Center for Strategic Decision Research


Enlarging NATO Southeastwards: The Best Preventive Diplomacy

Her Excellency Nadezhda Mihailova
Foreign Minister of Bulgaria

The results of the Washington Summit and the developments in Kosovo set the issues of politico-military interaction against a new background. The international community is now faced with the challenge of constructing a new Southeastern Europe for the next century. However, the recent dramatic developments in the region pose a very legitimate question: should we not have started much earlier?


If we are honest, we know we have been slow in reassessing the modes of interaction in the new international environment as it emerged from the Cold War. We have been slow in reforming the heavy and inflexible structures and mechanisms of international decisionmaking that we inherited from the past. We have been waiting for crises instead of anticipating and, where need be, preventing them.

Today, Kosovo is the tragic proof of the need for greater resolve and the readiness to act. This drama might not have happened had we acted on time. The germs of the explosion in Yugoslavia were already visible a decade ago; the madness of Belgrade’s ultra-nationalist policy was very clear in Croatia and Bosnia. The Kosovo crisis was unfolding while the ink was still drying on the Dayton peace accords.

It has been clear for some time that the regime in Belgrade, the last authoritarian communist-style rule in Central Europe, is the main source of trouble and conflict in the Balkans. More could have been done to encourage the democratic change in Yugoslavia. The neighboring new democracies in Southeast Europe could have been supported in a more consistent manner.

The air operation over Yugoslavia was the real test for NATO aspirants to prove their readiness to assume the responsibilities of membership. Like other Southeastern European democracies, Bulgaria opened its air space to the Allied forces, helping to speed up the attainment of a peace agreement in Kosovo. Bulgaria fully supported the Joint Guardian Operation and has just concluded an agreement with NATO providing Allied peacekeeping forces and equipment heading for Kosovo access to Bulgarian airspace. We have also strongly advocated the need for strict compliance with the principles of organization by the international security presence in Kosovo as stated in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244. Additionally, despite the pressure put on Bulgaria regarding the “unity-of-command” issue, we did not give in and certainly contributed to the successful resolution of this problem.

We are firmly convinced that NATO’s current military presence in Kosovo remains the key element of post-conflict security building. Very important, too, is NATO’s increasing pre-accession cooperation with future members from the Eastern Balkans. NATO should act on the issue of enlargement as boldly as it acted on crisis management. Under the present circumstances, enlarging the Alliance southeastwards would be the best preventive diplomacy.

The peace agreement we all welcome should accelerate the creation of conditions allowing the safe and early return of refugees and displaced persons to their homes. It should also contribute to the further democratization of the Western Balkans. The agreement should specifically help the establishment of a democratic and multi-ethnic Kosovo as well as the speedy transition of the FRY to genuine democracy. The democratization of Yugoslavia is a must and should help the Serbian people to make such radical change.

As this is happening, NATO member-countries should mobilize all possible financial and political resources for boosting the growth of and the investment in the so-called front-line states, including Bulgaria. Thus, these neighboring states can begin to turn from democracies of poverty into democracies of solidarity-driven prosperity. That is the best incentive for having the Serbian people make the changes we all expect.


As the debate about the future of defense industrial cooperation widens, we strongly believe that the Central and Eastern European countries should be taken into consideration—both those that are new members of the Alliance and those that aspire to membership. Talk of consolidation of demand and defense industrial cooperation in Europe should not fail to include the emerging defense markets in this area; and while the national defense establishments of the CEE countries—including Bulgaria—face identical interoperability and modernization problems, involving them in ongoing consolidation efforts will be key to these markets.










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