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Summary: The Second NATO Enlargement

The Strategic Situation and the Development of Transatlantic Relations

Erich Reiter

When the East-West confrontation came to an end, NATO had to ask itself the question as to the sense of its continued existence, as it had lost its main function as a defense alliance. However, the North Atlantic Alliance quickly met this challenge and switched the security political rails by creating the North Atlantic Cooperation Council in 1991 (as of 1997: Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council), launching the Partnership for Peace program in 1994, signing the Security Treaty with Russia, coming up with the resolution to accept Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary into NATO, as well as by signing a "special partnership” charta with Ukraine, and installing a dialogue with selected Mediterranean states. All of that helped to underline its importance for the European security architecture.

With the strategic concept of 1999, NATO’s tasks were officially extended to include crisis management and partnerships with states of the Euro-Atlantic region, in order to conduct combined actions. Since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 it has become clear, however, that the USA does not regard NATO as a useful instrument for defending its interests within a global framework. The USA are accusing its European allies of merely having shown solidarity after the attacks, while doing little to support the creation of a combined rapid reaction force for NATO operations.

With the invitation of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia, and Slovakia not only former Warsaw Pact states, but ex-Soviet Republics, are about to be accepted into the alliance. But as the first round of enlargement has already shown, the relations of Russia to the US or NATO, respectively have not suffered. The creation of the NATO-Russian Council gives Moscow a say in all matters of common interests. In addition Russia benefits from NATO’s change from a military alliance to a more or less political organization.

In the mid 90’s the US took the lead in enlarging NATO to the east, thus skillfully undermining tendencies of "Europeanizing” European security. With the help of NATO, the US continues to maintain its position as a leading power in Europe, even though the North Atlantic Alliance is more and more developing into an armed version of the OSCE. The larger NATO gets by accepting new, militarily not highly developed states, the bigger will the differences become within the alliance, which has long turned into a two-, if not 3-class alliance.

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Eigentümer und Herausgeber: Bundesministerium für Landesverteidigung | Roßauer Lände 1, 1090 Wien
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