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Views and Opinions


NATO HQ_b010131a

NATO Headquarters at night.


by Doctor Ben Lombardi

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For several months during the mid-1990s, a relatively unimportant debate took place within the Policy Group at the Department of National Defence. Its focus was which word we ought to use – enlargement or expansion – to describe the process of adding new members to NATO. Some policy officers believed (and successfully won over many others) that if we described it as “enlargement,” critics would not object as strongly as they would if “expansion” were used. And, so, briefing notes and other reports were diligently edited to excise any reference to NATO expansion. Nevertheless, I always wondered (often aloud, I seem to recall) why anyone thought that those opposed to NATO enlargement – engrained habits die hard! – would care what word was used. NATO skeptics objected to increasing the number of Alliance members, not how we described the act of doing so. Obfuscation, it would seem, triumphed over common sense.

Fifteen or so years later, many of us are still debating the issues involved with an expanding NATO. Today, the discussion is more substantive than merely a disagreement over terminology. In a recent issue of this journal, John Carey, a major in the Australian Army, authored an article, the title of which posed the question: “Should NATO seek further expansion?”1 The article provided a good overview of many of the arguments for and against enlarging the Alliance. In the end, Carey determined: “NATO should continue to search for stability by broadening its membership and by clearly defining and supporting its global role.”2

Among the leading NATO member-states, this perspective is perhaps most strongly held in Washington. The Clinton administration eagerly presided over the first round of enlargement that saw three new members (Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic) join NATO in 1999. The Bush administration was even more predisposed to “growing” NATO, and welcomed a second group of new allies when six (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria) joined in 2004.  It also strongly advocated a global role for the Alliance, urging, as Carey notes, the building of partnerships with “contact countries” far removed from the North Atlantic region (i.e., Australia, South Korea, and Japan), and it was only prevented from realizing its goal of extending an invitation to Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO’s Membership Action Plan (MAP) in late 2008 by the vetoes of France and Germany. The Obama administration’s policy is still somewhat inchoate (it is early days yet), but it has already asserted the legitimacy of enlargement. At this year’s Munich Security Conference, Vice President Joseph Biden observed that it is the decision of a sovereign state what organization it wishes to join – a clear reference to Russia’s opposition to the NATO aspirations of Ukraine and Georgia.3

Key allies have also continued to support NATO’s ‘open door’ policy. Even as the fighting continued in the Caucasus last summer, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband reassured Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, that its goal of NATO membership was on track.4 German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared, during a hard-hitting speech in Tallinn, Estonia, that Ukraine and Georgia will one day become members of the Alliance.5 More recently, the enlargement process was approved by all of the allies yet again when Albania and Croatia joined in April 2009. That same month, the NATO Summit at Strasbourg/Kehl reiterated its general support of both Ukraine’s and Georgia’s “Euro-Atlantic aspirations.”6

In arriving at his conclusion, Carey did not blaze an original trail. His position is shared by many others who accept the argument that expanding the Alliance’s membership is coincident with the enlargement of a zone of stability in Europe. Philip Gordon, former Senior Fellow for US Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, and currently Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and European Affairs, has argued: “The incentive of NATO membership has led aspiring countries to reform their political systems, liberalize their economies, root out corruption, resolve territorial disputes with neighbours, rationalize their military establishments, and improve minority rights.”7 Given Europe’s history during the first half of the 20th Century, overcoming such problems is an enormous achievement. Even for NATO skeptics, it is hard to argue with such a record, particularly when most of what Gordon claims is true.

One must therefore concede that Carey’s conclusion has an impressive pedigree. But those who advocate continued NATO enlargement sometimes appear to have overlooked that we live in a highly dynamic environment – one where the consequences of actions are not always immediately apparent. Think of the metaphor of a person casting a stone into a quiet pond: the ripples can continue with surprising force for an unexpectedly long time. The well-known historian, Gordon Craig, captured this uncertainty in a 1982 address to the American Historical Society:

the game does not end when he [the statesman] makes up his mind to act or not to act, for once decisions are implemented they assume a life of their own, producing reactions and counter-reactions among the other players and creating situations that may confound original expectations.8

Accordingly, Carey et. al. are not justified in assuming that because the preponderance of consequences appears today to be positive, that enlargement is necessarily a good thing. Greater attention should be paid to possible implications further down the line. We need to look at what might happen five or ten years from now and beyond the circle composed of allies and prospective allies. When a broader perspective is adopted, it is reasonable to argue that, at best, NATO enlargement has seriously complicated international relations. At worst, well …we may have to live with the results, some profoundly negative, for many years to come.


Reuters RTXNP68 by Sergei Karpukhin

Moscow’s St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin at night.

The Russian Factor

Focusing upon just one factor – Russia – invites serious reconsideration of the assumptions underlying the advocacy of further enlargement. Carey acknowledges Russian opposition to NATO enlargement in his article, but does so with only a passing mention. Others have done likewise. Karl-Heinz Kamp, one of the most perceptive commentators on the Alliance and the Research Director at the NATO Defence College, has argued that while Russia is “a decisive NATO partner,” its “political or strategic priorities…are not a criterion for the enlargement decisions of NATO.”9 While accurately describing what has happened in the past, it still seems terribly incautious to state this so frankly. It is probably true, as former Secretary-General Lord Robertson said that it would “take a Hollywood scriptwriter” to dream up a plausible scenario that would see NATO and Russia pitted against each other as they were in the Cold War.10But what are the practical and long-term consequences of dismissing Russian positions as a consideration, especially when it is undeniable that the expansion of NATO has seriously damaged the West’s relations with Moscow?

Suggesting that we ought not to ignore Russian interests does not require one to be willfully blind to what is happening in that country. It simply places those developments in perspective. While the weaknesses of Russia’s democratic institutions and market reforms suggest that it is unlikely to become a full member of the Western community any time soon, it is still too geopolitically important a country to ignore. And, whereas the disappointments that surround political transformation in Russia have never explicitly been used to justify NATO enlargement, the reverse may very well be true. That NATO’s actions resonate in Russian domestic politics is due to the fact that enlarging the Alliance has been accomplished against the nearly two-decade-old backdrop of Moscow’s very public opposition. Enlargement is perceived there as a foreign policy defeat, and is understood to be a consequence of national weakness. The Russian government’s renewed focus on national security issues and the autocratic tendencies of its leaders are, of course, deeply rooted in the country’s political and strategic cultures. But the public support for the current leadership is, in part, a function of a widely held opinion that Russia must be more assertive in order to ensure that the country be treated with due respect. Nowhere is this more evident than in Russia’s relations with the West – where what many Russians view as insensitivity shown toward their country’s interests, according to Kamp, has seriously grated upon the national psyche. A strong feeling exists in some quarters that a post Cold War bargain with the West was betrayed, and that the leading NATO allies have taken, and are continuing to take, advantage of Russia. Indeed, Russian leaders have long believed that they had been given guarantees, now obviously broken, that NATO would not expand eastward.11 In 1994, President Boris Yeltsin’s caution that enlargement would result in a “cold peace,”12was ignored five years later when the first three new allies acceded to the Alliance. Presidents Putin and Medvedev have been similarly ignored. The upgrade of military facilities by NATO in the territories of the new allies, the institution of combat air patrols over the Baltic republics after the second round of enlargement in 2004, and the projected deployment of an advanced ballistic missile defence system in Europe have all reinforced a profound sense of strategic inferiority.

Weakness meant that Russia had to acquiesce to many of these developments. Moscow’s muted reaction should not, however, be equated with even grudging acceptance. The creation of new institutions, such as the NATO-Russia Founding Act (1997), and, later, the NATO-Russia Council (2002), were measured attempts at redress. Such efforts, while they probably dampened official criticism of NATO by Moscow, have nevertheless been completely unsuccessful in altering Russian attitudes.13 Russian military planning has consistently assumed that the threat posed by NATO increases as it moves closer to the national homeland. In recent years, that perception has, by all accounts, grown. Why is this so? The answer is that other decisions taken by NATO, in addition to enlargement, have reinforced negative impressions. The impact of the unilateral intervention by NATO in Kosovo, including the West’s equally unilateral recognition of that ‘statelet’s’ independence in early 2008 over the opposition of Russia and many other countries, and the ‘colour revolutions’ from 2003 to 2005 that Moscow believes were orchestrated by the US to eliminate pro-Russian governments, cannot be overestimated. Both demonstrate to Moscow what little influence it has on Western policy despite its participation in various NATO forums and through its bilateral relations with various allies. Taken together, Kosovo and the ‘colour revolutions’ have greatly reinforced suspicions of an aggressive agenda on the part of the Alliance’s leadership – namely Washington.14

It is in this context, therefore, that Russia is assessing the declarations emanating from NATO concerning further enlargement, especially to Georgia and Ukraine. Moscow views the possible extension of the membership to those two countries both as a rejection of its claim to be a Great Power (derzhavnost), an important objective of Russian foreign policy, and as a threat to core national security interests. At NATO’s Bucharest Summit and at the Bush-Putin summit in Sochi, both in April 2008, then-President Vladimir Putin made known to Western leaders that the accession of either Ukraine or Georgia would cross a “red line.”15 The response to this and other warnings that both countries would be permitted to accede to the Alliance once they had met the required standards has only served to further anger policymakers in Moscow.

Presidents Bush and Putin

Reuters RTR1Z5YP by Grigory Dukor

Russia’s President Putin and US President Bush shake hands after a news conference in Sochi, Russia, 6 April 2008.

It is important to recognize that from the Kremlin’s vantage point, far from extending the zone of stability in Europe, the push to enlarge NATO has instead created a zone of instability and uncertainty along the rim of the former Soviet empire. As NATO pushes eastward, a more assertive Russia believes that it has little option but to push back. Faced with a challenge of sufficient magnitude, the use of force is a predictable response to the dilemma that NATO’s eastward expansion has created for Moscow. Last summer’s invasion of Georgia was a case in point, for it signaled the seriousness of the opposition to further enlargement. Admittedly, the military campaign was not without its costs. The operation revealed a number of shortcomings in the armed forces, placing a new emphasis upon military reform.16 And Russia suffered significant, and probably unanticipated, financial losses. We should not, however, doubt the Russian public’s support for the war or the willingness of the current leadership to foment other crises to protect their country’s national interests. Russia’s strategic culture, unlike most of its Western counterparts, sees armed force as an effective instrument of foreign policy, and crises as creating opportunities to manoeuvre. In addition to its actions in the Caucasus last summer, Russia has also increased its economic and political pressure on Ukraine. The latter’s chaotic domestic politics, exacerbated by deep divisions over the goal of integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions, offer a ready-made arena for exploitation by Moscow.

None of this behaviour is surprising. Russia’s abrogation of the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, hostile rhetoric by its political and military leaders, the resumption of intrusions into NATO airspace by aged Tupelov-95 Bear bombers, and periodic cut-offs of energy supplies to European markets, are all symptoms of a deep malaise in the West’s relations with Moscow. They are also evidence of the emergence of a new and more confident Russia. James Sherr, a long-time observer of the post-Soviet space, has written:

[that a] powerful Russia is once again a fact of life, and Russians know it. They are no longer seeking our approval. They have recovered pride in their own traditions and have determined their own interests. The post Cold War partnership, founded at a time of Russian disorientation and weakness, is history.17

As a result, acquiescence can no longer be assumed. When Estonia ignored appeals not to relocate a Soviet war memorial in Tallinn, Moscow cut off fuel deliveries to the country in the hope of imposing punitive economic penalties.18 When NATO ignored Moscow’s recent request that military exercises with Georgia be cancelled,19 Russia withdrew from a long-scheduled meeting of chiefs of staff, and agreed with local authorities to assume responsibility for guarding Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s boundaries.20 When the US reached agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic for the deployment of its ballistic missile systems, Russia announced that it would place short-range missiles in Kaliningrad Oblast.21 When two members of Russia’s Permanent Mission to NATO were expelled for espionage in April 2009, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow termed the expulsions provocative and expelled the NATO Information Officer and her assistant.

Russia’s new unwillingness to accept – even with bad grace – the actions of NATO or its member-states has led some commentators to suggest that a new era of confrontation has dawned. This anxiety is, so far at least, exaggerated. Presidents Putin and Medvedev have repeatedly stated that there is no basis for a new Cold War.22 There are, after all, important areas where cooperation is continuing, such as permitting overflights of Russian territory for the NATO operation in Afghanistan, and in dealing with piracy in the Indian Ocean. Thus, a powerful Russia, to use Sherr’s phrase, does not necessarily imply confrontation, only more constrained cooperation alongside more pronounced differences. In a recent interview, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov angrily denounced references to a new Cold War as “ancient history,” and “…the product of the inertia of the imagination of some sensationalist journalists, as well as biased experts.”23

And yet, it seems clear that Russia’s leadership is no longer willing to be ambivalent to what is happening around it. In their eyes, Russia is confronted by the continued existence of an alliance that it regards as outdated. Contrary to Moscow’s expectation in the early 1990s, NATO did not vanish in “a puff of smoke” when the Soviet empire collapsed.24 Russian suggestions that the OSCE assume a new role as a European security system never went anywhere, and Medvedev’s recent proposal for a new pan-European collective security organization appears equally still-born. Only French president Sarkozy spoke favourably of it, and only when France held the presidency of the European Council.25 Instead, NATO, the ‘Cold War relic’ in Moscow’s eyes, has increased in size since the demise of the USSR, and, even more startling, it is formally committed to expanding its membership into lands that most Russians regard as lying within what Medvedev has referred to as a “zone of privileged interest.”26

When such facts are combined with the awareness that Russia has never been seriously considered as a possible member itself, its leaders, as well as a broad section of the political class now harbour grave suspicions about NATO’s purpose. A March 2009 poll of Russian public opinion found that 62 percent believed that NATO enlargement “presents a threat to Russian security.” Those who believe that it represents a “serious threat” have nearly doubled from 21 percent in 2003 to 41 percent in 2009.27 This should not be entirely unexpected. “Let us speak frankly, gentlemen,” Talleyrand stated when he first appeared before the four victorious Powers at the Congress of Vienna (1815) to negotiate a new order in post Napoleonic Europe, “if there are to be Allies in this business, then there is no place for me.”28 The Russian attitude today echoes that of France two centuries ago: whom is NATO allied against? When that question is posed, the only answer that appears to make sense to Moscow is: “Russia”. As a witness before a British parliamentary committee observed, in Russian eyes, “[t]he notion that NATO is not …anti-Russian is risible.”29

President Medvedev

European Commission P-01408700-24 by Khanty-Mansiyk

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, 27 June 2008.

Western leaders are already aware of this. During his controversial address at the Munich Security Conference in 2007, Vladimir Putin gave voice to this suspicion: “I think it is obvious that NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernization of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. On the contrary, it represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust.”30 The current president, Dmitri Medvedev, was equally frank during a meeting of the International Valdai Club in September 2008 when he spoke about the ballistic missile defence system that the US was urging for Europe:

I think that for all of us it is clear that Russia cannot feel comfortable in a situation where military bases are increasingly being built around it, and there are more and more missile missiles and anti-missile systems. Really, Russia just cannot feel comfortable in such a situation. Do you understand? My colleagues say to me: “what are you worried about? This is not against you” – we have heard this from our American friends and from Europe a hundred times over. Well, how is this build-up not against us, if there are targets for strategic nuclear forces, objectives, and you know yourself where they are. It is absolutely against us – there is no other way to understand the situation.31

When enlargement is embedded in this larger context, one that includes NATO’s quest for deeper relations with countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, as well as the Alliance’s ongoing mission in Central Asia, Russian policymakers see it as a component of strategic encirclement.32 Driven by what Moscow believes are Washington’s concerns about strategic rivalry, the Alliance’s expansion appears as little less than the latest incarnation of the Cold War’s containment policy.

Russian opposition, therefore, challenges the claims made by advocates of NATO enlargement that positive benefits outweigh any long-term negative implications. Put most frankly, it is impossible to conceive of new security architecture in Europe without Russian participation in its design and construction. Major Carey quotes the EU’s foreign policy czar as saying “… [that] not to enlarge would lead to a permanent division of this continent into a prosperous West and a stagnant, frustrated East … we either export stability or import instability.”33 But Javier Solana’s ‘either-or’ is myopic if the act of expanding NATO itself creates a new and more ominous division. That concern was specifically addressed in the Alliance’s own Study on NATO Enlargement (1995). While categorically rejecting any Power’s (i.e., Russia’s) claim to a sphere of influence, it stated that enlargement must “…enhance stability and security for all of Europe.” A similar caution can be found in the Summit Declaration from the NATO meeting in Strasbourg/Kehl, which noted that enlargement could only take place, among other factors, if the inclusion of prospective members “can contribute to common security and stability.”34 Such a qualification is important. If we achieve our objective of extending the zone of stability to East-Central Europe and the Balkans, but in doing so alienate Russia, has the goal of building an inclusive security order really been advanced? This is especially problematic when we consider that Russia has so many levers to create instability, including energy resources, manipulation of Russian minorities, and  differences among European states themselves.

One might even ponder if membership in NATO is the most effective means available to reassure Ukraine and Georgia (more correctly the pro-Western segments of their populations) about their independence. That question is nearly politically impossible to ask Western leaders, and it is more problematic in obtaining answers. Some commentators have argued that some Ukrainian policymakers (although none are named) are far more pragmatic, and are prepared to subordinate the pursuit of NATO membership, recognized as a major irritant for Russia, to enhanced trade with the West and “…a strong bilateral relationship with the United States.”35 If this is an accurate assessment, then there may well be an opportunity to manoeuvre diplomatically, avoiding the likely complications that continued enlargement could create.

How would it play?

Would Russia recognize a change of tack by NATO as an opportunity to enhance relations, or a declaration of weakness to be exploited? It is difficult to say for certain. But it is, perhaps, significant to note that with the exception of last year’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (a decision, Moscow claims, that was predicated upon a rationale similar to the one used by NATO for Kosovo), Russia has not taken any action to revise either its own or its neighbours’ borders. Indeed, before last summer’s war, the only forceful revisions to European borders in the post Cold War era occurred in the former Yugoslavia, including NATO’s intervention in Kosovo. It is, of course, entirely possible that Moscow’s actions in Georgia last summer were a prelude to the annexation of those troubled, impoverished provinces. On the other hand, it is just as possible that they were intended to create an intractable territorial dispute to derail Georgia’s NATO membership bid. As the recent agreement on border patrols for the two provinces indicates, Moscow is prepared to escalate matters, short of annexation, to widen its disagreement with Tbilisi. Indeed, Russia’s leaders could well be following a similar script with Ukraine where their intransigence concerning the future of the Black Sea Fleet at Sevastopol and fleet assets in Crimea has, intermittently, generated tensions with Kiev. If such reasoning is correct, then Western promises to enlarge NATO to those countries are already helping to generate serious and potentially long-lived political ripples.

Today, there is no real evidence that Moscow seeks to reintegrate Ukraine and Georgia into a new Russian empire. It is nonetheless true that Russian leaders have not hidden their expectation of having preponderant influence in most territories adjacent to their homeland, the three Baltic Republics being an exception.36 Given Russia’s heritage, a “privileged interest” in many of its borderlands is understandable, even if it runs counter to what many in the West see as consistent with the norms of modern statecraft. That goal is, however, unlikely to be shelved in response to anything the West does. Its sources lie too deep in Russia’s self-perception. The intensity of its pursuit, however, and any dangerous side effects could very well be influenced by Western policy. In her classic study of 19th Century Russian foreign policy, Barbara Jelavich noted that the sacrifices demanded of the Russian people to support the growth and maintenance of state power “…have perhaps been greater than those asked of any other European nation” but “…[they] have, in return, maintained their independence from foreign control, [and] gained dominance over one of the largest stretches of territory on the globe.”37 This would suggest that national sacrifice in the pursuit of security policy goals is probably more willingly accepted in Russia than in the West. Attitudes with respect to the use of military force and casualties are two indicators of this difference. That Russia’s political profile permits a broader range of possible reactions should also, therefore, inform Alliance decisions.

Lavrov and Medvedev

European Commission P-01408700-29 by Khanty-Mansiyk

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (left) and President Dmitri Medvedev.

In an April 2009 interview, Foreign Minister Lavrov indicated that Moscow is willing to work with NATO, provided that it takes “adequate account” of Russia’s national interests.38 It would be interesting to know what those national interests are, what they might mean for Western interests, and the likely responses by Moscow to actions taken by the West directed against them. After all, the West’s common security interests cannot be defined in isolation from the surrounding environment, including key neighbours like Russia. Those familiar with European history know that alienating a major Power in the peace settlement following a major war – and we tend to forget that the Cold War in many ways resembled such a conflict – is an invitation to possible future disorder. It is, of course, undeniable that Russia does not pose the existential threat to our security that the USSR represented. Unlike the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation is not interested in replacing the current international order, and is, instead, largely focused upon altering the relative distribution of power that so clearly favours the United States. Attempting to build a new order in Europe along lines incompatible with Russian interests will nonetheless create significant disincentives for Moscow to cooperate with the West. There are a variety of issues that NATO and its member-states are likely to face in the next few years that would benefit from closer cooperation with Russia, including the continuing threat of Islamist terror, the new geopolitics of the Arctic, the rise of China, and the instability in Central and South Asia. Obtaining accord with Russia on all of these issue areas will likely prove difficult, if not impossible, and even the implementation of agreements will never be trouble-free. Awareness of the necessity of that cooperation and the full range of potential and probable costs of confrontation should nonetheless inform current decision-making.

Knowingly alienating Russia as a consequence of extending the “zone of stability” in Europe only makes sense if that outcome was part of a carefully planned strategy. Such a strategy would establish clear objectives and generate/assign adequate resources to deal with a variety of adverse contingencies, including likely reactions from the object of its focus – namely Russia. But no such strategy exists, as the fumbling reaction to last summer’s Russo-Georgian war reveals: a combination of surprise that Moscow would resort to such measures and hostility that the outlines of a NATO imposed order in the South Caucasus was being challenged. More to the point, the continual reduction in military capabilities available to the Alliance means that a response to the most extreme contingency – the onset of a period of intense confrontation involving direct military aid to Allies that might be vulnerable to Russian pressure – is not easily affordable. This deficiency will not be solved by enlargement because the vast majority of new allies are consumers rather than producers of NATO security – a situation that would be exacerbated in any confrontation with Moscow.39

There is yet another facet to this discussion that deserves some mention. It is certain that enlargement will continue to create tensions with Russia. But what is increasingly apparent is that concern about those tensions will also generate significant divisions within NATO and, most probably, between NATO and the European Union. The frictions that were evident within the EU over the appropriate response to the Russo-Georgian war – with Germany and France opposed to the more hard-line positions of Britain, Poland and others – will recur in future. Differing economic and political interests concerning relations with Russia will become more pronounced as time passes, and will threaten any effort to fashion common positions either in the EU or NATO.  Such frictions are always accentuated during periods of economic downturn.

A painting of Napoleon watching while Moscow burns

Corbis 42-21690758

Russian concerns with respect to invasion by a foreign power have legitimate historical roots. Here, a painting of Napoleon watching while Moscow burns, by Vasily Vereshchagin.


NATO is frequently described as the most successful military alliance in history. Setting aside the hyperbole of that claim, it is nonetheless true that a great amount has been accomplished under its auspices. While it might appear otherwise in hindsight, deterring the Soviet Union was an extremely difficult task over the decades of the Cold War, and it required an enormous and sustained effort. NATO was the organization created, in part, to accomplish that task. In the post Cold War era, the role of the Alliance has become more difficult to define. Collective defence (i.e., Article V) appears less relevant in an age where there is no direct security threat similar to that of the USSR. The significant challenges of garnering sufficient will and resources from the allies to sustain the ongoing mission in Afghanistan underscores a slowly dawning realization that the perception of a common threat has now almost completely dissipated. Its role as a political alliance of like-minded states has also waned, and it has been seriously challenged since the 9/11 attacks. It is, as a result, unclear what an enlarged NATO is meant to accomplish beyond using its membership as an incentive to alter the behaviour of aspirants. But, in doing so, the impact on the larger European environment does not seem to be viewed as equally important. The alienation of Russia is the best example. Believing that NATO member-states can successfully ground their policy upon the assumption that Russia will, sooner or later, accept enlargement is rather like assuming one will pay off one’s mortgage from lottery winnings. It presumes a control over the NATO-Russia relationship that ignores the say that Moscow will naturally have.

The author would like to thank Roy Rempel and Michael Roi for reading an earlier draft of this article.

The comments and opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone, and do not represent the policies or views of the Department of National Defence or the Government of Canada.

CMJ Logo

Doctor Lombardi is a Senior Analyst and Team Leader at the Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) Centre for Operational Research and Analysis, Department of National Defence, Ottawa.


  1. John N. Carey, “Should NATO Seek Further Expansion?,” Canadian Military Journal, Vol. 9, No. 3, 2009, pp. 87-91.
  2. Ibid., p. 91.
  3. Joseph R. Biden, “Speech at the 45th Munich Conference, 7 February 2009,” Accessed at www.securityconference.de/Konferenzen/rede.php?menu_2009+&menu_knoferenzen=&sprache=en&id=2387.
  4. Julian Barry, Luke Harding and Andrew Spencer, “Georgia’s NATO membership on track says David Miliband,” The Guardian, 20 August 2008.
  5. Bundesregierung Deutschlands, “Rede von Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel in Tallinn, Estland,” 26 August 2008. Accessed at www.bundeskanzlerin.de/nn_5296/Content/DE/Rede/2008/08/2008-08-26-merkel-kunstmuseum-tallinn.html.
  6. NATO, “Strasbourg/Kehl Summit Declaration, 4 April 2009,” Press Release: (2009) 044. Accessed at www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/news_52837.htm?mode=pressrelease.
  7. Philip H. Gordon, “NATO: Enlargement and Effectiveness: Testimony Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,” 11 March 2008. Accessed at www.brookings.edu/testimony/2008/0311 _nato_gordon.aspx?p=1.
  8. Gordon Craig, “The Historian and the Study of International Relations,” The American Historical Review, Vol. 88, No. 1, February 1983, p. 4.
  9. Karl-Heinz Kamp, “NATO-Enlargement After the Riga Summit,” Analysen und Argumente (Sankt Augustin, Germany: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, November 2006), p. 3.
  10. Lord George Robertson, “ ‘This Ain’t Your Daddy’s NATO’  - NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson’s Speech at a Conference on the Marshall Legacy: The Role of the TransAtlantic Community in Building Peace and Security,” Centre for TransAtlantic Relations, School for Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, 12 November 2003. Accessed at www.nato.int/docu/speech/2003/s031112a.htm.
  11. For a discussion of the “promise” see Michael Gordon, “The Anatomy of a Misunderstanding,” The New York Times, 25 May 1997, and Susan Eisenhower, “The Perils of Victory,” in Ted Galen Carpenter and Barbara Conry (eds.), NATO Enlargement: Illusions and Reality (Washington, D.C.: The CATO Institute, 1998), p. 110.
  12. UK Parliament, House of Commons, Foreign Affairs Committee, “Written submission by the Conflict Studies Research Centre, UK Defence Academy,” Global Security: Russia – Second Report of Session 2007-08 (London: HMSO, 2007), p. Ev-26, paragraph 6.
  13. Ibid., p. Ev-19, paragraph 22.
  14. “Russia-NATO: return of the great game,” RIA-Novosti, 29 August 2008.
  15. Robert Marquand, “NATO divided over Ukraine, Georgia membership bids,” The Christian Science Monitor, 28 March 2008.
  16. Tony Halpin, “Hawkish Medvedev orders major rearmament for Russian military,” The Times (London), 17 March 2009.
  17. James Sherr, “Russia and the West; A reassessment,” Shrivenham Paper #6 (Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, January 2008), p. 4. Accessed at www.da.mod.uk/colleges/arag/document-listings/monographs/Shrivenham%20Paper%206.pdf/view.
  18. Dmitri Zhdannikov, “Russia halts Estonia fuel transit amid statue row,” Reuters, 2 May 2007.
  19. Isabel Gorst, “Moscow urges NATO to cancel Georgia exercises,” Financial Times, 16 April 2009.
  20. David Brunnstrom, “Russia Pulls Out Of NATO Meeting,” Reuters, 21 April 2009 and Megan Stack, “Russia blasts the West over two issues,” Los Angeles Times, 1 May 2009.
  21. “Russia to move missiles to Baltic,” BBC News, 5 November 2008.
  22. “Russia’s Putin Says no Basis for New Cold War with U.S.,” FoxNews.com, 11 September 2008, Andrei Zolotov Jr., “Three Hours with Vladimir Putin,” RussiaProfile.org, 12 September 2008. Accessed at www.russiaprofile.org/page.php?pageid=International&articleid=a1221223275, and “New Cold War Impossible – Medvedev,” Interfax, 2 October 2008.
  23. Steven Eke, “Lavrov deplores NATO ‘Cold War logic’,” BBC News, 21 April 2009.
  24. For an overview of Russian expectations, see John Erickson, “’Russia will not be trifled with’: Geopolitical facts and fantasies,” Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 22, No. 2, November 1999, pp. 242-268.
  25. “Sarkozy, Medvedev Call for a New European Security Pact,” Deutsche-Welle, 8 October 2008.
  26. David Satter, “Obama and Medvedev,” Forbes Magazine, 31 March 2009.
  27. Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VCIOM), “Россия и НАТО: Вступатъ? Сотрудничать? Противостоять? (tr. Russia and NATO: To Enter? To Collaborate? To Resist?)” 6 April 2009. Accessed at wciom.ru/arkhiv/tematicheskii-arkhiv/item/single/11681.1.html?no_cache=1&cHash=3a445a0 686&print=1.
  28. Talleyrand is quoted in Harold Nicolson, The Congress of Vienna (London: Methuen, 1946), p. 141.
  29. UK Parliament, House of Commons, Foreign Affairs Committee, Global Security: Russia – Second Report of Session 2007-08, p. 106.
  30. President of Russia, “Speech and the Following Discussion at the 43rd Munich Security Conference on Security Policy,” 10 February 2007. Accessed at www.securityconference.de/konferenzen /rede.php?menu_2007=&menu_2009=&menu_konferenzen=&sprache=en&id=179&.
  31. President of Russia, “Transcript of the Meeting with the Participants in the International Club Valdai,” 12 September 2008. Accessed at www.kremlin.ru/eng/text/news/2008/09/206417.shtml.
  32. See Andrei Korbut, “Americans arm for Central Asia,” Voyenno-Promyshlenny Kurier, No. 3, January 2009, and George Friedman, “The Russo-Georgian War and the Balance of Power,” Stratfor, 12 August 2008. Accessed at www.stratfor.com/weekly/russo_georgian_war_and_balance_power.
  33. Carey, “Should NATO Seek Further Expansion?” Canadian Military Journal, Vol. 9, No.3, p. 90.
  34. NATO, “Strasbourg/Kehl Summit Declaration, 4 April 2009.”
  35. Adrian Karatnycky and Alexander J. Motyl, “The Key to Kiev - Ukraine’s Security Means Europe’s Stability,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 88, No. 3, May/June 2009, pp. 119-120.
  36. “Russia announces ‘sphere of interest’,” The Financial Times, 1 September 2008.
  37. Barbara Jelavich, A Century of Russian Foreign Policy, 1814-1915 (Philadelphia, PA: J.W. Lippincott, 1964), p. v.
  38. Steven Eke, “Lavrov deplores NATO ‘Cold War logic’,” BBC News, 21 April 2009.
  39. I am grateful to my colleague, Michael Roi, for this argument. Our many discussions on Russia reveal a common understanding of the issues, even if we do not always agree on the best way forward.

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