CRS Report for Congress
Paul E. Gallis
Specialist in European Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
This report provides a brief summary of the last round of NATO enlargement. The
report analyzes the key military and political issues in the debate over seven prospective
members named at NATO’s Prague summit. It then provides an overview of the
positions of the allies and of Russia on enlargement, citing the effects of the terrorist
attacks of September 11, 2001, on the United States. It concludes with a discussion of
recent legislation on enlargement. This report will be updated as needed. See also CRS
Report RS21354, The NATO Summit at Prague, 2002, CRS Report RL30168, NATO
Applicant States: A Status Report, and CRS Report RS21510, NATO’s Decision-Making
Congress is now considering enlargement of NATO, an issue addressed at the allied
summit in Prague, in November 2002. During the last round of enlargement, the Senate
voted 80-19 on April 30, 1998, in favor of admitting Poland, the Czech Republic, and
Hungary to NATO. (A two-thirds Senate majority is necessary to admit new states
because enlargement is considered an amendment to the original North Atlantic Treaty.)
Other members of the alliance followed suit, and the three countries became members in
March 1999. It was the fourth time that NATO had admitted new states, with
membership increasing from the original 12 to 19 today.
At the previous NATO summit in April 1999, the allies underscored that they were
open to further enlargement. They created a Membership Action Plan (MAP), outlining
structured goals for candidates, such as ending the danger of ethnic conflict, developing
a democratic society with transparent political and economic processes and civilian
control of the military, and pledging commitment to defense budgets to build military1
forces able to contribute to missions from collective defense to peacekeeping.
1 Washington Summit Communiqué, paragraph 7, NATO. April 24, 1999.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
At Prague, on November 21, 2002, the current members’ heads of state designated
the three Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia), Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and
Romania, as prospective members.
The Current Debate
In 1998, the congressional debate over NATO enlargement covered such issues as
costs, mission, and qualifications of the candidates. The issue of costs has now seemingly
been put to rest because entry of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary does not
appear to have required extra U.S. funds. Most observers believe that the three countries
have contributed to stability in Europe, and have made significant political contributions
to the alliance in such matters as enhancing NATO’s understanding of central and eastern
Europe, Russia, and the Balkans, given the history of the new members’ involvement with
these regions. Militarily, their contribution is less apparent; each of the three contributes
forces to the NATO-led peace operations in the Balkans, and is building forces to defend
its borders. Pentagon officials believe that Poland has made the greatest strides in
restructuring and modernizing its military, and that the Czech Republic and Hungary have
made considerably less progress.2 It should be noted that a period of years is normally
necessary to rebuild a military that has had an authoritarian tradition and convert it to one
having civilian control, purge it of old-guard elements, reform its training, and purchase
equipment compatible with a new set of allies.
There has been some sentiment that NATO should delay invitations to candidate
states until democratic processes are firmly entrenched. For example, the recent
Hungarian government of Victor Orban was criticized for an ethnic “status law” that some
interpreted as cloaking Hungarian aspirations for territory from neighboring states having
Hungarian minorities.3 Others reject such sentiments, noting that Orban was freely
elected, and dismissing the status law as nothing more than a passing example of
nationalist politics before a close election. Nonetheless, it is possible that the period
between naming candidate states for accession negotiations at Prague in November 2002
and the moment when current NATO member governments decide whether to admit those
candidates (such as the vote in the U.S. Senate), could see debates over whether each
candidate continues to meet criteria for democracy, particularly if there is an election
bringing in a government that member states view as extremist. The North Atlantic
Treaty does not contain a provision for expelling or disciplining a member state.
Another factor for consideration could prove to be a prospective member’s efforts
to persuade its people that NATO membership is desirable. Slovenia held a referendum
on March 23, 2003; 66% of those voting, 66% supported NATO membership, despite
popular opposition to the war in Iraq that approaches 80%. No other candidate state
intends to hold a referendum on NATO membership.
The essence of the current enlargement debate is over qualifications, with no
apparent consensus. Of an original nine candidates, two candidates, Albania and
2 “NATO Pushes Czechs on Arms,” International Herald Tribune, Feb. 22, 2001, p. 5; and
Jeffrey Simon, “Transforming the Armed Forces of Central and East Europe,” Strategic Forum,
3 Jackson Diehl, “New NATO, Old Values,” Washington Post, March 4, 2002, p. A19.
Macedonia, did not receive invitations at Prague.4 Each of these countries is small, with
comparably small militaries potentially capable of specialized functions, such as transport
or medical care, for example, but only minimally capable of building forces able to
contribute to high-intensity conflict. In the view of some observers, to adhere to the letter
of the military qualifications outlined in the 1999 summit communiqué, requiring new
members to contribute to missions from peacekeeping to collective defense, would be
tantamount to excluding their entry.
Many participants in the debate favor different standards that, in their view, reflect
the current political situation in Europe, where Russia is no longer a military threat but
ethnic conflict, nationalism, and terrorism are a danger. In such circumstances, they
contend, political stability and a modernized military at least able to contribute to border
defense and to peace operations are an appropriate standard. Secretary of State Powell
seemed to suggest such a standard in his confirmation hearing when he stressed a need
for candidates to modernize their militaries, and to strengthen their democratic structures.5
An opposing view is that NATO should first clearly define its mission, above all
with an agreement on what types of out-of-area threats, such as terrorism, proliferation,
or a disruption of the flow of oil, should be met with a possible military response. At that
point, enlargement should be considered, with a determination about which prospective
members might contribute to the mission. Some observers, also hesitant about
enlargement, note that the United States flew over 60 percent of combat missions in the
Kosovo conflict. They prefer prospective members that could relieve the U.S. burden.
Yet another view is that there is no clear dichotomy between collective defense
(high-intensity conflict undertaken in response, for example, to the attacks of September
11, 2001) and collective security (peace operations and humanitarian assistance). In this
view, countries contributing to peace operations assist in building stable societies and
preventing “black holes,” such as Bosnia or Afghanistan, where terrorism may take root.
Countries involved in peace operations, then, are contributing to the prevention of
terrorism, and thereby to collective defense.
The terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, are affecting
the enlargement debate. A likely part of the enlargement debate will be how prospective
members might contribute to the conflict against terrorism or act to stem the flow of
weapons of mass destruction. NATO seemed partially to settle one aspect of the debate
over its mission shortly after the attacks when member states invoked Article V, the
alliance’s collective defense clause, to come to the aid of the United States in the conflict
against terrorism. Previously, the European allies had resisted any statement that Article
V should be invoked in an out-of-area action against terrorism. At a NATO ministerial
meeting in Reykjavik in May 2002, the allies agreed that they must be able “to carry out
4 For a review of developments in 9 states seeking admission to NATO, see CRS Report
RL30168, NATO Applicant States: A Status Report, by Steven Woehrel, Julie Kim, and Carl Ek.
5 Confirmation hearing of Colin Powell, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 1st sess., 107th
Congress, Jan. 18, 2001.
the full range of... missions, ... to field forces wherever they are needed, sustain operations
over distance and time, and achieve their objectives.”6
However, not all member states have sufficiently mobile or appropriately trained
forces for the current tasks in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example. Few allies besides the
United States have special forces or mobile, large-formation combat forces with the
potential to contribute meaningfully to such conflicts. At the same time, a number of
allies have an intelligence capability, transport, medical units, and political influence that
might assist in such conflicts.
As the terrorism conflict unfolds, current members may examine how prospective
members might be able to contribute. Contributions might include political influence and
support, for example in the United Nations or with Russia or Muslim states, and not
necessarily military potential. They might also examine the level of internal security in
the candidate countries and ability to control borders, disrupt terrorist financial networks
or apprehend terrorist suspects on their soil. Elements of the MAP that emphasize an end
to corruption may be increasingly underscored, given the post-September 11 importance
of preventing money-laundering, and combating a black economy.
The alliance experienced sharp divisions over whether to use military force against
Iraq. In January 2003, Bush Administration officials applauded the decision of the 7
candidate states (and others) to sign a letter that, in general, endorsed the U.S. position on
Iraq; some candidates state representatives complained that they had been bullied by the
Administration into signing the letter. Six of the seven candidate states joined the
coalition. Slovenia was the exception, but allowed overflight by U.S. and UK forces. The
failure to achieve consensus in the North Atlantic Council over how and whether to aid
Turkey in the event of an attack by Iraq exposed serious divisions in the alliance.7 The
fractious debate in the NAC led some Administration officials and Members of Congress
to raise the issue of changing NATO decision-making procedures.8
Views of the Allies
The debate over enlargement is quite different in 2001 than it was in 1998. In 1998,
several European allies strongly supported enlargement. Today, most member states
couch discussion of enlargement in careful terms.
Most member states agree that Slovenia is politically qualified for membership; in
addition, Hungary urges Slovenia’s membership, once NATO criteria for entry are met,
for strategic reasons. Hungary is not contiguous with any other NATO state. Slovenia’s
entry into the alliance would provide Hungary with a land bridge to Italy, a clear
advantage given neutral Austria’s refusal during the Kosovo war to permit NATO
overflights to Hungary. Slovakia is a credible candidate in some NATO capitals, given
the return in September 2002 elections of key elements of its reform government. Some
northern European allies, such as Poland, strongly support membership for the Baltic
6 Communiqué, NATO Ministerial, May 14, 2002.
7 “Lock horns,” Financial Times, Feb. 10, 2003; interviews of officials in allied governments.
8 CRS Report RS21510, NATO’s Decision-Making Procedures, by Paul Gallis.
states; they contend that the Baltic states have met OSCE and EU political guidelines for
democracy, and cite the three countries’ work to build stability in the region and to
establish better relations with Russia. U.S. officials state that the Baltic states have made
the most progress in meeting MAP requirements, although there is some criticism of how
Latvia has handled sensitive documents.
Italy, Greece, and Turkey are strong supporters of Bulgaria’s and Romania’s entry.
They contend that these two countries can contribute to stability in the Balkans, where
Europe’s greatest security needs lie. Critics counter that Romania and Bulgaria continue
to suffer from corruption in their governing structures, and that each must make stronger
efforts to modernize its military. Bulgaria has also had a succession of governments that
have followed an uncertain course towards political and economic reform.
The views of the Russian government play a role in the debate. Putin’s softer
rhetoric against NATO enlargement since the September 11 terrorist attacks has allayed
concerns that his government would strongly oppose enlargement. It is possible that Putin
now views a unified front against terrorism, in part due to Moscow’s ongoing conflict in
Chechnya, as more important than potential divisions with the allies over enlargement.
The Duma and much of Russia’s military and intelligence bureaucracy remain adamantly
opposed to enlargement, which they view as a U.S.-led effort to move a military alliance
closer to their territory. Officials from allied states often counter such an argument by
underscoring that enlargement’s purpose in large part is to ensure stability in Europe, and
that the addition of new member states provides stability, and therefore security, to
Russia’s west. Putin may also view the entry of Estonia and Latvia into NATO (and the
EU, in 2004) as a means to protect Russian minorities in those countries, given NATO
and EU strictures over the treatment of ethnic minorities.
In the spring of 2003, both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate
Armed Services Committee began hearings on enlargement. Some individual Members
have expressed their views, and relevant legislation has been introduced. The Senate
Foreign Relations Committee produced a report on enlargement, together with the
Resolution of Ratification (Executive Report 108-6), the instrument on which the Senate
will vote to give its advice and consent to revision of the North Atlantic Treaty.
In the 107th Congress, Rep. Shimkus and others introduced H.Con.Res. 116, which
calls for NATO invitations to the Baltic states for membership at the 2002 summit, as
long as they satisfy the alliance’s qualifications. It passed by voice vote on October 7,
On October 24, 2001, legislation was introduced in both Houses supporting further
enlargement. Representative Bereuter introduced H.R. 3167, the Freedom Consolidation
Act of 2001; Speaker Hastert and others cosponsored the bill. An identical Senate bill, S.
was also introduced. The bill recalled and approved legislation of the four previous
Congresses that urged enlargement and provided funding for particular candidates. The
bill designated Slovakia as eligible to receive U.S. assistance under section 203(a) of the
NATO Participation Act of 1994 (title II of P.L. 103-447). This section gives the
President authority to establish a program of assistance with a government if he finds that
it meets the requirements of NATO membership.
In the 107th Congress, Representative Gallegly introduced H.Res. 468, which
described NATO as key to U.S. interests in Europe and encourages a continued path of
improving relations with Russia. It strongly urged invitations to membership for the 7
countries ultimately invited at Prague. It passed the House 358-9 on October 7, 2002.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee marked up the Resolution of Ratification
on April 30, 2003. The Resolution is the instrument on which the Senate will vote to give
its advice and consent to admission of the candidate states. The Committee’s report
accompanying the Resolution reviews the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate
states, assessing their political, economic, and military policies. It also reviews NATO’s
mission and capabilities, relations with Russia, role in the Balkan wars, and the Prague
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has stirred NATO waters by suggesting the presence
of an “old” and “new” Europe, the former consisting of such countries as France and
Germany, the latter consisting of recent new members and candidate states. Secretary
Rumsfeld has suggested that the alliance’s future belongs to the United States and the
“new” Europe, with the “old” Europe increasingly marginalized. European critics, some
of them in the candidate states, oppose such a categorization, noting that Germany has the
largest economy in Europe, and that only France, with Britain, has a military able to move
its forces considerable distances for engagement in combat. These critics express concern
that a divided NATO will not be effective in confronting threats that face each member
st at e. 9
Accession negotiations between NATO and the candidate states were completed on
March 26, 2003, and the candidate state governments signed protocols that have been sent
to the 19 member states, each of which will follow its constitutional procedures to amend
the North Atlantic Treaty to admit new members. All 19 members must agree on a
prospective member’s qualifications for it to enter NATO. The Bush Administration
would like for the Senate to vote on enlargement before that August 2003 recess. NATO
hopes to admit the successful candidates in May 2004.
9 Interviews of officials in allied states, January-February 2003.