North Atlantic Treaty Organization Enlargement: Time for Pause
Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States
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Few would question that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization NATO is the most successful military alliance in history. From its beginning in 1949, NATO has been a bulwark of security, winning the Cold War against the formidable Soviet Union. Over the last 15 years, numerous rounds of expansion have placed former client states of Russia under the security umbrella of NATO. Enlargement has been a part of NATO since its origin, yet during the Cold War expansion seemed obvious with a clear and present danger to European sovereignty poised across the eastern frontier. Today, the United States US continues to spearhead further NATO expansion, with the Alliance growing from 16 nations in 1998 to 28 today. US strategy for enlargement has followed a two-fold strategic framework that enlarging NATO will make it stronger and that it will foster greater regional stability. These statements have undergone vigorous debate since 1994, when Allied leaders announced they were considering further NATO enlargement. Ten years have passed since the first post-Cold War NATO enlargement, which included the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary, thereby establishing a sufficient period for renewed debate of the US enlargement strategy.