Updated April 14, 1998
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
NATO Enlargement: Pro and Con Arguments
Paul E. Gallis
Specialist in European Affairs
Foreign Affairs and National Defense
In March 1998, the Senate began debate on the Protocols to the North Atlantic
Treaty (Treaty Doc. 105-36)for the purpose of amending the Treaty to admit Poland, the
Czech Republic, and Hungary. The U.S. Senate must give its advice and consent to
revise the North Atlantic Treaty and admit new members. Key arguments favoring U.S.
approval of enlargement include the need to bring stability in central Europe; building a
strong transatlantic link with new European democracies; and extending collective
defense to countries that remain concerned about a potential Russian threat. Key
arguments against NATO expansion include the concern that it will exacerbate tensions
with Russia; result in substantial costs and risks that the allies are unwilling to share and
the American people are unwilling to shoulder alone; and dilute the mission, political
likemindedness, and military effectiveness of the alliance.
On July 8, 1997, NATO extended invitations to Poland, the Czech Republic, and
Hungary to begin negotiations to enter the alliance. The alliance commended Romania,
Slovenia, and the Baltic states for progress towards democratic and economic reform, and
pledged future enlargement, without promising invitations to specific countries.
In March 1998, the Senate began debate on admitting the 3 candidate states to the
alliance. A two-thirds vote of Senators present in the chamber in favor of the Protocols
(Treaty Doc. 105-36) naming the 3 countries is necessary for the Senate to give its advice
and consent to amend the Treaty. Several conditions to the Resolution of Ratification
have been proposed. One condition proposes that the 3 states first join the European
Union before being eligible for NATO; another proposes a 3-year moratorium on further
expansion from the date of the admission of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary;
another asserts that collective defense, and not peace operations or humanitarian
assistance, must remain the core function of the alliance.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Arguments Supporting Enlargement
! Europe is the home of many of the world's most important democracies and market
economies; enlargement will promote stability in Europe by providing a secure
environment for new members to further consolidate democracy and open markets.
Enlargement will gradually end Cold-War divisions in Europe and bring new
members into an integrated Euro-Atlantic community.
! The NATO-Russia Founding Act of May 1997 provides Moscow with "a voice but
not a veto," and ensures that Russia will enjoy consultation on the key European
security issues outside NATO territory.
! An alternative view is that Russia remains a potential threat, and that enlargement
will secure for the alliance a significant presence in a strategically important area,
thereby limiting Moscow's potential sphere of influence.
! The costs of enlargement to the alliance will be modest ($1.3-1.5 billion over 10
years according to a NATO study) because there is little threat. In contrast, the
NATO operation in Bosnia, for example, has thus far cost the United States alone
over $7 billion in the effort to secure stability. Failure to expand the alliance would
leave central European states anxious over potential border and minority issues
with neighboring countries.
! Enlargement will sustain U.S. leadership in Europe.
While expansion of the
European Union (EU) is important for encouraging stability, NATO enlargement
will further secure the transatlantic link that many European states wish to preserve
and extend into the 21st century.
! Collective defense remains the core of the alliance. Extending it to qualified new
members will deter aggression in a traditionally unstable region.
! Enlargement will prevent the "renationalization" of defense in central Europe. Each
new member need develop only that part of its military that serves overall alliance
purposes, and will benefit from a NATO military infrastructure linking it to
countries committed to collective defense.
! U.S. and western defense industries will benefit by securing markets for their
armaments in the newly allied states.
Arguments Opposing Enlargement
! There is no threat to any current ally or candidate state, and no need therefore to
expand NATO's collective defense commitments. Enlargement will create new
dividing lines in Europe by putting Russia on guard against an alliance moving into
its traditional areas of influence. Not inviting such countries as the Baltic states and
Romania to join the alliance signals Moscow that they are isolated and subject to
! The key U.S. interest in Europe is ensuring Russia's continued democratization and
integration into the community of nations. Enlargement will humiliate Moscow and
create a "Weimar Russia," vulnerable to Russian nationalists hostile to the west
who believe that the country's interests are being sacrificed by weak leadership.
! Russia is important to the success of NATO's "new missions." Enlargement will
jeopardize the cooperation of Moscow that is necessary to forge successful
coalitions for peace operations and crisis management.
! Russia is the only country that can destroy the United States. Russian nationalists
view enlargement as a threat, and are certain to oppose the START II nuclear
treaty and other arms control agreements, which are desirable for protecting U.S.
! In the post-Cold-War era, securing European stability should be left to political
institutions, such as the European Union, and not to military institutions, such as
NATO. Central Europe's true needs are strong economic structures and
democratic institutions, which are in the EU's realm and not NATO's.
! Partnership for Peace (PfP) is preferable to NATO enlargement because it is already
accomplishing the tasks of ensuring civilian control of the military, transparent
defense budgets, and training for NATO's "new missions."
! NATO enlargement will be expensive, and the allies show no willingness to share
the costs. The Administration once estimated the costs to be $27-35 billion over
12 years, but other estimates range as high as $60-125 billion.
! Enlargement will dilute the alliance's effectiveness by complicating decision-making,
and by admitting countries unable to contribute meaningfully to the alliance's core
mission of collective defense.
! Bosnia demonstrates that the Europeans are not willing to bear the burden for
ensuring security in their own backyard. If instability develops in central Europe,
the United States will have to shoulder the financial and military costs of bringing