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Every Which Way But Loose: The United States, NATO Enlargement, European Strategic Autonomy and Fragmentation

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Evaluating NATO Enlargement

Abstract

The chapter argues that NATO enlargement arguably stabilized Central and Eastern Europe, but undermined long-term European security in other ways. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, successive US administrations simultaneously (1) pursued NATO enlargement; and (2) expanded the geographic scope of NATO’s missions; while also (3) preventing alternative European security architectures. Through interviews with US officials, the chapter shows a preoccupation with consolidation of stability in both Europe and outside of it, an institutional predisposition towards NATO, and an absence of constraints on US policies. In the end, these contradictory policies diluted European strategic cohesion and overburdened European militaries, while expanding the commitments inherent to the Alliance, leaving Europe underprepared for the confrontation with Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The chapter is a partial rewrite of the author’s article (2020), with the benefit of hindsight after Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. As such, it includes more attention to counterfactuals of different choices in the post-Cold War decades it discusses.

  2. 2.

    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 volume, enlargement was arguably only one of several causes of Russian estrangement from the United States and Europe.

  3. 3.

    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).

  4. 4.

    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.

  5. 5.

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

  6. 6.

    ‘[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. (2023). Every Which Way But Loose: The United States, NATO Enlargement, European Strategic Autonomy and Fragmentation. In: Goldgeier, J., Shifrinson, J.R.I. (eds) Evaluating NATO Enlargement. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-23364-7_13

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