NATO Enlargement: The Process and Allied Views

In December 1996, NATO countries expressed the intention to name one or more candidate states for membership at the alliance summit in Madrid on July 8-9, 1997. Designation of candidates would be the first significant step in the process of admitting central European countries. NATO has set a target date of April 1999 for completion of current members' constitutional processes to revise the North Atlantic Treaty to incorporate new members. Expansion of the alliance has triggered a broad debate about NATO's purpose and future. Since the end of the Cold War, NATO's missions have been evolving. The Clinton Administration believes that enlargement will enhance NATO's ability to strengthen those new missions and build stability in Europe. NATO states continue to emphasize Article V, the provision for collective defense, of the North Atlantic Treaty. They wish to ensure that new members do not dilute the alliance's political likemindedness, nor its defense posture. At the same time, most member states believe that bringing countries into the alliance could strengthen those countries' path towards democracy, and enhance stability. Several differences have emerged among member states on the issue of enlargement. The degree to which some members believe that Article V could be strengthened or weakened by enlargement is one concern. Some members emphasize more than others NATO's "new missions," such as crisis management and peacekeeping. In general, candidate states better able to support new missions or that contribute to stability in Europe have broader support among most member states. Most member states are concerned about the possible costs of enlargement, and the alliance has not yet agreed upon a plan for sharing those costs. Some member governments also remain concerned about a possible backlash against the alliance from Russian nationalists, should enlargement go forward. There is an apparent consensus to name Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary as candidate states at the Madrid summit. Some members, in particular France and Italy, support Slovenia and Romania as well. The Baltic states do not have support in a first round of enlargement. Following Madrid, negotiations for accession with candidate states will begin, and should be completed by December 1997. NATO enlargement will face competing issues in several member states. Qualification for European Monetary Union (EMU), efforts to constrain budgets, and national elections could affect the debate over enlargement. Member states will watch developments in the U.S. Senate, above all. In France, Italy, and Turkey, the debate could prove to be difficult. Member states will follow different constitutional processes to amend the North Atlantic Treaty.