IISS/CEPS European Security Forum

Chairman's Summing-Up

by François Heisbourg

The third meeting of the European Security Forum centred on NATO Enlargement, prepared, as has become the custom, by papers written respectively from a US, a European and a Russian perspective.

Stephen Larrabee, in presenting his paper, drew the group's attention more particularly to three points:

Tomas Ries, while underlining the need to avoid gratuitously damaging relations with Russia, emphasized that the number-one objective for the Europeans was the reinforcement of Europe's stable liberal base and this called for NATO enlargement including the Baltics. Furthermore, he noted that Russia was going to go its own way whatever occurred in terms of NATO enlargement.

Vladimir Baranovsky underscored the hawkish attitude of Russian public opinion (as evinced in opinion polls) against NATO enlargement, particularly vis-à-vis extension to the Baltics. The Kosovo air war was a turning point in terms of this hardening. However, he also stated that such a trend need not preclude practical engagement between Russia and NATO. A "post-Kursk" discussion on maritime security; theatre missile defence; an update of the "3 Nos"; the joint handling of Macedonia-style crisis situations: Such were some of the issues which could, if they were addressed in a cooperative manner, improve the Russia-NATO climate.

In addition to these presentations, remarks by a well-placed commentator of Alliance affairs paved the way for the ensuing debate. First, he noted that the new enlargement would be politically easier to handle than the first, precisely because of what didn't happen after that initial round: There had been no "new Cold war", no "new fault line" and no "bankrupting" of NATO. In a sense, the effects of the first enlargement had been overstated by its adversaries as by some of its supporters. Secondly, there were several material differences between the second and the first enlargement: There was more technical preparation this time with the membership action plans; but there would also be new implications in terms of political cohesion, with the growth in the number of members; and Article-V considerations could be of growing importance (In this regard, Baranovsky suggested that enlarging to the Baltics could create a new "Berlin vulnerability" problem for NATO; to which others responded that this comparison could be applied in a reverse mode, with the transformation of Kaliningrad into a Russian enclave within NATO). Finally, the commentator picked up Larrabee's mention of a staggered approach to the next round of enlargement, while pointing out the consequences of enlargement for the security policies of the neutral members of the European Union.

At the behest of the Chairman, several issues were singled out for discussion.

First of all, what would be the effect of enlargement on the nature of NATO? As one participant queried, would a NATO of 27 or 28 still be funktionsfähig, let alone entscheidungsfähig, capable of making decisions? Others disputed the notion that the growth in numbers would significantly hamper NATO's effectiveness: "Parkinson's law did not necessarily lead to Parkinson's disease". However, doubt was expressed about NATO's future direction. The remark was made that NATO hadn't terribly changed since 1991, that new tasks such as peacekeeping/peace enforcement had simply been added to old; would this situation last with enlargement – or as another participant put it: Will NATO simply become an OSCE with teeth?

These queries naturally gained salience as the Forum broached the issue of Russian membership of NATO. This prospect has been repeatedly raised by President Putin during the course of the summer, confirming the view of those who considered that "virtual membership" of Russia should be discussed earlier rather than later: What kind of NATO will we have if the road is opened for Russia membership (if this NATO still had an Article V, what would that mean vis-à-vis China? And if Article V were dropped, would we still have NATO?); and what kind of Russian reaction will we have if NATO spurns Moscow's overtures?

Then we had the issue of the interaction between the EU and NATO enlargements, with the remark from a prominent analyst of EU affairs that there was no CFSP on NATO enlargement, that this was a process on which the EU as such had no common view, only policies by individual states. As one US participant indicated, the Baltics will play better in the US than Bulgaria and Romania ; but a number of EU members have precisely the opposite view, with the net result that pressure to enlarge to the North will be complemented by pressure to enlarge to the South – thus leading to something closer to a Big Bang than to staggered entries. A brief but heated discussion arose concerning the entry criteria for NATO membership, with one American participant giving great prominence to the economic dimension, to the surprise of some Europeans who could see this as a new obstacle directed against early Bulgarian or Romanian entry. Certainly, economic criteria had not played a prominent role when Greece and Turkey entered NATO half a century ago. However, there was little dispute about the contention that Romania's prospects had not improved since the 1997 discussions at the Madrid summit. Indeed this sense of Romanian lack of progress was reinforced by a question about "sweeteners" for those would not be part of the first pick at the NATO summit in Prague next year.

As for the ultimate extent of NATO enlargement, the question was raised of what could be the West's options if the Kuchma government were replaced in Ukraine, and if the democratically elected successor regime in Ukraine requested NATO candidacy status. The analogy was made here with the replacement of the Tudjman regime in Croatia and Zagreb's current call for NATO membership.

Further afield, the Forum discussed the interaction between possible Caucasian aspirations to NATO membership (Georgia and Azerbaijan notably) and Turkey's strategic interests. Here the remark was made by a well-placed regional observer that the rapidly expanding Russian-Turkish ties in the field of energy (e.g. the "Blue Stream" gas pipeline) would make Turkey increasingly adverse to confrontation with Russia in the Caucasian area.

Returning to the preparation of the 2002 NATO Summit, Forum participants noted that Russia's leaders were no longer talking in terms of "red lines", or of "no former Soviet territory in NATO"; they were raising the theme of "no NATO infrastructure", along the lines of Baranovsky's statements on the "3 Nos". However, one East European participant invited us not to forget that "red lines" could be replaced by "pipelines", i.e. that Russia could manifest its negativism towards NATO expansion by seeking greater control of the CIS area, notably through its policy vis-à-vis energy infrastructure connecting Russia to the outside world via the CIS countries.

Kaliningrad would be a key point for NATO-EU-Russia cooperation. Here, we were invited to ponder a recent statement by Admiral Yegorov, Kaliningrad's governor, suggesting that Lithuania's entry into NATO would not pose unprecedented problems for the oblast since Poland was already a member of NATO.

Finally, as one Western participant indicated, it would be wrong to continue saying that no new lines would be drawn: After all, the EU was not going to include Russia. Thus, a clear and presumably long-lasting line would be drawn between the EU and Russia, once the enlargement to the Baltics had been completed. Thus it is imperative that we get EU-Russia cooperation on the right track; hence also the call of several participants for establishing a new type of institutional relationship between Russia and NATO, whether this would be in the form of an associateship (to use the expression of one Russian participant) or the prospect of membership.