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Evaluating NATO Enlargement: From Cold War Victory to the Russia-Ukraine War
 3031233638, 9783031233630

Table of contents :
Acknowledgements
Contents
List of Contributors
List of Figures
List of Tables
1 Evaluating NATO Enlargement: Scholarly Debates, Policy Implications, and Roads not Taken
NATO Enlargement: Review and Reprise
Framing the Debates Over Enlargement’s Legacy
International Debates
Domestic‑Level Considerations
Organizational Impact
The Role of Counterfactual Analysis and Inference
Previewing the Volume
Conclusion: Toward a Research Agenda
References
Part I Foreign Policy and Strategy Debates
2 Patterns of Continuity in NATO’s Long History
A Permanent Alliance?
The Ismay Assumptions
The Forever Tsars
The German Problem
The USA as a European Power
Growing Membership, Unchanging Mission
New Members
Non‑members
Who’s in, Who’s Out?
Why not Expand NATO’s Functions?
Stabilizing Europe
Dynamic Versus Static
Plus ca Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose
Challenging Inevitability
A Higher Cost to Expansion, Imposed by Moscow
An Increased European Defense Effort that Allowed the Americans to Go Home
A US President Willing to Take Political and Geopolitical Risks
A Different Germany
Looking Forward
References
3 NATO as a Political Alliance: Continuities and Legacies in the Enlargement Debates of the 1990s
Adaptation and Preservation
Going East
A Liaison to the East
The North Atlantic Cooperation Council
The Partnership for Peace
To Madrid
Conclusion
References
4 The NATO Enlargement Consensus and US Foreign Policy: Origins and Consequences
The United States and NATO Enlargement: A Brief History
Explaining the Trend
Enlargement as a Byproduct of Unipolarity
Expansion as Power Maximization
Expansion as Leadership via Prestige and Credibility
Enlargement as Socialization
Enlargement as Domestic Politics
Integrating the Results
Consequences of Enlargement
Prospective Advantages of Enlargement
Prospective Disadvantages
Second Order Effects
Conclusion
References
5 Myths and Realities of Putinism and NATO Expansion
References
Part II Great Power Relations
6 NATO Enlargement and US Grand Strategy: A Net Assessment
The Case for a Post‑Cold War NATO
Unhindered NATO Expansion
NATO on Russia’s Border
Russia’s Reaction
An Alternative Path?
Hazards of Continued NATO Enlargement
Avoiding Threat Inflation Regarding Russia
Transatlantic Trends
NATO and the War in Ukraine
References
7 NATO Enlargement: Evaluating Its Consequences in Russia
The Difficulty of Testing the Effects of NATO Enlargement
Organization of the Argument
Objective Military and Foreign Policy Effects of NATO Enlargement on Russia
Confounding External Systems Effects on Russia’s Relationship with the West
Russian Perceptions About NATO: Nationalist Manipulation and Domestic Politics
Russia’s 2022 Invasion of Ukraine
Conclusions
References
8 The Tragedy of US–Russian Relations: NATO Centrality and the Revisionists’ spiral
Modeling the Spiral
NATO Centrality vs. NATO Expansion
Origin of Revisionism: Russia’s Response: 1990–1993
Cooperation‑as‑Revisionist Strategy
The Road Toward Defection
The Revisionists’ Spiral as a Greedy‑Security Dilemma
Conclusion
References
9 China Views NATO: Beijing’s Concerns About Transatlantic Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific
Post-Cold War Relations Between China and NATO
NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept: China’s Concerns About the Globalization of the US Alliance System
Edging Away from the West: China’s Global Security Initiative
Conclusion
References
Part III European Security
10 Thank Goodness for NATO Enlargement
The Arguments for and Against NATO Enlargement
Assessing NATO Enlargement
Fulfilling the Need for a Useful Hedge
NATO Enlargement Does Not Prevent Mutually Beneficial Cooperation
The Defensibility of NATO’s Northeastern Flank
Concluding Thoughts
References
11 Good for Democracy? Evidence from the 2004 NATO Expansion
Introduction
NATO’s Commitment to Democracy: How Much Does It Matter?
NATO and Democratic Development
Evaluating the Counterfactual
Measuring Democratic Institutions
Caveats and Considerations
Quantitative Analysis
Regression Analysis Results
Discussion and Conclusions
References
12 Ukraine’s Bid to Join NATO: Re-evaluating Enlargement in a New Strategic Context
A Balancing Act
The Bucharest Statement
Euromaidan and the 2014 Invasion
Drawing the Line
Enhanced Assistance for Ukraine
The Impact of NATO Assistance
NATO Enlargement: Reframing the Debate
Is NATO Enlargement to Blame for Russian Aggression?
Looking Forward
The Internal Dimension of Peace and Security
What Does NATO Owe Its Partners?
Conclusion
References
13 Every Which Way But Loose: The United States, NATO Enlargement, European Strategic Autonomy and Fragmentation
Consolidation (1989–1995): No Exit
Instability
Monopoly
Casting a Wider Net
European Reflex
Supply and Demand
Test Case
Everything at Once (1996–2000)
Closing Windows
Monopoly II
Dilution
Fragmentation (2001–2016)
Consolidation Complete
Exploiting Divisions
Burning Up the Bandwidth
The Benefits of 2022 Hindsight
References
Part IV Organizational Politics and Debates
14 Assessing the Consequences of Enlargement for the NATO Military Alliance
SHAPEing the New NATO
The Long‑Term, NATO Enlargement, and Bi‑MNC Studies (1994–1999)
Making Enlargement Work
Consequences of Enlargement
Conclusion
References
15 In Peace and War: The Military Implications of NATO Enlargement
Setting the Stage for the Enlargement Decision
Former Adversaries Press to Join NATO as Allies Debate Whether to Enlarge
Thinking Through the Military Implications of Enlargement
The NATO Enlargement Study
The Military Implications of the First Round of Enlargement
The Downward Slope
The Transition: Military Costs Begin to Outweigh Political Gains
War in Europe
Enlargement’s Military Legacy and Further NATO Enlargement Debates
Conclusion
References
16 NATO Enlargement and the Failure of the Cooperative Security Mindset
NATO’s Rebranding Efforts: The Alluring Promise of Cooperative Security
The Baltic States and Poland: From Model Behavior to Moral Hazard?
Unresolved Grievances
Deterrence Above All Else
Fears Become Reality
Collective Security vs. Collective Defense: NATO’s Partners
Europeanization of Sweden’s and Finland’s Security and Defense Policies
Sweden and Finland and the Deteriorating International Environment
The War in Ukraine and Its Impact on the Scandinavian Neutrals
What Will Finland and Sweden Bring to NATO?
Conclusion
References
References
Index

Citation preview

Evaluating NATO Enlargement From Cold War Victory to the Russia-Ukraine War Edited by James Goldgeier Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson

Evaluating NATO Enlargement “Casual observers of the “Transatlantic Relationship” likely read or heard few criticisms of NATO enlargement, though these criticisms were indeed levelled. The Russia-Ukraine war, the first large-scale interstate war in Europe since 1945, suggests that something about the project did not work out as hoped. “Evaluating NATO enlargement,” brings together a diverse array of scholars who are expert in every facet of the debate from, “was it wise for the U.S. from a security point of view?” to “was it beneficial for eastern Europeans from a democratization/liberalization point of view?” These analyses are informed by deep knowledge of the region, close study of NATO as an organization, rich accounts of the history itself, and theoretical and methodological sophistication. The authors disagree about many questions. Because of their sophisticated treatment of their disagreements, the book will be an essential resource for those who wonder how we reached this tragic moment, and whether the extraordinary extension of U.S. influence deep into Eurasia has proved an act of immense strategic foresight or a major strategic irritant.” —Barry R. Posen, Ford International Professor of Political Science & Director Emeritus, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology “I so admire that Jim Goldgeier and Josh Shifrinson, who disagree profoundly about both the motives for and consequences of NATO enlargement, teamed up to bring together this serious collection of diverse arguments. This collection is outstanding scholarship by many of the best thinkers about alliances and international security. A great read, and a great teaching book.” —Dr. Kori Schake, Senior Fellow and Director of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute

James Goldgeier · Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson Editors

Evaluating NATO Enlargement From Cold War Victory to the Russia-Ukraine War

Editors James Goldgeier American University Washington, DC, USA

Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson University of Maryland College Park, MD, USA

ISBN 978-3-031-23363-0 ISBN 978-3-031-23364-7 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-23364-7 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover image: jvphoto/Alamy Stock Photo This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

Acknowledgements

This volume has a long history, especially if we count the years the two of us have spent researching, writing, and talking about NATO and its postCold War evolution. In early 2019, we had a conversation centering on how dissatisfied each of us was with the debate over NATO’s post-Cold War enlargement into Central and Eastern Europe. Enlargement remains one of the most consequential international policies of the post-Cold War era, yet the conversation over its consequences seemed stagnant. On one side were critics who, to varying degrees, argued that NATO’s expansion was a—if not “the”—primary cause for the downturn in U.S.–Russia relations, had left the United States over-committed to a range of questionable allies (many of which were cheap-riding), and broadly failed on its own to promote democracy and free-markets in areas formerly under Soviet control. On the other side, however, were those who argued the enlargement of the alliance was an unadulterated good given its impact on Central and Eastern European security, success in promoting liberal values, and ability to deter an increasingly revisionist Russia. The two of us have different views on the matter—and, recognizing that debate is central to intellectual and analytic progress, decided to jointly develop a program examining in detail the consequences of NATO enlargement. The goal was to, first, identify merits and drawbacks of the policy itself before, second, comparing it to plausible alternative policy options. Given the importance of the topic and the numerous issues at play, we also sought to convene researchers who could speak to, inter v

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

alia, the impact of NATO enlargement on U.S.–Russia relations, on European security, and on NATO as an institution. The overriding hope was to contribute to a more nuanced debate over NATO enlargement that would both look at the past and offer insights for the future at a time when transatlantic and European security is increasingly in flux. To this end, an initial group of authors came together at a workshop hosted by Boston University in May 2019 and funded partly by the Charles Koch Foundation (CKF). We are immensely grateful to CKF for its financial support, as well as to Michael Desch and the other conference participants for their comments on the papers presented at the inaugural workshop. Subsequently, revised versions of the papers were published as a special issue of International Politics in the summer of 2020 (“Legacies of NATO Enlargement: International Relations, Domestic Politics, and Alliance Management.”). Immense thanks go to Michael John Williams, co-editor of International Politics, for encouraging and facilitating publication of the papers, as well as to Monica Achen for her tremendous services copyediting the pieces. So the matter rested for two years. Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, however, Anca Pusca, Executive Editor for International Studies at Palgrave Macmillan, reached out to suggest updating the articles in the International Politics special issue for an edited volume. In light of the war and the prospect of further enlargement (now to Sweden and Finland), the original authors quickly agreed. Recognizing that the special issue necessarily covered a constrained set of topics, we also solicited additional chapters delving further into Russian views of NATO enlargement, the dynamics of NATO–Ukraine relations, Chinese views of NATO enlargement, and the internal assumptions undergirding the enlargement process. The result thus updates and expands upon the 2020 special issue while suggesting pathways for future research—after all, the topic is anything but exhausted! Besides those acknowledged above, the editors wish to thank Ashwini Elango, Project Coordinator at Springer Nature, and Mathru Srinivasan, Production Editor, for helping move the manuscript through the production process. Thanks also go to Agneska Bloch, Stephen Dyer, Jonathan Hogan, Olivia Parker, and Adeline Perkins for their research assistance. We are further grateful to Engelsberg Ideas for permission to include an updated version of Vladislav M. Zubok’s chapter, as well as the Stanford University Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and the Brookings Institution for their support of this project. Above all, the

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

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contributors did a superlative job working on a compressed timeline while keeping abreast of a fast-changing security environment; their efforts and responsiveness are immensely appreciated. Ultimately, having begun this project on opposite sides of the enlargement debates, we have found our ideas sharpened—if not altered—by systematically engaging those with different views. So do we hope this volume will inform scholars, students, and policymakers alike. This project is not the final word on the legacies of enlargement, and we look forward to continuing the conversation. James Goldgeier Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson

Contents

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Evaluating NATO Enlargement: Scholarly Debates, Policy Implications, and Roads not Taken James Goldgeier and Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson

1

Part I Foreign Policy and Strategy Debates 47

2

Patterns of Continuity in NATO’s Long History Timothy Andrews Sayle

3

NATO as a Political Alliance: Continuities and Legacies in the Enlargement Debates of the 1990s Susan Colbourn

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The NATO Enlargement Consensus and US Foreign Policy: Origins and Consequences Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson

97

4

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Myths and Realities of Putinism and NATO Expansion Vladislav M. Zubok

145

ix

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CONTENTS

Part II Great Power Relations 6

7

8

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NATO Enlargement and US Grand Strategy: A Net Assessment Rajan Menon and William Ruger

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NATO Enlargement: Evaluating Its Consequences in Russia Kimberly Marten

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The Tragedy of US–Russian Relations: NATO Centrality and the Revisionists’ spiral Andrey A. Sushentsov and William C. Wohlforth

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China Views NATO: Beijing’s Concerns About Transatlantic Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific Liselotte Odgaard

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Part III European Security 307

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Thank Goodness for NATO Enlargement Alexander Lanoszka

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Good for Democracy? Evidence from the 2004 NATO Expansion Paul Poast and Alexandra Chinchilla

341

Ukraine’s Bid to Join NATO: Re-evaluating Enlargement in a New Strategic Context Rebecca R. Moore

373

12

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Every Which Way But Loose: The United States, NATO Enlargement, European Strategic Autonomy and Fragmentation Paul van Hooft

415

CONTENTS

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Part IV Organizational Politics and Debates 14

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Assessing the Consequences of Enlargement for the NATO Military Alliance Sara Bjerg Moller

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In Peace and War: The Military Implications of NATO Enlargement James J. Townsend Jr.

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NATO Enlargement and the Failure of the Cooperative Security Mindset Stéfanie von Hlatky and Michel Fortmann

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References

563

Index

639

List of Contributors

Alexandra Chinchilla Bush School of Government and Public Service, College Station, TX, USA Susan Colbourn Duke University, Durham, NC, USA Michel Fortmann Department of Political Science, Montreal University, Montreal, QC, Canada James Goldgeier School of International Service, American University, Washington, DC, USA Alexander Lanoszka University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada Kimberly Marten Barnard College, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA Rajan Menon City University of New York, New York, NY, USA Sara Bjerg Moller Center for Security Studies, Georgetown University, Washington, DC, USA Rebecca R. Moore Concordia College, Moorhead, MN, USA Liselotte Odgaard Hudson Institute, Washington, DC, USA; Institute for Defence Studies, Oslo, Norway Paul Poast University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA

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LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS

William Ruger American Institute for Economic Research, Great Barrington, MA, USA Timothy Andrews Sayle University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA Andrey A. Sushentsov Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Moscow, Russia James J. Townsend Jr. worked on European and NATO issues in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and at NATO from 1990 through 2017, completing his career as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy. Paul van Hooft Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, The Hague, The Netherlands Stéfanie von Hlatky Political Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON, Canada William C. Wohlforth Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA Vladislav M. Zubok London School of Economics, London, UK

List of Figures

Fig. 11.1

Fig. Fig. Fig. Fig. Fig.

11.2 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4

Map of existing European NATO members in 2004, NATO candidates, and control group countries. Note Existing NATO members as of 2004 are dark gray. 2004 NATO accession countries are gray. 1999 MAP entrants that did not become NATO members in 2004 are light gray. Non-MAP former Soviet republics that are contiguous to NATO entrants are black. Map created via https://mapchart.net/europe.html Effect graph gray The NATO command structure, 1975–1993 The NATO command structure, 1994–1999 The NATO command structure, 1999–2003 The NATO command structure, 2022

357 361 466 467 472 473

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List of Tables

Table Table Table Table Table

6.1 11.1 11.2 14.1 16.1

Russia’s GDP in context EU and NATO membership status, 1991 to 2017 Difference of means in Liberal Democracy Index scores NATO common funded budgets Finland and Sweden military strength

193 358 360 479 552

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CHAPTER 1

Evaluating NATO Enlargement: Scholarly Debates, Policy Implications, and Roads not Taken James Goldgeier and Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson

NATO’s enlargement into Central and Eastern Europe—including states that were formerly part of the Soviet Union itself—has been among the preeminent features of post-Cold War US foreign policy and European security. It has also been among the most controversial. When NATO enlargement was first broached in the 1990s, proponents advanced a range of interrelated propositions to argue that enlargement would broadly help stabilize Europe east of Germany while facilitating the spread of democracy and market capitalism (Asmus et al. 1993, 1995;

J. Goldgeier (B) School of International Service, American University, Washington, DC, USA e-mail: [email protected] J. R. I. Shifrinson School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 J. Goldgeier and J. R. I. Shifrinson (eds.), Evaluating NATO Enlargement, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-23364-7_1

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J. GOLDGEIER AND J. R. I. SHIFRINSON

Flanagan 1992; Lukes 1999). Critics, however, countered that enlargement required NATO’s existing members to defend a host of Central and Eastern European states of questionable strategic value, would antagonize Russia, and in any case was not as important for spreading democracy and capitalism as the European Union (Brown 1995; Kennan 1997a, b; MccGwire 1998; Reiter 2001; Waltz 2000). Several rounds of expansion later, these debates remain broadly intact. Advocates of continued enlargement see NATO’s ongoing growth as central to consolidating the US-led liberal order and countering an increasingly aggressive Russia, whereas skeptics see NATO as a core impediment to improved East–West relations, and superfluous to European stability (Bandow 2019; Chotiner 2022; Daalder 2017; Kupchan 2019; Walt 2018a, b). In short, nearly three decades after NATO enlargement began, its merits and drawbacks remain as up for debate as ever. Without seeking to resolve the NATO enlargement debate, this volume joins a recent spate of research looking to advance the conversation by assessing the impact of expansion on NATO as an institution, on Russia and its relations with the West, on the new member states of Central and Eastern Europe, on the USA, and on contemporary international security affairs. This effort carries both scholarly and policy implications. On one level, by distinguishing among enlargement’s international, domestic, and institutional consequences, we hope to sharpen the contours of the dialogue by bringing fresh evidence—including an array of primary sources—to bear on the precise ways in which enlargement has variously affected transatlantic, European, and national politics. At the same time, assessing enlargement’s legacy offers insight into the ways in which a fundamental change in European security structures may or may not affect the political life of the continent (Brennan 2019; Economist 2019a, b; Heisbourg 2016; Reuters 2017). This is no small matter in an era when Russian bellicosity—underlined by its February 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine—is generating new interest in how to provide for Europe’s hard security needs even as many analysts believe NATO’s future may be in doubt given the skepticism with the organization expressed by many voters and policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic. Ultimately, the more NATO enlargement is judged to have played a central role in stabilizing Eastern Europe, dissuading Russian aggrandizement against NATO members, facilitating the smooth functioning of the alliance itself, or consolidating post-communist domestic orders in former Warsaw Pact and Soviet states, the less persuasive are

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calls to alter NATO’s role in Europe. Conversely, the less NATO’s role is viewed as necessary or beneficial across this broad set of issues, the more room there will be for those who envision a change in that role. In short, assessing the legacy of NATO enlargement is more than just a reconsideration of water under the bridge; it promises to provide insight into deliberations surrounding NATO’s future. This is not the first effort to assess the consequences of NATO’s eastward move. Still, much of the existing discussion has remained at one of the two poles: that NATO remains an indispensable alliance or— conversely—that it is the source of many problems in the world, especially the souring of Russia’s relations with the West (Kramer et al. 2015, 3; Mearsheimer 2014, b; Posen 2014; Vershbow 2014). That said, work by Kimberly Marten (2018), Sarotte (2021), and others (Brands 2019; Cancian and Cancian 2019; German 2017; Poast and Urpelainen 2018) has begun examining the prospective mechanisms and pathways by which enlargement may have mattered. These projects all make valuable contributions to the intellectual and policy debate. Still, even these studies are limited by a focus on individual aspects of expansion in support of particular research questions (e.g., Marten 2018), or take such a broad overview of the experience of enlargement that the possibility of enlargement yielding different effects on different actors or topics can be lost (e.g., Sarotte 2021; also Zelikow and Rice 2019). In short, still more research is warranted. Moreover, any analysis of NATO enlargement relies on more or less explicit causal and counterfactual claims. Accordingly, it is worth attempting to directly analyze the course, conduct, and consequences of NATO enlargement to precisely identify enlargement’s effects on European and transatlantic politics while considering the costs and benefits of possible alternatives to enlargement. Not only is this approach needed to ensure analytically rigorous and robust results, but it helps advance the state of debate for policymakers and scholars. The remainder of this introductory chapter proceeds in five sections: First, it reviews the origins and history of NATO enlargement to frame the debate over enlargement’s legacy. Second, it delineates the core issues on which analysts could assess NATO expansion and discusses the specific issues addressed in this exercise. Third, the article highlights the importance of counterfactual analysis in assessing the consequences of NATO enlargement. Fourth, it previews the overarching findings across chapters before finally outlining avenues for future research.

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NATO Enlargement: Review and Reprise NATO enlargement developed over the course of the early to mid1990s as NATO member states and former Central and Eastern European members of the Warsaw Pact contemplated Europe’s post-Cold War security order (Goldgeier 1999a, b; Sarotte 2019a; Brown 1999). At the time, it was not obvious that NATO itself would persist in the post-Cold War world given the collapse of the communist threat it was founded to counter (Cornish 2004; Mearsheimer 1990; Sayle 2019; Waltz 1993, 76). If it did survive—so the logic went—it might need to transform into a largely political organization that would have more in common with the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) than the tight military alliance that existed during the Cold War (Daalder 1999, chap. 1; Duffield 1994/95, 766–772; Kupchan and Kupchan 1991, 153–155 ). Lost in the deliberations over NATO’s continuation were signs that NATO might not only survive but expand after the Cold War (Wallander 2000; Walt 1997). Preliminary hints came during the diplomatic dance surrounding German reunification. Coordinating with West German chancellor Helmut Kohl’s administration, the USA under the George H.W. Bush administration successfully pushed to keep reunified Germany within NATO (Engel 2017; Kornblum 2018). This move not only formally enlarged the alliance east of its Cold War boundaries—encompassing the former East Germany, or what the USA referred to as the ‘jewel in the Soviet imperial crown’—but blocked parallel Soviet efforts to use reunification to facilitate the creation of a new, pan-European security order that would see both the Warsaw Pact and NATO dissolved (Shifrinson2018a, 149; Zelikow and Rice 1995). Concurrently, several Eastern European states began signaling that they wanted into the alliance, with policymakers from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland inquiring about NATO membership even at the start of 1990. Within months, US strategists were debating whether the USA and existing NATO members should signal ‘to the new democracies of Eastern Europe NATO’s readiness to contemplate their future membership’ (Shifrinson 2016a, 38). By 1991–1994, the trend lines further clarified as the USA worked assiduously to keep NATO a vibrant security institution in post-Cold War Europe, and soon treated NATO enlargement as a prime way of doing so (Goldgeier 1999a, b; Sayle 2019, chap. 10). The lessons of the twentieth

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century seemed clear to US policymakers and to many Europeans. In this narrative, the USA withdrew from Europe after the 1919 Versailles Treaty formally ended World War I and the result was another world war two decades later; America remained engaged on the continent after 1945, and the result was a prosperous and secure Western Europe (Chollet and Goldgeier 2008; Engel 2017, 77). As communist regimes crumbled, US officials decided that the USA had an opportunity to promote a Europe ‘whole and free.’ When they subsequently looked at the available institutions, NATO was the clear winner. It was a capable organization that the USA dominated, whereas the alternatives—the CSCE and the European Community (soon to become the European Union)—lacked either organizational capacity (CSCE) or US access (the EC/EU) to fulfill the USA’s hopes and ambitions. The first steps toward enlargement came in the latter part of the George H.W. Bush administration. Amid the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and—subsequently—the Soviet Union, US policymakers developed NATO ‘liaison programs’ with former Warsaw Pact states to link them to NATO without offering membership. Given concerns with Western European outreach to the East, the possibility of a Soviet/Russian resurgence, and continuing calls from Eastern European states themselves, by mid1992 this policy morphed into an effort to signal—as one interagency report put it—‘the new democracies that we do not rule out extending membership’ (quoted in Shifrinson 2020b, 23). Soon thereafter, the USA began identifying ‘the conditions we want to see met before we consider new applicants to NATO,’ while preparing to mobilize support among existing allies for expanding the alliance in the near-to-medium term (52). The USA, in other words, looked to expand NATO even as the dust settled from the Cold War (Flanagan 2019). Bush’s defeat in the 1992 US presidential election put these initiatives on hold. The newly inaugurated William Clinton administration, however, soon picked up where Bush left off (Flanagan 2019; Walker 2019a, b). Despite internal fissures within the administration, President Clinton came to embrace NATO enlargement, seeing it as a way of anchoring the US presence in post-Cold War Europe and facilitating what Clinton himself termed the enlargement of the ‘community of marketbased democracies’ (Asmus 2004; Clinton 1994a, b, c; Goldgeier 1999a, b, 39 ). After first proposing and agreeing on the Partnership for Peace as the primary focus for NATO’s eastern outreach, the Clinton administration’s push for enlargement—an outcome favored by Republicans

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and Democrats alike—reached a critical mass by the fall of 1994.1 Soon, discussions were underway within NATO and with the leaders of various Eastern European states (particularly the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland) seeking admission to the alliance (Goldgeier 1999a, b; Sarotte 2019b). To be sure, efforts to expand the alliance into Eastern Europe were not accepted in all quarters. For one thing, although many Eastern European elites were enthused about joining the alliance, support was not universal in the former Eastern Bloc. In early 1993, for example, Czech president Václav Havel mused about crafting a pan-European security order that would eliminate Cold War era alliances; likewise, many former communist officials were unenthused about integrating with former adversaries (Havránek and Jireš 2019). Still, with Havel coming around and Western-oriented leaders such as Poland’s Lech Wał˛esa eager to see their countries formally join the West, Eastern European support for enlargement coalesced (Sarotte 2019a). More intransigent opposition, however, came from Western Europe and Russia. Some Western European members of NATO were lukewarm toward the prospect of enlargement. France, in particular, viewed expansion as a challenge to European Community efforts to craft an independent foreign and security role (Schake 1998). Firm support for enlargement in Western Europe resided mainly among German national security officials, particularly Defense Minister Volker Rühe, who saw an opportunity to ensure that the eastern border of Germany would no longer be the eastern border of NATO (Voigt 2019). Likewise, Russian leaders—including Russian president Boris Yeltsin— took a dim view of NATO’s plans to expand. Even in 1992, US planners recognized that Russian policymakers might resist NATO enlargement, seeing it as a step toward redividing Europe (Lowenkron to Howe 26 March 1992). Still, as NATO enlargement took off, Russian opposition intensified. Already in late 1993, for instance, Yeltsin warned Clinton that NATO enlargement would be perceived in many Russian circles as ‘a sort of neo-isolation of our country’ (AmEmbassy Moscow to SecState 20

1 In the original logic for Partnership for Peace, the program would offer Eastern European states and Russia institutional ties to NATO but stop short of full membership. This approach was favored by the Pentagon as well as officials at the State Department who worked on Russia policy. Nevertheless, senior political leaders (Clinton above all) soon transformed the program into a vehicle for enlargement.

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October 1993; SecState to NATO Posts 9 October 1993). Late 1994 saw the Russian leader flag similar issues, cautioning Clinton that enlargement ‘will be interpreted and not only in Russia as the beginning of a new split in Europe’ (SecState to AmEmbassy Moscow 6 December 1994), just as the Russian president bluntly stated in May 1995 that he saw ‘nothing but humiliation for Russia’ if NATO expansion proceeded (Summary Report 10 May 1995). Nor was Yeltsin alone; other Russian policymakers, including parliamentary leaders and officials in the Ministry of Defense, echoed Yeltsin throughout this period. (Federal Assembly 25 April 1995; Secretary of Defense 5 January 1994). US officials were not unmindful of Russian opposition, but they did not stop the enlargement process. Rather, US policy moved along parallel tracks with the USA’s Western European partners and Russia. With Western Europe, officials in the Bush and Clinton administrations carved out a security role for the EC/EU via theWestern European Union, while protecting NATO’s prerogatives as the primary forum for European defense and security deliberations (NATO 1991a, b; Pond 1992; Sayle 2019, 235–240; Shifrinson 2020a, b, 33–54). This effort limited Western European states’ ability to pursue a separate security policy, creating room for the USA to coordinate with European actors open to enlargement and use the resulting leverage to drive expansion (Hill 2018, 53–65, 79–87, 109–122). At the same time, the Clinton administration coordinated closely with Russian elites, listening to their critiques and attempting to convince Yeltsin’s team that enlargement would not pose a threat (Goldgeier 2018, 46–51; Talbott 2002). This approach was predicated on Clinton’s assumption that Yeltsin’s opposition was primarily due to fears that nationalists at home would use NATO enlargement against him politically—rather than being driven by national security concerns—and so could be assuaged by (1) adjusting the pace of enlargement to suit Yeltsin’s domestic political needs and (2) cooperating with Russia in other venues (Goldgeier 1999a, b). To this end, the Clinton administration agreed to delay concrete steps on NATO enlargement until after the 1996 Russian presidential election; explored ways of limiting the scope of NATO enlargement (e.g., agreeing that permanent NATO forces would not be posted to Eastern Europe in the near term) to make the process more palatable to Russian sensibilities (Hill 2018, 136); and ultimately crafted what became the 1997 NATO–Russia Founding Act as a way of signaling that enlargement was not meant to redivide Europe (Carr

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and Flenley 1999). To the extent that Russian officials sincerely viewed enlargement as a threat to the country’s status and/or security rather than as political in nature, these steps did not—indeed, could not—address Russian complaints; after all, engagement was defined by issues the USA was willing to discuss, on terms decided by US policymakers (O’Hanlon 2017, 5; USDel Secretary to SecState 16 January 1994). Nevertheless, US efforts were intended to make the outcome more acceptable in the hopes that Russia would eventually accommodate itself to a new European security landscape featuring an expanded NATO. The net result of Eastern European pressures, US enthusiasm for expansion, and limited opportunities for effective Western European and Russian opposition became clear as expansion became a reality. NATO’s ‘Study on Enlargement’ was published in September 1995. It synthesized the Clinton administration’s discussions within NATO and its outreach to Eastern Europe, underscoring that the alliance was open to new members and laying out criteria that states would have to meet to join the organization (NATO 1995a, b). Though deference to Russian sensitivities delayed immediate follow-up (Goldgeier and McFaul 2003, 183–210; Savranskaya and Blanton 2017), NATO’s July 1997 Madrid Summit saw the alliance formally invite the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland to begin NATO accession talks. These three states were formally admitted to NATO in March 1999. This was only the start of an expansion process that continues through the present—as current CIA director William Burns noted in his memoir, ‘expansion of NATO membership’ has ‘stayed on autopilot’ since the 1990s (Burns 2019, 413). Indeed, with NATO members on record supporting the alliance’s continued growth, and with leading Western officials from the late 1990s framing the alliance as a way of contributing to ‘stabilization, stability, and democratization’ in Central and Eastern Europe (Hill 2018, 200), NATO’s eastward move had no obvious geographic end within Europe. Indeed, Article 10 of the 1949 treaty establishing NATO stated that the alliance was open to ‘any other European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area;’ this language provided the vehicle for proponents of enlargement to push forward across the continent (see NATO (1949; Art 1998, 341–342. With calls for membership continuing in the late 1990s from Eastern European states excluded from the first round of enlargement, NATO moved to routinize the enlargement process, creating the Membership

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Action Plan (MAP) in the spring of 1999 to guide future applicants. Almost immediately, seven new states (Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia) joined the MAP; subsequently, they were formally invited to begin accession talks in 2002 and were admitted to the alliance in 2004 (NATO n.d.; NATO 2019a, b, c). From there, NATO turned toward incorporating a range of states in Southeastern Europe, admitting states such as Albania, Croatia, Montenegro, and North Macedonia from the mid-2000s onward. Still more dramatically, and despite Russia’s warnings that it would strongly oppose the effort, the 2008 Bucharest Summit saw NATO pledge that Georgia and Ukraine will ‘become members of NATO’ (NATO 2008a, b, c). Resurgent tensions with Russia—punctuated by the Russia–Ukraine War beginning in February 2022—provide the backdrop for NATO’s current enlargement discussions. On one level, NATO outreach to Ukraine and Georgia continued even after the 2008 Russo-Georgian War and the 2014 unlawful Russian seizure of Crimea amid Ukrainian domestic unrest, and nominally convinced many NATO members that their admission was inadvisable (Ruger 2019a, b). Given mounting Russo-Ukrainian tensions leading into February 2022, Ukraine received particular attention: individual allies such as the USA bolstered Ukraine’s military interoperability and political coordination with the alliance in support of ‘Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO’ (State Department 2021; also Defense Department 2021) while the alliance as a whole underlined its commitment ‘that Ukraine will become a member of the Alliance’ (NATO 2021a, b, c). The Russia–Ukraine War has only reinforced this approach, with key officials affirming the right of individual states to choose their alliances and apply for NATO membership if they so want (see, e.g., NATO 2022a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p). Meanwhile, current and prospective Russian aggression prodded Finland and Sweden—countries that had long abjured seeking formal allies—to apply for NATO membership (CBS 2022). As this volume goes to press, most current members have approved the Finnish and Swedish applications, with the remaining countries expected to approve the effort in the near future (Ward and Seligman 2022). Five broad assumptions appear to underlie NATO policy after the Cold War. First, with the Soviet Union defunct, Russia weak, and reunified Germany firmly anchored within NATO, the prospect of great power war on the continent was virtually nonexistent. As such—second—NATO

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could expand eastward at acceptable risk while using membership to incentivize Eastern European states to embrace and internalize Western domestic institutions and values. Third, in doing so, the USA and its partners would construct a growing security system in which war would be off the table even as conditions—open markets and pluralist domestic institutions—that reinforced Western influence would expand; in effect, the expansion would become a perpetual motion machine in which Western influence would grow alongside the alliance. Fourth, and partly as a product of the preceding, NATO would continue as Europe’s premier security institution, under whose auspices other intra-European security institutions might be fostered (the view of some Western Europeans) or US dominance reified (the US preference) (Waltz 2000, 28–29). Finally, Russian challenges were to be managed if possible, but ignored if necessary. Ideally, American and allied engagement could convince Russia to accept a security system that threatened to leave it isolated if it didn’t go along (Asmus et al. 1995, 20–25). If not, however, then an enlarged NATO would be in a better position to compete with Russia by virtue of its expanded roster and the resulting reach, just as enlarging despite Russian challenges would underscore NATO’s commitment to protecting its members. Of course, NATO expansion did not occur in a strategic vacuum. In particular, enlargement from the late 1990s onward occurred as East–West relations deteriorated. This deterioration stemmed from many sources, including mutual suspicions of the other side’s intentions, worries in Moscow that Russian interests were increasingly ignored by NATO member states, and concerns in Washington and other Western capitals that Moscow sought to revise Europe’s post-Cold War settlement (Hill 2018; Rumer and Sokolsky 2019; Stent 2014). Although one might have expected these developments to call for a reassessment of the principles undergirding NATO expansion, the main consequence has instead been to reinforce the logic of NATO enlargement. Since the mid-2000s, Russian officials from President Vladimir Putin down have highlighted NATO enlargement as a particular problem for East–West relations, just as reciprocal fears of Russian behavior have driven many NATO members (particularly in Eastern Europe) to focus on using the alliance to confront and deter Moscow (Landler and Cooper 2016; Oliphant 2016; Shanker and Landler 2007). In effect, this process has redivided Europe as postCold War Russian leaders (and many Western officials and analysts) once feared. The collapse of East–West relations has thereby given new

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life to an enlarged NATO—in fact, pronouncements by US and allied analysts and policymakers underline that enlargement itself has become a symbol of Western resolve in opposing Moscow and sustaining the West’s preferred vision of Europe’s security order (e.g., Burns and Lute 2019; White House 2022a, b, c, d). At the same time, the EU’s continued inability to create an effective security apparatus exacerbates the growing NATO–Moscow standoff, leaving European states seeking a hedge against Russian bellicosity with few alternatives besides the transatlantic alliance, and generating ongoing calls from Georgia, Ukraine, and others for further NATO expansion (Jozwiak 2018; O’Hanlon 2017, esp. 41–49; RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty 2018). To this end, the post-2014 period has seen the alliance expand the scope of its military and defense efforts in and around Eastern Europe. The Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations each allocated billions of dollars to upgrade military infrastructure in NATO’s post-Cold War member states and called upon other NATO members to match US efforts; military exercises focused on defending NATO’s Eastern flank against possible Russian aggression are growing (Shifrinson 2018b); rotational troop deployments have accelerated, particularly after the events of February 2022 (Department of Defense 2022; Monaghan 2022); efforts to develop plans and forces to rapidly reinforce Eastern Europe are underway, including the establishment of a US Army V corps headquarters in Poland (Perez 2022); and policymakers continue to debate whether to permanently station NATO-allocated forces east of Germany (Hunzeker and Lanoszka 2018; Vandiver 2022). After years of US troop reductions in Europe after the Cold War, the USA is deploying additional forces on the continent. These changes are particularly stark considering that NATO expansion since the 1990s involved comparatively little effort to prepare for the defense of its new members or project military power beyond the German border—the political commitment exceeded the alliance’s military reach.2 NATO, having entered the post-Cold War

2 Illustrating the point, testimony by Defense Department officials at the time of NATO enlargement focused primarily on the budgetary implications of NATO enlargement rather than the tasks of defending new NATO member states; see U.S. Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations 1998, 131–152. For subsequent military difficulties, see the Moller, Townsend, and Van Hooft chapters in this volume.

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era as an alliance primarily between the USA and the states of Western Europe, has expanded politically and (increasingly) militarily up to the border of Russia itself, encompassing an array of former Soviet allies and states that were once part of the Soviet Union.

Framing the Debates Over Enlargement’s Legacy Given this complex history, evaluating the legacy of NATO enlargement is not easy. Large-scale and long-lasting policies generally carry multiple consequences, including some unanticipated at the time of the policy’s creation. This is especially true with NATO expansion, where proponents and critics of the effort identify and emphasize a range of positive and negative externalities. In general, critics make the case that enlargement has caused the collapse of US–Russian relations (and is even responsible for provoking the Russian invasion of Ukraine) whereas proponents praise the policy as one of the great success stories of US post-Cold War foreign policy. These divergent results may be partly paradigmatic. Realist scholars tend to downplay the relevance of NATO enlargement’s effects on domestic societies in and around Europe to emphasize issues related to European security and great power politics; given Europe’s benign threat environment for much of the post-Cold War era, such an approach lends itself to questioning and challenging NATO enlargement. Conversely, constructivists and liberal analysts—with their emphasis on identity and domestic attributes—focus on enlargement’s success in promoting Western values (broadly defined), democracy, and capitalism in post-Cold War Europe, rather than exclusively (or primarily) evaluating the hard security dimension of expansion. And students of policy processes, for their part, have written about the policy management aspects of enlargement, including what it tells us about national security decision-making in the USA and other allied countries and how enlargement has affected NATO as an organization (Adler 2008; Brown 1995; Bunde and Noetzel 2010; Epstein 2005; Reiter 2001; Russett and Stam 1998; Thies et al. 2006). Recognizing the limits of single-paradigm treatments, we argue instead that the NATO enlargement debate does not lend itself to the identification of a single aspect of enlargement’s legacy as its sine qua non. Instead, the distinct approaches and issues embraced by scholars (and NATO itself) underscore the need for a broad-based effort to assess different aspects of

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enlargement, in order to arrive at a net assessment of enlargement for any or all of the actors involved. Several decades after enlargement began in earnest, it is time to assess the costs and benefits of the policy and to consider the costs and benefits of potential alternatives proposed for securing Western interests, providing security to newly free countries in Central and Eastern Europe, and/or finding a place for Russia in a postCold War Europe. The point, in short, is to leverage analytic eclecticism to arrive at overarching judgments of the policy. Building upon Kenneth Waltz’s ‘levels of analysis’ (1959) approach toward understanding the sources of international competition while modifying it for an issue that is as much institutional as international, we argue that NATO enlargement’s legacy needs to be analyzed at the international level, at the domestic level, and at the organizational level. In doing so, it is also necessary to account for the fact that the consequences of enlargement can vary by the actors involved. After all, even if NATO enlargement has antagonized Russia and harmed US–Russian relations, it may have also plausibly added to the security enjoyed by different states in Western or Eastern Europe; likewise—and as some US policymakers suggest—enlargement may facilitate the European allies’ tendency to cheap ride on the USA, but subsequently give the USA greater influence over European security debates (Layne 2001; Posen 2014; Tonelson 2001; Williams 2013). Moreover, and as emphasized below, it is important to keep in mind that any policy available to address European security after the end of the Cold War carried costs and benefits of some kind. The core question facing analysts evaluating the legacy of NATO enlargement is not whether enlargement was normatively good or bad, but in what aspects enlargement yielded positive or negative effects and how those compare to the effects of the alternatives available.

International Debates The first set of issues addressed in this volume concerns enlargement’s international consequences and, in particular, its effects on the primary players vis-à-vis enlargement: Russia, the USA, and non-US NATO members. Here, scholarly and policy attention tends to fix NATO members’ relations with Russia. When the possibility of enlargement was first broached, many analysts and former policymakers cautioned that it would sully East–West relations by rousing Russian suspicions and redivide the continent (e.g., Brown 1995; Friedman 1998; Mandelbaum

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1995, 9–13). As noted, Russian policymakers railed against the policy starting in the early 1990s, just as US analysts strove to reconcile NATO enlargement with Russian concerns. With the progressive downturn in East–West relations beginning in the late 2000s, the question became whether and to what extent the collapse of Moscow’s relationship with the USA and its allies was at least partly a response to NATO enlargement. Certainly many Russian officials and a number of Western analysts view East–West tensions in these terms, treating NATO enlargement as a major source of Russian insecurity and thus a significant factor in prompting Moscow’s recent bellicosity (e.g., Herszenhorn 2014a, b; Matlock 2014; Mearsheimer 2014, b). Given that the NATO expansion discussion began in the early 1990s, however, and yet East–West relations did not worsen until the 2000s, there are debates over the extent of causality (Marten 2015, 2018; McFaul et al. 2014). The question remains: To what degree, if any, did NATO enlargement prompt deterioration in East–West relations from their initial post-Cold War high, and how does enlargement compare to other policies (e.g., the wars against Serbia, Iraq, and Libya, and Western support for civil society in Russia and other post-Soviet states) in the panoply of Russian grievances? Closely linked to this is an ongoing policy issue: assuming the Russia–Ukraine War was somehow brought to a close, would a credible pledge to end further NATO enlargement into former Soviet spaces meaningfully improve East–West dynamics given current attitudes in Washington, Moscow, and beyond (for background, see O’Hanlon 2017; Rumer and Sokolsky 2019)? If relations with Russia present one criterion for evaluating the international consequences of enlargement, then US grand strategy offers another. The USA is the largest member of NATO financially, militarily, and demographically and has long been the principal proponent of enlargement inside the alliance. Although US policymakers were not always fixed on expanding the alliance, the last quarter century has seen enlargement occupy a progressively more prominent place in US strategic discussions vis-à-vis Europe (Porter 2018). Still, the growing centrality of enlargement is not universally accepted as a net gain for the USA (Kay 1998, 103–114). Proponents see the link between the USA and an expanded NATO as contributing to European peace and economic growth in ways that redound to the USA’s advantage (Brands 2016a, b, 3; Brooks and Wohlforth 2016, 115–118, 171–184). Critics, however, allege that treating NATO and its continued ability to expand as the

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lodestone of US engagement in Europe is problematic; not only does it encourage allies to cheap ride on US security largesse, but it may encourage risky allied behaviors that can ensnare the USA in a broader set of security problems than it would otherwise face (Posen 2019; Walt 2017).3 In other words, NATO enlargement might be in the interests of the new member states, but might not bolster US security. Still, a third lens through which to evaluate the international consequences of enlargement concerns its effect on non-US NATO members. At the start of NATO enlargement, many policymakers in non-US NATO member states—including leaders in the UK, France, and Germany—were lukewarm about enlargement (Waltz 2000; Wolff 2000). Echoing skeptics in the USA, even policymakers who wanted to sustain NATO questioned the rationale for the alliance taking on new members and expanding its security obligations in Europe at a time when defense budgets were falling. To what degree have such concerns been vindicated by subsequent events, or been proved overly skeptical? On the other hand, the end of the Cold War left countries formerly under Soviet domination without a natural security anchor and facing great uncertainty over their relations with Russia and their immediate neighbors. Admission into NATO could help solve these problems while further adding the prestige of joining with the winning side in the Cold War and the benefits of aligning with the USA at the height of its power. A thorough analysis should probe whether these advantages have accrued in the form intended. NATO went east while trying to accommodate competing imperatives by limiting NATO’s military presence around Eastern Europe, engaging Russia (albeit in limited form) to forestall the possibility of a military confrontation, and insulating the process from domestic and foreign critics. Twenty-five years later, the effort to harmonize the West’s myriad goals after the Cold War has demonstrably failed. Tensions with Russia are spiking, NATO planners confront the possibility that the alliance might need to undertake military action in Eastern Europe, and 3 A potential example of this risk comes from the Russia–Ukraine War. Following Russia’s February 2022 full-scale invasion, Poland unilaterally proposed transferring aging Soviet-era combat aircraft to the USA for subsequent donation to Ukraine in its war against Russia. As US officials noted when shooting down the proposal, this plan ran the risk of making it seem that the USA and Poland were allowing Ukrainian forces to operate from NATO bases and so encouraging a Russian strike that could draw NATO into the Russia–Ukraine War. Absent NATO enlargement, it is difficult to envision Poland proposing to weaken its own military position in the face of a Russian threat while trying to inveigle the USA.

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there are ongoing discussions about permanently stationing forces beyond Germany. Currently, it is unclear whether NATO’s security commitments to Eastern Europe are viable—that is, whether the alliance has military options to protect states in the area at an acceptable political and strategic price. Questions also remain over (1) the willingness and/or ability of NATO’s traditional members to secure Eastern Europe in whole or in part, and (2) whether other security options exist for structuring Western and/or Eastern European security. Scholars thus need to know the extent to which NATO can credibly honor commitments to its post-Cold War members, as well as how enlargement has altered Europe’s security architecture and the nature of security problems on the continent. Underlying all this is a basic counterfactual: All things being equal, are NATO’s members better or worse off with the alliance having expanded after the Cold War?

Domestic-Level Considerations The domestic consequences of NATO expansion provide another way of evaluating enlargement’s legacy. Policymakers must generate political backing for any foreign policy initiative, especially if it is to prove sustainable (Foyle 1999; Hagan 1995, 122–124; Howell and Pevehouse 2007). Objectives must be clarified and tools to obtain those objectives identified to give guidance to the organs of government and to address domestic critics.4 Above all, policymakers must engage domestic constituencies to encourage domestic winners from any policy while placating any losers (Friman 1993; Mayer 1992). NATO enlargement—with its contentious domestic debates and implications for European security—is no exception. Further, domestic politics are often shaped by international politics, raising debates over how domestic security discussions are colored by the international repercussions (for good and for ill) of NATO’s eastward move (Gourevitch 1978). This dynamic has been on display in many NATO members. The US case is instructive. At the start of the enlargement debate in the early

4 An example illustrates the point. As the historian John Lewis Gaddis noted in Strategies of Containment, a major difficulty confronting the USA’s initial approach to containment was the inability of George Kennan—its principal architect—to clarify the strategy’s objectives for those charged with implementing the policy; see Gaddis (1982, 53–86).

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1990s, the scope of the pro-enlargement coalition remained unclear. A number of senior officials in the Bush and Clinton administrations supported the initiative. Still, opposition came from certain quarters of the Departments of State and Defense—where officials worried about relations with Russia, the provision of new security guarantees, or both— as well as from some senior Congressional leaders, such as Georgia senator Sam Nunn, and from a range of analysts in the academy and at think tanks (Stuart 1996, esp. table 1). By the fall of 1994, however, the internal enlargement debate was largely over, even if some opposition to the policy remained (particularly at the Pentagon). The political coalition that enabled enlargement to go forward in the coming years was taking shape. Proponents inside the Clinton administration presented enlargement as a tool of democracy promotion in Central and Eastern Europe while Republicans on Capitol Hill, who gave enlargement a push in their 1994 Contract with America, were intent on showing their resolve to defend the newly free areas of Central and Eastern Europe from possible Russian revanchism. Both groups sought in part to appeal to voters of Eastern European descent, who were viewed as important constituencies in key midwestern states (Goldgeier 1999a, b, 73–85). Soon, a strong domestic consensus favoring enlargement formed and became predominant in US policymaking circles (Porter 2018). Alternative approaches discussed in the early to mid-1990s, such as emphasizing NATO’s Partnership for Peace, using CSCE as the basis for a panEuropean security architecture, or encouraging security solutions in Eastern Europe through the European Union, fell by the wayside as policymakers treated an expanded NATO as the crux of the USA’s post-Cold War efforts to craft a Europe whole, free, and at peace (Kornblum 2019). More dramatically, US policymakers on both sides of the political aisle have made support for NATO’s presence in Europe and continued expansion eastward a lodestone of US strategy. Senior officials from both parties regularly pledge US fidelity to the alliance, whereas suggestions that the USA might not fully embrace the alliance—as some inferred from Trump’s failure to commit to NATO’s Article V security guarantees early in his presidency—have been criticized (Wright 2017). This consensus, however, raises two interrelated issues central to understanding the course and consequences of NATO enlargement in US foreign policy. First, why did an enlargement consensus rapidly take hold in Washington, swamp challengers, and dominate policy discussions? Second, and more difficult to assess, is the strategic question: What, if any, strategic risks follow from

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treating NATO in its post-Cold War borders as the central pillar of US engagement in Europe and bypassing consideration of alternative options in shaping the US approach toward Europe? In important ways, the Russian debate was the mirror image of that in the USA. As the Soviet Union broke apart, Yeltsin and many of the Russian reformers around him sought a cooperative relationship with the USA and NATO, seeing NATO’s continuation as an element of stability in the post-Cold War world. As, however, it became increasingly clear that NATO was to expand into Eastern Europe, Russian opposition spiked. As early as the mid-1990s, Yeltsin and some of his advisers warned Clinton that enlargement would empower Russian nationalists, threaten reformers’ tenure, and endanger vital Russian interests (Goldgeier and McFaul 2003, 183–210). Moreover, Russian discomfort remained even after Clinton responded by delaying enlargement until after Yeltsin’s 1996 reelection—and became especially salient once former Warsaw Pact and Soviet states began entering the alliance from the late 1990s. Seemingly both playing to and reifying the resulting sense of what many analysts describe as ‘humiliation,’ Russian presidents Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev have made opposition to NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe a tenet of their foreign agenda and domestic narratives since the mid-2000s. Significantly, there is ongoing scholarly and policy discussion over whether this opposition primarily stems from genuine security concerns or from politically useful appeals to Russian nationalism (Eurasia News 2018; Mydans 2004; Sweeney 2010). Still, any assessment of NATO enlargement must grapple with the extent to which (1) it undercut Russian proponents of a more cooperative East–West relationship since the 1990s, and (2) the prospect of future expansion empowers Russian hawks today. Answers to these questions are of more than historical interest—they can help guide strategists seeking to stabilize relations with Moscow, particularly in a post-Putin era. With regard to non-US NATO members, two distinct domestic considerations merit engagement. The first concerns political support for NATO versus its continental competitors. As noted, it was not impossible after the Cold War to imagine that NATO would gradually be supplanted by various European-based security schemes (see also Sarotte 2021 on this matter). Indeed, even after agreeing in the early 1990s that NATO would remain the primary venue for European security discussions, efforts to construct semi-independent European security arrangements under EU auspices continued, ranging from the European Security and Defense

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Initiative to the more recent Permanent Structured Cooperation (DW 2017; NATO Review 2000). These designs have often failed to meet their stated operational intentions. Nevertheless, given ongoing European efforts and the mismatch between desired ends and outcomes, how has NATO enlargement affected the intra-European debate over an independent European security identity and, alongside it, support for NATO? The second consideration is the domestic political fallout of NATO enlargement. This is highly relevant for those Eastern European states that entered the alliance after the Cold War. When first broached, NATO enlargement was presented as a way of (1) fostering economic and political liberalism in former communist states and (2) helping these countries adjust their security and foreign policies so as to diminish the risk of violence in the region (Asmus et al. 1993, inter alia). In furthering these goals, however, NATO enlargement plausibly created domestic political winners (e.g., political reformers, military reformers, and economically competitive industries) and losers (e.g., those seeking an independent Eastern Europe, traditional security sectors, etc.). Two decades of peace and stability in and around Eastern Europe long seemed to validate the claims of enlargement’s proponents (Epstein 2005; Lanoszka 2020; Thies et al. 2006). However, democratic backsliding in Hungary and Poland—and the risk of further backsliding in other NATO members— has reopened the debate (Burns and Lute 2019, 18–21; Wallander 2018). If nothing else, recent changes highlight that the domestic political consequences of NATO membership have not been entirely resolved. It, therefore, remains an open issue whether NATO enlargement has truly delivered on the domestic transformations highlighted by expansion proponents. On balance, has NATO helped these countries transition to liberal democratic capitalism while managing the domestic fallout from these changes, or is the post-Cold War status quo more fraught than proponents of enlargement would claim?5

5 Calls for Ukrainian membership in NATO—a growing issue as this volume goes to press—makes this question especially salient, insofar as Ukraine has been consistently ranked by Freedom House, Polity, and the V-Dem project as less than a full-fledged democracy (Shifrinson 2022). That said, states often innovate and reform in response to crises, offering hope that Ukraine will further democratize coming out of the present war.

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Organizational Impact Finally, and separate from the international and domestic repercussions of NATO enlargement, are enlargement’s consequences for the alliance as an organization. To be sure, NATO—like other institutions—only exists at the behest of its members; it does not exert independent agency in world politics (Mearsheimer 1994, 13–14). Still, to the extent that its members aggregate resources via the alliance, it is worth investigating how NATO’s eastward move has affected the alliance’s ability to perform needed security functions. After all, NATO is first and foremost a military alliance. Hence, if the alliance is to meet its commitments and address the interests of its members, it must be able to conduct the military missions necessary to these ends (Waltz 2000, 32–34). Assessing enlargement’s effects on the alliance as a military organization tasked with preparing for and deterring conflict is therefore as important as assessing its consequences internationally or domestically. One set of issues concerns the alliance’s internal coherence. During the Cold War, NATO members invested significant time and energy in erecting a plausible defense against the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies (Davis 2008; Duffield 1995; Kugler 1991). Battle lines were sorted out; competing military doctrines were tested, evaluated, and integrated; military equipment was standardized so far as rival defense requirements and industrial bases allowed; command and control obligations were established; and military exercises allowed the alliance to train to fight as a more or less coherent unit. Faced with the prospect of NATO enlargement in the early to mid-1990s, critics argued that such tasks would be difficult to replicate if NATO moved eastward. By this logic, the alliance might increase in breadth but sacrifice depth by taking in new member states with little experience in Western approaches to defense, at a time of falling military budgets and absent a pressing external threat to give impetus to sorting out the array of tasks modern militaries must undertake when fighting with partners (Clemens 1997, 353–357). Hints of problems along these lines emerged in NATO operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan, where even longstanding allies faced interoperability issues, as well as difficulties in sharing intelligence and structuring rules of engagement (Auerswald and Saideman 2014; Department of Defense 1999; Frontline 2000; Giegerich and von Hlatky 2019). Still, so long as NATO did not face the prospect of having conflict forced upon it, the risks seemed tolerable. Confronted, however, with resurgent tensions

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with Russia after the mid-2000s, the alliance has found itself working to accommodate the renewed possibility of high-intensity combat operations against a capable challenger (Barrie et al. 2019, inter alia; Binnendijk and Priebe 2019). Accordingly, analysts need an accounting of the ways in which enlargement has shaped NATO’s ability to craft an effective response to the alliance’s contemporary military challenges, alongside its successes and failures in adjusting to post-Cold War military missions in Europe and beyond. Related to the preceding is the matter of NATO’s credibility along its eastern flank (O’Hanlon 2022; Shlapak and Johnson 2016, 3–4; Simón 2014, 67). Once NATO added the Baltic states as members, it eliminated many of the geographic barriers separating NATO and Russian military forces that had obtained since the breakup of the Soviet Union; the likely inclusion of Finland and prospective inclusion of Ukraine and Georgia would exacerbate this situation. Enlargement skeptics have consistently challenged the logic of these moves, questioning in particular whether NATO could meet its security obligations under such conditions (Hendrickson and Spohr 2004, 327–328; for general discussion, see Posen 2020). Proponents, however, countered that further expansion would reinforce Western security by expanding the alliance’s reach, fostering European contributions to collective security and military contingencies, and (until the early 2020s) helping to engage Russia; although unstated, it may also have been seen as a way of bolstering deterrence by increasing NATO’s ability to deter or dissuade challenges (US Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations 2003). With the collapse of NATO–Russian relations, these competing logics have been put to the test, with policymakers struggling to adapt the organization for deterrence along NATO’s new eastern flank (for an overview, see Brooke-Holland 2022). The question thus becomes: To what extent has enlargement helped or hindered NATO’s ability to address post-Cold War European military scenarios, especially those involving states near Russia’s border? Last, and perhaps most fundamental, are debates over enlargement’s effects on the alliance’s foundational purpose. Despite having been formed in large part to balance the Soviet Union, NATO—at least rhetorically—was presented after the Cold War as a collective security rather than a collective defense organization, with an overarching mission no longer oriented against Russia (Flanagan 1992, 142; Yost 1998). In principle, this meant that the alliance would function as much to address the broader security concerns of NATO members (and, presumably

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other actors) as it would to defend them from attack from an outside country. How was the alliance repackaged for this task? As importantly, and given efforts such as the deployment of rotational military forces to the Baltic States and creation of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, to what extent is NATO adjusting itself to accommodate a new period of military tensions in Europe? Has the expanded alliance successfully refocused for today’s collective defense missions, or does collective security—and perhaps further enlargement—still generate a pull in NATO circles? Moreover, in a period of renewed tensions with Russia, is refocusing on collective defense made more difficult with a geographically enlarged alliance that includes a diverse group of new member states? Evaluating NATO expansion, in short, requires understanding how enlargement has simultaneously reflected and affected the organization’s own understanding of its role in European security.

The Role of Counterfactual Analysis and Inference As the preceding section implies, any consideration of the costs and benefits of NATO enlargement relies on at least one of the two methodological options. The first is counterfactual analysis (George and Bennett 2005, 167–168; Tetlock and Belkin, 1996; Van Evera 1997, 25–26, 48). Counterfactuals rely on comparing the outcomes of interest in the case(s) at hand with the outcomes in a hypothetical case in which the independent variable in question (here, NATO enlargement) is absent or valued differently. As James Fearon describes the logic: Suppose it is hypothesized that C was a cause of event E…. [W]hen experimental control and replication are not possible, analysts have available a choice between two and only two strategies for ‘empirically’ testing this hypothesis. Either they can imagine that C had been absent and ask whether E would have (or might have) occurred in that counterfactual case; or they can search for other actual cases that resemble the case in question in significant respects, except that in some of these cases C is absent (or had a different value). (1991, 171).

Clearly, this method is difficult to execute and often yields contentious findings (George and Bennett 2005, 230–231). Indeed, the causal weight assigned to any independent variable is often subject to debate in any

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body of social science or work of history, thereby leaving counterfactual arguments contestable and the results potentially suspect. Nevertheless, we believe the approach offers analytic utility in the NATO enlargement case. On one level, the more analysts can offer a plausible explanation for why the case(s) observed occurred as they did—particularly one using general theoretical or historical arguments—the greater the ability to leverage counterfactual analysis by asking how a causal chain would have played out if a certain independent variable were valued differently. This is a viable option in the context of NATO enlargement given the robust literatures describing the predicted and actual consequences of enlargement. Simply put, the alleged causal chains linked to enlargement (or the lack thereof) are often already specified or suggested in different literatures. This situation allows scholars to directly consider counterfactuals by leveraging the received wisdom while asking (1) whether the outcome(s) in question are clearly related to the alleged causes, and (2) whether and to what degree alternative outcomes would have occurred had these causes been absent. At the same time, we believe it is unnecessary to adopt a strict counterfactual approach—one that relies on varying as little as possible of the historical record to consider alternative outcomes—to detail and evaluate the overarching consequences of enlargement. As noted earlier in this piece and discussed in greater detail in several of the articles in this issue, a number of alternatives to NATO enlargement have either been considered at various points, or are suggested by the history. Accordingly, a looser counterfactual approach—one that highlights plausible outcomes and processes that might have obtained if NATO enlargement had not occurred as it did while holding constant background conditions at the time—suffices to generate an informed judgment of NATO enlargement’s results. This modified logic allows scholars to employ a historically grounded approach that leverages the arguments, expectations, and approaches of actors involved to investigate not only the role of NATO enlargement in the outcomes of interest, but also highlight potential alternate outcomes that might have come about had expansion not occurred or occurred in a different form.6 6 In Fearon’s terms, we are interested not only in whether Cause C is linked to Outcome E, but in further identifying what outcomes instead of E would have obtained if C were absent.

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Again, this is not the first project to leverage counterfactuals to engage the NATO enlargement debate (Marten 2018; Sarotte 2021). Still, the articles in this volume build upon existing work by considering a broader set of issues affected by NATO expansion and, in many instances, both discussing a range of alternative policies that were discussed at various points over the past quarter century and offering greater topic- and actorspecific details than existing work. This expanded set of counterfactuals helps to re-evaluate prominent issues such as whether the West might have avoided poor relations with Russia, alongside subtler concerns such as whether there were alternative ways of promoting democratic reform across Central and Eastern Europe or fostering European security after the Cold War. And as we show in related work examining the various options for NATO itself that the USA and its allies could have chosen after the Cold War, counterfactual analysis in some form is critical both for assessing whether a different policy would have produced a distinctly different result (e.g., a different outcome in US–Russian relations), and for weighing the costs and benefits of the policy chosen relative to its primary alternatives (Goldgeier and Shifrinson 2021).7 The second methodological option for evaluating the costs and benefits of NATO enlargement relies on the logic of process tracing, that is, rigorously assessing sequences of events within a single episode in order to determine the mechanisms through and conditions under which an outcome occurred (Bennett and Checkel 2015; George and Bennett 2005, 205–232). This approach is especially useful in helping to determine the relative salience of NATO enlargement compared with other factors affecting the current state of European security affairs. At root, NATO enlargement is not the only variable shaping contemporary European security, be it on issues of East–West dynamics and the security of NATO’s eastern flank, or questions about alliance burden sharing, doctrine, and command and control procedures. European politics have been influenced by domestic political debates in the USA and elsewhere, external events (e.g., conflicts in the Middle East), the growth of other 7 These options included focusing attention on Partnership for Peace for a more extended period of time and delaying enlargement; inviting Russia to join NATO in the 1990s; and diverging from the policy chosen after the second round of post-Cold War NATO enlargement by not issuing the 2008 Bucharest Summit Declaration language on Ukrainian and Georgian membership. Each of these policies, like the one ultimately followed, had costs and benefits for the USA, European security, US–-Russia relations, and NATO’s organizational evolution.

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security structures, changing leadership priorities, and other variables that are only loosely (if at all) connected with NATO’s expansion. Thus, in addition to determining how NATO enlargement affected European security given plausible roads not taken, it is also important to investigate the degree to which NATO enlargement is responsible for the current state of European security affairs compared to the other factors that may be at work. Process tracing can assist in this task by providing a framework within which analysts can assess whether, why, and how NATO enlargement and/or other variables shaped the range of outcomes(e.g., NATO operational difficulties, democratization in Eastern Europe) of interest in these studies. The key in doing so—as several studies in this issue highlight—is to carefully reconstruct the history and causal pathways involved while asking whether NATO’s expansion played a necessary, sufficient, or contributing role.

Previewing the Volume To tackle this suite of challenges, this volume proceeds thematically in four sections.8 In Section I, contributors first consider the effects of NATO enlargement on the foreign policy debates among many of the key actors involved: NATO as an organization (a topic covered by Timothy Sayle), Canada (Susan Colbourn), the USA (Joshua Shifrinson), and Russia (Vladislav Zubok). The contributors identify some striking parallels across the actors—Colbourn and Sayle, for instance, both suggest a desire for stability and continuity colored the policy debate. Still, and as Zubok and Shifrinson separately underline, enlargement may have also biased key foreign policy discussions by progressively becoming a focal point in strategy discussions rather than a topic coolly and regularly evaluated for its importance and effectiveness. Section II of the volume then turns its attention to enlargement’s impact on great power politics. Looking at the USA (William Ruger and Rajan Menon), Russia (Kimberly Marten; Andrey Sushentsov and William Wohlforth), and China (Odgaard), the authors present a mixed view of NATO enlargement. As all chapters emphasize, it is too much to claim that enlargement caused many—let alone most—of the problems in contemporary great power relations (in Europe or elsewhere). Still, while 8 Each section is also anchored by a short Introduction that summarizes the chapters and presents overarching findings.

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Marten shows that factors other than NATO enlargement might have played a larger role in contributing to a downturn in US–Russia relations, enlargement progressively exacerbated pre-existing tensions and, in some instances identified by Ruger and Menon, caused problems in bilateral and multilateral relations that were unlikely to emerge absent an expanded NATO. If Section II looks at the great powers, Section III investigates enlargement’s effect on European security itself. Here, authors consider whether and to what extent enlargement affected the security outlook for the Central and Eastern states which joined NATO (Alexander Lanoszka), democracy’s spread across Eastern Europe (Paul Poast and Alexandra Chinchilla), the impact on states such as Ukraine aligned with but not formally part of NATO (Rebecca Moore), and on the Western European members of the alliance (Paul Van Hooft). On balance, enlargement likely added to the military security of those states formerly in the Warsaw Pact—if nothing else, by helping them hedge against possible Russia aggression—but, to a surprising degree, may not have otherwise contributed to democratic consolidation, stable relations with Russia, or an improved security outlook for Western Europe. Finally, Section IV of the volume looks at NATO as an organization. Examining the intra-organizational debates surrounding enlargement (Sara Bjerg Moller), the planning processes behind enlargement (James J. Townsend Jr.), and the ways in which the alliance sought to transform post-Cold War European security (Stéfanie von Hlatky and Michel Fortmann), the findings here are perhaps the most critical of any. Ultimately, not only did enlargement rest on a series of increasingly questionable assumptions as to Europe’s political and military trajectory, but—as both von Hlatky and Fortmann and Moller all show—the tension between the alliance’s obligation to meet the hard security needs of its members and its stated goal of crafting a more peaceful Europe was never resolved. NATO may have fostered greater stability and security across much of Europe, but it created new responsibilities for NATO as an institution that created difficult management issues.

Conclusion: Toward a Research Agenda The articles in this volume are designed to accelerate the process of evaluating the legacy of NATO enlargement at a time when the alliance’s future remains uncertain. Insofar as further enlargement remains a possibility,

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this effort can help policymakers and scholars alike assess the merits and drawbacks of continuing to expand NATO’s commitments. Conversely, it may also help identify the opportunities, risks, and limitations of capping or even curtailing NATO’s existing obligations. Ultimately, the more enlargement is linked to outcomes believed to promote a positive security environment for NATO member states, the stronger the case for expansion; the looser that connection, or the more expansion is found to have contributed to problematic security results, the stronger the case for capping or walking back NATO’s presence. Baldly stated, rigorously evaluating NATO’s post-Cold War history can provide insight into NATO’s future. This special issue is not meant to be the last word on NATO expansion’s legacy—future work is needed to build on the results reported here. Four areas of research seem especially fruitful. First, future research may wish to further explore the themes discussed in this volume as new evidence comes to light. As an initial exercise in advancing a research agenda that speaks to contemporary policy concerns, the articles in this volume are necessarily limited in the data and evidence at their disposal. Particularly as archives open, interviews accumulate, and evidence on military, political, and economic trends clarifies, analysts should subject the findings in this project to further scrutiny, and grapple with the topics raised in this forum using new tools and sources. Second, additional research may fruitfully explore the interaction between individual states’ strategies and the consequences of NATO enlargement. NATO enlargement did not happen in a vacuum. As the process of enlargement rolled forward, different states within and outside of the alliance adjusted their policies to respond to the rush of events; by the same token, the enlargement process likely accounted for such developments as NATO itself accommodated new facts on the ground. Future work may wish to explore these dynamics and assess the mechanisms by which (1) individual states’ strategies affected the course and conduct of NATO enlargement and (2) NATO enlargement influenced individual state foreign and security policies, as well as assessing the successes and failures witnessed along the way. And while this volume focuses on the expansion of membership and NATO’s subsequent impact in Europe, the alliance also expanded its range of missions during this period, many of which occurred outside of Europe and were controversial both within and beyond the organization.

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Third, more work is needed to analyze the drivers of NATO enlargement both historically and in the contemporary world. To be sure, there is no dearth of discussion on the ostensible reasons the alliance has gone east and continues to do so. Still, scholars and analysts alike need to probe whether these match the empirical record, as well as whether the stated reasons are true drivers of the phenomena, or simply rationales used to justify a policy arrived at for other reasons. This issue is one where combining historical research and social science techniques may yield particularly valuable insights. It may also allow scholars to fruitfully engage in policy debates, given the tendency for policymakers to craft narratives surrounding the course and conduct of NATO expansion thus far in support of the alliance’s ongoing (and potentially growing) role throughout Europe. Finally, it is worth considering how to weigh the salience of the successes and failures wrought by enlargement. The decision may stem from individual analysts’ preferences. For instance, two individuals could agree that US–Russia relations would have been more stable while Central and Eastern European states would have been worse off economically and politically absent enlargement, yet still disagree over the merits of this outcome. Those who prioritize relations between major powers believe the absence of NATO’s expansion could have led to better US–Russian relations, and/or believe that other routes might have contributed to a stable Eastern Europe may be inclined to oppose enlargement; in contrast, those who emphasize the spread of liberal democracy, believe NATO was the only option for stability across Eastern Europe because it guaranteed a continued US presence, and question whether the US–Russia relationship would have been markedly different without enlargement may favor expansion. We ourselves, for example, agree on how to go about evaluating the costs and benefits of enlargement but somewhat disagree on the merits of the policy because we place different weights and assign different probabilities to those different factors. In the final analysis, our purpose here is not to decide once and for all whether NATO enlargement was the right policy, but rather to improve the quality of the discussion surrounding the policy. Accordingly, additional research that tracks how individual analysts weigh the merits of particular outcomes, and/or identifies outcomes that individuals holding different preferences would still accept as salient, may help move the NATO enlargement debate forward. Likewise, by engaging research in IR theory, additional work may be able to link the outcomes

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associated with enlargement to broader insights about the factors and conditions that—ceteris paribus —contribute to peace, economic growth, political influence, and other broadly positive results. Needless to say, this provides another path toward weighing the salience of enlargement while connecting NATO expansion to more general IR theory discussions. NATO enlargement remains one of the most controversial and significant developments in foreign and security affairs since the end of the Cold War. Having begun at a time when European security and defense never seemed more propitious, the enlarged alliance now confronts a redivided Europe, a resurgent Russia, and renewed Western defense challenges. As noted, scholars, policymakers, and analysts disagree over enlargement’s role in contributing to this state of affairs. It is thus long overdue to directly engage the drivers, course, and consequences—for better and for worse—of NATO expansion, across the range of issues and countries it affected. Nearly three decades on, scholars and policymakers alike need to understand exactly where and how NATO expansion met its objectives or faltered in its aspirations, and what analysts in the USA, Europe, and beyond can learn from the experience.

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PART I

Foreign Policy and Strategy Debates James Goldgeier and Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson

In what ways has NATO’s post-Cold War push for enlargement affected debates over foreign policy among the key actors involved? As enlargement emerged as perhaps the focal point in transatlantic and European security over the last several decades, so too have concerns that the emphasis on enlargement has skewed national-level strategy discussions by inhibiting debates over the policy itself. The chapters in this section engage these matters—ranging from suggestions that other approaches to European security would better service national interests, to notions that NATO enlargement has not proceeded fast or far enough—through several empirical, historical, and theoretical prisms. In his contribution, Timothy Sayle emphasizes enlargement’s long history within NATO: not only was the alliance’s growth considered by NATO’s founders, but so too did the alliance expand (albeit in more limited form) during the Cold War. To an underappreciated degree, Sayle’s work reminds us that NATO’s post-Cold War growth may be less revolutionary than evolutionary. Looking at Canadian strategy debates, Susan Colbourn reaches a similar conclusion. Canadian thinking surrounding NATO enlargement is frequently given short shrift in both historical and political studies. Colbourn corrects this oversight, underlining that Canadian policymakers were just as eager as their U.S. counterparts to see the alliance move into Central and Eastern Europe. Historical memory—the legacy of Canadian sacrifices in two world wars and the Cold War—played a role, as did a direct Canadian desire to retain influence over European security affairs

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after the Cold War. The implicit counterfactual is striking: had NATO not enlarged, Canada might have found itself comparatively isolated after the Cold War. In this sense, she suggests enlargement at once helped anchor Canadian strategy in the post-Cold War space while enabling Ottawa to punch above its weight in international circles. Joshua Shifrinson shifts the focus to the U.S. grand strategy debate. Here, he documents the emergence of what he terms the “enlargement consensus” in U.S. circles: a striking ambivalence from the late 1990s onward to assess whether NATO enlargement remains in the U.S. national interest and, in any case, how the policy is being carried out. All the more remarkably, Shifrinson’s reconstruction of U.S. strategy debates shows that one could not have anticipated near-universal support for NATO’s continued enlargement when the policy was first broached after the Cold War. In turn, and partly because of the near-automatic nature with which enlargement is accepted among decision-makers, Shifrinson finds it has yielded a decidedly mixed bag for U.S. national security. What of Russia? For understandable reasons, the Russia–Ukraine War led many observers to claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated concerns with NATO enlargement to Ukraine are just cover for naked aggression. In contrast, Vladislav Zubok compellingly shows that NATO enlargement has played a key role in Russian strategy debates since the 1990s—albeit in a manner distinct from that claimed by Kremlin propagandists. For Zubok, NATO enlargement left Russian leaders believing the country isolated and cut out of Europe’s primary security institution. This was not simply a Putin phenomenon: strategists even in the Yeltsin years confronted the problem, too. As NATO progressively moved east, so too did Russian anxieties deepen, with the idea of a hostile West out to isolate Russia taking on an almost mythological status before culminating in the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Zubok’s finding is telling: enlargement did not uniquely cause the collapse of East–West relations in the 2020s, but a different policy might well have avoided the depth and intensity of the antagonism. These chapters are not the final word in considering enlargement’s consequences for strategy and foreign policy debates. At a minimum, additional research is needed to examine how enlargement has influenced foreign policy debates in a broader set of countries and, particularly, the Western European members of NATO. Likewise, whether and how different states’ foreign policy debates surrounding enlargement interacted with one another—as, for instance, the U.S. and Russian debates

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look to have—merits further attention. Still, at a time when NATO enlargement remains a focal point of international security debates, the chapters remind us that the policy itself has a long and embedded history. Insofar as enduring policies change slowly, calls in the United States, in Western Europe, and beyond for a strategic course correction face an increasingly difficult political landscape, particularly as the Russia-Ukraine war only increased interest in NATO expansion and united the alliance against Russia after years of mission drift. The result is something of a paradox: as NATO returns to its original hard security focus, policymaker interest in assessing enlargement’s effects on strategy discussions is receding even as the risks of automatically taking the past as prologue look likely to grow.

CHAPTER 2

Patterns of Continuity in NATO’s Long History Timothy Andrews Sayle

What can a historian add to an evaluation of the legacy of an ongoing process? I propose to pull back the lens and evaluate NATO’s post-Cold War enlargement in terms of NATO’s seven-decade-and-counting history. I seek to evaluate post-Cold War enlargement’s place in NATO history to this point. Is post-Cold War enlargement part of a continuing pattern, or does it represent a break with NATO’s Cold War past? Ultimately, NATO’s history reveals two competing pressures: one for expansion and enlargement and one for maintaining the status quo. This pairing, frequently discussed by officials during the Cold War, is a helpful general distinction between two competing visions for NATO: a dynamic or static alliance (Thomas 1997; Milloy 2006). Those pushing for a more dynamic NATO have variously sought to expand NATO’s functions, membership, and concern with out-of-area issues. Others, believing that both NATO and national interests were served best by a static approach

T. A. Sayle (B) University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 J. Goldgeier and J. R. I. Shifrinson (eds.), Evaluating NATO Enlargement, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-23364-7_2

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to the alliance, prevailed during the Cold War. With the end of the Cold War, several of the arguments for a static NATO fell away; at the same time, the case for a more dynamic NATO gained strength. Although each decision for enlargement is the complex product of other decisions taken within NATO and an ever-growing number of NATO capitals, examining long-term trends that suggest patterns of pressure on NATO to continue expanding is valuable. Seeing these patterns, and observing how some pressures changed over time, provides context for specific enlargement decisions. It also raises questions about the conditions that would have been required for NATO not to have expanded after the Cold War. This helps to contextualize the legacy of enlargement, think about present policy, and consider options for the future. This article does not argue that NATO enlargement was inevitable. Rather, it argues that there was a continuing pattern of NATO enlargement throughout the Cold War and that post-Cold War NATO enlargement is consistent with this pattern. This chapter proceeds in eight sections. First, I briefly address the question of whether or not the treaty founders and later leaders and officials responsible for NATO affairs expected NATO to survive the Cold War and expand. The historical record is mixed, but on balance, the answer is no. Second, I trace the fundamental explanations for NATO’s founding and maintenance. While acknowledging that states saw many purposes for NATO, I argue that the three lowest-common-denominator purposes explain why NATO lasted throughout the Cold War and beyond. These are neatly reflected in that quip often attributed to Lord Ismay, NATO’s first secretary general: NATO existed to ‘keep the Russians out, the Germans down, and the Americans in.’ I consider the assumptions undergirding this tripartite purpose. Third, I review how and when NATO chose to admit, or not admit, new members during the Cold War. I argue that NATO only admitted alliance members whose addition to the alliance was plainly connected to the Ismay dictum. Fourth, I explain how, over the course of the Cold War, NATO came to be increasingly concerned with stability in Europe even beyond the borders of NATO allies. This was a function of the military planning and systems set up as a result of the strategic thinking that underwrote the Ismay dictum. Fifth, I consider in more detail the Cold War-era debate over a dynamic versus static NATO, with special attention to the need to maintain popular support for the alliance. Sixth, I consider whether or not these Cold War patterns of assumptions were weakened, strengthened, or otherwise altered by the

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end of the Cold War. Seventh, I turn to the question of whether enlargement was inevitable. I consider four counterfactual scenarios in which NATO might have chosen not to expand. Finally, I conclude that the end of the Cold War did not significantly weaken these patterns and in some cases strengthened them. NATO enlargement can be understood as resulting, broadly, from the continuation of several patterns of belief about why NATO should be maintained, and the steps (including enlargement) required to do so.

A Permanent Alliance? Lord Ismay, NATO’s first secretary general, claimed that the North Atlantic Treaty was not ‘one of those treaties that you can sign with great pomp, all the photographers taking photographs, gold pens and all that sort of thing, and then put away in the archives of the various F[oreign] O[ffice]s.’ Instead, the treaty pledged the signatory nations to ‘collective action, and continuous action,’ and to cooperate on both military issues and non-military issues, including fostering closer economic and cultural ties among allies (LHCMA 9 September 1955; see also Kaplan 2007; Milloy 2006). The treaty specifically included provisions for admitting new members (NATO 1949). What Ismay did not mention, however, was that the treaty’s broad language left the purpose and intent of the alliance open to debate, even argument, among the allies. Nor did he mention that the drafters thought such broad promises were necessary to overcome public indifference or opposition to a new defensive treaty signed only a few years after a terrible war. The need to cast the treaty as more than simply a geopolitical necessity was acutely felt in Washington, DC, where for nearly 150 years Americans had lived by Thomas Jefferson’s 1801 call for the USA to avoid entangling alliances (Heald and Kaplan 1977, pp. 229–239). The open-endedness regarding NATO’s membership was a feature, not a bug, for some involved in drafting the treaty. George F. Kennan, an important figure in the debates over the need for a pact, suggested that arrangements be put in place ‘so as to make it not too difficult for people like Czechs to join later if they get some sort of chance’ (DCER 16 August 1948). If one looks hard enough in the archives, one can find hints of officials who wondered whether NATO might survive the Cold War and add those on the other side of the Iron Curtain to its rolls. In 1966, Zbigniew Brzezinski, a member of the US

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State Department’s Policy Planning Council, described the Atlantic partnership as an ‘essential precondition for…building world order on the basis of closer collaboration among the more developed nations, perhaps including eventually some of the Communist states’ (LBJL 19 July 1966). Others separately believed that NATO might serve as the kernel of a future united polity, perhaps even a federation of Atlantic states, whose existence would not be simply the product of the Cold War. As late as 1961, State Department officials prepared a paper suggesting that NATO take on a ‘primary function’ as ‘the proponent of the values of Western Christian civilization, to stimulate in [historian Arnold] Toynbee’s sense the response of this civilization to the challenges now posed, and to catalyze greater integration in all fields of countries (including the USA) holding Western values’ (NARA 9 January 1961). A year later, Gerard Smith suggested purchasing a ‘symbolic piece of real estate’ creating an ‘Atlantic District,’ wondering if this might not be ‘the nucleus for the eventual capital of an Atlantic Community’ (DDEL 9 August 1962). And yet, put against the full weight of the archival record, the notion that NATO might survive the Cold War, grow to include communist and formerly communist states, and serve as the basis for an abiding political reorganization is crushed by the weight of opposite opinions about the long-term viability of the alliance. In 1963, around the time that some State Department officials were waxing poetic about an Atlantic community, other key figures in the John F. Kennedy administration doubted whether NATO was here to stay. The historian and presidential adviser Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. searched through classic texts on international relations for quotes that Kennedy might use in a speech about NATO. Schlesinger’s selections, drawn from classic works from Thucydides onward, were not encouraging. Alliances were not supposed to last forever, at least according to the history books. The gist of historical opinion, Schlesinger thought, was summed up best by Thomas Macaulay in his account of the coalition of William III: ‘No undertaking which requires the hearty and long-continued cooperation of independent states is likely to prosper’ (quoted in JFKLDC 22 June 1963). Even Lauris Norstad, NATO’s supreme allied commander during the late 1950s and early 1960s, ‘admitted that no alliance had ever ended in success. They all ultimately ended in failure. But some of them served their purpose for a very considerable time and were very successful. That is all that could be hoped of NATO. Nothing is permanent’ (Sulzberger 1970, p. 438). Although Norstad was a champion of NATO, others in

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the Kennedy administration discussed the possibility of winding down the alliance (Sayle 2019, pp. 148–149). Carl Kaysen of the national security council (NSC) staff grew frustrated with the practicalities and possibilities of NATO defense cooperation, writing: ‘I’m not an Atlanticist at heart’ (JFKL 4 July 1963). Both those who wished for NATO to turn into something more and those who wondered if it would last at all suffered disappointments. This morose feeling was so strong that one permanent representative to the North Atlantic Council, the British diplomat Sir Frank Roberts, titled his valedictory dispatch from Paris ‘Why so much gloom about NATO?’. The answer, Roberts wrote, lies in ‘the tendency to expect much more than was ever intended of it or than is provided for under its charter.’ And yet, he acknowledged, the nature of the treaty enabled ‘NATO to develop in almost any direction in which all of the fifteen governments wish it to move.’ The North Atlantic Treaty and the organization that followed was ‘what we, its member governments, make of it…. The machine is there. It is for the countries concerned to use it’ (NAUK 12 October 1960). NATO might not live forever, but it might; it might not add members, but it could if the allies wished.

The Ismay Assumptions How, then, did the NATO allies use the NATO machine? Rather than dwelling on how NATO officials envisioned the alliance’s future, how did they view the alliance’s function, and the means required to meet it, during the Cold War? Looking at this issue over time reveals useful patterns in the push and pull between those who favored expanding NATO and those who preferred the status quo. When considering the prospect and reality of NATO expansion, it is crucial to establish the basis upon which expansion might have occurred and did occur. For those who championed NATO’s status quo, NATO’s initial purpose—the need to insulate Western Europe from Soviet political conquest—offered an argument against expansion. The primary purpose of the North Atlantic Treaty and the later development of NATO and its integrated military commands was to prevent Moscow from increasing its influence and control in Europe. Achieving this goal required both the use of the industrial and military strength of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and a treaty guarantee and troop deployment from the USA. NATO scholars will instantly recognize the perhaps apocryphal dictum of

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Lord Ismay that was, nevertheless, reiterated and adhered to decade after decade: NATO existed to ‘keep the Russians out, the Germans down, and the Americans in’ (Sayle 2019; see also Colbourn, this volume). Although it is nearly impossible to imagine the political will for the North Atlantic Treaty and later troop deployments absent the tensions of the early Cold War, an ideological confrontation—or at least the ideological connotations of the Cold War (East versus West, or communism versus capitalism)—was not required to sustain the logic for NATO’s existence. Arguments for NATO were rooted in what might be grossly generalized as balance of power politics. Let me make this point by considering each side of Ismay’s triangular proposition in turn and showing that the three points all rest on three assumptions about the Soviet Union, Germany, and the USA.

The Forever Tsars In Ismay’s dictum, the phrase ‘keep the Russians out’ reflects the regular British substitution of ‘Russia’ for ‘Soviet Union.’ This was more than a failure to adapt language; it deliberately combined the two political entities. The British, like other NATO allies including the Canadians and later the Americans, assumed a basic continuity from Russian to Soviet foreign policy. The Soviet Union or Russia, whatever one called it during the Cold War, represented a security challenge to Europe not because of (or not only because of) its ideology, but because of its power. In 1947, Canadian diplomats wrote: ‘[The] pressure of the Slav masses on the eastern frontiers of Europe which has been going on for centuries now takes the form of a fighting force which makes converts either by conviction or at the point of the sword.’ The Red Army, they argued, was just more of the same. Even if the Soviet regime were to collapse, ‘Russia [was] an expanding power and might continue to be so whatever regime were in charge of her destinies.’ The ‘national characteristics’ that motivated Soviet policy ‘existed long before the Communist regime and [would] probably outlive it. Russian expansionist tendencies also manifested themselves under the Czars and even then took many of the same forms’ as during the Cold War (DCER 6 November 1947, p. 407; see also DCER 31 March 1958, p. 1041). British prime minister Harold Macmillan told the German president Luebke that ‘Russian expansion was certainly an old story’ and that ‘he well recalled Lord Palmerston’s worries about this’ (NAUK 11 August 1960). This attitude carried on

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into the 1970s, when British officials insisted: ‘The Russian menace is not new, it is not diminishing, and its nature is unlikely to change for a very long time’ (NAUK July 1979). British and Canadian officials maintained this view throughout the Cold War. By contrast, US officials in the first decades after World War Two tended to see in Soviet policy a break from rather than a continuation of Russian history. John Foster Dulles, in a hospital bed at Walter Reed hospital, took the time to disagree with the British assumption that Soviet policies were ‘akin to those of Tsarist Governments’ (DDRS 24 April 1959). Nonetheless, over time US officials increasingly used the language of tsarism to sum up their views of Soviet policy. Both Brent Scowcroft and Robert Gates, key architects of the transition of NATO from the Cold War to the post-Cold War world, explained in oral histories that they viewed Soviet policy, and based their expectations of Moscow’s future options, in the light of a much longer pattern of Russian history (Scowcroft 1999; Gates 2000).

The German Problem It is impossible to explain the decision to sustain NATO after the Cold War—a critical antecedent to expansion—without recognizing that allied leaders believed that membership in NATO was essential to contain Germany (Sarotte 2019a, b; Sayle 2019, esp. 218–219). This assumption was not new, but rather connected to the very origins of the alliance as well as the accession of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Washington Treaty in 1955. The corollary to the perceived and expected continuity in Russian-Soviet-Russian policy was the expectation held by generation after generation of NATO officials that Germany must be prevented from once more ‘returning to the bottle’ (LBJL 9 November 1965). In 1957, General Richard Gale, the commander of the British Army of the Rhine and commander-in-chief of Northern Army Group, Allied Land Forces Europe, could, in the same speech, praise his German allies while also referring to them as ‘the Boche’ and insisting that one needed to be tough with Germans—that to get them to see reason one must ‘hit [them] under the jaw’ (LHCMA 1957). By the end of the Cold War, Margaret Thatcher was keeping a map in her handbag that showed the expansion of German territory over the centuries (‘Letter from Mr Powell’ 8 December 1989).

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In the intervening decades, the NATO allies—including diplomats from the Federal Republic of Germany—spent an enormous amount of time integrating German power into the NATO commands in such a way that it would be useless if separate from the broader alliance. ‘A Germany at large,’ wrote George Ball, ‘can be like a cannon on shipboard in a high sea…. If the world learned anything from the experience between the wars, it should certainly have learned that. We cannot afford to make the same mistake twice…. A Germany not tied institutionally to the West is dangerous’ (NARA 20 June 1963). This effort to lash down at German was done sotto voce; Ball’s memo was secret. And yet, German resurgence offered ‘a case of toujours y penser, jamais en parlez’—something always to be kept in mind, but never spoken aloud (NAUK n.d.). Some scholars have suggested that by the end of the Cold War, President George. H.W. Bush believed that Germany might have finally reached the turning point in history and actually turned (Engel 2010; see also Zelikow and Rice 2019, pp. 158–247). The US insistence that a unified Germany remain a member of NATO belies this argument, however.

The USA as a European Power Finally, the assumptions underlying the need to keep ‘the Americans in’ remained largely consistent in both Washington and other allied capitals. Early US willingness to join the treaty and to take on supreme command of integrated forces was rooted in US insistence, encouraged by the Europeans, that the USA was essential to keep the Russians out and the Germans down. But keeping the Americans in also depended on the support of the US public, or at least Congress, for the deployment in Europe. In the early postwar years, both British and Canadian diplomats were convinced of the desirability of the USA casting off any possibility of neo-isolationism. US allies were uncomfortable with the rabid anticommunism that helped maintain the domestic US political will for the US role in the world but were willing to abide by it if it helped prevent the USA from turning inward (Logevall and Craig 2009). Some US leaders, notably Dwight D. Eisenhower, might have expected the US troop commitment to Europe to lessen over time and perhaps disappear (Trachtenberg 1999). But by the 1970s, Richard Nixon was convinced that the idea that the Europeans could protect themselves

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without the USA was ‘bull.’ If NATO came apart, the Soviets would ‘encroach on them. It [would] not be in the traditional way but a newstyle invasion’ (FRUS 11 September 1972). This attitude would continue in subsequent US administrations. At the end of the Cold War, Brent Scowcroft wrote that the USA was and must remain a ‘European power’ (Sayle 2019, p. 223). From the ‘Great Debate’ over the initial deployment to Europe in the 1950s, to the debates over the Mansfield resolutions in the Vietnam era that would have greatly reduced the US presence in Europe if passed, through to the end of the Cold War, US leaders and officials understood that keeping the ‘Americans in’ required them to make the case to Congress that US troops in NATO were doing something in support of US interests (Sayle 2019).

Growing Membership, Unchanging Mission Allied thinking about the Russians, the Germans, and the Americans had continuity. But although the Ismay assumptions did not change during the Cold War, NATO’s membership did. NATO grew, if slowly, throughout the Cold War. Over that period, several states proposed their candidacy for NATO membership. Occasionally, some NATO allies suggested adding new members. In 1952, Greece and Turkey acceded to the treaty; the FRG joined in 1955; and Spain joined in 1982. In 1990, the FRG expanded to incorporate the territory formerly known as the German Democratic Republic. In each case, the new members offered an obvious strategic or military benefit to the alliance, in keeping with the alliance’s fundamental purpose as encapsulated in the Ismay dictum. Their inclusion expanded the alliance, but not NATO’s functions. In any of the cases where potential members could not substantially contribute to NATO’s objectives as defined by Ismay, however, the states did not join the alliance.

New Members US planners considered Turkey’s geography crucial territory for defense planning in support of NATO’s deterrent role in Europe. Turkey’s membership in the alliance was expected to help guarantee European access to Middle Eastern oil in case of war and simultaneously to help deny Middle Eastern oil to the Soviet Union. Turkey could be a staging

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ground for attacking Soviet oil facilities. Turkish officials also hinted that if Turkey was not invited to join the alliance, they might seek an agreement with the Soviet Union. US officials, including Secretary of State Dean Acheson, understood that incorporating Greece and Turkey into the alliance would be provocative and would increase Moscow’s fears of encirclement (Leffler 1992, pp. 419–426, quote at 426). Ultimately, however, the NATO allies calculated that the risks incurred by allowing Turkey and Greece to join NATO—and it would have to be a package deal—were lower that the risks of leaving Turkey outside the alliance. In 1954, after the collapse of plans for a European Defence Community (EDC) and an integrated European army, the allies agreed that the FRG must become a full member of the alliance. With the EDC plan off the table, full membership was the last viable option for ensuring double containment: a system of European defense that kept the Germans down (that is, integrated and unable to undertake military adventures) and harnessed German power toward the greater effort of keeping the Russians out (Schwartz 1991). When the FRG joined NATO in 1955, NATO allies understood that this would again provoke the Soviet Union, but accepted the calculated risk. Notably, in response to the German accession to the treaty in 1955, the Soviet Union formalized the Warsaw Pact. US support for Spanish membership in the alliance was based on military and strategic arguments that gained importance after the USA closed Wheelus Air Force Base in Libya, and after later Soviet moves in the Mediterranean. Although the European allies resisted Spanish membership for decades, for political reasons—there was in Britain, for instance, ‘still real feeling against Spain, which had helped Hitler’—Spain was eventually admitted into the alliance in 1982 (NAUK 27 January [1970], 23 September 1970).

Non-members The acceptance of new members stimulated thinking inside and outside the alliance about adding even more members. In the same decade that Greece, Turkey, and the FRG joined the alliance, there was a consideration (albeit not seriously) of other states joining NATO. Discussions over the accession of Turkey and Greece had raised the question in allied minds as to whether Iran would seek membership. At the time, in the early 1950s, NATO diplomats agreed that Iran could not join the alliance

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without a renegotiation of the treaty, given Iran was most distinctly not European. By 1960, however, top-level Iranians, including the foreign minister, were ‘thinking aloud’ about seeking to join NATO (NAUK 13 May 1960). British officials thought this unacceptable. Iran remained ‘wholly outside of Europe.’ The problem with Iran, the officials argued, was not solely that its political system was not sufficiently ‘founded on…individual liberty.’ Turkey and Portugal, they thought, already made a mockery of this requirement, and ‘the Alliance [would] find it very hard to swallow another member of this kind (NAUK 18 May 1960). In addition, the alliance did not want ‘another lame duck member,’ especially one ‘of a large rather primitive Middle Eastern country, unversed in Western methods of cooperation and with weak armed forces’ (NAUK 17 May 1960). In November 1957, the head of the Israeli foreign policy planning unit visited Washington to push for ‘a guarantee of Israel’s frontiers by NATO Council at its next meeting’ (NAUK 24 November 1957, 27 November 1957). The Foreign Office was concerned enough to send the UK NATO Delegation speaking points stressing just how ‘undesirable’ this idea was in London, as it would complicate British policy in the region. Also, in the late 1950s Charles de Gaulle’s various suggestions for the reformulation of NATO led French diplomats to assert that France wanted to expand the membership of NATO to include North African states, and to expand NATO’s responsibilities beyond deterrence in Europe. This was a nonstarter (FRUS 9 July 1958). In all of these cases of non-membership, the allies who championed the status quo could simply point to the treaty; according to Article 10, only ‘European States’ could accede to the alliance.

Who’s in, Who’s Out? In each case in which the alliance expanded during the Cold War, the new states added obvious strategic and military benefits to the alliance (whether this was via military contributions or the defensive value of their territory). In each case, the new member states fit within the treaty requirement that new members be European (that they were nowhere near the North Atlantic was immaterial). Turkey, however, did not fit easily with treaty rhetoric that celebrated democratic ideals. In the case of Turkey and the FRG, especially, allied leaders recognized that adding these states to the alliance might be considered provocative by the Soviet

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Union. This on its own was not considered to be a strike against admission, however. In contrast, the discussion of non-European states joining NATO was shut down as soon as possible.

Why not Expand NATO’s Functions? Although some NATO allies pushed for NATO to expand its functions to non-European political and security issues, this ultimately did not occur in any meaningful way during the Cold War. NATO did not expand its functions because it might have created tensions between allies and challenged the unity required to maintain the objectives in the Ismay dictum. The Suez Crisis of 1956 offers an important example of how NATO members considered expanding the alliance’s role outside of Europe, and why they ultimately refused to do so. In the lead-up to the crisis, some allies discussed how NATO might coordinate policy in the event of the Suez Canal’s closure. The North Atlantic Council considered the subject at length. Some US officials even looked into the possibility of NATO allies cooperating to reopen the canal. Crucially, President Dwight Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles decided that NATO must remain aloof from the crisis; any intervention by NATO allies against Egypt would open the alliance to charges of imperialism and colonialism. But the Suez Crisis still gravely affected the alliance, with the closure of the canal damaging NATO economies and limiting the fuel available to NATO forces in Europe. What happened outside of the North Atlantic Treaty region could and did have enormous consequences for NATO. After Suez, the allies considered various plans for action and effort in the broader world. At one extreme, French president Charles de Gaulle called for NATO to accept new members from the Middle East and North Africa and to transform the alliance into a global command. Although de Gaulle’s plans came to little, other allies had far more sympathy for his general point than is usually understood. They urged NATO to support their national policies elsewhere in the world, and this led to debate about how NATO could influence events beyond Europe. NATO’s Political Advisory Committee and its Economic Advisory Committee were sites of regular discussions about Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, voting at the United Nations (UN), and other global topics. Although NATO never voted as a bloc at the UN, allies were free to use NATO committees, along with conversations in the corridors of NATO Headquarters, to try to convince allies to support them in other venues (Sayle and

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Colbourn 2020; Sayle 2016). In the 1960s, NATO created the Atlantic Policy Advisory Group, a regular conference of policy planners and others to discuss medium- and long-range policies and problems. Records indicate that group members spent most of their time discussing non-Atlantic (especially Asian) issues. By the 1970s, NATO military commanders were increasingly concerned about the threat of Soviet naval activity in the Mediterranean, and about the rise in terrorist attacks (both European and non-European in origin) posing a threat to NATO nuclear stockpiles in Europe. During the Cold War, the strongest argument for avoiding out-ofarea operations was always the possibility that NATO interventions would push non-aligned states toward the Warsaw Pact. But with the disappearance of the pact and then the Soviet Union itself, the strongest constraint on NATO out-of-area policy disappeared.

Stabilizing Europe Throughout the Cold War, the broad strategic lines of the alliances as sketched out by Ismay held firm. From the late 1960s on, however, NATO officials started to speak about NATO’s responsibilities differently than they had in the alliance’s first two decades, enlarging their conception of NATO’s responsibility as a stabilizing force in Europe. The Ismay dictum and supporting assumptions all focused on NATO providing stability in Europe by preventing a general war between NATO and the Soviet bloc. Yet throughout the Cold War, NATO became increasingly concerned about instability—that is, the possibility of violence and disruption—in Europe east of the allies’ borders. NATO’s need to maintain a reasonably plausible defensive system in support of its larger deterrent mission put its forces in close contact with Warsaw Pact forces that, by the late 1960s, could at least conceivably come to fight among themselves. A potential intra-Warsaw Pact conflict could lead to a chain reaction that might embroil NATO in war. The Soviet crackdowns on dissent in East Berlin in 1953 and in Budapest in 1956 concerned the NATO allies, but the North Atlantic Council took no action as a result of these events. In the 1960s, however, NATO’s concern with instability on its eastern borders grew rapidly. In 1964, consultants to the State Department, including Dean Acheson, Robert Bowie, and Allen Dulles, agreed that the ‘primary need for NATO forces arose’ out of a ‘risk of unintended conflict in Central Europe.’ A Soviet leader ‘might

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be moved by serious problems in East Germany to put renewed pressure on Berlin. Or [an] internal East German outbreak could involve us in fighting, whether or not Western intentions remained defensive’ (DDRS 11 January 1964). The Czechoslovakia crisis in 1968 put a sharp point on this issue. Belgian general Baron Charles de Cumont, chair of the NATO Military Committee, worried that units—maybe even whole divisions—of Czechoslovak troops might retreat or be forced across their borders into Bavaria. How would NATO react? Who would manage the refugees? Who would disarm these soldiers who, after all, belonged to the Warsaw Pact (DDRS 15 August 1968)? Soviet efforts to ‘nail down the status quo’ after the crisis, warned John Leddy of the State Department, would have ‘a dynamism of its own’ and lead to further violence. A Soviet move against Romania, either by invasion, Warsaw Pact maneuvers meant to bring Romania to heel, or a coup d’état against Nicolae Ceaus, escu, might touch off a frontier incident between Romania and Hungary. It might also be preparation for a move against Tito in Yugoslavia. If the pact moved against the Yugoslav leader, US officials expected that the USA would ‘engage in military support operations for Yugoslavia’ (LBJL 1 October 1968). Would the Soviets move on Austria? Finland? Berlin? Or would the East Germans rise up again, creating a humanitarian catastrophe, refugees, and great confusion (DDRS 21 August 1968; NAUK 2 September 1968, 6 September 1968, October (N) [1968], 11 October 1968, 22 November 1968; LBJL 3 October 1968; FRUS 16 October 1968)? After 1968, the allies could no longer ignore violence in Europe, even if it was not directed at NATO. As John Leddy put it, ‘Aggression anywhere in Europe is of concern to NATO’ (LBJL 1 October 1968). The prospects for violence in Europe were increasing and might spill over into the NATO area (NATO Archives 11 October 1968). The pressure for liberalization in Eastern Europe created an international situation ‘more precarious than it had been during the days of Stalin.’ Even French officials who had been sanguine about prospects for peace in Europe worried about the ‘dangers of explosion’ (NAUK 11 October 1968). NATO began planning for contingency operations in case of instability outside of NATO’s borders. By the 1970s, US, French, and British officials were again concerned that the Soviet Union might move against Yugoslavia, using a form of what would today be called ‘hybrid warfare,’ with results detrimental to NATO’s position in Europe (Sayle 2019,

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p. 171). NATO was certainly not prepared to intervene in an intraWarsaw Pact dispute, and it had not developed a sense of responsibility for preventing such instability. But it did not ignore the possibility that a dispute in non- NATO Europe could have effects for NATO security, and this remained a concern through the end of the Cold War. Amid the uproar of the autumn of 1989, senior US National Security Council staff reported that a major Soviet intervention in the German Democratic Republic was ‘among the World War III scenarios’ that NATO planners had been consumed with for decades (BPL 6 November 1989b; see also Shifrinson 2018a, b).

Dynamic Versus Static NATO’s Cold War patterns, then, were largely static: keeping the Russians out, the Germans down, and the Americans in, and growing the alliance only when directly necessary to achieve these goals. As mentioned above, officials gradually began to conclude that NATO’s role had enlarged slightly, to include stabilizing Europe; but this was rarely discussed publicly and was subsumed under the traditional Cold War rationale for the alliance. A static alliance is unexciting. Hence, politicians may struggle to champion it from the hustings. And yet maintaining NATO (and the defense expenditures and troop deployments that undergirded it) required a modicum of domestic political support in each state or, at a minimum, absence of outright hostility toward the alliance from allies’ citizens. Throughout the Cold War, NATO leaders struggled with how best to maintain support for the alliance, or at least ensure that their citizens’ views did not shift from apathy to antagonism (Thomas 1997). This was an extremely difficult proposition as the Ismay dictum was, and was understood to be, fundamentally negative; it rested on ensuring the absence of specific events. John Foster Dulles was the first to criticize NATO as a static organization that needed to become more dynamic. His take on the dichotomy was a philosophical one. He told Charles de Gaulle: ‘Communism adheres to a creed while our western Christian civilization has lost force, has ceased to have the dynamic aspect. That is why when the dynamic force of communism beats against it, the dynamic force frequently wins’ (NARA 5 July 1958). During the Cold War, dynamism came to be represented in two practical ways: updating the organs and institutions of NATO and

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searching for a NATO role outside of Europe. Calls for dynamism, at least during the Cold War, were rarely accompanied by suggestions to expand NATO’s membership. But by the end of the Cold War, the search for dynamism, and the perceived need to ensure that the alliance appealed to the public, grew to include adding new members in Europe, coupled with a greater focus on ensuring stability on the continent. The language of dynamism and evolution was taken up with gusto in the State Department, and it outlasted Dulles. In 1959, Policy Planning Council members argued that NATO was an ‘evolving organism,’ and that US planners ‘cannot, therefore, think of it, even for only a span of a few months, as a static organization. Our policies should be calculated to influence the continuous evolution of NATO in constructive directions’ (NARA 24 July 1959). In 1961, US Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Council Thomas Finletter argued that ‘NATO either must grow in stature’ or lose relevance. Still, as William Tyler pointed out, although the State Department was always proposing ‘some extraordinary step or organizational change designed to reinvigorate what many consider[ed] to be a static or declining organization,’ it was essential to ‘recall that the “crisis in NATO”’ was ‘the perennial stock in trade of publicists and diplomats…. The raison d’être of the Alliance’ had not ‘been basically impaired’ (NARA 18 November 1963). The need for a dynamic alliance was the result of a need to change not the alliance’s function, but how it was understood by the public at large. The need for a public relations facelift for NATO resulted in a major self-study in the 1960s and then a feverish effort in the 1970s to revitalize the alliance so that a new generation (and its legislators) would support it; this effort, unfortunately, called ‘The Year of Europe,’ failed. The great fear, from the late 1960s on toward the end of the 1980s, was not that NATO’s value had changed, or that NATO no longer needed to fulfill its fundamentally negative purpose, but that no one outside government, especially no one under 35, really understood this. Those who championed a dynamic NATO during the Cold War often called for the alliance to add responsibilities to its core mission of deterrence, or insisted that NATO needed to appear relevant to ensure political support for maintaining deterrence. But those who made the decisions about NATO in the second half of the Cold War continued to prioritize NATO’s deterrence mission, and they ensured that NATO did not take on new responsibilities that might dilute its efforts to fulfill the Ismay

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dictum, or embark on political or military missions outside of Europe, or make radical changes to its organization—for instance, by allowing a European to serve as supreme allied commander. The need to advertise NATO as a dynamic organization that could provide positive (if sometimes intangible) goods outlived the Cold War. In late 1991, Secretary of State James Baker wrote to George H.W. Bush, worried that just ‘when other European institutions [were] expanding their reach in Europe, NATO could appear outdated.’ It might thus be ‘left on the western fringe of Europe’ if it couldn’t ‘reach out to help meet the security needs of the new democracies’—that is, the former members of the Warsaw Pact that would become the first new members in NATO’s postwar enlargement. As one NSC staffer put it that year, in a phrase that could have been pulled from the Eisenhower years, a ‘static NATO could, over time, lose its relevance [and] effectiveness’ (BPL n.d.1.). One of the answers in the search for a dynamic policy would come in the form of enlargement.

Plus ca Change, Plus C’est la Même Chose The continued expansion of NATO was propelled forward by continued efforts to keep the Russians out, the Germans down, and the Americans in. After the end of the Cold War, US policymakers (and those of some other NATO allies) were convinced that these purposes remained valid because they viewed international relations through a primarily powerpolitical, rather than Cold War-ideological, lens. George H.W. Bush went so far as to say that at the end of the Cold War, NATO ‘was more important than ever’ (Sayle 2019, p. 2017). The importance of maintaining (and then enlarging) NATO lay in the instability inherent in the Warsaw Pact states, which, after the collapse of the pact, had no obvious way to provide for their own security. Instability in Central and Eastern Europe could lead to Russian retrenchment or reassertion, German assertiveness, or a conflict between Russia and Germany. If NATO didn’t help ensure stability in this region, it might seem as if the alliance had lost its purpose. This in turn could lead to a withdrawal of support for NATO in the USA, threatening the US commitment that US leaders believed was in their national interest. None of the assumptions underlying the Ismay dictum changed in any significant way in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of the Warsaw Pact. As indicated above, key national security officials in the

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George H.W. Bush administration continued to place Soviet policy in the context of Russian tsarist history. After what seems, in the public record, like a break in the 1990s, comparisons of modern-day Russia, especially Putin’s Russia, with tsarist Russia remain common. Even though the ideological battle of the Cold War had ended, senior US officials continued to be concerned about Russian power. One NSC staffer wrote that although the crumbling Soviet Union could ‘no longer be used as primary justification for the existence of NATO…great empires do not implode without tidal waves washing beyond their borders.’ Russia still had 27,000 nuclear warheads and large military forces. More importantly, the staffer noted: ‘Neither we, nor any future Soviet/Russian leader can rule out the Weimar model of the interwar period: democratic rule built on the ruins of an authoritarian system, yet buffeted to such a degree by economic misery and virulent nationalism as to lead to its collapse and a return to authoritarian rule’ (BPL. n.d.1.). Brent Scowcroft summed it all up succinctly when he wrote to the president: ‘Geopolitical realities will endure’ (BPL 20 March 1989a). Concern about Germany’s future course remained a motivating factor in the diplomacy over the country’s reunification. In 1991, an NSC staffer pointed out that NATO still worked—there was no desire to transform NATO ‘to have an unintentional effect on its success in this area.’ The Bush administration made a considered choice to identify the USA as a European power that must retain a role in European power politics, largely because of concern about Soviet/Russian policy and German policy. The Americans were staying in. To ensure the public support that they believed was necessary to stay in, however, US officials again spoke the language of dynamism (even if they understood that this was a necessary public façade for what remained a largely static and negative goal). The staffer concluded: ‘[The] strongest case for NATO is the idea of an alliance of shared values. When we highlight these values, we can expect the Havels of the East to ask why their countries cannot join as well. Under this option the answer is, they can…. Indeed, we would make the expansion of NATO a goal’ in itself (BPL. n.d.1.). A few scholars have borrowed Dean Acheson’s phrase to argue that, like the UK, NATO after the Cold War went in search of a role and found one in Central and Eastern Europe (or perhaps, for a time, in Afghanistan). This is not what I am arguing, nor is it what NSC officials were advocating in the early 1990s. Instead, they envisioned enlargement as offering dynamism that would help ensure public support in the USA.

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Although this was important—possibly essential—to NATO’s survival, US officials wanted to preserve NATO so that it could continue fulfilling the purposes laid out in the Ismay dictum. The collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the Americans worried, would create an ‘enormous vacuum of power and influence in Eastern Europe.’ The Germans and the Soviets might come to vie for influence in the land between them, forcing Europe back into the ‘cyclical pattern or RussoGerman conflict and condominium that bedevilled Europe from 1870 to 1945’ (BPL 16 December 1989c; see also BPL 24 February 1990, n.d.1, n.d.3.). Enlargement was meant to protect against instability in Eastern Europe generated by rebuilding of either the rickety alliances that had led to World War One or the partitions agreed to by Berlin and Moscow that had contributed so much to World War Two. In addition to considering the arc of Post-Cold War NATO expansion in the context of the alliance’s entire history, it is also crucial to consider the alliance’s history in the context of the history of European international relations (as viewed by both scholars and national security practitioners). In these terms, the logic for expansion was compelling and the alternatives were few and risky.

Challenging Inevitability What might have happened to break this pattern of enlargement that spanned NATO’s Cold War and post-Cold War eras? Some, like British foreign secretary Douglas Hurd, have argued that the fall of the Berlin Wall might have offered an opportunity for great creativity in diplomacy. Bush might have sought ‘to remake the world’ as Roosevelt had wished to do after the Second World War (quoted in Sarotte 2009, p. 4). Why did Hurd think that Bush might have acted differently than he did? One can imagine other possible policy paths, but none seem more likely than what did happen. Leaders do not sit down and ‘remake the world’ all at once. As Sir Frank Roberts put it, the NATO machine was there— why would NATO leaders not use it? The key question regarding NATO expansion then transforms from ‘Why?’ to ‘Why not?’. Below are some possible scenarios in which NATO’s leaders might have chosen not to expand.

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A Higher Cost to Expansion, Imposed by Moscow The cost of NATO expansion, in terms of the Russian response and opposition, has been low (Marten, this volume). And yet, if Russia had undertaken more significant and sustained efforts against the first postCold War rounds of NATO expansion, it would have stimulated the argument that NATO was necessary (and thus should expand). As one British official put it in the 1970s, Moscow could always be counted on to save NATO from itself. The Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War, and Russia after it, were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. By not making NATO expansion costly, they let enlargement proceed easily. It is difficult to imagine, given Gorbachev’s weak position in 1990, the he could have nipped NATO enlargement in the bud by taking a firmer line in German unification talks. But if Gorbachev or his successors had sought to raise the costs, they would have offered the perfect bogeyman, strengthening the hand of those who favored the alliance’s move east.

An Increased European Defense Effort that Allowed the Americans to Go Home Had the European powers increased their defense spending and cooperation, there might have been a greater willingness to rethink NATO at the end of the Cold War. But the plans for greater European defense spending and cooperation that the French championed in the early 1990s were considered militarily unserious; they involved symbolic Franco-German cooperation that would have done little to serve as a meaningful military defense. Had a newly unified Germany decided that it was going to try to break the shackles of the 1954 Brussels Treaty and fully provide for its own defense, the result surely would have been (as in the above Russian scenario) a much higher interest in maintaining NATO in other European capitals and the USA. Ultimately, however, US officials at the end of the Cold War did not want the Europeans to try to do more if that would mean the exclusion of the USA from its security role in Europe. The USA worked to ensure that NATO remained the main pillar of Euro- pean security and that NATO’s integrated military command, with an American in the position of the supreme leadership, continued (Sayle 2019, pp. 223, 235; Shifrinson this volume; Van Hooft this volume).

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A US President Willing to Take Political and Geopolitical Risks The most serious consideration—such as it was—of wrapping up NATO occurred during the 1960s. This consisted merely of some draft memoranda being drawn up (Sayle 2019, pp. 148–149, including notes). These documents indicated that the end of NATO would result in some risk, flux, and uncertainty in European international relations. US Presidents obviously have viewed this flux as strategically risky, but they have seen it as politically risky, too. Much as, after the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, presidents felt that they had to be on watch and feared somehow being responsible for the next attack, no president wanted to be the leader who put Europe on the road to World War Three; a geopolitical crisis in Europe would have offered easy ammunition for his or her political opponents.

A Different Germany A German leader unwilling to accept the quid pro quo of German unification in exchange for NATO membership would have seriously complicated NATO’s future. So too would a Germany that withdrew from the alliance. In fact, a leading political scientist at the end of the Cold War made the seemingly obvious assumption that Germany would do just that, but this has not yet come to pass (Mearsheimer 1990, p. 5n1). Had the Germans demonstrated more interest in developing a new foreign and security policy separate from NATO, it would have given support to the fears of Thatcher and others that the German problem was back.

Looking Forward A number of broader pressures, then, have pushed the alliance toward expansion in the post-Cold War World. The irony, of course, is that maintaining NATO after the Cold War and expanding the alliance to ensure its survival has increased the stakes that would be involved in ending the alliance. Instead of a carefully managed drawdown of NATO, a US president might come along who simply pulls the rug out from underneath, leading to instability without any thought as to how to manage it. The ultimate legacy of NATO expansion, then, is that the allies have scooped up every egg and deposited them in one basket. In trying to preserve the

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alliance, the allies have argued that NATO is dynamic and can do everything. The result has been an absence of serious consideration regarding how to achieve security in Europe if NATO one day fails. As Norstad warned over 50 years ago: ‘Nothing is permanent.’

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———. (2 September 1968) UKDel No. 56 Saving to FO, FCO 28/57. ———. (6 September 1968) Minute of the [Cabinet] Meeting, 5 September 1968: ‘Will the Russians Try to Remove Ceausescu?’. Smith to Maitland, FCO 28/57. ———. (2 October (N) [1968]) FO No. 7055 to Washington, FCO 28/57. ———. (11 October 1968) Czechoslovakia. C.M James (Paris) to C.S.R. Giffard, FCO 28/57. ———. (22 November 1968) Cabinet Conclusions, CAB. ———. (27 January 1970) Record of a Conversation Between the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and the United States Secretary of State at the State Department, Washington at 5.00 p.m., on Tuesday, 27 January. FCO 7/1823. ———. (23 September 1970) Visit of the President of the United States 3 October 1970. Brief by Ministry of Defence, NV(70)A5, FCO 7/1813. ———. (July 1979) Managing Russia. FCO 46/1964. Sarotte, M.E. 2009. 1989. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ———. 2019a. The Convincing Call from Central Europe: Let Us Into NATO. Foreign Affairs Snapshot, March 12. Available at https://www.foreignaffairs. com/articles/2019-03-12/convincing-call-central-europe-let-us-nato. ———. 2019b. How to Enlarge NATO: The Debate inside the Clinton Administration, 1993–95. International Security 44 (1): 7–41. Sayle, T.A. 2016. “A Great List of Potential Mistakes”: NATO, Africa, and British Efforts to Limit the Global Cold War. Cold War History 16 (1): 19–36. https://doi.org/10.1080/14682745.2015.1078313. ———. 2019. Enduring Alliance: A History of NATO and the Postwar Global Order. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Sayle, T.A., and S. Colbourn. 2020. “An Unfortunate Lack of Ideas”: NATO’s “Out-of-Area” Debate and the Syrian Crisis of 1957. International History Review. https://doi.org/10.1080/07075332.2018.1561492. Schwartz, T.A. 1991. America’s Germany: John J. McCloy and the Federal Republic of Germany. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Scowcroft, B. 1999. Brent Scowcroft Oral History: Transcript. November 12–13, George H.W. Bush Oral History Project, Miller Center, University of Virginia, Charlottesville. https://millercenter.org/the-presidency/pre sidential-oral-histories/brent-scowcroft-oral-history. Shifrinson, J.R.I. 2018a. Rising Titans, Falling Giants: How Great Powers Exploit Power Shifts. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. ———. 2018b. Sound and Fury, Signifying Something? NATO and the Trump Administration’s Second Year. H-Diplo/ISSF Policy Series 1–5, July 15. Available at https://issforum.org/roundtables/policy/1-5bi-nato. Sulzberger, C.L. 1970. The Last of the Giants. New York: Macmillan. Thomas, I.Q.R. 1997. The Promise of Alliance: NATO and the Political Imagination. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

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Trachtenberg, M. 1999. A Constructed Peace: The Making of the European Settlement, 1945–1963. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Zelikow, P., and C. Rice. 2019. To Build a Better World: Choices to End the Cold War and Create a Global Commonwealth, illustrated ed. New York, NY: Twelve.

CHAPTER 3

NATO as a Political Alliance: Continuities and Legacies in the Enlargement Debates of the 1990s Susan Colbourn

Chastened by a near-miss with nuclear war, the Western allies mused about the prospects of an improvement in East–West relations in the early 1960s. Teetering on the brink during the Cuban Missile Crisis had— unsurprisingly—made many wary of repeating the experience. NATO’s smaller members pressed for a coordinated approach, insisting that the alliance should take on a role in the pursuit of détente between East and West. At sessions of the North Atlantic Council throughout the mid1960s, Belgian, Canadian, Italian, and Norwegian representatives led the charge to carve out an allied role in the détente process (Locher and Nuenlist 2003, Locher and Nuenlist 2004). The Canadians proposed a study of the alliance’s past, present, and future in December 1964

S. Colbourn (B) Duke University, Durham, NC, USA e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 J. Goldgeier and J. R. I. Shifrinson (eds.), Evaluating NATO Enlargement, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-23364-7_3

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(Donaghy 1997, 451; Locher and Nuenlist 2004, 197). Ottawa’s overtures went nowhere. But when French president Charles de Gaulle announced his plans to withdraw France from the integrated command structure in 1966, these earlier initiatives resurfaced. That December, Belgian foreign minister Pierre Harmel resuscitated the proposal for a comprehensive study as he called for a review of the alliance in light of the transformations of international politics since 1949. What resulted was the Harmel Report, officially known as ‘The Future Tasks of the Alliance’. Released in December 1967, the final report identified two main functions for NATO. The first was its traditional mandate and core purpose: ‘To maintain adequate military strength and political solidarity to deter aggression and other forms of pressure and to defend the territory of member countries if aggression should occur’. The second task was far more political, reflective of the role previously envisioned by some of the alliance’s smaller member states. Alongside NATO’s commitment to defense and deterrence, the Harmel Report maintained that the alliance should work toward a more stable relationship with the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. Détente became a function of the alliance, albeit one to be undertaken from a position of strength (NATO 1967). In retrospect, the Harmel Report seemed to pave the way for the alliance’s continued existence when the Cold War came to an end over two decades later. ‘How could NATO have survived the disappearance of the Soviet threat and the end of East–West conflict’, the French historian Frédéric Bozo wondered in 1998, ‘had it not been for the post–Cold War expansion of its “new tasks”’, the dual mission of defense and détente adopted in December 1967? NATO’s own telling of its history advances much the same argument; the Harmel Report signified the Atlantic alliance’s ‘first steps toward a more cooperative approach to security issues that would emerge in 1991’ (NATO 2017; Rynning 2017). NATO’s continued relevance as a political alliance became a common refrain in the 1990s, as the Western allies struggled to adapt their old institutions to the challenges of a new era. What follows examines how debates over the alliance’s parameters in turn shaped the initial debates over its post–Cold War future and, ultimately, the process of inviting new members to join the alliance. One particular focus of this piece merits some explanation: the emphasis placed on Canadian politicians and diplomats. Successive Canadian governments, regardless of party affiliation, championed the idea of a more political alliance—so much so that

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the entry for Canada in the alliance’s series of capsule histories, ‘My Country and NATO’, opens by asking, ‘Did you know that Canada was the country that pushed for a political role for the Alliance?’ (NATO n.d.). Sketching out how Canadian views evolved over the course of the 1990s offers an opportunity to revisit the alliance’s transformations. All too often, we are tempted to reduce the politics of alliances to the preferences and priorities of their most powerful member. In the case of NATO, that invariably means the United States. We fall back on shorthands like US/NATO—as though the two are interchangeable— or assume that Washington’s preferences always carried the day in allied decision-making. These assumptions of virtually unchecked US power and influence permeate our understanding of both past and present. How we tell the history of NATO’s expansion eastward is not just a question of method and perspective. The way we frame the past has profound implications for how we understand the policy options available in the present. If we see the United States as the primary or even the sole decision-maker in NATO, we risk ignoring the dynamics that drove Central and Eastern Europeans to seek membership in Western institutions after the Cold War, not to mention the priorities and policies of other longtime NATO member states. These assumptions can easily skew our understanding of how contemporary challenges emerged—as in the popular and misguided temptation to see Russian aggression as a product of US decision-making, not a product of Moscow’s post-imperial politics—and how they might be managed, if not resolved. A spate of recent publications has already begun the process of revisiting NATO’s enlargement in the 1990s, armed with a growing documentary record (Sarotte 2010a, 2019, 2021; Readman 2012; Shifrinson 2016; Savranskaya and Blanton 2017; Sayle 2019). But NATO’s smaller members have, for the most part, remained absent from that process. Using documents recently released from Library and Archives Canada, this article revisits the enlargement debates from the Canadian perspective. There is undoubtedly much more to be written on this subject, with countless files still to be released in Ottawa. But this is the first step toward a broader re-examination of NATO’s transformation in the 1990s as allied officials debated the contours of a Euro-Atlantic community stretching from ‘Vancouver to Vladivostok’—with more Vancouver (James Baker quoted in Csongos 1991). The attitudes of Canadian policymakers also offer a reminder that some aspects of US policy, such as the desire to remain a European power despite the end of the Cold War, were

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shared by the United States’ northern neighbor, and were not simply the prerogatives of the sole superpower left standing. Throughout the 1990s, as allied leaders weighed their options and, ultimately, ended up extending invitations to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to join the alliance, their conversations repeatedly raised familiar questions about the degree to which NATO was a political alliance and how those political functions related to its military dimensions. A single answer did not exist, as individual members put forward competing for notions of NATO’s political dimensions and its limits, often adopting arguments that echoed decades of earlier debates about the alliance’s purpose and priorities.

Adaptation and Preservation With the benefits of hindsight, there is a tendency to peg the end of the Cold War to a fixed moment in time. Policymakers across the West, attuned to the fact that they were living through a moment of sweeping and profound change, felt no similar sense of clarity. There was no clean break from what came before. NATO was ‘a Cold War organization trying to survive the thaw’, as one Canadian news outlet described the challenges facing the alliance as East–West tensions dissipated (Maclean’s 1990b). Decades earlier, as allied officials contemplated the benefits of détente with the Warsaw Pact’s members, they came to appreciate its potential dangers. Were the obvious threat from the Soviet Union to subside, it would be far more difficult to make the case for NATO’s preservation (Sayle 2019). By the late 1980s, the Western allies were no strangers to speculation about the alliance’s uncertain future. After anti-nuclear demonstrations had rocked the alliance earlier in the decade, drawing record numbers into the streets to protest NATO’s nuclear policies, many worried about the lasting damage done to the transatlantic partnership. The widespread opposition to the so-called Euromissiles seemed to rattle the very foundations of the alliance; the protesters questioned the US role in Europe, sowed doubts about Bonn’s commitment to the West, and rejected the basic logic of nuclear deterrence. Even after NATO’s members weathered the most immediate storm, beginning to deploy the Pershing IIs and ground-launched cruise missiles to the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom in late 1983, acute anxieties lingered about the long-term erosion of public support for the alliance’s defense

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policies. What if member states’ voters would no longer accept the alliance’s reliance on nuclear weapons? Mikhail Gorbachev, too, threatened the fabric of the alliance. A skilled politician, the final general secretary’s affinity for sweeping disarmament proposals seemed to take a page out of the worst, most dangerous parts of the old Soviet diplomatic playbook. Gorbachev’s appeals to the idea of a ‘common European home’, for instance, could easily be interpreted as a classic wedge-driving technique designed to weaken the transatlantic bonds and evict the Americans from the continent (Rey 2004). As the 1980s wore on and the Cold War receded, a Gorbachev-inspired vision of a common home in Europe increasingly came to represent an alternative to existing institutions born of the East–West conflict, such as NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Gorbachev himself saw the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) as a viable channel to build a new Europe as the confrontation between East and West subsided (Hill 2018). François Mitterrand’s concept of a European confederation, unveiled as 1989 came to a close, just weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall, built on Gorbachev’s premise. Placing a similar emphasis on the CSCE as a foundation for the future structure of Europe, Mitterrand’s proposal hewed to a traditional Gaullist line as it sketched out the possibility of a new ‘European Europe’ (Bozo 2008; Grachev 2008; Rey 2004, 57–59). Confronted with dramatic changes in the final months of 1989, most allied governments struggled to respond to ‘the sweep of events’. But the basic contours of the US position already seemed clear. Washington, one British diplomat cabled from Brussels, would likely try to draw down the number of US forces stationed in Europe, a response both to developments in the Warsaw Pact and to the political pressures facing the George H.W. Bush administration at home. Accordingly, British observers predicted a renewed emphasis on the alliance’s political functions, in part to offset any reductions to its military role (PREM TNA-UK). For Bush and his advisers, NATO remained a critical forum and a means to stay engaged in Europe over the long term. Their logic dovetailed with decades of thinking, echoing the oft-quoted axiom attributed to NATO’s first secretary general, Lord Hastings Ismay. Preserving the Atlantic alliance offered a mechanism to keep the Americans in. It also afforded a means of dealing with remaining, albeit residual, Soviet power. And though it might be anachronistic to describe the Germans as ‘down’ in any respect, NATO’s continuation would ensure that the now-unified

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Germany remained anchored to the West to ‘channel expanding German power in productive and stabilizing ways’ (Kanter Files; Sayle 2019, 3–4, 218–229). If the Atlantic alliance were to survive, it was imperative that the Western allies demonstrate that NATO could adapt itself to a new geopolitical landscape (Kanter Files). For both the alliance’s North American members, remaining on the European continent still mattered—with or without the Cold War. Much ink has been spilled about the US interest in curbing its proto-rivals in Europe or maintaining Washington’s preeminent role in the continent’s affairs, but the Americans were not alone in their desire to remain in Europe (Brands 2016, 279–287; Sarotte 2010b). The Canadians, too, placed a premium on staying a European power, albeit a much smaller one. Considerations of geography, influence, and the internalized lessons of the past all shaped the way those in Ottawa made sense of the transformations taking place. Geography, of course, made the prospect of a new European security architecture appear all the more threatening in Ottawa. What if the Canadians ended up left out of this new Europe, as the Europeans turned toward pan-European concepts and institutions? Canadian officials, both in private and in public, repeatedly underscored the importance of staying engaged in Europe. ‘Politically’, Secretary of State for External Affairs Joe Clark told one Toronto audience in May 1990, ‘the values which have triumphed in Europe are our values too.… Engagement with the new Europe is not a luxury’. Rather, it would be critical. ‘Canada will be there, as we must, for our own sake, our own security, our own prosperity’ (LAC Vol. 26023). North American security could not be divided from that of Europe. Prior to the Special Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, held in Brussels that same month, Clark’s briefings identified one fundamental Canadian objective for the gathering: to ensure that the United States and Canada remained ‘firmly connected to developments in Europe’ (LAC Vol. 25671; Secretary of State for External Affairs press release 21 March 1991). Canadians’ attachment to transatlantic structures also reflected their historical sensibilities, which bore a striking similarity to the attitudes of their counterparts south of the border (Engel 2017, 76–77; Hamilton 2019, 24; Sayle 2019, 222–229). Canadian officials had little interest in giving up the Euro-Atlantic architecture simply because the Soviet threat had disappeared. NATO’s raison d’être had not vanished just because

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the Cold War had. The first half of the twentieth century had demonstrated that the fate of North America could not be separated from that of Europe—and Canadians had paid the ultimate price in both world wars (LAC Vol. 27460). ‘We are not renting our seat in Europe’, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney vented in one telephone call with George H.W. Bush, as the two discussed the German drive for unification in early 1990. ‘We paid for it. If people want to know how Canada paid for its seat in Europe, they should check out the graves in Belgium and France’ (Memcons/Telcoms; Mulroney 2007, 725; Bothwell et al. 1989, 282). Certainly, those making policy in Ottawa understood their place in the world as European—if not strictly geographically, then culturally. ‘Canada’s purpose’, Joe Clark (2009, 2) later wrote, comparing the Canadian national experience to that of the United States, ‘by sharp contrast, was to transplant those old values in the new continent, to seek to improve an established civilization, and give it new life’. Whereas the United States viewed itself as the ‘exception’, Canadians understood themselves as the ‘extension’ of Europe, exported to another continent. The fact that Canada remained part of the same State Department portfolio as Western Europe well into the Bill Clinton administration was, perhaps, testament to a similar understanding of Canada’s place in the world. Successive Canadian governments had long seen the Atlantic alliance as a crucial mechanism for the conduct of their diplomacy. Multilateral channels such as NATO afforded Canada both access and influence. ‘Recognizing that they can have little impact on either the US decision-making process or on EC [European Community] consultations’, as one US intelligence assessment summed up the limits of Canadian foreign policy in 1972, ‘the Canadians must seek a maximum of influence through the North Atlantic Council’ (CIA Directorate of Intelligence memorandum 16 May 1972). None of this strategic calculus changed with the end of the Cold War; transatlantic institutions, NATO included, remained vital to Canadian interests in the early 1990s. Prior to the North Atlantic Council’s June 1990 ministerial session in Turnberry, Scotland, briefings prepared by the Department of External Affairs and International Trade laid out a series of Canadian objectives. Ottawa’s priorities were twofold. The first priority was to play an active role in shifting the fundamental basis of the alliance toward ‘an enhanced political role’, one that responded to the changed—and changing—landscape in Europe and the alliance’s ‘declining military mission’. The second

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priority was even more straightforward: to underscore the transatlantic dimensions of the Atlantic alliance (LAC Vol. 26023). Embedded in these two priorities was a call for change to seize the opportunities available, and another call for continuity in how those opportunities were pursued. As one Canadian briefing on the new security architecture of Europe put it, ‘This new European architecture which will end the division of Europe fulfills one of NATO’s fundamental goals. At the same time, global security and prosperity require that the new architecture maintain strong transatlantic links’ (LAC Vol. 26023). The Canadians—or at least those at the Department of External Affairs and International Trade—hoped that the CSCE could be developed as an institution. The CSCE was ‘the key forum for North American participation in broader European development’ (LAC Vol. 26023). Those at the Department of External Affairs believed that the CSCE, boasting a membership that already included all the NATO and Warsaw Pact states, represented the best forum to flesh out ‘a new cooperative, politicalsecurity framework’ (LAC Vol. 25672). NATO could assist in the CSCE’s development, serving as a source of stability or an insurance policy that would underwrite the process of building a reformed version of the CSCE for a new Europe (LAC Vol. 26023). Canadian officials saw an opportunity to develop NATO’s political functions concurrent with this effort to remake the CSCE (LAC Vol. 27460). Canadian appeals for a more political version of NATO tapped into a long intellectual tradition dating back to the negotiation of the North Atlantic Treaty in the late 1940s. In these initial talks, the Canadians had lobbied for the inclusion of a clause that encouraged ‘economic and social collaboration’ among the treaty’s signatories (‘Minutes of the Ninth Meeting’ 13 December 1948). Article II of the treaty, the so-called Canadian article, envisioned cooperation outside the military realm; it called for the various signatories to ‘contribute toward the further development of peaceful and friendly international relations by strengthening their free institutions, by bringing about a better understanding of the principles upon which these institutions are founded, and by promoting conditions of stability and well-being’ (NATO 1949; Bothwell 2007, 70–71). More often than not, subsequent generations associated the Canadian commitment to a more political NATO with one person in particular: Lester Pearson, the Liberal former foreign minister and prime minister. Canada’s own Mr. NATO, Pearson had been a visible champion of the alliance’s political dimensions, including as one of the alliance’s Wise Men,

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the authors of the 1956 Three Wise Men Report. Pearson’s son, Geoffrey, later recalled that his father had written the bulk of the report, an exercise designed to flesh out the non-military functions of the alliance, along with his Norwegian counterpart, Halvard Lange (Pearson evidently thought that the third Wise Man, Italian Foreign Minister Gaetano Martino, had not pulled his weight). The report’s central findings were almost intuitive, at least to Canadian readers, a logical outgrowth of the country’s thinking about foreign policy and international affairs. ‘It was just like writing out a script’, Geoffrey Pearson later described the exercise, ‘one that you had learned years before, so I don’t think the report itself was all that original, at least for Canadians’ (quoted in Hill 1991). Speaking to Bush on the telephone in February 1990, Brian Mulroney returned to that script as he invoked Lester Pearson’s vision of the alliance as a political mechanism, not just a military framework. While the two leaders discussed the fates of Germany and the alliance as a whole, Mulroney pointed to Pearson’s efforts as a clear precedent, setting the stage for the challenges of their present moment. ‘The Alliance’, the prime minister went on, ‘is designed to deal with an era like that of today. NATO is no less needed now’ (Memcons/Telcons). Bush circled back to this idea in another telephone conversation months later. ‘You suggested that I take a look at Article II of the NATO Treaty and the words of Lester Pearson’, Bush reminded Mulroney, before reading aloud the text of Article II. ‘I think this is damn good language that could convince Gorbachev not to see NATO as a threat’, he concluded (Memcons/Telcons). Before the London Summit in July 1990, where the Western allies laid out an updated rationale for the alliance, Canadian diplomats prepared full briefings on Article II and NATO’s political dimensions. Concluding that developments in Europe were ‘inherently more political now than military’, these briefings argued that it was crucial to make the most of NATO’s existing political structures and expand them. One Canadian briefing recommended more consultation on issues outside the treaty area, such as in the Middle East, and put forward a series of recommendations about how NATO’s existing members might engage non-member states, including (but not limited to) their former adversaries. After receiving the US draft of the final declaration for the London Summit, Canadian officials worried about the balance it struck, wary of the implicit ‘triumphalism’ and the statement’s seemingly inordinate focus on military security (LAC Vol. 25672).

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Going East The prospect that NATO could be enlarged was not new. Article X of the North Atlantic Treaty left open the possibility that any European state could be invited to join, an option exercised on multiple occasions during the Cold War (NATO 1949). Greece and Turkey became members of the alliance in 1952, followed by the Federal Republic of Germany in 1955 and Spain in 1982 (Sayle, 2019). Germany’s unification in 1990 expanded the alliance in territorial terms, if not in the number of states boasting membership. To the former allies of the now-defunct German Democratic Republic, there was little distinction between the East Germans and themselves. Members of the Warsaw Pact pressed for inclusion in NATO. The Bulgarian government, for instance, floated the prospect of joining NATO in the summer of 1990, even offering its services to mediate the ongoing tensions between Greece and Turkey (Mastny 2008, 240). A Liaison to the East At the London Summit in July 1990, the Western allies reached out to their former adversaries. By inviting the Warsaw Pact’s members to establish liaison missions at NATO, Bush expressed his hopes that Western allies could illustrate the changes underway. ‘We will show that NATO has a new dimension of cooperation with the Soviet Union and the new democracies of Eastern Europe’, he told his counterparts assembled in London, ‘and I am particularly concerned that the Eastern Europeans do not feel that they are doomed to an association only with the dying Warsaw Pact’ (NATO 1990a, b, c). The Canadians viewed this outreach to the East as a logical extension of the alliance’s existing mandate, building on the ideas laid out in Article II of the North Atlantic Treaty. In the weeks leading up to the London Summit, officials at the Department of External Affairs underscored the importance of conveying NATO’s commitment to ‘political cooperation with the emerging democracies in Central and Eastern Europe and with the Soviet Union through the creative application of Article II’ (LAC Vol. 25672). What they envisioned was far more robust than the initial liaison program: a series of regular consultations, creating channels for heads of government, cabinet ministers, and mid-level officials to establish ties with the Warsaw Pact states and build up Eastern participation in

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NATO’s non-military programs. Such efforts, they predicted, were sure to meet resistance from the French, given the traditional aversion in Paris to ‘NATO espousing glories outside of that dealing exclusively with military security’ (LAC Vol. 25672). The Mulroney government placed a premium on outreach to the East; it was a crucial part of NATO’s transformation and continuation. On the eve of the London Summit, Joe Clark underscored the importance of NATO’s role as a political alliance in a letter to his counterpart, US secretary of state James Baker. Central to this enterprise, Clark argued, was the transformation of relations with the Soviet Union and the states of Central and Eastern Europe in order to usher in ‘new transparency and confidence’ (LAC Vol. 25672). Canadian officials championed the use of existing NATO channels, such as the Committee on the Challenges of Modern Society, and invested in new programs such as the NATO Democratic Institutions Fellowship Programme to build up the ties linking their former adversaries to the Atlantic alliance (LAC Vol. 26024; Secretary of State for External Affairs press release 21 March 1991). Publicly, Mulroney touted the London Summit as a moment of profound transformation. The changes underway would ‘fundamentally realign the alliance with a new international vocation’. One piece in Maclean’s (1990a, 18), the weekly Canadian news magazine, wondered if Mulroney’s assertions meant anything or if they were ‘merely new political camouflage over the old warhorse’. Before the North Atlantic Council’s ministerial session in Brussels in December 1990, officials at the Department of External Affairs fretted about the divisions within the alliance over whether, how, and on what terms to engage former adversaries. Whereas the Canadians, along with the Americans and Germans, were supportive, the French seemed poised to block this kind of dialogue at every turn. As the Canadians made the case for dialogue with their former adversaries, they returned once more to the political functions of the alliance. Enhancing ties with Eastern Europe was not a project ‘to build into NATO a substantial institutionalized program of cooperation in fields of mutual interest’. Rather, the point of these contacts was to increase NATO’s prospects for political consultations (LAC Vol. 2746). Over the spring and summer of 1991, the viable options to organize the European security architecture dwindled. The Warsaw Pact’s military structure was disbanded and, in July, its Political Consultative Committee met for its final session. With the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, much of

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the earlier allure of a solution predicated on a revamped CSCE evaporated. Mitterrand’s concept of a European confederation stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals also collapsed (Bozo 2008, 404–412). But the fundamental dilemmas remained. The efforts already underway to build up the liaison program did nothing to address the basic security concerns expressed by the Central and Eastern Europeans. A liaison arrangement was a far cry from a concrete security guarantee; even the access afforded was circumscribed, what Bush had described to his colleagues in London as ‘a permanent presence … with a voice’, and, crucially, not ‘a seat at NATO’s table’ (NATO 1990). The events unfolding in the Soviet Union contributed to a sense of urgency among the Central and Eastern Europeans to elicit more concrete commitments. Václav Havel, for instance, became increasingly convinced of the need for Czechoslovakia to gain NATO membership after the failed August 1991 coup in the Soviet Union (Havránek and Jireš 2019, 175). At Stanford University in September 1991, Brian Mulroney suggested the prospect of a far closer association with the states of Central and Eastern Europe—these nations could become members of NATO. ‘The North Atlantic Treaty remains an indispensable insurance policy against a return to the autarchy of the Thirties’, the prime minister told his audience. ‘Association could be extended eventually to former adversaries, were they to want it, once they had fully and irreversibly embraced the transatlantic democratic values we share’ (Canada Today 1991, 3). Cautious and couched in caveats, Mulroney’s comments were hardly a rousing call for enlargement. But they indicated the prime minister’s appreciation that the current arrangements were not enough, and highlighted the degree to which enlargement was already a topic being mulled over in allied circles. Over a decade later, the former prime minister would sum up his Stanford speech as an attempt ‘to help prod the Bush administration and our other allies into taking the necessary next step in the continuing evolution of East–West relations’ (Mulroney 2007, 883). The North Atlantic Cooperation Council Later that fall, at NATO’s November summit in Rome, the Western allies built on their earlier outreach to the East. With the New Strategic Concept, NATO’s members underscored the significance of dialogue and cooperation, a development Canadian officials looked on with a degree of approbation, seeing it as a sign of the alliance’s ‘commitment

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to a more political NATO’ (LAC Vol. 27463; NATO 1991a, b). In Washington, members of the Bush administration recognized that this emphasis on developing relations with the East introduced ‘the possibility of fundamental change within NATO’, including revisiting the fundamentals of the alliance. Should NATO remain geared toward common defense or should it move toward a broader concept of collective security (Lowenkron Files)? The North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) was the centerpiece of the Rome Summit, a German–US vision that built on an earlier joint declaration made by James Baker and his German counterpart, HansDietrich Genscher. On 2 October, Baker and Genscher had called for the creation of a more institutional set of ties between NATO’s members and the former Warsaw Pact states, including the Soviet Union. In concrete terms, the basic idea of the NACC echoed what Canadian officials had hoped for in the lead-up to the London Summit over a year earlier: highlevel, regular consultations between NATO’s members and its former adversaries. But beyond those broad strokes, the NACC’s overall purpose remained far from clear. The US delegation at NATO, for instance, cabled back to Washington about a string of probing questions throughout late 1991, as various governments implicated in the scheme tried to figure out what the NACC was intended to do. ‘Is the creation of the NACC’, one popular line of questioning wondered, ‘meant as a symbolic gesture only, or as the beginning of a process of closer association with, and possible eventual membership in, NATO?’ (Chellis Files). From the outset, then, it was clear that the NACC was bound up in larger questions about membership in NATO and the prospect of the alliance’s enlargement eastward. After the Rome Summit, the government of Czechoslovakia described the steps taken as ‘the beginning of a process’. Those in Prague had not abandoned their desire for a closer relationship with the alliance, including associate membership in NATO. Enthusiasm for the NACC ultimately stemmed from hopes that it was a step toward membership or some form of security guarantee, not anything about the program itself (Chellis Files). In the autumn of 1991, the US delegation at NATO warned that Washington was likely to come under increased pressure to signal NATO’s long-term intentions and advocated that the liaison program be seen as the first step toward some form of membership in NATO (Lowenkron Files). Canadian planners insisted that the NACC should become a more robust apparatus. Already, they viewed their own contributions as vital

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to the NACC’s emergence and to its current shape. The Canadians had, at least in their own estimation, been at the forefront of developing the NACC, as they pressed for a concrete work plan that included regular meetings with standing allied committees such as the Political, Economic, and Military Committees (LAC Vol. 27463). Even more, consultation should be built in, allowing for dialogue on subjects of mutual concern. On this, Canadian officials acknowledged that their view far outpaced those of many of their allies, who tended to see the NACC as nothing more than a mechanism to engage the former Warsaw Pact states in a 16 + 9 configuration (the number of NATO members + the number of Warsaw Pact countries). Canada could take a leading role to ensure that the Western allies responded to the demands for more from NATO currently being voiced by Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia (and, later, the Czech Republic after the formal dissolution of Czechoslovakia on 1 January 1993) (LAC Vol. 27463). What the future held was ambiguous at best. The United States and the United Kingdom, as one Canadian briefing on the future of the Rome decisions concluded, viewed the summit’s outcomes as the beginning of ‘a process which could eventually lead to membership in NATO’. When, how, and on what terms were far from settled questions. That same briefing went on to caution that any move toward full membership for the Central and Eastern European states would be ‘premature’ and ‘counterproductive’ (LAC Vol. 27463). Yet, the NACC’s inherent limitations were clear from the beginning. Central and Eastern European states craved NATO membership ‘because they want[ed] to join a common defense organization’. The NACC could score successes at a political level, bolstered by ministerial sessions and high-profile meetings. But that process did nothing to address the underlying sources of concern with no ‘momentum on specific activities that begin to address the security concerns of liaison states, particularly those that have undertaken the greatest reforms’. Already, the NACC’s activities were too much for some of the allies. The French, in particular, hoped to narrow the scope of action, ‘restrict[ing] development of NATO and the NACC to protect their vision of an EC-dominated, CSCE-based European system’ (Lowenkron Files). Canadian officials expressed confusion about where various institutions were headed and what this meant for the future of European security. From Brussels, Canada’s permanent representative to NATO, James Bartleman, warned of a series of interrelated and overlapping problems

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that boiled down to two perennial fears: a familiar European concern that Washington would decide to disengage from the continent and a corresponding worry that the Europeans were not prepared to meet the challenges ahead. The Cold War’s disappearance had not erased the chronic fear that the United States might hang its European allies out to dry, and the conflict unfolding in the former Yugoslavia was a stark reminder both of Washington’s reluctance and of Europe’s limited capabilities. Those events exposed what Bartleman diagnosed as a fundamental disconnect between rhetoric and action. Whereas the Bush administration had made the case for NATO’s continuation in the post–Cold War world, insisting that the alliance would combat instability in Europe, the administration’s tepid response to events in the former Yugoslavia suggested exactly the opposite. Bush and his advisers showed little interest in intervening in the dire situation unfolding, although those within the Bush administration did appreciate that their policy on the former Yugoslavia posed a clear challenge to their NATO policies writ large (LAC Vol. 27460; H-Files). Tellingly, as Canadian policymakers diagnosed sources of transatlantic tensions over the outreach to Eastern Europe, they situated these difficulties in the longue durée of alliance politics—and singled out the French as an obvious point of comparison. Whereas the French understood NATO to be a ‘collective defense alliance’, the Canadians held a fundamentally different view of the alliance’s central mandate. From Ottawa’s vantage point, NATO represented a ‘political security alliance with collective defense dimensions’. This emphasis on NATO’s political orientation, as one official at the Department of External Affairs put it, had been the ‘backbone’ of Canadian policy since 1949. The current differences with France reflected this division between two competing definitions of alliance, each steeped in decades of thinking about foreign policy. Canadians viewed engagement with the Central and Eastern Europeans as a natural outgrowth of the alliance’s political character, but to those in Paris, the renewed emphasis on dialogue with the East seemed a drastic departure—and expansion—of the alliance’s overall mission (LAC Vol. 27460). James Bartleman (2011, 188) later summed up the contrast by noting that Canada and France occupied the ‘extreme ends of the spectrum of views’. The French tended to see the end of the Cold War through the lens of Gaullism. Over the preceding four decades, countless transatlantic dustups and diplomatic skirmishes stemmed from the French understanding

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of NATO and, crucially, of its limits. ‘If we continue to encourage the French to believe that we are sliding toward their view that NATO should be purely a military instrument’, the US permanent representative at NATO cabled back to Washington after one such skirmish with the French in 1976, ‘it will hurt NATO badly and hurt even more badly the allied military posture in Europe’ (US Mission NATO to SecState 5 July 1976). For the French, the end of the Cold War seemed to vindicate their earlier assumptions. French officials returned to their old blueprints for the institution. NATO could—and, in the French estimation, should— survive, but with a more circumscribed mission. In practice, what these officials sought was a transformation back to the model of the alliance from its earliest days in 1949, predating the outbreak of the Korean War (Bozo 2001, 76–77). General John Galvin, who served as Supreme Allied Commander–Europe, bemoaned the French desire to simply let NATO wither on the vine. ‘Their aim’, Galvin concluded in early 1992, ‘was to lessen the US presence and influence in Europe without saying so’ (PREM TNA-UK). By the end of 1992, Canadian diplomats warned of acute tensions straining the alliance, driven primarily by ‘competing visions of the organisation’. Although most of the other allies broadly endorsed the project of transforming the alliance, disagreeing around the margins about how to do so, the French continued to push for a smaller, narrowly defined NATO. Paris’s efforts to confine ‘NATO to a minimalist role in European security’ affected a host of allied issues, including the contentious question of allied peacekeeping operations in response to requests from the CSCE and the United Nations. The United States and the United Kingdom had tried to make an end run around France that fall to deal with the question of NATO peacekeeping among ‘the fifteen’ (the Defense Planning Committee, composed of all the allies except France), a maneuver that created considerable tension. That move ‘provoked a full-blown constitutional crisis within NATO’ over the basic relationship between the North Atlantic Council—of which France was still a member—and the Defense Planning Committee (LAC Vol. 27448). Cognizant that the problems with France were nothing new in transatlantic relations, Canadian officials nevertheless worried about the degree of opposition emanating out of Paris. ‘The current level of “méfiance”’, one scenario briefing book concluded, with a characteristically Canadian

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touch of bilingualism, ‘is, however, unprecedented and cause for concern’ (LAC Vol. 27448, accent added). The Partnership for Peace Creating the NACC did little to reduce calls for full membership in NATO, particularly from Poland (LAC Vol. 27448). Allied officials, for their part, flirted publicly throughout much of 1992 and 1993 with the prospect that the alliance might add to its ranks. Dick Cheney, who served as Bush’s secretary of defense, mused about the benefits of enlarging NATO’s membership in the autumn of 1992. Later, Mulroney (2007, 883–884) recalled that his chief adviser on foreign policy, Paul Heinbecker, mailed him a newspaper clipping of Cheney’s remarks accompanied by a note: ‘You will remember the grief that some people at the Department of External Affairs and others, including the British, gave us over your Stanford University speech in which you advocated expansion of NATO’. A year later, the thought had gone mainstream. That trend continued, as outspoken proponents made the case for NATO’s enlargement. At London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies in March 1993, Volker Rühe (1993, 129–137), the German defense minister, insisted that NATO’s opening was a crucial part of remaking the security architecture of Europe and leaving behind the divisions of the past. Enter the Partnership for Peace program. Developed over the autumn of 1993, the scheme addressed some of the shortcomings of the NACC, appealing to both champions and critics of formal enlargement. By building up mechanisms for cooperation focused on cultivating militaryto-military relations, the Partnership for Peace ‘could open the door to, but does not promise, NATO membership’ (Gallis 1994, i). When the Partnership for Peace proposal emerged, Canadian officials expressed a degree of reservation. Briefings prepared for the foreign minister conveyed ‘guarded support’ for the initiative, along with a list of concerns about the its implementation. These concerns rested, above all, on the practical: the financial implications of the proposal. Any allied support would need to come from existing budgets. Canadian officials’ concerns were hardly a surprise given the acute problems facing the Canadian economy in the early 1990s (LAC Vol. 27463). The message from Canada’s top leaders, however, was one of support for NATO’s (eventual) enlargement. When the North Atlantic Council

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met in December, the new Liberal foreign minister, André Ouellet, insisted that it was a question of when, not whether, to admit new members. The Western allies were not ‘properly prepared’ to open up the alliance to new members, in Ouellet’s estimation, but it was crucial that the states of Central and Eastern Europe see ‘a clear political message of our willingness to do so in the future’ (Ouellet 1993). At the Brussels Summit in January 1994, Jean Chrétien took an even bolder stance than his foreign minister. Chrétien, as Bartleman (by now serving as the prime minister’s chief foreign policy adviser) later recalled, was the only leader to make the case for admitting new members as soon as possible. Aware that his call was unlikely to change policy in the short term, the prime minister underscored the significance of the Partnership for Peace. Chrétien insisted that it should be made crystal clear that the partnership represented a step toward full membership, not a holding pattern or an attempt to dodge the question of membership. Chrétien’s case, like so many arguments before his, rested on the perceived lessons of history. The Western allies could not repeat the mistakes of the 1930s and 1940s, leaving the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to their own devices (Bartleman 2005, 143; Chrétien 2008, 329–331; Globe and Mail 1994). To Madrid For those in Central and Eastern Europe, the Partnership for Peace was a ‘stark disappointment’ that did little to address their security concerns or aspirations (Simonyi 2019, 163). But the prospect of NATO’s expansion eastward remained on the table. Stopping in Prague after the Brussels Summit, Bill Clinton insisted that the partnership represented a fundamental shift. ‘It changes the entire NATO dialog so that now the question is no longer whether NATO will take on new members but when and how’, the president concluded (‘President’s News Conference’ 12 January 1994, 40; Goldgeier 1999a, b, 57–58). Chrétien kept up the pressure, offering his support for the alliance to open the door to more members. James Bartleman even went so far as to argue in his memoirs that the prime minister was a crucial champion of enlargement during these years, ‘helping keep alive their hopes as the debates were waged on whether to take in new members’ (Bartleman 2005, 144). Leading up to the Madrid Summit in July 1997, Canadian officials repeatedly made the case for the alliance to admit five, if not six, new member states, floating the prospect of membership for the Czech

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Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia (Sallot and Freeman 1997; Toronto Star 1997). ‘We’d be happy with three’, one spokesperson from the Department of Foreign Affairs remarked. ‘We’d be happier with five, because we support the broadest possible enlargement’ (quoted in Philipps 1997, 26). On the eve of the allied gathering in Madrid, Canadian officials publicly griped about the lack of clarity or consensus over who, exactly, would be invited to join the alliance. ‘We don’t like the Academy Awards syndrome’, one anonymous official put it (Freeman 1997). At Madrid, Chrétien tried to bridge the lingering differences between those like him who supported broad membership and those who sought to cap the invitations at three, the Clinton administration chief among them. Chrétien helped to craft a phased solution, admitting the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland in the first round, while leaving open the prospect of future rounds (Bartleman 2005, 144; Chrétien 2008, 331–332). But the national press coverage surrounding the Madrid Summit, apart from noting Chrétien’s moment in the spotlight thanks to a jab at Clinton caught on a hot mic, wondered about far more fundamental issues: What rationale, if any, did the prime minister have for supporting enlargement (Globe and Mail 1997a, 1997b; Thorsell 1997; Bartleman 2005, 145–146)? The government’s reasoning seemed minimal, beyond general assertions of support for the broadest enlargement possible. Many within Canada lamented the complete lack of debate about the implications of NATO’s enlargement, a refrain still echoed today (Coulon 2019, 138).

Conclusion It is tempting to view the process of NATO’s enlargement in the 1990s as one with two interrelated explanations. The first is a fundamentally American story about the extension of US power and Washington’s role in creating, reshaping, and upholding the international order. The other is an updated version of Geir Lundestad’s classic ‘empire by invitation’ thesis (1986); the Central and Eastern Europeans invited the Americans in, just as their predecessors to the west had decades earlier. But what of other aspects of NATO’s history, including the attitudes of its smaller members? Looking back, James Bartleman described the alliance’s decisionmaking process as something akin to Dante’s Inferno. NATO’s various

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member states were organized in concentric circles of descending importance, with the United States as the organization’s obvious first circle. Canada, in Bartleman’s estimation, shared the third circle with the Italians (2011, 187). Histories of NATO’s enlargement process exhibit a similar tendency, centering on the United States and moving outward through those concentric circles in fits and starts. With the growing release of archival materials, alongside a substantial collection of memoirs and oral history interviews, there is ample material for historians to reconsider NATO’s transformations in the 1990s. Mary Sarotte recently highlighted ‘the need for a reframing of the discussion about expansion’. Sarotte’s call focused on the need to seriously consider the roads not taken (2019), a point also underscored by James Goldgeier and Joshua Shifrinson in the introductory chapter to this volume. This chapter shows another possible avenue to reframe the discussion: to consider the fundamental issues at play from other perspectives, leveraging the ongoing release of archival records throughout the alliance’s membership. In the Canadian case, it illuminates the degree to which the debates of the 1990s were an extension of earlier philosophical disagreements about the nature of alliance commitments. Canadian officials returned to the prospect of a more political NATO, as successive governments saw their role as one of unabashed support for enlargement, both of NATO’s functions and of its membership.

References Bartleman, J.K. 2005. Rollercoaster: My Hectic Years as Jean Chrétien’s Diplomatic Advisor 1994–1998. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. Bartleman, J.K. 2011. On Six Continents: A Life in Canada’s Foreign Service, 1966–2002. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. Bothwell, R. 2007. Alliance and Illusion: Canada and the World, 1945–1984. Vancouver: UBC Press. Bothwell, R., I. Drummond, and J. English. 1989. Canada Since 1945: Power, Politics, and Provincialism. Rev. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Bozo. 1998. Détente Versus Alliance: France, the United States, and the Politics of the Harmel Report (1964–1968). Contemporary European History 7 (3): 343–360. ———. 2001. Defense Versus Security? Reflections on the Past and Present of the “Future Tasks” of the Alliance (1949–99). In A History of NATO—The First Fifty Years, ed. G. Schmidt, vol. 2, 65–80. Houndmills, UK: Palgrave.

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———. 1990b. NATO Ministerial Committee London. https://www.nato.int/ docu/comm/49-95/c900706a.htm. ———. 1990c. Verbatim Record of the North Atlantic Council Meeting with the Participation of Heads of State and Government Held on Thursday, 5th July 1990c at Lancaster House, London, July 5, C-VR(90)36, Part I, NATO Archives. Brussels, Belgium. ———. 1991a. The Alliance’s New Strategic Concept (1991), November 7. Available at https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_23847. htm?selectedLocale=en. ———. 1991b. Rome Declaration on Peace and Cooperation, November 8. Available at https://www.nato.int/docu/comm/49-95/c911108a.htm. ———. 2017. Harmel Report. 16 November. https://www.nato.int/cps/en/ natohq/topics_67927.htm. Ouellet, A. 1993. An Address by the Honourable André Ouellet, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to the Ministerial Meeting of the North Atlantic Council. 2 December, External Affairs Statement 93/63. Philipps, D. 2016. Military Is Asked to March to a Less Expensive Tune. New York Times, July 2. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/02/us/mil itary-bands-budget.html. Readman, K.S. 2012. Precluded or Precedent-Setting? The “NATO Enlargement Question” in the Triangular Bonn-Washington-Moscow Diplomacy of 1990– 1991. Journal of Cold War Studies 14 (4): 4–54. Rey, M. 2004. “Europe Is Our Common Home”: A Study of Gorbachev’s Diplomatic Concept. Cold War History 4 (2): 33–65. Rühe, V. 1993. Shaping Euro-Atlantic Policies: A Grand Strategy for a New Era. Survival 35 (2): 129–137. Rynning, S. 2017. The Divide: France, Germany and Political NATO. International Affairs 93 (2): 267–289. Sarotte, M.E. 2010a. Not One Inch Eastward? Bush, Baker, Kohl, Genscher, Gorbachev, and the Origin of Russian Resentment toward NATO Enlargement in February 1990. Diplomatic History 34 (1): 119–140. Sarotte, M.E. 2010b. Perpetuating U.S. Preeminence: The 1990 Deals to “Bribe the Soviets Out” and Move NATO In. International Security 35 (1): 110– 137. ———. 2019a. The Convincing Call from Central Europe: Let Us Into NATO. Foreign Affairs Snapshot, 12 March. Available at https://www.foreignaffairs. com/articles/2019-03-12/convincing-call-central-europe-let-us-nato. Sarotte, M.E. 2019. How to Enlarge NATO: The Debate inside the Clinton Administration, 1993–95. International Security 44 (1): 7–41. Sarotte, M.E. 2021. Not One Inch: America, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

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Savranskaya, S., and T. Blanton, eds. 2017. NATO Expansion: What Gorbachev Heard. National Security Archive Briefing Book No. 613. Available at https://nsarchive.gwu.edu/briefing-book/russia-programs/2017-12-12/ nato-expansion-what-gorbachev-heard-western-leaders-early. Sayle, T.A. 2019. Enduring Alliance: A History of NATO and the Postwar Global Order. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. Secretary of State for External Affairs press release. 1991. Canada Supports NATO Projects with Central and Eastern Europe. Global Affairs Canada Digital Library. Sallot, J., and A. Freeman. 1997. Chrétien Lengthens NATO List. Globe and Mail, February 21. Shifrinson, J.R.I. 2016. Deal or No Deal? The End of the Cold War and the U.S. Offer to Limit NATO Expansion. International Security 40 (4): 7–44. Simonyi, A. 2019. NATO Enlargement: Like Free Solo Climbing. In Open Door: NATO and Euro-Atlantic Security After the Cold War, ed. D. Hamilton and K. Spohr, 159–171. Washington, DC: Foreign Policy Institute/Henry Kissinger Center for Global Affairs, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University. Thorsell, W. 1997. Is Canada’s Policy on NATO Expansion Just a Favour for a Friend? Globe and Mail, July 12. The President’s News Conference with Visegrad Leaders in Prague (12 January 1994). 1995. Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton, 1994, Vol. 1, 39–43. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office. Toronto Star. 1997. Canada Supports Slovenia, Romania Bids to Join NATO, June 14. US Mission NATO to SecState. 1976. France and the Future of NATO Consultations. National Security Adviser, Presidential Agency File, Box 16, “NATO (17) 7/1/76–9/14/76” Folder, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library. Ann Arbor, MI.

CHAPTER 4

The NATO Enlargement Consensus and US Foreign Policy: Origins and Consequences Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson

Over the course of a quarter century, NATO enlargement went from a topic barely discussed in public by US policymakers, to a central pillar of US engagement in Europe. Although opposed by many in the academy (Gaddis 1998), the emergence of what I term the ‘enlargement consensus’ has been a striking feature of post–Cold War US foreign relations. Immediately after the Cold War, the George H.W. Bush administration spent two years exploring the possibility of NATO enlargement internally, yet avoided openly raising the issue for fear of Soviet (and later Russian) opposition, backlash from the United States’ Western European allies, and uncertainties surrounding US public support for the move. Instead, NATO after the Cold War was presented simply as one of several institutions that could help contribute to European security (Bush 1993, 7; Sayle 2019, chap. 10).

J. R. I. Shifrinson (B) University of Maryland School of Public Policy, College Park, MD, USA e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 J. Goldgeier and J. R. I. Shifrinson (eds.), Evaluating NATO Enlargement, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-23364-7_4

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A quarter century later, however, the trend has reversed: as longtime senior U.S. government official William Burns notes, ‘expansion of NATO membership’ has ‘stayed on autopilot as a matter of U.S. policy’ since the initial push to enlarge (Burns 2019, 413). Even the Trump administration—widely viewed as hyper-skeptical of transatlantic cooperation—oversaw the alliance’s expansion to two new members (White House 2017a; Senate Foreign Relations 2019); meanwhile, the war in Ukraine—which might otherwise have underlined the geopolitical risks to the U.S. of enlargement—saw American policymakers rapidly endorse the accession of Finland and Sweden while holding the door open for Ukraine, Georgia, and other aspirants (Associated Press 2022; State Department 2022a). Policymakers across the political spectrum now portray an expanded alliance as ‘the core of an American-led liberal order,’ argue that keeping NATO’s ‘door open’ is central to crafting ‘a free and peaceful European continent,’ and assert that threats to NATO enlargement are a challenge to the order itself (Burns and Lute 2019, 7; Albright 2010, 15; New York Times 2018a, b; Miller 2018; Ikenberry 2018; Mearsheimer 2019; State Department 2022b; Biden 2022). What explains this shift: why has NATO enlargement dominated US strategy discussions vis-à-vis Europe? Equally important, what have been the consequences of enlargement for US engagement in post–Cold War Europe? These issues are understudied. To be sure, a large body of work examines the process by which a decision to expand NATO emerged in the 1990s and continued thereafter (Goldgeier 1999a, 1999b; Asmus 2002; Hendrickson and Readman 2004; Sarotte 2019). Likewise, prominent research traces the evolution of the United States’ post–Cold War grand strategy and assesses its merits and drawbacks (Posen 2014; Brooks and Wohlforth 2016; Brands 2016). Still, despite the significant effort put into expanding NATO since the early 1990s, little work examines why US strategy consistently places such a premium specifically on NATO enlargement, or evaluates the consequences of this conceptual shift for US national security (for a partial exception, see Jervis 1995, 24–26). Answers to these questions matter for both historical inquiry and international relations (IR) theory. On one level, explaining and evaluating a complex historical event such as sustained US backing for NATO enlargement can shed light on the sources of contemporary debates over the future of the US role in European security, as well as highlight linkages between IR theory and diplomatic history (Van Evera 1997, chap. 5; Trachtenberg 2009, chap. 4; Lebow and Risse-Kappen 1995). Likewise,

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the analysis can inform theory itself. After all, a foundational question in IR theory concerns the relative weights of structural factors (e.g., polarity) and agency (e.g., individual leaders) in influencing foreign policy (Dessler 1989; Saunders 2009). This is particularly true when discussing US policy under unipolarity— the period stretching for roughly a quarter century following the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, and perhaps continuing today (Wohlforth 1999). As Robert Jervis (2009) argues, unipolarity is the rarest and least-theorized structural condition in world politics (for extensions, see Monteiro 2014). Although there is a natural tendency to theorize about the dynamics of unipolarity using the US experience, there may therefore be particular features of US politics and policy that make the United States’ behavior under unipolarity distinct from how other unipolar powers may act (Jervis 2009, 200–201). Analyzing the drivers and consequences of sustained US support for NATO enlargement during the recent unipolar era thus pushes researchers to assess the degree to which core elements of US foreign policy can be explained by structural elements of unipolarity, or require sui generis variables that may not obtain in other cases.1 Put differently, insofar as backing for NATO expansion was among the seminal aspects of the United States’ foreign policy during US unipolarity, explaining the course and results of this trend helps theorize the dynamics of unipolarity writ large. Building on existing historiography and IR theory, this article makes two interrelated arguments. First, NATO enlargement emerged as a central pillar in US strategic debates owing to a perfect storm of systemic and domestic conditions. Consistent with other research on US strategy debates, the article finds that unipolarity and the permissive conditions it fostered facilitated the United States’ enlargement fixation. Nevertheless, the transition from unipolarity to enlargement required a particular set of ideological and policymaking practices. In this sense, unipolarity allowed a specific strategic mindset to develop and abetted its continuation, but the content of this mindset stemmed from particular processes and pathologies of US politics. By extension, a different unipole might have also made overseas assertiveness a core plank of its grand strategy, but might not have turned to (1) a multilateral alliance such as NATO or (2) enlargement to attain this result. Second, the principal consequence 1 For similar efforts to examine the sources of post–Cold War unipolarity, see Layne (2002); Brooks and Wohlforth (2008); Walt (2009); Posen (2006); Mastanduno (1997).

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of enlargement has been to maximize US influence in Europe at the cost of mounting threats to the United States, cheap-riding by allies, and intra-alliance friction. I return to these themes below. The remainder of this article proceeds in four sections. Following this introduction, I discuss the evolution of US policy vis-à-vis NATO enlargement and the solidification of the enlargement consensus. Second, I outline a range of hypotheses that might explain the trend, before evaluating the arguments and synthesizing the results. Third, I identify the merits and drawbacks of NATO enlargement for US strategy in Europe. Finally, I conclude with implications for theory, history, and policy.

The United States and NATO Enlargement: A Brief History NATO enlargement emerged soon after the Cold War as a predominant and, in many ways, counterintuitive theme in US foreign policy. Of course, NATO had expanded during the Cold War by incorporating Greece (1952), Turkey (1952), West Germany (1955), and Spain (1982). Still, with the Soviet threat eliminated by the implosion of the Warsaw Pact (1989–1990) and ultimate Soviet collapse (1991), analysts and policymakers wondered in the early 1990s whether NATO itself was soon destined for the dustbin of history (Sloan 2016, 104; Mearsheimer 1990; Waltz 1993, 74–76). This concern was never realized. Within a year of the Berlin Wall’s fall, US policymakers were already debating whether ‘the United States and NATO [should] now signal to the new democracies of Eastern Europe NATO’s readiness to contemplate their future membership’ in the alliance (Shifrinson 2016, 38). By mid-1992, a ‘consensus’ emerged in the higher reaches of the George H.W. Bush administration that—as the National Security Council (NSC) staff explained—‘we do want to open up the Alliance to new members’ (Lowenkron 5 June 1992; for discussion, see Shifrinson 2020b, 51–52). Indeed, Bush and his team worried that failure to embrace enlargement would create an opportunity for the nascent European Union (EU) to fill the security vacuum in Eastern Europe, raise questions over whether NATO could adapt to post–Cold War security conditions, and so challenge the United States’ post–Cold War influence in and over Europe (Sayle 2019, 232–240). As one high-level report explained in mid-1991, if the United States was to ‘continue to be a European power,’ it needed

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to ‘examine where NATO is headed in its policies toward Eastern Europe’ (No author, undated [mid-1991]; also Hutchings 1997, 277). Bush’s defeat in the 1992 presidential election temporarily put these initiatives on hold as the subsequent Bill Clinton administration sought its foreign policy footing (Flanagan 2019, 103–108; Asmus 2002, 18– 19). By 1993–1994, however, Clinton and his team came around to the same basic policy regarding NATO enlargement. The main shift was in the ostensible rationale. Where Bush’s team emphasized protecting the US role in Europe, the Clinton administration—linking together a number of disparate themes—presented NATO enlargement as a way of buttressing democracy and liberalism in former Soviet client states (Chollet and Goldgeier 2008, 117–125), while hedging against a renewed Russian challenge.2 Driving this process were enlargement proponents such as National Security Advisor Anthony Lake and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Richard Holbrooke. Critics of NATO expansion (e.g., Clemens 1997) fretted that enlargement would render NATO unmanageable and indefensible, redivide Europe, have little effect on democratic development, and antagonize Russia. In contrast, Lake, Holbrooke, and other expansion advocates dismissed these concerns: Russia could be persuaded to embrace an expanded NATO (or have no choice otherwise), enlargement would help socialize former Communist states into embracing democratic-liberal norms, and adding members would revitalize the organization while giving the United States new partners with whom to shape alliance policy (Asmus 2002, 27–29; Goldgeier 1999a, 1999b, chaps. 2 and 3; Hill 2018, 109–116). In short, enlargement was viewed as a way of making NATO relevant to post–Cold War Europe, with few downsides (Chollet and Goldgeier 2008). One also suspects a bit of political logrolling in this approach as, in justifying enlargement as a Swiss army knife policy that would simultaneously improve security, aid democracy and capitalism, increase the United States’ influence, and hedge against Russia, it helped mobilize otherwise disparate groups which alone might be unable to see enlargement through but which together could push the policy forward. 2 As Secretary of State Madeleine Albright testified in 1997, the United States could not ‘dismiss the possibility that Russia could return to the patterns of the past’. Hence, enlarging NATO assisted in ‘closing the avenue to more destructive alternatives’ in Russia’s future. See US Senate (1998), 8. See also Talbott (2019), 412.

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Playing off Clinton’s personal predispositions, policy entrepreneurs thus succeeded in bypassing, isolating, corralling, or—as in the case with deputy secretary of state Strobe Talbott—converting intra-administration skeptics while generating bipartisan Congressional support for expansion. Rather than emphasize the risks of counterbalancing, leash-slipping, and/or an open-ended commitment, the US logic held that NATO enlargement would ultimately be a force for stability. By 1995–1996, the consensus was such that neither sustained Russian opposition to expansion, nor ambivalence on the part of European NATO members such as France (Sloan 2016, 120) affected the approach; even warnings from US diplomats and scholars that enlargement could imperil East–West relations and required the United States to take on potentially costly new commitments had no effect on the drive to enlarge (Goldgeier 1999a, 1999b, 73–76, 86–88, 99). Instead, the United States successfully pushed its current NATO allies to invite the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland to begin accession talks at the July 1997 Madrid Summit (Gallis 1997; Goldgeier 1999a, 1999b, 119). The net effect was the alliance’s eastward move following the formal admission of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland at NATO’s 1999 Washington Summit. Yet even before the first round of expansion was finalized, US policymakers were contemplating future rounds (Croft 2002, 97–101; Larrabee 1999; Asmus and Nurick 1996). Indeed, with enlargement presented as a way of integrating post-Cold War Europe—such that alliance membership could, in principle, be open to any state which met the alliance’s principles and purpose (NATO 1995a, b)—the reality was that enlargement had no natural end point in Europe. Reflecting this situation, the late 1990s congressional debate over expansion saw several senators push for Romanian and/or Slovenian accession. Likewise, many of the existing European members of NATO favored admitting a broad set of new countries if NATO expansion had to happen at all (US Senate 1998, 196, 255; Kamp 1998). To this end, the US declared at Madrid that the United States recognized the need to promote the ‘increasing integration’ of other Eastern European states into the ‘Euro-Atlantic Community,’ followed by a NATO pledge at the 1999 Washington Summit that the alliance would ‘continue to welcome new members’ (NATO 1997a, b, c, d; NATO 1999a, b, c, d, e). Embracing this pledge, nine states in Eastern Europe soon agreed to work together toward gaining NATO membership (Moyer 2000). Significantly, both Republican nominee George W. Bush

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and Democratic nominee Al Gore supported this Eastern European initiative during the 2000 presidential election, giving further momentum to the emerging consensus that NATO enlargement was to continue (Sloan 2010, 115; Hendrickson 2000/2001, 58). If anything, a striking feature of US policy since the early 2000s has been the absence of debate over NATO’s further expansion. As one former diplomat describes, the second round of expansion in the early 2000s was marked by ‘bureaucratic continuity at the working level […] as debates raged at the political level over which [states] should be admitted.’ The issue, in other words, was not whether other states would be admitted but how many (Hill 2018, 200). This push to consider enlargement’s scope rather than its continued merits (or lack thereof) also paralleled widespread acceptance of the view that— as one former member of Clinton’s NSC staff and a coauthor put it in the early 2000s—NATO enlargement ‘helped the historically factious Europe become a peaceful, united, and democratic continent’ (Daalder and Goldgeier 2006, 108; Daalder 2005, 42). Reflecting the maturation of the enlargement consensus, this period saw NATO admit seven new states in 2004, two new members in 2009, and two more states in 2017–2019; as this project goes to press, Sweden and Finland are also on the cusp of joining the alliance, with membership discussions with Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ukraine continuing (Michta 2009; Garcia 2009; [Name Redacted] 2016; Pifer 2019; Cook and Niksic 2018; RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty 2019). Domestic political behavior, too, showcases policymakers’ growing tendency to embrace continued expansion with near automaticity. The first round of post–Cold War enlargement, for example, saw the Clinton administration undertake extensive efforts to cultivate congressional and popular opinion; subsequent rounds, however, have not seen similar efforts to shape domestic attitudes (Goldgeier 1999a, 1999b, chap. 5; Hendrickson and Readman 2004, 326–329). The US Senate, meanwhile, voted for the first round of enlargement only after months of debate as well as testimony by dozens of experts, and even then, 19 Senators voted no. (US Senate 1998; Schmitt 1998). In contrast, post-2000 enlargements witnessed far more limited congressional deliberations, including discussions bundled with other Senate business,3 substantially shorter 3 For example, the 2003 Senate Foreign Relations Committee enlargement discussion coincided with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, leading senators to simultaneously discuss both

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hearings, and near-unanimous votes favoring enlargement (Garcia 2009; Hanna 2017); indeed, even senators who opposed the first round of NATO expansion in the late 1990s signaled their support for subsequent expansion from the early 2000s onward (Hendrickson and Readman 2004, 328–329). Put simply, US support for NATO enlargement had become rote by the 2000s. Thus, just as George W. Bush could argue in 2002 that ‘enlargement of NATO is good for all who join us’ and that it would ‘encourage the hard work of political and economic and military reform’ that contributed to a peaceful Europe (see also Bush 2004), so could Barack Obama remark in 2014 that NATO was critical to ‘a Europe that is whole and free and at peace’ and remained open to admitting new members (Obama 2014). Nor did this trend end with the Trump administration—in fact, the enlargement consensus continued even in an administration whose commitment to NATO writ large was open to question (Shifrinson 2017b). Tellingly, the administration welcomed Montenegro’s 2017 accession to NATO with a press release affirming both that ‘the NATO Alliance has been central to ensuring peace and security on the European continent’ and that ‘the door to membership in the Euro-Atlantic community of nations remains open’ (White House 2017b). It followed up by supporting North Macedonia’s accession to NATO and reaffirming support for Georgian and Ukrainian membership (White House 2019, 2017a; Ruger 2019). To be sure, analysts had reasons to doubt Trump’s personal commitment to the alliance (Friedman 2018; Washington Post 2018; Barnes and Cooper 2019; for Trump’s own changing views, see Oprysko 2020). In response to these doubts, however, many members of the US foreign policy establishment doubled down on the idea that NATO enlargement remained a core plank of US strategy and key to what Robert Kagan terms a liberal international order promoting ‘global peace’ (Kagan 2008; also New York Times 2018a, b; Brands 2019; Stavridis 2019). Likewise, the advent of the Biden administration saw a return to the status quo ante Trump. After all, not only did Biden and his team make renewing allies’ confidence in the United States among the top organizing principles of the administration’s foreign agenda, but it NATO enlargement and plans for Iraqi reconstruction. See US Senate (2003). On the limited evaluation, compare the range of witnesses and length of testimony in 1998 to the 2008 discussion (US Senate 2008).

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recommitted the United States to seeking Georgian and, more dramatically, Ukrainian accession to the alliance. Of course, eventual Ukrainian and Georgian membership had formally been announced at the 2008 Bucharest Summit, only to be put on the back burner due to Russian opposition and internal problems in both states (Michta 2009, 373– 374). By 2021, however, Biden and his team announced that Ukrainian membership in particular remained U.S. policy (e.g., Portman 2021), and began deepening bilateral military and diplomatic ties in support of Ukraine’s NATO aspirations (Department of Defense 2021; Department of State 2021); the administration followed this up by refusing to accede to Russia’s subsequent demands throughout 2021 and early 2022 that NATO enlargement to Ukraine be stopped lest Moscow uses force to prevent maturation of the NATO-Ukraine relationship (New York Times 2022). After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, meanwhile, the Biden administration responded by seeking a historically rapid admission of Finland and Sweden into NATO (White House 2022a) while doubling down on assertions that NATO’s door remains open for other countries to enter (White House 2022b).4 Ultimately, having emerged as a tentative concept in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, NATO expansion has come to occupy a premier place in US strategy. Bipartisan support for enlargement remains more than robust, debates over the policy’s wisdom are virtually absent, and even notable opposition by capable states such as Russia has only served to reinforce the U.S. commitment to NATO enlargement. The enlargement consensus dominates discussions of US strategy vis-à-vis European security.

Explaining the Trend The preceding section begs the question: Why has the enlargement consensus taken hold in Washington and dominated policy discussions? Moreover, what explains the durability of the enlargement concept in US 4 Equally striking is the speed with which Finland and Sweden decided to pursue NATO membership after decades of formal neutrality. It may well be the case that Helsinki and Stockholm had tacitly used the prospect of abandoning neutrality as a kind of diplomatic deterrent against Russian aggression for much of the post-Cold War era; this would help explain the range of ties (despite formal Finnish and Swedish neutrality) between NATO and the two that emerged after the Soviet collapse. Regardless, the rapidity with which formal neutrality was cast side following the Russian invasion of Ukraine is notable.

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strategy, particularly at a time when—as evidenced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in part because of NATO enlargement—the policy entails growing risks for the United States amid an increasingly fraught international landscape? Few studies expressly evaluate the reason(s) behind the United States’ pervasive and persistent focus on NATO expansion. This absence may be partly the result of methodological limitations, as a full assessment of US support for enlargement requires access to primary sources that are unlikely to be available for decades. Still, in keeping with this volume’s focus on offering an analysis of enlargement’s legacy, it is worth developing and evaluating a series of hypotheses rooted in both IR theory and historiography that might be able to account for the enlargement consensus.5 In what follows, therefore, I outline a range of such arguments, use a combination of congruence procedures and process tracing (George and Bennett 2005, chaps. 9 and 10) to identify what aspects of the phenomenon each argument can and cannot explain, and attempt to synthesize the results. Enlargement as a Byproduct of Unipolarity First, the United States’ focus on enlargement might be explained as a byproduct of US unipolarity. This argument is suggested by several realist scholars (Posen 2006, 156–157n19; Layne 2009, 148–149; 2002, 163; Waltz 1998), as well as (less charitably) by several Russian critics of NATO (Radin and Reach 2017; Monaghan 2006), and treats NATO expansion as the result of unchecked US power following the Soviet Union’s demise. In effect, absent another superpower to discipline its behavior, the United States could act largely without concern regarding international opposition to its policies—it could pursue nearly any objective it wanted in international affairs (including NATO enlargement) irrespective of others’ interests. In this, it behaved as many other powerful states have done when enjoying a surfeit of power (Mearsheimer 2001). By this logic, the enlargement consensus took root and gained traction as US leaders came to understand—implicitly or explicitly—the United States’ relative advantages after the Cold War. By extension, analysts would expect the

5 In this, I use a range of established IR theories to develop potential specific explanations for the enlargement consensus; on this approach, see Van Evera (1997), 40–43.

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consensus to shift only if or when US power was seriously challenged by other highly capable actors. The timing of NATO enlargement suggests that there is something to this proposition. NATO expansion is fundamentally a post–Cold War phenomenon. Despite taking on four new NATO members during the Cold War, US policymakers only focused on enlargement in a sustained and serious manner—doubling the alliance’s membership—after Soviet power unraveled. Conversely, not only was NATO expansion not a core issue in US strategy debates during Cold War bipolarity, but real concerns existed that NATO was unlikely to survive the end of the US-Soviet contest. This intra-case variation lends credence to the idea that shifts in power were central to at least the emergence of the enlargement consensus. Similarly, it is likely no accident that the period of NATO’s most rapid enlargement in the late 1990s and early 2000s coincided with a belief in many policymaking and analytic circles that US dominance was likely to last indefinitely (Krauthammer 2002; Wohlforth 1999; Kagan 2008, 86; Clinton 1999, iii). Without needing to factor in the risk of great power opposition, US policymakers could attempt to shape European security in whatever fashion the United States deemed attractive—in this case, via NATO expansion. Conversely, had the United States not enjoyed a unipolar era and been forced to contend with a peer competitor from the 1990s onward, then NATO enlargement would likely not have occurred in either the form or fashion it did.6 Even if Eastern European states had the wherewithal to seek entry to the alliance, competition with a peer would likely have compelled the United States to weigh the costs and benefits of doing so in a different manner. At a minimum, US analysts would have been compelled to consider whether taking on additional security commitments in the face of a peer challenger was a net gain (given that the commitments might entail risks) and that the resources involved might be needed elsewhere. At maximum, sustained opposition from another great power might have made expansion an unattractive proposition. The emergence of the enlargement consensus might have been unlikely in such circumstances.

6 Many opponents of NATO expansion expected that (1) new great powers might soon emerge—suggesting that expansion was strategically risky—just as (2) enlargement might encourage states to counterbalance. See Waltz (1993).

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That said, unipolarity cannot provide a complete explanation for the enlargement consensus. Two issues stand out. First, unipolarity is a structural condition, liberating the unipole from fixing on the concerns of other great powers. Within this, the unipole can embrace a range of objectives. Although expanding its influence and/or attempting to lock in its preferred institutional arrangements may be likely, there is nothing automatic about the result. It is therefore a bridge too far to link unipolarity per se with NATO expansion. At least in theory, the United States could have kept NATO within its immediate post–Cold War borders and offered bilateral or informal security commitments to Eastern Europe7 ; crafted a new security system, as many Soviet and some Western European leaders desired (Sarotte 2009); or pulled up the ramparts and withdrawn from the continent (Gholz et al. 1997, 17–18). Freed of great power constraints, the United States could have embraced any of these options or oscillated between them. That it did not and instead chose to consistently expand its presence on the European continent via NATO suggests a full explanation lies elsewhere. Related to the preceding—second—that the United States has continued its embrace of NATO enlargement even as evidence mounts that the unipolar era is over. Declarations of and policy responses to a ‘new era of great power competition’ suggest the trend: if (an)other great powers are around, then unipolarity is by definition a thing of the past (Shifrinson 2020a). For sure, analysts may disagree as to when other great powers arrived on the international scene (e.g., Posen 2009; Tunsjo 2018); others argue that something like unipolarity may re-emerge if today’s rising states peter out (e.g., Beckley and Brands 2021). Regardless, it is striking that concerns with unipolarity’s current demise over the last 10–15 years or so has coincided with continued—and perhaps growing, if the Biden administration’s stance is to be believed—enthusiasm for NATO enlargement. Although this would not be the first instance of a state failing to update its strategic precepts as external conditions change (e.g., Trubowitz et al. 1996), it again underlines that unipolarity cannot provide a single explanation for the NATO enlargement consensus.

7 NATO’s Partnership for Peace—developed early in the Clinton administration as a way of engaging Eastern European states without formally enlarging NATO—might have offered a mechanism for such commitments. See Art (1998), 400n32; Walker (2019a, b).

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Expansion as Power Maximization NATO expansion is sometimes presented as an exercise in US power maximization. According to this argument, unipolarity did not fix US interest in NATO expansion. Instead, it took a particular desire to reify US advantages within a unipolar world to foster the enlargement consensus (Posen 2014, xi, 164–165; Walt 2009, 100; Layne 2006, 111– 112; Wohlforth 2016, 248–249; Mearsheimer 2014, 78–80). By this logic, a consensus favoring NATO enlargement emerged and solidified as part of what other analysts call a grand strategy of ‘primacy’—reinforcing and sustaining the United States’ post–Cold War dominance by preventing the emergence of other great powers (Posen 2007). NATO was useful in this task as both a platform for sustaining US power projection into Europe via an institution dominated by the United States, and as a venue for expanding US reach on the continent. In particular, an expanded NATO helped deprive potential Western European competitors of oxygen in crafting an alternative security system to NATO that might undercut US influence, and limited Russian opportunities for reconstituting the former Soviet empire (Shifrinson 2020b; Sayle 2019, chap. 10). Ultimately, the more US policymakers fixed on sustaining US dominance, the more valuable NATO and its enlargement became.8 As with the unipolar argument, there is evidence to support this explanation. For one thing, US policymakers often spoke in terms consistent with a basic power maximization story. As early as 1990, for instance, members of the US State Department underscored that NATO could help ‘organize’ Eastern Europe in ways conducive to US interests (Shifrinson 2016, 37), just as other government officials underlined throughout 1991–1992 that enlargement was needed to keep NATO relevant in the face of European integration efforts (Vesser 1992; also Art 1996, 9–27). Likewise, US strategists beginning in the mid-1990s discussed enlargement as a way of spreading democracy and free-market economics deemed valuable to US influence while hedging against a Russian attempt to reassert control over Eastern Europe (Reiter 2001, esp. 41–56; Lake

8 This dynamic may have created a related problem. Having decided to suppress alternatives, the United States exposed itself to a form of entrapment whereby hints that states were considering security structures besides NATO could spur enlargement; in effect, the United States reduced its control over events.

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2004, 27–28). By the mid-2000s, this view had morphed into an argument that NATO enlargement abetted power projection even beyond Europe—a key task to achieve primacy—by providing the United States an operational springboard from which to go abroad, and allowing the United States to mobilize allied will and capabilities in service of this task (e.g., Brzezinski 2003, 15–16, 30). Meanwhile, US policymakers starting in the 2010s framed enlargement as a way of countering a Russian challenge to Europe’s post–Cold War borders (Bandow 2014; Clinton 2010); notably, this last point might account for why interest in enlargement continued even as unipolarity has waned. Additional evidence comes from the manner in which enlargement occurred. In pushing NATO expansion, US strategists not only increased the United States’ reach in Europe, but further tried to use the process to undercut prospective challengers. The firmest evidence for this comes from the interaction between NATO and various alternative security structures. The initial US decision to explore NATO enlargement soon after the Cold War only emerged as US officials felt pressured to block (1) Soviet/Russian initiatives to transform the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) into a security institution competing with NATO, and (2) Western European efforts to craft a security system based on the European Union (Shifrinson 2020b; Sayle 2019, chap. 10). Before these respective initiatives seemed to challenge US power and influence on the continent, enlargement had garnered limited US interest. Once they emerged, however, US officials quickly moved to ensure that NATO filled the security vacuum in Eastern Europe. Continuing these efforts, later US officials then leveraged NATO’s post–Cold War preeminence to hinder alternative security structures from gaining traction. Thus, faced in the late 1990s with an EU demand that an enlarged NATO make room for European security integration, US policymakers agreed only on the condition that there be no ‘decoupling’ of European security initiatives from NATO, no ‘duplicating’ of existing NATO strengths, and no ‘discriminating’ against non-EU members (Hunter 2002, chap. 6; Burns 2003, 54–56). Not coincidentally, a major subset of US policymakers then saw a virtue in NATO allies’ growing dependence on US military power, complementarity to US forces, and inability to independently conduct high-end military operations (Van Hooft, this volume). This approach thus protected NATO prerogatives and US oversight over European security affairs. Confronted, too, with Russian opposition to NATO expansion and claims that the

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United States used its influence without regard for Russian interests, the United States responded by agreeing to consult with Russian officials but expressly refused to halt enlargement (Hill 2018, 114–137, 168–169). Although these steps do not provide dispositive evidence that the enlargement consensus resulted from a US emphasis on power maximization, they suggest a strong linkage. A final piece of circumstantial evidence comes from the fact that NATO enlargement correlated with the solidification of a post–Cold War strategic approach favoring some form of US dominance in Europe. Whether in the form of liberal hegemony, militant primacy, or deep engagement, one of the striking features of post–Cold War US grand strategy is the presence of a bipartisan coalition embracing an expansive US footprint in international affairs overall and in Europe in particular (Porter 2018). To be sure, not all of these approaches operate in the same manner. Nevertheless, post-Cold War US policymakers as a group focused on sustaining the United States’ strategic preeminence. It follows, therefore, that support for NATO enlargement—as the premier tool of US power projection into what was long the wealthiest and most militarily potent area of the world—may have fit neatly into such an agenda. Still, like unipolarity, power maximization does not offer a complete explanation for the NATO enlargement consensus. If power maximization were the major driver, one would expect the enlargement consensus to also dictate an end to expansion when (1) the costs to US power exceeded the benefits, or (2) when there was little more to be gained in denying Russia and/or the EU opportunities to expand. By this logic, one might be able to explain NATO’s incorporation of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Romania as a way of keeping states offering some strategic value out of others’ orbits, but explaining NATO enlargement to Southeastern Europe or the Baltic states—let alone the firm stance taken in 2021–2022 on preserving the possibility of Ukrainian membership— is significantly harder. These states do little to affect the distribution of power, the viability of competing international institutions, or others’ ability to project influence; several increase the risks of the United States having to fight a major regional conflict with a nuclear opponent under sub-optimal conditions (Shifrinson 2017a, 112– 113; Hunzeker and Lanoszka 2015/2016, 17–26; Shlapak and Johnson 2016). Therefore, although some degree of power maximization may have been at play in fostering support for enlargement—particularly early

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on—the argument has difficulty explaining the continued support for enlargement to militarily and strategically ineffectual actors. Expansion as Leadership via Prestige and Credibility A third argument might treat the enlargement consensus as a result of US prestige and credibility concerns rooted in the desire to demonstrate leadership after the Cold War (Butt 2019; Rovner 2020). Per this approach, enlargement showcased US purpose—it functioned as a litmus test of the United States’ intentions, signaled that it would remain engaged in Europe, and underscored that US policymakers recognized the United States’ role as the victor in the Cold War and world’s only superpower. Moreover, with the alliance moving into Eastern Europe largely at the United States’ behest, NATO expansion could not be stopped without raising questions regarding the US commitment to Europe (and potentially beyond). To back down from further expansion would raise questions over the United States’ intentions and its political resolve in engaging Europe, and call into doubt whatever commitments it still sought to maintain. In this sense, the enlargement consensus could reflect the internalization of a strategic argument treating expansion as the premier test of US will and purpose in European security affairs (Lieber 2012). As with unipolarity and power maximization, there is something to the logic of credibility, prestige, and leadership as drivers of the enlargement consensus. It is certainly true that US policymakers in the early 1990s viewed enlargement as a way of counteracting perceived drift in US grand strategy (Chollet and Goldgeier 2008). Bush and his team, for instance, regularly emphasized to domestic and foreign audiences that the United States was wedded to post–Cold War engagement via NATO (Engel 2017, 280, 305, 350–355; Schake 1998, 379–407). Similarly, work by James Goldgeier, Ronald Asmus, and others highlights that many enlargement proponents on Clinton’s team treated expansion as a way of underscoring the United States’ resolve in structuring post–Cold War European security affairs. Moreover, both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations highlighted that NATO represented what Bush termed the United States’ commitment to ‘a close and permanent partnership with the nations of Europe,’ within which the United States supported ‘the enlargement of NATO’ because it equally embraced ‘a more united Europe’ (New York Times 2002; White House 2016).

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The argument also garners circumstantial support from the deliberations over expansion to include Georgia and Ukraine. When broached in the late 2000s, including Georgia and Ukraine in NATO was opposed by many of the United States’ European allies, fearful that doing so would antagonize Russia (Myers 2008). Despite this, the United States pushed for a pledge that these states would eventually become NATO members (Rice 2011, 670–675). Concerns with NATO’s credibility and influence were at least a partial driver of this effort. As Bush recalled in his memoirs, ‘The threat from Russia strengthened the case for extending [membership plans] to Georgia and Ukraine. Russia would be less likely to engage in aggression if these countries were on a path into NATO’ (Bush 2010, 431). Nor was Bush alone with this concern. After 2008, for instance, many think tanks and policy analysts emphasized the desirability of keeping Georgian and Ukrainian membership a possibility less NATO and US credibility suffer (Japaridze 2014; Daalder and Goldgeier 2008; Tobey 2014; Wilson and Kramer 2018). Likewise, one detects similar worries with a loss of U.S. influence in the events around the RussiaUkraine War, encapsulated by repeated pronouncements from the Biden administration that the United States would not give up on NATO’s open door principle less Russia be given the right to influence others’ alliance choices (e.g., State Department 2022c, d). That said, prestige and credibility factors born of leadership concerns face important limitations. If prestige and credibility drove the enlargement consensus, then one would expect policymakers to be mindful of the need not to expose NATO to failures that might undercut its credibility. As noted, however, the opposite often obtained. In particular, expanding to countries along Russia’s flank and promising future expansion to countries engaged in active disputes with Russia raised the likelihood of crises and confrontations—as Russian officials warned from the early 1990s (Wallander 1999, 159–162)—that could challenge NATO’s willingness to act. That these countries have questionable strategic value, and that the United States embraced political expansion without the concomitant military capabilities to defend these areas (Vershbow 2019, 435), reinforced the problem by undercutting the security foundation on which the United States’ commitment to NATO rests. In short, if credibility and prestige dynamics formed and maintained the enlargement consensus, one would expect a reciprocal focus on avoiding situations that might hazard NATO’s credibility and prestige; that this has not occurred poses problems for the thesis.

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Enlargement as Socialization Fourth, one might explain enlargement by reference to the attitudes, ideas, and experiences—in effect, the socialization—of US elites.9 Though analysts do not quite make the point, this approach would propose that NATO had existed for over four decades before enlargement began, surviving the twists of the Cold War and proving effective in organizing Western Europe against the Soviet bloc. In that time, a narrative grew up around the alliance in many US circles: the world wars ostensibly showed that Europe absent the United States was prone to self-destruct with exceptionally dangerous geopolitical consequences, whereas Europe with the United States—via NATO—could be kept peaceful and cooperative (Engel 2013). This background left US policymakers enjoying wide familiarity with and enthusiasm for the organization, making NATO a natural focus of attention as the United States sought to chart a course after the Cold War. Furthermore, because such policymakers were in a position to influence the careers and expectations of subsequent generations of officials, Cold War–era support for NATO had a natural pathway for ensuring support for NATO after the Cold War. In essence, policymaker familiarity with and support for NATO during the Cold War generated impetus to keep NATO around after 1991, while also fostering conditions encouraging subsequent officials to share similar ideas. Socialization played some role in crafting the enlargement consensus. Many of the key policymakers pushing NATO enlargement, such as James Baker, Madeleine Albright, and Tony Lake were dedicated transAtlanticists, committed to the idea that US engagement in Europe was intrinsically valuable (Hamilton 2019a, b, c). After the Cold War, such officials fixed on preserving the alliance, and quickly determined that NATO enlargement would simultaneously give the organization a lease on life and allow it to pacify the areas of Europe newly liberated from Soviet influence as it had the rest of the continent (Goldgeier 1999a, 1999b; Sayle 2019; Zelikow and Rice 2019, chap. 5; Lake 2004, 27–28). Furthermore, the reasons often given for this behavior—that NATO had proven its mettle during the Cold War—reflected less a careful analysis than argument via analogy (Khong 1992) that what had succeeded in times past would work in the future; at root, there is little evidence that

9 For a related argument, see Porter (2018).

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policymakers systematically assessed NATO’s ability to address the problems and opportunities present in the post-Cold War world (Goldgeier 1999a, 1999b) as one expects from careful strategic planning. Anecdotal evidence further implies that once NATO enlargement began, incentives for officials to embrace the approach quickly emerged. Skeptics of enlargement, for example, were reportedly isolated, and—as one participant in policy deliberations put it—support for enlargement became a ‘litmus test’ in which one was either ‘with us, or against us’ (Kay 2020). Under such circumstances, individuals seeking to continue rising in their profession were incentivized to embrace the alliance’s expansion. Combined, NATO survival and enlargement became a lodestone in post–Cold War foreign policy circles. That said, socialization does a better job explaining enthusiasm for enlargement than explaining the enlargement consensus itself. Even if policymakers favored enlargement because (1) Cold War experience left them interested in preserving NATO and (2) expansion was the key to continued career advancement, expanding NATO still required that policymakers have the opportunity to enlarge the alliance without risking US interests. Policymakers, after all, tend to be experts in balancing tradeoffs, and to enlarge NATO when doing so risked harming US interests—as might occur by antagonizing Russia or roiling European politics—would put the cart before the horse. Under such conditions, careers could be endangered and new approaches to European security affairs required. At root, even policymakers socialized to believe in NATO and to see enlargement as a way forward first needed an opportunity to expand the alliance at limited cost or risk to the United States, and this opportunity (as noted earlier) was most directly a byproduct of the United States’ post–Cold War unipolarity. The drawbacks of socialization as an account are therefore the inverse of those of the unipolarity explanation. Although accounting for why US official fixed on NATO after the Cold War, socialization ignores the geopolitical conditions needed for enlargement to appear viable. Enlargement as Domestic Politics A final argument might emphasize the domestic utility of NATO enlargement in generating popular support for continued US internationalism (broadly defined). Here, US policymakers eager to assert the United

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States’ role in world affairs needed to justify this mission to the American people. Popular support for doing so, however, was not foreordained. Tellingly, the United States had to be dragged into both world wars as the US public was slow to embrace foreign engagement (Thompson 2015), just as US policymakers regularly faced public pressure to reduce or limit foreign commitments (Williams 1985). With the Soviet threat eliminated, it was reasonable for US policymakers to worry that similar pressure for disengagement could resurface. Sustained NATO enlargement, on the other hand, might help overcome this possibility. By taking on new commitments in Eastern Europe, presenting the alliance as a democracyand-liberalism promotion device, and downplaying the military and security obligations involved, policymakers might be able to mobilize public and political opinion for continued foreign activism.10 Moreover, the effort could yield a second-order benefit as, having linked NATO expansion with continued US internationalism, policymakers would be able to label proponents of alternative foreign agendas as ‘isolationists’ and so link them with one ostensible source of World War Two. Consistent with this argument, policymakers after the Cold War were concerned with the task of ‘justify[ing] national security expenditures and build[ing] support for sustained US engagement overseas’ absent a Soviet threat (Eagleburger 1993). More directly, US strategists presented NATO and its post–Cold War enlargement as a lodestone of US internationalism (Sloan 1995, 217–231). Clinton’s early national security strategies were explicit on this point, arguing that the United States had an important role to play in seizing the ‘great promise’ of the post–Cold War world, presenting NATO as ‘central to that process,’ and arguing that enlargement would ‘expand stability, democracy, prosperity and security cooperation’ to make post–Cold War possibilities a reality (Clinton 1994a, b, c, i, 22; 1995, i–ii; Hunter 1999). This logic continued through the 2000s. For example, as two former members of the Clinton administration wrote early in the George W. Bush administration: For all the differences between the foreign policies of the Bush administration and the Clinton administration, policy toward NATO enlargement has been one area of significant continuity. The core of the Clinton strategy was to promote peace and stability on the European continent through the 10 Though the importance of the issue is often overstated, it might also allow them to court ethnic voters in key political districts. See Goldgeier (1999a, 1999b), 100–101.

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integration of the new Central and Eastern European democracies into a wider Euro-Atlantic community.… A revitalized NATO was an important tool for the maintenance of American engagement and leadership.… President Bush has largely picked up where Clinton left off’. (Steinberg and Gordon 2001)

And as President Obama put it during his final NATO summit in 2016, the United States retained an ‘unwavering commitment … to the security and defense of Europe, to our transatlantic relationship, to our commitment to our common defense’ even as ‘the door to NATO membership remains open’ (White House 2016). Also in line with a domestic mobilization argument, policymakers and pundits opposed to NATO enlargement have frequently been presented as acting contrary to US interests. The starkest example of this trend came in 2017 when Senator John McCain accused Senator Rand Paul of ‘working for Vladimir Putin’ when Paul objected to Montenegro’s admission to NATO (Everett and Hanna 2017). However, the phenomenon was also evident in the 1990s. As Jeremy Rosner—later charged with spearheading the Clinton administration’s campaign to mobilize public and congressional opinion in favor of the first round of enlargement—wrote at the time, ‘America’s allegedly isolationist mood’ was ‘the favorite scapegoat of frustrated internationalists’ seeking NATO expansion (Rosner 1996, 14). Indeed, then-Senator Joe Biden criticized the ‘strong strain of isolationism’ in US political discourse when arguing in favor of NATO expansion in 1997, just as Michael Mandelbaum concurrently noted the widespread claim ‘that if we fail to expand NATO as indicated, we will be guilty of isolationism’ (US Senate 1998, 55, 75).11

11 Domestic politics may have entered the calculation in a slightly different way following the 2016 election of Donald Trump. Trump was widely perceived to be overly interested in establishing a good relationship with Russia in general and Russian President Vladimir Putin in particular. Combined with accusations that Russia helped engineer Trump’s election in the first place, Democrats began charging Trump with selling out the United States’ European interests and, especially, allies to Moscow; this had the effect of encouraging Democrats to double-down on the importance of NATO and pre-Trump US policy toward Europe. Many Republicans, meanwhile, seemingly felt vulnerable to charges of being subservient or soft on Russia; seeking to differentiate themselves from Trump, they too began highlighting the value of the United States’ existing approach toward Europe. The net effect was sustained bipartisan support for NATO and the alliance’s continued growth despite—and perhaps because of—the Trump administration. Of course, this specific domestic political angle should not be taken too far: after all,

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Still, though the domestic political utility of NATO expansion should not be understated, it too is insufficient to explain the enlargement consensus. Like socialization, domestic arguments confront a chickenand-egg problem. Although enlargement was used to frame political debates over the United States’ role in the world, there is still a question about why such a role was seen as valuable and viable in the first place. Narratives and framing devices do not float freely; a policy approach expected to yield strategic disasters is unlikely to be embraced (or embraced for long). Domestic actors’ ability to use NATO enlargement to shape political debates thus related directly to the plausibility that enlargement would benefit the United States. Insofar as foreign policy is intended to chart a state’s course in a competitive international system, the capacity to sell this narrative therefore depended at least as much on strategic conditions such as unipolarity as on domestic factors. Put differently, political leaders certainly used NATO expansion for a domestic purpose, but it took a particular set of international conditions to make the link between US internationalism and enlargement a domestically palatable one in the first place. Integrating the Results In sum, none of the preceding explanations wholly accounts for why NATO enlargement gained a prominent perch in post–Cold War US foreign policy discussions and remained fixed despite changing international circumstances. Unipolarity can explain the opportunity for enlargement but not the specific form; power maximization can explain elements of the US approach but not its continuation; a desire for prestige and credibility might account for sustained US interest but not risky US behaviors; socialization might explain policymaker enthusiasm for NATO enlargement but not the opportunity to expand; and domestic politics help contextualize the enlargement debate and why policymakers saw enlargement as politically advantageous, but do not necessarily capture the

bipartisan support for NATO enlargement preceded the Trump years, just as the drive to separate from Trump’s policies was itself seemingly a response to other factors (e.g., public opinion, concerns with U.S. influence)—the choice did not emerge randomly, and may not have been purely political in nature. Still, future research should investigate whether and how the Trump administration’s particular features affected the domestic politics behind NATO enlargement.

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attractiveness or durability of the enlargement idea. What, then, accounts for the enlargement consensus? The enlargement consensus is ultimately best understood as a result of mutually reinforcing domestic and systemic factors. Independently, no one variable might have pushed the United States to embrace NATO enlargement and make it a focal point of post–Cold War US strategy. Together, however, the factors described above helped make the NATO enlargement consensus a nearly overdetermined feature of US foreign policy. Unipolarity provided the key necessary condition. Faced with few constraints on US power after the Cold War, US officials were free to pursue whatever foreign agenda they deemed appropriate and— crucially—to continue operating in this vein with a substantial margin for strategic error; unipolarity allowed US policy a wide range of choice for a long period of time. Against this backdrop, and with (1) supporters of NATO in key policy positions, (2) many US elites embracing the desirability of crafting a world in which the United States remained the preeminent power, and (3) policymakers seeking to mobilize the US public for international action after the Cold War, the stage was set to expand NATO as a way of reinforcing the United States’ position in Europe. In other words, NATO served as a useful vehicle for US ambitions while overcoming the domestic hurdles to this end. Once begun, enlargement then had no natural end point in Europe. With US credibility and prestige invested, US policymakers personally engaged in the enlargement project, and domestic critics of expansion at risk of being labeled isolationists, incentives and opportunities to rein in enlargement were limited. Moreover, the absence of a geopolitical rival ensured that what opposition to NATO expansion did emerge could be normalized and deflected; for example, pushback from Russia and Western European allies could be ignored as it never involved immediate risks to US power or security, nor (at least prior to the 2014 Ukraine crisis) rose to a level that would reveal an obvious failure of US policy. In short, the enlargement consensus emerged from a particular and potent blend of systemic and situational factors. No one factor created the NATO enlargement consensus, though unipolarity provided a key backstop. Collectively, however, there were few reasons not to turn to NATO enlargement, and many contextual—though contestable—reasons to embrace it. As Patrick Porter (2018) has observed in a different context, the enlargement consensus reflects a particular blend of US power and US purpose.

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Consequences of Enlargement Irrespective of its sources, the United States’ firm backing of enlargement carries a range of consequences so far as the United States’ European interests are concerned. Others in this volume highlight the particular consequences for relations with Russia, for the European members of NATO, and for the institution itself. So far as the United States is concerned, however, the consequences of enlargement constitute a mixed bag. Prospective Advantages of Enlargement First and foremost, US backing for enlargement has guaranteed the United States’ role as Europe’s preeminent power since the 1990s. This is a sea-change from Cold War bipolarity, as well as an outcome that one could not have automatically expected after the Cold War. Indeed, the 1990s saw a range of proposals for cutting the US presence in Europe, as well as European and Russian schemes for crafting alternative European security frameworks; it was not obvious that the United States would remain a European power or that it would enjoy a decadeslong period as the arbiter of European security (Huntington 1999, 45; Kupchan 1998; Layne 1993; Waltz 1993). That US leaders—individuals skilled in the assessment and exercise of power—feared that a Western European grouping might slowly winnow down US strength suggests the uncertainty of the United States’ post-Cold War dominance (Shifrinson 2020b). The United States’ quick backing for NATO enlargement and its sustained interest in this topic helped foreclose this possibility, reifying US power in Europe by suppressing alternatives that might challenge the US position. Of course, the benefits of this outcome may be overstated. Power in international relations is not an end in itself—it has to be translated into security and/or other outcomes (Baldwin 2012, 273–274). In light of the downsides identified below, it is possible that US security, economic, and ideological interests would have benefited as much if not more from a different distribution of power. Still, ensuring US dominance may have benefited the United States in a second way by clarifying the regional distribution of power and so minimizing debates over whether regional states would have opportunities to press their security advantages against other local actors. This, in turn, may have reduced whatever chance there

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was that Europe would return to the internecine geopolitical contests that prevailed in the 19th and early twentieth centuries, and witness Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and/or others (e.g., a more cohesive European Union) jockeying for position.12 With the United States as Europe’s dominant power and exercising oversight over regional security, the chance of conflict and competition among Europe’s major powers may have waned.13 Although the necessity of American engagement for the maintenance of European peace may be overstated, clarifying the European distribution of power via NATO enlargement may thereby have still contributed to the United States’ interest in preventing major geopolitical contests on the continent (Art 1999, 89–92). Related to the preceding, enlargement may have reduced the risk of nuclear proliferation in post–Cold War Europe. Again, whether this is intrinsically an advantage for the United States depends on one’s views of the utility of nuclear weapons in stabilizing or undermining international security; certainly, many analysts argue that nuclear proliferation limits US freedom of action and increases the probability that nuclear weapons fall into the hands of hostile actors (Gavin 2015). And here, rumors abounded after the Cold War that states not yet in NATO— and even some (e.g., Germany) that were—might pursue independent nuclear programs to obtain security (Sharp 1993, 29–33). By enlarging the alliance and extending the US nuclear umbrella, the United States reduced the incentive for states to invest in such efforts and so improved US security on the nonproliferation front. Finally, enlargement may have helped the United States structure European security affairs in ways that promoted other US interests—for example, the spread of democracy and the growth of free markets. The consequences here should also not be overstated. By the Cold War’s end, democracy and free markets already enjoyed widespread appeal in much of Europe, as highlighted by the policies adopted by Eastern European states following the 1989 revolutions; US backing for NATO enlargement did not cause these phenomena (Gunitsky 2017, chap. 5). Still,

12 On miscalculation of the distribution of power as a source of conflict, see Blainey (1988). For nuanced discussion of the situation in Europe, see Glaser (2010), 213–216. 13 This comes on top of ideational, normative, and institutional factors that many scholars argue independently reduce the risk of European competition and conflict. See Mueller (1989), Risse-Kappen (1996).

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US support for NATO’s expansion may have reinforced the international antecedents that allowed these trends to continue. For example, in spurring NATO’s move into former members of the Warsaw Pact, the United States helped craft an Eastern European security framework that limited external pressures (e.g., local security dilemmas) that might have undercut liberalizing reforms. Although NATO enlargement appears to have been neither necessary nor sufficient for democratic and freemarket growth after the Cold War, it may have thus worked at the margins to promote non-security US interests and made it easier for the United States to project political influence on the continent (Brooks and Wohlforth 2016, 115–118, 171–184). Prospective Disadvantages On the other hand, NATO enlargement may expose the United States to a variety of security ills while limiting its ability to respond to these dilemmas. First, ongoing expansion requires the United States to defend several Eastern European states of questionable strategic value, up to and including the use of nuclear weapons. Even if some of the members to which NATO has expanded are useful for denying prospective rivals room to prove their mettle (e.g., the European Union) or to expand their geographic reach (e.g., Russia), many of the member states to which the United States offered security guarantees via NATO are of minimal long-term importance. Loss of the Baltic states to Russia, for instance, would do little to shift Europe’s strategic map, while none of NATO’s new Southeastern European members are of use in either reinforcing US power or denying power to others (Shifrinson 2017a, 111). Having taken on the commitment, the United States—as NATO’s principal military backer—is now stuck having to try to defend these actors. As the Russia-Ukraine War and the prospect of further Russian aggrandizement has thrown into stark relief, this is no easy task (Biden 2022). The Baltics present an especially problematic situation, particularly for conventional defense (Lucas 2022; Posen 2020; Reuters 2014).14 Local geography is unfavorable, the distances involved make reinforcement 14 Likely Swedish and Finnish membership in NATO may mitigate some of the problems associated with a conventional defense of the Baltics, though is unlikely to resolve all issues. For that matter, Finland—despite its impressive indigenous capabilities—may present another difficult military challenge for the alliance.

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difficult, and the proximity to local prospective threats—in this case, Russia—means it is nearly impossible to obtain favorable force ratios. Nevertheless, the United States and other NATO members have tried to engage the problem, committing growing assets along the way (Kuhn 2018; O’Hanlon and Skaluba 2019; Lanoszka and Hunzeker 2019). The alliance is therefore playing a fraught game. The United States and its partners can certainly try to develop military tools to meet NATO’s expanded commitments, but doing so is expensive, may exacerbate tensions with Russia, stands a real chance of failure, and—insofar as allies are under the US security umbrella—risks the United States putting its own survival on the line by extending US nuclear guarantees in the face of a nuclear-armed opponent.15 In sum, US backing for enlargement has left the United States with a suppurating sore of a strategic commitment, putting it on the firing line in Eastern Europe. Relatedly, NATO enlargement limits US flexibility with Russia. Arguably the premier counterfactual in post–Cold War Europe concerns whether US relations with Russia would have turned so contentious absent NATO enlargement. It is certainly true—as the Marten and Lanoszka chapters in this volume highlight—that US-Russian friction was likely inevitable as Russian power recovered from its post–Cold War nadir. Still, the persistent warnings proffered by Russian analysts from the 1990s onward that NATO enlargement would be uniquely harmful to Russian leaders arguing for cooperation with the West suggests that the US push for expansion exacerbated, reinforced, and/or accelerated problems (Wallander 1999; Talbott 2019). By this logic, the enlargement consensus imposes an opportunity cost on Russian-US relations. Even if expansion was not uniquely responsible for the downturn, the continued emphasis on enlargement limits flexibility in dealing with Russia. hindering the United States’ ability to explore options such as retrenchment, spheres of influence, or buffer zones in Eastern Europe that might dampen bilateral tensions. The run-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 illustrates the trend, as the United States rejected out of hand Russian demands that it credibly commit to forgo enlargement to Ukraine as

15 To be sure, the US is free not to utilize nuclear weapons on behalf of a NATO ally amid a crisis. Still, given the questions this could raise over the United States’ future credibility and the concern US leaders have historically shown over the United States’ willingness to reassure its partners, expansion increases the likelihood US leaders may feel obliged to escalate up to and including nuclear use for NATO’s new members.

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the price for forestalling a Russian invasion, reasoning that Russia could not be allowed a veto over enlargement decisions; even without arguing that NATO enlargement caused the Russian invasion, the United States’ refusal to even engage on the Russian demands implies that the enlargement consensus limits the U.S.-Russian relationship. Put differently, with enlargement enjoying substantial domestic support, linked to broader US power maximization, and taken as a sign of US leadership and credibility, policy options that might ameliorate tensions with Russia are screened out of the policy agenda. Along similar lines, the enlargement consensus exacerbates the intensity with which the United States reacts to challenges to the (now enlarged) alliance. This is partly a product of US efforts to keep NATO the lodestone of European security affairs, as well as of linking US leadership, prestige, and internationalism with NATO enlargement. Seeking, for instance, to assert US prerogatives and to be seen as opposing Russian pressure, US policymakers have led the charge to keep NATO’s door officially open for Georgia and Ukraine irrespective of the problems this poses for East–West relations (e.g., Congressional Research Service 2019, 15; Cirilli 2014; Myers 2008).16 Likewise, an expanded alliance helps transmit peripheral security problems into matters that mobilize US attention. The push to reinforce NATO’s Eastern Flank exemplifies the trend: absent an enlarged NATO, it is difficult to envision the US devoting time and resources to an area that is largely irrelevant to the European distribution of power. Similarly, US support for and investment in the Kosovo (1999) and Libya (2011) air campaigns seems to have been partly motivated by a desire to avoid questions about the US commitment to NATO and its efficacy outside of Cold War borders. For instance, one former US official remarked during the Kosovo campaign that failure to obtain NATO’s ends in Kosovo could reopen ‘the question of why American troops are still in Europe’ (Rodman 1999; also Cottey 2009). In the case of Libya, meanwhile, US policymakers eventually decided that the United States would take the lead in the bombing campaign despite having sought a European-led

16 Of course, it remains unclear if the US and/or other NATO members would expand to Ukraine, Georgia, or additional countries bordering Russia if conflict were ongoing. Nevertheless, the US has certainly stressed it is willing to consider continued expansion and, in any case, leaders in Russia, Ukraine, and beyond may believe we are serious about further enlargement. Thanks go to Robert Jervis for help on this point.

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effort—an action difficult to explain if not for concerns over NATO’s credibility (Goldberg 2016; Gates 2014, 520–522). Any one of these behaviors is not necessarily problematic. Nor are they unique to the NATO enlargement era; concerns with preserving a credible US commitment to NATO were a major feature of Cold War debates, for instance. Still, in an era without a hegemonic threat to European security to justify and motivate US foreign policy,17 concerns with sustaining US credibility loom larger and have motivated the United States to undertake a range of risky behaviors for unclear ends. The United States is reluctant to allow an enlarged NATO to be viewed as a failure for fear of the blowback on the post–Cold War organization. This outcome is again hard to explain without a post–Cold War policy consensus mandating that NATO remain a potent force in European security with options for the future. After all, with the United States having sidestepped intra-NATO opposition on issues ranging from the Multilateral Force (MLF) to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty during the Cold War, one would expect it to settle or de-escalate at least some of NATO’s post– Cold War disputes as well. Instead, the United States has proven prone to using NATO to escalate confrontations rather than go over NATO’s head to defuse crises. Lastly, enlargement encourages allied cheap-riding. This is a byproduct of both structure and strategy. Structurally, alliances tend to experience greater cheap-riding the larger they become, and the lower the external threat.18 Having pushed for NATO enlargement after the Cold War, the United States confronts both conditions. Given that the alliance now has 30 (and potentially 32–34) rather than 16 members, many of its relatively small states can expect others to pick up the security slack. As

17 Critics might argue that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlights that Europe indeed

faces a hegemonic threat. That argument is wrong. As the Russia-Ukraine War demonstrates, Russia lacks the capability to even conquer even moderately capable neighbors and, in any case, faces strong counterbalancing pressures from other regional actors. It may be aggressive, but it is in no place to bid for European hegemony. 18 The canonical statement of the first point is Olson and Zeckhauser 1966. The second point needs elaboration. Alliances tend to wax and wane as states pool resources in response to threats. This is costly and risky domestically—requiring resource mobilization—and internationally—as states rely on one another for their security. For alliances facing limited threats, it is reasonable to expect states to buckpass and underinvest in military forces as much as possible, hoping that their allies will instead bear the burdens of confronting what threats there are.

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importantly, because NATO continues in the absence of a clear threat, its eastward move undercuts the incentive that otherwise capable states such as Britain, France, and Germany have to contribute effective forces; with the better part of a continent between them and Russia, the rationale for assisting against the Russian military threat is low. Likewise, calls for the allies to develop expeditionary forces for NATO out-of-area operations are of questionable attraction owing to the limited military challenge emanating from overseas humanitarian or civil-war contingencies. The United States’ approach to enlargement has reinforced these structural incentives. As noted, the United States pushed for NATO enlargement partly to deflect an EU-based alternative to the United States’ post–Cold War preeminence. In doing so, US policymakers struck an implied deal with the European allies: Western Europe would rely upon NATO (and thus the United States) for European security, and the United States would tolerate a degree of European cheap-riding. This logic, for instance, was central to early post–Cold War efforts to ensure that the EU focused on out-of-area operations while leaving European defense to NATO’s purview (Van Hooft, this volume). Later, this approach was implicit in the US effort to ensure that EU-based security forces neither duplicated nor distracted from NATO functions. If EU members were not to craft an autonomous security apparatus, then reliance on NATO and the structural cheap-riding noted above were the logical corollary. Regardless of its sources, cheap-riding has reached problematic levels. The once-vaunted German military, for instance, looks to be ineffectual and unable to deploy meaningful forces beyond—and perhaps within— its borders (Karnitschnig 2019; BBC News 2018). Moreover, although an announced increase in defense spending in response to the RussiaUkraine War may help the situation, it remains unclear whether defense spending will actually rise in real terms, just as plans announced so far look unlikely to rectify the training, equipment, and logistics gaps that undergird German problems (Guardian 2022; Hille and Werkhäuser 2022; Martuscelli 2022). Similarly, even allies such as Britain, France, and Italy that have invested in some degree of power projection lack assets relevant to the modern battlefield. Tellingly, the United States was compelled to resupply several NATO members with modern munitions during the Libya campaign when allied stocks gave out (DeYoung and Jaffe 2011; Shanker and Schmitt 2011). Meanwhile, European logistics and mobilization rates have atrophied, so much so that it might take several

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weeks or more for the non-US members of NATO to assemble and begin moving forces to address contingencies on NATO’s flank (Kuhn 2018, 28; Shurkin 2017). Collectively, the European allies seem to have embraced cheap-riding to a degree unforeseen by US policymakers, resulting in prominent efforts by the Obama and Trump administrations to push the European allies to reverse course (Birnbaum 2011; Davis 2018). For sure, the Russia-Ukraine War may help reverse this trend by encouraging a rise in European defense spending and defense efforts (e.g., Machi 2022); still, and particularly in light of Russia’s revealed military limits, it remains to be seen whether increased defense spending will be sustained or result in real capability gains. At least for now, the United States remains exposed as the military buck-catcher within the alliance, increasing the burdens that the United States would face in wartime and requiring the United States to work harder if NATO is to matter for deterrence and reassurance in peacetime. Second Order Effects Finally, these dynamics may carry second-order consequences, with enlargement and the accompanying policy consensus making it more difficult for the United States to manage the alliance than might otherwise be the case. During the Cold War, transatlantic relations were complicated by a series of crises over burden sharing, military strategy, and relations with the Soviet Union. At such times, US policymakers were compelled to negotiate with their Canadian and European counterparts, resulting in compromises (e.g., over German rearmament in the 1950s and the Dual Track decision in the 1970s) that shaped the alliance’s course. With NATO’s growth to a projected 32 members and still further expansion possible, however, this process is now substantially more complex. Because NATO operates via consensus, the United States now faces pressures from a broader set of partners, each of which must be brought on board and engaged if the United States is to keep NATO operating in desired form. This situation is further exacerbated as the greater geographic sprawl of the organization leaves member states with varying interests and threat perceptions. Despite several years of negotiations, for example, the United States faced substantial difficulties obtaining buyin from all NATO members on whether and how to buttress NATO’s eastern flank prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine (Keil and Arts 2018; Dempsey 2017; Deni 2016; Belkin 2016, 2–3, 12). Similarly, public

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cajoling, threats of abandonment, and private negotiations have failed to convince all NATO members of the need to strengthen their conventional military capabilities (Burns and Lute 2019, 3–4; Schuessler and Shifrinson 2020). Friction is inherent in any alliance. Still, NATO enlargement has likely exacerbated the management difficulties faced by the United States.

Conclusion The preceding analysis carries implications for historiography, theory, and policy. For historiography, the work highlights that scholars need to move beyond trying to understand the drivers of NATO enlargement writ large, and directly grapple with the United States’ post–Cold War fixation on enlargement in particular. These issues are related but analytically distinct. The former bears on why the alliance first began moving eastward, whereas the latter engages the underlying drivers of US policy across the post–Cold War era. Doing so, moreover, calls for blending political science concepts and policy discussions with developments in historiographic treatments and access to new primary sources. The above assessment provides an initial synthesis aimed at engaging some of the core issues, but is certainly not intended to be the final word. For IR theory, meanwhile, this article reinforces the late Robert Jervis’s observation that the dynamics of US unipolarity should not necessarily be taken as the norm for any unipole. Again, unipolarity after the Cold War liberated the United States from the immediate pressure of great power competition. Sustained US backing for NATO enlargement, however, required that unipolarity be married to a particular theory of how the United States could obtain security for itself after the Cold War, backstopped by political and domestic factors that kept this theory in vogue. Scholars interested in examining the course and conduct of unipolarity as a systemic condition would therefore be wise to take the US experience in Europe with a grain of salt. Even if post–Cold War unipolarity made US expansionism more likely than not, repeated and regular NATO enlargement was not a necessary result. Instead, and like other foreign policy decisions, the United States’ enlargement consensus requires blending systemic conditions with domestic variables. That said, future research might fruitfully abstract from the US experience and consider the conditions under which unipoles act in manners similar to the United States and prioritize security structures developed under different systemic conditions. US unipolarity saw US elites embrace particular foreign policy

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behaviors, but the behaviors themselves may be more or less likely for some unipoles than others. As for policy, this project raises questions about the future of US engagement in Europe. On one level, showing that the United States’ backing for NATO enlargement has relied upon a set of interlocking domestic and international variables highlights that a course adjustment may be more difficult than proponents of alternate approaches for US grand strategy may expect. Critics of the United States’ existing grand strategy suggest that shifts in the international distribution of power and/or adjusting the ends sought by the United States in world politics may be sufficient to reorient US foreign policy (Posen 2014; Mearsheimer and Walt 2016). If, however, US interest in NATO enlargement stems from both domestic and international factors, then these arguments may not go far enough; it may take not only an end to US unipolarity or power-maximizing tendencies but also the creation of a domestic consensus and political establishment committed to a new course to fully move the United States back from continued NATO enlargement. Absent such a sea-change internationally, strategically, and domestically, continued NATO expansion is likely to generate extended debate. In other words, at a time when US power and purpose in the world are hotly debated, the preceding discussion raises the possibility that discord vis-à-vis NATO may be the new normal. At the same time, the above analysis should give both critics and proponents of enlargement pause in advocating for their respective positions. As highlighted earlier, it is too much to claim that enlargement has been wholly positive or wholly negative so far as US national security is concerned. Rather, enlargement yielded a mixed bag for the United States, helping it dominate Europe but also imposing large direct and indirect costs in the process. Before recommending either more enlargement or a new course, further research is needed on the range of merits and drawbacks of such moves and how these effects compare with the status quo. The NATO enlargement consensus may ultimately change, but policymakers would do well to avoid fixing on a new consensus too soon—judicious appraisal of the potential roads to be taken is needed.

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CHAPTER 5

Myths and Realities of Putinism and NATO Expansion Vladislav M. Zubok

The Russia–Ukraine war that dramatically escalated on February 24, 2022, with Putin’s decision to launch a full-scale invasion, changed the political, moral, and academic environment for the discussion about NATO’s role in Europe and the story of its post-1991 expansion to the East. In the chorus of indignation and condemnation of the Russian invasion, it became near-impossible to speak and write about the causes and consequences of the NATO expansion in a balanced, dispassionate way. Suddenly we have a war-driven consensus that NATO had nothing to do with the origins of the war in Eastern Europe. Everything, we are told, stems from Russia’s persistent aggressive aspirations and Vladimir Putin’s dangerous megalomania. Experts who have dedicated years to digging and piecing together evidence and threads of the complex international story of NATO enlargement, have to regain academic room to discuss this issue in the new situation. It is not simply politics of history, like

V. M. Zubok (B) London School of Economics, London, UK e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 J. Goldgeier and J. R. I. Shifrinson (eds.), Evaluating NATO Enlargement, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-23364-7_5

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ten or twenty years ago, that hobbles professional debate; now it is the necessities of war mobilisation. As NATO must stand firm and united against Russian depredations, any views on its past policies with regard to Eastern Europe and Russia, are formulated with an eye on the present (Sarotte 2021; Kyiv School of Economics). The author of this piece believes that complex historical causality of the developments that had taken place twenty-to-ten years ago should be made a victim of the current confrontation. To parse evidence from propaganda is necessary for having a solid starting point to reform European realities after the war is over. Two myths became intertwined in Putin’s mind by February 2022 which led to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The first involves Ukrainian ‘Nazis’ who allegedly seized power in Ukraine, with assistance from the West, and oppressed ‘Russians’ in Donbas. The other concerns US global hegemony, finding an eager collaborator in ‘Nazified’ Ukraine and using NATO as its main instrument against Russia. In his article published in July 2021, titled ‘On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians’, Vladimir Putin wrote: ‘Ukraine was dragged into a dangerous geopolitical game aimed at turning [it] into a barrier between Europe and Russia, a springboard against Russia’. For the Russian leader, the ‘Nazis’ of Ukraine and the geopolitical calculations of Washington and its Eastern European allies were two sides of the same coin. Russia had been continuously deceived, Putin argued, its influence in its very neighbourhood ignored. The only option was to use force (Putin 2021). Western leaders dismissed Putin’s narrative. When he repeated it on February 21, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, referred to the ‘absurd and mystical reasons’ offered by the Russian leader to support his invasion of Ukraine. His reasons were ‘without a shred of justification’ (Johnson 2022). For the Western elites, the cause of the war lies in the authoritarian and aggressive nature of the Russian regime, not its geopolitical grievances. Yet Russian myths are not just a bundle of lies and deceptions. A myth is a powerful synthesis of actual developments, just a biased one. Putin’s myths, like all myths, have grains of truth enveloped in wilful interpretations and self-fulfilling prophecies. NATO’s expansion in the East is at the core of this mythology. In his essay, Putin referred to this again and again. Perfidious Americans, he argued, promised in 1990–91 that NATO would move ‘not one inch’ to the East; they cheated the gullible Mikhail Gorbachev and his well-intended successor, Boris Yeltsin. Russia’s Foreign Minister,

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Sergey Lavrov, recently backed Putin’s claim, citing the memoirs of the then British Ambassador to Moscow, Rodric Braithwaite as evidence (Braithwaite 2022a). In his unpublished diaries, Braithwaite wrote on March 5, 1991, that John Major had reassured the Soviet Defence Marshal, Dmitry Yazov, that the Czechs, Hungarians, and Poles would not join NATO. In 1990–91, Western policy makers did indeed operate on a premise that NATO had no purpose in expanding to Eastern Europe, and that such a move would badly hurt long-term prospects for stability and security in Russia and Eastern Europe (Braithwaite 2022b). According to some Western commentators, the famous phrase that NATO would move ‘not one inch’ to the East never concerned Poland and other Eastern European countries, only East Germany that was to be incorporated into the West German state (Kramer 2009; Spohr 2021). Yet the evidence from Braithwaite and other Western veterans contradicts this view. The commitment to not expand NATO into Poland and further countries did exist briefly. The documentation obtained by Joshua Shifrinson in the British archives on the deliberations between three Western powers responsible for German settlement, shows it beyond doubt. Braithwaite, involved in those deliberations in the British government at the time, called this evidence ‘showstopping’ (Braithwaite 2022b). However, Western powers did not cheat Russia in the way Putin claims. Historian Mary Sarotte, in her well-sourced study of NATO expansion, shows that Western reservations against NATO expansion into Eastern Europe were designed to support Gorbachev politically. But US policy makers always left the door ajar for Eastern European countries, and the Russians always knew it (Sarotte 2021). After the Soviet collapse, the US intention to invite Eastern Europeans into NATO firmed up. In 1994–95, Bill Clinton, acting largely in response to domestic politics, such as the danger of losing elections to the Republicans, openly proclaimed, first tentatively and then assertively, the desire to incorporate Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary into NATO. Many understood at the time that this introduced an indefinite ‘open doors’ policy on the part of the United States and the Atlantic Alliance. A furious debate erupted in the US political community. In 1997, George F. Kennan, the author of the containment policy of the Soviet Union, wrote an eloquent essay against the expansion. He wrote that it would be ‘the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold war era’. When NATO inevitably reached Russia’s borders, he warned, there would be conflict. He turned out to

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be right (Hodgson 2022). The Russian leadership, especially the military command, had its own priorities up to the mid-1990s. They hoped to obtain from the Americans a consent that former members of the Warsaw Pact would remain in ‘a grey zone’ or ‘a neutral belt’ between NATO and Russia (Lough 2022). When NATO began to enlarge to the East, they were left without a plan B, and for a while just had to accommodate the Clinton Administration. Clinton and his people argued that NATO expansion was not a zero-sum game. It would allay historic security concerns for Eastern Europeans, doubly betrayed by Western democracies in the past century, but it would also address the security interests of Russia, the Soviet Union’s successor. Clinton’s entourage and many liberal theorists of international relations argued that NATO could not be a security threat to Russia: what kind of danger is it to have borders with peaceful democracies? When Putin began to act increasingly aggressively, the NATO expansionists began to argue that Kennan had been wrong. Putin’s behaviour had nothing to do with NATO, they said. And it was fortuitous that the bloc had taken advantage of Russia’s weakness to extend protection to Eastern Europe and the Baltic states (Lanoszka 2016). After Russia attacked Ukraine, Clinton revisited the debate in The Atlantic. He claimed that his administration ‘left the door open for Russia’s eventual membership in NATO, something I made clear to Yeltsin and later confirmed to his successor, Vladimir Putin’ (Clinton 2022). This is a surprising assertion from the former US President. In the available records there is no trace of such a ‘clear’ message. In fact, the US leadership and its allies were quite consistent about not inviting Russia into NATO. Yeltsin’s strategist, Gennady Burbulis, related a revealing episode to me. When Yeltsin had theSoviet Union dissolved in early December 1991, he immediately sent Burbulis to Brussels to meet with Manfred Wörner, the Secretary-General of NATO. Yeltsin’s envoy told him that Russian reformers ‘decisively consider a possibility of joining NATO as part of our primary mission to remove all conditions for confrontation’ in Europe and the world. Burbulis recalled that his words left Wörner ‘confused, if not shocked. He was silent for a couple of minutes and then looked into my eyes and said: “Mr State Secretary. Your confession is very unexpected for me. I think this is a very complicated task.” And almost without searching for arguments, he said: “You are such an enormous country. I cannot imagine under what configuration this may become reality”’ (Burbulis 2020; Zubok 2021).

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Yeltsin did not give up. After Washington announced plans to expand NATO, the Russian leader asked his American partners repeatedly that Russia be ‘the first’ to be admitted to the bloc. This wish, however, had no chance of being granted. And not only because of Russia’s size and its borders with China. Geography and decades of history helped to create powerful stereotypes of Russia in the rest of Europe. The rapid end of the Cold War, Gorbachev’s heady rhetoric about ‘a common European home’, and Yeltsin’s ban on the Communist Party in 1991 could hardly change those stereotypes. For the European elite, Russia was not a good fit for European securitystructures. Instead, Russia, whether in its Soviet or post-Soviet ‘democratic’ guises, remained stuck in the role of ‘the Other’, a role that limited and defined what ‘Europe’ was about (Neumann 2016). Yeltsin hoped he could change this pattern. He wanted to make ‘his’ Russia a member of the Concert of Europe. Yeltsin ended up disappointed and frustrated. The US hegemony, he began to suspect, was at the root of all this. Students of history know how Lord Ismay, NATO’s first Secretary-General, defined its triple mission: ‘To keep Americans in [Europe], Germans down, and Russians out’. The Americans had played an indispensable role in balancing the European powers. The US hegemony, however benign, made it impossible for a Russia, democratic or authoritarian, to have a voice in European security affairs. In contrast, it gave a powerful voice to Poland, the Baltic states, and other Eastern European actors that viewed Russia as a historic threat. 1993–94 was the crucial period when the two prongs of the US strategy in Eastern Europe: to give protection and historical justice to Eastern Europeans, formerly subjugated by ‘Soviet empire’ and build a long-term partnership with a post-communist and democratic Russia, began to unravel. The idea of the Partnership for Peace (PfP) was the Administration’s short-lived attempt to square the circle. Yet it was already clear that the US domestic politics strongly tilted towards Eastern Europeans versus Russia. Yeltsin made this task even more difficult by pushing for a special Russian status vis-à-vis NATO, a kind of special relations that equalised the US obligations to NATO members. This was Russia’s substitute for a membership in NATO that, as everyone in the Kremlin could see, NATO decided not to offer. Andrei Kozyrev, Russian foreign minister at that time, put it succinctly in his memoirs: ‘Warren Christopher [the US secretary of state] was horrified by the idea [of Russia’s special status]. He was haunted by the fear of being accused by

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the Eastern European states and their expatriate populations in America of caving in to Moscow’s pressure at their expense. Two ideas were in question: giving Russia special status as a privileged partner and, more important, the ability to constrain smaller countries’ membership in NTO even if they tried to join…’ (Kozyrev 2019). At the summit of Budapest in December 1994, Yeltsin castigated Clinton for presenting NATO as the only bedrock of European security, an institution that excluded Russia. The Russian warned of a ‘cold peace’. Sarotte writes that this episode caused a breakdown of trust, from which US-Russian cooperation never fully recovered (Sarotte 2021). A few days later, Yeltsin ordered his military ‘to restore order’ in the secessionist region of Chechnya, in the hope of strengthening Moscow’s authority. This move backfired horribly. Yeltsin’s use of force in Chechnya reinforced the stereotype that the ‘good Bear’ could quickly turn into a ‘bad Bear’. In its internal discussions, the Clinton Administration revived the discourse of containment of Russia, that seemed to be dropped in 1991. Still, Clinton and his friend and adviser Strobe Talbott continued to try to stitch together the torn tissue of their Eastern European foreign policy. In 1995 Talbott used colourful metaphors to describe the US strategy: ‘…To make sure that the rickety, oversized, cannon-laden Good Ship Russia, with its stinking bilge, its erratic, autocratic captain, and its semi-mutinous crew….has a clearly visible point on the horizon to steer by’ (Sarotte 2021). The problem with this strategy was that it gave Russia precious little ‘to steer by’. And the adversarial trend in Russian politics was already strong enough, although dramatic and generous political gestures from the West could have still turned it around. Kozyrev recalls that already in 1995 the Russian military and security agencies began redrafting their operation and long-term projections on the assumption that the United States and NATO were inherent threats (Kozyrev 2019). In May 1997, Clinton and Yeltsin signed a ‘Russia-NATO founding act’ that set up ‘the council’ where both could discuss issues. This stipulated: ‘NATO retains its full prerogatives. While Russia will work closely with NATO, it will not work within NATO. The Act makes clear that Russia has no veto over alliance decisions and NATO retains the right to act independently when it so chooses’ (NATO 1997). In essence, Russia remained outside with no say in NATO’s ‘open door’ policy. Yeltsin was already in terrible health, but he still sought to push back at the Americans whom he increasingly suspected of double-dealing. To the surprise of

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the American experts, the Russian president announced after the signing of the Act that it meant a non-use of Warsaw Pact infrastructure left in place by NATO forces. This was not stipulated, but it was not the first and the last case when the Russian leader’s wishful thinking led to an entirely distinct interpretation of the NATO expansion and its obligations (Sarotte 2021). The Russian leader refused to accept the image of the ship Russia steered by American partners. And the resolve of ‘the authoritarian captain’ of Russia was the main factor that still checked the adversarial trend: the Russian military did not see any safe harbour offered to them in Europe in a longer term, and continued to lapse back to the familiar unilateralist mode of security-building, along Soviet Cold War lines. In the spring of 1999, Yeltsin became enraged again, this time over NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia. The United States did this in spite of Russia’s protests and without a mandate from the UN Security Council. The start of the war overlapped with the announcement that NATO would give protection to three Eastern European countries. This was a watershed in Russia’s attitude towards NATO and the United States. Not only Russian political elites, but common people took the NATO operation not as an attempt to prevent ‘a genocide of Kosovo’, as the CNN and other Western media explained, but as a blatant imposition of American diktat on those who were outside the Western alliance, an assertion of US monopoly on the global use of force. Spontaneous anti-Americanism sprung up, to the surprise of those, who believed ‘Russians loved everything American’, from Coca-Cola to jeans. Even liberal-minded Russians decried the operation as ‘bulldozer style’ policy. Mikhail Gorbachev denounced the war over Kosovo. Foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov, en route to the United States for diplomatic talks, ordered his plane to return to Moscow, and this theatrical gesture made him the most popular politician of the day. As Sarotte writes correctly, for many in Moscow, a combination of NATO’s incorporation of Eastern Europe and its military attack in the Balkans exposed American promises of Russia’s inclusion into a new European security architecture as a deceit. Yeltsin’s critics said: ‘Belgrade today, Moscow tomorrow!’ The author of this text, who arrived in Moscow from Washington at the time of this explosion of emotions, cited in vain the humanitarian merits of the NATO actions (Shiraev and Zubok 2000). The Russian revolt against NATO was a product of many causes, above all from the disastrous transition to capitalism, associated with

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the IMF and American advice, and widespread perception that the post1991 ‘democracy” was a road to crime, appropriation of public wealth by a few, and disregard for the ruined Russian middle-class. From that moment on, the popular consensus was that NATO was an instrument of American power to weaken, contain, and humiliate Russia, not to be its partner. Those who later claimed that a failed Russian transition to democracy in 1993–99 had led Russia on the road towards an animosity and clash with NATO have valid points, but their causality is one-sided. The US’ muddled and insincere policies towards Russian political and military elite also should be held responsible. Washington, London, and Brussels sent muddled signals to the still relatively democratic, but traumatised Russian polity. The Western leaders offered the Kremlin to build mechanisms of partnership and consultations with NATO, while acting in a way that sent different messages, that gave credibility to Russian hardliners and nationalists. The Western politicians never stated publicly that they did not want Russia in NATO, and began to proceed quietly with their near-containment of Russian ambitions in Eastern Europe. Yeltsin understood that he was caught between his pro-Western course and domestic anti-American revolt. He pursued the pro-US foreign policy to a great extent as a personal diplomacy, very like the authoritarian Soviet leaders from Khrushchev to Gorbachev pursued détente. Suddenly, this course became incompatible with Russian politics, still democratic but increasingly illiberal. In more simple terms, Yeltsin feared that he would not win future presidential elections against popular Primakov. In his first conversation with Yeltsin, Clinton tried and failed to tame the Russian’s fury and the sense of betrayal. ‘There will not be such a great drive and such friendship that we had before’, Yeltsin said. ‘It is not known who will come after us’, he added ominously, probably meaning Primakov or some kind of Russian nationalists. He implored the US President to cancel the strikes against Yugoslavia ‘in the name of a future peace in Europe’, and predictably the US leader refused to do it. Yeltsin then reminded Clinton how much he, Yeltsin, tried ‘to turn around the heads’ of Russian people and politicians, to convince them that the communist Cold War stereotypes were wrong and Americans were the friends of Russia. Now, he said, the strikes on Yugoslavia meant the ruin of those huge political and propaganda efforts. If the US president did not see how dangerous was this road, then ‘there is in store for us a very difficult, difficult road…’. He abruptly ended the call (Clinton 1999). This seems to be a moment when Yeltsin changed his own narrative regarding

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the American hegemonic role in Europe. It was no longer beneficial for Russia’s national interests; it was harmful and potentially dangerous. At a meeting with Clinton in Istanbul, Yeltsin angrily told the US President: ‘The US is not Europe. Europe should be the business of Europeans’ (Sarotte 2021). Soon the Russian president, once the hope of Russian democracy, resigned. In his bitter farewell speech, Yeltsin said he had been naïve to assume that Russia could leap ‘in one tug from the totalitarian past into a bright, rich, civilised future’ (Yeltsin 1999). Russian historian Andrei Zorin argued that Yeltsin’s speech signalled the end to a foundational myth of Russian democracy: that the country could make a big leap from misery and the stasis of the Cold War into economic prosperity and inclusion in a new Europe (Zorin 2022). At the very least, Yeltsin admitted in his speech that this myth was far removed from the country’s reality. The mythology of Russian democratisation included another important element: that the West, specifically the United States, would guide a submissive, cooperative Russia towards this future. Instead, in 1998 Russia suffered a domestic default, and the US hegemony in Europe functioned in a way that was seen to ignore Russia’s security interests and play on its weakness. A competing myth, that Western promises of partnership were all one big deception and ‘the cold war never stopped’, began to gain currency (Shiraev and Zubok 2000). Vladimir Putin inherited this conclusion from Yeltsin, his predecessor, in 1999. Yet he did not protest. Rather, he decided to prepare well and challenge the US hegemony in Europe. In early March 2022, Putin took pains to dismiss Clinton’s statement that NATO was open to Russia joining. He commented that Yeltsin and himself had repeatedly asked the US leadership to accept Russia into NATO. Clinton allegedly fudged a response (Interfax 2022). The Russian President is well known for his capacity for deception. And he forgot to add that in 2000, when he made this offer, he had in mind ‘a special status’ of Russia in NATO, that would have clashed with the security interests of the smaller Eastern European countries, not to mention the Baltic states. Still there was little doubt that Clinton did not want to offer Russia any membership in NATO on any terms. Both sides prevaricated, and most probably Putin made this proposal only to confirm his conviction that the US was stringing Russia along. Putin’s fixation onUkraine was initially not determined by the NATO expansion. Yet the former gradually became a geopolitical background

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for the latter. Putin’s early career in the KGB did not give him any special exposure to Ukraine’s language, culture, and history. It is safe to say, though, that when Ukraine voted for independence in December 1991, Putin reacted like millions of other Russians: with a mixture of incredulity and emotional denial. The prospect of a ‘divorce’ between the two republics and the two peoples that had appeared inseparable happened too fast for the Russian mind to adjust. Gorbachev and his liberal advisers (among them, some Armenians and Ukrainians) just could not conceive of Ukraine as a separate state, with its own army and navy. Yeltsin and most leading Russian democrats from Moscow and St Petersburg thought that it was impudence for the Ukrainians to claim Crimea, freighted with memories of Russian imperial glory, to be theirs. A prominent Russian democrat, Anatoly Sobchak, became Putin’s boss in 1991 when the ex-KGB agent began his political career. The elected mayor of St Petersburg, Sobchak urged Russia to make territorial claims on Ukraine, and not only on Crimea. He believed the existence of an independent Ukraine had the potential to trigger a war between Ukraine and Russia, similar to the one unfolding between Serbia and Croatia. ‘There would be no civilised divorce’ between Russia and Ukraine, he prophesied. Sobchak also expressed early fears of involvement by the West, which might aim to try and separate Ukraine from Russia. In the autumn of 1991, while speaking to a British consul, he accused the West of courting Ukrainian separatism. The British official replied that the West had no option but to deal with practical realities. Sobchak snapped back: ‘It was the West’s policy of recognising realities that allowed Hitler to rise to power’ (Zubok 2021). Sobchak’s attitudes characterised Russian liberal nationalism that would become after 1994 one of the two main currents, along with hard-line neo-Soviet imperialism, vying for supremacy in the halls of power. Some say now that Putin acted against Ukraine because he had never reconciled himself to the Soviet collapse, which KGB officers experienced as an almighty trauma which they sought to avenge. When we look into what happened during the last 30 years, however, this explanation does not reflect the whole truth. If Putin was always guided by this kind of thinking, why did he not seize south-eastern Ukraine in 2014–15, when there were no Ukrainian forces to offer strong resistance? And why did Putin, if he were a ‘sleeper’ agent of Soviet imperialism, tolerate Ukraine’s leaders pre-2014?

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The answer to this enigma lies not only in Putin’s innate caution, but rather in his transformation from the KGB officer who did accept the finality of the Soviet collapse into a Russian imperialist, who began to view history and the world through new lenses. George F. Kennan famously drew (in his ‘long telegram’ of 1946) a difference between the world views of Hitler’s Nazism and of Stalin’s Soviet communism. The former operated on a tight ‘now or never’ deadline, reacting to a dilemma: to use an imagined window of opportunity to build a Lebensraum for the German race or perish in the global struggle. The Soviet view, Kennan argued, was based on the Marxist credo that history was on the side of the Soviet way of life, as the more progressive system compared to capitalism. Stalin was reasonably cautious because he could afford to wait. In 1991, the KGB colonel Putin acknowledged that Marx and Lenin were wrong, and he joined the ranks of those who made money and built Russian ‘wild’ capitalism by semi-legal and illegal means. During the 2000s, President Putin began to use a vastly different language. It was the language which his former boss Sobchak had used vis-a-vis Ukraine. And it reflected an outlook informed by Russian nationalism, not Soviet inspired revenge. Russian national-imperialists, such as the political demagogue Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the journalist Alexander Prokhanov and the philosopher Alexander Dugin, wrote that after the Soviet collapse a mortal battle would ensue between ‘the Russian world’ and global liberal capitalism led by the United States. They painted the world in black and white colours and put a special focus on the Russians who were separated from the Russian Federation in the aftermath of the breakdown of the Soviet empire and stranded in the Baltic States and Ukraine. It was about living space and racial survival, without any room for compromise and peaceful co-existence. In 1999, when NATO bombed Yugoslavia, Russian nationalists viewed that country as a battleground between Russia and NATO. After 2004’s ‘Orange Revolution’ in Kyiv, Ukraine was seen to be a new battleground, one much closer to the homeland (Laruelle 2008). For a while, Putin considered those views too radical. Bolstered by oil profits after 2000, he and his corrupt entourage, as well as the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church, wanted to play the role of a regional hegemony in Ukraine, in both financial and cultural spheres. A lack of clear strategy from the Western alliance regarding Ukraine abetted his ambitions. Western politicians and NGOs, especially in North America and the UK, stopped short of a clear pro-active policy of integrating Ukraine

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into NATO and the EU. Ukraine for them was too large, too poor, and too corrupt, and Putin was given enough leeway to act with impunity. From 2005 he moved to circumvent Ukraine by new Russia-controlled pipelines in the north, such as Nordstream-1 and then 2, and in the south via Turkey. Ukrainian officials accused Russia of imperialism and lobbied Washington and other European capitals to block the new pipelines. A compromise looked increasingly doubtful. A pragmatic reaction in Moscow would have been to boost Ukraine’s neutrality through peaceful means, yet the drift of Putin’s Russia towards authoritarianism and kleptocracy negated these possibilities. Ukrainians looked to the West for solutions, not Russia and its corrupt friends inside the Ukrainian elites. Putin began to look at Ukraine as a geopolitical challenge he could neither escape nor afford to lose. In 2008 the US strategy for unlimited enlargement of NATO in Europe clashed headlong with the Kremlin priorities. At the NATO meeting in Bucharest, President George W. Bush pushed for inclusion of Ukraine and Georgia into the organisation. When Germany and France categorically objected, a compromise was found to paper over the disagreements. NATO declared that those two former Soviet republics would be eventually members of NATO, while in reality agreeing to postpone this indefinitely as unrealistic and incompatible with security interests of crucial members of the alliance. This was the worst kind of signal to Moscow. Already in 2007, Putin funded the creation of ‘the Russian world’ (Russkiy Mir) foundation to reach out to Russians abroad. The primary target of this foundation was Russia’s ‘near abroad’, above all, Ukraine, where twelve million ethnic Russians lived and many more spoke Russian as their native language. The NATO declaration was a parade of good intentions that masked the absence of realistic strategy: it exposed Ukraine and Georgia to the Russian anger and insecurity, while not offering those countries any protection. The Maidan Revolution of 2013–14 was a game changer. Putin viewed Ukraine’s rush ‘to join Europe’ not as a legitimate search for a separate identity from Russia, but as a US geopolitical operation to expand NATO and its hegemony in Eastern Europe, all the way to Russia’s borders. After Putin annexed Crimea in March 2014, this made him a de facto leader of the nationalist ideology of ‘the Russian world’. The Ukrainian army attempted to liberate Donbas from the pro-Russian separatists. Putin provided lethal support to the latter. The lack of strong and unified Western sanctions convinced the Kremlin leader that Russia could win a

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geopolitical battle over Ukraine with the United States. At the same time, the growing efforts of the US and UK military and intelligence organisations to prepare the Ukrainian state and army for a future war with Russia worried Putin. He probably learned about NATO contingency plans to increase its military presence on Russian borders and regarded it as a selffulfilling scenario. He grew to believe that time was running out for his project to ensure Russia’s survival in a globalised world. If a compromise in Ukraine was unlikely on Russian terms, then the only choice for the Kremlin was between a decisive victory and a defeat of historic magnitude, on par with the Soviet collapse. He had to act decisively, or Russia would go down. In February 2022, this warped ‘logic’, borrowed from radical Russian nationalist thinking, made Putin attack. Myths are not figments of someone’s sick imagination. They are rooted in history and are products of passions and politics with regard to the past. Myths can also be the movers and shakers of history when they get instrumentalised and used to achieve specific policy goals. They are also not necessarily a feature of authoritarian regimes only. Illiberal democratic regimes can be no less, even more vulnerable to mythological, conspiratorial interpretations of complex, muddled, and contradictory international politics. And this is exactly what happened in Yeltsin’s post-communist Russia and was inherited and augmented in Putin’s Russia. The image of NATO made a vertiginous and rather quick circle: from the Soviet main foe in the Cold War to a well-meaning partner under late Gorbachev and early Yeltsin, and back to a main foe in late Yeltsin’s years and under Putin. It is easy to see it as the power of path dependency and return to ‘normal Russian paranoia’. Unfortunately, this is not so much path dependency that formed the new anti-US and anti-NATO consensus, but specific developments of the 1990s, among them NATO expansion. The causal constructions by Western commentariat state that Russia’s inherent xenophobia, imperialism, and failure of democratic transition made such an outcome inevitable. This is the claim that structures determined the outcome, irrespective of agencies and contingencies. Any historian would say that this is deterministic. Some Western observers, even after February 2022, recognise the role of agency and contingency in a backhanded way, when they wonder why Russia’s vast bureaucracies, and the majority of people did not recoil in horror when their leader launched his war. Unfortunately, historic investigations into the impact of NATO enlargement on the Russian elites have become side-lined by current security and geopolitical concerns in

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the West. Still, as this essay suggests, it would have been much better for Western leaders to acknowledge what happened in 1991–1999 and in Ukraine between 2004 and 2008 without prevarications. A candid effort to get the story of NATO expansion straight and why Ukraine was left exposed to Putin’s fury would not affect any policies and attitudes that Putin’s brutal attack generated. Nor it would lessen the support for Ukraine’s cause. But it would have settled the issue once and for all, and thus denied Putin’s machine of propaganda lies, as well as his sympathisers in the West, any real grounds for credibility.

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Laruelle, M. 2008. Russian Eurasianism: An Ideology of Empire. Johns Hopkins University. Lough, J. 2022. Information of John Lough, NATO Representative in Moscow, in 1995–98. London, 28 September. NATO. 1997. Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security Between NATO and the Russian Federation signed in Paris, France. May 27. https://www.nato.int/cps/su/natohq/official_texts_25468.htm. Neumann, I.B. 2016. Russia and the Idea of Europe: A Study in Identity and International Relations. Routledge. Putin, V. 2021. On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians. July 8. Available at http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/66181. Sarotte, M.E. 2021. Not One Inch: America, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Shiraev, E., and V. Zubok. 2000. Anti-Americanism in Russia: From Stalin to Putin. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Spohr, K. 2021. The “NATO Enlargement Question” in the Triangular BonnWashington-Moscow Diplomacy of 1990–1991. Journal of Cold War Studies 14 (4): 4–54. Yeltsin, B. 1999. Otctavka El.cina c pocta Ppezidenta PF (OPT, 31.12.1999). Streamed 31 December. YouTube video, 13:30. https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=woZJ3DgMQQA. Zubok, V.M. 2021. Collapse: The Fall of the Soviet Union. New Haven: Yale University Press. Zorin, A. 2022. “Suddenly, These Outdated Ideas Are Being Used to Justify Mass Murder” Why Russia’s War Against Ukraine Is the Logical Continuation of Russian State Ideology. Interview by Efimov, A. Translated by Breazeale, S. Meduza. https://meduza.io/en/feature/2022/04/04/sud denly-these-outdated-ideas-are-being-used-to-justify-mass-murder.

PART II

Great Power Relations James Goldgeier and Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson

How has enlargement shaped great power politics? When enlargement began in earnest during the 1990s, analysts fell into two camps. Critics warned that NATO’s eastward march would end in disaster by antagonizing Russia, embroiling the United States in superfluous conflicts, and generally setting post-Cold War international security up for crises and insecurity spirals. In contrast, proponents of the policy claimed that NATO’s eastward march could be carried out in such a way as to avoid setting major states on a collision course while helping to build a Europe—in President Clinton’s words—“whole, free, and at peace.” Decades later, how have these arguments fared? In their chapter, Rajan Menon and William Ruger are clear: as critics warned, NATO enlargement has indeed been a disaster for the United States. Not only did enlargement help set U.S.—Russian relations on a collision course, but the strategy encouraged allied cheap-riding and American strategic over-reach. Even more tragically, it wrought these problems during a period dominated by the United States’ unipolar era, meaning that it was otherwise in the United States’ purview to choose a different course. Ultimately, enlargement undermined both American and international security. Examining the impact of NATO enlargement on U.S.—Russian relations, Kimberly Marten reaches a different conclusion. Drawing on a range of Russian-language sources, Marten finds little evidence that NATO enlargement contributed to the progressive collapse of East–West

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relations over the last few decades, and certainly did not cause Russia to invade Ukraine in February 2022. The best that can be claimed is that NATO enlargement gave an expedient justification for a revisionist foreign policy that Moscow was likely to adopt anyway—an effect, to be sure, but not a direct or overly influential one. Worries that enlargement would sully relations with Russia have thus not been borne out in practice. Revisionism is similarly at the center of the chapter by Andrey Sushentsov and William Wohlforth. Contributing to both international relations theory and the history of NATO enlargement, Sushentsov and Wohlforth illustrate how enlargement was at the center of a “revisionists spiral” driven by competing U.S. and Russian visions for post-Cold War European security. In this rendering, both Washington and Moscow sought to remake European security to suit their respective interests, with the United States turning to NATO as its preferred vehicle and Moscow promoting a series of alternate approaches. That NATO enlargement proved successful while Moscow’s alternatives faltered reflected and reinforced the basic problem: neither the United States nor Russia were content with the post-Cold War status quo, setting the two up for an eventual collision. The results connect Marten’s finding with Ruger and Menon’s: NATO expansion did not cause the collapse of East–West relations but, given its centrality to the revisionists spiral, exacerbated and defined how the collapse would play out. Moving beyond Europe, Liselotte Odgaard turns the focus to NATO enlargement’s influence on relations between the United States, European states, and China. Her findings are striking. Beijing was initially ambivalent toward—and perhaps even loosely supportive of—NATO enlargement, viewing it as a distant development that had little bearing on Chinese interests. As, however, Chinese power grew in the post-Cold War period and NATO itself looked to play a more active role in Asia, China became increasingly concerned with how a still-growing NATO might challenge Beijing’s foreign policy objectives; that the United States sought to use an expanding NATO to compete with Beijing technologically and economically only added to the problem. The result was growing Chinese opposition to both NATO and NATO enlargement (and vice versa). Although she does not quite make the point, the results might actually offer some of the stronger evidence that critics of NATO enlargement were right to worry about its effects on great power relations—albeit, ironically, in a situation seldom considered when enlargement first began.

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Taken as a whole, the chapters in this section both support and challenge claims dating from the 1990s that enlargement would either irrevocably destroy great power relations or have a limited, and perhaps even salutary, effect. This mixed legacy is perhaps unsurprising; after all, predictions registered when enlargement first began were just that. Still, at a time when further enlargement remains under discussion in U.S. circles even as other major powers such as Russia and China challenge the policy, the findings only underscore the importance of putting great power relations at the heart of debates over NATO expansion. In the final analysis, the distribution of power today differs markedly from that during the start of NATO’s enlargement. It follows that great power politics— on their own and vis-à-vis NATO enlargement—are expected to function differently than in the recent past. Whether enlargement is a boon or drag on contemporary great power politics requires confronting these changes head on by looking to the past for insight while paying sustained attention to and evaluating current developments.

CHAPTER 6

NATO Enlargement and US Grand Strategy: A Net Assessment Rajan Menon and William Ruger

NATO’s purpose, from its founding under the 1949 Washington Treaty until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, can be summarized by recalling the quip widely attributed to its first secretary general, Lord Lionel Hastings Ismay: to ‘keep the Americans in, the Russians out, and the Germans down.’ By that standard, NATO has proved to be among the most successful alliances in history. It harnessed US power and kept it militarily engaged on the continent to defend Western Europe for over four decades. In the post-Cold War era, the alliance has enlarged dramatically and brought in former members of the Warsaw Pact. Yet with the implosion of the Soviet Union, it has faced an identity crisis and questions have been raised about its continued relevance. R. Menon (B) City University of New York, New York, NY, USA e-mail: [email protected] W. Ruger American Institute for Economic Research, Great Barrington, MA, USA e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 J. Goldgeier and J. R. I. Shifrinson (eds.), Evaluating NATO Enlargement, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-23364-7_6

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This chapter assesses NATO’s enlargement and its consequences for US post-Cold War grand strategy. It unfolds in eight segments. First, as a prelude to a discussion of enlargement, we consider the basic case for NATO’s continuing relevance after the Cold War. Second, we turn to NATO’s post-Cold War expansion and the debate surrounding it. Third, we consider the consequences of the alliance’s incorporation of states on Russia’s border. Fourth, we consider Russian reactions to NATO enlargement and its effects on US–Russian relations. The fifth segment considers a counterfactual: Could post-Soviet Europe’s stability have been ensured without NATO expansion, and if so, how? Sixth, we discuss the hazard of continued NATO enlargement, especially in regard to Ukraine and Georgia. Seventh, we explain why a more sober assessment of the threat posed by Russia helps place enlargement, past, present, and prospective, in context. We conclude with a discussion of the future of NATO and Europe in light of the Russia–Ukraine war and the accession of Finland and Sweden to the alliance.

The Case for a Post-Cold War NATO The preservation of the Atlantic alliance has been central to the US post-Cold War grand strategy of maintaining global primacy. NATO ensures that Europe’s resources—geographic, demographic, economic, and military—do not supplement the power of an adversary, present or prospective. As long as Europe remains militarily intertwined with the USA and dependent on the latter for its security, Washington will have great influence in Europe. Europe’s dependence on the USA for this elemental need will prevent it from becoming a rival center of power either collectively or because one state achieves dominance on the continent (Art 1996). NATO’s continued existence ensures that Europe remains a strategic subordinate to the USA, which explains why the USA, though it has complained often about inequitable burden sharing, has never demanded a dramatic increase in European military power, let alone a Europe with an autonomous defense policy. Reliable access to NATO countries’ ports, airfields, and intelligence enables the USA to project its military power worldwide, even for missions unrelated to Europe’s defense. NATO provides the veneer and sometimes the substance of multilateralism, which makes US military interventions and stability operations more palatable to other countries. By contributing to a stable, prosperous

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Europe, NATO also sustains a favorable environment for US trade and investments in what is a lucrative global market. The USA’s pursuit of global primacy rather than alternative, and more modest, grand strategies helps account for why NATO endured after the Cold War. Given the depth of support for NATO among powerful US constituencies and Europe’s reliance on it for security, the success of those who pushed for the alliance’s enlargement should not be surprising.

Unhindered NATO Expansion The proponents of NATO expansion had a significant advantage over the opponents at the outset, for at least three reasons. First, the alliance as a military and institutional enterprise did not need to be created de nouveau. In planning for their security, states, like individuals, prefer to build on the familiar rather than venturing into the unknown by building alternatives from scratch. Second, NATO had been demonstrably successful in protecting and ensuring the stability of its member states for almost half a century. Hence, the proposition that NATO could do for its new members—from Eastern and Central Europe, the Baltics, and the Balkans—what it had done for Western Europe seemed plausible. Countries that sought membership in post-Cold War NATO believed that joining the alliance was crucial to realizing their goals of integrating with the West and protecting themselves from Russia, with which many of them had a troubled history. Third, the balance of power after the Cold War overwhelmingly favored the USA. Russia’s economy and military were in shambles in the 1990s, and it therefore lacked the wherewithal to prevent enlargement. Those who insisted that NATO must not merely be preserved but expanded in membership and mission also believed that this could only happen with vigorous US leadership. The USA has far more resources to mobilize and deploy for defending Europe than do its allies collectively, let alone individually. NATO has always been a unipolar pact. Absent that, NATO could not have incorporated states in Eastern and Central Europe, the Baltic countries, and parts of the Balkans without increases in defense spending on a scale that the alliance’s European members would not have been willing to undertake. In particular, defending the Baltic states—small, weak countries that adjoin Russian territory—would have been impossible absent US military might or a change in the political culture and preferences of European states. Although the US military

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presence in Europe declined from a Cold War highpoint of more than 400,000 troops to just under 79,011 in 2019 (then increasing again in 2022), it remains essential barring the emergence of a robust common European defense system. But that would require a substantial increase in military spending and capabilities by European states (US Department of Defense 2019). Those who championed NATO expansion also believed that it was essential to the promotion and consolidation of democracy in post-Cold War Europe. US leaders in the executive branch, the legislature, and the foreign policy community more generally (i.e., specialists in universities, the media, and think tanks), agree that a NATO with strong US leadership was essential for democracy’s success in the alliance’s newest states and that emergence of authoritarian regimes in the states east of NATO’s old perimeter would lead to the turmoil there or even war, a denouement that would ill serve US interests. The proponents of NATO enlargement also considered it essential for promoting economic reform and bringing militaries under civilian control in countries that had been part of the Soviet bloc for decades (e.g., US Information Agency 1996; Holbrooke 1995, 41–42; Talbott 1997; Albright 1997a). They disagreed with critics who warned that NATO’s eastward expansion would eventually provoke resistance from a resurgent Russia and force the USA to bear the burden involved in protecting several militarily weak states near or adjacent to the Russian border. Beyond that, advocates of reconfiguring NATO after 1991 insisted that it should move out of the area to help control conflict, consolidate stability, and advance human rights in countries outside Europe. Included in this new agenda were humanitarian interventions (to stop mass atrocities) and stability operations in countries emerging from civil war. The proponents of expansion mobilized by forming organizations such as the US Committee to Expand NATO (Goldgeier 1999a, 135–138). They tapped foreign policy luminaries who wielded considerable influence by virtue of their academic expertise, experience in government, and access to the mass media. A prominent example was Zbigniew Brzezinski. A noted authority on the Soviet Union and Russia who served as President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, Brzezinski (1994) insisted that expansion was an urgent necessity that had to proceed ‘with Russian cooperation or without it.’ He warned that the Bill Clinton administration’s failure to act decisively on expansion ‘could compound the danger that the alliance [might] disintegrate.’ Brzezinski was not alone in offering

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such dire predictions. Writing about Eastern and Central European states’ desire to join NATO, Henry Kissinger (1994), secretary of state under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, warned in an opinion piece: ‘If this request is rejected, and the states bordering Germany are refused protection, Germany will sooner or later seek to achieve its security by national efforts, encountering on the way a Russia pursuing the same policy from its own side. A vacuum between Germany and Russia threatens not only NATO cohesion but the very existence of NATO as a meaningful institution.’ He reiterated this claim while testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a forum at which Brzezinski also spoke (GovInfo 1997). Other prominent experts fervently opposed expansion; they did not fall into predictable political camps. Consider those who helped to forge a collection of organizations encompassing the political left and right into the Coalition against NATO Expansion (CANE) (‘Founding Declaration’ 1998). CANE’s founding members were Richard Pipes (a preeminent conservative historian of Russia who had favored adopting a hardline toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War and served as director for East European and Soviet Affairs in the National Security Council under President Ronald Reagan), Jack Matlock (US ambassador to the Soviet Union from April 1987 to August 1991), and Fred Iklé (undersecretary of defense during the Reagan administration). Another opponent of expansion was George F. Kennan, the father of containment, who predicted that pushing ahead with the expansion ‘would inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western, and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion,…have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy,’ and ‘restore the atmosphere of the Cold War to East–West relations.’ It would, he declared, prove to be ‘the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era’ (Kennan 1997). Michael Mandelbaum, another prominent participant in the debate on NATO expansion, agreed with Kennan’s critique and made his case in articles, books, and media appearances (1995, 9–13; 1996; GovInfo 1997). There were voices of caution within the government as well. Although senior military officers obviously did not express their concerns publicly, some feared that the USA would be committing itself to the defense of additional countries without added resources at a time when the US military presence in Europe would likely be pared down. William Perry, secretary of defense under President Clinton from February 1994 to

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January 1997, had a different concern. He did not oppose the expansion in principle but believed that it should be delayed and pursued slowly thereafter. Perry worried that rapid expansion would damage the US relationship with Russia and make it harder to gain Russia’s cooperation for further arms control agreements, which he considered essential. In Perry’s view, Russia did not object to the participation of Eastern and Central Europe and the former Soviet republics in the Partnership for Peace (formed in 1994), which was designed to foster military cooperation between NATO and individual countries that were not part of the alliance, and Moscow was itself eager to join that program. But he was convinced that Russia retained ‘its traditional opposition to Eastern European countries, especially those on its periphery, joining NATO,’ which it still considered ‘a potential threat.’ According to Perry, ‘We needed to keep moving forward with Russia…and…NATO enlargement at this time would shove us into reverse.’ His plea for a delay and slow pace was based on the assessment ‘that we needed more time to bring Russia, the other major nuclear power, into the Western security circle,’ to him ‘an over-riding priority’ (Perry 2015, 127). Despite these critics and voices of caution, there was nothing that could accurately be characterized as a debate within the US government on NATO expansion. Eric Edelman (2017), Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott’s executive assistant from 1996 to 1998,1 confirmed this later, noting that ‘there wasn’t really that much opposition inside the [administration]…. It was mostly outside.’ This should not be surprising. The opponents of expansion never acquired the influence to prevent its launch during the Clinton administration, let alone to derail it once it gained momentum. Indeed, not only did President Clinton strongly favor the policy and believe that Russian concerns could be assuaged, but those around him shared similar attitudes. Vice President Al Gore’s views aligned with the president’s, and he made them known vigorously. Talbott also pushed hard for the policy, and his views carried weight for reasons professional (his knowledge of Russia) and personal (his closeness to Clinton) (Talbott 1995, 1997; quoted in Fitchett 1997). Likewise, Madeleine Albright, Clinton’s ambassador to the United Nations (UN) (January 1993–1997) and later secretary of state (January 1997–January 2001), was an impassioned proponent of expansion. In 1 Talbott is a prominent, well-regarded expert on Russia, who served as deputy secretary of state and Clinton’s principle advisor on Russia from 1994 to 2001.

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her April 1997 testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, she offered a spirited defense of the policy and a point-by-point rebuttal of its critics (Albright 1997b). Along similar lines, National Security Advisor Anthony Lake was reported ‘an early exponent of expansion.’ Lake argued that it represented ‘a rare historical opportunity to anchor former Communist countries like Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic in a successful and democratic and market economic transition’ and to assuage their fears of a ‘revanchist Russia.’ This view prevailed because other influential officials shared it, and especially because ‘it struck a chord with [President] Clinton,’ the man who mattered the most (Burns 2019, 107). As Lake (2002) later recalled, NATO enlargement was among the issues President that Clinton ‘cared about…which is why I was able to keep pushing the way I did within the bureaucracy and with my colleagues.’ Lake’s successor, Sandy Berger (2005), also deemed NATO expansion ‘extraordinarily important’ and knew exactly where Clinton stood, thereby increasing the weight of his opinions. Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Richard Holbrooke—famous for pressing aggressively for policies he deemed important—was brought to Washington in 1994 specifically to make NATO enlargement happen (Goldgeier 1999b). Thus, whereas Perry and the Department of Defense may have fretted about the pace and implications of NATO expansion, and there remained apprehension about NATO expansion even among the proponents, the policy was never in peril. Nor did Russian concerns with enlargement— known since the early 1990s—make a difference given the imbalance of power between the two states and broad support for expansion among US leaders. Despite Lake’s talk of ‘pushing’ NATO expansion, it is not evident that much exertion was required. When it came to NATO expansion, the question was, to borrow from the title of James Goldgeier’s book on the subject, ‘not whether but when’ (Goldgeier 1999a).

NATO on Russia’s Border At its January 1994 Washington Summit, NATO agreed to admit more members into its fold. In the July 1997 Madrid conclave, the alliance formally invited the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland to initiate talks on accession. They gained membership in March 1999 (NATO, n.d.; von Moltke 1997). At the Madrid meeting, NATO also reaffirmed that its door remained open to other aspirants, subject to their fulfilling

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membership criteria. The alliance did not tarry; in 2002, it gave even more states—Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia—the green light to start accession negotiations. They entered the alliance in 2004 during George W. Bush’s administration. Following accession talks, which commenced in 2008, Albania and Croatia joined in 2009, during Barack Obama’s presidency. Montenegro was admitted in 2017, soon after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, and North Macedonia joined in 2020, increasing NATO’s membership from a Cold War highpoint of 16 to 30 in the space of two decades; meanwhile, Sweden and Finland are in the midst of negotiations to join the alliance as this chapter goes to press.2 Above all, Georgia and Ukraine remain eager to join the alliance. Although the alliance did not offer either country a Membership Action Plan (MAP) during its 2008 Bucharest summit, the post-conference declaration stated that ‘NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s EuroAtlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed that these countries will become members of NATO’ (NATO 2008). Needless to say, the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine has only augmented Kyiv and Tblisi’s interest in NATO membership, just as continued US affirmation that NATO’s door remains open has done nothing to discourage speculation that Georgian and Ukrainian membership may come in the future. If Sweden, Finland, Georgia, and Ukraine do join, NATO’s membership will have more than doubled since the Cold War, and the organization will have five member countries (Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Ukraine, and Finland) that share borders with Russia (excluding the Kaliningrad enclave) and, with the partial exception of Finland, are difficult to defend through conventional means due to their proximity to Russia, unfavorable geography, and distance from major NATO powers. Although conversations are underway about bolstering NATO’s conventional presence on its eastern flank, the result will be a continuing, reliance on an American extended deterrent of increasingly dubious credibility. At base, given the risk to the United States of direct confrontation with Russia and the United States’ limited interests—whether for the balance of power, ideological, economic, or credibility reasons—in countries on Russia’s border,

2 As this chapter goes to press, Sweden and Finland look likely to NATO in the next few months. This would bring the alliance’s membership up to 32 states.

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the United States cannot credibly commit to risking its own destruction for the sake of these commitments; that many of these states have sizable Russian minorities, ongoing conflicts with Moscow, and limited military means to defend themselves only reinforces the dilemma. Ultimately, the United States will face a continuing, and potentially growing, obligation to protect a collection of states whose location, demography, and history give Russia a clear advantage in launching, reinforcing, and resupplying military operations directed at them or for otherwise destabilizing prospective allies through means short of war. That outcome will do little to help and much to harm US national security. However, it is also true that Russia’s power projection capability has been revealed by its difficulties in Ukraine to be less robust than many expected. Nonetheless, this is unlikely to remain true forever and does not undermine the argument that the USA still faces credibility problems and defensive challenges related to these countries. Moreover, the defense of the European continent is self-evidently far more important to Europeans than it is to Americans. And considering that Europe does not lack the resources to arrange for its own defense, it should assume the principal responsibility. Further, the USA cannot realistically hope that its European partners will substantially boost their defense budgets and the quantity and quality of their armaments. Although some allies increased defense spending slightly under pressure from President Trump, and others have promised to rearm in the wake of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, only eight NATO members besides the United States met or exceeded NATO’s agreedupon defense spending levels (set at 2% of GDP). Instead, the median for NATO members’ defense spending as a share of GDP—counting the USA, which devoted roughly 3.5%—was 1.65% (NATO 2022, graph 2). Furthermore, while one long-term effect of Russia–Ukraine war might be an increase in military budgets—particularly in Germany—it remains unclear if the promised resources will actually be spent or spent consistent with NATO’s needs, especially given the economic problems facing Europe. Moreover, the United States’ defense spending may not increase on a sustained basis in real terms. For sure, one might argue that defense spending should not be accorded totemic status and that increased expenditures by small countries count for little. Still, countries’ defense expenditures and the capabilities and readiness of their forces do reflect their priorities and the degree of their commitment to the goal of collective security.

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Quite apart from lacking the means to defend weak, vulnerable states adjacent to Russia, NATO also faces the problem of asymmetry when—as suggested earlier—it comes to the stakes. In particular, the Baltic states, Georgia, and Ukraine are simply more consequential to Russia’s security than they are to the security of the USA. Moscow, therefore, has the significant motivation to take steps against these countries that the USA will be hard-pressed to counter without taking imprudent risks. Prior to Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, this was the lesson offered by the 2008 Russia–Georgia war, Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, and its support for insurgents in parts of Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk provinces. The asymmetry has been further evinced by the Biden administration’s acknowledgment that vital American national security interests are not at stake in Ukraine’s current fight, even if the USA has deemed it worth the cost and escalatory risk to provide significant support, short of direct military intervention, to help Kyiv and bleed Russia. Neither Georgia nor Ukraine is part of NATO, so we cannot know whether their inclusion in the alliance would have deterred Russia or whether, given the combination of asymmetric capabilities and asymmetric stakes, NATO would have been unable to deter Russia or defend Georgia and Ukraine. As regards US grand strategy, the prospective NATO membership in NATO of Georgia and Ukraine and the admission of the Baltic states raises the question of whether the alliance’s policy of apparently openended post-Cold War expansion has already produced an overextension, the burdens and potential hazards of which will fall principally on the USA.

Russia’s Reaction Once the discussions over NATO expansion began in earnest, Russia registered its objections—early, frequently, and emphatically. But considering that the alliance’s membership will have increased from 16 in 1991 to at least 32 once Sweden and Finland formally join, Moscow’s objections clearly have made little difference to those driving the policy. Richard Holbrooke, writes his biographer George Packer, ‘brushed off’ arguments that expanding NATO would provoke Russia and dismissed the idea that Russia had reason to feel threatened by the West. But as Packer observed, Holbrooke’s inability to imagine how other countries might view US actions given their past experiences—in Russia’s case repeated invasions across its western frontier—and current apprehensions

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meant that ‘his doctrine risked becoming a kind of liberal imperialism’ (Packer 2019, 399). Holbrooke’s attitude is instructive because it captures the thinking of other advocates of NATO expansion (and still does). They believed that Russians, especially the democrats among them, could not truly believe that an enlarged NATO posed a threat to their country. Stated differently, US officials committed to expanding the alliance seemed to believe that the only reasonable way Russia could view their policy was the way that they themselves viewed it. In consequence, they regarded Russian objections as, in the main, rhetoric designed for domestic consumption, the result of misunderstanding of US intentions, or simple paranoia. They also believed that Russia’s leaders could be won over by a variety of means, whether economic aid and inclusion in the Partnership for Peace or inclusion in security forums such as the Russia–NATO Consultative Council, and that personal chemistry between Russian and US presidents, notably Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton’s bonhomie, would calm Moscow’s anxiety (Goldgeier 2018, 44). Moreover, the power differential at the time meant that Russia was, as Goldgeier points out, in an unprecedented ‘weak position’ in its discussions with the USA (Goldgeier 2018, 45). Therefore, it was easier for the USA to barrel ahead without thinking about how Russia might react. Indeed, this view discounted the possibility that Russian leaders would regard the alliance’s movement eastward toward their country’s borders as provocative—and disingenuous given US assurances that the Cold War was over and that Russia was a partner. In an October 1993 cable that was subsequently declassified, Yeltsin insisted to Clinton that ‘the spirit of the treaty of the final settlement with respect to Germany [i.e., the deal under which a unified Germany became part of NATO], signed in September 1990, especially its provisions that prohibit[ed] the deployment of foreign troops in the eastern lands of the Federal Republic of Germany, preclude[d] the option of expanding the NATO zone into the east’ (National Security Archive 1993b). The question of whether the USA pledged not to expand NATO remains disputed. Jack Matlock (quoted in Zelikow 1995), the USA’s last ambassador to the Soviet Union, insists that ‘we gave categorical assurances to Gorbachev back when the Soviet Union existed that if a united German were able to stay in NATO, NATO would not be moved eastward.’ Philip Zelikow (1995), who served on the National Security Council from 1989 to 1991, disagrees, contending that the USA provided merely the assurance that

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the alliance’s military forces and equipment would not be moved into the territory of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). Academics remain divided on the matter (McGwire and Clarke 1998; Shifrinson 2016; Kramer 2009; Sarotte 2014). In the end, however, it does not matter whether the George H.W. Bush administration ever gave Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev a binding, let alone written, commitment not to enlarge NATO in exchange for Moscow’s cooperation on German unification. The Russians believed that their Soviet predecessors had been given an assurance and that the United States later reneged—at a time when Russia was beset by weakness, unable to push back, and did not pose any military threat to Europe. Opponents of NATO expansion had warned that Russia’s leaders would interpret expansion precisely that way and would be unmoved by the argument that it was needed to provide security to and foster democracy in the lands to NATO’s east (Mandelbaum 1996, 1997; GovInfo 1997). After all, Russia was scarcely in a position to attack its western neighbors. During the 1990s, its economy contracted by one-third (Reddaway and Glinski 2001; Rutland 1997) and, in the words of a leading expert on the Russian military, the country ‘was left with a shambles of an army and a totally confused military doctrine’ (Felgenhauer 1997). As for promoting democracy, it would surely have made sense to apply the underlying logic—namely that military alliances advance democracy and that the latter fosters peace—to Russia, by far the most consequential of the excommunist countries in Europe. And, as Clinton and his foreign policy team understood, during the Yeltsin years Russia’s democratic experiment was under siege from both the communists (led by Gennady Zyuganov) and the nationalists (such as Vladimir Zhirinovsky), both unrelenting critics of NATO expansion (Berger 2005). There was, to be sure, the prospect of a resurgent Russia, but including it in NATO would have been one way to prevent that outcome from threatening Eastern Europe. That, after all, was the reasoning behind bringing West Germany into NATO following World War Two and a unified Germany into NATO following the Cold War. Declassified US documents demonstrate that Russian leaders desired a post-Cold War European order that would include them, and not as a mere adornment. This vision underlay Mikhail Gorbachev’s 1989 proposal to the Council of Europe for restructuring Europe to create ‘a common home.’ Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian

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leaders regarded NATO expansion and Russia’s integration into a panEuropean security order as incompatible. As Yeltsin explained to Clinton, even reform-minded politicians in Russia would regard NATO expansion ‘as a sort of neo-isolation of our country in diametric opposition to its natural admission into the Euro-Atlantic space…. We have a different approach, one that leads to a pan-European security system, an approach predicated in collective (but not on the basis of bloc membership) actions…. Security must be indivisible and based on pan-European security structures (National Security Archive 1993a, 1993b).’ Unsurprisingly, Russian leaders regarded NATO enlargement not as a step toward inclusiveness but rather as a repudiation of it. James Collins, chargé d’affaires at the US embassy in Moscow and later ambassador to Russia, wrote in a cable to Secretary of State Warren Christopher in 1993—prior to the latter’s visit to Moscow—that the Russians had made clear their fear that NATO expansion would exclude them and therefore strategically bifurcate Europe in a new manner. ‘No matter how nuanced,’ Collins noted, ‘if NATO adopts a policy which envisions expansion into Central and Eastern Europe without holding the door open to Russia, it would be universally interpreted in Moscow as directed against Russia and Russia alone—or ‘Neo-Containment’ as Foreign Minister [Andrei] Kozyrev recently suggested’ (National Security Archive 2000). Russia’s leaders made their opposition to NATO enlargement unambiguous from 1991 onward. On 3 July of that same year, as the Soviet Union was unraveling, a senior delegation from the Russian Federated Soviet Socialist Republic (RSFSR)—which, once the Soviet state dissolved, became the independent Russian Federation—wrote in a memorandum to Boris Yeltsin, who was then the RSFSR’s president, that it had stressed to senior NATO officials that ‘expanding NATO would be seen negatively in the USSR and the RSFSR’ and that the alliance’s secretary general, Manfred Woerner, had assured his Russian interlocutors that he and the NATO Council were opposed to expansion (National Security Archive 1991). But as discussions about expansion nevertheless proceeded within the alliance, Yeltsin made his objections clear during a December 1993 meeting with Woerner (Chicago Tribune 1993). In March 1995, Yeltsin’s foreign minister, Kozyrev, a liberal reformer whom Europe and the USA considered a staunch advocate of partnership with the West, remarked that ‘whatever one may think of NATO, it’s still a military alliance that was created when Europe was divided…. It should be replaced by a new model based on comprehensive security.’ Kozyrev,

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echoing Gorbachev, added archly that ‘the gap between NATO’s very active moves to studying potential enlargement and its passive attitude in developing this new model of comprehensive security is a very wide one, and it could be dangerous’ (quoted in Whitney 1995). Later that year, Russian president Boris Yeltsin, true to form, used blunter phraseology. In criticizing NATO’s first major out-of-area endeavor, Operation Deliberate Force, which launched airstrikes against Bosnian Serb redoubts as part of the effort to end Bosnia’s civil war, he called for a European (including Russia) solution to the conflict and wondered why Europeans allowed themselves ‘to be dictated to from beyond the ocean,’ an obvious reference to the USA. Turning to the broader NATO enlargement issue, he noted that ‘when NATO approaches the borders of the Russian Federation, you can say there will be two military blocs, and this will be a restoration of what we already had’ (quoted in Erlanger 1995). Yeltsin could be emotional and erratic, among other things, but his assessment proved prescient. By the end of Barack Obama’s presidency, talk of a ‘new Cold War’ between Russia and the West had become commonplace. Hopes for partnership had all but evaporated (Legvold 2014, 2016). True, when Kozyrev and Yeltsin made their remarks, Russia was part of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, established in 1991. Yet to Russian leaders this forum and others that it later became part of, such as the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Partnership for Peace, were scant recompense for NATO’s advance toward its borders, which from the outset they deemed a threat to their country’s security. A 1993 report by Evgenii Primakov, the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, who would succeed Kozyrev as Foreign Minister 3 years later, warned that ‘a stereotypical bloc mentality’ persisted in the West, which still regarded Russia as a threat. He noted that though NATO’s leaders might not intend to exclude and isolate Russia, the country should nevertheless anticipate a future in which the alliance’s ‘zone of responsibility…reache[d] the borders of the Russian Federation.’ Primakov opined that although that outcome would not result in the creation of ‘a bridgehead to strike Russia or its allies,’ this did not mean that NATO’s eastward expansion would ‘not affect Russia’s military security interests.’ NATO was the world’s ‘biggest military grouping,’ and its movement toward Russia’s borders would, in his assessment, necessitate ‘a fundamental reappraisal’ of Russia’s defense doctrine and posture’ (Izvestiia 1992).

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Russia did not beef up the military units deployed on its western front, but that does not establish that its leaders regarded NATO expansion as unthreatening. For one thing, they made abundantly clear that they did see it as such, and one would have to dismiss all of their protestations as propaganda in order to conclude that they were merely engaged in theatrics. In addition, Russia’s economic free fall in the 1990s, coupled with the continuing necessity to deploy forces along a vast frontier that abutted 16 countries, rendered a countervailing military response infeasible. Russia’s leaders held a weak hand, but that only served to increase their resentment over what they regarded as the West’s disregard for their legitimate security interests. Their bitterness was not contrived. Consider Sandy Berger’s characterization of President Clinton’s response to Yeltsin’s objections at the 1996 Helsinki summit: ‘Give it up on NATO enlargement…. We’re going ahead; stop rocking it. All you’re doing Boris is creating a defeat for yourself.’ When Yeltsin sought to salvage something by asking that the Baltic states not be inducted into NATO, Clinton’s answer, as characterized by Berger was ‘No, I will not make that commitment…. All you are doing is moving the line of the divide between East and West…farther to the east’ (Berger 2005). By 2002, it was clear that the Baltic countries would in fact join NATO. Vladimir Putin, Yeltsin’s successor, acquiesced in the face of this reality for two reasons. Russia had still not recovered from the collapse of the 1990s and Putin understood that he was confronting a fait accompli. In addition, though Putin’s image in the West would change markedly as the new decade advanced (he would come to personify the anti-Western autocrat), in his early years as president he was hopeful about a substantive partnership with NATO, and indeed even membership in the alliance. As the Daily Telegraph, a conservative British newspaper, reported in 2002, ‘Mr. Putin’s acquiescence to NATO expanding its borders to within 100 miles of his home city, St. Petersburg, was the latest sign of his strategic shift toward the West’ (Warren 2002). Similarly, the Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, also a conservative, wrote an op-ed the same year deriding those who warned that NATO expansion would produce Russian backlash, in which he noted: ‘In fact the level of US-Russian cooperation is the highest today since 1945. Putin is not just collaborating in the war on terror, not just allowing a US presence in the former Soviet Central Asian states, not just acquiescing to NATO expansion right up to Russia’s border and

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into Soviet space; he is knocking on NATO’s door, trying to get in’ (Krauthammer 2002). The strategic benefits gained by the policy of enlarging NATO must be weighed against the negative consequences, one of which is the part it played in Russia’s eventual transformation from a putative partner of the West into an adversary. To be sure, that metamorphosis cannot be attributed entirely to NATO enlargement without falling victim to the single factor fallacy—pinning the entire blame for the deterioration of NATO–Russia relations on the West in general and the USA in particular. What became known as the ‘new Cold War’ stemmed from a concatenation of developments. They include complex political and cultural trends within Russia’s polity and society that proved hospitable to the rise of authoritarianism and nationalism even before the broader 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as external-related developments that included: the 2002 US decision to jettison the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty; the effect on Moscow’s strategic thinking of NATO’s 1999 intervention in Kosovo, the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and NATO’s 2011 war in Libya; Russia’s 2008 military clash with Georgia; and its 2014 annexation of Crimea and arming of separatists in Ukraine’s Donbas region. Still, no serious account of the mutation of what had been a cooperative relationship into a breach can avoid reckoning with NATO enlargement’s role in altering Russia perceptions of the West. The effect on Russian strategic calculations was especially evident once the alliance moved from admitting former members of the Warsaw Pact located in Eastern and Central Europe to admitting the Baltic states, which border Russia, to contemplating the admission of Georgia and Ukraine. It seems inconceivable that the US attitude—or that of any historical power— would have been one of equanimity had an alliance that was once its principal foe started to move toward its borders at a time when it was crippled by weakness. As many commentators have observed during Russia’s war against Ukraine, it is hard to take seriously the idea that the USA would allow Mexico to conduct a fully independent foreign policy, let alone a military alliance with an adversary. Moreover, a revived USA would surely have pushed back in order to preserve its historic sphere of influence. President Vladimir Putin’s strident speech at the 2007 Munich Security Conference, delivered as senior US officials sat in the front rows, symbolized Russia’s resurgence, its determination to resist what it regarded as curtailing of its sphere of influence, and its

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new strategic outlook. The change cannot be attributed solely to Putin’s personality. Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia occurred during the presidency of Dmitry Medvedev. And it was Medvedev who described the former Soviet republic as part of Russia’s zone of ‘privileged interests,’ railed against the US-dominated unipolar world, and asserted that Russia’s sphere of influence was not limited to states immediately on its border (New York Times 2008). The Russia–Georgia war—sparked by Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili shelling the capital of the Russianbacked breakaway enclave of North Ossetia—and Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support of separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014 demonstrated that Russia had acquired the will and wherewithal to push back against the West and that it had carried out a strategic reassessment that bore little, if any, resemblance to the worldviews of Yeltsin and the early Putin. The argument that the West precipitated the 2014 Ukraine crisis (Mearsheimer 2014; Peng 2017; Sakwa 2016) has been widely rejected as either an exaggeration or as baseless (Michael McFaul and Chrystia Freeland quoted in Chatham House 2014). The gist of that thesis is that the West bears the blame because it serially provoked Russia following the end of the Cold War by expanding NATO without regard to Russian security interests. The USA and its Western allies assured Ukraine that it would join NATO one day. The EU launched its Eastern Partnership, the plan designed to draw post-Soviet states toward it, even though Russia perceived a huge overlap in the membership rosters of the EU and NATO, which was among the reasons for its antipathy to the Eastern Partnership. The USA vocally supported the 2014 Maidan Revolution that ousted the pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, and as it unfolded a senior US foreign policy official visiting Kyiv even discussed with the US ambassador to Ukraine the composition of the future Ukrainian cabinet (BBC News 2014). To the Russian leadership, this amounted to interference in Ukraine’s domestic politics that was aimed at aligning Ukraine with the West. The West also failed to consider how repeated invasions across Russia’s western frontier had made its leaders acutely sensitive to the strategic trajectories of states on its western flank. One can disagree in whole or part with the argument that the West is to blame and still conclude that the shadow of NATO expansion loomed over the 2014 Ukraine crisis and shaped its course and outcome. Still, there is no doubt that Russian leaders were deeply perturbed about the

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consequences of Ukraine joining NATO. They see Ukraine as culturally, demographically, economically, and geo-strategically the most consequential of the post-Soviet states. Moreover, NATO gave them a good reason to believe that the chances of Ukraine being admitted were substantial. By the time Putin arrived at NATO’s 2008 Bucharest Summit, the alliance had already decided not to provide Ukraine (or Georgia) a Membership Action Plan (MAP). Even so, given NATO’s expansion during Yeltsin’s presidency as well as his own, Putin clearly did not discount the possibility that Ukraine would be part of NATO one day, not least because the summit’s declaration stated explicitly that it would. According to the insider account of Mikhail Zygar, ‘He [Putin] was furious that NATO was still keeping Ukraine and Georgia hanging on by approving the prospect of future membership.’ Zygar writes that Putin ‘flew into a rage’ and warned that ‘if Ukraine joins NATO it will do so without Crimea and the eastern regions. It will simply fall apart’ (Zygar 2016, 153–154). As the protests against Yanukovych gained strength in 2014, it was not unreasonable for Russia’s leaders to fear that his ouster and the advent of a pro-Western leader would substantially increase the odds of Ukraine eventually entering NATO. In the eyes of Russian leaders the Ukrainian opposition’s rejection of the EU-brokered deal, which involved major concessions by Yanukovych, including early elections, was proof that the Maidan movement, with Washington’s fulsome support, was determined to topple him so as to align Ukraine with the West (Menon and Rumer 2015). Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Ukraine’s sole Russian-majority province, was doubtless unlawful, but Russia had never attempted to seize Crimea before, even when a Ukrainian government hostile to it took power following the 2004 Orange Revolution. Its decision to take that provocative step in 2014 cannot be understood apart from the Maidan movement, which, in Russian eyes, had as one of its objectives the integration of Ukraine with the West, not just economically but militarily as well. The challenge for US grand strategy is that Russia remains fervently opposed to the induction of Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. Addressing a group of Russian ambassadors in July 2018, Vladimir Putin, referring to the West, warned that ‘our colleagues, who are…seeking to include, among others, Georgia and Ukraine in the orbit of the alliance, should think about the possible consequences of such an irresponsible policy…. We will respond appropriately to such steps, which pose a direct threat to Russia’ (Osborn 2018).

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Prior to 2022, observers may have believed Putin was bluffing in an attempt to block the two countries’ entry into the alliance by trying to unnerve the alliance or create dissension in its ranks. He might have been playing to the domestic galleries to burnish his nationalist credentials and strongman image. Perhaps Russia would have been deterred from doing what it did in 2008 and 2014 (and 2022) had Georgia and Ukraine been inside NATO and the lesson is that admitting them will not prove dangerous. These are reasonable suppositions, particularly if one believes—as many have claimed—that the Russian invasion was ultimately not about NATO enlargement at all.3 But sound strategy requires thinking hard about what might happen if things unfold in unexpected ways, what responses are feasible if that happens, and what risks are associated with implementing those responses. Now that NATO expansion has become integral to US grand strategy, the task is to figure out what, if any, limits should apply and whether the costs associated with NATO assuming added obligations serve US interests.

An Alternative Path? The end of the Cold War presented an opportunity for a fresh start with Russia. One way forward might have been the creation of a new panEuropean security architecture that included Russia and perhaps even used NATO as a foundation to start with. But a project of that scope never became a serious proposition in the West, let alone an element in US grand strategy (Hill 2018). When Gorbachev floated the idea—‘We propose to join NATO’—it went nowhere. President George H.W. Bush’s 3 For the reasons discussed above, we find this interpretation of events wanting. Not only had Russian leaders across the board been clear that Ukraine movement toward NATO would cross Russian red-lines, but analysts attributing the Russian attack to, e.g., Putin’s own vision for Russia or a particularly warped world view, fail to account for the real possibility that Putin’s goals and ambitions may be a product of prior bouts of NATO enlargement and fears about Russia’s future security position should Ukraine enter fully into the U.S.-dominated West. Indeed, one could argue that, just as with the Bush administration’s attempt to sell the Iraq War by throwing everything against the wall to see what would stick and motivate support, Putin’s later pronouncements could be as much or more about rallying support as revealing long-standing grand strategic goals or war aims. A proper and fuller treatment of the causes of the current conflict is beyond the scope of this paper and will require greater sources than are currently available. But a treatment that ignores NATO expansion would be one that ignores the deeper soils of history.

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Secretary of State, James Baker, reportedly dismissed it as ‘a dream.’ Russian membership in NATO was broached again by President Boris Yeltsin in a December 1991 letter to President George H.W. Bush and in 1993. Vladimir Putin also raised the possibility with President Clinton during the latter’s visit to Moscow in 2000 (Gorbachev and Baker quoted in Roache 2019; New York Times 1991; RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty 2017; Monitor 2000). These feelers came to naught. The Eastern and Central European countries that joined NATO regarded it as a means to protect themselves against Russia, not as a forum for partnership with Moscow, and they would almost certainly have blocked Russian membership, and a consensus was required for admitting new members. Perhaps the attempt to create a new European order that included Russia would have failed; perhaps Russia would have subverted it from within. There is no way to know because, in sharp contrast to what happened following World War Two, Western leaders did not try to conceptualize, let alone create, any such security order, nor did the USA provide the leadership that would have been required to make that possible. Moreover, Russian leaders, regardless of their political orientation and despite NATO’s commitment to an open door, did not see the alliance’s expansion policy as a project that would eventually include Russia (Rogov 2009, 5). Those who may once have harbored such hopes soon abandoned them given the direction of events. As expansion proceeded apace Russians viewed it as a move that, whatever the underlying intent of the USA and its allies, would exclude Russia, drawing a new East–West strategic demarcation line across Europe. This wasn’t an illogical conclusion given that the idea of Russian inclusion in NATO, raised not just by Yeltsin but Putin as well, went nowhere. The United States did not even indicate that it might eventually be feasible (Zubok 2021; Hoffman 2000; Rogov 2009). What might an alternative security order have looked like, and would it have proved feasible? The enlargement of the European Union could have served as the means to foster democracy and economic reform in Eastern and Central Europe and the post-Soviet states, with benchmarks in both categories serving as the criteria for membership. The EU’s indigenous capacity for providing security on the continent could have been strengthened by building on its Common Security and Defense Policy and providing it greater institutional heft through EU states’ commitments to boost their defense spending as well as military capabilities, including by increasing the interoperability of weapons; reducing

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the duplication in armament production; and regularizing joint training and military exercises. In this scenario, new EU members would have pledged to participate in these measures as the price for benefitting from a collaborative European system. NATO could have been kept in place as a hedge, but not expanded. Talks between the EU and Russia might have been held to promote and deepen security cooperation, including reductions and pullbacks of Russian forces facing Europe and confidencebuilding measures designed to prevent the outbreak of war and facilitate the management of crises. Sufficient progress on that front could have laid the groundwork for a pan-European security order that included Russia. The creation of a wider European security system would not have prevented the USA from helping to further political, economic, and military reforms in states that lay beyond unified Germany, NATO’s 1991 eastern boundary. To be sure, a new pan-European security order would have been accompanied by uncertainties and risks. Yet that was also true when NATO, the Marshall Plan, and the EU were first imagined as means to create a cooperative, secure Western Europe after World War Two. But nothing of comparable boldness was ever attempted by US leaders. Instead, NATO expansion became, for reasons we have explained, their consuming concern in post-Cold War Europe; and as some prominent advocates of that policy noted, it all but precluded Russia’s integration into ‘a new, all-European security framework’ (Asmus et al. 1995, 7). NATO expansion’s advocates and latter-day defenders have hailed it as a resounding success (Brands 2019; cf. Larison 2019). In their minds, it has preserved US engagement in Europe’s security, ensured Eastern and Central Europe’s security, disproved those who predicted turmoil and even nuclear proliferation in that region, and checked a resurgent, nationalistic Russia. But the relevant question is not whether these outcomes are desirable, but whether NATO expansion was the only way to achieve them. In fact, it was not. Western Europe, which was not prostrate at the end of the Cold War as it was after the ravages of World War Two, had the wherewithal to help achieve alternative solutions. The argument that the USA would have abandoned Europe had NATO not expanded is open to challenge. The USA could have remained involved in Europe in a variety of ways. NATO expansion’s proponents posited a false choice between their policy and a wholesale US departure from the continent. The proponents of expansion aver that it has been vindicated by the rise of authoritarianism in Russia, Russia’s war with Georgia, the 2014

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Russia–Ukraine conflict, and the further Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Under Putin, Russia has indeed revived in important respects, but any meaningful index of power—GDP and military spending included— shows that its power is dwarfed by that of Europe. The problem in the 1990s was not that the USA’s European allies lacked the economic and technological resources to mount an effective collective defense but that they were politically unwilling to do so, in part because they had all but subcontracted their security to the USA. Yet it is also true that Washington, though it complains about insufficient European military effort, regards a strategically autonomous Europe as incompatible with US global primacy. As for Russia’s political evolution, many complicated factors account for it. But NATO’s expansion despite Moscow’s fervent objections certainly did not provide an external environment conducive to the success of democracy in Russia. NATO expansion cannot, by any means, explain all that has happened in Russia’s politics and foreign policy; but it also cannot be excluded from a comprehensive explanation of that country’s political evolution. That, in turn, raises the question of whether and to what extent an alternative approach forging a new European security order that was less threatening or that incorporated Russia would have provided a more propitious setting for Russian democracy. As for the claim that NATO expansion was essential to ensure that democracy would take root and survive in Eastern and Central Europe and the post-Soviet states, it assumes the truth of a proposition that scholars disagree on, namely that NATO can promote democracy, or save it when it encounters trouble (Reiter 2001; cf. Waterman et al. 2001/2002). The history of Greece and Turkey does not support the contention that it can. Both countries joined NATO in 1952 yet succumbed to military rule (Greece in 1967–1974) or military rule plus the military’s intervention in politics (Turkey in 1960–1965, 1971, and 1980–1983). Nor has NATO membership prevented the erosion of democracy in Poland and Hungary, or forestalled the rise of illiberal anti-democratic movements and parties across Europe. Besides, the USA could have pursued democracy promotion in Europe in many ways (using economic and diplomatic means) short of expanding NATO.

Hazards of Continued NATO Enlargement NATO enlargement created a new dividing line between Russia and the West in post-Cold War Europe. It helped increase the security dilemma between Russia and the USA while contributing to the emergence of what

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many commentators refer to as a second Cold War. Both countries have missed the benefits of cooperating to solve global challenges. They could also have worked together to balance a rising China, with which Russia has aligned, some might say unnaturally, as its relationship with the USA has deteriorated. Further, and as noted above, as NATO has opened its doors to several states that are hard to defend, the USA has assumed still more obligations even as new challenges arise, at home and abroad. That in turn has revealed or exacerbated some of the problems built into its primacist grand strategy. NATO enlargement has, in short, been an unforced error. A reasonable course correction in these circumstances might therefore be to close the alliance’s door to new members. Doing so would be safe and beneficial, especially given that Russia’s status as a great power competitor has been overblown (Menon 2020). Yet NATO has repeatedly proclaimed that its door remains open, including to two of the most controversial would-be members, Georgia and Ukraine. In late 2017, Vice President Mike Pence insisted during a visit to Georgia: ‘President Trump and the USA stand firmly behind the 2008 NATO Bucharest statement which made it clear that Georgia will, someday, become a member’ (White House 2017). As one of us noted at the time, ‘Indeed, Pence practically suggested Georgia is already an ally with security guarantees, pointing out that “the joint military operations that are taking place today we hope are a visible sign of our commitment to Georgia’s sovereignty and to her internationally recognized borders”’ (Ruger 2017). Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated Pence’s promise in June 2019, remarking that ‘Georgia’s efforts give me great confidence to speak for President Trump, and all of the US Government, when I say that you will continue to have the support of the USA as you seek to become a NATO member’ (US Department of State 2019). And despite asking ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’ just before a January 2020 trip to that country, once in Kyiv Pompeo stated that the USA had ‘maintained support for Ukraine’s efforts to join NATO and move closer to the European Union’ (US Embassy in Ukraine 2020). Support for the open door and helping Ukraine maintain its sovereignty were repeated during the Biden administration, including by Secretary of State Blinken at his Senate confirmation hearing and in the run-up to the war in Ukraine. For example, in December 2021, Blinken stressed

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during talks with Ukraine’s foreign minister ‘The unwavering commitment of the United States to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty, its independence’ (Pamuk and Ahlander 2021). One of the primary reasons the USA should avoid further NATO enlargement is that neither the USA nor its allies need the states that most desire to join the alliance. Consider Georgia.4 It is a militarily weak country located in a strategic backwater. It also has a small economy and is an insignificant trading partner for the USA. Further, Georgia is a security liability despite its contributions and brave sacrifices in missions like Afghanistan. Georgia has approximately 35,000 active duty soldiers and in 2018 spent a mere $312 million on defense (SIPRI 2020). The USA in comparison has spent considerably more annually on its military bands and their 6500 musicians (Philipps 2016; Beauchamp 2016). Georgia’s military is also significantly smaller than those of its neighbors, including Azerbaijan and Russia’s friend Armenia. Nor did Georgian troops acquit themselves well during the fiveday war with Russia in 2008 (CNN 2019). As Michael Cecire concluded, ‘One item that seems to be almost universally agreed upon by all parties is that the Georgian military performed poorly.’ It did so, he argues, because of its relatively small size, its flawed doctrine and training, the fact that its best troops were in Iraq, its lack of force multipliers, and its deficient command and control network (Cecire 2011). Georgia is a small country—its land area is only slightly larger than West Virginia’s, and its population is less than 4 million (CIA 2020). Its economy ranks 118th in the world in terms of GDP and is half the size of the smallest state economy in the USA, Vermont (World Bank 2019; Forbes 2019). Georgia’s economic situation is mixed. It fares well on the Economic Freedom of the World rankings, at 12th—an indicator that correlates with positive economic outcomes. But a recent report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reveals the other side of the coin, including slow growth, stagnating living standards, a high poverty rate, and a lack of diversity in the economy (Gwartney et al. 2019; Stronski and Vreeman 2017). Lack of economic opportunity in Georgia has led to high rates of emigration, and the birth rate is insufficient to maintain the current population size (World Bank 2019). In sum, Georgia 4 This section on Georgia draws on work that first appeared in William Ruger, “An Georgia Be A Useful American Ally?” War on the Rocks (August 8, 2017), https://war ontherocks.com/2017/08/can-georgia-be-a-useful-american-ally/.

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has some ability to contribute to NATO but hardly enough to matter for an alliance of wealthy and populous countries that spends a trillion dollars on its military forces—and certainly not enough to justify the resources needed to defend it, let alone the significant risks. Ukraine is likewise a problematic partner, even though its economic and military resources exceed Georgia’s. Nearly the size of Texas, Ukraine contains 44 million people (CIA 2020). Its GDP, $131 billion, ranks 58th, and its per capita GDP is only just over $3000. Its economic weight is comparable to Nebraska’s (World Bank 2019; Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis 2020). And these data are from years preceding the damage done to Ukraine’s economy following the February 24, 2002, Russian invasion. Corruption stunts Ukraine’s economic development. World Bank data show that (in constant 2010 dollars) Ukraine’s GDP contracted from roughly $200 billion at the end of the Cold War to $131 billion in 2018 (World Bank 2019). The Washington Post noted in 2019: ‘The combination of corruption, economic mismanagement, the ongoing civil war against Russian-supported rebels, and did we mention the corruption, have all left Ukraine’s economy in worse shape today than it was when the USSR still existed. It seems almost impossible to believe, but Ukraine’s GDP is actually 24 percent smaller now than it was in 1993—the first year we have reliable figures for it—and average incomes are 17 percent lower’ (O’Brien 2019). Militarily, Ukraine has countered Russian intervention in Donbas resolutely and bravely. Still, as Denys Kiryukhin notes, Ukraine’s ‘military potential remains vastly inferior to that of its primary adversary: Russia’ (2018). This is not surprising. Ukraine spent only $4.4 billion on defense in 2018 (in constant 2017 dollars) and fielded 204,000 troops (SIPRI 2020; IISS 2018). True, recent reforms have paid dividends, as proven on the battlefield. Even before that, Valeriy Akimenko observed that Ukraine’s military was ‘larger and better equipped than ever before…..’ Yet it remains to be seen how the current war will turn out, especially should Russia solve some of its own difficulties. Moreover, Ukraine’s performance has been mightily aided by western aid that is unlikely to flow freely forever. Therefore, the challenge of adding what would still be a security dependent remains. And despite any benefits Ukraine’s battlehardened military would add, it would be far outweighed by the risks that the alliance will assume to defend it. The outcome of the war in Ukraine also does not change some basic geostrategic facts. Georgia and Ukraine are difficult to defend given that

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they sit on Russia’s doorstep. Georgia is a particular problem. It is far away from the strongest NATO members.5 Tbilisi, its capital, lies 1600 miles from Berlin and 6000 miles from Washington. By contrast, Tbilisi is less than 125 miles from the Russian city of Vladikavkaz. These geographic realities create enormous headaches for NATO when it comes to logistics and power projection. To provide a credible tripwire, NATO—meaning, effectively, the USA—would need to station troops and stockpile materiel in Georgia, and it would need to muster a lot more power to even delay a Russian advance. Giving Georgia NATO membership would also create a moral hazard. NATO’s Article V guarantee could encourage Georgia to engage in what Barry Posen (Posen 2014, 33–35) calls ‘reckless driving.’ Other scholars have argued that the mere possibility of membership and warm relations with the West may have actually emboldened Georgia to drive recklessly in the run-up to the 2008 war (Posen 2014; Savage 2020, 75), though Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration stated, on the conflict’s tenth anniversary, that ‘I told Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili—privately—that the Russians would try to provoke him and that, given the circumstances on the ground, he could not count on a military response from NATO’ (Rice 2018). Moreover, having Georgia in NATO—or even moving toward admitting it—increases the chance of a NATO–Russia confrontation under circumstances that would favor Russia in almost every respect despite the weaknesses revealed by the war in Ukraine. This scenario is not far-fetched. In 2008, when Georgian membership in NATO was being discussed in Bucharest, Russia warned: ‘We view the appearance of a powerful military bloc on our borders…as a direct threat to the security of our country’ (Putin 2008). It issued a similar warning in 2017: ‘Moscow has historically treated the process of NATO’s enlargement toward our borders with mistrust and concern; we believe this threatens our security and the balance of forces in the Eurasian region. It goes without saying that Russia is taking all necessary measures to rebalance the situation and protect its own interests and its own security’ (Kyiv Post 2017). Ukraine also would be very difficult for NATO to defend, though its stout defense means that Russia’s power projection capability would have 5 This section on Georgia draws on work that first appeared in William Ruger, “Can Georgia Be A Useful American Ally?” War on the Rocks (August 8, 2017), https://war ontherocks.com/2017/08/can-georgia-be-a-useful-american-ally/.

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to improve for it to threaten to overrun the country as a whole. But again, the current context doesn’t change everything. Ukraine has long and porous land borders with Russia, and its eastern provinces—even if they are won back—are quite far from current NATO allies. It is nearly 750 miles from the Polish border to places like Donetsk in Ukraine’s east. Russian forces could enter Ukraine from many points with much shorter lines of logistics and communication than NATO would have. Thus, adding Ukraine to NATO, let alone defending it (as opposed to merely creating a tripwire), would require significant investments and troop deployments. Ukraine’s war in eastern Ukraine after 2014 with Russian-backed separatists was clearly an obstacle to joining the alliance. The more intense and direct conflict with Russia since February 24 only increases that barrier. Anders Fogh Rasmussen (2019), a former NATO secretary general, highlighted this fact in 2019, noting that ‘the criteria for eligibility make it virtually impossible for any country with a territorial dispute to become a NATO member.’ But the USA should worry that even if Ukraine, the eastern separatists, and Russia reached a peace agreement, Kyiv might try to relitigate its dispute with Russia once it enters NATO. Shutting NATO’s door to new entrants would come at a price, but Ukraine and Georgia would likely bear most of the costs of the decision not to admit them. Although that is unfortunate, US foreign policy should serve US interests rather than those of other countries.

Avoiding Threat Inflation Regarding Russia Thinking through the enlargement issue requires putting the Russia problem in perspective. Russia—NATO’s only real military adversary— is a pale imitation of the former Soviet Union. This has been made quite apparent to the international community in the current war in Ukraine. Thus, the biggest danger to NATO—and the USA in particular—may be the threat of inflation. Of course, that doesn’t mean Russia isn’t dangerous in its immediate neighborhood, especially should it improve its capabilities in response to the problems it has faced to date in Ukraine. Moreover, Russia remains a nuclear state that could pose an existential risk to the United States should the two countries get into a confrontation that escalates into a nuclear exchange. But being dangerous to places like Ukraine or Georgia is one thing, being actually dangerous (short of

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a nuclear war) to the United States or its core allies is another. Therefore, the extent of the threat needs to be put into proper relation. Although Russia is geographically large and relatively populous, its economy resembles that of a middling European state. Moreover, the Russian economy is highly vulnerable to swings in energy prices (oil and gas account for more than two-thirds of Russia’s export earning) and is badly in need of reform, which a host of powerful vested domestic interests resist doggedly. Even Senator Lindsey Graham (PolitiFact 2014)—a well-known foreign policy hawk—acknowledged that Russia’s economy was dwarfed by the West’s economic power, noting that it only ‘has an economy the size of Italy’—a second-tier European country with serious economic problems. Things have not changed in Russia’s favor since 2014. When Graham spoke, Russia’s nominal GDP was $2.06 trillion compared to Italy’s $2.15 trillion. In 2017, Russia’s nominal GDP was only $1.58 trillion compared to Italy’s $1.94 trillion. Based on 2017 purchasing power parity (PPP), Russia fares better than Italy, at $3.78 trillion compared to $2.48 trillion. But Russia’s GDP per capita was only $10,749, compared to Italy’s $32,110 (World Bank 2019). Table 6.1 shows the economic weakness of Russia, even before the ravages of the current war and the economic sanctions it has faced in response, when compared to the three largest economies of Europe separately and combined and compared to the USA separately and combined with these three economies. This tally does not even consider the combined economic wealth of all 30 NATO countries. The combined GDP of European NATO countries, calculated in 2010 prices, was $18.8 trillion, and if one considers NATO as a whole, the figure jumps to $38.1 trillion (NATO 2019). Russia’s, by contrast, totals $1.6 trillion. These figures show that NATO has an enormous advantage over Russia in economic strength. Nor is Russia a military peer competitor of the USA and its NATO allies. According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), Russia’s defense spending in 2017 was $45.6 billion, 3.1% of its GDP. This amounts to less than 10% of US defense spending, which IISS estimates totaled over $600 billion in 2017, 3.1% of GDP (IISS 2018). The Stockholm Institute for Peace Research (SIPRI) calculates that Russia’s 2018 military spending amounted to $64 billion (in 2017 prices and exchange rates), 4.2% of GDP, compared to the US$634 billion (in 2017 prices and exchange rates), 3.1% of GDP (SIPRI 2020). These

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Table 6.1 Russia’s GDP in context Country Russia Germany UK France Big 3 Europe USA Big 3 Europe + USA

Nominal GDP US$ (millions) (2017)

GDP PPP UD$ (millions) (2017)

GDP per capita US$ (2017)

1,578,417 3,693,204 2,637,866 2,582,501 8,913,571 19,485,394 28,398,965

3,783,139 4,345,631 2,965,796 2,954,850 10,266,277 19,485,394 29,751,671

10,749 44,666 39,954 38,484 59,928

Source World Bank, World Development Indicators database, updated December 23, 2019, https:// databank.worldbank.org/data/download/GDP.pdf

numbers are just blunt comparisons based on spending alone. The differences become starker and favor the USA even more when we consider its technological edge in weaponry and superior force employment (Biddle 2004). Furthermore, military expenditures for NATO countries as a whole in 2018 (in constant 2017 US$) were $933 billion compared to Russia’s $64 billion (SIPRI 2020). Further, many years of similar disparities add to the overall military advantage for the USA and NATO. The gap is substantial even if one allows for the fact that personnel costs—pay and benefits—are far greater in NATO countries than in Russia. The 2018 disparity also holds up even if one excludes US and Canadian spending. NATO’s European members spent $278 billion on defense compared to Russia’s $64 billion. Indeed, France, Germany, and the UK each individually spend close to what Russia does, with France closest at nearly $60 billion. Moreover, as Michael Kofman (2017) argues, ‘The Russian armed forces are actually small relative to the size of the country they have to defend, perhaps exceeding no more than 900,000 in total size with a ground force doubtfully greater than ~ 300,000. That may not seem small, but Russia comprises one-eighth of the earth’s land mass.’ Meanwhile, the wealthiest, most populous states of Europe are spending relatively little on defense as a percentage of GDP and could fairly easily (in terms of economic capacity as opposed to political will) increase their expenditures, widening the resource gap that Russia faces. The balance

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of power—using military expenditures as a not unreasonable proxy for military capabilities—clearly favors the USA, NATO, and Europe. Russia’s difficulties in Georgia in 2008 (which to be sure have been somewhat remedied based on learning from that conflict) and in the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria offer recent examples of the challenges that the Russian military would face against NATO in Europe. In assessing the Russia-Georgia war, Kofman (2018) concludes: Russia won, but the Russian military simply was not set up to fight a modern war, even against a smaller neighbor, much less a peer competitor…. The war revealed profound deficiencies in the Russian armed forces. Moscow was surprised by the poor performance of its air power, and more importantly the inability of different services to work together. It truly was the last war of a legacy force, inherited from the Soviet Union. The conflict uncovered glaring gaps in capability, problems with command and control, and poor intelligence.

Russia has fought differently in Ukraine (prior to 2022) and Syria. ‘Moscow,’ Kofman (2017), argued in an earlier piece, ‘has applied force sparingly, leveraging the local population, its own volunteers, and the militias of allies’ to meets its goals. But this is a far cry from the type of conflict that it would be forced to fight to existentially challenge NATO in any of its major member states whose defeat would represent a serious threat to the US interests (e.g., France, Germany, or even Poland). Kofman’s assessment confirms this. He notes in reference to Ukraine that ‘Russia lacked the force, the money, and the military experience to attempt any large-scale operation.’ Russia also faces considerable social problems that contribute to its weakness. A European Parliamentary Research Service study summed it up well: Economic recovery [in Russia] has been anemic, with growth likely to remain below 2% for the next few years. Forecasts suggest that Russia’s share of the global economy will continue to shrink and that it will lag ever further behind the world’s more advanced economies. External factors such as sanctions certainly weigh on Russia’s economy, but the main barriers to growth come from inside the country and are the result of long-standing problems, many originating in the Soviet period or even further back. Despite market-economy reforms in the early 1990s, Russia remains dominated by large and inefficient state-controlled enterprises. Reforms have improved the regulatory environment and cut

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red tape, but these gains have not been matched by progress in tackling corruption, which remains a major scourge for business. In terms of human capital, a catastrophic shrinkage in the size of the workforce caused by low birthrates is expected to hold back economic growth. Inequality remains high, and economic recovery has not yet benefited the nearly 20 million Russians living in poverty. A low level of competitiveness correlates with a general lack of innovation, low levels of investment, and reliance on natural-resource exports (Russell 2018). The USA should nevertheless take Russia seriously. It is a force that can be a problem, particularly in adjoining regions (like the Baltic states) and in Syria. Russia can still create trouble for its neighbors and further abroad, including via small investments that cause internal challenges in the West (such as election meddling using misinformation). However, none of this warrants the type of threat inflation that presents Russia as a huge problem for the USA or its primary European allies. And even if we assumed some of the most dangerous assessments of Putin’s imperial intentions, Russia’s hard capabilities in comparison to the USA and NATO limit their relevance in the case of defending our homeland and core allies. Putin could bluster all he would like, but Russia doesn’t have the ability to plow through Poland, Germany, or France even if harbored the intention to do so. Thus, the USA can safely and confidently deter Russia given the two countries’ relative strength. But this does not mean that NATO should overextend itself by assuming responsibility for defending weak states on the Russian border.

Transatlantic Trends As long as NATO continues to exist, greater burden sharing and burden shifting will be necessary to calm rising US concerns about cheap-riding Europeans (Posen 2014). But this problem will be difficult to resolve, and those who would like to see NATO continue as a keystone of the liberal international order should be worried. NATO’s European members should be pressured not only to boost their defense spending but also to devote more of their spending to military procurement changes and to do away with the pervasive duplication in armament production. Only then can they reduce their dependency on US power— so vividly illustrated by the wars in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya—and increase their capacity to take on alliance missions, especially if the USA were to be tied down elsewhere. Temporary combinations of

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European states should be able to cooperate for missions on the scale of the 2011 intervention in Libya (not that a repeat of this is to be recommended given the disastrous results) and Kosovo in 1999. Given that they have more to fear from the Russian military than the USA does, and that they also have the great economic capacity, European countries should do more on behalf of their own defense. US concerns about the relative contribution of the Europeans are long-standing, harking back to the 1960s. Moreover, these concerns are likely to intensify as the USA faces economic constraints (the colossal national debt and soaring budget deficits—especially in the post-COVID19 world) and long-neglected domestic problems increase disaffection among Americans. Since the early decades of NATO, European countries have become economic competitors of the USA and neomercantilists and populists in the USA have become more vocal—in Democratic as well as Republican ranks. US leaders will ratchet up pressure on NATO allies to assume more of the burden of collective defense—and NATO may not survive if Europe does nothing more than tinker in response. Moreover, the rise of China will inevitably divert US military resources from Europe (Becker 2017; Menon 2007; NATO 1995; Putin 2007; Ruger 2017, 2019; Shlapak and Johnson 2016; US Department of Defense 2011). Recent friction in the alliance owing to, among other things, different outlooks on the world and the nature of threats as well as disputes over burden sharing raises the question of whether it would be good for the USA (and Europe) for Europe to develop a strong common foreign and defense policy, or even to evolve into a superstate.6 Scholars such as Morgan (2005) have for some time made the case that self-sufficiency in defense would benefit Europe. President Emmanuel Macron of France argued at the 2020 Munich Security Conference: ‘We need some freedom of action in Europe. We need to develop our own strategy. We don’t have the same geographic conditions (as the USA), not the same ideas about social equilibrium, about social welfare. There are ideals we have to defend. Mediterranean policy: that is a European thing, not a transAtlantic thing, and the same goes for Russia—we need a European policy, not just a trans-Atlantic policy’ (Deutsche Welle 2020).

6 This section draws on work that first appeared in Ruger 2019b. We Should Firmly Shut the Open Door. Law and Liberty, April 24. Avaiable at https://lawliberty.org/ forum/we-should-firmly-shut-the-open-door/.

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But would such changes be desirable? Some US realists might worry that ending US primacy in Europe and allowing the development of a European superstate could give rise to the type of Eurasian hegemon that Americans have traditionally fought to prevent (Spykman 1942). They would prefer that Europe remain relatively weak, divided, and dependent on the USA, while the latter maintains its hegemonic position on the continent. But other realists would see advantages for the USA if Europe were to forge a common defense policy and increase its defense capabilities. These include a reduced responsibility for ensuring stability and security in Europe and the capacity to better focus on East Asia as China continues its rise. The latter type of realist would rest assured that Eurasia’s main centers of power—Europe, Russia, and East Asia—will remain divided and preoccupied with one another and therefore unable to challenge the USA. This should certainly be the case between Russia and China, unlikely allies absent a perceived threat from the USA that pushes them closer. As for nonrealists, they would be less concerned about a more vigorous Europe, even a European superstate, given their assumption that shared democratic values and norms and economic interdependence will create a peaceful Western community. In that case, a European superstate would be a partner, not the foe traditional balance of power theorists might worry about. If a European common security and defense policy—whether created by a superstate or not—would not be palatable to countries in Europe, there are alternatives. NATO could be preserved, given the difficulties and hazards of jettisoning its current commitments. But further enlargement could be taken off the table. This could be paired with something resembling the new security architecture for Eastern Europe proposed by O’Hanlon (2017). Another option would be major powers like Germany and France working together to counter threats from the east or south. This would not necessitate a unified European military force, and security competition and the danger of war would be diminished given that France, the UK, and Russia have nuclear weapons. Their conventional and nuclear forces would also serve as a hedge were Germany to once again pose a threat to Europe’s equilibrium. Some realists might not even be worried about Germany joining the nuclear club to bolster its security.

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NATO and the War in Ukraine NATO enlargement has hurt the USA. It foreclosed, without much thought, other options for future European security arrangements that might have prevented a new dividing line on the continent and a hostile relationship between the USA and Russia. And though Russia’s wars in Georgia and Ukraine cannot be chalked up to NATO expansion alone, Russia did fear that these two bordering states might eventually join NATO. In short, post-Cold War US presidents would have been wiser to listen to the pro-NATO, yet anti-enlargement figures who understood at each turn that enlargement could lead to numerous unintended consequences, additional defense obligations, negligible benefits, and an increased risk of crises and even war. Whatever one may think about the wisdom of NATO expansion—and we have made clear our view that it was unnecessary and also contributed to what some have called a second Cold War with Russia—the reality is that Putin’s February 24, 2022, invasion of Ukraine (and subsequent poor performance on the battlefield during the first six months of the conflict) will have provoked further expansion of the alliance. In this respect, Russia’s attack on Ukraine will prove to be a strategic setback, perhaps even a blunder. Finland and Sweden evinced little desire to join the Atlantic Alliance before Ukraine was attacked, but both subsequently formally applied and will almost certainly become members. Ukraine’s determination to enter the alliance, which was strong even before its war with Russia, has been redoubled. Ukrainians of all political persuasions now believe that an Article V guarantee from NATO is the only way to deter a future Russian attack, which they are convinced will happen. The lesson they have taken from Russia’s lackluster military performance against them is not that they have the wherewithal to defend themselves if they can receive weapons and training from the West, particularly the United States. It is that the war proves that Russia will never come to terms with an independent Ukraine and therefore will attack again. It matters little whether this is true; what counts is that it is the view in Kyiv. Furthermore, Ukraine’s leaders believe that the invasion and the doggedness with which they have fought back has increased their chances of entry into NATO because the alliance has witnessed that Ukraine’s fears about Russia have proven accurate but also that Ukraine’s tenacity demonstrates that it is a strategic asset worth having within the alliance.

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The problem Ukraine faces is that unanimity is required for new members to be admitted to the alliance, and it is not a sure bet that every single member will vote yes. Hungary could refuse to support Ukraine’s bid for membership, and so could other countries if, following a severe economic crisis—created by the blowback from the sanctions that the United States and its allies imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine—right-wing political parties who look less askance at Russia and more skeptical of Ukraine muster enough votes to form governments, something that has already occurred in Italy. On the other side of the ledger, one consequence of NATO expansion is the inclusion of new members, especially Poland and the three Baltic states, which are deeply suspicious of Russia for historical reasons. This has helped change the political balance within NATO. Partly for this reason, key members of the alliance have ardently favored membership for Ukraine over the last decade and, following the Russian invasion, states such as the US, Britain, and Poland are even more determined to ensure that Kyiv joins the alliance. Of course, states less supportive of Ukrainian membership—for instance, France and Germany—have tried to slow roll Kyiv’s membership aspirations and, because of the unanimity rule, may successfully block any Ukrainian membership bid in the future. Still, the changing composition of the alliance and the parallel desire to balance an increasingly bellicose Russia (in part to ensure the security of NATO’s new members) gives Ukrainian admission greater momentum than would otherwise be the case.7 If the further expansion of NATO is one consequence of Russia’s war on Ukraine, another is that the American military presence in Europe is now growing after many years of decline. European members of NATO themselves have the economic and technological wherewithal to deter Russia, but—as a group—have long lacked the will. The Russian invasion has made it much easier for European members of NATO to make the case that cutting back United States’ military deployments is strategically unwise and that it should in fact be increased. Their argument

7 There is one caveat here. If Republicans return to power and the current foreign policy

battle within conservatism leads to a Republican shift against liberal internationalism, that could foil the American establishment’s long-held aim to bring Ukraine under its wing. The chance of this happening would be even higher should former president Donald Trump return to the White House. And what the United States doesn’t want, NATO won’t do.

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will be all the more persuasive because one of the few issues on which prominent Democratic and Republican members of Congress can agree is that the United States should increase the number of troops it stations in Europe and even deploy them permanently in the alliance’s east—a step Washington had previously avoided. Undergirding this move is a widely shared assumption in foreign policy circles that reducing the US military presence in Europe, let alone ending it, would increase instability on the continent; Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has only reinforced the point. The result reinforces what others in this volume call the ‘enlargement consensus’ which as a byproduct, makes alternative strategic approaches ever harder to entertain. It thus risks inducing groupthink and drifts in US grand strategy rather than prompting a sober consideration of options and policies. It is time for a significant course correction regarding NATO. Recent talk about improving member capabilities is fine, but we are skeptical that Washington’s browbeating will yield any serious results. Instead, we are likely to see increased pressure from well-positioned interests at home and abroad for continued and quick enlargement. But it would be a bad idea for the USA to listen to these entreaties. We should be much friendlier to change that serves our vital national interests rather than that of foreign countries and special interests at home, especially given the greater strategic importance for us of skillfully handling China. This means making a serious commitment to burden shifting that, over a reasonable period of time, leads to NATO-Europe providing all of the frontline troops stationed in Europe. In addition, the NATO Response Force, the idea for which was announced at the alliance’s 2002 Prague summit, which numbers 40,000, and subsequent to the Russian invasion of Ukraine is supposed to increase to 300,000, should be composed entirely of European troops.8 It is in America’s and Europe’s interest for our allies to assume the primary burden for their own defense and even to become strategically autonomous. We should also end the open door policy, either effectively doing so as part of a settlement to end the war in Ukraine or more quietly as the dust settles in that part of the globe. As we’ve demonstrated above, our security doesn’t demand continued enlargement and there are inherent dangers from even a diminished Russia of doing so. 8 “NATO Plans Huge Upgrade in Rapid Reaction Force,” BBC News, June 27, 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-61954516.

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Even if our recommendations are ignored, there will be continued pressure on the alliance to reform. Indeed, trans-Atlantic relations could return to pre-invasion fractiousness owing to still-relevant variables that caused the strain in the first place. These would include the European balance of power, which has only been shown to even more clearly favor NATO by Russia’s self-diminishment in Ukraine. Others include the imbalance of contributions within the alliance, geoeconomic considerations such as the rise of China that make it unwise for the USA to continue to allow European free-riding, and the internal challenges and domestic politics of America (not least the continued relevance of the Trump factor in our politics as well as the massive debt the USA has run up). The worry for trans-Atlanticists is that the Ukraine War and what it has done for the alliance will be more like a ‘dead-cat’ bounce than a long-run revitalization.

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CHAPTER 7

NATO Enlargement: Evaluating Its Consequences in Russia Kimberly Marten

What impact has NATO’s post-Cold War geographic enlargement had on Russia and Russia’s policies toward the West? One prominent view among both US analysts and the general public is that NATO expansion threatened Russia and caused it to turn against the West. Cold War diplomat George F. Kennan famously called NATO enlargement ‘the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-cold-war era’ (1997), predicting that it would mark ‘the beginning of a new cold war,’ where ‘the Russians will gradually react quite adversely’ (Friedman 1998). His concerns were echoed, with a more subtle and deeper causal argument, in an open letter to US President Bill Clinton by the so-called ‘Eisenhower Group,’ 40 prominent academics and former diplomats and security officials led by Susan Eisenhower. The letter argued in part that NATO enlargement would ‘strengthen the nondemocratic opposition [in Russia], undercut those who favor[ed] reform and cooperation with the

K. Marten (B) Barnard College, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 J. Goldgeier and J. R. I. Shifrinson (eds.), Evaluating NATO Enlargement, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-23364-7_7

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West, [and] bring the Russians to question the entire post–Cold War settlement’ (Opposition to NATO Expansion 1997). Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft expressed similar sentiments independently at that time (Winter 1997). More recently, John Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt have argued that NATO enlargement is (or in Walt’s case, might be) to blame for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Mearsheimer claims the ‘main cause’ for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade ‘was that Ukraine was becoming a de facto member of NATO’ because of the US and other NATO-country weapons sales and military training provided to Kyiv (Mearsheimer 2022). Walt argues that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ‘might’ have been a response to the security dilemma, and Russian beliefs that ‘NATO’s eastward expansion is threatening’ (Walt 2022). Their arguments build on earlier claims by themselves and Steven F. Cohen that NATO enlargement also explained the 2008 Russian war with Georgia, its 2014 seizure of Crimea, and its earlier military intervention into eastern Ukraine (Mearsheimer 2014a, b; Walt 2014; Cohen 2017). Yet to disentangle the relationship between NATO’s geographic enlargement and Russia’s relations with the West is not as easy as it first appears. The causal chains that may seem to link the two are complex, subject to interference by many other variables, and mediated by the evolving subjective interpretations of a diverse cast of Russian actors. The purpose of this chapter is to examine the causal links between NATO enlargement and Russian relations with the West, focusing on four issues: the objective, measurable military postures associated with NATO enlargement, and whether Russia seemed to be threatened by them; whether NATO enlargement is responsible for the downturn in overall relations between Russia and the West from the late 1990s on; whether NATO enlargement can indeed be said to be responsible for the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022; and how NATO enlargement became enmeshed with Russian domestic leadership politics, nationalism, and public opinion.

The Difficulty of Testing the Effects of NATO Enlargement At its base, the causal claim that NATO’s geographic expansion by itself caused anything to happen in Russia is complicated by an important fact: NATO enlargement had no direct impact on the Russian state or

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Russian territory. No borders were changed, and Russia lost no alliances, trade pacts, or other institutional arrangements. In November 1990 Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Charter of Paris, affirming the right of all sovereign states to form their own security relationships. Shortly thereafter Moscow lost what it might have considered the buffer states that shielded its territory from Germany when the Warsaw Pact dissolved in March 1991 on the initiative of the Visegrad negotiating group of Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. This dissolution of the Soviet Cold War alliance occurred without encouragement by any NATO member, and absent any US or NATO promise of a new security architecture for East-Central Europe (Asmus 2002, 79; Solomon 1998, 14; Binnendijk 1991). The Soviet Union itself dissolved that December because of a purely internally driven set of initiatives (which US President George H.W. Bush strongly opposed), led by Ukraine and welcomed by President Boris Yeltsin of what was then the Russian Soviet Republic (Plokhy 2014). Analysis of how NATO’s post-Cold War enlargement per se affected Russia’s relations with the West is further complicated because enlargement (which publicly began with a NATO study in late 1994, peaked from 1997 through 2004 as states bordering Russia were invited to join, and continues today) occurred alongside numerous other significant and largely negative security interactions between Russia and the West. The effects on Russian perceptions and planning of these various events are impossible to disentangle from those caused by enlargement. The most significant of these events include NATO air strikes and NATO-led peasce operations in Bosnia and Kosovo, where Russian diplomats and soldiers played complex and sometimes contradictory roles; US and British air strikes against the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein in 1998 and the eventual US-led coalition invasion of Iraq in 2003, both of which occurred without United Nations Security Council (UNSC) approval and in the face of what would have been Russian vetoes; US unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty with Russia in 2001–2002, followed by US bilateral agreements with Poland and Romania (with NATO support) to build ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems on their territories against Russian wishes; and the UNSC-approved NATO mission against Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya in 2011, which morphed into a regime-change operation that Russia opposed. None of these events depended on NATO enlargement—arguably not even the agreement to build BMD sites in Romania and Poland, given that the United States

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also has bilateral BMD equipment arrangements with a wide variety of non-NATO members (including Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates) (Reif 2019). Russia and the West also found themselves at odds during this fraught time because Russian military forces remained in Georgia and Moldova against the wishes of their UN-recognized sovereign governments, undermining the newly signed Adapted Conventional Forces in Europe (A/CFE) Treaty of 1999. NATO enlargement was not a discrete event in the panoply of Russia’s security relationships with the West, and cannot be treated as if it were. There is no question that NATO’s geographic enlargement was a major irritant to Russian leaders and contributed to the decline of the overall relationship between Russia and the West—but there is little evidence that enlargement actually threatened Russia. Instead, NATO enlargement was a marker for Russia’s declining status and the growing influence of the United States in the world; it reflected, rather than caused, a shift in the relative global power balance. Given the long history of Soviet–NATO confrontation during the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Russia’s weakness and instability in the 1990s, any action that showcased the growth of relative US influence, especially in Europe, would likely have raised Russian hackles. As the Eisenhower group correctly foresaw, enlargement challenged the domestic political standing and reform efforts of President Yeltsin in particular, and hence played some indirect role in complicating the push for Russia’s Westernization. US leaders were well aware of this problem, and tried mightily to work around it by delaying the progress of enlargement while attempting broad outreach toward Russia (Talbott 2002). But Russian elites knew that NATO had never attempted to attack the Soviet Union or Russia and remained fundamentally defensive in orientation and mission. Indeed every indirect effect of NATO enlargement was filtered not merely through the preexisting psychological and sociological perceptions of Russian leaders and citizens, but also through the intentional manipulations of the Kremlin and of Russia’s vocal, varied, and sometimes violent nationalist and extremist political groups. Those who predicted that nationalists would run with the enlargement issue were correct—but that is a far cry from the argument that the nationalists would defeat reformers because of it. Domestic concerns about the economy, public safety and order, and instability and violence in the Russian North Caucasus mattered much more.

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Organization of the Argument Rather than coming up with a definitive answer to the question of what effect NATO enlargement has had on Russia, this article will concentrate on exploring the difficulties of trying to answer that causal question. First, it will look at the simplest aspect of the question: the objective military postures of the new NATO member states that bordered Russia and how Russia reacted to them, as well as to the infamous NATO Bucharest Summit declaration of 2008: ‘NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of NATO’ (NATO 2008). This section argues that NATO was actually weakened (for both political and geographical reasons) as enlargement continued, and that Russia knew it. If that were ever to change, Russia would have had significant advance warning of a new NATO buildup—and Russia of course retains a massive nuclear deterrent to protect its territory in any case. Russia indeed did not react very much militarily to NATO enlargement, doing little to enhance the defense of its NATO-facing regions, except for a decade-delayed buildup of air defense systems in the already heavily militarized region of Kaliningrad. The only aspect of geographic change that appeared to cause any tangible reaction from the Kremlin was a 2006 agreement (the East European Task Force) involving US-supported military facilities upgrades in Romania and Bulgaria. It is possible that the location of these two new NATO states along the Black Sea became justification in Putin’s mind for the wars he launched in Georgia and Ukraine, even if actual NATO military activities there posed no threat to Russia. The next three sections examine the possible indirect and less measurable effects of NATO enlargement on Russia. The second section turns to the question of whether NATO enlargement is responsible for the decline of the relationship between Russia and the West. It argues that in fact the decline was overdetermined, and that other factors associated with Russia’s declining influence in the world probably had a much greater impact on Russian threat perceptions than did NATO’s geographical enlargement. This discussion is divided into two parts: the expansion of NATO and other Western out-of-area military missions (in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Libya) that negatively affected Russian perceptions of its international influence; and disagreements with the West over major arms control issues, including the failure of the Conventional Forces in

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Europe (CFE) Treaty process and the US withdrawal from the ABM Treaty and building of regional BMD sites in Romania and Poland. The third section briefly describes what other analysts have summarized at length about Russian domestic politics and political perceptions regarding NATO enlargement and the West more generally. It focuses on significant elite statements and public opinion polls, all of which further cast doubt on the idea that NATO enlargement was the primary factor causing Russia to turn away from the West. The section examines NATO’s relationship with Ukraine, including US and other NATO-country military assistance and training following Russia’s seizure of Crimea in 2014. It examines whether this assistance provoked Russia’s 2022 invasion. It finds that extreme nationalist ideology, not a security dilemma or preventive war thinking, most likely explains Russian actions toward Ukraine. NATO’s actions in Ukraine were used to justify Russian actions, but once again that is a very different statement from the idea that NATO actions caused those actions. In sum, NATO enlargement has had a significant negative impact on Russia’s relations with the West—but because of its symbolic and status-related components, not its military implications. Of course status issues are tied to security concerns, given that low-status countries have a harder time getting their international interests taken seriously (Wohlforth and Zubok 2017). But that is a very different argument from what is usually meant by the statement that NATO enlargement threatened Russia. Indeed the enlargement of NATO was possible only because of a prior diminution of Moscow’s status; if that status had not declined, the Visegrad states would still be in the Warsaw Pact, the Baltic states, Georgia and Ukraine would still be in the USSR, and the West during the 1990s would still have been focused on Soviet military power.

Objective Military and Foreign Policy Effects of NATO Enlargement on Russia On the sidelines of the Paris Charter talks in 1990, Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Yulii Kvitsinskii attempted to bribe Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia to stay unaligned. Nonetheless, they immediately began agitating for NATO membership, long before NATO was ready to talk about such a thing (Póti 2000, 133; Reisch 1993). That same year, the administration of US President George H.W. Bush began quietly analyzing the possibility of NATO enlargement (Sarotte 2010, 115–119;

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Shifrinson 2016, 37–39; Sayle 2019, 233, 238–240). But enlargement did not become NATO’s overall policy direction until late 1994, with the advent of the Clinton administration’s public Study on NATO Enlargement (Barrett 1996; NATO 1995; Goldgeier 1999; Grayson 1999; Asmus 2002). Poland, Hungary, and what had now become the Czech Republic were invited to join NATO as the first new members in 1997, and officially joined in 1999 at the alliance’s Washington Summit. NATO force deployments, weaponry, and equipment, like those of Russia, had meanwhile rapidly declined throughout the 1990s because of both post-Cold War strategic rebalancing and observation of the original limits set by the 1990 CFE Treaty. This should have reassured Russia about the limits and defensive nature of NATO’s future capabilities and intentions. Charles L. Glaser, building on Robert Jervis’s pathbreaking work on the security dilemma and the importance of using a potential adversary’s capabilities to interpret its goals (Jervis 1978), argues that a state can signal its benign intentions using ‘restraint in building military forces to reduce the adversary’s concern about its greediness’ (Glaser 1997, 181). This is exactly what NATO states did as the alliance enlarged. As NATO added new member states, of course, the absolute number of its overall active armed forces went up (Cottey et al. 2002). Yet NATO retooled and reconfigured its forces away from large-scale conventional warfighting, to concentrate on stability operations first in the Balkans and then in the Middle East, leading to a decline of relative capability in Europe in comparison to the Cold War era (Boston et al. 2018). Further, the 1987 Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, signed between the United States and the Soviet Union and enduring until 2019, effectively prevented the deployment of any land-based US nuclear missiles in Europe, although it did not limit either nuclear bomber rotations (which the United States stopped anyway until the 2014 Ukraine war) (NATO 2019) or naval ships or submarines armed with nuclear weapons. It is impossible to map out exactly how NATO enlargement impacted overall NATO deployments because there are so many confounding factors involved, including the huge uptick in out-of-area operations by NATO and its member states (in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, as well as smaller ones in Africa) that used European air bases and other resources for temporary transport, resupply, and logistics. Although NATO enlargement in theory made more airbases and logistics centers available for these operations, longstanding NATO members with highly developed and alliance-ready infrastructure provided most of these

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resources, alongside many non-NATO states. Even Russia, in the case of the Afghanistan operation, lent out its rail infrastructure for NATO use (Lobjakas 2008). In fact, the addition of new members arguably made the NATO alliance weaker. Enlargement posed challenges for force integration, communication, and effectiveness, and as its membership expanded, NATO faced new sources of internal political disagreement that would likely have negatively impacted its wartime decision-making capabilities. One prominent Western expert argued in 2009 that enlargement had actually ‘put in question the practical military utility of the organization so conceived’ (Michta 2009, 370). Russian specialists knew this. For example, Andrey Zagorsky, a leading Russian security analyst, wrote in 2017, ‘The enlargement of NATO at each step was accompanied not by an increase, but a decrease, of the combined military potential of the alliance’ (Zagorsky 2017, 105). For the sake of argument, though, if NATO’s geographic enlargement had worried Russian military planners, which states would have mattered most? In 1999, Moscow would likely have viewed Poland as the most militarily sensitive of those first three new members. This is because Poland borders the offset Russian territory of Kaliningrad, and hence its accession to NATO significantly increased the length of the Russia/NATO border. (Norway, one of the original NATO members, has a small border with Russia.) Poland, a relatively large state geographically and in terms of population size, could also easily be resupplied by ground or air from neighboring Germany. However, the raw number of Polish armed forces gradually declined over the post-Cold War period, eventually reaching about 120,000, or a third of what they had been in the late Soviet era (World Bank, n.d.). Poland’s tank force, necessary for large-scale conventional combat, declined from 1,700 in 1999 to under 1,000 by 2016, and most of the remaining tanks were obsolete Soviet models (Boston et al. 2018, 6). More important, Poland in the 1990s was riven by scandals and domestic political fights over the direction of defense policy and civilmilitary relations. Military planning and budgeting were also bedeviled by the technical challenges associated with base and force relocation, the discarding of outdated Soviet weapons stocks and adopting of NATO interoperability standards, and questions of what to do about Sovietera conscription policy (Simon 2004). Until Poland’s accession to the European Union (EU) brought more wealth to the economy in 2004,

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budgetary restrictions also limited the scope of military reform (Chappell 2009). And though Poland did buy 48 F-16 fighter jets, 5 C-130 military transport planes, and other equipment from the United States in the mid-2000s (perhaps for reasons of political loyalty more than rational cost–benefit defense calculations) (Chappell 2009), it did not even seriously plan for territorial self-defense at that time, hoping to rely instead on vaguely defined international and NATO help in case of a crisis (Paszewski 2016). In May 2008, just before the Russia–Georgia war broke out, Poland officially defined the mission of its armed forces primarily in terms of out-of-area international peacekeeping, peace enforcement, and antiterrorist operations, such as those in which it participated in Afghanistan and Iraq, and other NATO and European Union missions (Paszewski 2016). In other words, Poland in NATO created no appreciable new military threat for Russian planners. The 1999 NATO summit in which Poland joined NATO might have seemed militarily threatening to Russia for another reason. It provided Membership Action Plans (MAPs) to the next tranche of potential new members, including the former Soviet republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, often collectively referred to as the ‘Baltic states.’ (As of 2022 these are still the only former Soviet territories to have joined NATO.) The Baltic states’ accession would leave the heavily militarized region of Kaliningrad divided from the rest of Russia by NATO territory. NATO simultaneously offered MAPs to the former Warsaw Pact Black Sea states of Bulgaria and Romania, which alongside Turkey could now host NATO navy ships and planes directly across the sea from Russia. All five states were among the group invited to join NATO in 2002 (despite strong Western concerns about corruption in Romania in particular), and each officially joined at the Istanbul Summit of 2004. Armed force deployments in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have never been close to large enough to pose an offensive threat to Russia. They remained small and relatively flat over this time period (World Bank, n.d.). As mentioned above, Kaliningrad now found its land borders surrounded by NATO (it faced then-neutral Sweden by sea), but this threatened the enlarged NATO alliance much more than it threatened Russia. Kaliningrad has long been heavily militarized. Most of its population since Soviet times has worked in military installations (Chillaud and Tetart 2007), even though Russian deployments there were cut somewhat in the 1990s to meet the zonal limits of the original CFE treaty (Kramer 1997).

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But in a future war with Russia, NATO would have a challenge resupplying and reinforcing the Baltic states, for two reasons. First, by land NATO could only get to the Baltics via the Suwalki Gap, a 40-mile-long chokepoint on the Poland/Lithuania border faced by heavily militarized Kaliningrad on one side and the nominal Russian ally Belarus on the other (Roblin 2019). Russia often participates in joint military exercises with Belarus, some of which have resembled World War Two scenarios in size, and Moscow could easily move large forces to Belarus quickly (as it did during its 2022 Ukrainian invasion). Second, Kaliningrad is the perfect place for Russia to implement an anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) missile defense strategy, leaving the Baltic states cut off from the rest of NATO by air and sea unless NATO were willing to bear the likelihood of significant casualties (Williams 2017; Sukhankin 2017, 2018b). An influential 2016 RAND study concluded that NATO forces would be incapable of deploying quickly enough even to defend the Baltic states from a Russian surprise attack (Shlapak and Johnson 2016). In short, NATO expansion to include the Baltic states weakened NATO, not Russia. In theory NATO could have realigned its forces to hold Kaliningrad hostage, for example by concentrating significant new fighter aircraft and air defense forces along its Polish border and by mining the Baltic Sea and deploying new submarine forces there (Frühling and Lasconjarias 2016). Yet once again Russia would have had advanced warning of this change and had plenty of reserve materiel in Kaliningrad to deploy in response. While there were growing signals of a Russian remilitarization of Kaliningrad, they only started to emerge significantly in 2009, with new A2/AD missile deployments beginning in 2012 (Sukhankin 2018b), many years after the 2002 announcement and 2004 realization of the Baltic states’ accession to NATO. (As we shall see below, many other events intervened in the meantime.) Indeed, there is good evidence that the change in the Baltics (and neighboring Poland) that most threatened Russia was their accession to the EU, not NATO. Kaliningrad faced economic collapse and rampant criminality in the 1990s, particularly as a result of the Russian financial crisis of 1998, and was at one time referred to as ‘the black hole of Europe’ (Sukhankin 2018b, 22). Meanwhile the Western states surrounding it were beginning to thrive and to receive a great deal of foreign direct investment (Sukhankin 2018a, 129). In 1998 various regions from within the Western Baltic countries (including non-NATO member Sweden) reached out to include Kaliningrad in a civil society

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and economic development initiative called ‘Euroregion Baltic,’ which displeased Moscow enormously (Sukhankin 2018a, 193–194). There were real fears in Moscow that Kaliningrad would seek some kind of autonomous status attached to northern Europe, and maybe even adopt the Euro (Chillaud and Tetart 2007, 180–181). These fears may have been intentionally stoked by local Kaliningrad elites to get more development attention from Moscow (Sukhankin 2018a, 175). This situation may very well have triggered Russian security fears, given Kaliningrad’s key role in Baltic security. But anxiety about Kaliningrad’s status was only tangentially related, if it all, to concerns about NATO enlargement. What about NATO’s enlargement in the Black Sea region near Russia? Bulgaria’s and Romania’s force deployment patterns matched those of Poland, falling sharply (World Bank, n.d.). Bulgaria in particular should not have worried Russia much. Its leadership and population have wavered in their opinions about Russia and NATO, and Sofia rejected two proposals after the start of the Ukrainian conflict in 2014 to form a joint NATO brigade or fleet with Romania. In 2015 only a quarter of Bulgarians said they would fight for their country, and in 2016 only 28% of those who were surveyed thought that NATO helped protect them, whereas 20% said that they instead saw NATO as a threat (Wezeman and Kuimova 2018). Could these new member states’ territories nonetheless have been used by the United States for an invasion of Russia? Not likely (Sestanovich 2015). Around 350,000 US military forces were stationed in European Command during the mid-1980s, but this number declined precipitously after German reunification in 1990, bottoming out at just over 52,000 in 2015 (U.S. European Command Communication and Engagement Directorate 2016). The United States deactivated its heavy combat capabilities in Europe during these years, withdrawing its last tanks from Germany in 2013 (Boston et al. 2018, 6). Its air fleet declined by 75%, and it withdrew its last carrier group from the Mediterranean (Sestanovich 2015). US and NATO force levels have remained so low—even in the more recent times of growing tension between Russia and the West— that Russia would have a great deal of advance warning if NATO territory were ever to be used either to launch a conventional attack or for nuclear deployments. In fact, although the new NATO members that directly bordered Russia may have valued membership because of the sense of protection against Moscow that it provided, NATO’s decision to enlarge during the

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Clinton administration was largely driven by other concerns. First, Washington feared that US influence in the world would decline if the EU were to create its own independent security arrangements (Sayle 2019). The available evidence indicates that such EU arrangements, too, would have included the Central and East European states but excluded Russia (Solomon 1998, 14; Danilov 2005, 113). Second, the United States was concerned that Europe could become destabilized by the spread of ethnic conflict from the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, including through refugee crises, and hoped that enlarged NATO borders would halt its advance. Third, it wanted to head off the return of pre-World War Two authoritarianism in East-Central Europe, believing that strict NATO membership criteria would help remake these states and keep them on a liberal-democratic trajectory (Gati 1996, 2014). Fourth, the new member states sensed that meeting NATO membership criteria was the first step to membership in an enlarged EU, with all of the economic benefits that the latter would bring. Although new evidence uncovered by Timothy Andrews Sayle (2019) shows that the George H.W. Bush administration was concerned about the future possibility of a resurgent Russia, the Clinton administration, which launched NATO enlargement, was much more concerned about Russian anarchy and internal instability. NATO enlargement was less about containing Russia than about expanding the liberal-democratic world order in Europe. Key players like James Baker, secretary of state in the George H.W. Bush administration, repeatedly opined that Russia would be welcome to join NATO, too, if it made the political and institutional changes required for membership (Baker 1993, 2002). Russian military planners knew that NATO enlargement did not create a threat to Russian security. Annual military data that Russia provided to members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe through the Vienna Document process shows that the numbers of troops and weaponry (including battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, and artillery) deployed in Russia’s Western and Southern Military Districts (those along NATO’s new borders) fell steeply from 2000 to 2010— years that Putin was in office, and during which NATO enlargement both began and peaked. These numbers continued to decline (with the exception of new A2/AD air defense deployments in Kaliningrad in 2012) until Russia’s intervention in Ukraine caused a sharp rise in 2014

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(Vershbow 2017).1 This is exactly the opposite behavior from what would be expected if Russia saw NATO enlargement as militarily threatening. What about the claim (Mearsheimer 2014b) that Russia’s August 2008 war with Georgia, and 2014 seizure of Crimea and military intervention in eastern Ukraine that same year, were caused by NATO’s infamous April 2008 Bucharest summit statement that Ukraine and Georgia ‘will become members of NATO’? Putin and other leading Russian commentators certainly made it clear that NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia would be considered a direct military threat to Russia—and US ambassador William J. Burns communicated that fact to the George W. Bush administration in a secret March 2008 cable (Burns 2017). But news reports at the time also made it clear that the Bucharest summit initiative lacked French and German support. The United States (especially Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security advisor) had wanted to offer a MAP to the two countries at that time, but the rest of NATO balked (BBC News 2008). A Congressional Research Service report published the next month highlighted the divisions within NATO over this issue: Representatives of several allied governments criticized the Administration’s handling of the MAP issue. They noted that several allies had clearly indicated before the summit their opposition to Georgia and Ukraine joining the MAP, and that President Bush’s campaign in Georgia and Ukraine, and then at the summit, to persuade them to change their minds ignored their concerns. (Gallis 2008, 5)

The report notes: ‘The allies did not provide a time frame for eventual membership’ (6). Indeed, there was a snide joke circulating in the European diplomatic community at the time that rephrased the summit declaration as ‘Ukraine and Georgia will become members of NATO…when hell freezes over.’ It would have been clear to anyone following the news (presumably including Russian intelligence) that NATO membership for Georgia and Ukraine was going nowhere. In any case, Putin’s sudden fury against NATO enlargement did not begin after NATO’s Bucharest summit. Instead it was launched (to the Western community’s great surprise, since it seemed to come out of the 1 The OSCE data have not been made public, and other reliable sources on weapons deployments (such as the International Institute for Strategic Studies’s annual The Military Balance series) do not break down Russian troop and weapon levels by their base location inside Russia.

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blue) at the Munich Security Conference more than a year earlier, in February 2007. After criticizing US unipolarity and world domination, the breakdown of international law, NATO’s turning away from UNSC authority, and the deployment of ballistic missile defenses as creating a new arms race, Putin called NATO enlargement ‘a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust,’ because of ‘flexible frontline American bases with up to five thousand men in each,’ whereby NATO ‘put its frontline forces on our borders’ and thereby violated a 1990 pledge not to move NATO forces beyond Germany (Putin 2007). But there were apparently not even any formal NATO military plans to defend the Baltic states or Poland until 2010, because of internal NATO squabbling (Traynor 2019), and there were certainly no new US military facilities there. Putin’s concern at this time was apparently centered not on states directly bordering Russia (despite his claims), but instead on the Eastern European Task Force framework, with agreements signed in 2005–2006 that envisioned up to 1,700 US personnel rotating through Romania and 2,500 through Bulgaria (together significantly less than the 5,000 number Putin mentioned for each), alongside facilities upgrades in both countries (Moldovan et al. 2009, 19–20). Russia made strong public statements against these arrangements, claiming that they violated both NATO promises from the 1997 NATO–Russia Founding Act and the CFE Treaty (14).2 Nonetheless, it is highly unlikely that Russia would have seen these particular East European Task Force agreements as threatening, given the relatively small numbers and limited facilities construction involved, and the prolonged political difficulties in negotiating the agreements (with opposition coming both from socialist and far-right parties in Bulgaria and Romania) (14). Despite Russian claims to the contrary, it is hard to see these cases as violations of the NATO– Russia Founding Act pledge not to establish significant new combat forces in new NATO member states. But these deployments could have magnified Putin’s concerns about events in Georgia and Ukraine, given the location of all of these states on the Black Sea. With Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey all NATO members,

2 Russia and the West have never agreed on how to interpret CFE Treaty limits. Russia wanted NATO to be permanently limited to only 3 additional brigades beyond what its 19 members held in 1999—at a time when NATO had negotiated an additional brigade for each of its 3 then new Visegrad member states. NATO did not accept that interpretation. Although brigades vary in size, they typically range from 1,500 to 5,000 troops each.

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Georgia and Ukraine are the only landmasses preventing Russia’s historical drive for warm-water ports in the Black Sea (and out to the Mediterranean) from being completely boxed in by NATO. It would take some degree of paranoia to believe that what NATO was doing (indeed, what NATO was capable of doing) required invasions of Georgia and Ukraine to protect Russian security interests from NATO expansion. But it is possible that in the mind of Putin, the justification made sense—especially given his concern that the Georgian and Ukrainian color revolutions might infect Russia. This leads to a different question about possible Russian threat perceptions. Putin continues to feel terribly threatened by US and Western efforts to foster democratization in Russia, foreseeing that his own regime might fall victim to the street protests and demands for democratization that swept through Georgia in 2003 and Ukraine in 2004. Indeed it may have been events in Georgia and Ukraine at that time, much more than NATO enlargement per se, that turned Putin so strongly against the West. While NATO membership and the threat of color revolution may be conflated in Putin’s mind, nonetheless, NATO enlargement has not had any demonstrable effect on democratic revolution. Indeed, though some analysts had hoped that it would encourage liberal-democratic consolidation in East-Central Europe, that hope was misplaced. The fact that some of NATO’s member states have fallen victim to authoritarian backsliding in recent years, and that this might even endanger the cohesion of the alliance (Wallander 2018), is perhaps the best evidence that membership in NATO did not cause democratic institutionalization (Poast and Urpelainen 2018).

Confounding External Systems Effects on Russia’s Relationship with the West Next, did NATO enlargement fatally damage the overall relationship between Russia and the West? Although there is certainly a correlation in time between the enlargement process and the relationship’s decline, we have no way of knowing what role the specific factor of NATO’s geographic enlargement played in that decline, as opposed to the plethora of other factors affecting the relationship. It is entirely possible that even if NATO had not expanded its geographic scope, the exact same negative trajectory would have ensued. This section will discuss the range of other US and NATO factors that affected Russian perceptions and actions.

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It is important to keep in mind that the overall course of RussianWestern relations was not linear after 1994. That alone should cast doubt on the causal role that NATO enlargement by itself played. The up-anddown history of Russia’s relationship with the West in the 1990s and 2000s has been well documented and explored (Carter and Perry 1998; Goldgeier and McFaul 2003; Smith 2006; Stent 2014; Hill 2018). US policymakers moved forward with enlargement stealthily, in an effort to minimize its negative effects on Yeltsin’s popularity and tenure in office (Talbott 2002), and there was no steady downward spiral in the overall relationship as NATO membership grew. Indeed in 1997, the same year that NATO invited the Visegrad states to join, Russia’s hardline realist foreign minister (and lifelong KGB and FSB officer) Yevgenii Primakov (Andrew and Mitrokhin 1999, 13; Kotov 2016) signed the NATO– Russia Founding Act. This nonbinding agreement declared that ‘NATO and Russia do not consider each other as adversaries’ and promised joint consultation and action going forward, even as it made clear that Russia would have a voice but not a veto in NATO’s security arrangements (NATO 1997). In this agreement, NATO reaffirmed that it had ‘no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members, nor any need to change any aspect of NATO’s nuclear posture or nuclear policy,’ and also pledged ‘that in the current and foreseeable security environment’ it would avoid ‘additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces,’ while Russia pledged to ‘exercise similar restraint in its conventional force deployments in Europe.’ The entire agreement was predicated on the ongoing CFE Treaty process—and it was signed by Russia in full knowledge that NATO’s geographic enlargement was underway. For many years thereafter, Russian military officers were stationed at NATO headquarters, and various forms of diplomacy and cooperation between Russia and NATO continued even when conflict limited the warmth of the relationship (Zisk 1999; Pouliot 2010). This included substantial joint military education, training, and exercise cooperation through NATO’s Partnership for Peace initiative, which was open to all former Warsaw Pact members including Russia, at least in part in hopes that it could tame Russia’s reaction to NATO enlargement through trust building (Carter and Perry 1998; Perry 2015a, b). It is also worth recalling the wide range of major international security events involving Russia and the West that were unrelated to (and hence

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causally separate from) NATO’s geographic enlargement, but that transpired after the enlargement process began. Many of these created enormous distrust in the actors, and likely played an important independent role in the decline of the relationship. First was NATO’s 1992–1995 intervention in Bosnia, approved by the UNSC with a Russian affirmative vote. UNSC sanctions against the activities of Yugoslavian leader Slobodan Miloševi´c and the militias he led in ethnic cleansing campaigns in Bosnia, and the establishment of UNSC safe areas for civilians in that country, each explicitly relied on NATO air strikes for enforcement, beginning in 1994. Russia officially supported these resolutions, even though its foreign minister at the time, Andrei Kozyrev, initially tried to prevent them from going forward, fearing that they would ‘stir up a xenophobic backlash in Russian politics’ and put ‘a Russian Milosevic in the Kremlin’ (Talbott 2002, 73, 74). It is worth remembering that this is exactly what Eisenhower and her colleagues were predicting at the time about the effects of NATO enlargement, but the intervention in Bosnia preceded and was completely causally independent from NATO enlargement. Even liberals in the Russian legislature (the Duma), not to mention the ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, as well as many of Kozyrev’s colleagues in the Foreign Ministry, opposed the US-led air-strike initiatives in the Bosnian conflict (Adamishin 2013; Talbott 2002, 77; Gorskii 2001, 18). While there was no unifying reason for their opposition, one concern was that Russia was being left out of decision-making on a crucial European security issue, and was no longer being treated as a geopolitical equal. The Russian defense minister at the time, Pavel Grachev, was especially offended that he was only informed of Western air strikes after they happened, rather than being notified in advance (the United States and its NATO allies were afraid that if Russia knew about the upcoming strikes, it would inform Miloševi´c about upcoming strikes against Serbian militias) (Carter and Perry 1998, 32). But Bosnian air strikes and NATO enlargement were not connected to each other logically—the air strikes occurred before enlargement started, and enlargement did not in any way increase NATO’s ability to carry out air strikes. In fact, Russia managed the two policy issues independently through separate channels within the Foreign Ministry, indicating that foreign policy leaders in Moscow did not see a relationship between the two things (Kozyrev 2015; Churkin 2015).

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The same causal variable—Russian anger over NATO air strikes— became much more pronounced in 1999 when NATO intervened in Kosovo, again for humanitarian reasons, without UNSC authorization (Antonenko 1999; Lynch 1999; Baranovsky 2000). Many cite this event as a crucial negative turning point in the relationship. It was clear that Russia would have vetoed the air strikes proposal if it had been brought to a vote in the United Nations, so it was not. Once again Russia was sidelined on a major security issue in Europe. Primakov, who was Russian foreign minister when the bombing began, was so incensed that the UNSC had been ignored that he had the pilot of his airplane turn around mid-air when he was on his way to Washington for aid negotiations. NATO argued (and many others, including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, accepted) that it was acting to protect ethnic Albanian Kosovars from a renewed Serbian militia ethnic cleansing campaign. Its choice nonetheless demonstrated that NATO would not pay attention to Russia’s perceived security interests, and would work around international institutions, in order to use out-of-area violence it deemed necessary. Once again this had nothing to do with NATO’s geographic enlargement, and was a completely separate variable causing a decline in the relationship with Russia; the only similarity between the two is that both NATO initiatives ignored Russia’s wishes. Even then, both of these Balkan cases had mixed, rather than completely negative, effects on Russia–NATO relations. NATO’s geographic enlargement did not derail security cooperation in either case. Former Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin played an important role in 1999 in convincing Miloševi´c to accept a peace settlement as quickly as he did in the Kosovo case, even though the primary cause of Serbian capitulation was the NATO bombing campaign (Hosmer 2001). Russia participated (somewhat uncooperatively, even in Bosnia) (Atkinson 1996), in the NATO-led peace enforcement operations that were established in both Bosnia and Kosovo after the worst hostilities had ended. The Kosovo operation came close to sparking open conflict between Russian and NATO troops when Russia secretly entered the country and seized the airport in Pristina before the joint operation was to start (Daalder and O’Hanlon 2001, 175; Clark 2002), and some analysts believe that Russia’s intention at the time was to partition the country to create a Serbian-controlled northern region against NATO’s wishes (Brudenell 2008). Yet Russia stayed in both peace operations until 2003 (after the invitation to the Baltic and Black Sea states to join NATO),

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working side by side with NATO troops on the ground, acting with generally high levels of professionalism, and achieving some real successes in maintaining stability (Cross 2002). Washington’s refusals to seek UNSC legitimation for its actions nonetheless expanded over time. In 1998 the United States and United Kingdom conducted several air-strike operations in Iraq without seeking UN approval, both to degrade Iraq’s purported weapons of mass destruction capabilities and to provide safe areas for Shia and Kurdish populations that Saddam Hussein had targeted. The Russian General Staff was reportedly furious at this development, especially given that Iraq had once been a Soviet military ally (Brovkin 1999, 546). Then, in 2003, the biggest blow to UNSC authority occurred, when a US-led coalition invaded and occupied Iraq without UNSC authorization. If any one international event caused Russia to withdraw from the Bosnia and Kosovo peace operations in the summer 2003, it was probably the Iraq invasion, not NATO enlargement—although some analysts argue that Russia’s peace operations calculus was based more on domestic cost concerns (Forsberg 2005, 343–344), while others focus on Russia’s belief that it had insufficient say in how the peace operations were being run (Adomeit 2007). Russia never did publicly explain its decision to leave Bosnia and Kosovo. Yet each US intervention hammered home the fact that Russia’s veto in the UNSC—one of its last remaining sources of global power after the collapse of the Soviet Union—meant nothing to the United States, and contributed nothing to Russia’s real influence in the world. Then came the 2011 UNSC decision to support NATO air strikes in Libya, with the stated goal of creating safe zones for civilians fleeing Muammar Qaddafi’s violent state suppression of Arab Spring protestors. Russia chose to abstain from, rather than veto, the resolution, allowing the NATO operation to go ahead. Midway through, it became clear that NATO members France and the United Kingdom were actually giving significant military advisory help to Qaddafi’s armed opponents and hence enabling civil war, with the active support of the United States and other NATO members (Kuperman 2013). With the death of Qaddafi, from Russia’s perspective, this became one more Western-led effort at regime change, reflecting the same policies Moscow had attributed to the West during the color revolutions in post-Soviet Ukraine and Georgia in prior years. What may have been especially galling to Moscow is that the Barack Obama administration had assured it beforehand that the NATO mission was not about overthrowing Qaddafi’s rule (Burns 2019,

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318). By 2014, the Libya example had influenced how Russia’s Defense Ministry presented Moscow’s strategic planning to the outside world: Russia was now said to be focused on creating alliances with authoritarian states globally, both as a means for restoring Russia’s influence and isolating the West and to protect the Kremlin from Western attempts to undermine Putin (Gorenburg 2014). Many analysts believe that the outcome in Libya helps explain at least in part Russia’s military support for Bashar Assad in Syria’s civil war shortly thereafter (Trenin 2012; Menon 2013; Cohen 2019). There was also an entirely different set of security issues that plagued Russia’s relationship with the West over these years: arms control. While again there was forward progress in some areas, such as the START and New START set of strategic nuclear missile reduction treaties, the CFE Treaty (which, as noted above, was the stated institutional basis for Russia’s cooperation with NATO) faltered, and the ABM Treaty was unilaterally abrogated by the United States. The 1990 CFE Treaty, which limited the numbers of troops and weapons in various places in the European theater and created a cooperative military exercise notification system, needed to be renegotiated after both the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union collapsed. While many issues bedeviled the negotiations, an ‘adapted’ (A/CFE) Treaty was finally signed in 1999—even as NATO began to enlarge. One unresolved issue in the new version is that the Baltic states and Slovenia, now NATO members, were never signatories, although that could presumably have been resolved if negotiations had gone forward (Chillaud and Tetart 2007). But the United States and its Western allies refused to ratify the 1999 treaty because Russian troops remained on the ground in breakaway regions of Moldova and Georgia, in defiance of treaty limits. Russia claimed that the forces were engaged in peacekeeping. In order to avoid conflict escalation, the United States and NATO did not forcibly demand their withdrawal, even though it was clear that Russia’s interest in these former Soviet states was not impartial, and that in both places Russia was supporting minority ethnic groups who wanted territorial secession (Lynch 2000). Western nonratification made it easy for Putin to declare in 2007— the year before NATO made its infamous declaration that Ukraine and Georgia would become NATO members—that Russia would no longer observe CFE Treaty requirements or limits. As noted above, shortly thereafter Putin began the remilitarization of Kaliningrad (Sukhankin 2017,

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2018b). Again, this conflict between Russia and the West, which also paved the way for Putin in later years to resume large-scale military exercises without advance notification, was not clearly tied in any logical way to NATO enlargement. In 2022 Russian troops still remain in the Transdniester region of supposedly sovereign Moldova, and even before the 2008 Russia–Georgia war led to the permanent establishment of Russian military bases in the contested Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia was frequently accused of illegally sending troops into Georgian territory to chase down Chechen insurgents in the mountains. In other words, Russia never acted to relieve the Western concerns that held up CFE ratification. As the A/CFE Treaty stumbled, President George W. Bush meanwhile decided (with policy leadership from John Bolton, then the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control) to quickly and unceremoniously withdraw unilaterally from the 1972 ABM Treaty shortly after assuming office in 2001. That treaty had served as the cornerstone of US–Soviet arms control in the Cold War era. Many experts believe that it served as a key guarantor of nuclear crisis stability by reassuring each side that the other could not launch a disabling first strike against its nuclear arsenal. Bush justified the US withdrawal from the treaty by pointing to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the US intervention in Afghanistan, even though he had already expressed his intentions to withdraw the previous May. Although Putin, Bush, and their advisers did engage in some negotiation about a new security framework to replace the ABM Treaty, the process was cut short by Washington, and Bush made clear that Russian interests were not a high priority in his decision to abandon the treaty (Rusten 2010; Giles and Monaghan 2014). Russia did not react harshly at the time, perhaps because Putin wished to maintain cooperation with the United States as the war on terror began. He affirmed that the United States was within its rights to withdraw from the treaty and that doing so did not threaten Russia’s nuclear security, but called the decision ‘an erroneous one’ (Neilan 2001). But what the Bush administration did not seem to recognize was that this treaty had crucial symbolic value beyond whatever role it played in nuclear stability. It was the original marker for the Soviet Union that it had attained nuclear parity with the United States and that Washington had to treat Moscow as an equal (Wallander 2002). By abandoning the treaty so precipitously, the United States sent essentially the same message that

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it had in Kosovo and would in Iraq: Russia was not important, because it had lost parity with the United States as a strategic partner. US ABM Treaty abrogation was followed shortly thereafter by new BMD deployments in the new NATO member states. In 2006 Bush announced that the United States would deploy a land-based BMD system in Poland, with an associated radar system in the Czech Republic, for the purpose of stopping a future nuclear attack from Iran. That original plan was abandoned under the Obama administration, due both to strong popular protest against the decision in the two European countries and strident Russian arguments that the system was actually targeted against it and could be reconfigured to launch a nuclear attack (Giles and Monaghan 2014). Moscow threatened to respond by leaving the INF Treaty and placing short-range nuclear missiles on NATO’s borders. At that point, in 2009, the Obama administration tried a different tack. This time an existing sea-based BMD system, the Aegis, which could not be easily reconfigured the way the first system could have been, would be modified to become a land-based system in Poland and Romania. Russia nonetheless objected strenuously once more, and efforts were made to find some path forward for joint third-country missile tracking and defense by having Russia work together on BMD with the United States and its NATO partners. Those negotiations proved unfruitful, however, and at its 2010 Lisbon Summit, NATO announced that these new US BMD systems would be integrated into its overall defenses (Giles and Monaghan 2014). The United States and NATO insist to this day that the new BMD systems are designed to hit limited missile launches originating in the Middle East, and should not be threatening to Russia. Although a future stage of the program, if it is ever implemented, will allow the BMD systems to be used in a limited fashion against strategic (long-range) missiles, modeling demonstrates that even if all the systems were used against Russian attempts to hit the United States at an ideal success rate, they would have no effect on Russian targeting of the US West Coast and could hit US-bound missiles coming from only 5 of Russia’s 14 land-based launch sites (Sankaran 2015). Russia countered that the Polish and Romanian systems could be easily reprogrammed and reconfigured to launch intermediate-range Tomahawk cruise missiles, not just BMD missiles, onto Russian territory, and that the systems thus violated the INF Treaty (Kramer 2016). It must be noted, however, that these Russian accusations were relatively

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recent. They followed 2014 US reports that Russia was testing and later deploying (possibly in Crimea and Kaliningrad) a new intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missile, the 9M729 (known variously as a version of existing Russian Kalibr or Iskander missiles), which the United States claimed definitively violated the treaty (Gordon 2014; Woolf 2019) and eventually led the United States to withdraw from it. It is therefore unclear whether Russia truly perceived the Obama-era BMD systems as threatening its security—or instead as a useful tool for its negotiating strategy. In sum, most of the security issues that threatened Russia’s relationship with the United States and its NATO partners had nothing at all to do with NATO’s geographic enlargement. Distrust between Russia and the West instead grew out of two other fundamental problems that are in fact unresolvable conflicts of interest. First was US and NATO operational expansion, including both the use of air strikes in out-of-area operations without UNSC authorization, and US unconcern for Russia as an arms control partner. These Western operational shifts could not have threatened Russia directly, given Russia’s enormous nuclear arsenal; the United States would never dare launch air or missile strikes against Russian territory unless open warfare were already underway, and nothing that has happened so far has put Russia’s nuclear deterrent at risk. Instead, they demonstrated that Russia had lost its former status and was now unable to influence US and Western security decision-making even through its UN veto. Russia stopped being a global power, and the West stopped treating it as one, with no concern for Russian pride. The second fundamental problem was Russia’s unwillingness to play by the rules of the US-dominated European security architecture, which prescribed that all newly independent states had the right to sovereign decision-making and that the West had the obligation to help them develop as liberal democracies. Moscow has instead consistently held that it must be given a special role to play in what it once called the ‘near abroad,’ the states in its immediate neighborhood that had been part of the Soviet Union. Russia insists that it requires a sphere of influence, but the United States and Europe have refused to give it one. NATO enlargement is just one of many signs of this deeper conflict.

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Russian Perceptions About NATO: Nationalist Manipulation and Domestic Politics In addition to the broad range of international conflicts that bedeviled Russia’s relations with the West, the development of Russian domestic politics and nationalism played a huge role in damaging the relationship. While there is no question that NATO enlargement exacerbated these domestic tensions and gave nationalists an excuse for their positions, there is also no evidence that NATO enlargement was a major cause of these developments. Russian nationalism is homegrown, and as noted above had plenty of fodder beyond NATO enlargement. A large number of rich sources detail the complex history of Russian policy statements and debates over time about both NATO in general and NATO enlargement in particular (Gorskii 2001; Smith 2002; Forsberg 2005; Adomeit 2007; Clunan 2009; Pouliot 2010; Frederick et al. 2017; Marten 2018). Although there is no question that much Russian opposition to NATO was sincere, the Russian state also made a coordinated effort to have a wide variety of Russian elites send an anti-enlargement message to their Western counterparts in the mid-1990s. This was done through an organization called the Working Group on Russia’s Policy toward NATO, led by Sergei Karaganov, then a member of both the Presidential Council of the Russian Federation and the Advisory Committee of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. In 2022 Karaganov continued to be a mouthpiece for Putin’s policies, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Schmemann 2022). This large and diverse group of supposedly independent foreign policy analysts, government officials, and military officers pledged to work ‘with main groups of the ruling classes in Western countries that consider the decision to enlarge too risky and/or too costly’ to try to prevent NATO expansion (Karaganov et al. 1996). This group explicitly recognized that ‘the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a defensive military and political union of democratic states is not a military threat for a democratic Russia’ (94), but feared that Russia’s interests would be ignored and marginalized in European security decision-making in the future. This concern about lost influence grew directly out of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s 1993 draft ‘Foreign Policy Concept of the Russian Federation’ (Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs 1993), which became the basis for a classified document issued by the newly formed Russian Security Council of which Karaganov was a member (Chernov 1993). The fact that this message

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was so heavily coordinated certainly indicates that it was a high priority for Moscow to get it across to its Western counterparts. But it also indicates that some of the passionate Russian expressions against enlargement that followed may have lacked authenticity, and instead reflected coordinated propagandizing. Despite the generally negative statements that Russian leaders have made about NATO enlargement, it must also be remembered that their remarks have not been completely consistent. Both Yeltsin and Putin at various times said they were not opposed to enlargement. The most striking incidence of this was in the fall of 1993, when Yeltsin announced at a press conference in Warsaw that he had no objection to Poland joining NATO—obliging Foreign Minister Kozyrev to hastily backtrack on his behalf a few weeks later (Marten 2018, 151–152). Yeltsin did decide to boycott NATO’s 50th anniversary summit in April 1999, where Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic were celebrated as new members, but it is hard to know for sure whether enlargement was the primary driver of that decision. That same month also marked a peak of NATO’s bombing of Serbian Yugoslavia during the Kosovo crisis, at a point when Russia had proposed that the UN step in to resolve the impasse and NATO had refused (Schweid 1999). In June 2002, Putin said that it was ‘no tragedy’ that the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were joining NATO (Warren 2002), despite a long record of Russian opposition to their membership and attempts to persuade the Baltics against it (Lane 1997; Chillaud and Tetart 2007). The previous month, at a joint summit with NATO held in Rome, Moscow had agreed to join a new NATO–Russia Council, promising a ‘qualitatively new relationship’ that would ‘pursue opportunities for joint action’ working as ‘equal partners’ (NATO-Russia Relations 2002, 6), even though Yeltsin had earlier angrily threatened to cut off relations with NATO if the Baltic countries were to join (Lane 1997, 305). Less than a year later, the US-led coalition invaded Iraq without UNSC approval, putting the lie to the idea that the US relationship with Russia was qualitatively new or based on equal partnership and joint action. But again, it was not NATO enlargement that seemed to be the primary irritant. Putin’s public equanimity was repeated in June 2022, when Putin said about Sweden and Finland joining the alliance, ‘With Sweden and Finland, we don’t have the problems that we have with Ukraine. They want to join NATO, go ahead,’ clarifying that ‘if military contingents and infrastructure are deployed there, we will have to respond in kind’

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(Reuters 2022). Putin expressed such nonchalance even though Finland’s membership will give the alliance a new 830-mile border with Russia and significantly assist NATO’s defense of the Baltic states (Marten 2022). Given the evolution of military technology Moscow probably cares less about NATO borders today than it did during the Cold War. A 2020 RAND study of Russian military doctrine determined that the ‘critical force correlation’ for the General Staff is aerospace forces and the US ability to carry out long-range precision air strikes by air and sea, not border deployments. Ground forces deployed near borders would be used primarily for post-strike cleanup operations (Reach et al. 2020). It is possible that Yeltsin’s and Putin’s personal beliefs about how bad NATO enlargement was for Russia varied over time. But it is also possible that their public statements had strategic purposes and were designed either for their domestic audiences or as a gambit in international bargaining. These statements could also have been face-saving measures for the leaders, given that Russia could do nothing to stop enlargement from happening. Yet it is telling that Michael McFaul (2014), who was Obama’s chief national security adviser for Russia and then US ambassador to Moscow, states that during all his various private meetings and closed-door negotiations with his Russian counterparts, they never once complained about NATO expansion. All of this may be evidence that the whole NATO enlargement issue has been more a symbolic red herring than a real security problem for Russian leaders, used strategically abroad to try to manipulate the West into taking Russian security interests seriously, and at home as a way of manipulating nationalist support. Did NATO enlargement, then, lead to the victory of extreme nationalists in Russia? No. Pitched anti-Western and anti-NATO nationalism began taking its toll against reformers in Russia long before NATO’s 1994 enlargement study. Already by 1990, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze temporarily resigned his post in frustration at anti-NATO criticism leveled against him (Reisch 1993, 37). Kozyrev, Yeltsin’s proWestern foreign minister, gave an infamous speech in Stockholm in 1992 in which he pretended to be an anti-Western nationalist. He did not inform the audience that this was a pretense for half an hour, and many were meanwhile left wondering whether a coup had ousted Yeltsin (Safire 1992). Then, in October 1993, after a lengthy constitutional crisis, a coup almost did happen, as open violence broke out in Moscow between anti-Yeltsin members of parliament and Yeltsin supporters. The Russian military came in on Yeltsin’s side, shelling the parliament building.

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Meanwhile, according to Strobe Talbott, ‘the insurgents briefly occupied Smolensk Square in front of the Foreign Ministry, shaking their fists at the windows above and noisily vowing to hang Kozyrev’ (Talbott 2002, 88). In other words, it didn’t take NATO enlargement to empower the extreme nationalists on foreign policy issues, even if enlargement was an issue they could use to their benefit. Nor is there any evidence that NATO enlargement had anything to do with bringing Putin to power under Yeltsin (the Chechen civil war and terrorist threats inside Russia were instead the key factors), or keeping Putin in power since. The predictions of the mid-1990s naysayers about the dire effects of NATO expansion on Russian domestic politics did not come true. Finally, what about Russian public opinion and NATO enlargement? Probably the best place to turn for an answer to this question is Moscow’s Levada Center. This is generally believed by Western experts to be the highest quality polling organization in Russia, one that attempts to hew to established international standards of polling accuracy and reliability and has been relatively buffered from political interference, at least until after Putin’s first moves into Ukraine (Nechepurenko 2016). It published the results over time of repeated batteries of questions, making it possible to observe trend lines in Russian popular opinion. Several polls will be summarized here. In one, after first being asked whether they thought Russia had any enemies, respondents who said ‘yes’ were asked to name who those enemies were (Levada Center, 2018). Each year that the survey was conducted (irregularly from 1999 through 2017), the majority of Russians who believed that Russia had enemies failed to select ‘NATO’ as being one of them. NATO peaked as a selected enemy in August 2008, at the time of the Russia/Georgia war, at 39%. At two times when NATO enlargement should have been a peak issue (in 1999 with the accession of Poland, and in 2003 with invitations underway to the Baltic states), only a small percentage of respondents (19 and 11%, respectively) selected NATO as an enemy. Every year of the survey, it was instead the United States that received the highest ranking as an enemy by those who thought Russia had enemies—although even the United States did not get a majority vote on that point until the August 2008 Georgia war. A different survey asked whether respondents believed that Russia had reason to be afraid of NATO countries (Levada Center, 2017). Given this prompt, the results were starkly different, for reasons that are unclear. Every year from 1997 onward (with the slight exception,

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for some reason, of 2007—the same year Putin gave his Munich speech, when the number declined to 49%), more than half (and often more than 60%) of respondents believed the answer was ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ yes. It is impossible to know from this data whether the numbers would have been lower before NATO first started talking about enlargement in 1994. But there do not seem to be upticks for any particular events—whether Poland joining NATO, the Baltics joining NATO, or even the Kosovo War. Instead the picture is relatively constant over almost 20 years. An additional, separate poll asked a somewhat different question: ‘Is membership in NATO the reason Russia fears Western countries?’ The results of that one match the previous poll almost exactly, with a majority often exceeding 60% saying yes, again with the slight downturn in 2007 (Smeltz et al. 2016, 5–6). Yet another poll, conducted annually since 1990, asked Russians how favorably they felt toward the United States. This one shows a striking pattern; there were sharp downturns in US favorability ratings in 1999, 2003, 2008, and 2014 (with the latter enduring through the end of the time period in 2016), precisely pairing with the four years in this era when Russia and the United States found themselves on opposite sides of international conflicts: Kosovo, Iraq, Georgia, and Ukraine (followed by Syria) (Smeltz et al. 2016, 3). Although 1999 was also a key year for NATO enlargement, a variety of other key years (1994, 2002, 2004) did not provoke a sharp downturn. This would appear to support the contention of the first section of this article, which is that concerns about Western security issues beyond NATO enlargement probably mattered more to Russia than enlargement per se. Levada Center pollster Denis Volkov further argues that the downturns in fact matched Russian television propaganda campaigns against the United States (Volkov 2015). He concludes, ‘The Russian government had noticed back in the late 1990s that challenging the United States had a positive effect on approval ratings…. In recent years, the standoff with the U.S. has been one of the main tools in the Russian authorities’ efforts to maintain their own legitimacy in conditions of economic crisis.’ Without access to notes about internal Kremlin deliberations, there is no way to evaluate whether this accusation is correct or not. But it adds further complications to the question of whether perceptions about NATO enlargement were ingrained, or instead manipulated by authorities for their own reasons.

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Russia’s 2022 Invasion of Ukraine Finally, what about the contention made by Mearsheimer (and to a more circumspect degree by Walt) that Putin invaded Ukraine because of NATO enlargement? This is in fact one of the many reasons Putin gave for his so-called ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine. On February 21, 2022 (the eve of the invasion) Putin condemned US and NATO weapons sales and military advisory assistance to Ukraine since 2014, complaining that ‘military contingents of NATO countries have been almost constantly present on Ukrainian territory under the pretext of exercises.’ He claimed that ‘NATO headquarters can issue direct commands to the Ukrainian armed forces,’ that NATO ‘military infrastructure has reached Russia’s borders,’ and that ‘Ukraine’s accession to NATO and the subsequent deployment of NATO facilities has already been decided and is only a matter of time.’ He lamented that Russia had not succeeded in convincing NATO to agree to roll back its borders to pre-expansion 1997 (Putin 2022a). Three days later he added, ‘the leading NATO countries are supporting the far-right nationalists and neo-Nazis in Ukraine,’ and ‘will undoubtedly try to bring war to Crimea just as they have done in Donbass, to kill innocent people….They have also openly laid claim to several other Russian regions’ (Putin 2022b). But this NATO theme was one of only several Putin used to justify the Ukrainian invasion, and it is difficult to know what he and his cohort truly believe, versus what they believe will most resonate with the Russian population whose support they need. For example, he and other state officials have falsely, offensively, and repeatedly said that Ukrainian leaders (and sometimes Ukrainians as a whole) are ‘Nazis’ and that Russia is waging a ‘de-Nazification’ campaign (Troianovski 2022). Many experts also believe the invasion reveals Putin’s true colors as an ethnic nationalist or imperialist idealogue who does not believe that Ukraine has the right to exist as a sovereign state. In the February 21 speech, Putin also said, ‘modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia…. by separating, severing what is historically Russian land.’ He went on to say, ‘A stable statehood has never developed in Ukraine; its electoral and other political procedures just serve as a cover, a screen for the redistribution of power and property between various oligarchic clans’ (Putin 2022a). These statements repeat points he made in an infamous July 2021 article, where he argued that Russians and Ukrainians are ‘one people—a single whole,’ and that ‘true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with

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Russia’ (Putin 2021). They also reiterate arguments Putin made about the seizure of Crimea in 2014, when he called the territory ‘primordial’ Russian land (Marten 2014). Indeed similar statements had been made by Putin for many years before that, and he may have actually believe that his purpose is to reunite Ukraine with the Russian homeland (Rumer and Weiss 2021; Mankoff 2022; Remnick 2022). What, then, of the arguments that Mearsheimer and Walt make, that NATO actions in Ukraine after 2014 genuinely threatened Russian security? Of course if the Russian state believes that Ukraine is its rightful property, then the answer is yes, since a small number of NATO training officers from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom were on the ground in western Ukraine in 2021. But could one reasonably make the argument that Russia felt its 2021 borders were threatened by the Ukrainian military and its relationship with NATO? The answer is unequivocally ‘no.’ Russian forces seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and Ukraine never took any military action to attempt to reclaim any of that territory. That same year Russia became actively engaged in fighting in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine, controlling the opposition forces located there and sending small numbers of its own personnel to fight directly, in a war with a more or less established attrition line that dated from 2015. By late 2021 Ukraine still lacked the military capacity to go on the offensive in the Donbas, inside its own legally recognized territory (Bielieskov 2021). The United States and other NATO countries had done nothing to encourage or enable such an offensive. Russia has a huge nuclear arsenal; Ukraine has none, and as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty would likely have lost all support from its Western backers if it reneged on its non-nuclear status. Russia’s active military personnel in 2021 totaled 900,000, while Ukraine’s totaled less than 200,000; Russia’s military expenditures that year were estimated at $62 billion, while Ukraine’s were less than $3 billion (IISS 2022). Until the United States and its allies began rushing to provide Ukraine with additional weaponry in January 2022 (at a time when over 100,000 Russian forces were poised on the Ukrainian border), the only lethal weaponry that Ukraine had obtained from the United States and its allies were Javelin anti-tank missiles whose longest demonstrated striking range was 4 km (U.S. Army Acquisition Center 2022), armed patrol boats, sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers (Arabia et al. 2022; Welt 2021), and what were probably 20 or so armed drones from Turkey (Fontenrose and Dreby 2022). Ukraine had absolutely no capacity to

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attack Russia, and once again if that had ever changed Russia would have had very long-term advanced warning. It is certainly possible that in Putin’s worldview, the presence of United States and allied weapons and trainers at Ukraine’s Yavoriv military base (deployed intentionally to stay 750 km away from Russia’s ongoing frontline in eastern Ukraine) was in itself somehow threatening, regardless of Ukraine’s military posture and capabilities. Yet given all the chaos and uncertainty that war involves, it stretches credulity to imagine that Putin truly believed that it was better to launch a major war against Ukraine now, before Ukraine might have become a NATO launchpad in some faroff, hypothetical future. In fact Putin may very well have believed that the United States and NATO would not support Ukraine in the event of an invasion in 2022. But if he believed that, it is illogical to assume that he also believed that the United States and NATO planned to make Ukraine their future beachhead.

Conclusions There is no question that Russia—its leaders, expert analysts, and public— reacted negatively to NATO enlargement right from the start. Despite some contrary statements, Russia’s opposition was fairly consistent over time. But there is little evidence that NATO’s enlargement per se was the primary cause of Russia’s concerns or fears about the West. There is little evidence of any direct Russian military reaction to enlargement, and Russian experts knew that enlargement actually made NATO harder to defend. If instead the claim is that NATO enlargement indirectly caused the downturn in Russia’s relationship with the West, then there are too many other confounding factors, none directly related to enlargement and most centered on a loss of Russian influence over security decisions, that explain the outcome. NATO enlargement was a blunt instrument used to harangue the West, including in a propaganda campaign that drew in nongovernmental experts. It exacerbated Russian concerns about lost influence—but it was as much a result of that lost influence as a cause of it, and other evidence of lost influence over air strikes and arms control rankled more. Russia’s unhappiness is overdetermined, and there is no evidence that if NATO enlargement had been avoided, delayed, or altered (while nothing else changed), that Russia could have been reconciled to the idea of US

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dominance in the world. In the words of prominent Russian defense and foreign policy analyst Dmitry Trenin, ‘In terms of power, Russia is not America’s equal. Yet, it cannot accept inequality in relations…. It cannot put up with the military dominance of the U.S. And this is the key difference of Russia from other countries’ (Trenin 2017). The one exception to this pattern may be NATO’s 2004 enlargement to include Romania and Bulgaria, which may have been perceived by Putin and Russian security elites as threatening Russia’s age-old concerns about unrestricted access to the Black Sea. For whatever reason, these are not usually the cases cited by those who blame NATO enlargement for Putin’s actions, and they came late enough in the process that they cannot explain Russia’s initial mid-1990s blanket drive to stop enlargement from occurring. But the cases as outlined here do suggest that if the United States and NATO had wanted to tamp down tensions with Russia, the Black Sea would have been the place to start. Yet much of what Russia has done since the start of the 2014 Ukraine crisis has seemed explicitly designed to provoke Europe and prevent a reduction in tensions with NATO. These provocations include Russia’s new missile developments that doomed the INF Treaty; its refusal to use the CFE process to notify European states about its large-scale military exercises with Belarus; its refusal to accept an international investigation of the July 2014 shooting down of the civilian Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight over eastern Ukraine (with hundreds of European passengers on board); and the chemical weapons poisonings of Sergei Skripal and others inside the United Kingdom by Russia’s military intelligence service (the GRU) in March 2018. Russia’s seizure of Crimea, its military actions against eastern Ukraine, and then its all-out invasion in 2022 have also caused NATO to become more unified and to pay more attention to defense against Russia than would have otherwise happened. The 2022 invasion provoked Sweden and Finland to apply for NATO membership, something that was inconceivable as recently as 2021, and which will likely soon far enlarge the NATO borders facing Russia and the Baltic Sea. Altogether, Russian actions created a self-fulfilling prophecy in making the NATO alliance stronger, after enlargement had initially left NATO weakened. It was Putin’s actions—not NATO enlargement—that created the enmity driving this change.

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CHAPTER 8

The Tragedy of US–Russian Relations: NATO Centrality and the Revisionists’ spiral Andrey A. Sushentsov and William C. Wohlforth

Barely had I been seated before Vladimir Putin told me that NATO—the organization that I then headed—no longer had any purpose and should be disbanded. ‘After the end of the Cold War, we dissolved the Warsaw Pact,’ he said. ‘Similarly, you should dissolve NATO. That is a relic from the Cold War’ (Rasmussen 2016, 73). This chapter joins others in this volume in assessing the US choice after the Cold War’s end to continue to base its grand strategy on maintaining NATO as the core institution for sustaining its leadership in European security. Given the intrinsic challenges of assessing grand strategic choice, this level of attention is warranted. Fateful decisions of this nature constitute sustained interventions into the mind-bogglingly

A. A. Sushentsov (B) Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Moscow, Russia e-mail: [email protected] W. C. Wohlforth Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 J. Goldgeier and J. R. I. Shifrinson (eds.), Evaluating NATO Enlargement, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-23364-7_8

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complex social world of international politics meant to advance a state’s interest over the long term. Evaluating grand strategy is an analytically demanding procedure, to put it mildly (Wohlforth 2021). We seek to meet this challenge in two ways that depart from standard practice in the debate over NATO expansion. We make explicit the theoretical models that inform the analysis; and we carefully trace Russian discourse and behavior through time, assessing it not only in relation to US strategic choices, but in the context of Russia’s grand strategy and strategic culture. We thus take seriously (though not always at face value) the ways in which Russian officials and foreign policy elites express their understanding of the country’s interests and US/Western behavior. Our assessment of Russia’s strategic perspectives and the role its responses to NATO play in them are not only consistent with the process evidence but also with a large body of scholarly research on Russian foreign policy. These analytical moves are necessary but necessarily incomplete. In particular, we restrict our theoretical models to those that emerge from realist theory, a controversial limitation that is justifiable in part because of that theoretical school’s central role in grand strategy evaluation in general and in the NATO expansion debate in particular. And though we can establish the evidentiary basis for our assessment of Russia’s reaction, we are unable in the confines of this article to deploy a research design that allows us to fully test our assessment empirically against those that place primary emphasis on domestic-political motivation. Our study nonetheless yields implications that cut against conventional wisdom on all sides of the debate. In particular, we make two empirical contributions and use international relations theory to evaluate their implications for the debate. First, we show that NATO’s continued centrality, rather than simply NATO expansion, is the root issue in deteriorating US–Russia relations. This framework best captures the historical origins of the problem and is most consistent with the Russian evidence. It follows that much of the debate about NATO expansion misconstrues its stakes and arguably exaggerates the likelihood that fallout for US– Russian relations could have been avoided. From the standpoint of the 1992 status quo, both Russia and the USA were revisionists, dissatisfied with the security arrangements that emerged out of the diplomacy that ended the Cold War. And, as we show below, that revisionist impulse is in general more consistent with great-power behavior as portrayed in offensive rather than in defensive realist theory.

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Second, we demonstrate that Russia’s cooperative moves vis-à-vis NATO were premised upon Moscow’s strongly revisionist preferences regarding the European security architecture. From Russia’s perspective, US decisions to preserve and then expand NATO represent defections as portrayed in classical game theory—moves to grab immediate gains for oneself at the expense of the gains that might accrue to mutual cooperation. For Moscow, cooperation in response to those defections was still a revisionist strategy, an effort to kill NATO with kindness. It was an answer, in part, to the USA similarly revisionist offers of cooperative arrangements between NATO and Russia. This analysis cuts both ways in the debate on NATO’s role in US– Russia relations. On the one hand, it fits neatly with the dominant narrative among realists that points to NATO expansion as a key cause of the US–Russia downward spiral from cooperation to great-power rivalry. In that story, Washington has done most of the acting and Russia most of the reacting. As the more powerful actor, the USA has been the first mover, and its actions have driven the narrative. Washington defected and Moscow initially responded with broadly cooperative moves, only defecting decisively—by invading Georgia in 2008 and, most dramatically, when it intervened militarily in Ukraine in 2014—after giving the USA multiple opportunities to demonstrate its benign intentions. On the other hand, the evidence does not support the counterfactual that Russia would necessarily have reciprocated US restraint. Influence over European security had a large zero-sum element. What Washington did not grab, Moscow would have taken, to the degree that it was capable. The gains of cooperation with Russia would have had a price: US primacy in Europe. We argue that the US–NATO–Russia spiral is best understood as an offensive-realist tragedy featuring two egoistic security seekers as opposed to a morality play with only one side in the bad-guy role. The key protagonists’ core preferences and associated grand strategies brought them into conflict. Classical territorial security threats were not central to the conflict, which was instead driven by much broader conceptions of security. Whether NATO threatens Russia’s territorial security, or whether NATO members have reason to fear cross-border Russian military assaults, is not the point. Rather, each side has rational reasons to suspect that the other would exploit a variety of political and strategic advantages that might accrue tomorrow as a result of a cooperative deal today. The way to understand NATO centrality’s cost is to assess the

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effects that it—and Russian reactions to it—have had on the two powers’ ability to trust each other and not to exploit those potential advantages.

Modeling the Spiral Despite some ups and downs, US–Russia–NATO interactions in the postCold War era constitute a spiral as Shiping Tang (2009, 616) defines it: ‘A situation in which tension between two states is continuously increasing because the process is driven by a self-reinforcing mechanism.’ Crucially, this ‘definition says nothing about the nature of the forces that drive the process.’ The spiral could emerge from a security dilemma, or it could result from one or both states threatening the other for non-security reasons. Following Charles Glaser (2010), we can call states solely motivated by the need to provide for their own security ‘security-seeking states,’ and those that make strategic moves threatening other states for non-security reasons ‘greedy states.’ Glaser uses ‘greedy’ rather than ‘aggressive,’ ‘revisionist,’ or ‘expansionist’ because the distinction that matters is between preferred outcomes rather than preferred foreign policies. As he stresses, a so-called ‘status quo’ (or ‘defensive’) state could be expansionist purely out of desire to protect what it already has. In other words, what matters most for Glaser are motives, not intentions. Motives refer to the deep dispositions of states—what drives them in international politics. Intentions are the policies to realize those motives. A state motivated by security may have revisionist intentions. Bearing these distinctions in mind, the debate over the cause of the US–NATO–Russia spiral encompasses four positions: (1) The USA is greedy and has insisted on preserving and then expanding NATO for non-security reasons—either liberal internationalist ideology, or domestic politics, or some combination of the two—whereas Russia is a pure security seeker whose hostile reactions to NATO are caused by insecurity. (2) Russia is a greedy state responding to NATO in a bellicose way primarily for non-security, domestic-political reasons, whereas the USA is fundamentally a security seeker reasonably providing for European stability in a manner that does not threaten Russian security interests.

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(3) Both states are greedy, driven by domestic-political/ideological reasons to policies that threaten each other. (4) Both the USA and Russia are security seekers and are trapped in a security dilemma. The first two positions dominate the contemporary debate. Critics of NATO expansion (including Russia) tend to adopt position 1, asserting that the alliance’s preservation and certainly its expansion—especially beyond central Europe into the Balkans and Baltics—represent the strategic moves of a greedy state, to which Russia reasonably responded with increasing alarm and ultimately bellicosity. Position 2 tends to be adopted by defenders of NATO and its expansion, including the US government. Position 3 is logically possible but has not figured in the debate. The key to positions 1 and 2 is their asymmetry. In both positions, one of the sides has non-security motivations, which are seen as malign or at least suboptimal, whereas the other is motivated by purer or more benign intentions. In positions 1 and 2, the spiral is mainly one side’s ‘fault,’ in John J. Mearsheimer’s (2014a, 77) memorable phrase, rather than a ‘dilemma’ in which they are fatefully and symmetrically trapped. Although the term ‘security dilemma’ is frequently invoked in discussions of Russia–NATO relations, it is rare to find the concept used carefully in developing position 4 logically and evaluating it empirically. We seek to fill that gap here, using the security-dilemma model to evaluate the evidence. In the classical security-dilemma model, states are depicted as choosing between two actions, one of which can be described as cooperation and the other as competition or defection. As Andrew Kydd (2001) has argued, the fundamental issue in the NATO enlargement debate is the optimality of trust concerning the intentions of other states. That is, when and under what conditions is it optimal, for the purpose of building a cooperative equilibrium, to trust another state not to exploit costly cooperative moves? In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War, the USA opting to keep NATO can be seen as defection, whereas disbanding it or at least revising it to accord Russia a coequal role would have counted as cooperation. Later in the game, eschewing expansion would have counted as cooperation, whereas going forward with it was defection. We thus have a simple model to aid in sifting the evidence: two states, which may be of two types (security seekers or greedy states), each facing uncertainty about the other’s type and attempting to reduce that uncertainty by assessing the other’s speech and behavior; and two

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actions—cooperation or defection (Fearon 2011). As the evidence below will show, this model is an extreme simplification of the US–Russia dynamic, but it does highlight key issues. In a security dilemma, two security seekers end up defecting even though cooperation would make both more secure. If either state is greedy, or both are, then any spiral that emerges is not a security dilemma as currently portrayed in the most recent and rigorous theoretical scholarship.

NATO Centrality vs. NATO Expansion A core assumption underlying US foreign policy as it confronted the end of the bipolar Cold War order was that NATO was a necessary condition of the US presence in Europe, which itself was a necessary condition of European peace and stability (Shaake 1998). To this day, the establishment wisdom in Washington remains that the institution of NATO is a necessary condition of US leadership in the security affairs of western Eurasia and, as such, a cornerstone of US grand strategy. George H. W. Bush and his national security team, despite their basic confidence in their country’s overall power and prospects as well as its deep cultural and historical ties to Europe, believed that the US position in Europe hung precariously by the NATO thread. If NATO were somehow sidelined or replaced by other security institutions, the US commitment could not be sustained, US troops would have to come home, and Europe would be plunged into an uncertain and dangerous multipolar world (Bush and Scowcroft 1999, 230–231). Hence, in the Cold War’s endgame, US officials portrayed their insistence on expanding NATO to a united Germany as a fundamental prerequisite of regional and global security. This assumption, coupled with confidence that Moscow was weak and would cave to US insistence on NATO’s continued existence, lays behind the consistent US effort as the Cold War ended to quash all talk (whether it came from Berlin, Moscow, or Paris) of creating a new security order in Europe based on an inclusive architecture (see esp. Sarotte 2011). The rapid pace of events, the fact that the world’s strongest power and the strongest European power (the Federal Republic of Germany) both wanted unity in NATO, and the fact that the second strongest power (the Soviet Union) would not or could not back an all-Europe alternative with resolve and capabilities all pulled the legs from under proponents of alternative visions.

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But alternative visions did appeal to many non-governmental experts. To be sure, Mary E. Sarotte’s (2011, 203) comment about policymakers (‘there was not much time for perfecting plans and ideas’) also applied in spades to scholars. Those who did manage to get ideas in print in the period after the German Democratic Republic’s weakness became clear, but before the 2 + 4 settlement on German reunification was reached tended to favor a symmetrical solution involving the dismantling of both NATO and the Warsaw Pact, with eventual German reunification proceeding within the context of a new all-European security architecture (see, e.g., Layne 1989/1990; Burley 1989). Most initially shared the view expressed by George Kennan in November (1989) that NATO was a creature of the Cold War that could not be adapted to the new setting, which ‘implie[d] the necessity of an alternative framework of security for the entire continent.’ Once reunified Germany’s membership in NATO was accomplished, official thoughts in Washington turned remarkably rapidly to the possibility of eastward expansion (Tyler 1992; Flanagan 1992; Goldgeier 1999a). With NATO’s centrality assuming fait accompli status on the ground, the wars of Yugoslavia’s dissolution grabbing headlines, and Russia’s precipitous decline becoming more and more evident, the scholarly debate in the 1991–1993 period shifted. Increasing numbers of experts began to see the merits of retaining NATO, and some even endorsed the view burgeoning within governmental circles that some form of alliance assurances should be extended eastward. But a significant contingent continued to argue for an all-European security architecture and a global concert of powers that would embrace partnership with Russia (for an analytical discussion of the debate in that period, see Glaser 1993). By 1994, the varied sources of expert concern over the direction of post-Cold War US strategy converged into an intense opposition to any further expansion of NATO. The Bill Clinton administration’s consideration of extending membership to the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland thus opened what John Lewis Gaddis (1998, 145) dubbed ‘a significant gap … between those who make grand strategy and those who reflect on it. … Official and accumulated wisdom are pointing in very different directions.’ Indeed, he noted: ‘I can recall no other moment in my own experience as a practicing historian in which there was less support, within the community of historians, for an announced policy position.’ Kennan (1997) insisted that NATO expansion ‘would be the

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most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era.’ Most political scientists with expertise in international security, realist and liberal alike, appeared to agree with their counterparts in history departments (see, e.g., Wohlforth 2000; Russett and Stam 1998; Reiter 2001; Mandelbaum 1995; Brown 1999; Arms Control Today 1997; Kupchan 1994; Thompson 1998; Carpenter and Conry 1998). Expansion soon drowned out the original case against NATO’s continued centrality, but the distinction between expansion and centrality matters. The chief arguments against NATO centrality concerned expected costs, including opportunity costs. Excluding Russia would decrease Russian security, increase its incentives to balance against the USA and NATO, strain East–West relations, and thus increase the probability of security competition. Many scholars argued that a durable and effective post-Cold War settlement was at stake. They wanted a settlement like the 1815 Treaty of Paris, rather than one like the Treaty of Versailles that excluded and alienated a great power. In their view, the true cost of NATO centrality was the missed opportunity to attain a durable concert-style order including Moscow that could stave off the return of great-power rivalry even as Russia recovered its power. To be sure, this argument overlapped with the direct cost argument that failure to include Russia as an equal partner in the new global security architecture would make Moscow into a dissatisfied, revisionist power whose counterbalancing would impose unsustainable costs on the USA. But these scholars’ vision included major gains in great-power cooperation on a range of issues, from proliferation to the Middle East to regional concerns to counter-terrorism, all of which could be managed far more successfully in the context of a great-power concert including Russia. And their vision held out the possibility of achieving more resilient US security over the long haul through fostering an interstate order robust to anticipated shifts in the distribution of capabilities among the great powers. This critique—developed before expansion was on the radar— resonates powerfully with the Russian evidence.

Origin of Revisionism: Russia’s Response: 1990–1993 ‘[Twenty-five] years ago, the Berlin Wall fell, but Europe’s division was not overcome, invisible walls simply moved to the East. This created the foundation for mutual reproaches, misunderstanding, and crises in the future’ (Bild 2016). This comment from Vladimir Putin neatly captured

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Russia’s official position, but note that Putin registered two objections: to any division of Europe, and to pushing the dividing ‘wall’ east. That elided a central question: Was it NATO’s continued centrality or merely its expansion that set off the spiral of ‘mutual reproaches, misunderstanding, and crises’? A careful analysis of Russian strategic discourse and behavior supports the former view. Official Russia has always decried expansion, to be sure, but it views expansion as a manifestation of the deeper problem of NATO centrality. To make sense of Russian discourse on NATO and European security, one must first unpack the strategic worldview from which it emerges, itself a product of Russia’s experience in world politics. Dominant Russian perspectives flow from the realist tradition of statecraft with a strong overlay of geopolitical, ‘location matters’ styles of thinking, topped off with a dose of English School insistence on the shared special responsibilities of great powers in international society (see, e.g., Kokoshin 1989; Kortunov 2015; Wohlforth and Zubok 2017). In Moscow’s understanding, states are the major players in global issues and conflict is a key process. Although the world is interconnected, peace, stability, and development are fragile. Major countries share responsibility for the stability and development of a globalized world (Troitskiy 2008). International relations are too complex and international interdependence too thick for unilateralism. This environment requires delicate balancing and mutual recognition of vital interests. International stability is a product of balance and should be a key common goal. As all students of Russian politics and history know, Russia’s political culture is built around the state’s status as a great power (Poe 2003). Moscow believes that great powers represent natural centers of world gravity. They tend to establish themselves as important stakeholders and require recognition. Any weakening of one of the great powers is temporary—eventually it will recover and reclaim its rights. Only together can great powers maintain the world order. Russian officialdom’s consistent, unyielding instance on multipolarity as an objective tendency and strong normative preference reflects this thinking. This worldview produces specific assessments of threats to international stability, notably the idea that unilateralism produces dangerous imbalance (Tsygankov 2016). In Europe, NATO is the institutional expression of this threat (Baranovsky 2000; Istomin 2017; Hill 2018). When Western-leaning elites occupied Kremlin offices, this belief in the critical importance of a cooperative great-power arrangement on European security was already present, though it was expressed as part of the

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aspiration to join the West as a democratic great-power peer. The idea that cooperation was a route to sustaining peer status with the USA was already well established as a central pillar of Gorbachev’s ‘new thinking’ in foreign policy (Wohlforth 1993; Larson and Shevchenko 2003). This helps to explain why a materially declining Moscow could still expect to be seen as a peer by a rising USA. Russian policymakers believed that the previous Soviet approach of leveraging military power and pressing the revolutionary alternative to democratic capitalism had backfired and left the Soviet Union a pariah. For Moscow’s new westernizers, Gorbachev’s effort to revamp that approach into innovative cooperative moves simply had not gone far enough. Retaining vestiges of socialist exceptionalism had hamstrung the initiative. Having expunged those vestigial illiberal elements from their worldviews and policies, Foreign Minister Andrey Korzyrev, Boris Yelstin, and company had some grounds for expecting that unreservedly joining the West would yield a special status for Russia, giving it greater voice in setting the European security agenda than any other power, perhaps excepting the USA. To be sure, it took some time for the new Yeltsin government to find its footing in foreign affairs. As Dmitry Simes (1999, 20) recounts, in conversation with Richard Nixon in 1992 Kozyrev responded to the expresident’s question about the nature of Russian national interests with a smile: ‘Probably there are such uniquely Russian interests, but the Russian government had not yet had a chance to focus on them. Perhaps, President Nixon, as a friend of Russian democracy, you would be willing to help to identify them?’ In the early 1990s, Russia tended to identify its national interests with those of the West under the banner of ‘democratic solidarity’ and at times appeared to refrain from setting its own priorities in foreign policy (Bogaturov 2007). But Russian democrats did not explicitly acknowledge a trade-off between great-power status and cooperation with the West and resolve it in favor of the latter. On the contrary, Russia’s initial expectation was that US–Russia relations after the Cold War would evolve to form ‘a new alliance of partners working against common dangers,’ thus leading the way to the new world order that would ‘unite the globe through our friendship’ (New York Times 1992). But this expectation’s corollary—often ignored by Western interlocutors or ascribed to posturing for domestic audiences—was that the new democratic Russia would be the USA’s equal great-power partner in European security. Russia did not oppose the 1993 US ‘democratic

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enlargement’ doctrine because it mistakenly considered itself among its beneficiaries. Russia’s 1993 Foreign Policy Concept named among its top national priorities ‘providing favorable external conditions for the promotion of democratic reforms.’ Positive relations with the USA were seen by the Yeltsin government as a key to success: ‘For the foreseeable future, relations with the USA of America will keep one of the first places on the scale of priorities of Russia’s foreign policy’ (Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs 1993). This resulted in Moscow’s voluntary rejection of the legacy of the Warsaw Pact and Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and its reluctance to hinder Western plans to engage former socialist and post-Soviet republics in integration projects. But this altruistic political platform also implied expectations of a fundamental change in the Western attitude toward Russia. Citing global openness, interdependence, and common values as a platform, Kozyrev elaborated this perspective in a 1992 Foreign Affairs article: ‘The role of NATO is bound to change under the circumstances. The formation of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council reflects all these trends, leading to openness and partnership in the military-strategic sphere as well’ (Kozyrev 1992b). In the Washington-drafted bilateral statements of the early 1990s, Russia subscribed to the US view that this new order—‘an enduring peace’—would be based on common values and commitment to democracy and economic freedom (New York Times 1992). Russia agreed that the new world order would be ‘a democratic peace that unites the entire community of democratic nations’ (White House 1992). More important in Moscow’s view was the expectation that the USA and Russia would hold a special responsibility for maintaining international peace and security as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, thus becoming two major pillars of the new world order (White House 1992; GovInfo 1993). But amidst these commitments to shared democratic values, skepticism was growing about the great-power equality side of the equation. Even the most pro-Western Russian officials at that time—including the few who placed such a high value on integration with the West that they arguably were willing to set aside core preferences for great-power status—saw clearly that US failure to reciprocate Russian cooperation would run afoul of deeply set and widely held assumptions about Russia’s strategic interests. One of the early—and desperate—warnings came from Andrey Kozyrev, who employed ‘shock diplomacy’ at the CSCE conference in Stockholm in December 1992 to illustrate what the West could

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expect if Boris Yeltsin lost power: ‘We see that, despite a certain degree of evolution, the strategies of NATO and the WEU [Western European Union], which are drawing up plans to strengthen their military presence in the Baltic and other regions of the territory of the former Soviet Union and to interfere in Bosnia and the internal affairs of Yugoslavia, remain essentially unchanged…. We reserve our right to take the necessary unilateral measures to defend our interests’ (Kozyrev 1992a). Not long thereafter, Yevgeny Primakov, then head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, voiced concern that the continuation of an exclusionary NATO as the chief arbiter of European security would create problems: ‘If this happens, the need would arise for a fundamental reappraisal of all defense concepts on our side, a redeployment of armed forces and changes in operational plans.’ The key, Primakov stressed, was that current benign intentions were not reliable predictors of NATO’s effect on Russia’s national interests: ‘Alliance leadership stresses that its intention does not include the creation of a “sanitary cordon” in Central and Eastern Europe that separates Russia from Western Europe. Nevertheless, this can happen regardless of the subjective intentions of NATO leaders’ (Izvestia 1993). Moscow-drafted bilateral documents of the early to mid-1990s continued to reflect core precepts that amounted to a rejection of NATO centrality—or, more precisely, a rejection of an untransformed NATO’s centrality. As Kozyrev stressed and as presidents Yeltsin, Putin, and Dmitry Medvedev were to reiterate, a NATO reconfigured as a pan-European institution built on US–Russian parity was fine. Russian diplomacy identified key principles that should guide the development of the new world order—‘equality, mutual advantage, and recognition of each other’s national interests’ (FAS 1994). Russian proposals highlighted four major geopolitical initiatives: strategic disengagement measures in nuclear missile targeting; enhancing the role of the United Nations as a global governance body; mutual recognition of the North American Free Trade Agreement and Commonwealth of Independent States [CIS] integration processes; and creation of a new European security order that would be ‘inclusive, non-discriminatory and focused on practical political and security cooperation’ (FAS 1994). Russian officials still believed that cooperation with NATO might be consistent with the principles of ‘equality, mutual advantage, and recognition of each other’s national interests’ if doing so reduced NATO’s security role or helped transform it into an institution in which Washington and Moscow were equal partners. US presence in Europe was not the problem; its primacy was.

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Although early post-Soviet Russian foreign policy documents always contained phrasing about ‘equality,’ this sentiment was harder to detect when the analogous documents were drafted in Washington. Boris Yeltsin attempted to make this point in a September 1993 letter to President Clinton, stating: ‘In general, we advocate that relations between our country and NATO be a few degrees warmer than those between the Alliance and Eastern Europe’ (National Security Archive 1993a). By the mid-1990s, there was a strong sense of frustration and disappointment among Russian elites with Western policies that had turned out to be very far from ‘democratic solidarity.’ Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev later recalled: The decision for the U.S. and its allies to expand NATO into the East was decisively made in 1993. I called this a big mistake from the very beginning. It was definitely a violation of the spirit of the statements and assurances made to us in 1990.… They [the West] paid lip service to applauding Russia, especially during the Yeltsin years, but in deeds they didn’t consider it. I am referring primarily to NATO expansion, missile defense plans, the West’s actions in regions of importance to Russia (Yugoslavia, Iraq, Georgia, Ukraine). They literally said, ‘This is none of your business’. As a result, an abscess formed and it burst. (Korshunov 2014)

The key takeaway from the preceding discussion is that democratizing post-Soviet Russia had revisionist preferences vis-à-vis the status quo circa 1992. Although there were highly placed Russian officials for whom the commitment to joining the democratic West likely overrode all other considerations—Kozyrev perhaps being the prime example in the foreign policy apparatus—the center of gravity in the Russian state strongly preferred a security architecture in Europe that included Moscow as primus inter pares with Washington. This preference was consistent with longstanding precepts of Russian strategic culture and with Gorbachev’s foreign policy that helped end the Cold War.

Cooperation-as-Revisionist Strategy Russia’s attempts to entice the USA to construct a new European security architecture anchored by democratic bonhomie did not preclude Western outreach to Central and Eastern European states, but it did preclude dividing Europe once again. In 1994, NATO launched the Partnership for Peace program, which caused especially intense concern

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in Moscow. The program covered all the countries of the post-socialist space, including Russia, which tried to ensure that the Partnership for Peace remained an alternative to alliance enlargement. In addition to traditional forms of contact, in 1993–1994 the Russian–US relationship started to include events like air and naval forces visit exchanges, joint search-and-rescue drills, and peacekeeping experience sharing. Russia and the USA established a direct line of secure telephone connection in 1994 to increase operational cooperation between military authorities. Officials in Moscow held out hope that the level of cooperation achieved implied that the USA was ready to coordinate its policy with Russia. But the Partnership for Peace program soon ceased to be an alternative to NATO membership. Feeling betrayed by his Western partners, at the OSCE’s [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] Budapest meeting in December 1994 Yeltsin called for creation of a comprehensive, pan-European security system, stating that otherwise, ‘Europe, not having time to get rid of the legacy of the Cold War, risks plunging into a Cold peace’ (Yeltsin 1994). He made his position as clear as he could to his US counterpart at a summit meeting in Moscow on May 10, 1995: I want to get a clear understanding of your idea about NATO enlargement, because so far, I have not seen anything in it except humiliation for Russia if this happens. How do you think it looks for us when one block continues to exist while the Warsaw Pact is canceled? This looks like a new form of blockade [of Russia], when one block left after the Cold War expands directly to the borders of Russia. Many Russians experience a sense of fear. ‘What do you want this expansion to achieve when you say that Russia is your partner?’ The Russians ask. I also ask this: ‘Why do you want to do this?’ We need a new structure for pan-European security, not the old one! (National Security Archive 1995)

Around this time, Russian politicians began discussing the idea of targeting Russian missiles at new members of the alliance in case of its enlargement, calling those members ‘the first buffer’ that was slated for annihilation if a conflict were to erupt. As Aleksey Pushkov warned at the time, ‘If NATO military structures were to approach Russian borders and its troops were to appear on the territories of new member-states, Russia would be forced to adjust to these challenges to its security. New tensions caused by enlargement would spoil the post-Cold War political climate in Europe, destroy mutual trust, revive old fears, and throw the relationship between Russia and the West back into the past’ (Pushkov 1997).

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Russian diplomats attempted to convince the West that NATO enlargement was only possible if the process was coordinated with Russia and that Central and Eastern Europe remained a zone of Russian interests—but for most that was only a face-saving enterprise. Russia’s decision to sign a separate partnership program with the alliance in May 1995 reflected this approach of grudging acquiescence to an unwanted outcome in order to avoid the humiliation of fruitless opposition. In essence, however, the program constrained Russia from opposing NATO’s enlargement by accusing the alliance of hostility toward it. In return for Russia’s softening on NATO’s enlargement, Washington promised to assist it in joining the World Trade Organization and the G7, as well as to sign a special document that would provide a framework for further Russia–NATO relations. The 1996 Russian presidential elections made President Yeltsin change his foreign policy rhetoric to raise his chance of victory. During his oneon-one meeting with Clinton in May 1995, he urged the US president to postpone NATO expansion until victory was secured for him and asked him to promote Russia’s inclusion in the G8. He also chastised his US colleague for contacts with the Russian opposition and statements that allegedly undermined the Kremlin’s position on the international scene: On European security and NATO—how do we deal with this in what we say to the press and the public? I would accept your plan, especially what you said about delaying through the Presidential elections in 1996.… Bill, I must tell you that we are not pleased to hear statements about U.S. plans that are unfair or hurtful to Russia. It is not proper for you to have contacts with the opposition or those in the State Duma who have aspirations to become Presidential candidates in ‘96.… It will be easier for us to resolve a lot of other issues, including European security, if you can follow through on including us in the G8. This will help me on the eve of the elections here. (National Security Archive 1995)

But the Russian government was at pains to stress that its core position had not changed. At the signing ceremony of the NATO–Russia Founding Act, Yeltsin stressed: ‘The most important thing now is to make sure that it creates a whole, greater Europe, because this is the only way we can make sure that it will be peaceful and safe. It is impossible to create safety and security for one single state. Security will be stable and reliable only when it’s the same for everyone and it is indivisible’ (NATO 1997c). He reiterated that insistence in a March 1997 meeting with Clinton: ‘Our

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position has not changed. It remains a mistake for NATO to move eastward…. I need to take steps to alleviate the negative consequences of this for Russia. I am prepared to enter into an agreement with NATO not because I want to but because it is a forced step’ (Clinton Digital Library 1997, 106). The Russian strategic bet that cooperating with NATO would ultimately yield influence over the key directions of European security increasingly began to look like a loser. Russian weakness and disarray made it hard to bargain effectively even as the mere existence of cooperative initiatives hamstrung Moscow’s ability to push back. The USA was developing military cooperation with other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and Russia’s objections were undermined by its own involvement in a seemingly similar partnership with NATO. This led to increased pressure on Russian policymakers to push back against NATO expansion. In 1996, realist-minded Russian statesman Yevgeny Primakov became foreign minister. He never doubted convergence with the USA and the European Union (EU) as a priority in Russian foreign policy, but he argued that cooperation needed to become more selective and not harm traditional Russian national interests. At his joint press conference with the NATO secretary general in December 1996, Primakov declared: As for the deployment of NATO military infrastructures, closer to our territories, closer to Russia, we are not happy about that and we are certainly looking for ways to prevent that and to resolve any concerns that we may have…. We continue to be against NATO enlargement and this position is not simply the view of the Russian government, it is not simply a subjective position, this is based on the firm belief that NATO enlargement will inevitably lead to a new division of Europe.

He went on, formulating a Russian proposal for the foundation of European security: ‘We think that security should be indivisible, security should not be security for some, like for NATO, for the Western European Union or for the CIS. Security should extend to all of Europe. This is why we think that in the European security architecture, the OSCE should be the key player’ (NATO 1996).

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The Road Toward Defection The shift from a strategy of cooperating to a strategy of defecting occurred as a process rather than as a discrete decision. Observers debate the significance of various steps along the road toward defection. The NATO air campaign to coerce Serbia out of Kosovo looms large for many; others note Vladimir Putin’s return to the cooperation strategy only 2 years later after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and so stress the significance of the fallout over the Second Iraq War, the US defection on the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and the US and European role in the ‘color revolutions’ in Yugoslavia (2000), Georgia (2003), Ukraine (2004), and Kyrgyzstan (2005). What is clear is that under the presidencies of both Putin and Medvedev, Moscow attempted the cooperation-as-revisionism strategy, but against a backdrop of increased willingness to defect. Defection arguably became the dominant strategy in the early 2010s. The key driver of this shift was that revisionist cooperation was failing to elicit reciprocation on the part of Washington; indeed, cooperation seemed to be facilitating outcomes that threatened to lock in future problems for Russian diplomacy. In particular, Russia’s influence over the direction of European and indeed global security might be compromised if it failed to impose some costs on Washington for its defection from cooperating with Russia. The issue at stake was less threat to Russia’s core territorial security than concerns that failure to impose costs now would help establish a precedent for the USA and its allies to set the agenda in the years ahead, even in areas close to what Moscow considered its core interests. Needless to say, setting the agenda is a long way from a crossborder invasion, which would threaten Russia’s security as defined in international politics scholarship. But from a Russian perspective, worries about the downstream risks of having an external great-power setting the agenda in its own region provided reasons to defect more proximate and legitimate than whatever interests Washington invoked to explain its involvement in the region. This logic underlay Russia’s increased complaints to the USA about NATO’s enlargement and caused Moscow to demand ‘a price for enlargement’: the establishment of special relations between Russia, NATO, and the USA; limiting the number of candidate states to a minimum, restrictions on NATO arms and troops within the territories of new members, and, especially, providing guarantees of non-deployment of

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nuclear weapons in these states. Even these gains were perceived in Moscow as small relative to the cost of acquiescing to enlargement. As President Yeltsin lamented, ‘We stated and still state that Russia is against the expansion of NATO, but considering some historical and world realities, the menace of the expansion of the bloc to our country must be brought to a minimum’ (Gordon 1997). The sense of frustration was vividly manifested in the 2000 Foreign Policy Concept: ‘Certain plans related to establishing new, equitable and mutually advantageous partnership relations of Russia with the rest of the world, as was assumed in the [Foreign Policy Concept 1993], have not been justified’ (FAS 2000). Russia’s dissatisfaction with the status quo concerning Europe was thus linked to its longstanding preference for what it called ‘multipolarity’—a world order reflecting its core preference for great-power parity in setting the global agenda. Evidence of Russia’s increasing disenchantment with the post-Cold War order was manifested in the 1997 Russian–Chinese Joint Declaration on a Multipolar World and the Establishment of a New International Order. Russia and China found common ground in describing the global future as ‘multipolarity,’ a ‘peaceful, stable, just and rational new international political and economic order’ based on the primacy of the UN Security Council. This order was described as a network of a ‘new type of long-term interstate relations not directed against third countries’ aimed at the ‘strengthening of world peace and the common progress of mankind.’ Fundamental norms of this proposed order were respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-aggression and non-interference in other states’ internal affairs, equality and mutual advantage, peaceful coexistence, and adherence to international law (UN Digital Library 1997). USA and allied efforts to have NATO take on out-of-area missions fed the connection in Russian officials’ minds between the European security architecture and US primacy at the global level, leading them to perceive increased downside risks in continued cooperation with the USA that was playing a defection strategy. Western intervention in Yugoslavia in 1999, in Afghanistan in 2001, and in Iraq in 2003 fed this dynamic in the foreign policies of Russia. In Moscow, these steps were perceived as a continuation of the events of the 1990s in Central and Eastern Europe. The USA and NATO appeared to be using expansion to set the terms of engagement even on issues that seemed of significant relevance to Russia and only limited relevance to Washington. For example, Moldova demanded the withdrawal of the Russia’s small deployment of troops of

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the 14th Army from Transnistria. At the same time, Georgia decided to reconsider its agreements with Russia on the deployment of Russian military bases on its territory. Russia formally agreed to these requests as part of the negotiations on the Treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe [CFE] during the Istanbul OSCE summit in November 1999. But Moscow made this move under what it perceived as heavy diplomatic pressure. The balance of influence within the OSCE was tilting ever more toward the USA, as Washington curbed Russian influence in the postSoviet space by making use of support from the Eastern European states. In Moscow’s view, this was the reason for NATO states’ refusal to ratify the agreement on adaptation of the CFE and the agreements inclusion of the Baltic States. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov later noted: Russia’s concerns…were invariably ignored. Our arguments fell on deaf ears and the ‘integrationist’ course of ‘early Putin’ was taken for granted.… Therefore, ‘Putin’s U-turn’, which culminated with the famous ‘Munich speech’ was, obviously, to some extent inevitable. A significant part of the responsibility for it lies on our Western partners. The very logic of development in the early 21st century brought Russian politicians to the disappointing conclusion that in this world only strength enjoys respect, that nobody will ever guarantee Russia anything, and that one’s interests must be defended firmly and resolutely. (2011)

Although the poor payoff elicited by cooperative offers was arguably the key driver of Moscow’s moves toward defection, a second important factor was Russia’s perception of increased relative power. The stronger Russia became relative to the USA, the more plausible became the argument that the time had come to impose costs on Washington for its defection. In 2006, during a meeting with Foreign Ministry officials, President Vladimir Putin called for adjusting Russia’s political influence in the world in accordance with its newly acquired economic opportunities (Kremlin 2006). The assessment of an improved power and bargaining position tempted Moscow to try a more affirmative strategy: using US weaknesses to contest head-on the consensus on the post-Cold War security architecture. The series of the events that led to Russia’s most dramatic move away from cooperation—annexing Crimea from Ukraine and supporting the separatist movement in the country’s Donbass region—has been extensively documented. Weaving through these accounts is a confluence of the

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two drivers of Russia’s more pugnacious strategy: an increasingly acute assessment of the downstream costs of NATO centrality for Moscow’s conception of its interest; and an estimate that Russia now possessed greater capabilities to sustain a potential standoff with the West (Charap and Colton 2017; Menon and Rumer 2015; Sakwa 2016). The confluence led to a much more active policy of countering Western influence in the states between Russia and NATO territory, notably Ukraine, by offering incentives to join the Eurasian Economic Union even as the EU increasingly engaged Ukraine in negotiating the terms of a formal association with the Union. With NATO and the EU staying their previous course toward extending their institutions eastward and Russia following its newly assertive approach, the stage was set for dramatic intensification of the spiral, and Ukraine was tragically positioned to be its victim. NATO’s Bucharest Declaration in early 2008 asserting the goal of NATO membership plans for Georgia and Ukraine set off a flurry of Russian warnings through every available channel. Seasoned US diplomats on the scene saw this clearly, and reported as much to Washington: [Government of Russia] officials publicly and privately do not hide that their endgame is the status quo. Russia has accepted Ukraine’s westward orientation, including its possible accession to the EU and closer ties with NATO, but NATO membership and the establishment of a U.S. or NATO base in Ukraine remain clear redlines. Ideally, Russia aims to secure a written neutrality pledge from Ukraine. (Russell 2008)

In a typical communication, Ambassador William Burns forecast the possible Russian reaction to invigorated efforts to work toward NATO membership for Ukraine: Experts tell us that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face. (2008a)

In any spiral, each side can deploy a narrative blaming the other. The two sides maintain opposing narratives of the causes of the fall of Viktor Yanukovich’s government and legitimacy of its western-backed successor.

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But the key Russian claim, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov put it, is that the crisis was not the cause of current poor relations between Russia and the West: It was rather a consequence of the policy that Western countries, primarily the United States and NATO Allies, conducted after the end of the Cold War.… Instead of taking advantage of the unique historical chance and forming a truly pan-European structure of security and cooperation, the West opted for NATO expansion despite all the promises made by the leaders of the United States and many European countries in 1990 that the Alliance would not advance an inch eastwards. (Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs 2018)

Faced with a 20-year track record of what they saw as US defections from cooperation on European security, Russian officials discounted protestations that NATO membership was off the table for Ukraine. They manifestly did not trust the West not to exploit ongoing incremental advances toward a more westward orientation for Ukraine in the future to harm Russian interests by ultimately granting Ukraine NATO membership, pushing the Russian fleet out of Crimea, and creating sundry other downstream security nightmares. Delivering a speech on the Crimean referendum on reunification with Russia in March 2014, President Putin said: As the collapse [of the USSR] was legalized, everyone forgot about Crimea and Sevastopol—the main base of the Black Sea Fleet…. With Ukraine, our western partners have crossed the line, playing the bear and acting irresponsibly and unprofessionally…. They must have really lacked political instinct and common sense not to foresee all the consequences of their actions. Russia found itself in a position it could not retreat from. (Kremlin 2014)

The Revisionists’ Spiral as a Greedy-Security Dilemma On the surface, the evidence reviewed here seems to buttress position 1, which identifies the generative cause of the US–NATO–Russia spiral as greedy, non-security motivations on the US side that pushed a security-seeking Russia to respond. The actions that leap out of the story are US defections. The USA has continuously chosen to defect

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even though it held a secure position immediately after the Cold War. As a result, the story appears to be that the de-escalatory spiral between essentially security-seeking states inaugurated by Mikhail Gorbachev was ultimately interrupted by Washington’s failure to reciprocate the costly signals emanating from Moscow. Despite Moscow’s repeated decisions not to use force to defend its global position, the West never trusted Russia’s current or especially its future intentions sufficiently to make the costly gestures regarding the European security architecture that would have been necessary to reduce Moscow’s uncertainty concerning the West’s intentions. In this interpretation, the West’s lack of trust was strategically suboptimal in that it created a much greater geopolitical rival than would have existed had a more equitable approach to European security been on offer. In fact, however, the evidence here is consistent with a more symmetrical explanation of the spiral. To be sure, our ability to explain the spiral is limited by the fact that we have focused mainly on the Russian side. Aside from the assertion that primacy in the European security architecture has always been seen in mainstream official Washington as a core postulate of US grand strategy, we have not examined US motivations. Whether that postulate and the larger strategy of which it is a part reflect security motivations or greedy motivations is a major question in the grand strategy debate. Suffice it to say here that those who argue for the optimality of an engaged US grand strategy invoke arguments that create some problems in applying the classical security-dilemma model (Art 2003; Brooks and Wohlforth 2016). First, the model usually features two states. Although this fits Russia’s perceptions remarkably well, insofar as Moscow was focused intently on the USA and on information concerning its motivations, the fundamental arguments swirling around the preservation and then extension of NATO include key third parties, namely the states of Central and Eastern Europe. In the 1990s and even early 2000s, it was possible to derive security arguments for extending NATO assurances eastward, and serious analysts could argue that a purely security-motivated Russia should not have inferred greedy motivations from those actions (see esp. Kydd 2001; Glaser 1993). This leads to the second complication in applying the classical model to the US–NATO–Russia case, namely that in the model’s standard applications it admits only to two types of states: security seekers and greedy states. In reality, as Glaser acknowledges, motives are usually mixed in international politics. States may have minimalist or maximalist

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understandings of the requisites of their security. Glaser recognizes the possibility of a type of state that he calls ‘greedy-security seekers,’ in which motives other than pure defensive territorial security—such as status, prestige, or influence—enter into the picture. One reading of US choices regarding European security in the post-Cold War era is that they reflect such greedy-security-seeking motives, in that the USA was attempting to minimize the probability of instability in Europe even as it attempted to hedge against the possibility of an adverse future change in Russian intentions (Glaser 1993). The evidence concerning Russian responses to NATO centrality and ultimate expansion suggests that in Moscow, too, greedy-security motivations tended to rule the roost. Russia’s adamant opposition to NATO’s centrality and to its expansion derived from an understanding of security according to which allowing the USA too great a role in determining security arrangements in western Eurasia might ultimately redound negatively to Russia’s core security. In the nearer term, the more salient issues concern Russia’s influence over Europe’s affairs. Acquiescing US primacy in Europe would create challenges for Russian diplomacy as it seeks influence over countries in its near abroad, reduce its options, and incrementally enhance the voice of the USA and its allies in global politics more generally. For Russia, to be indifferent to NATO’s preservation and expansion would, for example, suggest that it does not matter to Moscow over the long term what rules are set or considered legitimate concerning when and under what conditions core principles of sovereignty may be set aside in favor of human rights. That is not a position likely to get very far in either the Kremlin or the Foreign Ministry’s Stalin skyscraper. Analysts, like policymakers, cannot be certain of great-powers’ ultimate intentions. We know that both the USA and Russia were revisionists. We know that the materially dominant USA was better able to realize its expansionist aims, via expanding NATO. But we cannot know for certain what each would have done had the other played a different strategy. There is little doubt that had the USA not sustained NATO centrality, Russia would have sought a vastly bigger role in Europe than it now occupies. The evidence strongly indicates that Moscow would never have been satisfied with US primacy in Europe. Beyond that, it is hard to specify what kind of architecture would have been consistent with Moscow’s understanding of its security and status. The documentary record does suggest that something like a primus inter pares role with the USA as its

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peer would have done the trick, but it is impossible to know what the details of such an arrangement would have been. Ultimately, the spiral is best understood as generated by greedysecurity motivations on both sides. The spiral contains elements of security-dilemma logic because each side sincerely believes that its definition of security is not intended to threaten a reasonable definition of security on the other side. Each is bargaining and signaling to try to get the other side to adopt a more minimalist definition of security. For NATO centrality to have successfully avoided a spiral with Russia, Moscow would have had to pare down the degree to which it sought to minimize long-term threats to its security that might emerge from allowing the USA too large a role in Europe. For Russia’s preference concerning the European security architecture to succeed, it would have had to persuade the USA to accept more risk and less influence, from the latter’s perspective. To avoid or at least reduce the severity of the spiral, the USA would have had to contemplate the possibility that in some future European crisis, it would have to defer to Russia in ways that it would find uncomfortable, given its current understanding of its global security interests. Washington proved consistently unwilling to trust Russia’s future intentions enough to take that risk. How do we evaluate the spiral normatively? That is, are these states behaving in some patently suboptimal way? The answer depends on the analyst’s evaluation of the ways in which each side defines security. Much of the debate about NATO centrality hinges on the perceived reasonableness of various definitions of security. Although the spiral does not map perfectly onto any one theoretical model of international relations, overall it is most consistent with strategic interactions among great powers as modeled in offensive-realist theory because in that theory, most great powers most of the time are optimally greedy-security seekers. The theory predicts that great-powers’ dominant strategy, even if they are motivated solely by their own long-term security, is to be revisionist, seeking to expand power when possible. To be sure, the theory’s author, John J. Mearsheimer (2001, 2018), argues that proponents of the current US grand strategy are mistaken in thinking that US security guarantees in Europe are necessary. In his argument, all the USA should care about is the prevention of some form of ‘regional hegemony’ in Europe, an objective he estimates is within the capability of European states without NATO. He therefore finds the US definitions of security underlying its NATO policy to be unreasonable.

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Yet, at the core of the spiral are decisions not to trust the other side that are consistent with offensive realism. As Stephen G. Brooks (1997) points out, offensive realism posits a worst-case ‘possibilistic’ decision criterion under which it is a mistake to accept any risk of being wrong in estimating another great-power’s trustworthiness. Defensive realism, Brooks shows, uses a more conventional probabilistic benchmark for optimality, under which a rational state may be warranted in risking costly cooperative moves when it has reason to have high confidence, though not 100% certainty, that its moves will be reciprocated. Although defensive realist arguments can be found to rationalize aspects of US and Russian understandings of the requisites of security, the overall pattern does not fit a defensive realist model. In defensive realism, each side’s estimate of the other type—greedy state or security seeker—is contingent upon information regarding the other, policy can affect that flow of information, and policy in the NATO saga should have affected those estimates. Not so in offensive realism. This analysis does make a puzzle of the fact that the prominent exponents of offensive realism—notably Mearsheimer (2014a)—are also noted advocates of position 1 in the NATO expansion debate, placing the USA in the role of the greedy-state spoiler. Solving that puzzle is not our main purpose here, but is it important to note the distinction between the theory’s building block foundations—which posit aggressive solutions to security problems—and its ancillary apparatus invoking geography, from which one can identify circumstances under which a great power might optimally exercise restraint. Those arguments stipulate that once a great power has attained hegemony in its region, as the USA did in the nineteenth century, it need commit forces onshore in other regions only to prevent a great-power peer from doing the same in its region. Soviet and then Russian decline in the 1990s arguably eliminated any threat of regional hegemony in Europe and thus the rationale for NATO. Thus, the US expansionist response to the security setting of post-Cold War Europe flows seamlessly from core offensive-realist theory but runs afoul of offensive-realist arguments about the conditions under which an offshore regional hegemon like the USA should commit to an onshore presence in Eurasia. Ultimately, Russia never reconciled to NATO’s centrality and the USA was never willing to give it up. Both sides defected in service of greedysecurity motivation. Each side’s reasoning goes something like this: ‘If the

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other side suspects that I am going to defect and unilaterally take advantage tomorrow of a gain I make today via cooperation, then it will defect. And in fact, I am tempted to defect, so the other side must assume that I’ll defect, which means that it will defect, which in turn means that I should defect.’ This reasoning is driven by three features of international politics that figure centrally in realist theory: the uncertainty of intentions (it is impossible to know for sure the intentions of another state, especially what that state may intend to do in the future); risk aversion (in international politics, it often pays to be very reluctant to run the risks that a cooperative move might create); and the downside costs of unreciprocated cooperation (cooperating when the other side defects and takes advantage of you leads to dramatic losses in security, as compared to the lower perceived risks of defecting when the other side cooperates). Russian and US officials consistently assessed these features in ways consistent with the offensive-realist portrayal of great-power politics.

Conclusion Identifying the US–NATO–Russia interaction as a revisionists’ spiral driven by more or less symmetrical greedy-security motivations yields three important lessons. First, the generative processes of the US–NATO–Russia spiral are deeper than they are presented as in narratives featuring fundamentally flawed policies on one or the other side. To get out of the spiral is costly to each side’s deeply set understanding of the requisites of its security. Evidence showing Russia’s willingness to cooperate with NATO centrality has led some analysts to think that compromise deals would have been possible earlier in the game and might still be possible today. That is unlikely. The concessions needed are more costly for each side than that narrative (here captured by positions 1 and 2) suggests. Second, both sides in the US grand strategy debate—those who favor deep engagement and those who urge offshore balancing—may underestimate the downside risks of their preferred strategies when it comes to European security. It is harder than many US analysts admit to reconcile standard Washington understandings of US grand strategy, including US primacy in Europe, with non-antagonistic relations with Russia. As long as Washington defines its security requisites as demanding a leadership role in Europe’s only serious security institution, it will pay the price of antagonism with Moscow, which can incentivize Russia–China alignment.

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The flip side of this coin is that the price of a restraint grand strategy in Europe could be some form of Russian primacy, depending on estimates of Europe’s ability to create autonomous capabilities and strategy. Through all its turbulent transitions, Russia has consistently maintained a greedy-security interest in the ability to influence the wider European security architecture. That interest is not likely to go away if America goes home. And that means that if America does go home and later perceives a strong national interest in coming back, it may find a European security architecture under a Russian leadership ill-inclined to open its doors to US power. Third, the US and Russia’s deep-set understandings of security are greedy. Each side bargains to get the other to accept a more restrained conception of security, while it maintains greedy security for itself. Changes in the two states’ relative power have also influenced events. The USA attained greedy-security goals and Russia largely did not because the USA had power and Russia did not. The spiral has reached new levels of intensity because Moscow thinks that power balancing will force the USA to reduce its security requisites to what it believes would be more reasonable levels; and the USA thinks that sanctions will coerce Russia to do the same. Until and unless those estimates converge to the degree that each side’s estimate of its bargaining power more closely matches the other’s, all attempts to reset the US–NATO–Russia relationship will be transitory interruptions in the spiral.

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CHAPTER 9

China Views NATO: Beijing’s Concerns About Transatlantic Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific Liselotte Odgaard

For most of the post-Cold War era, China did not show much concern with NATO. A few crises in the relationship occurred, such as NATO’s bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Serbia, in May 1999 and NATO’s launch of a military strike against Libya in 2011, which according to China constituted abuse of the authorization of the UN Security Council to intervene (Odgaard 2013). Nevertheless, mostly the relationship was limited but constructive. Beijing and Brussels focused on dialogue and coordination on military operations other than war, such as anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, with a view toward avoiding enmity through mutual understanding. As relations between China and the West deteriorated under Trump’s presidency from 2017 onwards,

L. Odgaard (B) Hudson Institute, Washington, DC, USA e-mail: [email protected] Institute for Defence Studies, Oslo, Norway

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 J. Goldgeier and J. R. I. Shifrinson (eds.), Evaluating NATO Enlargement, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-23364-7_9

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relations between China and NATO also suffered, and regular dialogue came to a halt. However, Beijing largely maintained an indifferent attitude towards NATO, as indicated by the scant interest in producing Chinese analyses of NATO despite the alliance’s emerging focus on the IndoPacific. From 2022, the relationship has changed decidedly. The emphasis is now on the issues that set China and NATO apart as the challenges they pose to each other rather than the mutual benefits from maintaining dialogue and coordination are at the top of their security agendas. What has caused this change in perspective? NATO has refrained from identifying China as a country that produces threats that may trigger the collective defense obligations of the NATO Treaty’s Article 5. Nevertheless, NATO’s 2022 strategic concept defines the alliance as an integral part of transatlantic efforts to counter Chinese military, economic and industrial challenges (NATO 2022a). Seen from a Chinese perspective, this is a point of no return that consolidates NATO as an adversary. The US sees China as threat number one, whereas for most of Europe, Russia is the main threat. After the Cold War, China had hoped that this difference in outlook would lead to a division of labor between Europe and the US that might result in the gradual disintegration of the transatlantic alliance. This development would simplify China’s security and defense challenges because Beijing would be able to focus its defense posture on countering US power projection in Asia. However, instead a rapprochement has taken place between the US and Europe on adopting a more critical stance against China and pushing back against unsolicited Chinese practices. The problem with a coordinated transatlantic response is that it enables Europe and the US to produce strategic dilemmas for China by challenging China and Chinese partners such as Russia across two fronts in the Indo-Pacific and the Euro-Atlantic area. In geographical terms, China is situated far from Europe. China’s security concerns about the transatlantic alliance do not arise from NATO’s enlargement process with additional member states. Instead, Beijing’s misgivings arise from NATO’s expansion of its activities into areas such as humanitarian interventions and cyber and space and from NATO’s decision in 2022 to go global and expand its partner countries beyond its geographical North Atlantic home territory in the Indo-Pacific. This functional and conceptual enlargement of NATO has gradually turned the alliance into a security issue for China. The alliance’s functional enlargement means that China will have a harder time penetrating Western economies with investments that allow it access

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to technology helping China outcompete Western industries and provide Beijing with control of strategic assets in the West such as harbors and runways. To make matters worse, NATO is establishing links with IndoPacific partners to make sure that pushback against China’s full spectrum military, economic and industrial challenges also comes from major US Asian allies with strategic defense, technological and industrial assets such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand. In and of itself, NATO is not a major security concern for China. It is the coordinated response to China’s challenges between entities that are aligned with the US, including the EU, NATO, and key Indo-Pacific and European allies, that is considered a formidable security challenge to China. This chapter first outlines the history of China-NATO relations. Second, it investigates how the Chinese government perceives NATO plans to participate in a global US-led coalition to counter Chinese security challenges. Third, the chapter discusses which actions China is taking to counter NATO plans for taking on China’s challenges.

Post-Cold War Relations Between China and NATO Between the 1990s and 2017, relations between China and NATO were fundamentally cooperative, even if the interaction was scant and not institutionalized. Conciliatory relations were born out of the engagement policy of the US and its allies and the belief in the possibility of China’s peaceful rise. This was based on China’s interest in integration into international economic, financial, and institutional structures which allowed it to benefit from investment opportunities, access to technology, and influence on global definitions of proper international conduct. As NATO engaged in functional enlargement after the Cold War while China looked to benefit from engagement with the West, dialogue and coordination developed between Brussels and Beijing. China and NATO had a common interest in maintaining global security in four key areas: counterterrorism, counter-piracy operations, crisis management, and stabilization operations. Despite China’s insistence on seeking peaceful development and eschew alliances, limited benevolent interaction developed between Beijing and NATO in these areas. Following the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001, China provided support to US and NATO counterterrorism initiatives. From 2008, the Chinese navy interacted with NATO fleets to fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Somalia, though China acted in its national

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capacity when conducting anti-piracy patrols and there were no joint operations. Moreover, coordination with NATO worked reasonably well despite cultural and technical challenges. In the area of crisis management, NATO agreed to China’s request for participating in NATO courses at the alliance’s school in Oberammergau. China also shared NATO’s objective to stabilize Afghanistan. During US and NATO operations in the first two decades of the millennium, China was not willing to provide financial aid or to get involved militarily. However, by pursuing economic interests, infrastructure projects, and investments, China contributed indirectly to NATO’s reconstruction efforts by diversifying Afghanistan’s economy. China also made limited contributions to training Afghan security forces (Kropatcheva 2014, 154–155; Chacho 2014). NATO’s eastward enlargement was never popular with China. Chinese analysts tended to characterize NATO as a relic of the Cold War that had lost its purpose, and during the whole period China was looking for clues of the alliance’s disintegration. NATO was described as an unequal and unstandardized alliance in which the US wants burden sharing and Europe wants power sharing, while in practice working to build its own independent defense. The generally pro-US orientation of the Central and Eastern European member states that became part of the alliance with the expansion was seen to deepen disagreements between the US and Europe over security perceptions and threat management (Chinese analysts 2002–2004, 139–140). The development emphasized that China’s Western engagement could be used to drive wedges between the US and Europe. China considered Europe more benevolent than the US because of Europe’s limited and civilian-oriented engagement in Asia. NATO’s bombing of the PRC’s embassy in Belgrade in Serbia in 1999 was a defining moment in sowing mistrust between NATO and China and consolidating the Chinese view that NATO is a US-dominated alliance in which Europe does not have much of a say over its own security. China did not believe the US claim that the bombing was a mistake. The incident gave rise to many negative feelings among the Chinese political establishment and in the public at large towards the US and NATO. It did not stop China from interacting with NATO, presumably because the interaction was a unique opportunity to learn about the capabilities and doctrines of US and European forces. However, it may have encouraged China not to seek deepened institutionalized connections with NATO, resolving that it was best to keep NATO at arm’s length to protect Chinese security interests. Beijing assessed that the alliance’s functional

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enlargement might have negative future consequences for China. The bombing incident caused nationalist sentiment to spiral out of control, ensuring that NATO is connected to the bombing in the minds of many Chinese. At the time of the bombing, the Chinese government tolerated and encouraged demonstrations that it was not able to contain, threatening damage to Sino-US relations and provoking criticism that the regime was unwilling to confront the US (Zhao 2013, 393). NATO’s intervention in Libya was another key moment in China’s outlook on the alliance which strengthened Beijing’s concern about the alliance’s functional enlargement. In March 2011, China abstained from voting on UN Security Council resolution 1973 which, acting under Chapter VII, approved a no-fly zone over Libya and authorized all necessary measures to protect civilians (United Nations Security Council 2011). China argued that NATO abused the UN Security Council mandate for purposes of regime change instead of limiting the intervention to putting a halt to violence that threatened to derail peace and stability in the Arab world. The Chinese government outlet People’s Daily commented on NATO’s Libya operation by predicting that the unceasing terrorist attacks and bombings after regime change would be regarded as humanitarian disasters (Sheng 2012).1 NATO’s willingness to reinterpret the UN principles of intervention to allow for intervention in the domestic affairs of other states in the event of human rights atrocities was a wake-up call for China and a call for them to take a more proactive stance in influencing the global rules of proper conduct (Odgaard 2013, 255–256). The intervention also demonstrated that NATO was able to act to defend liberal values by force, fueling Chinese concerns that if such authorizations became an accepted principle, China could, in future, become the target of UN-authorized use of force. US President Trump’s calls for gradually withdrawing the US from NATO obligations, designating the alliance as obsolete, was grist for the mill of China, even if it never translated into actual US policies. In January 2017, when Trump took office, People’s Daily tweeted that “‘NATO is truly a relic of the past’: Moscow agrees with US Presidentelect Donald Trump that NATO is obsolete, the Kremlin said Monday” (People’s Daily 2017). However, the Trump administration’s fierce efforts

1 Zhong Sheng is the pen name used by the Chinese leadership in the international affairs pages.

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to convince European NATO members that China was a threat to transatlantic security due to its unsolicited market economic practices, human rights violations, and military build-up was also a determining factor in convincing the Europeans to extend more support for US efforts to protect liberal economic and political values from Chinese efforts to replace these principles with a Sino-centric world order. This development turned out to be the more significant long-term trend in transatlantic relations that paved the way for designating China “a systemic challenge for global security” (NATO 2022a). With Russia’s 2022 war in Ukraine, NATO has been given a new lease on life, as indicated by Finland and Sweden’s membership applications. In addition, NATO builds on European and US Indo-Pacific engagement to establish an Indo-Pacific platform with Asian partners that are equally concerned about Chinese international policies. For China, the main concern is that this signals that the US is succeeding in its efforts to persuade Europe to engage in full-spectrum deterrence of China with partners and allies in the Indo-Pacific. In the following section, the chapter addresses how China sees NATO’s 2022 strategic concept and why this development has put NATO high on China’s security agenda.

NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept: China’s Concerns About the Globalization of the US Alliance System For the first time, the 2022 version of NATO’s decade-long strategy document, its strategic concept, takes on China as an actor that poses systemic challenges to Euro-Atlantic security. China is not defined as a threat that can trigger Article Five collective defense obligations. In contrast to the US, key NATO member states in Europe such as France and Germany are not yet prepared to put China on par with Russia. Nevertheless, NATO members agree that the PRC’s stated ambitions and coercive policies challenge the alliance’s interests, security, and values. The alliance also defines the deepening Sino-Russian partnership and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order as efforts that run counter to the alliance’s values and interests. At the same time, NATO emphasizes that it is open to constructive engagement with China, including to build reciprocal transparency, with a view to safeguarding NATO’s security interests. However, NATO is also

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determined to boost the member states’ shared awareness, enhance the alliance’s resilience and preparedness, and protect against the PRC’s coercive tactics and efforts to divide the alliance. This involves standing up for shared values and the rules-based international order, including freedom of navigation (NATO 2022a). In meeting these challenges, the EU is defined as a unique and essential partner of NATO which shares the values of the alliance. NATO also recognizes the value of a stronger and more capable European defense that contributes positively to transatlantic and global security and is complementary to, and interoperable with, NATO. The Indo-Pacific is considered important for NATO, given that developments in that region can directly affect Euro-Atlantic security. As a result, the alliance will strengthen dialogue and cooperation with new and existing partners in the Indo-Pacific to tackle cross-regional challenges and shared security interests (NATO 2022a). NATO’s Indo-Pacific partners differ from those that the alliance assists with modernizing their defense and doctrines, such as Georgia, and those that are institutional partners heavily integrated into NATO’s deterrence and planning efforts, such as the prospective alliance members Finland and Sweden. NATO’s Indo-Pacific partners are a function of decade-long relations of the US, the EU, the UK, and EU member states with Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea. NATO’s Indo-Pacific partners are not strategic in the sense that they are expected to contribute to the alliance’s military strategic concepts and plans and strengthen its defenses. Instead, they are cooperative security partners that signify NATO’s conceptual enlargement process of going global. This effort is new and forms part of the alliance’s 2022 strategic concept. The purpose of NATO’s conceptual enlargement is to strengthen US commitment to the alliance and to support European allies in defending themselves against Chinese security challenges. This attempt to reduce the vulnerability of NATO member states vis-à-vis China is based on existing comprehensive bilateral partnerships of its members and partners (NATO 2022a; NATO 2022b). The Indo-Pacific partner countries of NATO welcome this development. Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea are emphasized as key partners, as indicated by their attendance at the 2022 NATO summit in Madrid. Together with Canada, the UK, and the US, Australia and New Zealand form part of The Five Eyes intelligence cooperation. In addition, Australia is a member of the AUKUS security pact with the UK and the US which focuses on building military capabilities (Miller 2022).

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Japan and South Korea are long-standing US allies with strategic importance vis-à-vis China and North Korea. Moreover, they have the economic and technological muscles to offer alternatives to states in the Indo-Pacific which are partners of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative of economic development and security. Together with China and the US, Japan and South Korea are also strategic partners of the EU. Japan has increased its political support for Taiwan, and security in the Taiwan Strait now forms part of the US-Japan security dialogue (Cheung 2022). In addition, Japan has been the driving force in forging and implementing economic and security assistance programs to Indo-Pacific countries that are reluctant to fully commit to the US alliance system (Pajon 2019). Since 2021, South Korea has been actively engaged in increasing its integration and coordination with US allies in the Indo-Pacific and Europe to strengthen its ability to counter Chinese security challenges. At the bilateral meeting between Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and South Korean foreign minister Park Jin in July 2022, Seoul affirmed that South Korea intended to participate in international cooperation aimed at protecting freedom, peace, human rights, and the rule of law. Park expressed his hope that relations between Seoul and Beijing would mutually develop based on universal values and rules. The remarks are in line with President Yoon Suk-yeol’s comments at the 2022 NATO summit, at which he expressed hope that a cooperative relationship between NATO and the Indo-Pacific will become a cornerstone of a coalition defending universal values (Lee 2022; Seung-woo 2022). The statements signify that South Korea is taking a much more assertive stance towards Chinese encroachments on the liberal values of the post-World War II system following the election of a conservative president in 2022. The newfound alignment between Japan and South Korea’s position and policies in the US alliance system and towards China constitutes a significant improvement in cooperation and coordination in the US alliance system (Japan Times 2022). Both countries have close relations with Europe and with Indo-Pacific partner countries such as India, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The development indicates that their mutual concern about China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific, helped by the assumption of office of a conservative president in South Korea in 2022, has encouraged Tokyo and Seoul to prevent conflicts over historical issues dating back to Japan’s occupation of South Korea in the first half of the twentieth century from jeopardizing cooperation on Indo-Pacific security. Expanding relations with US allies in Europe sharing

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similar concerns about China’s growing global influence will significantly strengthen the ability of the US and its allies to constrain China’s global expansion of its version of global order. NATO’s turn towards the Indo-Pacific and its links with US regional allies is a concern to China for two reasons. First, transatlantic unity on countering China’s challenges makes it more difficult for China to stay on benevolent terms with Europe. Second, NATO’s focus on China’s cooperation with Russia as a key element in their ability to create security challenges for NATO allies puts pressure on Beijing to choose between loyalty towards its Russian partner and maintaining cooperation with Western countries. Firstly, China worries that the US has resumed its leadership position vis-à-vis Europe on global security management after a period during the Trump administration when transatlantic security cooperation seemed to suffer irreparable damage. Agreement between NATO allies to take on the China challenge across a wide array of issue areas and in cooperation with US allies in China’s home region underscores that Europe endorses the US view that the Chinese foreign and security outlook is not conducive to the liberal post-World War II order which remains the basis of US and European international politics. As a result, looking ahead China will have a much harder time maintaining extensive economic, financial, academic, scientific, institutional, and political links with Europe. Europe interprets the Chinese presence as serving Chinese interests in increasing its global influence and leadership at the expense of fundamental international liberal market economic and democratic political principles. This more critical stance towards China may limit China’s access to Western technology, knowledge, and investment opportunities, posing challenges to China’s growth prospects. Since China’s global power is based on its ability to profit from global international economic and financial structures, this development constitutes an important concern for China’s future international position. China’s response to NATO’s willingness to take on Chinese challenges in cooperation with Indo-Pacific partners has been answered with sharp public warnings against ganging up on China. A China Daily editorial stated that “[i]f you are a hammer, all you see are nails. NATO must stop its confrontational approach against China for the benefit of world peace and security…China is thousands of miles away from Europe and has never in history posed any security challenge to the organization. Rather, the security challenge comes the other way round, with NATO in recent

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years flexing its muscles in the Asia-Pacific region by sending warships and military aircraft to the South China Sea” (China Daily 2022). The nationalist newspaper the Global Times accuses NATO of assuming “a posture of ‘going wherever I need to go’ and ‘going wherever I want to go,’ and has increasingly become a ‘systemic challenge’ that threatens world security and stability” (Yun 2022). According to the newspaper, the alliance will force Asia-Pacific countries to take sides between China and the US based on its logic of great power geopolitical competition. This is likely to lead to increasingly intense regional crises and conflicts and severely interrupt the process of regional economic integration (Bei 2022). NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept is not just a threat to China, according to Beijing, but a threat to Asian and global security. Despite Beijing’s harsh NATO rhetoric, China continues to emphasize that Beijing distinguishes between Europe and the US. According to China, the US has not forsaken what China sees as a confrontational mindset of the Cold War. At the bilateral meeting between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi in July 2022, Beijing criticized the US for failing to lift US–China ties out of the predicament created by the previous US administration as the US is suffering from Chinaphobia that will lead its China policy to a dead end. Wang urged the US not to seek a new Cold War and to refrain from targeting its alliances with China and pursuing the independence of Taiwan (Global Times staff reporters 2022). The US tendency to read China’s behavior in terms of military confrontation is the most tangible direct threat to China in Beijing’s view. In particular, the US designation of China’s model of global economic growth and development, the Belt and Road Initiative, as a military, economic, and political threat, and US efforts to establish alternatives to Chinese infrastructure projects, is perceived as a resumption of the containment policy of the Cold War with the purpose of maintaining US hegemony in the post-Cold War international system (People’s Liberation Army high-ranking military officers 2022). In Beijing’s view, one indication that the US approach to China influences NATO’s China policies is the emphasis on deterrence in NATO’s 2022 strategic concept. According to Chinese military analysts, deterrence does not form part of Chinese strategies and doctrines (People’s Liberation Army high-ranking military officers 2022). China is against the globalization of NATO that characterizes the alliance’s conceptual enlargement because it is a military alliance

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and as such, China argues that it contributes to conflict and growing militarization. If enhanced militarization of the Indo-Pacific results in the use of force to influence the situation in Taiwan and in the South China Sea to the advantage of the US, China states that it will take corresponding measures to defend its interests (People’s Liberation Army high-ranking military officers 2022). In regions far from China’s shores and near Europe, such as the Arctic, China says that it will continue to contribute to maintaining stability and security, for example, by using its scientific engagement in the Arctic island Svalbard to expand civilian cooperation on issues such as environmental change and global governance of the Arctic. In addition, the development of the Northern Sea Route running along Russia’s coastline into an Arctic shipping route between China and Europe is hoped to contribute to improved Chinese-European relations. China would like to see NATO and Russia strengthen dialogue and cooperation in the Arctic. However, China is of the view that NATO is departing from this policy with its plans to accept Finland and Sweden as full members of the alliance. According to China, NATO’s enlargement plans risk escalating confrontation with Russia in the Arctic region, thereby jeopardizing the prospects of resuming dialogue between Moscow and Brussels (People’s Liberation Army high-ranking military officers 2022). Despite China’s concern about the direction NATO is taking, Beijing still hopes to be able to drive wedges between the US and Europe and prevent Europe from stepping up its military engagement in the IndoPacific. To this end, Beijing points out that the Ukraine conflict has not changed its view of Europe as a strategic partner. Indeed, China emphasizes that it shares some of Europe’s security concerns that result from this conflict, such as the challenge to procure energy resources at rising prices (People’s Liberation Army high-ranking military officers 2022). China argues that Europe and the US have different interests in the Ukraine conflict, since the US has gained from this conflict, for example, through increased energy exports to Europe. By contrast, Europe is the principal loser in the conflict. As a result, China hopes to be able to cooperate with Europe on peaceful measures to put an end to the Ukraine conflict (People’s Liberation Army high-ranking military officers 2022). In the longer term, China remains open to resuming prior avenues of cooperation with Europe, for example, on humanitarian disaster relief and counterterrorist measures. Cooperation is seen as possible in areas where compatible security concerns exist, and gradually cooperation can

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be expanded from non-controversial areas to areas with more pronounced differences of interest. According to China, Europe and China have compatible approaches to world politics in that they both rely on expanding their economic power through integration into international economic structures. This reliance on economic incentives is considered the main driver of continued Chinese-European cooperation. Moreover, China argues that Europe’s position as a global economic power makes it much less inclined than the US to engage in the use of force on China’s doorstep in conflicts over areas such as Taiwan and the South China Sea. In turn, China will not emulate the US tendency to impose its opinion on other countries. Instead, China intends to engage in dialogue and communication with Europe to enhance mutual understanding of the security concerns of the other party to see if common policies can be established in areas with compatible security outlooks between China and Europe (People’s Liberation Army high-ranking military officers 2022). China builds its hope for continued Chinese-European cooperation in the spirit of business as usual on the likelihood that NATO’s new lease on life is a transitory phenomenon resulting from the 2022 Russian-Ukraine war and the Biden administration’s concern to forge close security cooperation with Europe. Biden’s low support in opinion polls gives credibility to the view that the Republicans will come out as winners in the 2024 presidential election (Lange 2023). If the Republican candidate wins the presidency, the policies of the Trump administration to decrease US engagement in European security and defense issues and deemphasize the importance of NATO for US security may gain more traction. If Europe is left to manage regional security issues without a proper region-wide defense force capable of operating independently from the US, Europe will be forced to adopt more accommodating policies towards China to manage the larger threat from Russia. This appears to be the assessment in Beijing that gives China hope that economic and security cooperation between China and Europe can be restored. Secondly, China is worried that it will be seen as part and parcel of Russia’s determination to recreate a buffer zone towards its border with NATO, if necessary by using force and going to war (People’s Liberation Army high-ranking military officers 2022). Since Russia’s military intervention in Georgia in 2008, China has emphasized its commitment to absolute sovereignty, non-interference in the internal affairs of

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other countries, and the non-use of force to solve conflicts in international affairs (Odgaard 2013). China signals that Russia’s use of force against sovereign states is not endorsed by China and that Beijing will continue to use non-military instruments to pursue its interests overseas. The Ukraine war has required China to walk a tightrope between its commitment to sovereignty and territorial integrity, and its support for Russia. This balancing act is made more difficult by growing tensions in the Taiwan Strait. Here, China emphasizes its sovereignty over Taiwan as recognized by the one-China policy to justify its military, economic and political encroachments on Taiwan. Nevertheless, in the joint statement from the summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2022 Beijing supported Moscow in blaming the Russia-Ukraine conflict fundamentally on NATO expansion (President of Russia 2022). Furthermore, China’s unwillingness to designate Russia’s use of force in Ukraine as an invasion, and its reassurance to Moscow that there are no limits to their strategic partnership, demonstrate to the US and Europe that China is more concerned to reassure Moscow of its commitment to continue expanding bilateral cooperation across a wide array of economic, technological, security, scientific, and financial issue areas than to show commitment to the post-World War II interpretation of the global principles of international conduct (Odgaard 2022). Although Beijing has stated that it opposes using sanctions against Russia as an instrument of conflict resolution, China has refrained from engaging in military and economic cooperation with Russia that could be seen as breaches of US and European sanctions (Danish high-ranking government official 2022). Beijing’s low profile on interaction with Russia during the war in Ukraine is meant to discourage Washington from adopting secondary sanctions against Chinese actors with a record of economic and financial dealings with Russia. Nevertheless, China has left the impression that it is pursuing a policy on the Ukraine conflict that resembles that pursued during the nuclear standoff between the US and North Korea under Trump’s presidency. This implies that China is waiting it out and will resume full-scale cooperation with Russia when the attention of the US and Europe has turned to other issues. Irrespective of Beijing’s commitment to sovereignty and noninterference in words, in practice the commitment has for long been undermined by Chinese willingness to translate economic engagement into political influence, preferably behind the scenes. Chinese threats to

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cancel a trade deal with Faroe Islands if the country refrained from using Huawei technology for the 5G telecommunications network is but one of many examples that China’s commitment to non-interference is far from rock solid. Beijing is most likely to prioritize Russia as a necessary partner in building a Sino-centric international order overseen by authoritarian regimes. Russia’s great power status in China’s northern neighborhood, its natural resources, and its industrial output indicate that cooperation is likely to continue as Russian and Chinese economic and security interests diverge from those of the transatlantic allies (Odgaard 2022, 90–91). China’s preference for keeping a low profile in the Ukraine conflict while reassuring Russia that the strategic partnership remains intact is reflected in the statement that Sino-Russian cooperation has no limits, but nevertheless China will not compromise on its principle not to support countries’ use of force to solve problems. This stance signals that China does not support Russia’s use of force in Europe. Moreover, in line with its post-Cold war interpretation of proper international conduct, Beijing insists that the United Nations should continue to be at the center of global security management (People’s Liberation Army high-ranking military officers 2022). China also objects to being lumped together with Russia’s nuclear posture on the grounds that it is the US and Russia rather than China which possess capabilities for first use of nuclear weapons. China continues to stick to its policy of no first use (Government of the People’s Republic of China 1964). Consequently, Chinese participation in a resumption of the third round of Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) negotiations would require the involvement of other nuclear powers such as the UK, France, and India. According to Beijing, they have nuclear weapons on the same scale. China claims to only have nuclear weapons to defend itself against attack (People’s Liberation Army high-ranking military officers 2022). In response to NATO’s 2022 strategic concept, China argues that the European security outlook is different from that of the US. Likewise, the security outlook of China differs from that of Russia in fundamental ways. On important issues, China and Europe are like-minded international actors with legitimate security concerns about their strategic partners. Beijing and Brussels should cooperate to ameliorate and remedy these concerns. Chinese reservations about the US and European ability to maintain sufficient unity on a coordinated NATO response to Chinese challenges with Indo-Pacific partners encourage China to continue to pursue non-military cooperation with Europe across a wide spectrum of

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issue areas. At the same time, recent Chinese security initiatives indicate that Beijing takes steps to strengthen cooperation with Russia and the global South to decrease its dependency on European cooperation for its continued economic growth.

Edging Away from the West: China’s Global Security Initiative NATO’s decision to take on China in cooperation with Indo-Pacific partners constitutes the latest thorn in the side of Chinese plans to expand its global development vision the Belt and Road Initiative to Europe and to drive wedges between the US and European resolve to cooperate on countering what they see as illegitimate global Chinese economic, industrial, and security practices. European decisions to push back at Chinese inroads into the region’s economic, industrial, financial, and academic institutions, and to create defensive mechanisms against the security aspects of China’s non-military overseas presence, indicate that China needs to develop plans for diminishing its interdependence with Western countries. The German government’s decision to only allow China’s COSCO a 24.9% stake in one of the main terminals at the port of Hamburg and prohibiting the company from acquiring more to prevent it from obtaining minority blocking rights is one indication that the tide in Europe is slowly turning against uncritical acceptance of Chinese investments and joint ventures in the region (Brooker 2022). In addition, the 17 + 1 initiative made up of Eastern, Southern, and Central European EU member states to allow China a greater voice in Brussels appears to be falling apart. Only Serbia, Hungary, and Greece agreed to take part at the June 2020 Belt and Road International Cooperation conference; 11 of 17 member states have signed the UN joint statement criticizing China for human rights violations; and Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia have withdrawn from the initiative (Kavalski 2021; Szczudlik 2022). China needs to establish insurance policies that decrease its vulnerability in the event that Europe’s willingness to limit China’s regional engagement takes off. In China’s view, NATO’s encroachment on Russian security in Europe is replicated in the alliance’s approach to China in the Indo-Pacific.This calls for a response. Chinese President Xi’s 2022 Global Security Initiative can be seen as such a response. It lists six sets of principles as guidelines of Chinese security: common, comprehensive, cooperative, and sustainable security; the

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peaceful coexistence principles of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, and respect for the development paths and social systems independently chosen by the people of each country; build a community with a shared future for humankind based on the aims and principles of the UN Charter; peacefully resolving differences and disputes between countries through dialogue and negotiation; coordinating the maintenance of security in traditional and non-traditional fields; and uphold the indivisibility of security (Chen et al. 2022). Most of the principles are a repackaging of existing principles of international order based on the idea of peaceful coexistence. The one principle that is new in the Chinese context is the Russian principle of indivisible security (Fravel 2022). It is a direct response to NATO’s behavior towards Russia. According to China, in the Ukraine crisis NATO, led by the US, ignored the principle of indivisible security, and blindly pursued eastward expansion. This violated the pan-European security arrangement and instead gave rise to the current security crisis in Europe. Military alliances and group confrontations will only jeopardize world peace according to Beijing. Only by taking seriously each other’s reasonable security concerns by building a balanced, effective, and sustainable security architecture can universal security and common security be achieved and the path found to a long-term solution to global security challenges (Chen et al. 2022). The principle of indivisible security reflects the sharp turn in Chinese foreign policy that occurred during Trump’s presidency in 2019 and 2020 from seeking engagement and cooperation with the US, to attempting to delegitimize the US as the leader of global governance. China’s decision to make it a fundamental principle of its external security policy indicates that China sees no prospects of reigniting cooperation as the main characteristic of US–China relations. Moreover, Beijing’s focus on NATO in explaining the meaning of the principle constitutes a warning to Europe that without course correction towards Russia, the region may be grouped together with the US as illegitimate leaders of global governance. Indivisible security sees NATO’s behavior towards Russia as a reflection of US behavior towards China in the Indo-Pacific. This is a different way of thinking compared to the conciliatory win–win approach of earlier periods that might be setting new standards for how to approach the US and Europe in other countries that see themselves as wronged by the Western hemisphere (Fravel 2022). The principle is intended to appeal

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to the global South, a grouping which China will have to establish closer economic and security links with if Sino-European relations continue to deteriorate. In addition, adopting Russian security principles suggest that China plans to increase cooperation in non-military security areas with Russia. This indicates that we are likely to see more Chinese-Russian cooperation in contexts such as the United Nations and on developing the Northern Sea Route in the Arctic. The principle of indivisible security with its judgmental attitude towards the security policies of other countries and its delegitimization of the West is at odds with the traditional principles of global coexistence and absolute sovereignty (Fravel 2022). The Global Security Initiative constitutes a flexible foundation for addressing different audiences that allows China to keep its options open and remain hopeful that a more cooperative attitude returns to European policies towards China.

Conclusion The history of post-Cold War NATO-China relations shows that the relationship was never put on a sufficiently strong institutional footing to ensure a long-term constructive security dialogue and continued cooperation on limited issue areas of common interest. Indeed, arguably this state of affairs reflects China’s post-Cold War relations with the US and Europe in general. The lack of institutional commitment between China and the West has allowed relations to deteriorate once differences in security interests increased as China’s approach to global economic, political, and security governance was implemented across the world. China’s view on NATO reflects disappointment in the ability of the West to make allowances for China’s demands that its interests and world outlook should be incorporated into existing institutional structures for global governance. At the same time, Chinese capabilities, especially in the technological and military field, remain below the advanced level of the West, preventing China from decoupling from its significant economic, industrial, financial, and academic engagement with the West. NATO’s attempt at functional and conceptual enlargement that encompasses strengthened coordination and cooperation with IndoPacific partners at a time of growing convergence between the US and Europe on how to manage challenges from China is a serious security concern for Beijing because it already sees the threats to its global position as stronger than its capabilities. The Global Security Initiative is a

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platform for China to take into account the deterioration in its relations with the West since it allows China to work out policies that enhance cooperation with Russia and the global South while keeping the door open to resuming cooperation with Europe. It remains to be seen how the principles of the initiative will be translated into concrete policies.

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PART III

European Security James Goldgeier and Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson

Did NATO enlargement help or hinder security—broadly defined—in Western, Central, and/or Eastern Europe? Of all the reasons to enlarge NATO after the Cold War, claims that an expanded alliance would help stabilize relations in Central and Eastern Europe, promote liberal democracy in former Communist states, and consolidate Western Europe’s own hard-won peace were particularly powerful in shaping the policy debate. Decades on, most of Europe remains at peace and democracy has broadly taken root in former autocratic bastions. Nevertheless, democratic backsliding among several of NATO’s newer members and strategic divisions between Eastern and Western European states have spurred interest in whether enlargement reaped its intended effects in Europe itself. The chapters in this section bear directly on these considerations. Alexander Lanoszka gives a full-throated defense of enlargement. In his assessment, NATO’s move into Central and Eastern Europe was crucial in dampening potential sources of instability within and among states in the area, deterring Russia, and providing a secure external environment within which liberal democracy could take root and flourish. The implication is clear: had NATO not moved east, Central and Eastern European politics could well have gone down a darker path. A core part of Europe’s post-Cold War interstate peace—a trend broken most directly by the Russia–Ukraine War—might have been absent. Paul Poast and Alexandra Chinchilla reach somewhat different conclusions, at least so far as the growth and consolidation of democracy is concerned. As they observe, the European Union (EU) was also involved

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in encouraging democracy in post-Cold War Central and Eastern Europe, such that attributing democratic consolidation to NATO enlargement alone is unwarranted. By examining the timing of democratization relative to the growth of both NATO and EU, Poast and Chinchilla show that EU enlargement—more so than NATO expansion—may have been the most powerful driver of domestic reform. At least on this key issue, NATO enlargement may not have produced its desired effect or, at minimum, failed to do so to the degree claimed by the policy’s proponents. If Poast and Chinchilla tackle the relationship between enlargement and democracy, then Rebecca Moore’s examination of NATO–Ukraine relations provides a microcosm to assess enlargement’s effect on European security. The results are surprising. Moore offers a wealth of evidence that possible enlargement to Ukraine did not threaten Russia and, hence, is unlikely to have prompted Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022. At the same time, growing NATO–Ukraine diplomatic and military ties and the anxieties—acknowledged by many in Washington and beyond— this produced in Moscow is suggestive of a growing insecurity spiral. None of this justified Russian aggression; likewise, NATO’s growing military ties to Kiev since 2008 look to have played an important role in helping Ukraine beat back Russia’s initial attack. Still, and tragically, possible NATO enlargement to Ukraine may have undercut European stability not because of the threat it posed to Russia, but because of how it reified and reinforced Russian elites’ desire to influence events in Moscow’s neighbors. If enlargement faces a mixed legacy in Eastern Europe, Paul Van Hooft argues that the picture is even more clouded for the Western European members of NATO. As Van Hooft shows, many of the Western European members of NATO were ambivalent participants in NATO enlargement, worried that enlargement would undermine efforts to build up the EU as a security provider in post-Cold War Europe. These concerns were not wrong, with an enlarging NATO indeed undercutting support for and momentum toward an effective EU security and defense system. Making matters worse, enlargement led to a diluted mission set for the alliance at the very moment falling defense budgets left Western European militaries with fewer resources to service an expanding set of security commitments; overtaxed forces were the result. Of course, a Western Europe that was progressively unable to challenge NATO dominance after the Cold War was more than a partial focus of American policy. Still, the outcome has left Western European members of NATO increasingly beholden to

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American preferences even as London, Paris, Berlin, and others face the prospect of having to fight on behalf of allies of questionable value. The chapters in this section offer a nuanced picture of enlargement’s effects on European security. On balance, Eastern European states appear to have benefitted more from NATO enlargement than their Western European counterparts, though—as Ukraine’s experience illustrates—actually obtaining NATO membership can itself be fraught with problems. With further enlargement under discussion, the findings thus point to possible future fissures within the alliance. The problem is not only that Eastern and Western European members of the alliance may eventually come to value and respond to the alliance differently, but that questions arise over whether the gains of further enlargement outweigh the risks and uncertainties. In this sense, Europe’s search for peace and stability—an effort wrapped up in NATO writ large since the 1940s— may have been helped but not resolved by NATO’s post-Cold War enlargement.

CHAPTER 10

Thank Goodness for NATO Enlargement Alexander Lanoszka

Russia’s full-fledged invasion of Ukraine—and the military build-up that preceded it—renewed debate about the impact of NATO enlargement on European security. Critics even assert that NATO enlargement drove President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch the “special military operation” on 24 February 2022. If Russia is now a greater menace than at any point since the collapse of the Soviet Union, then a good portion of responsibility lies with the United States and its European partners for breaking promises to Moscow and mismanaging the relationship by alienating it at many turns. Rather than Russia being an inveterate troublemaker, critics of NATO enlargement claim that Russia acts defensively since NATO has persistently encroached upon its legitimate security interests, especially in Georgia and, much more significantly, Ukraine. Most worryingly, some beneficiaries of NATO enlargement—namely, the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania given their direct territorial contiguity with Russia—are so hard to defend against this justifiably aggrieved Russia that they constitute a serious security liability for the

A. Lanoszka (B) University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 J. Goldgeier and J. R. I. Shifrinson (eds.), Evaluating NATO Enlargement, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-23364-7_10

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Alliance. In the meantime, Hungary and Poland have witnessed democratic backsliding, thus calling into question whether NATO solidifies democracy as supporters have claimed. At best, NATO enlargement has not delivered on its promises regarding peace and stability. At worst, NATO enlargement has contributed to this deterioration in the European security environment. I argue that these criticisms are wrong and offer three reasons for why European security has benefited significantly from NATO enlargement. First, prior to Russia’s 2022 offensive against Ukraine, defensive motives may have animated Russian foreign policy, but revisionist motives were at least just as plausible. Given the massive violence and antiUkrainian rhetoric that has attended Russia’s renewed assault on Ukraine, the position that Russia is a defensive actor has become untenable. This development should not be unsurprising. Even early critics of NATO enlargement conceded that Russia might turn out to be expansionistic. Intentionally or not, an enlarged NATO has provided a useful hedge against this uncertainty. The scale of Russian military aggression against Ukraine—and, crucially, the bellicose rhetoric from the Kremlin that has articulated in the meantime—have validated this hedge. Critics who allege that NATO enlargement has destabilized European security do not offer convincing counterfactual scenarios whereby European countries would be more secure, let alone more democratic, had NATO decided against incorporating former members of the Soviet bloc. Second, NATO enlargement did not cause Russia’s authoritarianism and aggressive foreign policy choices and so did not make cooperation with Russia impossible. Many predictions made of how Russia would behave following NATO enlargement have mostly turned out wrong. NATO enlargement did not strangle Russian democracy in the cradle. Other fateful choices—some of which admittedly made by Western decision-makers in the 1990s—were more culpable. Russia turned neither nationalist nor anti-Western with NATO enlargement. Indeed, the available evidence suggests that the anti-Western bent of the Putinist regime has preceded NATO enlargement. The factors underlying Russian authoritarianism are largely internal to that society. Finally, deterrence of Russia is not as expensive as often alleged even with respect to its most vulnerable members, the Baltic states. In fact, the view that granting membership to such states creates dangerous security liabilities for NATO is logically and empirically problematic. If they are so difficult to defend against Russian aggression, as critics argue, then their

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inclusion in NATO cannot be truly provocative. Launching an attack from the Baltic region should be much harder than defending it. And if they were so vulnerable in the absence of credible security guarantees, then arguments about Russia being defensive-minded would be catastrophically wrong if Russia were to attempt their conquest. Nevertheless, critics and supporters of NATO enlargement alike overstate the difficulties of defending NATO allies in the Baltic region, especially in the aftermath of Russia’s “special military operation”. That Russia resorts to lowerlevel tactics to unsettle countries located on NATO’s northeastern flank is paradoxically a reflection of NATO’s overall defensive strength. This essay elaborates on these arguments. It proceeds by revisiting what proponents and critics of NATO enlargement were saying in the 1990s and early 2000s when the Alliance incorporated the former Warsaw Pact members as well as the former Soviet republics in the Baltic region. This essay contextualizes this debate with the reminder of how dangerous post-Cold War Europe seemed to leading experts. It then assesses NATO enlargement and elaborates on the three arguments made above.

The Arguments for and Against NATO Enlargement The end of the Cold War, the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, and the collapse of the Soviet Union raised important questions about what sort of security order should prevail in Europe. What would happen now that Germany is reunified, that Poland and other Warsaw Pact allies are free to determine their domestic and foreign affairs, and Ukraine, Belarus, and the Baltic states are sovereign and independent? The stakes were high. Writing in 1990, John Mearsheimer argued that the presence of two military superpowers was responsible for the “long peace” that prevailed in Europe during the Cold War. Because it was “certain that … multipolarity will emerge in the new European order,” greater unpredictability would characterize Europe’s future. For Mearsheimer, “the best new order would incorporate the limited, managed proliferation of nuclear weapons,” whereas “the worst order would be a non-nuclear Europe in which power inequities emerge between the principal poles of power.” Either order would be worse than that which characterized the Cold War. For one, Germany would be “a reunified Germany would be surrounded by weaker states that would find it difficult to balance

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against German aggression.” For another, the Kremlin “also might eventually threaten the new status quo” since “[t]he historical record provides abundant instances of Russian or Soviet involvement in Eastern Europe” (quotes from Mearsheimer 1990, 33). Mearsheimer was not alone in expressing fears regarding regional security in Europe. In fact, Mearsheimer (1993)—and, to a lesser extent, Barry Posen (1993, 42–43)—favored a Ukrainian nuclear arsenal because it would serve as a local deterrent against potential Russian revanchism. Stephen Van Evera (1994, 8–9) argued that “nationalism poses very little danger of war in Western Europe, but poses large dangers in the East, especially in the former Soviet Union” with “the risk of large-scale violence stemming from the now-rising tide of Eastern nationalism is substantial.” He did not just mean violence in the former Yugoslavia, which was already consumed by armed conflict when he penned those words. He raised the specter of irredentism across the region to include Poland, Romania, Belarus, and even the Czech Republic (Van Evera 1994, 18). Pro-enlargement policy practitioners made similar arguments. State Department official Charles Gati cautioned in a memorandum that new democracies like Poland remained fragile and so would benefit from NATO membership (Goldgeier 1999, 31). As late as 1995, Ronald Asmus et al. (1995, 9) warned of a security vacuum in the region that “threatens to undercut the fragile new democracies in East Central Europe by rekindling nationalism and reviving old patterns of geopolitical competition and conflict, thereby endangering the historic gains of the end of the Cold War.” Making the region even more combustible was the many nuclear weapons and other sensitive nuclear technologies that were now loose in areas previously governed by the Soviet Union (Allison et al. 1996). Former Soviet spies, well-placed but corrupt officials, and criminal organizations could take advantage of the lax legal atmosphere occasioned by the collapse of Soviet Union so as to traffic such nefarious materials (Williams and Woessner 1996). Briefly put, nationalism, nuclear proliferation, and criminality imperiled Europe. Western decision-makers were unsure how to navigate these challenges. Their initial instinct was not to incorporate former Soviet bloc countries into NATO, with some historiographical controversy existing over whether NATO leaders made pledges to Soviet leaders that the Alliance would not expand (Kramer 2009; Sarotte 2010; Shifrinson 2016). The first instinct of Polish leaders was to retain the presence of the Soviet military on Polish territory as a hedge against potential

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German revanchism (Gorska 2010, 38). In short order, however, the Clinton administration became receptive to arguments made by Polish and Czech leaders that NATO enlargement would reinforce peace and stability in the region in 1993. As Bill Clinton’s national security advisor Anthony Lake averred, “the successor to a doctrine of containment must be a strategy of enlargement—enlargement of the world’s free community of market democracies,” whereby “we will seek to update NATO, so that there continues behind the enlargement of market democracies an essential collective security” (quoted in Goldgeier 1998, 87). Within the U.S. government, worries that former communists would take power in the newly free countries of East Central Europe and reverse ongoing efforts at democratization abounded. NATO membership was an inducement to ensure that those countries would stick to their political reforms (Goldgeier 1998, 89). Of course, other motives may have been at play, including concerns about Washington’s global standing and perhaps U.S. domestic politics (Goldgeier 1999), and so the Clinton administration pursued NATO enlargement. NATO enlargement had its critics. Within the U.S. government, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and civilian members of the Department of Defence worried about its implications for relations with Russia (Goldgeier 1999, 28–29). Similarly, Senator Sam Nunn opposed NATO enlargement because he did not want to see arms control cooperation with Russia compromised, Russian nationalism promoted, and the military alliance make commitments that it could not keep (Stuart 1996, 136). Columnist Thomas Friedman and the New York Times editorial board echoed these sentiments (Goldgeier 1999, 141). Abroad, members of the German foreign ministry and the chancellery worried about the effect that enlargement would have on relations with Russia (Wolf 1996, 203). Russian President Boris Yeltsin warned that “Europe, even before it has managed to shrug off the legacy of the Cold War, is risking encumbering itself with a cold peace” (Goldgeier 1999, 88). Arguably the most critical of NATO enlargement were those in the academy. Historian John Lewis Gaddis (1998, 148–149) castigated Clinton’s NATO initiative as a fit of “selective sentimentalism” that broke well-established rules for dealing with a defeated rival after a major contest and would “[let] interests outstrip capabilities.” Dan Reiter (2001, 47) similarly argues that “a NATO commitment to defend new members will have very low credibility” and alludes to the lack of support for Poland in public opinion polls within the United States. George Kennan (1997)

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warned that the net result would be to throw the relationship with Russia into jeopardy. Kenneth Waltz (2000, 30) cautioned that NATO enlargement “draws new lines of division in Europe, alienates those left out, and can find no logical stopping place west of Russia.” Bruce Russett and Allan Stam (1998, 361) asserted that NATO enlargement would complicate eventual efforts to leverage Russia as a potential counterbalance to a rising China. Michael Brown (1995, 35–36) observed that Russia was too weak to justify expanding NATO. Others rejected the notion that NATO enlargement would enhance democracy. Given the case evidence from the Cold War, Reiter forcefully argued that there is “almost no evidence that NATO membership significantly promoted democracy” and that post-communist “societies and their elites were committed to democracy anyway” (Reiter 2001, 60, 63). Others like Brown (1995, 41) believed that NATO enlargement would undermine democracy within Russia by “[strengthening] the hands of radical nationalists and political opportunists, who will use NATO’s action to discredit the current leadership and its pro-Western line.” Considering “Russia’s long history of authoritarian rule,” says Brown, “it would be foolhardy for NATO to take steps that will hurt democracy’s chances in Russia.” Nevertheless, NATO enlarged. In 1991, to cultivate closer relations with former members of the Warsaw Pact, NATO established the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. Three years later, it formed the Partnership for Peace. Aside from providing a pathway to possible NATO membership, this program served to deepen military-to-military cooperation between the Western alliance and post-communist countries as well as to entrench democratic control over the latter group’s professional militaries. Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary became members on 12 March 1999. About five years later to the month, NATO added to its ranks the three Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in addition to Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. The Baltic countries are noteworthy because they are the only members of NATO to have been formally part of the Soviet Union. Shortly after reacquiring their independence in 1991, they made clear their intention to integrate as much as they could with Western institutions (Kasekamp 2020). As Ronald Asmus and Robert C. Nurick (1996, 122) noted, “their own history and concerns about real or imagined Russian ambitions have left them with limited faith in the promises of collective or ‘soft’ security.” Critics of NATO remained unfazed, but rather than litigate NATO enlargement per

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se, they chose to focus more generally on how much the United States should retract its military commitments abroad as part of a larger policy of strategic retrenchment (see Layne 2005; Preble 2009; Posen 2013).

Assessing NATO Enlargement Fast forward to 2022. Critics of NATO enlargement believe themselves to be vindicated. Mearsheimer (2014, 77–78) argues that the specter of further NATO enlargement—so as to include Ukraine—pushed Russia to use its improved military capabilities in order to assert its redlines finally and to annex Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Barry Posen (2019) declares that “NATO’s well-intended political project is an expensive failure” for having failed to deliver on democracy and stability in its east. Indeed, “NATO’s expansion now requires the United States to defend all the new member states from both conventional and nuclear threats—a tall order given their proximity to Russia and a strategically unnecessary project since they can contribute nothing to American national security.” With newer members being mostly “geostrategically marginal” and older European members spending little on the defense and contributing inadequately to security initiatives, NATO became a “shell of its former self” in the early 2000s (Kay 2005, 73, 78). Joshua Shifrinson (2017, 119) urges U.S. strategists to “minimize the fallout from three decades of NATO enlargement.” These costs appear to have become more acute with Russia’s 2022 “special military operation” against Ukraine. In its lead-up, critics argued that NATO enlargement and the Alliance’s Open Door policy towards Ukraine contributed significantly to Russia’s decision to widen its war against its neighbor. Andrew Bacevich claims that the war is the result of “the eastward movement of NATO, and in particular the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO,” since this enlargement constituted a “threat to vital Russian security interests” (Democracy Now 2022). Marlene Laruelle (2022, 160) contends that although responsibility for the war lies primarily with the Putin regime, the “West has its own share of responsibility” for the “strategic deadlock that preceded it” in part because of its mixed messaging about NATO enlargement. John Mearsheimer (2022a, b) asserts that “Moscow did not invade Ukraine to conquer it and make it part of a Greater Russia” but out of concern over “Ukraine eventually joining NATO.” Even supporters of NATO enlargement have conceded that the Alliance is uniquely vulnerable in the Baltic littoral region. Some are

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concerned that the Kremlin could leverage ethnic grievances on the part of local Russophone minority groups to stoke local discord (Crandall 2014, 50). Another fear is that Russia could use its local anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities to close the so-called Suwałki Gap—the land bridge between Poland and Lithuania—so as to prevent NATO reinforcements from entering into the theater while those local NATO forces already there will experience difficulties operating within it (Elak and ´ 2016). One highly cited RAND study used war games to show Sliwa that Russian forces could conquer Estonia and Latvia within three days (Shlapak and Johnson 2016). I make three related arguments below. First, we have good strong reasons to suspect that Russia would have developed hostile intentions against countries located in Central-Eastern Europe regardless of NATO enlargement. NATO enlargement has thus provided a useful hedge that raises the cost of aggression. Russian rhetoric and behavior in 2022 offer compelling evidence for this view. Second, NATO enlargement is largely innocent of all charges that it pushed Russia into authoritarianism or aggressive international behavior. Third, deterrence and defense measures appropriate to the Baltic region—where NATO’s commitments appear to be the most vulnerable—are not so expensive as commonly asserted. Fulfilling the Need for a Useful Hedge Intentionally or not, NATO enlargement fulfilled the need for having a useful hedge against Russian aggression. After all, consider the arguments made by critics that NATO enlargement would be so provocative to Russia that European security would be undermined. Those same critics offer arguments that point to different counterfactuals—counterfactuals that suggest that NATO enlargement would provide a stabilizing factor in its own right. Take Mearsheimer’s argument that NATO enlargement provoked Russian aggression. According to him, the irresponsible pursuit of liberal hegemony in Russia’s so-called sphere of influence—Eastern Europe and the Caucasus—provoked war against Georgia in 2008 as well as the annexation of Crimea and the subsequent conflict with Ukraine. Setting aside his 1990 warnings about the Kremlin, Mearsheimer is known for offensive realism, which argues that states strive to maximize their power and, therefore, to achieve security. For Mearsheimer, great powers “seek regional hegemony.” Crucially, he adds that “a regional hegemon might

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someday face a local challenge from an upstart state, which would surely have strong incentives to ally with the distant hegemony to protect itself from attack by the neighboring hegemon” (Mearsheimer 2001, 140–141). Applying offensive realism to the post-Cold War period, Russia would have sought regional hegemony regardless of NATO enlargement. It is a great power like any other—albeit one in relative decline—and so faces incentives to try to maximize its influence within its own neighborhood. From the perspective of Mearsheimer’s theory, regional conflict begins when other countries wish not to align with the regional hegemon and so look elsewhere to foster closer diplomatic ties. Yet this desire for external support itself results from the underlying conflict between the aspiring regional hegemon and its potentially wayward neighbors (Lanoszka 2018, 352). Moreover, if NATO had refused to expand eastwards, then Mearsheimer’s argument suggests that Russia would have had an opportunity to pursue regional hegemony more aggressively once it reconstituted its post-Soviet military capabilities. Polish decision-makers were attuned to this risk. Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Krzysztof Skubiszewski asserted that a neutral Central Europe “would easily become an object of competition among stronger states or superpowers. It would be especially true of Poland, located between Germany and the former Soviet Union” (quoted in Gorska 2010, 69). Russia’s war against Ukraine also provides corroborating evidence. It began in early 2014 when Ukraine was officially neutral but had a population increasingly dissatisfied with the government of then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and eager to enlarge ties with the European Union via the Association Agreement that he had negotiated but ultimately spurned (Kudelia 2014). The Putinist regime initially justified its aggression in Crimea and eastern Ukraine on the need to preserve the rights of ethnic Russians, just like it could have in Estonia and Latvia if they had remained outside of NATO. When Russia failed to have the sort of relatively easy success in the Donbas as it had achieved in Crimea, the “national outlook on the Ukrainian events was decisively dropped in favor of a more geopolitically dominated agenda, such as concerns about the possibility that Ukraine would join NATO” (Teper 2016, 13). This rhetorical move served two purposes. First, it explained the difficulties that Russia began to experience in a face-saving manner. Second, invocations of the so-called NATO menace are what international relations scholar call “cheap talk” since defensive and revisionist actors alike

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can use such language. Revisionist actors can deploy this rhetoric to confuse foreign audiences and to feign a defensive posture. Nevertheless, Putin did come to adopt more plain language that smacked of ethnonationalism and revanchism that truly defensive actors should not be invoking. In July 2021, he penned an essay that described how Ukrainians and Russians are really one nation. Just prior to escalating the military conflict in February 2022, he spent most of his pre-war speech discussing radical elements in Ukrainian society and advanced his own theory regarding the artifice of Ukrainian nationhood (Putin 2022). Indeed, he launched his “special military operation” despite having received assurances from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz that Ukraine would not join NATO “in the next 30 years”—assurances that were credible given that Germany had already vetoed Ukraine’s and Georgia’s bid for a Membership Action Plan in 2008 (Deutsche Welle 2022). Former President but current deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia Dmitri Medvedev declared that Russia would continue its war even if Ukraine formally renounced its NATO aspirations (Popeski 2022). Ukraine’s inability to elicit strong alliance ties contributed to a sense of opportunity that Russia thus exploited. Critics of NATO enlargement anticipated this problem. Mearsheimer himself counseled Ukraine to retain the nuclear weapons it inherited from the collapsed Soviet Union for the sake of having insurance against potential Russian aggression. Believing that an “American-dominated NATO” would not feature much in post-Cold War Europe, Mearsheimer (1993, 54–55) noted that “the Russians and the Ukrainians neither like nor trust each other” and warns that “small disputes could trigger an outbreak of hypernationalism on either side.”1 Although Posen (1993, 43) was more optimistic about Russian-Ukrainian relations, he conceded that “Ukrainian pledges to become a non-nuclear state make it attractive even for nationalist Russians to postpone aggression until later.” Indeed, the dispersion of ethnic Russians following the collapse of the Soviet Union across its fifteen constituent republics may provide an impetus for great

1 To be fair, Mearsheimer (1993, 57) cautioned that “extending NATO’s security

umbrella into the heart (sic) of the Old Soviet Union is unwise” since “[i]t is sure to enrage the Russians and cause them to act belligerently.” Alas, NATO members never offered to do this for Ukraine at any point (as of summer 2022). The Baltic countries never constituted the “heart” of the Soviet Union given their final absorption into that polity in 1944.

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power revisionism by the Kremlin (Levin and Miller 2011, 230). Such concerns were well-founded. In 1992, the chair of the Russian Supreme Soviet’s Committee for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Economic Relations argued that “as the internationally recognized legal successor to the USSR, the [Russian Federation] must proceed in its foreign policy from a doctrine declaring all the geopolitical space of the former Union as the sphere of its vital interests … and must seek the world community’s understanding and recognition of its [special] interests in this space.” Yeltsin himself averred that Russia should have “special powers as a guarantor of peace and stability in this region” (quoted in Renz 2019, 823). The possibilities for conflict in areas once ruled by Moscow—and possibly beyond—were thus ripe with or without NATO enlargement. Some critics proposed that NATO enlargement should have been contingent on Russia presenting itself as a major geopolitical threat. Brown (1995, 35–36) articulated this position most clearly, arguing that “if Russia begins to threaten Eastern and Central Europe militarily, then NATO should offer membership and security guarantees to the Visegrad Four and perhaps other states as well.” The logic of this proposal is flawed, however. First, if extending NATO security guarantees are so provocative in peacetime, then when the would-be beneficiaries are embroiled in contentious disputes with, or are on the receiving end of military threats, from Russia should be just as provocative for the Kremlin, if not more so. Of course, this sort of wager may be reasonable if Russia is ultimately a defensive actor that acts only when provoked. However, this wager could go terribly wrong if Russia is instead a revisionist actor that lies in wait while it reconstitutes itself. And so the scenario that justifies NATO enlargement at a later date suggests that Russia may ultimately be a revisionist actor over the long term. As such, why wait to extend security guarantees while Russia becomes even more powerful? Second, enlarging the Alliance to include those that are directly under threat from Russia will oblige existing NATO members to wrestle with very real fears of entrapment.2 Their worries may be twofold. One is that Russian leaders would believe that they face a closing window of opportunity and so may feel under pressure to realize their foreign policy goals against a prospective NATO ally. Current NATO members could find themselves defending that potential partner far earlier than they would prefer. The other worry 2 An entrapment fear is the worry that one’s state might become involved in unwanted wars for reasons related to alliance commitments (Kim 2011, 355).

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is that the prospective NATO ally would pursue a harder line vis-à-vis Russia in anticipation of its future membership and the benefits it entails. In either case, some NATO members may be uneasy about expanding the Alliance because they do not want to be engaged in military conflicts that they would otherwise prefer to avoid. Since NATO is a consensusbased organization, NATO enlargement likely would not happen amid a more dangerous security environment. Hence NATO chose not to give security guarantees to Georgia and Ukraine despite them meeting the one criterion—being under military threat—that some critics of NATO enlargement have established for countries to join the Alliance. Sweden and Finland may appear to contradict the rule that NATO enlargement should not take place in a period of extraordinarily high tensions, but their involvement in the Russian-Ukrainian war is at best indirect. Even so, Turkey has used the threat of its veto power in an effort to extract policy concessions from the Scandinavian countries. Critics of NATO enlargement argue at once that it could hurt democracy in Russia but would do nothing for democracy elsewhere in East Central Europe. Yet democracy in East Central Europe might have been worse if not for the security guarantees that NATO membership embodied. Many observers of different theoretical predispositions bemoan the apparent democratic backsliding that has taken place among some of the Alliance’s newer members, especially Hungary and Poland (Posen 2019; Wallander 2018). Indeed, Celeste Wallander (2002) argued in the early 2000s that NATO provides few incentives for new members to maintain their democratic credentials. Still, the situation is not as bad as commonly suggested. According to the 2022 Freedom House scores, almost all new members remain “free,” although variation does exist among them (from Bulgaria at 79/100 to Estonia at 94/100). The key exception is Hungary, which scores 69/100 in 2022 (Freedom House 2022a, b). Nevertheless, Hungary is peculiar and has historically been out of step with the regional order, whether within the Dual Monarchy or the Warsaw Pact (Wawro 2014; Benczes 2016). Hungary was already seen as problematic in 2002 considering its dubious ethnic policies, territorial disputes with its neighbors, and limited diplomatic engagement in the Balkans (Wallander 2002, 5). The counterfactual of East Central European countries remaining as democratic as they are without security guarantees is theoretically possible. The odds would be against them, though. Tanisha Fazal (2011) uncovers evidence that buffer states—that is, states located between two

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great power rivals—are more likely to experience conquest and occupation than non-buffer states. As if to repeat interwar European history, vulnerable buffer states might embrace strong executive governments to mobilize national resources more effectively and to maximize their chances for survival. If Russia were to reveal itself as an offensive realist state regardless of NATO enlargement, as per Mearsheimer’s original theory, and if Russia failed to become a democracy, then statistical analyses suggest that the resulting regional environment would have depressed the quality of democracy even more (Boix 2011, 823–826; see also Pevehouse 2002). Absent security guarantees and integration into Western institutions, fears of Russian revanchism could inflame local tensions far beyond what in fact has occurred. The dogs that mostly did not bark in the 1990s and the 2000s—as in the Baltic region—might have indeed barked. To be sure, ethnic diversity itself does not diminish democracy’s prospects (Fish and Brooks 2004). Yet worries of a revisionist great power could lead strategically isolated states to pursue discriminatory policies against perceived “fifth columns” that in the end are counterproductive. After all, interventions are likely by leaders of “ethnically dominant and institutionally underdeveloped states” when the target state is ethnically divided and experiencing a political transition (Carment and James 2000, 197; see also Saideman and Ayres 2008). How Western European countries would have handled such a situation is unknowable. They very well could have supplied assurances to East Central European countries so as to reduce those dangers. Such assurances could be individualized to a specific state or made collectively through a body like the Western European Union. Of course, the Western European Union was not entirely absent on issues relating to the integration of Eastern Europe: the 1992 Petersburg Declaration— which acknowledged NATO as “the indispensable foundation of Europe’s security”—empowered its members to deploy their military forces for humanitarian and rescue tasks, peacekeeping tasks, and crisis management (Western European Union Council of Ministers 1992, 2, 6). Yet if NATO were to lessen its role in European security affairs and not remain the focal point for military security, significant fragmentation and discord could just as well have ensued. Security relations could have renationalized as they had in the interwar period, with the Big Three—France, Germany, and Great Britain—being reluctant to offer former Warsaw Pact states pledges resembling Article Five of the Washington Treaty in a bid to avoid getting pulled into their disputes. Germany would be mostly

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preoccupied with the reintegration of former East Germany, at least in the short-to-medium term. Thereupon it may compete for economic influence in Central Europe with Russia. Former Warsaw Pact members might be uneasy about whatever security guarantees France could offer given its own alliance record in the 1930s. London may not have wanted to give legally binding guarantees without Washington’s support. The European (Economic) Community may have proven insufficient to fill the security gap had NATO not moved east. These claims are impossible to verify, but they are plausible. After all, Sweden and Finland did not find Article 42.7 of the Lisbon Treaty—the European Union’s mutual defense clause—to be so satisfactory as to obviate NATO membership in 2022. And although the Russian military threat to them remained relatively low, the United Kingdom still clarified that its assurances to both of those Scandinavian countries were not legally binding as they awaited the ratification of their membership candidacies (Prime Minister’s Office 2022). In sum, a Europe that did not see NATO enlarge may not necessarily have been as peaceful or even as democratic as it is even in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s decision to launch its “special military operation” in February 2022. Critics of NATO enlargement themselves concede that Russia might not be a status quo actor that would recognize the sovereign rights of others, especially given the ethnic politics that marked the larger region. NATO Enlargement Does Not Prevent Mutually Beneficial Cooperation To the extent that it served as a hedge against a resurgent Russia, NATO enlargement appears justified in hindsight. Yet, contrary to what many critics of NATO enlargement might assert, this is not the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Recall their concerns that NATO enlargement would make Russia an enemy. According to Waltz (2000, 30), for example, NATO enlargement “weakens those Russians most inclined towards liberal democracy and a market economy. It strengthens Russians of the opposite inclination. It reduces hope for further large reductions of nuclear weaponry. It pushes Russia towards China instead of drawing Russia towards Europe and America.” Senator Nunn similarly worried NATO enlargement would raise the appeal of nationalism within Russia.

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Predictions that NATO enlargement would prove culpable in undermining Russian democracy, stoking Russian nationalism, and damaging the United States–Russia security cooperation appears valid today. Such conclusions, and thus such explanations of present Russian behavior, do not survive scrutiny. Correlation does not imply causation. Critics would be wrong to ascribe Russia’s democratic failings to NATO enlargement. After all, as Russian scholar Andrei Kortunov (1996, 69) wrote when these policy debates were unfolding, “[e]ven for the minority of Russians who do care about foreign policy, NATO remains mostly irrelevant.” Its impact was too uncertain and marginal in daily life, with wide-ranging interpretations thereof possible among those elites who did follow the NATO debate. Still, it may have played some role insofar as it symbolized Russian weakness during the 1990s, but other, more local factors likely had a far greater influence on Russia’s domestic political developments. One need not invoke essentialist arguments about Russia’s cultural values or purported lack of fitness for liberal democracy. What probably hurt Russia’s chances for democracy the most was the economic experience of the 1990s. Despite some good intentions to empower average citizens, economic shock therapy in Russia meant massive inflation and wiped-out personal savings. Significant wealth became concentrated in the hands of a few well-placed individuals who went on to be “oligarchs.” Western insistence on shock therapy and insensitivity to local conditions were culpable (Orenstein 1998, 35–36; Gould-Davies and Woods 1999). Moreover, political maneuverings in the early 1990s foreshadowed the authoritarianism that was to come. In 1993, President Boris Yeltsin resolved a constitutional crisis partly by having tanks fire at the Russian White House. The result was to force new parliamentary elections, to impose presidential rule by decree at least temporarily, to weaken the legislative branch, and thus to expand the powers of his office beyond those provided by the Russian constitution. Yet the political system remained competitive. The constitutional referendum that Yeltsin successfully pushed later that year nevertheless provoked enough backlash that the socially nationalist Liberal Democratic Party and the Communist Party came first and third in the subsequent parliamentary elections. The Communist Party placed first two years later with over 22% of the vote, with the Liberal Democratic Party a distant second at about 11%.The irony is that, while support for NATO enlargement gathered momentum, nationalists were losing rather than gaining strength in Russia relative to

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communists—a sign that Russian democracy itself was very messy and already highly vulnerable in those years. Amid these assertions of executive authority over an adversarial legislature, Russia had trouble using military force to retain control over breakaway provinces like Chechnya and to prevent further dissolution (see Pilloni 2000). Gregory Treverton (1991, 111) was prescient when he predicted as early as 1991 that “[w]ith its autonomous regions threatening to become ministates, Russia seems doomed to turn repressive, its citizens associating the democracy they never quite had with longer queues for food.” That Russian politics remains dominated by members of the former Soviet nomenklatura suggests that elites tied to the Putinist regime were long socialized to be anti-liberal in their basic approach to governance and foreign relations (Snegovaya and Petrov 2022). Many of these developments took place by the time Waltz made his prediction in early 2000, but subsequent developments do not vindicate his worries either. Consider the rise of Vladimir Putin. At first blush, ex-KGB officer Putin fits the profile of someone hostile to liberal democracy and market economics. Early in his presidency, he used executive powers to clamp down on the press, which he perceived as largely in the pay of an oligarchic class that wished to manipulate Russian politics at the expense of the state (Lipman and McFaul 2001, 121). Political rights and civil rights gradually eroded in Russia, with the most significant concentration of political power taking place when Putin disbanded regional governors following the Beslan massacre. This development, in addition to his prosecution of politically troublesome oligarchs, led to what some observers call a “power vertical.”3 Elections still took place for the presidency and the Russian duma, but observers would question how free and fair they really were. Considering the predictions made by Waltz, Reiter, Brown, and other critics of NATO enlargement, one might think that anti-Western or anti-NATO rhetoric would have characterized voters’ sympathies for Putin. Surprisingly, Timothy Colton and Henry Hale (2009, 473, 496) find that—in presidential elections held from 1996 to 2008—“Putin and [Dmitri] Medvedev have benefited heavily from association with a core set of principles, including a strong orientation towards markets rather than socialism and … a relatively prowestern foreign policy orientation, even in 2008” when relations with 3 Some like Monaghan (2012, 9) have questioned whether Putin acquired as much control in his first two presidential terms as the conventional wisdom suggests.

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the United States and NATO began to sour. Indeed, in the same year when the Baltic countries and various former Warsaw Pact countries joined NATO, their results reveal that “[p]eople who believed Russia should treat the west as an enemy were 15 percent less likely to vote for Putin in 2004 than were those who believed Russia should treat the west as a friend” (Colton and Hale 2009, 496). Of course, Putin used nationalism at times to rally support and has castigated the west for its perfidy, most notably at the 2007 Munich Security Conference, but he nevertheless cautioned that cooperation rather than conflict was key for Russia. Whether such statements were sincere is questionable. Despite its authoritarian characteristics, Marlene Laruelle—a critic of NATO enlargement herself—argued prior to 2022 that the Russian political regime had not become nationalist, let alone hypernationalist or fascist (see Laruelle 2021).4 Nevertheless, authoritarianism in Russia became much more retrenched when Putin returned to the presidency in 2012, a time when questions about further NATO enlargement were relatively muted. This last observation points to the wrongness of another prediction made of Russian behavior. Notwithstanding NATO enlargement, Russia did not align itself firmly against the United States and its allies. In fact, following the 11 September 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., Putin pursued closer ties with the United States, in part because he saw in it an opportunity to find common ground in the fight against terrorism. NATO’s 2002 Rome Summit Declaration saw NATO members and Russia even “reaffirm the goals, principles and commitments set forth therein, in particular our determination to build together a lasting and inclusive peace in the Euro-Atlantic area on the principles of democracy and cooperative security and the principle that the security of all states in the Euro-Atlantic community is indivisible.” Despite the grave misgivings articulated by much of the foreign policy establishment in Russia, Putin said two years later in 2004 that he had “no concerns about the expansion of NATO” since “[t]oday’s threats are such that the expansion of NATO will not remove them” (Kessler 2004).5 Putin made 4 Tellingly, in Gessen’s (2017, 198–199, 280) book about how Putin restored authoritarian rule in Russia, she mentions NATO only six times and exclusively in the context of the Kosovo bombing campaign. No mention of NATO appears in more academic texts on Russian authoritarianism (see, e.g., Gel’man 2015). 5 Putin criticized NATO enlargement on other occasions, but this quote indicates that his statements serve tactical purposes.

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this statement sixteen months after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, about a year after it invaded Iraq despite Russian protests, and six months after the Rose Revolution in Georgia that brought the pro-Western Mikhail Saakashvili to power— three key events that observers generally blame for worsening the United States–Russia relations when George W. Bush was U.S. President (see Breslauer 2009). Meaningful cooperation remained possible with NATO enlargement. After all, European countries grew even more reliant on Russian energy supplies over the course of 2010s. Twelve pipelines delivering pipelines had connected Russia with EU countries by 2019. To bypass Belarus and Ukraine and thus be directly linked to Russia via the Baltic Sea, Germany contributed to the construction of Nord Stream I and had expanded its commercial investment in Russia, with leaders framing such projects in pro-European terms (Siddi 2020, 102). Even after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Germany agreed to build a second pipeline that would run directly alongside Nord Stream I. Hungary and Italy expanded their reliance on Russian energy sources after 2014 as well. Post-2014 sanctions notwithstanding, Russia thus became the EU’s largest supplier of natural gas, taking up 41% of its gas imports in 2020. NATO’s newer members such as Poland and the Baltic states may have had conflictual policies towards Russia, but they too received disproportionately large amounts of Russian oil and coal (see Lanoszka et al. 2022). The financial gains for Russia from these exports were significant and indeed would provide a source of leverage in its dealings with various European countries, especially after the “special military operation” began. Moreover, Russia still hosted major sporting events such as the 2014 Winter Olympics, the 2018 World Cup, and Formula 1 races at Sochi between 2014 and 2021. Civilspace cooperation continued, with the International Space Station being most symbolic of that collaboration (Grunert 2022). The Group of 7 expanded to include Russia between 1997 and 2014, even though other economies like South Korea’s are larger and arguably more appropriate for the organization given their market integration. Russia even participated, albeit to a limited extent, in military and counter-terrorism exercises with NATO as late as 2013 (NATO 2013). Children of the Russian political class and higher society still were able to access institutions of higher learning in NATO countries. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov’s daughters studied at the United States and British universities, for example.

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Tensions certainly did erupt between the United States and Russia, but the causal impact of NATO enlargement is probably far less than what critics assert. As mentioned, its roots in the Soviet nomenklatura might have influenced the predisposition of the Putinist regime to be anti-liberal (Snegovaya and Petrov 2022). Some, like Kathryn Stoner and Michael McFaul, argue that domestic political and economic developments drove Russia to be more confrontational towards the United States. Putin justified political repression at home with reference to the threat allegedly posed by the United States (Stone and McFaul 2015, 169, 178). Indeed, the United States attempted to cultivate closer ties with Russia after Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008. NATO and Russia collaborated extensively in Afghanistan. Contrary to Mearsheimer’s fatalistic predictions about nuclear reductions, the “reset” even involved both countries signing and ratifying the New Start Treaty, an arms control agreement that cut 30% of their strategic nuclear arsenals and capped them at 1,550 weapons each. Russia did violate the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eliminated land-based cruise missiles and launchers of ranges between 500 and 5,500 miles, but it has previously complained of the constraints imposed by that treaty for reasons relating to China and not to NATO (Gates 2014, 154). The argument that NATO enlargement has provoked Russian aggression is vastly overstated. In one study of Russian leaders’ foreign policy rhetoric between 2000 and 2016, Maria Snegovaya (2020) finds that Russian leaders articulate anti-Western statements most when oil prices are high, suggesting that—like those of other petrostates—they are emboldened to press their claims against their neighbors. She uncovers little evidence that NATO enlargement drives anti-Western rhetoric. NATO enlargement appears to have played a role in the lead-up to the Russo-Georgian War of 2008, but the Alliance rejected giving a Membership Action Plan to Georgia partly because of worries about being dragged into a conflict with Russia. Territorial disputes and strong personalities made that bilateral relationship ripe for conflict (Driscoll and Maliniak 2016; Lanoszka 2018). Similarly, NATO played a much lesser role in stoking tensions with Russia than some accounts suggest. After all, its members had already rejected Ukraine’s application for a Membership Action Plan in 2008. Operationally, national caveats stymied NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan while a large majority of its members spent far less than two percent of their gross domestic products on defense (Saideman and Auerswald 2012;

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Stanley-Lockman and Wolf 2016). Most NATO countries slashed their defense budgets even when Russia increased its own. The United States and NATO military presence east of Germany was threadbare, consisting mostly of elements making up a missile defense system that even Russian observers like Alexei Arbatov (2016, 168) acknowledge would not undermine strategic stability. The United States was withdrawing military forces and attention from Europe so as to concentrate more fully on East Asia (Simón 2015). Crucially, NATO enlargement was a non-issue in late 2013 when the Maidan movement began in Kyiv. At stake was Ukraine’s signature of the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement, something which long-time Russian protégé Serbia had just negotiated earlier that same year. This agreement did not even guarantee that Ukraine would be a European Union member, but it would have spurred closer economic and political ties. NATO membership was a remote prospect given Ukraine’s neutral status. Other aspects of Russia’s potential balancing behavior against the United States and its allies might be the result of NATO enlargement. Consider its growing ties with China. These countries have been aligning with one another ever closer at least since the 1990s, if not earlier (see Miller 2016). Owing to their perceived need to balance against U.S. power, one potential deep cause is unipolarity itself, which could similarly explain NATO enlargement (see Waltz 2000, 34). According to Alexander Korolev (2019, 247), the two countries have had more mechanisms of regular consultations, more military–technological cooperation and personnel exchanges, more inter-military trust-building efforts, and, since 2004, joint military exercises that have become more frequent in recent years. The secular trend towards an alliance partnership suggests causes deeper than a simple reaction to NATO enlargement. The correlation between rounds of NATO enlargement and their growing partnership is not obvious. Similarly, the uptick in Russia’s defense spending seen in the past decade may simply represent a desire to repair the Russian armed forces after years of neglect (Renz 2016). Put together, those proponents of NATO enlargement who warned of Russian resurgence—rather than those who warned that NATO enlargement would irrevocably undermine cooperation with Russia—appear to be vindicated. Despite what critics might assert, the line from NATO enlargement to today’s tensions with Russia is hardly straightforward. Indeed, Russia has sought to court the United States at various times after NATO enlargement. Many Russian voters have in the past preferred

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Putin out of the belief that he would be pro-Western. Other decisions made in Washington may have undermined relations with Moscow, but mutually beneficial cooperation remained possible—and, in some fields like energy, deepened—despite the risks that critics of NATO enlargement had identified.

The Defensibility of NATO’s Northeastern Flank NATO enlargement has provided a key source of insurance by raising the costs of direct Russian aggression against its members. This is especially true in what many consider to be the weakest part of the Alliance: the Baltic littoral region. The defense of this region against Russian aggression, as the conventional wisdom holds, would be especially costly for the United States and NATO. The countries located there are too vulnerable. Whereas most beneficiaries of NATO enlargement are at least largely separated from Russia thanks to Belarus and Ukraine, the Baltic countries are directly contiguous and have only a short land connection to continental NATO by way of the Polish-Lithuanian border. A rebalancing of alliance commitments in Europe is necessary because the local military balance favors Russia too much and the political will to defend the Baltic states too low. The United States will never “trade Toledo for Tallinn” (Shifrinson 2017, 111). Note the contradiction: enlarging NATO at once provokes Russia but weakens the Alliance. But why would Russia be rationally dismayed when a potentially opposing military alliance willingly takes on major liabilities? The alliance security dilemma suggests that Russia would be justifiably concerned if NATO added to its ranks states that meaningfully aggregate capabilities or strengthened ties with those states so as to reduce their abandonment concerns (Snyder 1984, 477). By NATO enlargement critics’ own admission, the Baltic countries subtract rather than add to what the Alliance can do. Of course, Russia would have reasons to protest NATO enlargement, but these reasons would likely concern its sense of honor in light of the symbolic weight of states that were once absorbed in the Soviet Union now being a formal defense partner of the United

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States (Götz 2017, 236–239).6 NATO enlargement has not been responsible for Russian authoritarianism or international revisionism because it was never truly threatening on material grounds. Pessimism regarding the defensibility of NATO’s so-called northeastern flank is nevertheless unwarranted. To begin with, much of the policy literature on this region tends to concentrate on Russia’s strengths while ignoring its key weaknesses—a problem that Russian difficulties in Ukraine in 2022 has plainly exposed (O’Brien 2022). The Baltic countries would very likely lose set-piece battles against Russia, but deterrence ultimately hinges less on being victorious in a potential war and more on imposing unacceptable costs on the adversary. For one, the Baltic states have already begun embracing unconventional strategies intended to boost national resiliency and make occupation difficult (Beehner and Collins 2019). Guerrilla tactics and territorial defense serve to augment national denial capabilities that in turn would complicate Russian efforts to hold territory and pacify the local population (Lanoszka and Hunzeker 2016). For another, and such is where NATO becomes operative, Russia may have local escalation dominance but it does not have global escalation dominance. It cannot be certain that a large-scale land grab made at the behest of any of the Baltic countries would not precipitate escalatory dynamics that it cannot control. Nuclear war may be a remote possibility. However, it cannot be discounted altogether. One explanation for why Russia has resorted to so-called “hybrid” tactics against the Baltic countries—tactics that involve political subversion and efforts to foment unrest—is precisely because it wishes not to provoke a reaction that it cannot handle (Lanoszka 2016). Put simply, Russia might believe in the Article Five commitment that underpins NATO more so than NATO members themselves. Russia’s ability to mount a major assault on the Baltic littoral region should not be exaggerated either. Any massive assault on Lithuania and Poland would require extensive stockpiling of military hardware, ammunition, medical equipment, and other supplies so as to provide NATO defense planners with opportunities for early warning (Lanoszka and Hunzeker 2019). Russia required almost a year to position its forces

6 As Götz (2017) demonstrates, every model of Russian behavior—whether it emphasizes individual decision makers, domestic politics, ideas and identities, or geopolitics—has its own empirical shortcomings.

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near Ukraine before launching its “special military operation.” Moreover, the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad might also be vulnerable. Swedish researchers have called into question Russian A2/AD capabilities located in Kaliningrad and elsewhere, alleging that its missile systems have much shorter ranges than commonly presumed and may be vulnerable to countermeasures (Dalsjö et al. 2019). NATO militaries like the Polish Armed Forces could hold at risk Kaliningrad such that the question should not necessarily be whether one must trade “Toledo for Tallinn” but whether Russia is willing to trade Kaliningrad for Vilnius. And indeed, Russia would need the Suwałki Gap as much as NATO would because the area provides a bridge between Belarus and Kaliningrad. Attempts to close it necessarily involve violating Poland’s territorial integrity and provide justification for NATO to escalate. Partly because of these difficulties associated with a major conventional attack, local experts and government officials judge the probability of something of this sort happening to be low (Lanoszka and Hunzeker 2019, 29–30, 79). That Sweden and Finland are poised to join NATO will also ease the coordination of a full defense and provide additional military force. Finally, the operational requirements for effective conventional deterrence in the Baltic region have eased given the major equipment and personnel losses incurred by the Russian armed forces over the course of 2022. Though Russia has achieved success in the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine, its airborne and air forces will take years to recover in a process that will be hobbled by sanctions and recruitment challenges. Considering the difficulties that Russia has experienced fighting Ukraine, it would almost certainly experience far greater ones fighting the United States and its European allies. Even the use of so-called hybrid tactics may have limited efficacy in the Baltic region. The three Baltic countries have been subject to an intense disinformation campaign undertaken by Russia since at least 2014. Nevertheless, local public opinion remains largely supportive of NATO and other defense policy measures aimed at boosting deterrence (Lanoszka 2019). One reason why these societies may be inoculated against Russian disinformation is that they have grown accustomed to seeing Russia in adversarial terms, thus making average citizens critical of pro-Kremlin narratives. Another reason is that the Baltic states have been much better at integrating their minority populations than often assumed. Although many Russophones may still lack citizenship rights in Estonia and Latvia and so are more likely to experience political discrimination and economic

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hardship, they still retain key benefits associated with living in the European Union (Trimbach and O’Lear 2015). They may have sympathies for Russian foreign policy, but these sympathies do not translate into a preference to be reunited with Russia. Accordingly, Russia faces serious obstacles replicating what it did in Crimea. Attitudes among Russians living in Crimea were generally sympathetic to being part of Russkiy Mir (“Russian World”), making them more willing to be the objects of an annexation effort (O’Loughlin et al. 2016, 761). Nor does it have an existing military presence in the Baltic countries—as it did with the Black Sea Fleet stationed in Sevastopol—that it could leverage to achieve easy faits accomplis and dissuade potential challengers from organizing. These observations raise an important question. Absent enlargement, were there options for the United States and other long-standing NATO members to assist East Central European countries should Russian aggression have merged? Specifically, how could the United States have signaled that it would not tolerate a Russian bid to re-establish empire in the region without formally enlarging the Alliance? The fact is that NATO is much more than a mutual pledge, to provide armed support in the face of attack, as important as it is. NATO provided readily available institutional assets for nurturing military cooperation that would have been expensive to rebuild (Wallander 2000). NATO provides the infrastructure for joint military planning and coordination as well as training, equipment standardization, and interoperability. That said, considering that the United States neither placed combat forces on former Warsaw Pact territory nor crafted a military strategy for defending the Baltic region even after NATO enlargement, what alternative force posture could have signaled credible deterrence in the absence of a formal pledge remains unclear. Of course, as the presence of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia between Operation Desert Shield in 1990 and the 2003 invasion of Iraq indicates, a defense pact is unnecessary for hosting large numbers of forward-deployed forces. However, such an alternative force posture is certainly not what had critics of NATO enlargement would have endorsed. In sum, NATO does not need to have a heavy footprint in the Baltic region to deter Russian aggression. Russia would have to overcome major operational challenges if it wishes to undertake a successful conquest of the Baltic countries. Of course, none of this is to invite complacency about Baltic security. The Baltic states and Poland should deepen regional cooperation to ensure that no key gaps exist between them (Jermalavicius et al. 2018). These NATO countries also face potential vulnerabilities

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at sea and so need to improve the resilience of their undersea and maritime infrastructure (Schaub et al. 2017). Still, the defensibility of the Baltic region illuminates why Russia resorts to the sorts of tactics it has used against them: disinformation campaigns, airspace incursions, vague nuclear threats, and other attempts at subversion. It cannot do much more lest it would provoke an unwanted response and so it settles on committing these low-level activities. If deterrence of Russia is not as difficult in the Baltic region as some critics may claim, then other areas covered by NATO enlargement should be even more defensible.

Concluding Thoughts NATO enlargement has been a net positive for European security. It has provided a useful hedge against scenarios of Russian revisionism that even critics of NATO enlargement have offered as possibilities. Not responsible for the unfortunate difficulties that have emerged with Russia, whether with respect to its current authoritarianism or its foreign relations, mutually beneficial cooperation has still been possible with NATO enlargement. Finally, NATO enlargement has not brought with it insurmountable deterrence challenges. In fact, it has helped to solidify the security of its most vulnerable by creating additional sources of risk for Russia should it be tempted to undertake aggressive activities against them. Critics of NATO enlargement thus should not feel vindicated in light of the present crisis that characterizes NATO-Russian relations and, more broadly, European security. Critics of NATO expansion themselves have conceded that Russia had the historical record and the ethnic political incentives to be so threatening as to justify Ukraine having its own nuclear weapons arsenal. Alternatively, they sometimes proffer arguments that predict that Russia would try to expand its power and influence in pursuit of regional hegemony. Waiting for Russia to be aggressive to justify an enlargement of NATO, as some have argued, is a flawed proposal. NATO may not have enhanced democracy beyond what other international organizations were doing for countries in the region. Nevertheless, having security guarantees against the prospects of Russian aggression probably did not hurt either. NATO expansion by itself did not make the Russian political regime anti-Western in its foreign policy orientation, less democratic in its institutions, or even more nationalist in its domestic politics. Other factors—mostly rooted in Russia itself—shaped Russia’s political

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trajectory. Finally, defending the Baltic region is not so hopeless a task as to make countries on NATO’s northeastern flank a major liability. Russia would face significant hurdles in achieving any large-scale faits accomplis at their expense. The consequences of NATO enlargement are rather positive, especially when considering Russia’s “special military operation” against Ukraine. For one, the integration of nearby countries into NATO structures helps manage escalation risks and keeps the conflict within Ukraine. One possible counterfactual is that a non-aligned Poland might have directly intervened in a war between Ukraine and Russia by sending its own troops into combat. Although Poland and the Baltic countries have sent heavy military equipment to Ukraine, with the former being a key hub for U.S. military assistance, Russia has refrained from attacking those countries despite the incentives to do so. Attacking NATO directly would trigger escalatory dynamics that Russia would probably not handle. For another, to the extent that NATO enlargement fueled the conflict, it probably did so by raising the stakes for the Kremlin because Ukraine’s tilt towards Western institutions signified its turn away from Russia. Yet the underlying basis for conflict would have existed, with or without the prospect of NATO membership. Though NATO membership has remained highly elusive for Ukraine, as conveyed personally by Scholz to Putin on the eve of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine it may have mattered to Putin insofar as a more resilient, even westernized Ukraine would have been more immune to Russian coercion. The real root of the problem is thus the colonial mentality and sense of ownership that had shaped Putin and the Kremlin’s own thinking towards Ukraine—two things that the Ukrainians began to reject more assertively in 2014 and onwards. The European security environment clearly deteriorated over the course of 2022, but we need to bear in mind the very grim predictions made about it in the early 1990s. For thirty years, Europe turned out to be far more prosperous, democratic, and secure than those predictions had expected. Of course, things could be better: Russia need not be autocratic that persecutes a brutal war against Ukraine and creates trouble for its other neighbors, to say nothing of the ethnic violence that broke out in the Caucasus and Southeastern Europe in the early 1990s. Moreover, the consequences of NATO enlargement may not be entirely or unambiguously positive, as other authors in this volume point out. That NATO in aggregate has vast defensive capabilities but does not fully protect the Baltic countries. Partly because those NATO members benefit

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from extended nuclear deterrence, whatever its credibility, Russia will continue to try to unsettle them using means that fall short of war, thus fostering the impression that they are more vulnerable than they actually are. And indeed, that NATO enlargement has so far been largely beneficial for European security does not automatically imply that Georgia and Ukraine can be incorporated without any problems. So long as Ukraine is fighting a hot war with Russia at a high intensity it will not be able to join NATO because of the entrapment concerns that would vex some members. But regardless of how the future develops, Europe has largely enjoyed peace and security for the past 30 years. It will remain better equipped to deal with over-the-horizon challenges thanks to the integrative decisions made in the 1990s and the 2000s. Thank goodness indeed for NATO enlargement.

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CHAPTER 11

Good for Democracy? Evidence from the 2004 NATO Expansion Paul Poast and Alexandra Chinchilla

Introduction Democracy is more central to NATO’s identity now than ever. President Joseph Biden has referred to the war in Ukraine as part of ‘a battle between democracy and autocracy’ (White House 2022a). Announcing support for Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO, Biden said that ‘Finland and Sweden make NATO stronger, not just because of their capacity but because they’re strong, strong democracies’ (White House 2022b). NATO’s most recent Strategic Concept, adopted in June 2022, refers repeatedly to the ‘strength of our shared democratic values,’ and describes NATO as ‘bound together by common values: individual liberty, human rights, democracy and the rule of law’ (2022).

P. Poast (B) University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA e-mail: [email protected] A. Chinchilla Bush School of Government and Public Service, College Station, TX, USA e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 J. Goldgeier and J. R. I. Shifrinson (eds.), Evaluating NATO Enlargement, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-23364-7_11

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The war in Ukraine has to date strengthened NATO’s identity as a democratic alliance, but the overall relationship between democracy and NATO is more complicated. When writing on the topic of NATO enlargement and democracy over two years ago, we made two main arguments: (1) NATO’s commitment to democracy, though genuine, was often inconsistently applied in its membership standards, and (2) there is little evidence that NATO was essential for democratic reforms in new member states in the lead-up or aftermath of joining the alliance. The war in Ukraine and NATO members’ reaction to it both support and challenge our argument. Despite the rhetoric about Sweden’s and Finland’s strong commitment to democracy, their joining NATO at this time reinforces our argument that expansion was always based primarily on security criteria rather than democracy. Sweden and Finland have long been democratic—much more so than the second wave of new members that we studied in our original analyses—and it took a security crisis to prompt them to join. In addition, the European Union’s continued engagement with Ukraine since Russia’s 2022 invasion supports our argument that the European Union could perhaps do more with fewer constraints than NATO to promote democracy in would-be members and new member states. The Russia–Ukraine war, however, also shows how security and democracy are inextricably linked yet complicated for NATO. Democracy promotion has become crucial to bring the alliance together, and the war reinvigorated ties between some backsliding democracies like Poland with NATO and the EU. Other members such as Hungary, however, have moved further away from democracy. It remains to be seen whether a shared security challenge will also strengthen democracy in NATO members. Finally, although we found little effect of NATO on democracy in new member states (relative to their trajectory before seeking membership and to the control group of states with ties to NATO but no formal membership), a counterfactual where these states did not join NATO could have seen more Russian meddling or overt aggression and thus lower levels of democracy. As Ukraine (one of the states in the control group) shows, EU and NATO cooperation short of membership can lead to meaningful reforms but counts for little when Russia decides to invade. Georgia, for example, alarmed by Russian expansionism, is already pulling back from engagement with the EU and NATO and could see lower levels of democracy as a result (Cathcart 2022).

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NATO’s Commitment to Democracy: How Much Does It Matter? NATO has a curious view of itself. The preamble of the North Atlantic Treaty listed ‘democracy’ as a ‘founding principle’ even though Portugal, a founding member, was under the authoritarian Estado Novo regime when the treaty was signed. Neither Turkey nor Greece, the first two countries to join NATO following its formation, was suspended from the alliance during periods of authoritarian backsliding. One might assert that these seemingly hypocritical exceptions to the democratic principle were driven by Cold War necessities. Indeed, compare the language used in the 1968 NATO Strategic Concept—a periodically revised document of NATO’s strategic priorities—and the post-Cold War 1991 and 1999 Strategic Concepts. Whereas the 1968 document contains zero uses of the word ‘democracy’ (or variations, such as ‘democratic’), it has 28 uses of the word ‘deterrence.’ In contrast, the 1991 document contains 5 mentions of ‘democracy’ and just 6 of ‘deterrence,’ and the 1999 document contains 12 mentions of both terms. When NATO countries agreed to expand the alliance, NATO’s 1995 ‘Study on Enlargement’ noted ‘encouraging and supporting democratic reforms’ as a core tenet of expansion (NATO 1995). Hence, it appears that one of NATO’s postCold War strategies was to finally take seriously its democratic principles (NATO 2018). Given that NATO documents clearly demonstrate that democratic development became a core mission of NATO after the Cold War, how well has it fulfilled this mission? Although some key post-Cold War expansion members, notably Poland and Hungary, have backslid on democratic reforms, has the post-Cold War NATO expansion fostered democratic development more broadly in Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet space? The existing scholarship on this question offers mixed answers. Gibler and Sewell (2006, 429) maintain that ‘the expansion of NATO eastward…aided the creation of a peaceful environment for democracy to survive.’ According to them, NATO reduced levels of external threat and provided much-needed bargaining leverage with Russia to resolve border issues and remove Russian troops from Eastern European states. In contrast, Dan Reiter (2001) expressed skepticism nearly two decades ago: ‘NATO membership has not and will not advance democratization in Europe…. [E]nlargement did not contribute much to democratization in the three East European states admitted in 1999, and the promise

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of NATO membership is unlikely to speed democracy within any of the nine countries currently awaiting a decision on their request for membership.’ Reiter then highlighted the ‘risks of further enlargement’ vis-a-vis Russia as pointing toward holding off on further expansion. Mearsheimer (2014) argues similarly that by antagonizing Russia, NATO expansion threatened the prospects for democratic development in Ukraine. Poast and Urpelainen (2018) offer a middle-of-the-road argument. Exploring the post-Cold War experience of the Baltic states, they argue that these states’ nascent democratic regimes were underpinned by actions and efforts taken by the states themselves, along with Nordic assistance, well before NATO membership was even a possibility. NATO membership did not harm the prospects of democratic development, but it also did not directly foster the peaceful environment necessary for democracy to flourish. NATO’s role was, at best, indirect. We seek to adjudicate among these three views on the NATO–democracy relationship. We do so by focusing on the 2004 NATO expansion that brought in the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia. We focus on the states that joined NATO in 2004 because they represent the ideal test of NATO’s influence on democracy. The states that joined NATO in 1999—the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland—could be hard tests of the democratization theory, given that they were selected for membership ahead of their peers partly because they were more democratic and therefore more ready for membership than other states. Reiter (2001) argued, for example, that these three states democratized quickly well before the prospect of NATO membership. The states that did not make the first cut at NATO enlargement but were later brought into the alliance should be where NATO would have the strongest effect on democracy in prospective members. In addition, now is an ideal time to reevaluate these claims, for two reasons related to data availability. First, for the seven states that joined NATO in 2004, more years have now passed since NATO entry than passed between their regime transition and NATO entry. Second, the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Project is now producing measures of regime type that not only well capture the core components of democratic systems, but also offer a measure that is more refined than the commonly applied Polity Project data (Coppedge et al. 2015; Lindberg et al. 2014). We leverage these two data advancements to consider a tricky empirical counterfactual: Was NATO expansion critical to the development and

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survival of democracy in the 2004 expansion states?1 This is an enormous question with too many angles to be fully explored in a brief chapter. Still, we can show how the available data offer insights into it. We begin by reviewing the process of post-Cold War NATO expansion, and the way in which it relates to democratic development, by reviewing the main arguments for NATO influence on democratization drawn from the literature. Throughout this section, we refer to examples from the experience of new NATO member states, with a lengthier example drawn from the Baltic states’ experience of gaining NATO membership. Reviewing the Baltic states’ experience introduces terms and concepts, such as the Membership Action Plan (MAP), that will be used in our main analysis. The Baltics are also representative cases of how NATO’s security guarantee provided a powerful incentive for new regimes to seek membership in NATO. The next section presents our analysis of how NATO membership influenced democratic development within the 2004 expansion states. We begin by explaining why we use the Liberal Democracy Index score from the V-Dem Project to capture the state of democratic development within a country. We then present regression analysis suggesting that gaining NATO membership had little influence on a country acquiring or keeping democratic institutions. Instead, we find the anticipation of European Union (EU) membership, not NATO membership, had the largest influence on democratic development. We then discuss these results in light of Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

NATO and Democratic Development In what way should one expect NATO to enhance democratic development? After all, as highlighted above, democracy is a core principle of the institution. Much of the existing work on NATO and democratic development points to several avenues of possible influence: socialization, guidance from NATO about how to create and implement reforms,

1 Another recent example of applying counterfactual reasoning to the legacy of NATO expansion is Marten (2018). Marten uses qualitative counterfactual analysis to consider whether Russia’s aggressive behavior toward countries in its ‘near abroad’ can be attributed to NATO expansion (or whether such behavior would have occurred even without NATO expansion).

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NATO pressure to implement reforms, and legitimizing new democracies by helping them provide the public good of security through NATO membership. It is important to note that each of these mechanisms for how NATO could prompt reform should begin operating before full NATO membership is achieved. Once prospective members are given a promise of membership in the form of the MAP, they will be brought into close contact with NATO members and therefore exposed to the socialization mechanism. If domestic reform is a necessary condition for NATO membership, prospective members participating in the MAP should begin reforming so that they can reap the benefits of membership. Finally, if democratic reforms made to gain NATO membership persist, NATO membership should also be associated with higher levels of democracy in new member states. We now discuss each of the means for NATO influence proposed in the literature. First, NATO may have a subtle impact on future member states by socializing military and civilian leaders from states seeking membership to respect democratic norms. Democracy is dependent not only on the formal institutions of a country, but also on whether elites are willing to abide by democratic constraints on their power rather than undermine or dismantle them. The example of Poland’s recent democratic backsliding despite the presence of formal democratic institutions illustrates this point. Even when democratic reforms preceded NATO involvement, NATO could still have a democratizing influence by socializing military and civilian elites to respect democratic reforms—particularly civilian control of the military. NATO created the conditions for regular, institutionalized interaction between elites from partner states and longtime member states within the institutional framework of the alliance and the Partnership for Peace (PfP). These made socialization possible. NATO taught military officers and civilian defense policymakers who had served most of their professional lives under a communist system about the norms of a democracy and their role in it (Gheciu 2005b). This socialization logic outlined by Alexandra Gheciu and others is not in conflict with our argument that NATO membership has little effect on democratic development, as we measure changes in democratic institutions rather than changes in elite attitudes. However, recent democratic backsliding in some NATO countries indicates that either the right elites were not socialized by NATO or the main effect of NATO socialization was teaching elites to value civilian control of the military and continued engagement with NATO, not democratic institutions more generally.

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Elite socialization began well before NATO membership, with collective briefings, individualized MAPs for each prospective member state, NATO-led workshops, military advisers from NATO member states, and professional education programs (Gheciu 2005b). NATO used these cooperative activities to teach the goals and norms of the alliance and assess the commitment of PfP countries to them (Gheciu 2005a). Joint military exercises, in addition to augmenting the capability aggregation of the alliance, allowed military elites from NATO states and prospective member states to interact. Military education programs—such as the NATO Defence College and programs through partner states such as the year-long International Fellows program at the US National Defense University—played a similar role in building military capability while creating space for socialization through military-to-military interactions. Second, even when countries intended to undertake democratic reforms on their own initiative, they often lacked institutional knowledge about how to reform. NATO stepped in to provide assistance and advice to prospective members regarding how to enact democratic reforms. Democracy advising was provided through the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the associated Rose-Roth seminars. According to Trine Flockhart (2004), the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and Rose-Roth seminars brought together parliamentarians from NATO and partner states to ‘familiarize legislators with key security issues and debates, to promote the development of appropriate civil–military relations, and to facilitate the sharing of expertise and experience in parliamentary practice and procedures.’ These seminars also played a ‘very important social function’ as policymakers from NATO and partner countries built professional networks with one another (Flockhart 2004). Civilian defense policymakers and military officers from NATO partner countries were also able to participate in the NATO-adjacent George C. Marshall Center, which has over 13,300 alumni. Courses at the Marshall Center include discussion of international law, democracy, rule of law, and human rights alongside more traditional security topics (Marshall Center 2019). Third, NATO provided pressure for specific reforms through direct communication with a country’s NATO liaisons and naming and shaming countries slacking on reforms. For example, a US Congressional Research Service report released in 1995 raised concerns that Poland was not ready for NATO membership. The report stated: ‘Initiation into NATO nevertheless may hinge even more on publication of a democratic Constitution and the legal basis for civilian control. Meanwhile, the Minister of Defense

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and many senior officers who set policy and shape opinions have become mired in political wrangling over control of the armed forces’ (quoted in Epstein 2005, 254–285). As Rachel Epstein notes, this report was widely publicized in the Polish media with the effect of shaming Polish officials into complying, given that NATO membership was by this time an established national foreign policy goal. When the chief of the Polish General Staff, General Tadeusz Wilecki, opposed increased civilian control of the military, an unflattering New York Times article put sufficient pressure on Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski that he removed Wilecki (Epstein 2005, 2006, 280–281). By utilizing naming and shaming tactics and building alliances with pro-reform domestic politicians, NATO successfully shepherded a select group of partner states through enacting civilian control of the military and more internationalized defense policies (Epstein 2005). Although Poland joined NATO in the 1999 wave of enlargement, one could argue that the logic of pressure for reforms was still relevant for the countries that joined NATO in 2004. Small reforms of hiring personnel supportive of democratic norms and building political coalitions in support of democracy are consistent with what we find in our quantitative analysis: some states that rapidly enacted democratic reforms after transition to democracy in the early 1990s made small improvements under NATO tutelage, even though their average democracy scores after reaching NATO applicant status and membership remained similar to what they had been before. Other NATO-induced changes, such as the firing of Wilecki in Poland, may have been crucial for continued progress even though our quantitative data do not measure them. NATO’s value, then, may be in encouraging states already democratizing to persist in maintaining democracy despite challenges from domestic elites. However, any democratizing effect of NATO would be concentrated on the premembership period, as democracy is in practice not a condition for remaining a NATO member. Finally, NATO can assist in providing the public good of security, which can be critical for the legitimacy of some new democracies. Poast and Urpelainen (2018) argue that leaders in transitional democracies use, and often must create, international organizations to consolidate democratic rule and improve their ability to distribute public goods to the populations under their rule. Public goods are broadly defined as policies that benefit large constituencies in society. Examples of public goods include internal and external security (Loader and Walker 2007; Bueno

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de Mesquita et al. 1999), public infrastructure that increases investment (Henisz 2002), free and fair elections (Donno 2010), reduced corruption (Banerjee 1997), and environmental protection (VanDeveer and Dabelko 2001). Providing such goods is critical to the survival of leaders in democratizing states. But because autocratic developing countries have little need or capacity to improve the provision of public goods (Bueno de Mesquita et al. 2003; Wintrobe 1998), democratization leaves leaders in newly democratic regimes with a unique challenge; they face high expectations for public good provision, yet their administrative apparatus has little experience providing public goods (Haggard and Kaufman 1997). Therefore, newly democratic governments can benefit from outside expertise on public goods provision, namely that offered by international organizations (IOs). IOs can assist democratizing states in the provision of public goods. IOs provide a venue through which members can pool limited resources or coordinate on policy reforms even with limited institutional capacity. IOs also assist in highly technical tasks, including advising on governance capacity, monitoring elections, and facilitating learning about democratic institutions. Lastly, IOs can help governments of transitional democracies govern effectively and acquire the resources to supply public goods to the newly expanded electorate. For example, the credibility of the Baltic states’ democratic institutions and democratic process were tied to providing the public good of security through establishing and maintaining effective sovereignty. This meant that preventing interference from Russia was critical to the survival of Baltic democracy. Historically, the Baltics were classic buffer states that had been repeatedly occupied and/or annexed by the major European powers over the centuries (Fazal 2007; Snyder 2010). But the governments of the Baltic states could not provide security from their own resources. Indeed, the security forces of these states were nonexistent. Kasekamp and Veebel (2007, 13) point out that ‘unlike the Warsaw Pact countries, the Baltic states had no military establishment or diplomatic service of their own during the Cold War. These had to be built from scratch in the 1990s.’ Zalkans (1999, 2), the former Latvian national security adviser, remarked in 1999 that, upon gaining independence, the Latvian military had no military threat analysis, defense concept, defense plan, or knowledge of budgetary processes or force planning. Former Lithuanian defense minister Linas Linkeviˇcius labeled the status of the Lithuanian military ‘a mess,’ while Danish defense minister Hans

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Haekkerup observed that the Baltic states’ officers would need substantial retraining, as their only professional soldiers had been Soviet trained (Ito 2013, 241–242). Furthermore, a 1993 report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies noted that progress in establishing forces would be slow because of a lack of financial resources and necessary expertise, a general reluctance to volunteer for service, and the various exemptions from conscript service (Rudz¯ıte-Stejskala 2013, 171). NATO Commander of Allied forces in Northern Europe Sir Garry Johnson remarked that the Baltic states ‘started from zero’ (quoted in Ito 2013, 242). Security, in the view of the Baltic states, could only be acquired with foreign help, and this left just one option: the Western democracies. In fact, the Baltic states never considered alternatives to seeking membership in Western institutions, namely NATO. For example, Raivo Vare, the Estonian state minister, asserted: ‘The only real possibility is NATO’ (quoted in Lepik 2004, 164). NATO’s PfP initiative was a useful first step in fulfilling the needs of the Baltic states. PfP, approved by the existing NATO members at the autumn 1993 NATO summit, allowed NATO to engage in peacekeeping operations with Central and Eastern European countries. By the mid-1990s the USA, sensing the need to craft a policy regarding the Baltic states, devised the Baltic Action Plan (BAP), a three-track process for integrating the Baltic states into the West: expand US–Baltic cooperation, expand US–Nordic cooperation to assist the Baltics, and expand US involvement in mediating Baltic-Russian differences. This was followed by the creation of the MAP. When the first Eastern European states (the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland) officially entered NATO in 1999, the other NATO hopefuls embarked on the MAP, a series of workshops in which NATO staff offered advice, assistance, and support for countries wishing to join NATO. Only a subgroup of PfP members were invited to take part in the MAP. Indeed, whereas PfP included countries as unlikely to join NATO as Russia (because of historical animosity toward NATO) and Uzbekistan (because of geographic location), embarking on the MAP meant a country was now on a path to membership. As one senior NATO adviser remarked, participating in the MAP meant that ‘there was an open door and it just seemed to make sense to provide sensible advice’ (quoted in Rudz¯ıteStejskala 2013, 178–180). Critically for democratic development, this advising included technical assistance in reforming civil-military relations and supreme command of the military. In the specific case of the Baltic

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states, setting out on a formal path to NATO membership also accorded their democratic regimes legitimacy by enabling them to provide for the external security of their states. In other words, NATO offered a security umbrella necessary for democratic development to endure.

Evaluating the Counterfactual Given the various ways that NATO can assist democratic development, how much did NATO membership (or even the prospects thereof) actually matter for democratic development in Eastern Europe? The Baltic experience suggests that the value of NATO membership to democratic governance may not be membership itself, but evidence that membership will be possible. Therefore, the maximum incentive for democratic reforms would be during the MAP phase, with NATO membership only secured after the hard work of reform is done. This section will walk through an analysis that considers if the promise of NATO membership (as embodied in the MAP) matters for democratic development, whether the achievement of NATO membership itself is critical to democratic development, or whether, despite the above discussion, NATO is largely epiphenomenal to democratic development.

Measuring Democratic Institutions To critically evaluate the effect of NATO on democratic institutions, we must empirically measure them. One approach, used by both Gibler and Sewell (2006) and Poast and Urpelainen (2018), is the Polity data set of Marshall et al. (2010).2 Polity is widely used in studies of comparative politics and, most importantly for our purposes, international relations. The first iteration of this study, Polity I, was issued in 1974 by Tedd Gurr. Gurr was interested in how the ‘polity,’ or ‘political system,’ of states changed over time, as captured by a host of indicators. Subsequent iterations of the data set have refined and expanded the data coverage and number of indicators. The fourth iteration of this data set, Polity IV, provides political system characteristics for 161 contemporary countries (and 20 countries that no longer exist) from 1800 (or from the year of independence) to 2002 (subsequently updated to 2013). 2 Gunitsky (2015) offers a critique of Polity as a measure of democratic development in Eastern Europe.

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In aggregate, the Polity Project captures the political system of a country using the Polity2 variable. This variable is on a 21-point scale ranging from −10 to 10. A score of -10 indicates that the country has the most restrictive and least politically competitive autocratic regime (such as Saudi Arabia in the year 2000). A score of 10 indicates that a country has a liberal democratic regime (such as Sweden in the year 2000). More precisely, a country’s Polity2 score is determined by combining its scores on six key indicators: (1) regulation of chief executive recruitment (the extent to which a polity has institutionalized procedures for transferring executive power); (2) competitiveness of executive recruitment (the extent to which prevailing modes of advancement give subordinates equal opportunities to become superordinates); (3) openness of executive recruitment (the extent to which all of the politically active population has an opportunity, in principle, to attain executive power); (4) constraints on the chief executive (the extent to which institutions, whether they be legislatures in democracies or councils of nobles in monarchies, limit executive power); (5) regulation of political participation (the extent to which there are binding rules on when, whether, and how political preferences are expressed); and (6) competitiveness of political participation (the extent to which alternative preferences for policy and leadership can be pursued in the political arena). Each of these six components has its own coding procedures, the details of which can be found in Marshall et al. (2010). Two points must be made here. First, the Polity2 variable is the most widely used indicator of regime type in the social sciences and, most relevant for our purposes, is the indicator of regime type applied in previous studies on the link between democratization and IOs (Pevehouse 2005; Mansfield and Pevehouse 2006, 2008). Second, applied work commonly dichotomizes the Polity2 variable rather than using the 21-point scale itself. This is because the 21-point scale is not a continuous measure of regime type. Gleditsch and Ward (1997) describe how the Polity data are rather coarse, with countries clumping together at the ends and in the middle of the scale. More importantly, scholars commonly wish to make statements about democracy itself rather than about incremental changes in a scale (Wiens et al. 2014). There is no standard in international relations for when a state should be considered a democracy on the Polity2 scale. For example, some studies use a rather conservative measure of Polity2 ≥ 7 (e.g., Mansfield and Pevehouse 2008), others adopt a more generous coding of Polity2 ≥ 5 (e.g., Lai and Reiter 2000), and Jaggers and Gurr

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(1995) and Marshall et al. (2010) recommend the number between these two options (Polity2 ≥ 6). More recently, an alternative measure of Polity2 has become available via the V- Dem Project’s Liberal Democracy Index. This variable emphasizes the importance of protecting individual and minority rights against the tyranny of the state and the tyranny of the majority. Liberalism takes a negative view of political power insofar as it judges the quality of democracy by the limits placed on government. This is achieved by constitutionally protected civil liberties, strong rule of law, an independent judiciary, and effective checks and balances that together limit the exercise of executive power. Such constraints are similar to the executive constraints that are a key determinant of the Polity2 score. These constraints are identified using the V-Dem indicators for judicial constraints on the executive (v2x_jucon) and legislative constraints on the executive (v2xlg_legcon). The Liberal Democracy Index goes further, however, by taking the level of electoral democracy into account. This is done by incorporating a Polyarchy score (Vanhanen 2000). The Polyarchy score focuses on two core concepts borrowed from Dahl (1971): competition and participation.3 Broadly, competition is the extent to which different political parties are able to achieve representation in (and control of) the government, whereas participation is the extent to which the adult population is able to participate in presidential or parliamentary elections (Vanhanen 2000, 253). Although including Polyarchy’s components broadens the range of components contributing to the measure of regime type, a major limitation is that the Polyarchy components are measures of voting behavior, rather than features of governing institutions (Poast and Urpelainen 2018, 78). Most importantly, there is no obvious means of weighting the various components that factor into the Liberal Democracy Index score. This effectively black-boxes the creation of the score. Which measure should be used? ‘Measurement validity’ is the notion, borrowed from Adcock and Collier (2001, 530), that ‘scores meaningfully capture the ideas contained in the corresponding concept.’ Similarly, Bollen (1989, 184) writes that a measure is valid if it ‘measures what it is supposed to measure.’ The face validity of the Liberal Democracy measure relative to the Polity2 score is clear when one considers how the two scores capture the state of democracy within the USA from 1789

3 Dahl referred to these as contestation and inclusion.

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to 2017. The USA serves as a useful basis for comparing measurement validity because it has the oldest continuous constitution. After an initial rise in 1809, the Polity2 score remains above 6 (the common threshold for classifying a country as a democracy) for the remainder of the time period. Though the score has some fluctuations, notably in 1850s, 1860s, and 1960s, the score remains relatively stable over the time period. It might strike those familiar with US history as odd that the USA is scored as more democratic in the 1840s (when the Polity2 score was either 9 or 10) than in 2017 (when the Polity2 score was 8), given that women did not have the right to vote in the 1840s and slavery was then legal. From a purely institutional standpoint, however, the US executive was highly constrained in the 1840s. Indeed, one could make the case that the executive was more constrained in the 1840s than in the twenty-first century (given the ability of modern US Presidents to utilize instruments such as executive orders). In contrast, the Liberal Democracy Index codes the USA as substantially more democratic today than it was during the time of legalized slavery and nonsuffrage for women. This stems from the broader conceptualization of democracy that is embedded in the coding rules for the Liberal Democracy Index. Overall, the Liberal Democracy Index from the V-Dem Project appears to offer a more sensible and plausible measure of democracy compared to the Polity2 score. Therefore, the analysis that follows will use the Liberal Democracy Index.

Caveats and Considerations We use the Liberal Democracy Index to evaluate the effect of NATO membership on democratic development. When conducting this analysis, we must take into account three critical considerations. First, as discussed previously, we should account for anticipation of NATO membership and how that might have influenced the behavior of the seven 2004 entrants. As the brief description of the Baltic experience above illustrates, states do not simply become members of NATO. Instead, they enter a process, first through PfP and then through the MAP, during which they can anticipate NATO membership. Perhaps the real work of democratic development is done during these processes. Second, we must account for the role of the EU (Börzel and Schimmelfennig 2017). In some cases, the prospect of joining the EU was available before a path to NATO membership was offered. In the Baltics’ case, NATO enlargement was not on the table until around 1998–1999.

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But the Baltics were aware of their EU membership eligibility as soon as 1994–1995, when the EU signed the application for accession with them and acknowledged their eligibility to seek membership. The formal application is important. Although any European country can apply for EU membership, the EU Council, via the European Commission’s assessment, must agree on a framework for negotiations with the candidate country (and the membership negotiations cannot begin until all EU governments agree). Some maintain that the intertwining of NATO and EU expansion occurred because the USA pursued a policy aimed at ensuring that NATO expansion and EU expansion ran in parallel (Sayle 2019, 238–239). If EU membership expanded beyond NATO membership, it could create conditions where those countries with overlapping memberships would seek to use NATO assets to accord protection to non-NATO EU members. Keeping the two processes from widely diverging could mitigate such problems. The other major view regarding why NATO expansion ran in tandem with EU expansion is that NATO expansion was a necessary precondition for EU expansion, which would then make wider European integration possible (Talbott 2019). It is possible that NATO membership was more critical for defense-related issues (although politically sensitive for Russia), whereas EU membership was more critical for democracy development. If that were true, we might expect NATO to be focused on security issues when considering expansion, while the European Union did the heavy lifting of democratization. Because EU expansion and NATO expansion are so closely related, in our quantitative analysis we leverage countries where only NATO expansion was on offer to isolate the effect of NATO on democracy. Third, the analysis must consider negative cases. In other words, to evaluate the counterfactual of non-NATO membership, one needs to consider non-NATO members. Fortunately, the 2004 accession points to two obvious control groups. One group comprises Albania and Macedonia, the two countries that entered the MAP in 1999 (along with the seven 2004 accession nations) but did not accede to NATO in 2004. Albania did not become a member until 2009, and Macedonia’s membership (after the country changed its name to North Macedonia to appease Greek opposition) occurred only in 2020. Hence, these two countries were deemed by NATO in 1999 to be similar to the seven 2004 accession countries, but they did not receive the treatment of NATO membership.

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Hence, they offer a point of leverage for considering the effect of anticipating NATO membership separately from actual NATO membership. The other group is Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova. Like the Baltic states, these are former Soviet republics that were contiguous with states that became NATO members in 1999 and 2004; Belarus is contiguous with Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, Ukraine is contiguous with Poland and Hungary, and Moldova is contiguous with Romania. Moreover, along with Estonia and Latvia, Belarus and Ukraine are contiguous with mainland Russia; Lithuania, like Poland, is only contiguous with Kaliningrad. Hence, these are a set of states that, from the standpoint of expanding NATO’s geographic reach, would have been logical candidates. But these states, unlike the seven that joined in 2004 or Albania and Macedonia, did not even participate in the MAP. The various countries considered in the analysis are shown on the map in Fig. 11.1. We conduct analysis that accounts for these three critical considations. Our unit of analysis is the country-year. Our set of countries includes the three Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), the four additional 2004 NATO entrants (Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia), the four 1999 MAP states that were not 2004 NATO entrants (Albania and Macedonia), and the three non-MAP former Soviet republics (Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova) that are contiguous to NATO.4 Our time of analysis is 1991–2017. The outcome we explain is the Liberal Democracy Index score of each country. These 12 countries create an overall country-year data set with 327 observations. Because we are especially interested in identifying the effect of anticipating NATO entry or EU entry and how this compares to full membership, we create two key explanatory variables. The first is NATO Applicant Only. This is a binary variable equal to 1 if the country in year t was in the NATO MAP, was not also an official applicant to the EU, and was not a member of either institution. Otherwise, the variable is coded with a 0. Thus, the relevant comparison group to the treatment group is the set of countries that were never offered NATO membership as well as the country-years before a state was invited to participate in the MAP. The second variable is EU Applicant Only. This is a binary variable equal to 1 if the country in year t signed an application for accession to the

4 We do not include Croatia because, although it joined NATO in 2009, it was not a member of the 1999 MAP group. It joined the MAP in 2002.

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Fig. 11.1 Map of existing European NATO members in 2004, NATO candidates, and control group countries. Note Existing NATO members as of 2004 are dark gray. 2004 NATO accession countries are gray. 1999 MAP entrants that did not become NATO members in 2004 are light gray. Non-MAP former Soviet republics that are contiguous to NATO entrants are black. Map created via https://mapchart.net/europe.html

European Union, was not a participant in the NATO MAP, and was not a member of either institution. Otherwise, the variable is coded with a 0.

Quantitative Analysis In this section, we assess empirical evidence for the effect of NATO on democracy with descriptive statistics, a difference-in-means test between countries on track to join NATO only or the EU only, and regression

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analysis with our full set of country-year data. Having created our core data set and our key explanatory variables, it is informative to consider some basic descriptive statistics. Table 11.1 lists the states in our analysis, the year each state acquired a particular EU or NATO membership status (applicant or member), and the average Liberal Democracy Index score for each state over the duration of the sample. Table 11.1 makes clear the variation in membership status within the sample, but also the inconsistencies in membership status and EU/NATO membership. On the one hand, countries such as the Baltic states all had high democracy scores and all achieved EU and NATO membership relatively early (2004). On the other hand, Table 11.1 also highlights how democratic development is not a necessary condition for NATO membership. To make this inconsistency clear, we consider the case of Macedonia. Despite Macedonia having the same (relatively low) average Liberal Democracy Index score as Albania and despite it entering the NATO MAP at the same time as Albania, Albania achieved NATO membership in 2009, whereas Macedonia did not. Although Albania had the advantage of bordering the Adriatic Sea (and hence being of higher strategic value to NATO), the key block to Macedonian membership had little to do with military value or democratic status; rather, it was Macedonia’s name. Greece, whose consent was necessary for Macedonia to gain NATO Table 11.1 EU and NATO membership status, 1991 to 2017

Estonia Lithuania Slovenia Latvia Slovakia Bulgaria Romania Moldova Albania Macedonia Ukraine Belarus

EU applicant

NATO applicant

EU member

NATO member

Average Liberal Democracy Index score

1995 1995 1996 1995 1995 1995 1995 – 2009 2004 – –

1999 1999 1999 1999 1999 1999 1999 – 1999 1999 – –

2004 2004 2004 2004 2004 2007 2007 – – – – –

2004 2004 2004 2004 2004 2004 2004 – 2009 – – –

0.80 0.77 0.75 0.72 0.71 0.62 0.47 0.42 0.40 0.40 0.32 0.18

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membership, would not approve Macedonia’s application until Macedonia changed its name (which it eventually did, to North Macedonia, in 2019). Macedonia’s membership status is also odd when compared to Moldova. Moldova actually had a higher average Liberal Democracy Index score over the duration of the sample. But Moldova has not even entered application status with either NATO or the EU. Similarly, at the time that we conducted our analysis, we did not even include Sweden and Finland because they actively chose neutrality instead of NATO membership and were not previously under consideration as members (Bergovist 2016). Despite their high democracy scores, neither Sweden nor Finland chose to join NATO until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which shows that democracy scores are much less important than security concerns in determining who seeks NATO membership and who is allowed to join. Taking the analysis a step further, Table 11.2 reports a basic difference of means in the Liberal Democracy Index score of two groups of country-year observations: those where NATO Applicant Only equals 1 and those where EU Applicant Only equals 1. Only 61 of the 327 country-year observations fall into either category. This is because countries are commonly applicants to both the EU and NATO (if they are an applicant to either). But the existence of some country-year observations that fall into these two unique categories does offer empirical leverage for identifying the role of anticipating membership in one of these institutions.5 The NATO Applicant Only and EU Applicant Only variables allow us to examine the effect of seeking only NATO membership or only EU membership on the democracy scores of an applicant country. This part of the analysis is of particular value in determining the effect of prospective NATO membership on democracy when the prospect of EU membership is absent. If NATO does increase democracy in prospective members, then we should expect to see a high mean democracy score for countries for which NATO Applicant Only takes a value of 1. However, Table 11.2 clearly shows that country-years where a country is only an EU applicant have a higher Liberal Democracy Index score than country-years where a country is only a NATO applicant.6 This again lends credence 5 This is setting aside the possibility that a state that is an EU applicant will expect to eventually become a NATO applicant. This is not unreasonable, as US officials viewed EU expansion as creating security obligations for the USA that would be more easily handled within NATO (Sayle 2019, 238). 6 The difference in means is statistically significant at the 0.99 confidence level.

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Table 11.2 Difference of means in Liberal Democracy Index scores

Average Liberal Democracy Index Score

EU applicants only

NATO applicants only

0.68 (N = 27)

0.41 (N = 29)

to the notion that being a democracy has little importance for NATO membership.

Regression Analysis Results Although Table 11.2 is informative, it is useful to include the full set of countries and to consider how application status compares to becoming a member of one of these organizations. Therefore, we create two more variables, NATO Member Only and NATO and EU Member. The first variable is a binary variable equal to 1 in year t for country i if the country is a member of NATO, but not a member of the EU. Otherwise, the variable is coded with a 0. The second variable is a binary variable equal to 1 in year t for country i if the country is a member of NATO and the EU. Otherwise, the variable is coded with a 0. There is no variable for EU member only because, for the countries under evaluation, there were no instances where a country was only an EU member without also being a member of NATO. To compare the relative effect of each variable on a country’s Liberal Democracy Index score, we turn to regression analysis. Specifically, we regress Liberal Democracy Index on the four described variables (EU Applicant Only, NATO Applicant Only, NATO Member Only, and NATO and EU Member) using ordinary least squares (because the outcome variable, Liberal Democracy Index score, is continuous).7 Also, because the threat environment of states was viewed as critical in 7 Similar regression results are obtained using Polity2 as the dependent variable and estimating the model using ordered probit (as the Polity2 score is not a continuous variable, but an ordered categorical variable). The coefficients on EU Applicant Only and NATO and EU Member are positive and statistically significant, thereby suggesting that both are associated with higher Polity2 scores. Also, the coefficient on NATO and EU Member is substantially larger (1.65) than the coefficient on EU Applicant Only (0.47). The coefficients on NATO Member Only and Border with Russia are both negative and statistically significant, with the coefficient on Border with Russia (−1.45) being substantially larger than the coefficient on NATO Member Only (−1.01). The results can be reproduced using the replication materials.

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previous studies of the NATO-democracy link (Gibler and Sewell 2006), we also include the binary variable Borders Mainland Russia, equal to 1 if the country shares a border with the mainland of Russia (not solely Kaliningrad), and equal to 0 otherwise. The countries that border mainland Russia are Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, and Ukraine. If NATO has a positive effect on democracy in states trying to join the alliance or recently granted membership, we should expect to see a positive coefficient on the NATO Applicant Only and NATO Member Only variables when included in our statistical model. We should also expect to see a positive coefficient on the NATO and EU Member variable, but in that case, it would be impossible to disentangle whether the increase in democracy is associated with NATO membership or EU membership.

Fig. 11.2 Effect graph gray

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Rather than report the results in a regression table, Fig. 11.2 plots the coefficient values associated with each variable, along with the 0.95 confidence intervals around those coefficient values.8 Regression analysis yields several key results. First, consistent with the descriptive statistics provided in Table 11.1, being an EU applicant is associated with a substantial (and statistically significant) increase in a country’s Liberal Democracy Index score. Second, being a full member of the EU and NATO is associated with having a higher democracy score. This latter result is likely driven by the three non-EU/NATO members in our analysis (Ukraine, Moldova, and Belarus), as all three have low Liberal Democracy Index scores. Third, in contrast to being an EU applicant only or being a member of both the EU and NATO, being a NATO applicant only or a member of NATO only decreases a country’s Liberal Democracy Index score (though the 0.95 confidence intervals of the NATO Applicant Only variable suggest that this identified effect is statistically indistinguishable from zero). This again appears to reinforce the above observation that NATO membership played little role in democratic development in Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet space. If we examine the countries that were applicants to NATO only, we can see that they were less democratic than the cohort of states that were applying for EU membership at the same time. As shown in Table 11.1, Albania and Macedonia were NATO applicants only and had low democracy scores. Both Albania and Macedonia struggled to make domestic political reforms during the process of seeking NATO membership. According to a Congressional Research Service Report, as recently as one year before accession to NATO, Albania still had ‘significant legal and political shortcomings’ including slow ‘electoral and judicial reform’ (Gallis et al. 2008). Nor did NATO membership lead to improvement in democracy, as is clear if we examine the three countries—Albania, Romania, and Bulgaria—that were NATO members for at least few years, 8 Because of the panel structure of the data set, we also attempt to rerun our analysis by including a lagged dependent variable (to account for time dependencies) and including fixed effects for each country. The latter model is unidentified, as the fixed effects are colinear with the Border Mainland Russia variable. The former model is identified, and the coefficient values are consistent with those reported in Fig. 11.2. The main difference is that all of the coefficient values are reduced in magnitude and are rendered statistically insignificant (which is not unusual when including a lagged dependent variable). The other notable difference is that the sign on the NATO and EU Member variable’s coefficient flips to negative.

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while they were not also members of the EU. In Albania, flawed elections continued (Freedom House 2018), and its democracy score decreased in several of the years after it joined NATO. In the three years from when Romania and Bulgaria became members of NATO until they joined the EU, their democracy scores remained remarkably stable, with only a tiny increase in the case of Romania. Neither NATO membership nor the prospect of NATO membership on its own was sufficient to prompt democratic reforms.

Discussion and Conclusions The end of the Cold War provided an opportunity for NATO to play a role in creating ‘a Europe whole and free’ (Bush 1989). Although it is clear that NATO finally became serious about its democratic mission after 1991, it is less clear whether NATO increased democracy in its new members or states applying for membership. To weigh in on this debate, we leverage that we now have as many years of data since NATO entry for countries in the 2004 wave of NATO expansion as we have between the collapse of the Soviet Union and the 2004 NATO expansion. We also make use of newly available and highly refined data on regime type. Using quantitative analysis of democracy scores from countries in the 2004 wave of NATO expansion and suitable control countries, we show that NATO membership and the prospect of NATO membership are not associated with increased democracy scores. However, being a member of both NATO and the European Union, as well as being an applicant to the EU, is associated with higher democracy scores. Our results do not preclude the possibility that NATO could have led to small changes around the margins in democracy scores of prospective and new members. However, they indicate that NATO alone could not have been responsible for significant improvements in democracy scores in prospective members and make clear that NATO membership was far from a necessary condition for democratic survival in Eastern Europe. In contrast to NATO applicants, applicants to the EU did improve their democracy scores in the process of seeking EU membership. This could be a result of stricter EU standards for membership that put a greater emphasis on democracy or a result of how the EU interacted with prospective members and incentivized them to reform. It could also be the result of selection. Some of the states that were fast-tracked into pursuing EU membership before or around the same time as becoming

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part of the NATO MAP (such as the Baltics) were already more democratic than other states that did not pursue EU membership in the 1990s. The ongoing war in Ukraine provides several implications that both support and challenge our analysis. Consistent with our findings, the European Union’s response to the war in Ukraine shows how the EU can be an important actor for democracy promotion, even under conditions that prevent NATO involvement. In June 2022, the EU granted Ukraine candidate status. While Ukraine is years away from actually joining the EU, closer cooperation and EU financial assistance come with conditions on curbing corruption and implementing political and economic reforms (PBS News Hour 2022). These closer ties could nurture postwar democracy development in Ukraine even with NATO membership off the table. Ukraine shows how many of the benefits of engagement with NATO and the EU do not necessarily require the incentive of a MAP and the promise of formal membership. Since 2014, Ukraine reformed its military with NATO’s help, while regular training and advising by NATO members provided the same benefits of regular contact and socialization that Gheciu argues were provided to states that joined NATO (Chinchilla 2022). Progress toward democracy more generally was slow but ongoing prior to Russia’s invasion, despite the lack of a MAP and EU candidate status for Ukraine (Freedom House 2022). Perhaps we see little difference in democracy between states who joined NATO and those who did not because NATO engaged substantially with both groups, although Ukraine is likely an outlier that received much more focused attention from NATO and the EU than most states. Regardless, Ukraine’s reforms despite no realistic prospect of NATO membership underscore our point that democratic survival in Eastern Europe did not depend on formal NATO expansion. At the same time, Ukraine shows how Russian coercion can undo years of careful reform. There are two schools of thought about the relationship between Russia’s meddling in Eastern Europe and NATO expansion: one claims that NATO provoked Russian expansion, the other that NATO deterred it. The other chapters in this volume address that debate directly, and we do not attempt to adjudicate it. If the latter view is correct, however, we may have set the bar too high for measuring NATO’s effect on democracy. If Russia had expansionist aims not only for Ukraine but also for states in the treatment group like the Baltics in the counterfactual

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without NATO expansion, then NATO succeeded at democracy promotion as long as most of its new members survived as democracies. Indeed, as discussed previously, the Baltic states viewed gaining security from Russia as essential to endure as democracies. Russia attempted subversion in the Baltic states before they gained NATO membership (Lee 2020). The states in the control group, except for Ukraine, did not face such an acute Russian threat. Nevertheless, our findings caution against the idea that security cooperation between international institutions composed mostly of democracies and less democratic partners automatically makes the partner states more democratic. It is an open question in the literature when and under what conditions international actors can, using a variety of instruments, induce changes in domestic political institutions (Krasner and Weinstein 2014). NATO should be one of the strongest candidates among international institutions for creating positive changes in democracy in prospective members. The huge reward of NATO’s security guarantee after membership should create a strong incentive for prospective members to reform in order to join the alliance. Prospective NATO members also receive large amounts of aid and support from existing members—another means for international institutions to incentivize reforms in domestic institutions. But NATO, for all its democratizing intentions, remains a military alliance and is focused on building the defense institutions of new member and partner states. NATO is therefore more suited to transfer norms like civilian control of the military. Although a professional military that stays out of politics is important for democratic consolidation, it is insufficient for liberal democracy. As our analysis of historical NATO expansion indicates, even when the tools of membership incentives and aid are at their strongest, security regimes and international institutions do not necessarily lead to large improvements in domestic governance. Countries like the USA that are particularly concerned about furthering democracy abroad should be aware that deepening security ties with partner states will likely not lead to large and persistent changes in their democracy levels. The varying ways that NATO Eastern European members and partners are responding to Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine further underscores how the connection between security and democracy is not straightforward. For backsliding democracies like Poland, Russia’s invasion and Poland’s close ties with NATO may reinvigorate commitment to international organizations like the EU. Poland needs EU support now given the

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large number of Ukrainian refugees it is sheltering. Hungary, however, has continued its democratic backsliding and its president, Viktor Orban has maintained a more pro-Kremlin stance (Coakley 2022; Kuisz and Wigura 2022; Spike 2022). Georgia, a close NATO partner, has recently moved closer to the Kremlin after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Cathcart 2022). Our findings also suggest several avenues for further research. First, our finding that being an EU applicant or member is associated with higher democracy supports work on the effects of the EU on domestic governance in both member and partner states. This finding is also in line with recent work on the positive effect of aid disbursed by international institutions like the EU or World Bank on democracy (Carnegie and Marinov 2017; Carnegie and Samii 2019). Other work, however, views the democratizing effect of the EU as limited as the EU expands its partnership into countries where democraticization is proving more difficult to take hold (Freyburg et al. 2016). Whether the positive effects of the EU depend on the prospect of membership or aid conditionality is an avenue for future research. More work should also take advantage of disaggregated V-Dem data to examine the effect of EU democracy promotion initiatives on specific components of democracy. Second, additional work must explain why NATO failed to go beyond holding the line on advancing democracy—despite making democracy promotion a core tenet of the alliance’s post-1991 mission. Although some states began backsliding after becoming members and NATO failed to punish them (von Borzyskowski and Vabulas 2019), our findings suggest that backsliding alone is an insufficient explanation for failed democracy promotion. Backsliding cannot explain why seeking NATO membership is not associated with at least a temporary increase in democracy. Rather, our findings suggest that membership conditionality is inconsistently applied by NATO and that NATO’s other tools to advance democracy, such as socialization, may be weak. In addition, more work should be done on how democracy effects bilateral security alliances, such as the US network of alliances in Asia. Although US involvement in South Korea is an example of how bilateral security cooperation can promote democracy (Im 2006), other work indicates that elements of bilateral security cooperation, such as troop deployments, can undermine the values of liberal democracy even when states are interested in democracy promotion (Cooley 2012; Bell et al. 2017). Our article also demonstrates the continued value of work on the domestic consequences

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of security regimes beyond democratization. Some outcomes of international pressure for reform, such as a norm of civilian control of the military, may not exactly equate to democracy but are nonetheless desirable outcomes that could be furthered by security regimes under certain conditions. Finally, the implications of closer NATO cooperation and renewed emphasis on democracy as a core tenet of the alliance will be important to study. Whether the alliance grows closer together and more democratic— or further apart and democratic backsliding trends continue—remains to be seen and studied.

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CHAPTER 12

Ukraine’s Bid to Join NATO: Re-evaluating Enlargement in a New Strategic Context Rebecca R. Moore

I think all of the trouble in this case…really started in April 2008, at the NATO Summit in Bucharest, where afterward NATO issued a statement that said Ukraine and Georgia would become part of NATO. The Russians made it unequivocally clear at the time that they viewed this as an existential threat, and they drew a line in the sand. (Chotiner 2022)

In February 2022, following a months-long buildup of Russian forces along the Ukrainian border and a bizarre and expansive speech in which he declared his intention to “to demilitarize and denazify Ukraine,” Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his second invasion of Ukraine in eight years (Fisher 2022). Consistent with Mearsheimer’s argument, Putin pinned the blame for the war on NATO enlargement, which he characterized as a “question of life and death” for Russia (Troianovski and MacFarquhar 2022). Putin had demanded in December 2021 that the

R. R. Moore (B) Concordia College, Moorhead, MN, USA e-mail: [email protected]

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 J. Goldgeier and J. R. I. Shifrinson (eds.), Evaluating NATO Enlargement, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-23364-7_12

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NATO Allies issue a guarantee that Ukraine would never join the Alliance and that NATO not deploy its forces in states that had joined NATO after 1999—the year marking NATO’s first post-Cold War round of enlargement. NATO rejected the demands (Crowley and Sanger 2022). The invasion that followed marked a significant escalation of the war that began in March 2014 when Russian forces crossed the border with Ukraine, seizing territory and infrastructure in Crimea and, ultimately, annexing the region. Russian soldiers without official insignias had also entered the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine in support of pro-Russian separatist fighters, who would continue to battle Ukrainian soldiers even eight years later as Russia prepared for its significantly more ambitious assault on Ukraine in 2022.1 U.S. intelligence assessments shared publicly in late 2021 had warned that Putin’s aims in this phase of the war were more expansive than in 2014 and extended well beyond the Donbas. U.S. officials believed that Putin intended to capture the capital city of Kyiv and arrest or assassinate Ukrainian political figures and other prominent individuals, with the ultimate aim of installing a new regime that would be friendlier to Moscow (Hudson and Ryan 2022). Although NATO’s response to the invasion has proven to be far more robust and unified in support of Ukraine than its reaction to Russia’s 2014 invasion, Russia has, thus far, chosen to avoid attacking NATO assets or members. The Alliance and its individual members have, in turn, worked assiduously to avoid direct engagement with Russia. Despite Ukraine’s history as an exceptionally active member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP), U.S. President Joe Biden…both prior to and following the invasion…drew a sharp distinction between Ukraine and actual members of the Alliance on the question of NATO’s Article 5 collective defense guarantee. The U.S. would defend “every inch of NATO territory,” Biden declared, but it had no intention of putting boots on the ground or planes in the air over Ukraine (White House 2022a) The distinction reinforced the hard line that U.S. President Barack Obama had drawn following Russia’s initial incursion into Ukraine in 2014. NATO would “defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of allies,” Obama declared at the time, but Ukraine merited no such protection because it was “not a member of NATO—in part because of its close and complex history with Russia” (White House 2014). 1 Putin claimed in 2022 that he was responding to a plea for assistance from the leaders of Ukraine’s two separatist regions: Luhansk and Donetsk.

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As Obama intimated in 2014, the NATO–Ukraine relationship has, from the beginning, been defined by worries about the impact of enlargement on Russia’s domestic and foreign policies. Over the past three decades, NATO has repeatedly affirmed that its door remains open. In reality, it has been tiptoeing around Russia since the early 1990s, especially on the question of Ukraine’s membership in NATO. While NATO did declare during its 2008 Bucharest Summit that Ukraine and Georgia would both become NATO members; it also declined at the time to admit them to NATO’s Membership Action Plan (MAP), or otherwise specify a program of action for the accession of these states to the Alliance. Indeed, the Bucharest Declaration, a compromise resulting from the opposition of key Allies—France and Germany, in particular—to granting MAP to Ukraine and Georgia is now perhaps the most infamous illustration of NATO’s persistent fear of antagonizing Russia. Ever since, Ukraine has found itself relegated to a gray zone with few prospects for actually acceding to the Alliance. Although the sharp distinction both Biden and Obama drew between NATO member and non-member in 2014 and 2022, respectively, was designed in part to deter Putin from attacking NATO territory by reminding him of the potentially grave consequences of escalating the conflict beyond Ukraine, that line has now illuminated for all NATO partners the perils of remaining outside the Alliance no matter how deeply engaged with the Alliance they might be. It also stands as a reflection of the Alliance’s failure to reach consensus on what is arguably the most critical question of all: namely, just what it is that NATO is defending. Is it simply territory (as the line suggests) or is it the values underpinning the liberal security order NATO committed to building in the early 1990s— an order grounded, not on the blocs or spheres of influence at the core of the Cold War order, but rather on the liberal democratic principles that NATO pledged to “safeguard” in the preamble to its founding treaty— “democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law”—and encompassing territory outside of NATO’s traditional sphere of collective defense (NATO 1990) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky captured well, just days after the 2022 invasion began, the extent to which that vision is now under assault, as well as the larger global implications of the war: “This is not just Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Zelensky declared. “This is the beginning of a war against Europe, against European structures, against democracy, against basic human rights, against a global order of law, rules and peaceful coexistence” (Voitovich and Kottasova 2022).

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Indeed, the line that the Allies have drawn between NATO and Ukraine now stands as an affront to the vision of Europe “whole and free” that NATO embraced in the wake of the Cold War.

A Balancing Act Although the evolution of Ukraine’s partnership with NATO has been uneven from the start, due both to Ukraine’s domestic politics and to NATO’s desire to maintain cooperative relations with Russia, the NATO– Ukraine relationship is a long-standing one dating back to 1991 when Ukraine first joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC), an institution NATO created to facilitate consultation and cooperation on political and security matters with Central and Eastern Europe, and to encourage democratic development to its east. In early 1994, Ukraine also joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PfP)—the first Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) member to do so. Since then, Ukraine has proven itself to be among the most active NATO partners, having contributed to the Alliance’s military missions in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq, as well as to several NATO maritime missions (NATO 2022a). Ukraine was also the first PfP member to contribute to the NATO Response Force (NATO International Staff June 2022). From the beginning, however, NATO’s relationship with Ukraine has been inseparable from its relationship with Russia. One of four former Soviet republics with nuclear weapons on its soil when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, Ukraine agreed in 1994 to give up roughly 1,900 strategic nuclear warheads in exchange for security assurances from the United States and the United Kingdom. In what became known as the Budapest Memorandum, the United States and the United Kingdom, together with Russia, agreed “to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine” and “to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.” Additionally, the three agreed that none of their weapons would ever be used against Ukraine “except in self-defense.” (United Nations 1994; Budjeryn and Burn 2020) Notably, U.S. officials at the time reassured Ukraine that, if Russia were to violate the terms of the Budapest Memorandum, the United States would respond (Pifer 2019).

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Although U.S. President Bill Clinton’s National Security Adviser Anthony Lake had reportedly proposed as early as May 1993 admitting Ukraine to NATO as a means of resolving the challenge created by the presence of nuclear weapons on Ukrainian soil (Sarotte 2021, 160), the administration opted instead for arrangements aimed at promoting a cooperative relationship with Russia, while, at the same time, keeping NATO’s door open to any European state that demonstrated a commitment to liberal democratic ideas and practices. The Clinton administration’s deliberations over whether NATO should open its door to new members, however, had been fraught with worries that enlargement would needlessly antagonize Russia and strengthen anti-Western domestic influences, delaying a decision on enlargement until January 1994 (Moore 2007, 24–25). As M.E. Sarotte has observed, the challenge that American policy makers encountered at the end of the Cold War was how to balance this commitment to the open door with the potentially negative impact of enlargement on relations with Russia. In Sarotte’s words: “Either they could enable the region of Central and Eastern Europe writ large–-including post-Soviet states such as the Baltics and Ukraine–-to choose its own destiny at long last, regardless of the impact on Moscow; or they could promote cooperation with Russia’s fragile new democracy; particularly in the interest of nuclear disarmament” (Sarotte 2021, 4). Indeed, in 1997, when NATO extended membership invitations to three former Warsaw Pact states (Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic), it tried to balance that potentially provocative move by extending a hand to Russia through the creation of the NATO–Russia Permanent Joint Council (PJC). A similar pattern followed in 2003 when NATO attempted to assuage a negative response to its second round of post-Cold War enlargement (which included the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) by reinventing the PJC in the form of the NATO– Russia Council, giving Russia a “voice” but not a “veto” in NATO discussions of certain specified issues, including terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Creating an institution unique to Russia however, also necessitated that same year a similar arrangement with Ukraine in the form of the NATO-Ukraine Charter on a Distinctive Partnership and the NATO-Ukraine Commission (NUC) (Asmus 2002, 157–158). The Allies also established a NATO Information and Documentation Center in Kyiv to help educate Ukrainians about the Alliance.

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In short, the challenge of balancing NATO’s open-door policy with initiatives designed to maintain a cooperative relationship with Russia became a persistent feature of the post-Cold War era. Since the early 1990s, NATO’s relationship with Ukraine has also at times been a casualty of the tumultuous nature of Ukraine’s domestic politics. Indeed, Ukraine’s adoption of a “multi-vector” foreign policy in the early 2000s reflected its own balancing act in trying to maintain cooperative relationships with both NATO and Russia. Under the policy, Ukraine pursued integration with NATO and the EU, while at the same time working to ensure that the country’s energy and trade needs were met via a friendly relationship with Russia (Kozlovska 2006). Ukraine’s first public expression of interest in joining NATO came in May 2002 when then President Leonid Kuchma announced that the country would abandon its previously neutral stance in order to pursue NATO membership (Krushelnycky 2002). A NATO–Ukraine Commission meeting in Reykjavik, Iceland that same year led to the adoption of a NATO–Ukraine Action plan intended to broaden and deepen Ukraine’s relationship with NATO by allowing for a more intense dialogue on political, economic, and defense issues (NATO 2007). Given Ukraine’s struggles in balancing its own relations with NATO and Russia, however, the county made little progress toward NATO membership expectations prior to 2004. Not until Viktor Yuschenko (a strong proponent of NATO membership) assumed Ukraine’s presidency following a turbulent election in September 2004 and the ensuing mass protests in Kyiv that became the Orange Revolution, did Ukraine’s leadership demonstrate a serious commitment to taking the steps required for NATO membership.2 In April 2005, following Yuschenko’s swearing-in, NATO and Ukraine entered into an Intensified Dialogue, designed to assist Ukraine in making democratic reforms and meeting NATO’s “standards and values” (NATO 2005). Although progress was uneven and briefly disrupted by Viktor Yanukovych’s (Yuschenko’s 2004 opponent) election as prime minister in 2006, NATO’s commitment to the dialogue remained.

2 Russia’s preferred candidate Viktor Yanukovych was initially declared the winner, but reports from domestic and international election monitors that Yanukovych’s declared victory in a run-off election with Yuschenko was marred by corruption and fraud ultimately led to mass protests in Kyiv.

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The Bucharest Statement That commitment, however, did not reflect an internal consensus on the question of extending an invitation to Ukraine to participate in NATO’s Membership Action Plan (MAP). Although the MAP does not encompass a set of criteria or legal commitments that prospective members must meet before receiving an invitation to join NATO, MAP participants do identify and receive NATO feedback on specific preparations for NATO membership in five key areas (political, economic, defense, resources, security, and legal) through their Annual National Programmes (Moore 2007, 60–61). Although NATO maintains that “participation in the MAP does not prejudge any decision by the Alliance on future membership” (NATO Membership Action Plan), the MAP process is generally understood by NATO members and aspirants alike as an affirmation that the aspirant state will be admitted once the agreed goals have been met. On the question of whether to extend MAP invitations to Ukraine and Georgia—and, ultimately, the persistent dilemma of how to balance the open-door policy with the perceived need for a cooperative relationship with Russia—there were deep disagreements within the Alliance, leading to a pronouncement at NATO’s April 2008 summit in Bucharest that both proponents and opponents of NATO enlargement now concur was disastrous. Prior to the summit, then U.S. President George W. Bush had lobbied in favor of MAP for both states, but he met fierce resistance from key allies, including both France and Germany who feared that such action would further antagonize Russia at a time when Europe had become increasingly dependent on Russian energy resources (Erlanger and Myers 2008). A private conversation between Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel—during which Merkel reportedly expressed that, while Ukraine was not yet ready for NATO membership, Germany was not opposed to it in principle—then led to the compromise language that made its way into the final summit declaration (Volker 2022). The Allies “welcome[d] Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations” for NATO membership and “agreed…that these countries will become members of NATO” (NATO 2008a, 2008b, 2008c). Although NATO affirmed that “MAP is the next step for Ukraine and Georgia on their direct way to membership” it declined to begin the MAP process for either, leaving both in limbo as to when or how they might expect to join NATO (NATO 2008a, 2008b, 2008c). With no timeline

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or program of action for acceding to the Alliance, both states were effectively relegated to a realm in which their futures—contrary to NATO’s own principles—were not theirs to decide but would continue to be held hostage to continuing anxieties over Russian reaction to NATO enlargement. Indeed, Putin had warned during the Bucharest Summit that Russia considered NATO enlargement along its border to be “a direct threat to [its] security” (UPI 2008). Although Russia’s military incursion into Georgia in support of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in August 2008— just months after the Bucharest Summit—did nothing to advance either Georgia or Ukraine’s prospects for membership, NATO did subsequently establish the NATO-Georgia Commission, stating that both Georgia and Ukraine would now develop Annual National Programmes aimed at advancing the reforms essential for NATO membership within the respective NATO–Ukraine and NATO–Georgia Commissions. The new institutions were not to be a substitute for MAP, however, leaving both Georgia and Ukraine still without a clear program and timeline for becoming members. Although the precise role of the 2008 Bucharest decision in Putin’s acts of aggression against Ukraine remains a matter of considerable dispute, there is no doubt that it was a consequential one. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in fact, made particular reference to it in a recorded address on April 3, 2022—the fourteenth anniversary of the Bucharest summit. NATO had lost an opportunity to take Ukraine “out of the ‘gray zone’ between NATO and Russia,” Zelensky argued. The Ukrainian President also accused Merkel and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy of appeasement, proposing that they “visit Bucha and see what the policy of concessions to Russia has led to in 14 years” (Zelensky 2022).

Euromaidan and the 2014 Invasion For NATO, a short, but not necessarily welcome, reprieve from the enlargement dilemma arrived in 2010 when Putin ally Viktor Yanukovych assumed Ukraine’s presidency and the Ukrainian Parliament voted 303– 8 to confirm Ukraine’s non-aligned status (Herszenhorn 2014a, 2014b) Further evidence of Ukraine’s drift toward Russia came in the form of the Kharkiv Pact, an agreement Yanukovych signed with then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev allowing Russia to keep its Navy in the Crimea

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until 2042 in exchange for lower Russian natural gas prices. Although Yanukovych initially favored an Association Agreement to join the European Union (EU), Russian coercion in the form of potentially crippling trade sanctions ultimately led Ukraine to abandon the agreement in 2013, despite overwhelming support in the Ukrainian Parliament (Herszenhorn 2014a, 2014b). The decision would prove the beginning of the end for the Yanukovich regime as protests erupted on Maidan Square in Kyiv and spread rapidly across the country, ultimately forcing Yanukovich to flee (Encke 2020). The Euromaidan revolution would also mark the beginning of a new era in NATO-Ukraine relations as average Ukrainians expressed their desire to align Ukraine with Euro-Atlantic institutions. At the same time, the protests and Yanukovich’s ouster reflected the extent to which Putin had lost his ability to manipulate Ukraine from the outside. Unwilling to accept an independent, Western-oriented neighbor, Putin opted for a direct military intervention in early 2014, ultimately seizing Crimea and backing separatist forces in the Donbas region (Myers and Barry 2014). NATO promptly deemed the 2014 Russian invasion “a breach of international law” and “violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” at odds with both the “principles of the NATO-Russia Council and the Partnership for Peace,” of which Russia was also a member (NATO 2014a). After two decades of working to maintain some semblance of an effective working relationship with Moscow, NATO suspended all “practical civilian and military cooperation” with Russia, although it left the door open to political dialogue in the NATO–Russia Council, at the ambassadorial level and above (NATO 2014a). Identifying Ukraine as a “valued partner” whose people have the right “to determine their own future, without outside interference,” NATO officials repeatedly characterized the Russian intervention as a “fundamental” challenge to NATO’s “goal of a Euro-Atlantic region whole, free, and at peace” (NATO 2014a; b) and demanded that Russia reverse its “illegal and illegitimate self-declared ‘annexation’ of Crimea” (NATO 2014b). Indeed, U.S. President Barack Obama asserted in March 2014 that Russia’s leadership had “challeng[ed] truths that only a few weeks ago seemed selfevident—that in the twenty-first century, the borders of Europe cannot be redrawn with force, that international law matters, that people and nations can make their own decisions about their future” (White House 2014).

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Acknowledging that the Euro-Atlantic region was no longer at peace, NATO moved quickly to reassure all states—its newest and most vulnerable members, in particular—that it would make good on its Article 5 collective defense commitment, partly through the deployment of additional forces on NATO’s eastern flank. The Allies established six multinational command-and-control elements (NATO Force Integration Units) in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania aimed at facilitating prompt deployment of NATO forces to the region, supporting collective defense planning among all member states, and facilitating multinational training and exercises (NATO 2015). Additional steps aimed at establishing a more visible NATO presence in member states included the deployment of NATO fighter jets to a Baltic airpolicing mission, surveillance flights over Poland and Romania, and the deployment of two maritime groups to the Baltic and Mediterranean Seas (Belkin et al. 2014). Notably, these activities were not limited to NATO member states. NATO also increased its presence in the Black Sea and took steps to enhance maritime cooperation with both Ukraine and Georgia (Anastasov 2018). Russia’s 2022 invasion prompted similar steps aimed at equipping NATO with the full range of ready forces and capabilities “necessary to maintain credible deterrence and defence” (NATO 2022b). Just days after Russian troops crossed the border in February 2022, NATO activated elements of the NATO Response Force, placing 40,000 troops on NATO’s eastern flank under direct NATO command. NATO also agreed to establish four additional multinational battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, describing the threat posed by Russia as the “gravest threat to Euro-Atlantic security in decades.” Just months later, at its June 2022 Madrid Summit, NATO agreed to deploy an additional 300,000 troops in conjunction with the adoption of a New NATO Force Model. Under the new model, the Alliance will rely on forces that already exist within NATO countries, but move toward prepositioning equipment and strategically pre-assigning forces for specific territories (NATO 2022c). The obvious fear was that Putin’s ambitions might extend beyond Ukraine, to the Baltic states or even Poland.

Drawing the Line In both 2014 and 2022, however, NATO also made clear that its collective defense obligations were limited to NATO members only. Due to

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divergent threat perceptions within the Alliance and continuing disagreements as to how to maintain some semblance of a working relationship with Russia, NATO’s initial response to the 2014 crisis had been to draw a sharp line between partner and member. Although NATO’s PfP Founding Document states that the Alliance will “consult with any active participant in the Partnership if that Partner perceives a direct threat to its territorial integrity (language similar to that included in Article 4 of the NATO Treaty), NATO leaders were quick to eliminate any ambiguity as to what NATO owed Ukraine (NATO 1994). Article 5 applied to members only. Russia’s 2014 invasion did, however, serve to trigger additional U.S. and NATO assistance to Ukraine. In 2015, the United States established the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine, to coordinate training and mentoring for the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) (Congressional Research Service 2022b). The United States also provided Ukraine with other defensive forms of security assistance including body armor, helmets, night and thermal vision devices, rations, tents, and medical kits. Prior to 2016, this aid was strictly non-lethal despite appeals for weapons and other military assistance from then Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and former NATO commanders General Philip Breedlove and Admiral James Stavridis, among others (Gordon and Schmitt 2015). Although the U.S. Congress, in both 2014 and 2015 authorized military assistance for Ukraine, including anti-tank and antiarmor weapons, crew-served weapons and ammunition, counter-artillery radars, fire-control and guidance equipment, surveillance drones, and secure command and communication equipment, Obama resisted calls for lethal military aid through the end of his second term (U.S. Congress 2014). Obama’s refusal to provide the authorized assistance put him at odds, not only with many members of Congress, but also with prominent former U.S. national security officials. In a study released by the Atlantic Council in early 2015, Stavridis; former U.S. Permanent Representative to NATO Ivo Daalder; former Undersecretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy, and others urged the administration to provide immediately $1 billion in lethal and non-lethal military assistance to Ukraine to bolster its defense and deterrence capabilities, “with additional tranches of $1 billion to be provided in FY 2016 and 2017” (Daalder et al. 2015). The report’s authors warned that if the United States did not “adequately support

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Ukraine, Russia might seek to employ the tactics used in Ukraine elsewhere in the region, including in the Baltic states,” where NATO’s Article 5 commitment does apply (Daalder et al. 2015). The United States, ultimately reversed course on the lethal aid issue during the Trump administration, providing Ukraine with weapons such as the anti-tank Javelin missile and anti-armor missiles, beginning in 2017. Although the decision represented a significant shift in U.S. policy toward Ukraine, Trump was also later impeached for withholding a nearly $400 million aid package for Ukraine, including weapons and other military assistance as part of an effort to coerce Ukraine into launching investigations into Joe Biden (Trump’s then likely 2020 opponent for the Presidency) and his son, Hunter Biden (Lipton et al. 2019). Notably, the United States also failed to pursue serious efforts aimed at forcing a Russian withdrawal from Ukraine under the Obama, Trump, and, initially, Biden administrations. Rather the United States voiced support as late as early February 2022 for the Minsk 2 agreement, brokered and signed on February 15, 2015, by representatives from the OSCE, Russia, Ukraine, and representatives from Ukraine’s two separatist regions, as part of a diplomatic effort to end the war. The agreement calls for Ukraine to recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk within Ukraine, and gives the two regions the right to veto national legislation—provisions that seem inherently at odds with NATO’s position that Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty must be respected (Pomeranz 2022).

Enhanced Assistance for Ukraine That said, the 2014 invasion did lead NATO to deepen and enhance significantly its support for Ukraine and neighboring partners in ways that appear to have had some positive impact on the UAF in the ongoing war with Russia. Recognizing that PfP members were at significant risk in the context of the growing threat posed by Russia, NATO introduced a number of new initiatives during its 2014 summit in Wales, aimed at enhancing the capacity of a broad range of partners (including Ukraine) to defend themselves, and building interoperability with NATO forces.3

3 Although NATO had originally planned to focus the summit on preserving interoperability gains achieved with partners during the ISAF mission in Afghanistan (especially NATO’s Asian partners). the focus quickly shifted following the invasion of Ukraine.

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One such effort, the Partnership Interoperability Initiative (PII), in which Ukraine now participates, was designed to maintain and deepen the ability of participating partners’ forces to work alongside NATO forces and tackle common security challenges (NATO 2014c). Within this context, NATO also identified as Enhanced Opportunities Partners (EOP) five states that had been particularly significant contributors to NATO’s military missions (Australia, Finland, Georgia, Jordan, and Sweden), and announced that they had been preapproved for a range of NATO exercises in addition to participating in the enhanced NATO Response Force. Although Ukraine was not among the original five EOP partners, it was designated an EOP partner in June 2020, thereby giving it greater access to a range of NATO exercises and training opportunities (NATO 2016a). In 2014, NATO also introduced a Defence and Related Security Capacity Building Initiative. Intended to strengthen partners’ capacity to defend against external threats and build “credible, transparent, effective internal national security systems,” the initiative constituted one means of allowing NATO to project stability without having to deploy large combat forces. Unlike Georgia and Moldova, Ukraine was not among the states initially invited to join this particular initiative, but the Alliance did take significant steps in the wake of the 2014 invasion to enhance the capacity of the UAF through the framework of Ukraine’s Annual National Programme. Specifically, NATO sought to strengthen its ties with Ukraine’s defense and security sector, including offering additional opportunities for joint training and exercises. Although NATO had been supporting defense and security sector reform in Ukraine since the early 1990s, the 2014 initiatives marked a significant ratcheting up of NATO’s assistance to, and engagement with, Ukrainian defense and security personnel and institutions (NATO 2014d). Just prior to its 2016 Warsaw Summit, NATO opted to consolidate much but not all of its assistance to Ukraine in the form of a Comprehensive Assistance Package (CAP) aimed at facilitating the adoption of NATO standards and interoperability with NATO forces by 2020 (NATO 2016b). The CAP included a range of capacity-building programs and Trust Funds established to support capability development and sustainable capacity-building in the areas of command, control, communications, and computers (C4); cyber defense; logistics and standardization; military career transitions; medical rehabilitation, explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) and countering improvised explosive devices

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(C-IED). The CAP has since been revised and strengthened twice (in 2018 and 2022)—each revision designed to align Ukraine’s Annual National Programme goals better with NATO standards. The 2022 CAP, however, also includes various types of defensive equipment and initiatives to strengthen further Ukraine’s defense and security institutions (NATO 2022g; Bisserbe 2022). Underpinning virtually all of these new initiatives is a larger effort aimed at helping Ukraine shift away from a Soviet-style system (including Soviet-era equipment) and toward Euro-Atlantic standards, including modern NATO equipment (NATO 2022a). One particularly important element of NATO’s efforts to assist this transition is its support of leadership training and professionalization of military education, including the establishment of a corps of non-commissioned offers (NCO) empowered to take independent action (NATO 2022d). NATO, along with various member states, has also been working with Ukraine to develop special ops forces that operate according to a Western model. In keeping with its comprehensive approach to security and defense sector reform, the Alliance has also routinely provided strategic level guidance to Ukrainian officials. Making Ukraine’s security sector more resistant to corruption and more resilient, which includes greater transparency and integrity, has been a critical part of these advisory efforts (NATO International Staff July 2022). After 2014, NATO significantly increased support for those civilians working in Ukraine’s defense and security institutions with responsibility for Euro-Atlantic integration processes.4 In the interest of long-term institution-building, NATO advisers have also engaged with Ukraine’s parliament, the interior ministry, and security structures such as Ukraine’s border guards, veteran’s affairs office, and its security and intelligence agencies. Additionally, this advisory effort has extended to the drafting of new legislation, including a new Law on National Security in 2018, designed partly to implement civilian control of the military (Congressional Research Service 2022a). NATO advisers also provided high-level guidance on the new National Security Strategy that Zelensky approved

4 In Oct. 2019, nine of Ukraine’s defense and security sector institutions completed the NATO BI Self-Assessment and Peer Review Process, through which NATO provided an assessment of institutional needs and vulnerabilities and offered policy recommendations to improve good governance and address corruption in the defense and related security sectors.

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in September 2020, which—in addition to labeling Russia an aggressor state—explicitly identifies EU and NATO membership as strategic objectives, and focuses on corruption as a security challenge to be addressed (Getmanchuk 2020). The Ukrainian Parliament had already adopted legislation in 2017 reinstating membership in NATO as a strategic foreign and security policy objective, but Ukraine then also amended its constitution in February 2019 to include the goals of NATO and EU membership, thereby making them less susceptible to being altered with changes in government (Kuzio 2020). Ukraine’s deep engagement with NATO also extends to its participation in NATO’s Building Integrity (BI) initiative (which provides practical assistance and policy-level recommendations for strengthening integrity, accountability, and transparency in the defense and security sector); the Working group on Defence Reform; the Joint Working Group on Defence, Technical Cooperation; and the PfP Planning and Review Process. The latter assists partner states with setting objectives for defense and security reforms, transformation and capability development; and interoperability (NATO 2022e). Indeed, Ukraine has availed itself of virtually every opportunity available to it as a member of PfP, or, in the words of one NATO staff member, it has “squeezed as much juice as possible” out of NATO’s partnership tools (NATO International Staff June 2022a). NATO’s fear of becoming a party to the conflict in Ukraine, however, has also meant that the Alliance has provided no lethal assistance to Ukraine or even coordinated the lethal assistance that is being provided by individual NATO members. The latter role has been assumed by the United States European Command operating out of Stuttgart, Germany. Worries about being drawn into a potentially nuclear conflict with Russia have also led those individual members that are providing assistance to take an incremental approach, primarily in terms of the type of weapons offered to Ukraine. That said, Ukraine has clearly benefitted enormously from lethal military assistance offered by individual NATO member states, especially the United States, which has provided among other weapons: High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), Stinger anti-aircraft systems and Javelin and other anti-armor systems, laser-guided rockets systems, various military vehicles, and other vital non-lethal equipment. As of August 1, 2022, the United States had provided Ukraine with roughly $11 billion in security assistance since 2014 (Congressional Research Service 2022b), $8 billion of that total given in the preceding

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six months (Polyakhova and Timtchenko 2022). Additionally, military trainers from the United States and other NATO member states have been working with Ukrainian troops, including special forces, through the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine. Although this training took place internally prior to the 2022 invasion, it was moved to a new location outside of Ukraine in April 2022, with a new focus on teaching Ukrainians how to operate U.S. and Allied military equipment (NATO International Staff July 2022). Other NATO members states have also promised and/or delivered military assistance to Ukraine, including Estonia, Latvia, and Poland— all of which have made significant contributions, relative to their GDP. France and Germany too have provided military assistance, although they have committed relatively less in terms of GDP, and, while both had promised Ukraine heavy weapons, those weapons had not yet been delivered as of August 2022 (Polyakhova and Timtchenko 2022).

The Impact of NATO Assistance By virtually all accounts, the performance of the UAF since early 2022 has exceeded expectations (Berg and Radin 2022), in sharp contrast to the performance of the Russian military, which has performed well below expectations (Hirsh 2022). The fact that Ukraine has received considerable assistance from individual NATO members, however, makes it challenging to isolate the impact of Ukraine’s nearly 30 years of deep engagement with NATO on its performance. Moreover, Ukraine has undoubtedly also benefitted significantly from its experience fighting Russian-backed forces in the Donbas since 2014. Although it goes well beyond the scope of this chapter to offer an independent assessment of NATO’s impact on the UAF in the context of the ongoing war, Ukraine’s recent military performance, coupled with a long history of close cooperation with NATO, and the nature of the assistance provided, suggests that NATO has had at least some success in fostering transformational change in Ukraine’s defense and security sector, particularly since 2014, and has, thereby, assisted in the development of a more effective military organization. Both external observers and NATO staff members who have worked with Ukraine note, in particular, NATO’s role in helping Ukraine build an NCO corps, described by one NATO staff member as now “almost indistinguishable” from those of NATO member states (NATO International

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Staff June 2022a). Indeed, military experts have noted that, while Russia remains hobbled by a Soviet-style leadership model, Ukrainian NCOs are able to take decisions on the battlefield, thereby giving them a significant advantage over Russian forces unable to act without direct orders from commissioned officers (Mahshie 2022; Bonenberger 2022). Significant improvements to Ukraine’s command-and-control systems—a major focus of NATO’s efforts to achieve comprehensive reform of Ukraine’s defense and security sector—also appear to have served Ukraine well in the context of the ongoing war. Although UAF command-and-control arrangements still fall short of NATO standards, Ukraine has demonstrated significant progress in the area of civilian democratic control of its military since 2014 (Zagorodnyuk et al. 2021). Previously, the weakness of Ukraine’s political institutions due to corruption and nepotism limited the capacity of these institutions to conduct the sort of oversight that is consistent with NATO standards (Maksy 2018). The passage of Ukraine’s Law on National Security in 2018—drafted with the help of advisers from NATO, the EU, and the United States—has, however, significantly increased parliament’s role in providing oversight of the UAF. Consistent with NATO’s goal of democratic control of the military, the new law also mandates that the posts of the Minister of Defense of Ukraine and the deputies of that same office be populated by civilians.5 Although Ukraine’s successes on the battlefield are undoubtedly attributable in large part to increasingly sophisticated weaponry provided by individual NATO members, the institutional reforms at the core of NATO’s comprehensive approach to security and defense should also be considered as at least potentially significant factors in improved military performance. Indeed, Louis-Alexandre Berg and Andrew Radin of the Rand Corporation have observed that, while not all security assistance has the intended result, and, in some instances, might even be counterproductive (e.g. Iraq and Afghanistan), in the case of Ukraine, Western assistance does coincide with improvements in Ukraine’s military effectiveness. Berg and Radin therefore propose that “a crucial but overlooked factor enabling Ukraine’s military performance may be its defense institutions.” In their words: “The way militaries are governed—how they 5 Ukraine’s 2018 national security law regulates the powers of each of actor in the security sector, including the President, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Armed Forces, the General Staff, the Security Service, the State Border Guard Service, etc. (Ukraine Crisis Media Center 2018).

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manage and oversee personnel, resources, and information—is central to battlefield effectiveness,” as well as “prospects for long-term stability” (Berg and Radin 2022). NATO Enlargement: Reframing the Debate As NATO looks toward the future, however, it will soon need to make a definitive decision regarding Ukraine’s bid to become a full NATO member. Although many of the concerns that have to date kept Ukraine out of NATO still exist, the circumstances surrounding the enlargement question today look much different than they did in 2008. Indeed, Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine has illuminated several critical developments that, ultimately, should serve to reframe the debate over enlargement as it pertains to both Ukraine and Georgia. First, it’s clear that the strategic context surrounding the question of whether Ukraine should become a member of NATO has changed dramatically. Indeed, in its long-awaited new strategic concept issued in June 2022, NATO labeled Russia the “most significant and direct threat to Allied security and peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area” (NATO 2022f). Moreover, given the conduct of Russian forces in Ukraine, it’s difficult to imagine that NATO could consider Russia a “partner” in any meaningful sense for many years to come. This is not to suggest that NATO can afford to ignore completely the possible consequences of decisions made with respect to Ukraine for its relationship with Russia. Indeed, Putin’s nuclear saber rattling, which has been a key factor in the Allie’s incrementalist approach to supporting Ukraine, continues. The nature of the NATO–Russia relationship, however, has clearly changed—even since 2014. In this new context, NATO must reevaluate whether holding Ukraine at arms’ length has in the past, or will in the future, serve the long-term interests of the Alliance and the larger international community. Additionally, the relevant changes in the strategic context are global as well as regional. Somewhat ironically perhaps, a conflict that was initially thought to herald NATO’s return to Europe has brought home the geopolitical implications of this war for the rules-based, liberal order, largely due to China’s response to Russia’s flouting of the rules. Indeed, NATO’s 2022 Strategic Concept references “the deepening strategic partnership between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian

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Federation and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rulesbased international order” (NATO 2022f). Not only has China failed to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine; it has also emerged as the leading buyer of Russian oil; thereby dampening the effect of Western sanctions (Standish 2022). Moreover, China is not alone. Relatively few states outside of Europe and North America have demonstrated a willingness to isolate or sanction Russia, even in the face of the atrocities being committed by Russian forces (Depetris and Menon 2022) As the Allies noted in the 2022 Madrid Summit declaration, what is ultimately at stake in this war is the future of the “rules-based international order.” A “NATO Task Force” comprised of transatlantic area experts also argued in a report produced just prior to the 2022 Madrid summit that the NATO Alliance is at a “major inflection point” as stability gives ways to “a more dangerous and volatile age of disruption.” This “age of disruption is dominated by strategic competition with two authoritarian powers: a Revisionist Russia that seeks openly to roll back the changes in Europe since the end of the Cold War and subjugates its neighbors to a Russian sphere of influence; and a militarily powerful and technologically advanced China that poses a systemic challenge to the transatlantic community and other democratic nations” (Hamilton and Binnendijk 2022). Given these shifts in the larger strategic context in which NATO must operate, the Allies must contemplate whether their values and way of life can be secured by defending only their own territory, at a time when Russia and China appear to believe that they can violate international norms with impunity. Moreover, Russia’s increasingly apparent expansionist aims in Ukraine—whether or not achievable—should prompt us to reassess and dismiss once and for all the argument that NATO enlargement is to blame for Russia aggression. Is NATO Enlargement to Blame for Russian Aggression? The argument that NATO enlargement was a “fateful error” with the potential to stall reform in Russia and provoke aggressive behavior is a long-standing one (Kennan 1997; Mandelbaum 1995; Kupchan 2000; Waltz 2000). Indeed, it was entirely predictable that Russia’s two invasions of Ukraine in 2014 and 2022, as well as its invasion of Georgia in 2008, would each, in their own time, revive the realist argument first advanced in the early 1990s that NATO’s decision to open its door to former Soviet bloc states was a needlessly provocative step that would only

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inflame nationalist and anti-Western sentiments in Russia (Mearsheimer 2014a). As Mearsheimer put it in 2014, the “taproot of [Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine] is NATO expansion and Washington’s commitment to move Ukraine out of Moscow’s orbit and integrate it into the West” (Mearsheimer 2014b). “Putin’s pushback should have come as no surprise,” Mearsheimer wrote in Foreign Affairs in late 2014. “After all, the West had been moving into Russia’s backyard and threatening its core strategic interests” (Mearsheimer 2014a). As noted earlier, even during the Clinton administration, which ultimately made the decision to open NATO’s door, fears of antagonizing Russia and stalling, or even reversing, the reform process in Russia caused key figures in the administration to oppose or at least express reservations about enlargement. Although the voices in favor of enlargement ultimately prevailed, concerns about its impact within Russia persisted. Consequently, the Clinton administration’s case in favor of enlargement aimed to persuade Russian leaders that enlargement was not directed against Russia or any other state. Rather, it was precisely because the Soviet threat was gone that NATO could focus on the Alliance’s political rather than military dimension and “enlarge its orbit of democratic security” (Clinton 1994). The lure of enlargement would serve as a tool for extending eastward the democratic values and practices on which NATO had secured peace in Western Europe. Admitting new members—provided they demonstrated a commitment to liberal democratic principles—was a means of enlarging the space in which “wars simply do not happen” (Moore 2007, 25–26). The principal problem with the argument that NATO enlargement precipitated Russian aggression is not only that it mischaracterizes the impetus for NATO enlargement; it also presumes that in its absence, Russian foreign policy would have steered a different course. Yet, the historical record provides little basis for the claim that NATO ever sought to remove Ukraine or any other former Soviet bloc member from “Moscow’s orbit.” Rather in the final days of the Cold War, former Warsaw Pact members (especially Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic), with no encouragement from the Allies, came calling at NATO’ door. Indeed, the United States had actually warned the Polish government at the time not to “bang on NATO’s door.” (Grudzinski 2002; Asmus 2002, 15–16) Fearful that a security vacuum was developing across Central and Eastern Europe, former Czech President Vaclav Havel had made Czechoslovakia’s membership aspirations known as early

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as October 1991. Polish President Lech Walesa voiced similar concerns, even telling the NATO Allies during a July 1991 visit to Brussels that the people of Central and Eastern Europe “resolutely reject any ideas of ‘gray’ or buffer zones” (Flanagan 1992). Importantly, Central and Eastern European leaders during this period consistently characterized their desire to join NATO as a “return to Europe.” Joining both NATO and the EU symbolized a return to the community from which they were alienated after WWII. “We have spared no effort to return to the roots of our culture and statehood, to join the Euro-Atlantic family of democratic nations, Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek explained in 1997” (Geremek 1997). Hungarian President Arpad Goncz framed his country’s aspirations similarly: The rhetoric of NATO enlargement suggests that NATO is moving eastward at the instigation of the present 16 allies. Instead, what is happening is that the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are moving westward. Separated from West-European and Euro-Atlantic institutions for 40 years, these countries now have the freedom and opportunity to join institutions such as NATO, the European Union and the Western European Union.” (Goncz 1997)

Even former NATO Secretary General George Robertson urged Russia at the time to recognize that NATO was “not moving East.” Rather Central and Eastern Europe, and Russia, were “gradually moving West” (Robertson 2001). The concept of a “return to Europe” suggests that, counter to realist assumptions, identity—presumably informed by history, culture, values, and ideas—strongly influenced how the governments of Central and Eastern Europe defined their interests, and, consequently, how they interacted with NATO and their neighbors (Moore 2007, 71). Interestingly, counter to Putin’s claims that Ukraine has no real identity independent of Russia, and his embrace of ethnonationalism to legitimize his invasions of Ukraine (Putin 2021), Zelensky has made a concerted effort to unify Ukraine around a national identity rooted in shared liberal values rather than shared ethnicity (Pisanao 2022). For Mearsheimer and others, however, the nature of international politics renders Ukraine’s identity and aspirations irrelevant because states living next to great powers have no “right” to choose their own path

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(Chotiner 2022). According to Mearsheimer, such states have no choice other than to accommodate their more powerful neighbors, assuming they wish to live in a stable neighborhood. In the case of Ukraine, this means abandoning aspirations to join Euro-Atlantic institutions. Although less inclined to pin the blame for Russian aggression on NATO, Michael O’Hanlon also argued that the only way out of NATO’s enlargement conundrum was permanent neutrality for Ukraine and other states falling in an arc from “Europe’s far north to its south—Finland and Sweden; Ukraine and Moldova and Belarus; Georgia and Armenia and Azerbaijan; and, finally, Cyprus plus Serbia, as well as possibly other Balkan states.” Under O’Hanlon’s proposal, this “new security architecture would require that Russia, like NATO, commit to help uphold the security of Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and other states in the region” (O’Hanlon 2017). The relevant question, however, is whether Putin, even in the absence of NATO enlargement, was ever going to respect Ukraine’s status as an independent or even neutral state. Interestingly, Former NATO Secretary General George Robertson recently noted that in all of his meetings and conversations with Putin in the run-up to the 2004 round of enlargement (which included the Baltic states) “he [Putin] never complained about NATO enlargement, not once.” Robertson also recounted a joint press conference in January 2003 during which Putin was asked about Ukraine: Putin’s reply: “Ukraine is an independent sovereign state, and it will choose its own path to peace and security” (Braw 2022). It is therefore entirely fair to ask whether Putin’s invasions of Ukraine—in both 2014 and 2022—were actually a response to Western weakness as opposed to Western expansionist designs. Critics of enlargement have identified the 2008 Bucharest pledge as the impetus for Russian aggression, but ignore the impact of NATO and the West’s failure to respond firmly to Russia’s invasions of Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014. Is it not possible that Putin perceived NATO’s refusal to extend MAP invitations to Ukraine and Georgia in 2008 as a moment of weakness on which he seized to pursue an agenda that had little to do with NATO enlargement? Fiona Hill, who served as the national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia on the U.S. National Security Council (NSC) during the NATO Bucharest Summit acknowledges that NSC staff had warned Bush that Putin would perceive “steps to bring Ukraine and Georgia closer to NATO as a provocative move that would likely provoke pre-emptive Russian military action,” but she also says that “the West’s muted reactions to both the 2008 and

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2014 invasions emboldened Mr. Putin.” Indeed, Hill has argued that Putin’s ambitions in 2022 went well beyond ending NATO’s open door to Ukraine and seizing territory. “Putin’s aim,” she says, “was to evict the United States from Europe” (Hill 2022). In light of Russia’s 2022 invasion, the critical question is whether Putin’s quest to reassert Russian control over former Soviet territories would have been any less ambitious had NATO chosen not to enlarge? Was enlargement simply a convenient excuse for advancing an agenda that had little to do with NATO? Indeed, it’s possible to argue that the NATO Alliance has been a significant obstacle to Putin’s ambitions, and therefore also a source of significant frustration for him, without conceding that NATO enlargement was the source of those ambitions. Arguing that “a move on Ukraine has always been part of [Putin’s] plan,” Angela Stent suggests that the current crisis is about much more than Ukraine’s possible NATO membership. In her words, it is “about the future of the European order crafted after the Soviet Union’s collapse,” which Putin—as Stent and numerous other commentators have noted—has described as the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century” (Stent 2022). Stent identifies Putin’s ambitions as three-pronged: revers[e] the consequences of the Soviet collapse, split…the transatlantic alliance, and renegotiat[e] the geographic settlements that ended the Cold War” (Stent 2022). Putin’s combative and unsettling speech during the 2007 Munich Security Conference offers one glimpse into his supposed post-Cold War grievances. Calling NATO enlargement a “serious provocation” and claiming that NATO forces were encroaching on Russia’s borders, Putin asserted that Russia had the “right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?” (Shanker and Landler 2007) Indeed, numerous critics of NATO enlargement have argued that NATO violated a promise made to Russia in 1990 not to expand the Alliance eastward. Unfortunately, the historical record of relevant events is complex and, as Joshua Shifrinson has noted, “the answer depends on who is being asked” (Shifrinson 2016a). On the one hand, a number of figures present during the relevant negotiations insist that, at no time did NATO leaders make any “politically or legally binding agreements…not to extend NATO beyond the borders of a reunified Germany” (Rühle 2014). In fact, former Under Secretary of State Robert Zoellick has noted that, at the time of German reunification, neither the United States nor Russia even anticipated that

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the states of Central and Eastern Europe would want to join NATO, and therefore would not have thought to make promises related to a possible future decision that, at the time, they had never seriously entertained (Neal 2022). Those less inclined to absolve NATO suggest that during talks related to German reunification in February 1990 then U.S. Secretary of State James Baker did offer that NATO would not expand “one inch eastward” if the Soviets would cooperate on unification (Shifrinson 2016a; Sarotte 2021, 56). Although no such promise was ever put in writing, Shifrinson has argued that Soviet leaders might have left the meeting assuming that a deal had been struck. If so, “Russian complaints cannot be entirely dismissed” (Shifrinson 2016b). The key question though is whether Putin—whatever promises were or were not made—actually feared in 2014 or 2022 that NATO might threaten or invade Russia. Stent dismisses such claims, noting that “Russia is a nuclear superpower brandishing new hypersonic missiles. No country—least of all its smaller, weaker neighbors—has any intention of invading Russia.” Moreover, as former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder has observed, NATO posed no threat to Russia because “prior to the war, President Joe Biden and other NATO leaders made clear that they would not come to Ukraine’s defense.” Russia’s “long-standing complaint about NATO moving too close to its borders,” he argues, “was little more than a convenient excuse for its revisionist aims” (Daalder 2022). Indeed, if Putin has fears related to Ukraine, it’s more likely that they stem from concern that an independent, economically stable, liberal democratic state on Russia’s border casts his own authoritarian rule in a bad light, potentially fueling greater dissent. Not insignificantly, Russia’s first invasion of Ukraine followed immediately on the heels of the 2013 Euromaidan revolution, which showcased not only Ukraine’s Westward trajectory but also Putin’s inability to save the Yanukovich regime. Given the absence of a robust NATO response to Russia’s intervention in Georgia in 2008, Putin also had good reason to believe that he could act without consequence in Ukraine as well. Indeed, NATO’s failure to respond to Russia’s aggression against Georgia in 2008 and then against Ukraine in 2014 arguably gave Putin cause to view NATO—not as a threat to Russia—but rather as a weak and increasingly divided alliance, unable to mount a robust response even to blatant acts of aggression against a long-standing, exceptionally active NATO partner. Fiona Hill also suggested in late