Paper - Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University

NATO After Madrid: Looking to the Future

| July 1998


This report and the conference it is based on are motivated by the sharp debate stemming from NATO's decision at Madrid to invite three new members to join its ranks. This debate is not partisan: it cleaves parties. It is profound because it has kindled the first truly geostrategic inquiry among Americans in the post-Cold War era. This inquiry has led Americans to advance from celebrating the end of the Cold War to confronting the design of Eurasia's future security system and America's role in it.

This debate continues. It will come to a head in the United States when the Senate votes whether to give its consent to the Madrid decisions.

The conference's purpose was not to revisit the decision taken at Madrid, but to learn from the debate that ensued. The intensity of the debate revealed that there is no consensus on the wisdom of the path taken so far by the Alliance and spearheaded by the Clinton Administration. Without reexamining decisions already taken, we wish to see the path ahead from this point charted and debated clearly in advance, so the next steps are taken with greater agreement across the American political spectrum.

This conference and paper, then, are about the path ahead. The recommendations below are for U.S. policy and action in the next phase of NATO's evolution, assuming that the Senate and other allied legislatures do in fact consent to the decisions reached at Madrid to admit Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic to NATO.

The conference that informed these recommendations was held at Stanford University on September 19-20, 1997. Attending were distinguished scholars of international security affairs, members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, senior officials of the Clinton and previous U.S. administrations, and journalists who cover international affairs. The conference was co-sponsored by Stanford University's Center for International Security and Arms Control and Institute for International Studies and Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation. It forms part of the Stanford-Harvard Preventive Defense Project, co-directed by William J. Perry and Ashton B. Carter.

We are grateful to the attendees of this conference for contributing their information, ideas and perspectives, but the judgments and recommendations that follow are those of the authors and organizers. The preparation of this report was informed by the conference, but there is no suggestion or implication that what follows is a consensus of the participants or a summary of the discussions.


Our judgments and recommendations are based on four premises:

1. NATO serves a vital purpose in post-Cold War Europe. NATO should not, as some argue, be disestablished now that its founding purpose of deterring attack from the Warsaw Pact has been fulfilled. On the contrary, NATO provides the security framework for realizing at last George Marshall's vision of a Europe united in freedom, peace, and prosperity. NATO anchors the United States in Europe to the benefit of both Europe and the United States, constitutes the world's only standing, readily usable coalition military capability, exercises a stabilizing influence on current and future members as their militaries learn to plan together rather than against one another, and is one expression of the shared values and interests of a community of member nations.

2. As a matter of principle, NATO's membership rolls have never been closed and never should be closed. Enlargement of NATO's membership has benefits but also carries costs and risks. Adding additional members is a grave matter and should not become automatic or routine.

3. U.S. Senate rejection of the Madrid decisions would be a major setback to U.S. credibility and to the U.S. position in Europe. Even the most pessimistic estimates of the risks and costs of enlargement cannot justify such a setback.

4. But the next steps in NATO's future adaptation to the post-Cold War world should be analyzed and debated openly before being taken, and a clear course with broad bipartisan and international support should be charted. Hence this conference and report.



  • Adding new members is not the only, or even the most important, adaptation of NATO to the post-Cold War security environment. A much larger issue looms for the Alliance: What is NATO's purpose? In fact NATO does not serve a single purpose, but three purposes, the first two military and the third politico-military. First, and originally paramount, is territorial defense, enshrined in Article V's pledge that an attack upon any member "shall be considered an attack against them all." Second, deriving from Article IV as well as Article V, is NATO's provision of a standing mechanism for the rapid formation of combined military forces with prearranged mechanisms for command and control and a habit of working together. These forces can be mobilized to protect common interests in Europe, as in the Bosnian Implementation/Stabilization Force (IFOR/SFOR); or outside Europe, as when the U.S.-led coalition that defeated Iraq in 1991 drew upon forces and habits of cooperation forged in NATO. Third is NATO's historic role of drawing members together, encouraging them to resolve disputes peacefully, causing them to plan and work with rather than against one another, and fostering respect for democratic values and institutions.
  • The relative emphasis given to the first two military roles for NATO is changing in response to the changing security environment of Europe and the needs of its members for combined military capabilities. This evolution results because the requirement for the first role - territorial defense - has decreased, while the requirement for the second role - coalition operations in pursuit of common interests - has increased.
  • NATO needs to adapt its military strategy to today's reality: the danger to the security of NATO's members in this historical era is not primarily potential aggression to their collective territory but threats to their collective interests beyond NATO territory. These threats require attention to preventing deadly conflict, restoring and preserving peace, preventing regional conflict, stemming proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, ensuring supply of key resources such as oil, and responding effectively to transnational dangers such as terrorism. NATO's principal strategic and military purpose in the post-Cold War era should be to provide a mechanism for the rapid formation of militarily potent "coalitions of the willing" able to project power beyond NATO territory. In NATO parlance such a power projection force for "out-of-area" operations is called a Combined Joint Task Force, or CJTF. Shifting NATO's emphasis in an evolutionary manner from defense of member territory to defense of common interests beyond NATO territory is the strategic imperative for NATO in the post-Cold War era.
  • Such a shift in military mission would not supplant territorial defense. Defense of members' territory according to Article V of the NATO Treaty would remain a solemn commitment of Allies. But NATO territory - including the territory of its new members -- is not threatened today. Nor is it likely to be in the foreseeable future. Russia has neither the intention nor the prospective military capability to threaten the Alliance. In the absence of imminent threat, American and allied publics will not continue to support an Alliance - enlarged or unenlarged - that appears to focus on non-existent threats of aggression in Europe rather than on today's security problems.
  • Neither will a shift in emphasis in its military strategy from territorial defense to power projection supplant NATO's important politico-military role: fostering good relations among its members, inducing their militaries to plan with rather than against each other, inculcating democratic and free-market values, encouraging the rule of law, and fostering civilian control of the military. Indeed, these functions deserve strong emphasis in the next phase of NATO's history.
  • The evolving emphasis in NATO's mission from homeland defense to coalition operations has two important consequences. First, since territorial defense is not currently at issue, it should be clearer to all that enlargement is not drawing new lines across Europe. Second, since "coalitions of the willing" organized by NATO will include some -- but not necessarily all -- NATO members, and will generally include non-members drawn from the Partnership from Peace (PfP) (like Bosnia's IFOR/SFOR), the distinction between full membership and partnership will be less important in the new NATO.
  • Many of the recommendations below follow logically from the fundamental evolution in NATO's purpose that is occurring and that we support.


Supplementing NATO's core function to include power projection will entail additional expenses for the other members of NATO, but not for the United States. The U.S. already possesses preeminent power projection forces. Most European allies, including Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, are in the process of improving the mobility and deployability of their forces. These reforms in allied forces will permit them to bear a larger share of the alliance's burden, operate without the United States if they choose to conduct a Europe-only operation, and project power to the territory of new members of NATO in the unlikely event that such operations prove necessary. These expenses would be incurred by the European allies even if no new members were being added to NATO's list. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) estimates that to make these changes the European allies collectively will need to spend about $1 billion per year over the next decade, much of which can derive from redirection of existing defense spending rather than increases in defense budgets.

Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic are in the process of adapting their militaries from the heavy, manpower-intensive style of the Warsaw Pact to smaller, more modern, more mobile, more professional militaries. Once again, these are reforms that would need to be made even if these three were not joining NATO. DOD estimates that needed reform will cost Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic together about $1 billion per year over the next decade.

Lastly, DOD estimates it will cost all the allies - including the United States - about $1 billion per year to "connect" the new members to the Alliance: fostering interoperability, fusing command and control systems, coordinating airspace management, and so forth. These costs would not, of course, be incurred without enlargement. The U.S. will need to bear its share - currently about 25% - of this expense.

Even if DOD's estimates are low by a considerable factor, and however the burdens among NATO members are apportioned, the costs of enlargement constitute less than one percent of the approximately $250 billion annual U.S. defense expenditures and $180 billion annual defense expenditures of the European allies.

  • Despite the debate over the estimated costs of enlargement, the facts remain: all estimates of the costs to existing members of adding the three new candidate members identified at Madrid show them to be a small fraction of existing NATO expenditures, the current U.S. burden of supporting its NATO commitments, and the U.S. defense budget.
  • It makes sense that these costs are modest. Since there is no current or prospective threat to the territory of the new members, there is no need to furnish them with large stationed forces for forward defense like Cold War West Germany. The costs of assisting the new members to contribute usefully to NATO's new power projection mission, on the other hand, will be principally borne by the new members themselves as part of their larger process of military reform, and can be stretched over many years.


  • NATO should remain open in principle to membership by all states of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council without exception, contingent upon their meeting NATO's stringent standards for admission.
  • But no additional members should be designated for admission until the three candidates named at Madrid are fully prepared to bear the responsibilities of membership and have been integrated into the Alliance.
  • Therefore other security relationships and structures designed to extend stability to non-NATO members are of the highest importance and require more attention than they have received. The future security of Europe involves economic, political, and social development that must be addressed in internationally cooperative ways.


  • The success of Russian democracy and reform is profoundly important to the NATO allies. NATO is just one of the many integrating institutions in Europe that are reaching out to the new Russia. Russia's relations with all these institutions are important. But because of NATO's importance and the burden posed by a history of antagonism between Russia and NATO, forging a productive NATO-Russia relationship will require imaginative policy followed by vigorous implementation.
  • The NATO-Russia Founding Act provides an important vehicle for pursuing the NATO-Russia relationship. Implementation of the political provisions of the Founding Act will require responsible actions on both sides. But implementation of the Founding Act's military provisions is less problematic and can provide strong benefits in both the long and short terms. Moreover, military implementation is, in effect, already underway in Bosnia.
  • The objective of implementing the military provisions of the Founding Act should be the establishment of military-to-military relationships modeled on those forged between the NATO and Russian contingents in the Implementation/Stabilization Forces (IFOR/SFOR) in Bosnia. Practical cooperation dealing with real-world problems of mutual concern is more valuable than meetings and councils. Military-to-military cooperation changes attitudes by creating new, positive shared experiences to supplant the historical memory of dedicated antagonism between NATO and Russia. Military-to-military cooperation also engages critical constituencies in the formation of the new Eurasian security order: the Russian and NATO militaries.
  • In order to make the NATO-Russia military cooperation forged in Bosnia broader, deeper, permanent, and institutionalized, the following steps need to be taken:
  • completion of the posting of Russian liaison officers at each of NATO's major headquarters, including in particular at the CJTF planning cell, with NATO sharing the cost of such postings with the Russian government;
  • reciprocal posting of NATO liaison officers at corresponding Russian headquarters;
  • deepened cooperation in the fields of hastening nuclear reductions, ensuring safety and control of nuclear weapons, counterproliferation, and emergency planning;
  • coordinated support for and assistance with Russian military reform, using western experience and example where applicable.
  • continuing efforts to involve Russia in CJTFs, when and where appropriate;
  • a sustained initiative to work with Russia on enhancing the competence of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in resolving regional conflicts, such as the struggle over Nagorno-Karabakh; and
  • ensuring an "open door" policy for Russian arms and spare parts sales to Central and East European states.
  • Russia should be encouraged to participate more vigorously in Partnership for Peace, and NATO should be prepared to help defray the costs of Russian participation in PfP exercises and other activities.
  • U.S.-Russia bilateral military cooperation, including those initiatives overseen by the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission, should continue and be enhanced.


Only three of the twenty-three members of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council are being admitted to NATO. The security concerns of the great majority of the new Eurasian states will need to be addressed outside the context of membership. But the United States, and NATO, will play a crucial role.

  • As with Russia, military-to-military cooperation is a central mechanism by which stability can be extended eastward to states and regions not designated to join NATO. NATO's principal mechanism for military-to-military cooperation is the Partnership for Peace. PfP should receive attention comparable to that devoted to enlargement. In particular, PfP should receive substantial additional funding from NATO members at the same time they provide funds for enlargement. Moreover, PfP's military content should be enhanced beyond today's emphasis on peacekeeping. The objective of PfP should be to prepare partners to operate alongside NATO members in "coalitions of the willing" covering the full range of NATO's new power projection missions. NATO's objective should be to make the experience of PfP membership for non-NATO members as similar as possible to the experience of NATO membership.
  • NATO-Ukraine Charter, like the NATO-Russia Founding Act, should be vigorously implemented with an emphasis on practical military cooperation.
  • NATO should continue to encourage and support regional military cooperation among PfP members, such as the Baltbatt, Centrasbatt, and the Polish-Ukrainian joint peacekeeping battalion.
  • The United States should strengthen its bilateral programs of military-to-military cooperation with PfP members who are not members of NATO. These relationships were inaugurated with great vision, but the resources devoted to their implementation have not been commensurate with the stakes the United States has in Eurasia.
  • The United States should continue to encourage good relations between non-members and Russia.

Please see the pdf file below for the full text of this report:

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Blacker, Coit D., Ashton B. Carter, Warren Christopher, David A. Hamburg, and William J. Perry. “NATO After Madrid: Looking to the Future.” Paper, 1, vol. 1. Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University, July 1998.