NATO Enlargement and the Post-Communist States

Authored by: Mark Webber

The Routledge Handbook of East European Politics

Print publication date:  August  2017
Online publication date:  August  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138919754
eBook ISBN: 9781315687681
Adobe ISBN:


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The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), so the cliché goes, was created ‘to keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down’ (quote by Lord Ismay cited in Medcalf 2005: 3). This blunt (and probably apocryphal) characterisation conveys, nonetheless, an important meaning. NATO’s overt purpose, to defend against a known adversary, has necessarily entailed transatlantic support and the co-option of continental Europe’s major power. In other words, as with all alliances, NATO’s strength is in numbers. What is striking is by how much that number has increased. NATO has grown from an original twelve members to twenty-eight (likely to become twenty-nine in 2017). Growth, moreover, has occurred in the midst of other profound changes. Since the termination of the Cold War, the alliance has acquired a range of new functions. Collective defence has remained significant, but equal standing has also been given to two other ‘core tasks’: ‘crisis management’ and ‘cooperative security’ (NATO 2010: para. 4). NATO has thus seen action in places as far apart as the Balkans, Libya, and Afghanistan. All this, moreover, has been accompanied by an ongoing process of institutionalisation (standard-isation, defence planning, and command coordination), an emphasis on political solidarity, and creative efforts in the realm of doctrinal and strategic thinking.

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