Germany, the United States and the Enlargement of the North Atlantic Alliance
With the formal admission of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to NATO officially celebrated on March 12, 1999 a long and sometimes thorny enlargement debate had come to a preliminary end. Politically initiated in spring of 1993 by the German defense minister Volker Rühe, the question of whether NATO should accept new members from Central and Eastern Europe has troubled NATO’s allies for more than half a decade. In retrospective, the dispute over membership, candidates, costs and benefits was of somewhat surprising character. On the one hand, the accession of former members of the bygone Warsaw Pact to the Atlantic Alliance was one of the gravest steps in NATO’s history, which would — together with the establishment of a cooperative relationship with Russia — result in a strategic restructuring of Europe. On the other hand the public neither in Germany nor in the United States showed particular interest in these crucial developments. Instead, the discussion on the pros and cons remained confined mostly to the academic and operative political level. And even the attention of the so called “expert circles” in the enlargement issue declined significantly whenever other hot spots like the crisis in Bosnia or the military engagement in Somalia dominated the tabloids.
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