“The Open Door Policy under Article 10 of the Washington Treaty is one of the Alliance's great successes. Successive rounds of NATO enlargement have enhanced the security and stability of all our nations. The steady progress of Euro-Atlantic integration fosters reform, strengthens collective security, and ensures the stability necessary for prosperity. NATO's door will remain open to all European democracies which share the values of our Alliance, which are willing and able to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership, which are in a position to further the principles of the Treaty, and whose inclusion will contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area”.
Article 92, Wales Summit Declaration, September 2014.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, 29 January. Nestled deep in the cradling embrace of the Bavarian Alps Garmisch is the very embodiment of German solidity and certainty. Stout houses of alpine wood line affluent streets themselves adorned by stout BMWs and Mercedes. And yet that certainty and solidity has also been visibly shaken this past year by the arrival of over a million refugees many of them entering Germany via Bavaria. It is a stark reminder that not only is change inevitable, but the need for constant engagement, management and adaptation. For once it is the peaceful management of change which brought me here this week. For the past two days I have been working with senior colleagues from Podgorica and the excellent George C. Marshall Center preparing for Montenegro’s planned accession to NATO membership, hopefully in the first quarter of 2017. It is a timely reminder that amidst the doom and gloom of Europe’s strategic retreat and political incompetence important progress is still being made towards what US President George H. W. Bush once called “a Europe whole, free, and at peace”.
Faced with threats to NATO’s east and south the accession of Montenegro is also a reminder that the Alliance exists in a world in which the confrontation between fundamental ideas and principles of governance and even existence is leading to hyper-competition over contested spaces. Many in Europe tend to see Russia and the Middle East as the cauldron for such competition. In fact, the contest is right here on Europe’s extended strategic patio and throughout the Western Balkans.
The Western Balkans is the crux of two critical challenges; Russia is seeking to expand its zero sum, West-excluding influence, most noticeably in Serbia, whilst Islamic State (IS) is seeking a presence that would threaten Europeans directly. Indeed, Director of Europol Rob Wainwright this week warned that IS has established training camps in the Balkans in preparation for attacks on the EU. It is therefore vital, be it in the form of NATO or EU enlargement, such spaces are not ceded to adversaries and enemies simply because Europe in particular has lost the will, the patience, and indeed, the money, to invest in a Europe whole, free, and at peace.
In that challenging strategic context Montenegro’s accession to NATO provides proof positive that the West remains committed to its historic mission and understands that enlargement is not just an adjunct to strategic engagement, but a vital part of it. Indeed, Montenegro must become a showcase for the future adaptation of the Alliance to challenges, risks, and threats near and far. Given the many challenges of governance Podgorica faces that goal will not be easy to achieve, but that is the essential challenge the Alliance now faces.
To that distinctly strategic end it is vital Montenegro shows the way forward to other aspirant states in the region and beyond by immediately establishing a reputation as a small but well-prepared and well-briefed NATO member. Therefore, my guidance to senior Montenegrins in Garmisch was to spend the next year mastering the strategy, the detail and the process of NATO so that their delegation can really hit the ground running in Brussels.
To my mind that means Podgorica takes a series of well-crafted and supported steps. First, write a national security strategy and a strategic defence review set firmly within the context of the NATO Strategic Concept. Second, present a first draft at the NATO Warsaw Summit in July. Third, undertake simulations of key NATO fora, such as the North Atlantic Council and the Nuclear Planning Group. Fourth, engage in crisis management simulations to better prepare Montenegrin colleagues for the coming challenge of membership. The NATO Defense College in Rome could host much of the effort which in turn could lead to the creation of a template to help other NATO partners’ transition to NATO members.
Such simulations will be vital because the transition from being a NATO partner to being a NATO member will come as a shock to Podgorica. Indeed, there is always the danger that given the long and complicated process involved in gaining accession to the Alliance membership is seen as an end in itself. It is not. Indeed, whilst much good diplomacy takes place in NATO’s excellent cafeteria and restaurants there is certainly no such thing as a free NATO lunch and the contract Montenegro has just signed is certainly a tough one. Montenegrins will soon enjoy the security of NATO strongest and most powerful states, but only in return for the sharing of their very onerous responsibilities.
Welcome to NATO, Montenegro!