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  • NATO Enlargement: Who, Why, and How?
  • Charles Gati (bio)
Endgame in NATO’s Enlargement: The Baltic States and Ukraine. By Yaroslav Bilinsky. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1999. 144 pp. $55.00.
NATO Looks East. Edited by Piotr Dutkiewicz and Robert J. Jackson. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998. 199 pp. $55.00.
Strange Bedfellows: NATO Marches East. By George W. Grayson. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1999. 268 pp. $22.50.
The NATO Enlargement Debate, 1990–1997: The Blessings of Liberty. By Gerald B. Solomon. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998. 208 pp. $49.95.
NATO Transformed: The Alliance’s New Roles in International Security. By David S. Yost. Washington: United States Institute of Peace, 1998. 450 pp. $19.95.

The enlargement of NATO began in March 1999 with the inclusion of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic as full members of the alliance. In the years ahead, other countries in Central and Eastern Europe are supposed to follow suit. Depending in part on the outcome of NATO’s undeclared war against Yugoslavia, however, the alliance may decide against taking in additional members. In that case, these books will become studies in the history of something that had a beginning around 1993 and an end in 1999. Alternatively, they may be used as policy-oriented studies of a controversial and indeed hotly debated process that will continue well into the twenty-first century. [End Page 211]

With the exception of NATO Transformed, by David S. Yost, which is a comprehensive monograph that goes beyond the issue of enlargement, these studies trace the evolution of elite, and to a lesser extent popular, support for the enlargement of the alliance, particularly in the United States. While Professor Bilinsky, Congressman Solomon, and the authors in the volume edited by Professors Dutkiewicz and Jackson are strong proponents of enlargement, Professor Grayson tries to approach the subject with a measure of scholarly detachment. Although his attempt at detachment is welcome, what makes his book interesting for Washington insiders is that it is based on very extensive interviews with those (including this writer) who played a role in the U.S. debates. Thus, instead of relying only on material in the public domain, Grayson’s book contains a wealth of new information which, together with a forthcoming, more systematic study of the decision-making process by James Goldgeier of the Brookings Institution, will be mined by scholars and graduate students for years to come.

Collectively, the books under review raise the intriguing questions of why, who, and how. Why, with the Cold War over, did NATO decide to take in new members? Who supported and who opposed enlargement? And how was the emerging NATO consensus translated into policy?

The question of why was, of course, at the heart of the debate in every NATO country, including the United States. But while it was a most important question, proponents and opponents alike avoided offering a single reason as a justification for their position. The several reasons they gave amounted to a shopping list rather than an explanation of strategic purpose. This was probably intentional. The goal was to create and then maintain large coalitions of strange bedfellows. Vagueness rather than clarity was thus a political necessity for both sides.

Take the proponents first. They included Atlanticists, who favored the idea of taking in new members after the Cold War from Central and Eastern Europe in order to give NATO itself a new goal—the goal of expanding the frontiers of a stable and democratic Europe—and thus a new lease on life; revisionists, who favored the idea in order to undo gradually the postwar division of Europe symbolized by the Yalta system; and Russophobes, who favored the idea in order to contain future Russian ambitions. While these goals were not necessarily mutually exclusive, stressing only one would have inevitably resulted in defections from the camp of supporters. Stressing only an anti-Russian motive for enlargement, in particular, would have meant that important potential supporters on the political fence would have been pushed into opposition. Recall, too, that at the beginning of the enlargement debate in 1993 when the Clinton administration pursued [End Page 212] a “Russia First” policy, it would have...

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