Ronald Asmus has a new “grand strategy” for the west: it should continue to expand eastward (see Foreign Affairs, subscription only):
The challenge of securing Europe’s eastern border from the Baltics to the Black Sea has been replaced by the need to extend peace and stability along the southern rim of the Euro-Atlantic community—from the Balkans across the Black Sea and further into Eurasia, a region that connects Europe, Russia, and the Middle East and involves core security interests, including a critical energy corridor. Working to consolidate democratic change and build stability in this area is as important for Western security today as consolidating democracy in central and eastern Europe was in the 1990s.The west’s most important accomplishment following the Cold War has been its integration of central and eastern European countries that were previously part of the Soviet Union—countries that have undergone significant reforms to be accepted into NATO and the EU. It is interesting that despite the ubiquitous negative publicity NATO is receiving these days, due largely to a perceived lack of teamwork in Afghanistan, there are several countries that continue to fervently seek membership—take the 71 percent of Georgian’s who endorsed NATO membership in a January referendum for example (see Today’s Zaman).
Asmus warns that NATO expansion should be pursued strategically though, not rushed. In a follow-up to the Foreign Affairs essay, Asmus argues in the Washington Post that the Alliance should be careful who it extends invitations to for full membership at the upcoming Bucharest Summit in April:
The [Bush] administration is proposing to extend invitations to Albania, Croatia and Macedonia. I was one of the earliest proponents of NATO enlargement, but I believe such a move would be a mistake. NATO enlargement must strengthen the alliance. That is why in the 1990s, in close consultation with the Senate, we set clear and high criteria for future members. By those criteria, perhaps one of the candidates under discussion -- Croatia -- is ready for membership. Albania and Macedonia clearly are not. We learned over the past decade that our leverage in pressing candidate countries to complete reforms falls considerably once these countries join.This argument sounds logical… take Macedonia for example: President Crvenkovski has this week requested NATO membership sooner rather than later because he believes Macedonia is threatened by instability on its Serbia/Kosovo border (see Serbiana). Is it really wise for NATO to accept Macedonia who will likely become a net-security consumer rather than a contributor?
Of course, perhaps a NATO “grand strategy” based on constant expansion will mean there will always be unstable states on the west’s border. Negative POV: every state annexed is a liability that reduces NATO’s geographic security cushion from the less friendly outside realm. Optimistic POV: it is like dropping a wet sponge on a map of Europe and watching the liquid goodness of democracy spread out, creating an ever expanding realm of peace and rule of law.
Cooperation with the west does not need to be black and white. Alberto Priego’s recent article in the Caucasian Review of International Affairs focuses specifically on how NATO’s flexibility in partnerships benefits its relationships with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia – three countries with varying degrees of affection for the west (yet all who are open to it, according to the EUobserver).
By its own, what NATO has in mind concerning the South Caucasus is the idea of being a flexible organization to cooperate with all PfP [Partnership for Peace] countries. NATO policy toward the PfP in general and toward the South Caucasus in particular could well be labeled as a form of a la carte cooperation… any of the three Caucasian Republics can select what kind of cooperation it prefers to develop in the framework of the PfP… we can point out that NATO Partnership for Peace programme is a flexible initiative that allows the partners to fill their foreign and security gaps.And of course the 800-pound gorilla in the room is Russia, who vehemently opposes past and future NATO expansion. Will Europe be willing to take on Russia’s wrath? Robert Kagan speculates in the Washington Post:
Postmodern Europe can scarcely bring itself to contemplate a return to confrontation with a great power and will go to great lengths to avoid it. In the United States, any fundamental shift in policy toward Russia will have to wait for the next administration. Nevertheless, a Russian confrontation with Ukraine or Georgia would usher in a brand-new world, or perhaps a very old world. Many in the West still want to believe this is the era of geoeconomics. But as one Swedish analyst has noted, 'We're in a new era of geopolitics. You can't pretend otherwise.'