Germany hesitated a long time before officially endorsing the Baltic states’ candidacy for NATO membership. It was not until last October that the Social-Democrat-led government finally budged on this issue; and even then, the Chancellor’s Office seemed content to yield the policy initiative to the Defense Ministry, before the Foreign Affairs Ministry ultimately in February weighed in. At present, Germany is putting its full weight behind NATO’s Baltic enlargement.
On April 26, the Bundestag adopted a resolution supporting the Baltic and other states’ admission to NATO in the next round of the alliance’s enlargement. Only the left-wing Party of Democratic Socialism voted against. Speakers from all parties endorsing the resolution singled out the Baltic states’ democratic credentials, market reforms, progress on meeting admission criteria, and cooperation with the alliance on Balkan peace support operations and other issues.
They noted also Germany’s responsibility for helping to reverse the consequences of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. This aspect of the Bundestag debate showed how Germany and Russia differ on this issue. To Germany, the Nazi-Soviet pact now provides moral reasons for supporting the Baltic states’ admission to NATO. To Russia, the pact’s direct consequence–Soviet annexation of the Baltic states–provides grounds for opposing the Baltic states’ admission to NATO.
The German government is already looking beyond the alliance’s Prague summit in November, when the Baltic and possibly other states should receive membership invitations. Berlin now favors a rapid and efficient completion of the accession process, from the issuance of invitations to the actual accession. Some German official statements reflect concern that a slow process of Baltic accession after Prague can send the wrong signals to Russia, possibly emboldening the latter to try and halt the process, and thus rekindling a divisive issue between Russia and the West.
On April 30 in Warsaw, the Defense Ministers of Germany, Denmark, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania met in the 3+3 framework to discuss expediting the accession process. The three NATO countries invited the three Baltic states to open liaison offices with the German-Danish-Polish joint corps as soon as possible, before the Prague summit; and to assign Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian units to join that corps after the Prague summit. The idea is to turn the existing, tripartite corps into a six-country force, to be called the Baltic Corps and to underpin regional security (Heute im Bundestag, April 25-26; BNS, April 26, 29-30; DPA, April 29-30; see the Monitor, January 25, February 14, March 21, 27; Fortnight in Review, February 15, March 21, April 2).
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