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Land rush: American grand strategy, NATO enlargement, and European fragmentation

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Abstract

This article argues that NATO enlargement, while stabilizing Central and Eastern Europe, still undermined other aspects of European security over the long term. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, US administrations pursued three ambitious policies: they expanded NATO, but also its geographic scope, and they ensured that no alternative European security architectures could compete with NATO. Through interviews with US officials, the article shows a preoccupation with instability in Europe and elsewhere, an institutional predisposition to maintaining the centrality of NATO, and a lack of constraints on US policies by Russia or Europe. In the end, these contradictory policies diluted European strategic cohesion and overburdened European militaries, while expanding the commitments inherent to the alliance.

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Notes

  1. When the issue of NATO enlargement was first raised publicly, commentators warned that expansion could needlessly undermine relations with Russia (Brown 1995; MccGwire 1998; Russett and Stam 1998; Waltz 2000). As Kimberly Marten shows in her contribution to this issue, enlargement was arguably only one of several causes of Russian estrangement from the USA and Europe.

  2. Commentators at the time argued that, whatever the future role of Russia, the United States should continue its role as the protector and pacifier of Europe (Krauthammer 1990; Nye 1990; Mearsheimer 1990; Glaser 1993; Mastanduno 1997).

  3. In 1995, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke referred to the United States as a European power, not just a power in Europe. This view permeates throughout the crucial post-Cold War decades.

  4. See, for example, European Commission president Jacques Delors’s March 1991 speech on European security autonomy.

  5. ‘[Secretary] Baker kept saying that there were no losers at the end of the Cold War, only winners. Everybody was a winner. The efforts George H.W. Bush went through to try and avoid humiliating Russia, to avoid suggesting this was a defeat of Russia, were considerable’ (Hadley 2018).

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van Hooft, P. Land rush: American grand strategy, NATO enlargement, and European fragmentation. Int Polit 57, 530–553 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-020-00227-7

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