- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 28, 2002

Last week in Prague, NATO opened its doors to seven formerly communist countries Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia as well as reconfirmed its partnership with Russia and another 20 countries, some of which lie far removed from the Old Continent.
But apart from the big-bang enlargement, the Prague summit ended with much left unanswered. Particularly, how NATO at 26 plans to do what NATO at 19 couldn't build security in the 21st century.
The Cold War made the task of agreeing simple. There was an overarching menace which threatened Europe and the United States alike: The Soviet Union. Even then there was occasional disagreement over approach. Under Gen. Charles de Gaulle, France for example, left the alliance in preference of developing its own nuclear deterrent and pursing policies of rapprochement with the Soviets.
But overall, a general agreement prevailed amongst the allies that the Soviet power had to be checked on all fronts.
However, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, unprecedented disagreement over new security needs and priorities has emerged. September 11 has only further exposed the deep underlining strategic differences in the European vs. the American approaches to security-building.
While Europe has long been skeptical of military professed solutions to what often are complex problems, Americans are more likely to trust the virtues of power. Nor do Europeans like the idea of fixing problems. They much prefer problem management; keeping the dogs quiet for as long as possible.
Under the Cold War arrangement, America took upon its shoulders the responsibility of protecting Europe while simultaneously containing the spread of communism on a grand scale. America focused on force projection, which, by necessity, emphasized force sustainability far afield, military flexibility, and force lethality. For its part, Europe was preoccupied with defending against a Soviet invasion, and became increasingly inward looking in its security arrangement.
Today, Europeans continue to project an irritatingly narrow-minded security outlook. As Dominique Moisi, the deputy director of the Institute of International Relations in Paris, points out, "Most Europeans dream of turning their continent into what would amount to a large Switzerland a rich, selfish, boring and largely irrelevant place."
Europe's refusal to stretch its focus beyond the Continent is straining the alliance and raising concerns in Washington over whether Europe's and America's security interests overlap at all. In general, the Europeans feel secure apart for occasional al Qaeda scares and see little need for projecting power in distant regions such as Central Asia. Americans couldn't disagree more.
Apart from Britain and France, both of which have considerable experience with force projection, Europeans today are strikingly foreign to the concept of engagement far afield. They neither possess the military capacity to engage in missions such as the recent American-led war in Afghanistan, nor do they possess the kind of mind frame necessary to support such actions. European constituencies by and large are at a loss try to comprehend the need to engage in the Central Asian security theater.
The increasingly isolationist Germans for example, equated American efforts at building long-term stability in Central Asia and the Middle East with over-simplistic "adventures," while the Czech and the Hungarians twisted under mounting domestic pressure during the Kosovo campaign.
As for the seven invitees, none carry considerable experience with force projection. Let alone possess strategic cultures similar to that of the U.S. A keen awareness for internationalism is missing from their elite circles, while the overall Eastern European mindset is inconveniently narrow. It is this very mindset that is today the source of exhausting provincialism and ignorance epitomized in both the NATO and EU debates in postcommunist Europe.
For example, in Slovenia, NATO popularity has struggled to break 40 percent. The Slovene government has yet to convincingly defeat the opposition, which continues to effectively oppose NATO with arguments mounted on anti-Americanism and naive pacifism.
Slovakia for its part is doing no better. While the government has managed to sell the majority of Slovaks on joining NATO, the threshold remains low. In Bulgaria too, the NATO camp has been loosing ground.
So what initially looked like an enlargement of convenience by way of which Washington was looking to strengthen the pro-American voice of NATO, now smells a bit rotten. Given the vastly different strategic cultures, NATO at 26 may find it harder still to strike common ground. Already, many dismiss the alliance as a political club, and in Prague, the U.S. once again stopped short of requesting actual military support from the alliance in case Saddam thwarts the U.N. inspection regime.
But if Washington and Europe are at all serious about revitalizing the alliance, they will have to do more than rely on enlargement and capabilities alone. An effective system that can keep NATO allies' strategic cultures on the same page is indispensable. In the medium run, this means introducing a system of probation for nations that are slacking in their individual public outreach, and that are failing at keeping strong NATO support in the court of public opinion. In the long run, the alliance should develop a way for dismissing members altogether if their individual strategic culture is found to be fundamentally inconsistent with the priorities and needs of the alliance.
Simply hoping that enlarging the alliance into oblivion and beyond, without first ironing out the incongruities caused by different strategic cultures of individual members (and soon to be members), will solve NATO's growing identity problem is shortsighted.
Not to mention that enlargement alone stands to make today's quarrels look like peanuts in face of tomorrow's altercations.

Borut Grgic is a political analyst based in D.C. and a recent graduate from the Department of International Relations at Stanford University.


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