Home / REGULAR PUBLICATIONS / Columns / International experts on the security of Republic of Moldova. Today: Janusz Bugajski
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING IN NATO
Janusz Bugajski, director of the New European Democracies project, is publishing a CSIS Significant Issue Series monograph entitled - Expanding Eurasia: Russias European Ambitions" in the fall of 2008. He previously served as a senior research analyst for Radio Free Europe in Munich and as a consultant on Central-East European affairs for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Department of Defense, the International Republican Institute, the Free Trade Union Institute (of the AFL-CIO), the International Research and Exchange Board, and BBC television in London.
Russias invasion of Georgia has provided the ultimate answer for why it is important for any European country to be inside NATO. Under NATOs Article 5, the Alliance as a whole is committed to defending any member when attacked. The importance of such a guarantee is that it acts as a deterrent against outside aggression. It is doubtful whether Russia would have embarked on its recent military incursion if Georgia was already a NATO member. The Kremlin could not be certain that the Alliance would remain passive and thereby undermine its global credibility.
However, NATO is much more than a deterrent against military aggression and territorial division, its essence is the creation of a common alliance with shared security interests and common democratic values that benefit each member state. Inclusion in NATO, similarly to any organization, carries both costs and benefits for its members. It is important for Moldovans to better understand what these costs and benefits consist of by looking at the impact of membership on the NATO newcomers in Central and Eastern Europe.
In terms of costs, each NATO state is expected to allocate approximately 2% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defense, although not every country has met this requirement. Defense spending itself is important for the modernization of the armed forces and other security services and for allowing each country to become interoperable with its NATO partners. Cost becomes a benefit as military modernization allows each country to acquire and employ the latest technology and interact with the most professional troops on the planet.
It must also be remembered that there are no binding NATO requirements for any country to participate in any foreign operation, whether peace-keeping, humanitarian relief, or combat action. This is the sovereign choice of each Alliance capital and there are no penalties or repercussions if a country opts out of any mission. However, involvement in NATO operations is particularly advantageous for members of the military as they gain knowledge and experience that they simply cannot acquire in an inactive domestic setting.
There are other longer-term benefits from inclusion in the Alliance. NATO is also a political organization that allows each member to underscore its security priorities to its allies and to have a voice in Alliance decision-making. NATO membership also sends a strong signal that a country is stable, politically mature, and developing economically. This provides encouragement to foreign investors and other international institutions regarding the countrys progress.
For recent NATO members, inclusion helped to pave the way for European Union membership even though it could not guarantee it. NATO became a stepping stone to full-scale - Europeanization" and all the tangible material benefits that this delivers to every citizen.
There is one other important benefit stemming from NATO membership. It provides a closer substantive link with the United States at a time when the next American administration will be seeking to rebuild the trans-Atlantic alliance while an authoritarian Russia is escalating its neo-imperialist policies throughout its neighborhood.
National neutrality during the new West-East confrontation and the Cold Peace with Russia no longer signals independence and freedom of action. It means greater vulnerability to Moscows pressures, more ominous penetration of Russian intelligence, business, and criminal interest groups, and a greater distance from the European and trans-Atlantic projects. In effect, neutrality means isolation and a loss of national independence.