Summary of the East European Studies/Stanley Foundation discussion and policy bulletin launch with Ronald Linden, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh, PA and Chair of the EES Advisory Council; Andrew Michta, the Mertie Willigar Buckman Professor of International Studies at Rhodes College, TN and Member of the EES Advisory Council; and Jeffrey Simon, a Senior Fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies of the National Defense University, DC.
The three panelists discussed several of the major findings detailed in the policy bulletin that was the result of a conference held in Budapest, Hungary in early September and was released today. The tone was somewhat pessimistic regarding NATO's future after seven countries of Central and Eastern Europe (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, and Bulgaria) are invited to join the organization next week. All three panelists expressed concern that once admitted, NATO will lose leverage over these states to implement reforms and advocated the creation of an enforcement mechanism within the alliance. The speakers did acknowledge, however, that there are a few potential positives to be had from an enlargement - specifically, the strengthening of domestic institutions in the new member states and their strategic locations, particularly in the case of Bulgaria and Romania.
Jeffrey Simon identified two issues fundamental to the European security environment and U.S. relations. First, the growing tensions between NATO and the EU on both political and military levels. One of the key questions militarily is whether NATO's envisaged new rapid reaction force will overlap with a larger EU force and if it can develop in a way to augment the EU's capabilities and strengthen - not weaken - the trans-Atlantic relationship. Second, Simon cited the psychological differences between the U.S. and Europe. As of 9/11/01 the U.S. and European views of the main threats confronting them no longer coincide. The U.S. considers itself to be at war with terrorism and sees Europe as a diminishing priority, and this message has not been lost on the Europeans. Simon also noted that many Europeans are uncomfortable with the fact that Article 5 on collective defense was invoked for the first time in NATO's history on September 12, 2001 in an effort to help the U.S. and the U.S. did not respond. Article 5 had always been an ambiguous statute, but now that it has been invoked the following questions arise: What obligations does each country have? What limits are there to the obligation in terms of time and space?
Andrew Michta questioned the tangible military contributions that these seven new members can bring to the alliance. He argued that they offer marginal contributions to NATO and that their actions are important political gestures rather than genuine contributions. The one net contribution that the Baltics can make is their air surveillance system, BALTNET, which uses state of the art equipment and could immediately hook into NATO systems. However, he pointed out, once these nations become members, their primary objective will shift to gaining EU membership. Michta remained skeptical of the new members' ability to sustain the commitments required of them by NATO once their focus turns to EU admission.
Ronald Linden focused on the Balkans, an area expected largely to be left out of this round of NATO expansion (except for Romania and Bulgaria). He argued that this region will remain important because the Balkans are where much of the action is for NATO given the 50,000+ peacekeeping troops that remain there. Not only have the Balkans been the source of violence in the recent past, but the region itself could provide critical support to troops should a war be waged against Iraq. Bulgaria and Romania can make a significant military contribution by their strategic location alone.