‘Enlargement contributes to security because it leads to more predictable relations with Russia’
NATO is again deciding how to respond to Eastern European nations’ requests to join the alliance, this in the face of opposition from Russia that has been underscored this year by President Vladimir Putin’s attacks on Ukraine. NATO foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels this week to weigh the efforts made by Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia and Montenegro to prepare their candidacies. As it does “Ukraine’s sovereignty may be impacted” by how the alliance responds, says Atlantic Council Executive Vice President Damon Wilson.
In considering new memberships, NATO must consider two factors, Wilson says: the readiness of any candidate to bear the responsibilities of membership, and whether its inclusion improves security for the alliance and its region.
NATO “enlargement contributes to security because it leads to more predictable relations with Russia,” Wilson writes today in an essay for CNN co-authored with Slovak diplomat Tomas Valasek. “Membership has a calming effect on Moscow’s ties with nations as NATO entry greatly increases the costs to Moscow of interfering. Imagine if Estonia or Latvia – two neighbors of Russia with large Russian minorities – were not members of NATO. They could be under as much pressure now as Ukraine. But Moscow has reasons to tread carefully because it knows that an intervention in the Baltics would trigger a collective NATO response.”
A particularly tough case is that of Georgia, Wilson says in the essay and in a video interview with the Council. While it’s clear that NATO will not provide Georgia this year with the “membership action plan” it is seeking as the formal pathway toward inclusion in the alliance, Georgia is sure to “come under greater pressure from Russia” for its move this year into a formal association with the European Union.
To help Georgia withstand Moscow’s coerciveness, NATO should consider “a new special arrangement” with Georgia that could help it accelerate the modernization of its own armed forces, and that might include a stationing of some NATO forces within the country, Wilson says.