Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 207

The German government appears finally to have overcome its political hesitations with respect to NATO’s Baltic enlargement. Although the German military did join its NATO counterparts in assisting the Baltic states’ fledgling forces, the German government long avoided any clear expression of political support for their admission to the alliance. Berlin’s quest to develop close relations with Moscow was often cited as a factor shaping German policy on NATO’s Baltic enlargement. At times, the left-of-center German government spoke in tune with the right-of-center opposition, suggesting that the European Union could substitute for NATO in providing security for the Baltic states. Increasingly, Berlin was falling out of step with Washington and even with Germany’s close partner, France. This situation has now changed almost suddenly and dramatically.

Visiting the three Baltic states last week, German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping took to its logical conclusion the thesis that NATO’s enlargement is not directed against Russia. This being the case, the Baltic states’ admission cannot and will not be sacrificed for the sake of antiterrorist cooperation with Russia, said Scharping in response to questions during his tour. He argued, moreover, that it is in Russia’s interest to cooperate with an enlarged NATO as a stronghold of stability on Russia’s western borders.

In Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn, the German minister declared that the three states should be admitted to NATO next year as a group rather than individually. With this, Germany is joining a rapidly growing consensus within NATO. This German move lays conclusively to rest the lingering notion of a one-country admission round.

Scharping cited the successful development of the three Baltic joint defense programs–naval squadron Baltron, air space surveillance system Baltnet and land force battalion Baltbat–as a compelling military and economic consideration for treating the three states as a unit in terms of the process of admission to NATO. And he went further in proposing that Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as a group should begin cooperation with the German-Danish-Polish corps, headquartered at Szczecin, Poland.

In the three capitals, Scharping expressed complete satisfaction with the fulfillment of the respective Membership Action Plans for the first two years and with progress on the MAP in the current, final year. This assessment, too, suggests that Germany is now prepared to vote in favor of the three Baltic states’ admission to the alliance next year at the Prague summit (Deutschlandfunk, DPA, BNS, ELTA, LETA, October 30-31, November 1; see the Monitor, September 6, 17, 28, October 10).