Debate - Opinion in English, Russia and Baltic States
Debate - Opinion in English
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Latvia Worried About Delay in NATO Baltic Expansion after Yugoslav War May 12, 1999 SUMMARY Latvia's President on May 11 expressed concern about his country's national security, particularly over likely delays in further NATO expansion. This heightened sense of insecurity is the result of three developments: 1) the deteriorating relationship between NATO and Moscow; 2) the fact that some Central European and Balkan countries may move ahead of the Baltic nations in the queue to become NATO members; and 3) the need for NATO to resolve a number of internal problems following the Kosovo crisis. ANALYSIS Latvian President Guntis Ulmanis said in Prague on May 11 that delays in NATO's expansion over the next four years would endanger the security of the Baltic states. Ulmanis called on NATO to accelerate its expansion plans, to complete the process within two to three years. He stressed the next NATO summit should explicitly address the issue of accepting new members. The Latvian President is on a three-day official visit to the Czech Republic to discuss the two countries' foreign policies and economic relations. The Baltic states worry that once the Kosovo conflict is over NATO will be so distracted by its own internal issues, such as reforming its decision-making structure and reassessing its re-defined mission, that the expansion process could delayed. The Baltic states are concerned NATO has already sent clear signals to some Central European and Balkan prospective member states that their support for NATO in the Kosovo crisis could speed up their incorporation into the alliance. Moreover, the Baltic leadership recognizes that the conflict in the Balkans has negatively impacted NATO's relationship with Russia, leaving the Baltic states precariously caught in the middle. The Baltic states realize a more cautious NATO might mean pushing their prospective membership past the original time frame, if at all. NATO its expansion plans during NATO's 50th anniversary summit held in Washington in April, when the alliance adopted a Membership Action Plan. The plan was designed to intensify military cooperation with nine aspirant states -- Romania, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Macedonia and Albania -- in order to prepare these countries for future membership. Although the recent summit did not formally mention eventual modification of the accession schedule in connection to the assistance provided by some of these countries to NATO during the Kosovo crisis, the alliance has made numerous statements implying that this would occur. In particular, NATO told Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia -- the countries that have promised to open their territories to the transportation of NATO troops and military supplies -- that their help was greatly appreciated and would not be forgotten in connection with NATO's expansion. NATO accepted Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary as new members on March 12. STRATFOR has, in earlier GIUs, highlighted the military and logistical difficulties associated with including Hungary as a member, in the absence of Slovakia. The alliance's strategy associated with the second accession wave, has produced even more controversy. On the one hand, the alliance has raised prospective new members' hopes by issuing official statements about the direction of future expansion and by involving the would-be members in the Partnership for Peace program. On the other hand, NATO's progress has been extremely slow in a second expansion wave to avoid further damaging its relations with Russia, a fierce opponent of the alliance's eastward expansion. Other difficulties associated with future NATO expansion include the relative absence of democratic institutions in some of the candidate countries, economies that in some instances cannot support the military commitment required by NATO, and the possibility that new members will result in a further extension of the frontier NATO must defend in order to protect the entire alliance. The Kosovo crisis, however, will certainly exacerbate NATO's already ambiguous policy. Following Kosovo, NATO will be hard pressed not to honor its debts to such countries as Romania, Bulgaria, and Slovakia. Simultaneously, disrupted relations with Moscow -- which has been opposing the aspirations of the former Soviet republics to join NATO -- will make the alliance's expansion into the Baltic region more difficult. NATO-Russian animosity will make consolidation of NATO's defensive lines imperative, but NATO will simultaneously put a high priority on keeping that consolidation from further negatively impacting relations with Russia. The Baltic states have every reason to be concerned about NATO's altered relationship with Moscow and its impact on further expansion. But these are not the only factors impinging on national security issues in the Baltics. NATO will have to deal with fundamental issues such as its internal structure, decision-making process, and reassessing its redefined mission, once the Kosovo crisis is over. The war in the Balkans has clearly shown that NATO's decision-making structure is incompatible with the new mission it has laid out for itself. NATO's new mission is another fundamental issue to be confronted following the Kosovo crisis. The Washington summit expanded NATO's strategic framework beyond the founding principle of mutual defense. The new framework includes an assertion that NATO should develop a capability to avert regional conflicts taking place beyond NATO's borders. In the wake of the U.S.-led intervention in Yugoslavia, it is highly likely that some NATO members will seek to reconsider this new mission. In fact, doubts concerning the leadership of the U.S. have rekindled the idea of the Western European Union (WEU) becoming the full-fledged military arm of the European Union. This is already is on the table. On May 11, WEU foreign and defense ministers agreed to design a European defense organization within the next 18 months. All these issues will keep NATO busy in the months to come and will, with all likelihood, delay the alliance's expansion plans. The deteriorating relationship with Moscow, the demands by some Central European and Balkan countries to enter NATO, and the internal issues NATO must resolve once the crisis in Kosovo ends, will all pose a serious question for the Baltic states and their security
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