NATO and “Strategic Reassurance” of Central Europe

Writing on RealClearWorld, A. Wess Mitchell and Robert Kron of the Center for European Policy Analysis argue that NATO giving Central Europe the cold shoulder will have far-reaching costs, and that measures of reassurance must be made.

First, it fuels division in NATO and the EU, as the absence of a convincing security guarantee in Central Europe may act as a stimulus to intra-European strategic divergence and political disunity. Insecure members are more likely to focus exclusively on the pursuit of hard power guarantees at the expense of the “normal” politics of integration. The less these needs are met, the wider the rift between “older” and “newer” member states will become.

Second, insecure allies are less likely to support out-of-area U.S.and NATO military missions. On a per-capita basis, Central Europeanstates have been some of the most generous contributors to U.S. andNATO operations, most recently in Afghanistan.With changes in the regional security landscape, the perceived need forterritorial defense has increased. Unless this need is met proactively,exposed states may begin to consider augmenting their own indigenousdefense capabilities at the expense of out-of-area assets and training,potentially depriving the United States and NATO of support in futurecrises.

Third, insecurity in Central Europe could fuel uncertainty amonggeopolitically-exposed U.S. allies in other parts of the globe. NorthCentral Europe is not the only region where small and mid-sized U.S.allies straddle strategic fault lines near potentially hostileneighbors. Powers such as Israel and Taiwanboth depend on the United States as an off-shore security benefactorand closely monitor Washington’s relationships in Central and EasternEurope for cues on the reliability of the U.S. security link. Shouldthese powers perceive a trend toward U.S. global retrenchment, theymight re-evaluate their own strategic options, creating conditions thatcould contribute to the gradual reactivation of old regional securitydilemmas best left dormant.