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Partnership for Peace: Discerning Fact from Fiction

Authored by Dr. William T. Johnsen, Dr. Thomas-Durell Young. | August 1994

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The January 1994 NATO Summit in Brussels could arguably be called one of the most important, if not momentous, meetings in the Alliance's history.1 Labeled privately by some only a few months prior to its convening as "a summit without a theme," the subsequent meeting proved the pessimists incorrect and once again reinforced NATO's relevance.2 The Alliance endorsed a common approach toward future political and military integration of its former adversaries to the East ("Partnership for Peace"?PfP, in NATO parlance). This includes a framework for conducting future military operations between NATO and the militaries of partnership countries. Moreover, the Alliance accomplished these far reaching agreements while maintaining consensus that NATO will continue to function as a collective defense, vice collective security, organization. Hence, far from being moribund, the Alliance demonstrated its contemporary vitality by adopting a policy which could well expand its membership at some future date, as well as providing a practical means to assist in that process.

As is usually the case whenever national leaders confront important issues, these efforts have been subjected to widespread and vigorous criticisms. Some detractors complained that the Alliance's initiatives were too strongly influenced by the Clinton administration's anxiety over Russian, and Boris Yeltsin's, rather than Central and East European concerns.3 Others faulted NATO's refusal to extend immediate security guarantees and membership offers to reforming states in the east.4 The lack of a stated timetable for membership of partnership countries also troubled some former officials and commentators.5 Conversely, others feared expansion would dilute NATO and transform it from a collective defense body into a collective security organization.6 Outside the Alliance, summit results did not fulfill the expectations of many Eastern European leaders, who still find their individual and collective security concerns far from resolved.7

These arguments are not altogether without merit. If nothing else, the Alliance can be accused of having disappointed many states to its east as regards the prospect for future membership. However, it is still too early to pass definitive judgment on the success or failure of the PfP initiative. Moreover, these criticisms fail to place the program in its proper context. The purpose of the essay, therefore, is to assess PfP comprehensively. This paper provides a broader understanding of the workings of NATO and the immensely difficult challenges it faces in conducting cooperative relations with former adversaries in Eastern and Central Europe.


1. See, Declaration of the Heads of State and Government Participating in the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council held at NATO Headquarters, Brussels, January 10-11, 1994, Press Communique M-1 (94) 3, Brussels, NATO Press Service, January 11, 1994.

2. For an excellent assessment of the lead up to, and aftermath of the Summit see, Stanley Sloan, "Transatlantic Relations in the Wake of the Brussels Summit," NATO Review, Volume 42, No. 2, April 1994, pp. 27-31.

3. "We are now witnessing a policy that places our anxieties about threats of a Russian leader ahead of our commitment to the alliance and to the democracies of Central and Eastern Europe." See Robert Zoellick's op-ed piece in, The Washington Post, January 5, 1994.

4. See Paul A. Goble's op-ed piece in, The Wall Street Journal, January 26, 1994.

5. "Consider, for example, James Baker, who demands clear criteria and a timetable for those countries that want to join NATO. As secretary of state, the smooth Mr. Baker would never have tied his policy to such a rigid framework." All of these quick-to-the-press criticisms are eloquently refuted by Michael Rühle in, The International Herald Tribune (Paris), February 9, 1994.

6. North Atlantic Assembly, International Secretariat, "NATO Enlargement and Partnership for Peace," A: 13 GEN (94) 5, Brussels, February 1994, p. 2; and, Brooks Tigner, "Analysts: Expansion Could Strain NATO," Defense News, January 10-16, 1994, p. 8.

7. This is particularly true of the Visegrad countries (i.e., Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary). See, for example The Washington Post, January 8, 1994, p. A1; Army Times, January 17, 1994, p. 9; and Kossuth Radio Network (Budapest), February 8, 1994, Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS)-WEU-94-027, February 9, 1994, p. 11.