Admitting New Members: Can NATO Afford the Cost?

by Charles T. Kelley, Jr.

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Several Eastern European countries, with Poland in the forefront, are eager to join NATO. For its part, NATO has reaffirmed that alliance membership remains open to other European states. Although no timetable has been set for admitting new members, the alliance has begun a year-long study to make plans for its expansion. One subject that will likely be debated in NATO capitols is the cost of extending security guarantees to new members and the adequacy of the new members' military contributions to their own defense. This paper uses the relative and absolute values of NATO members' military force contributions to the defense of the Central Front during the Cold War as standards for judging the adequacy of military forces of potential new members. Applying these standards to Poland, as an illustrative example, leads to the conclusion that Poland is well qualified for membership today. Not surprisingly, the burden on current NATO members to defend the Central Front, if there were a resurgent Russian threat to the alliance, would be greater if Poland were not a member of the alliance than if Poland were a member.

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