The American Interest

Europe Skeptical About NATO Enlargement

On November 21, 2002, NATO leaders meeting in Prague invited seven ex-communist nations to join their ranks in an expansion termed “historic.”  The three Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (the alliance will, for the first time, include former Soviet territory), as well as Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Rumania are expected to become full members at the next summit in 2004.

The reporting in the U.S. media was bland, while editorial commentary largely focused on the political benefits, organizational challenges, and financial costs of the expansion.  The foreign press, however, raised substantial questions about the purpose of the enlargement—and, indeed, of NATO itself.  It was left to Europeans to remark that “transforming” the alliance into an antiterrorist peacekeeping force represents a tacit admission that NATO does not know what to do with itself.  The Irish Times asserted that “NATO has failed to answer serious questions about its future role in enhancing world security” and warned that no answers will come from gatherings of smiling politicians with “bunkers full of missiles with no target to aim at.”

As Jane’s Foreign Report pointed out some months before the Prague Summit, the declining importance of NATO reflects the fact that “the Americans do not trust the Alliance’s decision-making...

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