GLOBAL ECONOMIC VIEWPOINT
NATO AND EU NEED TO GROW TOGETHER
By Zbigniew Brzezinski
From 1977 to 1981, Zbigniew Brzezinski served as President Jimmy Carter's national security advisor.
WASHINGTON -- The North Atlantic Treaty Organization began as a security treaty among a number of sovereign states -- and formally that is still the case with its current 19 members. But as the European Union both integrates and expands, NATO is effectively becoming an alliance between America and Europe.
Almost all European members of NATO are also members of the EU, and NATO's most recent three new members are also actively negotiating admission to the Union. The political criteria for membership in NATO and the EU are the same. The overlap between NATO and the EU is thus a new and globally significant geostrategic reality. It will have to be faced next year at summit meetings of the EU in Copenhagen and of NATO in Prague.
Since the EU will continue to expand -- it is conducting accession negotiations with 11 states -- it follows that it would be absurd if in the future NATO were committed to the defense of, say, only three-quarters of the European Union. Such a situation could foster genuine insecurity in the unprotected one-fourth.
The threat once posed by the Soviet Union is gone, and Russia is engaged in a difficult process of self-redefinition. As a consequence, NATO is being transformed from a defensive alliance focused on a very clear danger into an integrated security coalition that spans the European-Atlantic space and is capable of reacting to threats to peace both within and near that region.
Given these realities, what next for NATO's enlargement?
Since NATO is a military alliance and not a unilateral guarantee of protection, every member must be credibly committed to self-defense as well as be ready to make a tangible contribution to collective security even when itself not directly threatened.
For the process of enlargement to remain politically vital, it is also important that the most recent three members fully carry out the commitments they undertook prior to membership. Failure to do so by Poland, Hungary or the Czech Republic would certainly be exploited by opponents of expansion.
Currently, however, the process of admission to NATO is unpredictable and subject to capricious politics. This should not be so. The enlargement of NATO should notbe a bookkeeping exercise, a bureaucratized guessing game or a political bazaar.
For the sake of political confidence among aspiring countries, the admission process should be made more objective, predictable and credible -- even if ultimately still guided by political and strategic considerations. Above all, it has to reflect a clear-headed vision of the future scope and shape of Europe and of its relationship to the Atlantic alliance.
In brief, it is time to end the uncertainty. NATO should take four steps:
-- Any state considered eligible for EU membership should be automatically seen as also eligible for NATO membership, provided it is prepared to make an objectively measurable contribution to its own defense and to NATO's collective security missions.
-- The current mixture of political, social, economic and more precise military criteria should continue to apply for states that seek NATO membership ahead or outside of EU membership.
-- Current NATO aspirants should be issued formal invitations by the Prague summit meeting to join the alliance, with the beginning of the formal ratification process contingent in each case on the satisfaction of the pertinent membership criteria for NATO membership. The alliance should establish a regular procedure for the annual review of each aspirant's status.
-- In the case of the most ready candidates, NATO should approve their admission at the Prague summit meeting and set in motion the required ratification process.
These measures would not resolve all the ambiguities, nor provide a precise schedule, but they would represent a significant step forward in promoting greater confidence that the enlargement of NATO is a continuous process. (c) 2001, El Pais/European Viewpoint. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services.
For immediate release (Distributed 5/22/01)