A Plan for Europe: How to Expand NATO
Zbigniew Brzezinski was President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser. He is Counselor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Professor of Foreign Policy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of The Johns Hopkins University.See more by this author
The Clinton administration today confronts three important and interrelated questions generated by the end of the Cold War: First, what should be the scope of the Euro-Atlantic Alliance? Second, what should be the role of Germany within post-Cold War Europe? And third, what should be Europe and NATO's relationship with Russia?
It is essential to answer all three if America's prolonged commitment to Europe is to be crowned with historic success. The failure to respond decisively to the first question could create uncertainties regarding the second and automatically conjures up troubling prospects regarding the third. Hence, the response must be comprehensive.
It is axiomatic that the security of America and Europe are linked. The Europeans almost unanimously want to preserve the Euro-Atlantic alliance. But that means both sides must define what today constitutes "Europe" and what is the security perimeter of the Euro-Atlantic alliance. It also calls for shaping a closer relationship between Europe and Russia -- one that facilitates the consolidation of a truly democratic and benign Russia.
This agenda is as daunting in its sweep as the one that America faced in the late 1940s. And it is pertinent to recall that the formation of NATO was not just a response to the Soviet threat; it was also motivated by the recognition that an enduring Euro-Atlantic security framework was needed for the assimilation of a recovering Germany into the European system. Today, in the wake of the reunification of Germany and the liberation of Central Europe, the ongoing expansion of Europe -- favored by a powerful Germany -- necessitates addressing head-on the issue of expanding NATO. That expansion in some cases should precede the enlargement of Europe; in others, it might have to follow it.
As the European Union reaches out for new members, so will Europe's security organ, the Western European Union. The WEU has already created a special category of associated partners, comprised of several Central European states. Their formal membership in the EU will create additional economic bonds and shared political interests inseparable from the security dimension. With most of the European Union's members also participating in NATO, neutrality by the alliance in the face of an attack on a WEU member will become inconceivable. As a practical matter, the issue of formally widening the alliance can thus no longer be avoided.