Additional Reading, Lugar, Getting Back to Basics...")

Other Members have expressed opposition to a rapid pace towards enlargement. Representative Hamilton expressed concern that NATO expansion could create a gap between U.S. commitments in Europe and the resources required to meet them due to U.S. conventional force reductions. In this view, these reductions would leave too great a reliance on U.S. strategic nuclear forces to meet the U.S. commitment. At a June 20, 1996, House International Relations Committee hearing on H.R. 3564, he expressed doubt over the Administration witness's contention that enlargement would "enhance U.S. security." Representative Hamilton said that it was not clear that U.S. security would be enhanced if the United States took on the commitment to defend with nuclear and conventional forces 15 possible candidate states for admission. He noted the declining number of U.S. forces in Europe: "We're expanding dramatically our commitments," he said, "but dramatically cutting back our... capabilities. Why does that make sense?" He pressed the witness to provide estimates of the costs of enlargement. When the witness responded that such estimates, in his view, could not be clearly made, Rep. Hamilton responded, "but you take on the obligation [for mutual defense] without knowing what the costs will be?... You're very firm about your commitment to enlarge, but vague about the costs. You must have the capability to achieve the objectives." Several other Members echoed these sentiments. Representative Johnston said that the American people must be made aware of new commitments and potential costs before enlargement is undertaken. He noted popular opposition to the IFOR mission in Bosnia, and said that this was evidence that the American people might well oppose new commitments in Central Europe. (Author's notes.)

In mark-up on July 10, 1996, Representative Hamilton repeated some of his concerns about a rapid pace towards enlargement, but endorsed H.R. 3564. He noted that the bill expresses a Congressional finding that three countries have made the most progress towards meeting the necessary criteria for membership, and does not require the Administration to adopt a policy that they are now qualified, nor does it contain a date by which enlargement should take place. He cautioned that there must be more public and Congressional debate over enlargement so that the strategic and financial implications of admitting new states to NATO would be fully understood. The bill was reported to the floor by a bipartisan voice vote, and passed the House, 353-65.

On June 27-28, 1996, former Senators Nunn and Bradley said that EU expansion should precede NATO expansion in order first to build political and economic stability in central Europe. Senator Bradley believes that a rapid pace of NATO enlargement could trigger a nationalist reaction in Russia, leading to a greater threat to central European states, and derailing Russian implementation of START I and ratification of START II. (See Additional Reading: Senator Nunn and Senator Bradley, CR.)

NATO's mission of collective defense remains important to member states because of a concern that Russia, still armed with nuclear weapons, might one day become more unstable and aggressive, and a direct threat to its neighbors. Representatives of several central European states interviewed recently expressed concern over an eventual Russian threat, and stated that the Article V commitment is the principal reason for their desire to join the alliance. While many Administration officials emphasize the importance of Article V, they also note that U.S. and allied defense spending is declining, in response to public demand as well as to a perceived declining Russian threat. Could allied forces defend Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic in the event of a conflict?

Russian forces, in their current state, would find difficulty in mounting an attack in central Europe, and could not launch a surprise attack. A meaningful Russian conventional threat, then, to central European states is plausible only at a future moment, when Russia's economy stabilizes, greater defense expenditures were taking place, and a leadership were in place that intended to seek territorial gains or exert greater influence over neighboring states.

In such circumstances, in purely military terms, some states seeking NATO membership could prove difficult to defend. Poland's terrain is largely flat, making defense of its territory questionable using conventional forces. (See Additional Reading: New Challenges for Defense...; for a different view, see the section in this Issue Brief on "Defense Capabilities".) A contrasting view, however, holds that Poland could offer tactical advantages to the alliance in the event of a conflict involving heavy armor. NATO force-projection capabilities and many years of training for "deep battle" -- moving highly maneuverable armored forces long distances and limiting an adversary's ability to do the same -- would put allied forces at an advantage, in this view. Russian armored forces would have to traverse considerable territory to reach Poland, an undertaking that would require a long and potentially vulnerable logistics train. A possible weakness in this argument is the relative lack of forest in Poland to provide cover for NATO's armored forces. Another weakness is that Russia might heighten its considerable influence over Belarus and station armored forces on Belarusian soil, a measure that would strengthen Russian logistics. The Baltic states, hinged against Russian territory and difficult to supply, are, in the view of many NATO military officials, in an even more disadvantageous strategic position (interviews).

On June 4, 1996, Speaker Gingrich endorsed the NATO Enlargement Facilitation Act. In the past, he has urged that a rigorous study of the military implications of enlargement must be undertaken before enlargement occurs (Speech of March 7, 1996). He underscored that alliance expansion to include Poland, for example, must not recreate the meaningless British guarantee of Poland in 1939, when British forces were unable to supply any assistance to Polish forces at the outbreak of the Second World War. Other Members in both parties and both Houses have also called for a careful assessment of the strategic implications of enlargement. Senator Warner, for example, believes that because the defense budgets of the European allies have declined since the end of the Cold War, "ever-increasing U.S. military contributions to the Alliance to compensate for European shortfalls" could be required if collective defense is to be maintained. (See Senator Warner, CR).

Costs. An April 1995 RAND study estimated that NATO expansion to include the Visegrad states would require $10-50 billion over ten years, or as much as $100 billion or more should more vigorous measures be necessary to develop a strong defense posture. Under the conservative estimate, central European states would improve their infrastructure, develop command procedures and military doctrine in line with those of NATO states, and modernize their military equipment; NATO states would have a modest force presence in central Europe or prepare for modest force projections to the east. Principal costs would center around establishing modern combat aircraft components in new member states. Should more vigorous measures be needed to maintain a credible defense posture in central Europe, considerably larger expenditures on infrastructure and combat forces would be required for greater force projection. (See Additional Reading: Kugler, Defense Program Question.)

In March 1996, CBO issued a report assessing costs of enlargement under five possible options, ranging from assisting a new member engaged in a border skirmish or a conflict with a regional power, to the permanent stationing of the forces and equipment of current member states on the territory of new members to prepare for a broader conflict. The study assumes that Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia would be the initial new members and would bear the brunt of the costs of military modernization; that the costs would be spread over 1996-2010; and that current allies would pay a percentage of modernization costs equal to their proportional shares in NATO's Security Investment Program (formerly the Infrastructure fund). In such circumstances, costs at the low end (for option 1) would be $60.6 billion, with the U.S. share being $4.8 billion, and at the high end (for option 5) $125 billion, with the U.S. share being $18.9 billion. The author of the study acknowledges the many uncertainties in making such assessments, such as the weakness of the Central European economies, and he treats the figures as estimates. (See CBO, Costs...) Clinton Administration officials criticized the study by saying that too great expenses were factored into the analysis for exercises. The author has countered that if forces of current NATO members are not stationed on the territory of new member states, then extensive training and exercises will be necessary to move NATO forces eastward in the event of a crisis.

A fall 1996 RAND study estimated that expansion (to include the Visegrad states, over 10-15 years) would cost $10-20 billion if new member states alone modernized their militaries; $30-52 billion if current members undertook preparations to deploy 10-15 divisions and 10 fighter wings on the territory of new members; and $55-110 billion for forward deployment of current members' forces on the territory of new members in contemplation of a resurgent threat from the east. By February 1, 1997, the Administration must produce a report that assesses the financial costs of enlargement. Presumably, the study will address the potential costs of defending a Russian attack across the Polish plain. Treating such assumptions is likely to arouse a sharp reaction from Moscow.

The European Allies. The European allies evince a spectrum of views on the issue of enlargement. Germany appears closest to the position of the Clinton Administration, although there is not unanimity of opinion among senior German leaders. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl believes that enlargement should move forward if a cooperative framework with Russia can be developed and ethnic tensions in Europe can be calmed.

Other allies are more hesitant. Allies in favor of enlargement do not all endorse the same candidate states. They put great emphasis on first assuring that reform in Russia is on a steady path, and that NATO enlargement will not create anxiety in Moscow. Most European allies also express concern that expansion could dilute NATO's effectiveness in carrying out its core mission of collective defense. France is a principal proponent of this view. On September 12, 1996, however, President Chirac endorsed commencement of negotiations in 1997 with Poland, if "renovation" of the alliance -- including more assignments of senior military positions to Europeans -- takes place in the near future. Britain has expressed concern that enlargement will result in new members that can not be readily defended and that have minimal resources to develop significant defense postures, thereby weakening collective defense. British Defense Minister Portillo has said: "I want to make clear that I don't see this as a great ambition of NATO to get bigger. What of NATO's future? There can be no security without taking Russia into account." Some German officials, such as the Federal Republic's ambassador to NATO, believe that "different security interests [in NATO] are being regionalized," with the implication that the addition of more states would lead to further dilution of consensus in the alliance. This last view is widely shared among the European allies, who believe that the impulse for divergent responses of member states to the conflict in Bosnia would only be exacerbated were new states to join and new ethnic conflicts or regional crises to emerge. (See Additional Reading: Rifkind, European Defense; CR, January 25, 1996; Von Richthofen, Cracks are appearing....)

Some allies argue that expansion of the European Union must take place first to build political and economic stability in central Europe before consideration of steps in the security arena, which are much more likely, in their view, to antagonize Russia. EU expansion to include former communist states is not expected before 2002, and some observers put the date in the 2005-2010 timeframe. Turkey, a member of NATO and desirous of gaining EU entry, has privately floated the view that it may block NATO enlargement if its efforts to join the EU are not placed on a faster track.

The resistance to enlargement by some allies may have weakened in the wake of President Clinton's October 22, 1996, speech calling for admittance of new members by 1999. At the same time, representatives of allied governments believe, in an era of downsizing defense budgets, that it will be difficult to persuade their parliaments to share meaningfully in the costs of enlargement.

Candidates for NATO Membership. The NATO Enlargement Facilitation bill, as noted, mentions criteria necessary for NATO membership, with Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia (in the Senate version) named as initial candidates. The North Atlantic Treaty does not establish explicit criteria for entry. The preamble to the Treaty does state that member governments are "founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law." Article I obligates member states to refrain from the use of force, unless attacked, to resolve international disputes. Article II commits them to "strengthening their free institutions." Article III commits them to "maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack." Article X states that, by unanimous agreement, current members may admit other states "in a position to further the principles of this Treaty." These principles have not always been rigorously applied, either to applicants or to member states. Portugal became a member in 1949, even though it had a dictatorial government. Today, some members criticize Turkey for its repression of the Kurds, or Greece for discrimination against Moslems. Other members, such as Luxembourg and Iceland, have virtually no military capacity, or have sharply declining defense budgets and marginally effective forces.

Criteria such as democratic institutions, free markets, civilian control of the military, and respect for ethnic minorities can be highly subjective in interpretation. Slovakia has had free elections, but control of its press is restrictive by U.S. standards. The Czech Republic has internationally respected leaders chosen by its people, yet the country's Roma (Gypsy) population has been persecuted and has limited access to citizenship. Most east European countries, when in the Warsaw Pact, already had civilian control of their militaries, but in tightly centralized communist systems, with no true parliamentary oversight. Among civil-military issues today, NATO states wish to see a candidate state's legislature controlling the budget of the military; configuration of a military for uses -- such as crisis management -- suitable to NATO's mission; and a military that is not being used against a civilian population.

The effort to evaluate a state's respect for its ethnic minorities can pose considerable difficulties. In March 1995, Hungary and Slovakia signed a treaty that guaranteed rights desired by Slovakia's 600,000 ethnic Hungarians. Hungary reciprocated by guaranteeing the inviolability of Slovakia's border, but the Slovakians have backed away from elements of the accord. On September 16, 1996, Hungary and Romania signed a similar treaty guaranteeing minority rights of Hungarians in Romania. The Hungarian-Romanian treaty has been ratified. Even when such agreements are in force, interpreting their implementation on the ground is not an easy task, particularly if there are minority populations that demand more rights than the agreement grants.

By reference to previous legislation on enlargement, the NATO Enlargement Facilitation bills stipulate that candidate states must not transfer armaments to countries supporting terrorism. In 1995, the Clinton Administration attempted to dissuade Poland from selling over 100 T-72 tanks, once the main battle tank of Soviet design among Warsaw Pact states, to Iran. The Polish government decided in May 1995 to go forward with the sale, but said that future weapons sales to Iran are unlikely.

Evidence of commitment to NATO's strategic objectives is likely to play a role in consideration of candidate states. By this measure, Hungary, in the eyes of some observers, has taken strong steps forward. (Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary have contributed forces to IFOR, as have several other central European states.) In addition to supplying engineering units, Hungary is allowing its territory to be used as a staging area for IFOR, a decision that risks the antagonism of Hungary's Serbian neighbors. To those supporting Hungary's NATO's candidacy, Budapest's actions exemplify the political commitment and responsibility that strengthen its candidacy.

On September 27, 1996, Secretary of Defense Perry said that the Baltic states are not yet ready to enter NATO because they lack the "degree of military capability necessary to be part of the NATO alliance." He left the door open to their future admittance.

Russia describes potential NATO expansion as a threat to its well-being. Russian officials frequently note that invasions by European powers of Russian territory since the 18th century have come across the Polish plain. Discussion of NATO expansion has caused a strong negative response from Moscow. (See Additional Reading: NATO Enlargement and Russia.) The chairman of the upper house of the Russian parliament has said that the START II treaty (for reduction of strategic nuclear forces) is unlikely to be approved due to NATO's plans for expansion. On October 25, 1996, the Duma passed a resolution opposing enlargement by a vote of 307-0. Russian officials often contend that the "Two plus Four Treaty" of 1991 that united Germany prohibits the expansion of NATO beyond eastern Germany. The Treaty does not in fact contain such language, nor imply such an agreement. However, at the House International Relations Committee hearings on H.R. 3564, Jack Matlock, ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1991, stated that the United States made a verbal, but legally non-binding, commitment not to enlarge the alliance.

In March 1996, Russian Foreign Minister Primakov offered a "compromise" to the Alliance: the Alliance might expand, he said, if neither nuclear nor conventional forces of current members, nor NATO HQ were stationed on new members' soil. Privately, Russian officials reportedly also told Secretary of State Christopher that new members must not join the integrated command structure. NATO Secretary General Solana quickly rejected the "Primakov compromise" as an attempt to infringe the sovereignty of candidate states. The Russian probe could be a sign that Moscow recognizes the difficulty in preventing enlargement if current members desire it, and that Moscow is seeking to negotiate with Brussels over the issue. On September 6, 1996, Secretary Christopher endorsed a French plan for negotiating a "charter" between NATO and Russia. The charter would establish institutional means for consultation with Russia over European security issues, but would not give Russia a vote in NATO councils. Secretary Christopher has also floated the idea of giving Russia a non-voting seat on certain NATO committees. Discussion between NATO and Russian officials of a charter remains in general, exploratory terms.

On November 27, 1996, Russian Defense Minister Igor Rodionov, thought in the west to be a moderate, threatened possible military counter-measures should enlargement proceed. Should NATO station tactical nuclear forces in new member states, he said, Russia would target east European capitals with nuclear weapons. Should the Baltic states one day enter the alliance and their ports become home to NATO ships, then the Russian Baltic fleet would be put under unacceptable constraints, he continued. Enlargement, in his view, could lead Russia to renounce existing conventional and nuclear force treaties with the United States.

U.S. State Department officials contend that NATO has always had some political functions, and that these functions can be strengthened to encourage stability. In this view, the entry of Greece and Turkey in 1952 placed their long-running bilateral tensions in an institutional context in which the United States and other NATO states could manage the negotiation of differences between the two countries. Some officials in allied states who oppose NATO enlargement might acknowledge NATO's positive role in steadying relations between Greece and Turkey; they often contend, however, that the two countries provided important geographic and strategic advantages to NATO that none of the central European states can equal.

Representative Solomon, a forceful proponent of enlargement, has urged NATO to clarify the process of enlargement, and move the debate from the theoretical realm to a more concrete basis by describing clear guidelines for candidate states to follow, and by designating candidate states. He has criticized the Administration for giving Russia too much influence in the debate. In Representative Solomon's view, the alliance has made clear that Russia is no longer viewed as an enemy: NATO is not directed against any one country, but rather for the values of "a just and lasting peaceful order in Europe accompanied by appropriate security guarantees." NATO's new purpose is to provide support for peace operations and to project stability in Europe. (See Representative Solomon, NATO Enlargement...)

Finally, the Clinton Administration may have a view of the alliance's future that differs from that of some candidate states. U.S. officials reportedly supported the passages in the alliance's report on enlargement that stated that there was no apparent need for early stationing of forces from current member states on the territory of possible new members. The reasoning of these officials is that forward stationing might exacerbate nationalistic anxieties in Russia, and that in the near future, Russia is not a clear threat to central Europe. They believe that instability in the region, best addressed through development of democratic norms and expanding economies, is the principal threat, not a Russian invasion; inclusion in NATO, in the Administration's view, can supply stability by closely associating new members with the United States and the stable, prosperous democracies of western Europe. Moreover, in an era of declining defense budgets in the United States and in Europe (and Russia), some U.S. officials contend that a more "political" approach to Article V is not only appropriate but realistic, given the consensus since 1990 that has reduced U.S. armed forces. This reasoning has some force for those who believe that Russia must be strategically engaged to prevent a growing sense of isolation and nationalistic sentiment in Moscow.
Defense Capabilities. The NATO Enlargement Facilitation Act encourages the Administration to transfer "advanced fighter aircraft" and other weapons systems to frontline candidate states for membership. Poland and the Czech Republic have had discussions with the Department of State about acquiring small numbers (reportedly, less than a dozen) F-16s and/or F- 18s, which are high-performance combat aircraft. (Hungary has postponed consideration of the purchase of such systems, in part for budgetary reasons, in part because NATO has not yet determined that Hungary needs these weapons.) Some DOD, State Department, and European officials believe that candidate countries should use their limited resources to concentrate upon restructuring their militaries for peacekeeping operations and defensive systems, which the legislation also encourages. In addition, in these officials' view, the territory of these three countries is too small to allow for meaningful training with such powerful, fast-flying systems. Other officials, especially in DOD, believe that the three countries' acquisition of such systems would more closely link the countries to U.S. military systems and promote interoperability; and still other DOD officials believe that the purchase of such systems is important to the continued health of U.S. defense industries.

The European allies address NATO expansion cautiously in part because of Russian antagonism over the issue. They believe that collective defense for the current members has been highly successful and should be preserved, and that enlargement in the foreseeable future could dilute the Article V commitment for all members by adding states difficult to defend. Raising the defense capabilities of prospective members to a level that contributes significantly to the alliance's defense posture appears to them implausible, in part for economic reasons; in addition, such an effort could serve to put the Russians on guard. For this reason, they have criticized Poland's and the Czech Republic's inquiries at the U.S. Dept. of Defense about acquiring F-16s and F-18s. Instead of a strong NATO force posture near Russian territory, should enlargement occur, European officials in NATO states tend to emphasize efforts to develop a "security architecture" that includes Russia. In this view, close consultations between NATO and Russia would take place when developments occur that threaten European stability. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, after endorsing NATO enlargement in principle, stated in April 1995 that "the era of forward defense at the border between the East and the West belongs to the past," a remark that implied his government's opposition to a strong NATO force posture on the soil of prospective member states.

Administration officials have stated that they wish to see PFP states seeking NATO membership develop a more "defensive" posture in their forces. Warsaw Pact states developed, and still maintain, forces trained for offensive operations; heavy tank concentrations, long-range artillery, and tactical aircraft are key components of such forces. The choice of weapons systems available to prospective members is likely to prove an important issue in determining the political posture that the alliance wishes to present to Russia, as well as an indication of which course will be followed in determining NATO's new missions.


Congress is likely to continue to evaluate central and eastern European states in relation to the general criteria for membership present in the current and previous legislation on enlargement. A steady course by these states towards democratic practices and market economies could allay some Russian concerns that NATO seeks to build an aggressive defense alliance near its borders. In contrast, ethnic violence and economic dislocation in central Europe would raise tensions with Russia and further the cause of those in Russia who believe that Moscow must play a major, perhaps decisive role in determining the future of the region.

NATO expansion would most likely enhance security in Europe if it occurred in a period when the conditions that led to the Article V commitment to mutual defense had receded, and minimal criteria for improvements in central and eastern Europe's defense posture were required. Politically, the mission of collective defense co-exists uneasily with NATO's intention to expand to the east, in that NATO states have been seeking to assure Moscow that expansion is not intended as a threat to Russia.

Uncertainty over NATO's mission is closely linked to the issue of expansion. At a moment when some NATO members believe the alliance is being "regionalized" and that a consensus is lacking for addressing ethnic violence, many member states are most comfortable with NATO's current boundaries and its initial core mission of collective defense. Bringing in new members, in this view, carries the risk of diluting both political likemindedness within the alliance and collective defense by giving increased weight to the less tried missions of peacekeeping or peacemaking, and crisis management. Some of the same countries that have doubts about such added missions also tend to fear that NATO may crowd out development of an independent European security capability to address crises that the United States may not wish to address.