Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 78

On April 17-20, Spain’s Foreign Affairs Minister Josep Pique paid an official visit to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania–the first high-level Spanish visit to the Baltic states in the ten years of restored independence. Pique called for the simultaneous admission of the three states to NATO at next year’s Prague summit of the alliance. Two of his arguments stand out. First, that NATO’s Baltic enlargement–in a single round embracing the three countries–is “a very good thing” both for the alliance and for Russia, because it would increase security for all countries in that region. This type of message is clearly more constructive to the West’s relations with Russia, and more educational to Moscow itself, than the message from those who would postpone the admission of the Baltic states to NATO out of residual deference to Moscow’s imperial history. Pique’s other thesis cited Spain’s experience in joining Western institutions. He suggested that admission to the European Union and to NATO are equally important and complementary, while advancing distinct aspects of Western integration. This observation aims straight at the pretense that the EU can somehow substitute for NATO in guaranteeing the military security of the Baltic states or the region.

In Germany, two current position papers, emanating from near the top of the two major parties and widely reported in the press, recommend that the Baltic states be invited to join NATO at the next summit. With that, the two policy papers depart from the Social Democrat-Green government’s prevarication from the Christian Democrats’ order of priorities regarding NATO enlargement.

The first was written by the Bundestag deputies Markus Meckel and Peter Zumkley, who are top Social-Democrat specialists on foreign policy and defense. They argue that NATO will be well placed in 2002 to invite Slovakia, Slovenia and the three Baltic states to join; that failure to enlarge next year would damage the alliance’s credibility; and that delaying the decision could lead to a “re-nationalization” of defense and security policies by rejected countries, seriously undermining political stability and economic development both nationally and regionally.

In the opposition Christian Democrat/Christian Social Union, the CSU wing has endorsed a policy paper by its Foreign Policy and Defense Working Group in the Bundestag, supporting the Baltic enlargement of the alliance next year. Author Christian Schmidt and the CSU caution against any official or tacit acceptance of Moscow’s objections to Baltic membership in NATO. The paper, furthermore, takes issue with the CDU wing’s priorities as outlined recently by Volker Ruehe, the former long-serving minister of defense. The Ruehe thesis artificially counterposes other candidacies to that of the Baltic states for NATO membership, and holds that the Balts do not really need NATO guarantees because they can get them some time later from the EU and because the Baltic region is stable anyway.

That thesis bears the marks of improvisation and seems destined for a short lifespan. The CSU paper–like the Social-Democrats’–argues that the admission of the three Baltic states along with that of Slovakia and Slovenia is advisable as well as feasible in the second round of enlargement next year. That view, should it continue to gain adherents, creates a potential basis for German bipartisan consensus on the scope and pace of NATO’s enlargement that would include early Baltic membership.

Ten years ago, Iceland became the first NATO country to officially recognize the Baltic states’ restored independence through an official statement by then Foreign Affairs Minister Jon Baldvin Hanibalsson. Last week in Washington, Hanibalsson–now ambassador to the United States–declared: “Leaving Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania once again outside the overall security system, in a gray zone or a political no-man’s land waiting to be filled by a reborn imperial ambition of a new generation of nationalist leaders in Russia, is certainly not conducive to stability and peace in Europe in the future” (DPA, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, April 12, 17; BNS, ELTA, LETA, ETA, April 2-3, 11-20; CTK, April 13, 17; see the Monitor, February 6, 22, March 16, April 11; Fortnight in Review, April 13).

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