Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Central Europe and the Baltic Littoral in NATO

Central Europe and the Baltic Littoral in NATO

On May 8, 2003, the U.S. Senate ratified NATO protocols on the accession of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. The floor debate was brief and the vote unanimous. The apparent consensus on ratification was interpreted by many Western observers as a sign of U.S. support for ‘‘new Europe’’—those nations that stood by the United States in the war on Iraq. Some saw the vote as an important step in the implementation of the United States’ vision of an enlarged transatlantic community. In this view, the unanimous ratification indicated that the decision enjoyed the full backing of the legislature, the executive, and the public.

Skeptics countered that after this second round of enlargement, NATO would no longer be the primary focus of U.S. security policy. Fissures would deepen in transatlantic relations, and NATO would become merely a political tool that the United States could use to rally European support for its initiatives and to legitimize its military actions. And if in the process the United States might be able to forge ‘‘coalitions of the willing’’ along with garnering political backing, so much the better, even if it did not need such coalitions in order to take military action in its war on terror. To critics of the November 2002 Prague round, the protocols were only ratified so expeditiously because NATO has lost its importance to the United States and become a political organization with only marginal military capabilities.

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