Center for Strategic Decision Research


European Security After Prague: A View From an Invited Nation

State Secretary Ivan Korcok
State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia

Is there more security following the Prague summit decisions on enlargement? The traditional, expected, and indisputable answer from an invited country is yes. The argument for answering in this way is rather straightforward: through NATO membership my country will enjoy the collective defense that no other institution in our region can provide. 

Slovakia is already becoming an integral part of the most influential transatlantic institution, and our priority is to successfully complete the ratification process to be formally admitted as a member of the Alliance. However, there are other significant arguments that make NATO membership so important to my country as well as to other invitees. In addition, the issue of transatlantic security following Prague is quite complex. 


The Prague summit was essentially an enlargement summit, but the enlargement issue turned out to be the least controversial part of the agenda. It soon became apparent that this summit was one during which important decisions on NATO's transformation were being made. When put on the spot, Secretary General Lord George Robertson answered bluntly that there were three basic tasks or questions to be tackled during the summit: "capabilities, capabilities, capabilities." With this in mind, several important decisions on NATO's transformation were adopted: to develop "niche capabilities" through PCC, to create a NATO Response Force, and to adapt the military command structure while maintaining its effectiveness and ability to operate. Of course, the leaders of our NATO nations made those decisions keeping in mind the urgent need to prepare the Alliance to face terrorism as a threat to global security. 

No one can ignore right now the discussion that is underway concerning the real value of collective defense and the transatlantic partnership. From my country's perspective, there is no doubt that these are the core values for security. However, there is much more that revolves around enlargement. 

First of all, after the Madrid summit of 1997, it became evident that during the next round of enlargement to the east great emphasis would be placed on the status of the preparedness of the respective aspirants and would-be invitees. In 1999, the well-known Membership Action Plan, or MAP, was introduced at the Washington summit. This plan provided a framework for assessing the progress candidates needed to make in order to achieve the necessary interoperability standards. MAP became an important tool: following its dictates did not produce a guaranteed invitation to become a NATO member, but unless you performed accordingly you were guaranteed that there would be no invitation.  

I mention MAP because it launched in my own country the most comprehensive and high-quality defense reform ever undertaken. This not only improved our own security, but because of our vision of NATO membership also caused national defense to become an important item in the transformation process of post-communist countries. After 1989, there was no question about the need to transform centrally planned economies into market economies and to establish genuine democratic systems. But, strangely enough, there was no urgency to include the defense and security sector as an equally important issue on the reform agenda. As if we could have modern, democratic states with old communist-style armed forces! Simply put, the political demand was missing and there was a risk, which not too many realized, that the armed forces could stay as they had been before 1989. In my view, it was the vision of NATO membership that forced politicians in the aspirant countries to closely focus on the national armed forces that they had inherited from communist regimes.


Why is defense reform so important to the security context? 

  • First, on a national level, it provides countries with better, more affordable defense systems. In addition, the home countries become real contributors to security on the continent. Take the case of Slovakia: in 1999 we had up to 50 troops deployed in NATO-led operations. Currently that number is 170, plus 85 more are about to be deployed to Iraq. This increase not only expresses our political determination to share the burden but is also evidence of the ability to finance such deployments from our defense budget. Doing so does stretch our defense resources to the limit, and it would be impossible to answer the basic requests without PARP and MAP.  
  • Second, there is a direct link between NATO membership, the EU, CFSP/ESDP and the EU military capabilities, and the legitimate ambitions of a unified Europe. New member-countries, including old NATO members such as the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary, really boosted capabilities, breadth of experience, and, I dare to say, as it involves EU aspirations, the ability to do more. The EU is benefiting from NATO enlargement because within the EU accession process there is no need to push defense reform-this despite the fact that defense policy and the ability of the Union to carry out crisis-management operations have become part of the EU political agenda. Slovakia could have joined the EU with a different type of armed forces because defense was not an EU issue at the time. 
  • Many other factors also prove that recent NATO enlargement has provided added security value to the Continent and to the transatlantic area: the NATO-Russia relationship, NATO's outreach policy, the Iraq crisis, and the state of transatlantic relations. But my intention is to draw your attention to one specific point: recent NATO enlargement, which involved important defense reform, benefited not only the countries that were accepted but EU ambitions and security at large. 

Such defense reform, which is not yet completed, would not continue to be possible without the vision of NATO membership. We are fully aware that we face many domestic challenges and that we will have to work hard to explain to our countrymen that this reform is like pensions and health care-it is not free, but without it things would be even more expensive and less effective. It is our hope that the ratification process will be completed according to schedule and that Slovakia, together with other aspiring countries, will soon be full-fledged members and bring renewed reform commitment and reform enthusiasm to the Alliance.


Slovakia's security and defense policies were developed under the assumption that our country would be invited to join the Alliance. These policies, in combination with a thorough defense review based on sound financial analyses, resulted in the development of the Long-Term Plan for Structure and Development of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic. Implementation of this plan, together with our concept for reforming our armed forces, called Force 2010 (or Model 2010), will result in the sort of capabilities sought by the Alliance. In principle, Slovakia aims to transform its armed forces into smaller forces with more capable active elements; these elements will be manned by professionals and structured, trained, and equipped in accordance with NATO standards, making them capable of contributing to the full range of Alliance missions. 

The prospect of NATO membership encouraged candidate nations to make several critical and painful decisions in the defense and security sector. But now we are starting to see some real results in more capable, focused, effective, sustainable, and deployable forces. In 1998 we relied on a conscription system that did not allow rapid and sustainable deployment of troops. In 2006 at the latest we will have a fully professional army capable of deploying and sustaining limited but specific capabilities anywhere and at any time needed. NATO membership and the transformation of the Alliance have been the main drivers of both political and military reforms in all the new and soon-to-be NATO nations. 


Slovakia and the other countries acceding to the EU (except Malta and Cyprus) are significant contributors to NATO-led as well as EU-led peace-support operations. This did not happen by chance. All acceding or invited countries see NATO's role and the EU's role in securing European and indeed global security and stability as complementary and reinforcing. Without joining NATO and participating in NATO defense planning, our countries' contribution to the CSFP/ESDP would be lower by a significant margin. Our contribution to NATO assets is therefore a clear net contribution to the European Security and Defense Policy. This simple political and mathematical implication reinforces once again my argument that there is more security with a broader NATO. 


An enlarged NATO also means more security for Russia. This point has been part of and still is part of all official and unofficial statements from NATO and candidate countries. Surprisingly, the point is valid, and even Russia is starting to acknowledge it. All invited countries have good relations with Russia and are eager to cooperate with Russia in all possible ways. Some problems with specific candidate countries are also being steadily solved, something that would not be possible without a vision of an enlarged NATO. 


I would like to conclude with a few final thoughts: 

  • Senator Lugar's famous statement, "NATO must go out of area or will be out of business," is often quoted. His statement can be seen as a wake-up call to all who have been tempted to waver in answering the critical questions surrounding security, including what are the threats to global security and what is the most appropriate reaction to the new security environment. NATO has a job to do and is involved outside its home territory. 
  • NATO continues to play a unique role as a permanent security discussion and consultative body on the strategic level. As part of NATO, nations have the opportunity to continually discuss questions concerning their own security. NATO also has the capability to prepare for possible action and, if necessary, to execute decisions whenever and wherever they are made. 
  • In order to put forces together and jointly execute common decisions, long-term military planning must be accomplished. Over the years, NATO has successfully taken on the role of force-planning and force-generation tool. However, during the Cold War military and political planning was much easier. The enemy was known, the number of the opponent's weapons was known, and a huge U.S military presence in Europe, with all its technologies and strategic capabilities, was ensured. Politicians as well as ministers of finance had no difficulty allocating the requested resources to prepare for conflict.  
  • Nowadays, however, we live under different circumstances. Our foes are deadly, unpredictable, and capable of acting worldwide. Military installations are among their targets but their priority is to kill as many as possible and in spectacular ways. Conventional military technology cannot effectively cope with this kind of threat, and no single nation can do it alone. Burden sharing, cooperation, and specialization are what is needed, and who else can accomplish all that than NATO? In our geopolitical region it may be the EU, but ESDP must first overcome its weaknesses and find a reasonable balance between EU ambitions and resources. 


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