Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 186

On October 5 in Sofia, the presidents of the ten countries aspiring to NATO membership–the Vilnius Ten group–held a prescheduled summit, which focused on these countries’ contribution to the common security of the West in an international environment defined by the antiterrorism campaign. The meeting confirmed that the goal of the alliance’s enlargement in 2002 remains firmly on NATO’s and Washington’s policy track. Post-September 11 suppositions that the United States, or NATO collectively, might backtrack on that goal in return for Russian antiterrorist cooperation, are not being borne out. On the contrary, President George W. Bush, in a message to the Vilnius-Ten summit, reaffirmed his binding pledge of “No more Yaltas.” NATO’s secretary general, Lord George Robertson, has made the case that international developments since September 11 have reinforced the logic of enlarging the alliance.

In a keynote address, Zbigniew Brzezinski spoke of these countries–as some of them have themselves done since September 11–as “de facto members of the alliance,” by dint of progress on Membership Action Plans and/or readiness to support the NATO countries’ antiterrorism efforts.

To solve comprehensively the question of NATO’s enlargement, in a manner that would avoid creating different shades of security and would end the uncertainties in NATO-Russia relations, Brzezinski proposed that NATO’s summit issue membership invitations to seven countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania. Those invitations would amount to statements of political intentions and political confidence on the part of NATO.

The ratification of membership would follow immediately for those countries whose readiness is confirmed. For the other countries, the ratification would be contingent on annual reviews of the progress they achieve in their preparations. The NATO Council would determine the sequence of actual admissions, providing the next-wave member countries with an incentive for accelerated political and military reforms. Such “stacked ratification” would differ from the 1999 enlargement procedure, in which the membership invitations to Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary were ratified immediately.

Inviting those seven countries would, among other merits, extend the alliance’s umbrella of security and stability to the entire space between the Baltic and Black seas, as anticipated in President George W. Bush’s June 2001 address in Warsaw. Any agreements, currently in a pre-discussion stage, between Russia and NATO on some “common security area”–and by the same token between the European Union and Russia on some “common economic space”–can safely be negotiated only after the two organizations’ comprehensive enlargement, not before. To reverse the sequence would be to risk entering into bargains with Moscow over the future of countries that are left outside NATO.

Inviting and admitting those countries into the alliance would also enable NATO to conduct a political dialogue with Russia on a basis that precludes the reassertion of Russian dominance in that region. And this would in turn enable Ukraine to relate to its Western neighbors and to NATO in accordance with Ukraine’s own national interests, not in Russia’s shadow. Evidently with that in mind, Brzezinski proposed that Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine attend and address NATO’s Prague 2002 summit–the anticipated “enlargement summit.”

In his speech at the Sofia summit, Robertson noted the aspirant countries’ offers of “full political and practical support” to the United States’ and NATO’s antiterrorism measures since September 11. Robertson also cited the military contributions of aspirant countries to NATO operations in Bosnia and Kosovo, as well as the new members’ military contributions there and in Macedonia. From this he concluded that both the political and the military logic of enlargement has, if anything, been reinforced by the recent events. The progress achieved on Membership Action Plans is turning aspirant countries into net providers of security while enabling the alliance to spread the military burdens “on more shoulders,” Robertson observed. In a follow-up statement he asserted that “the enlargement process will not be held hostage by terrorism or terrorists;” and that the enlargement would “continue without interruption, because any interruption would mean a victory for the terrorists.”

The ten heads of state issued a “Declaration of Solidarity” in which they undertook to support the United States and NATO in the war on terrorism. “As future members of the alliance, we reaffirm our commitment to conduct our foreign and security policies in accordance with the implications of the [1949] Washington Treaty, including its Article Five” (BNS, BTA, NATO releases, Western news agencies, October 5-9; see the Monitor, September 28).