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NATO Enlargement Report Offers Three Options

December 8, 2008 – As NATO foreign ministers gathered earlier this month to revisit the question of whether Ukraine and Georgia should be invited to join the organization, Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy (ISD) released a new report exploring that question and more.

The foreign ministers delayed giving the two nations a timetable for entry into NATO, but the next U.S. administration will likely face the same decision about the future of NATO expansion, according to the report, which was released this month.

Georgetown professor Jim DeHart’s study The Burden of Strategy: Transatlantic Relations and the Future of NATO Enlargement, delves into whether the United States should persuade European allies that Ukraine and Georgia ought to join NATO, even at the expense of deteriorating relations with Russia.

Historic Turning Point

DeHart teaches a graduate-level course on U.S. policy on NATO enlargement in Georgetown University’s Masters in German and European Studies Program. He says the recent war in Georgia leaves little doubt that the United States and its allies have reached a historic turning point on NATO expansion.

“The trans-Atlantic consensus that sustained NATO expansion for more than a decade has begun to unravel,” he says. “The next U.S. administration faces difficult choices that will have a profound impact on the future map of Europe.”

The ISD study details the modern history of NATO expansion since the fall of the Berlin Wall in the late 1980s and early 1990s and addresses the evolution of NATO’s enlargement tools and processes crucial to understanding the policy options available to the next U.S. administration.

Obama's Three Choices

The author suggests that President-elect Barack Obama’s administration faces three choices – accelerate NATO’s eastward expansion to include Georgia and Ukraine; sustain NATO expansion, but slow it down for Georgia and Ukraine; or suspend NATO’s eastward expansion.

“Presidential leadership is about making choices,” says Casimir Yost, visiting professor at Georgetown’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program and a former director of ISD. “The NATO enlargement choice will be consequential and should be taken with the benefit of a sound understanding of what three earlier administrations have done on this issue … Jim has given us such an understanding and framed the choices available to the next U.S. president.”

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