As part of the enlargement process launched two years ago, the Madrid NATO Summit tookt he decision to invite three former member countries of the defunct Warsaw Pact, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, to start accession talks with the Alliance. The historic significance of this decision, which puts an end to the forced separation of the continent marked by the Yalta regime, cannot be overestimated. Equally important is, I think, the commitment undertaken in Madrid that NATO's doors will remain open for all those, without any exclusion, who wish to join and are ready and able to fulfil the criteria established by NATO for membership. If things go as planned, and I hope they will, NATO will, by 1999, be counting 19 and, hopefully shortly after, even more members.
One issue, which often comes up in discussions, is how national interests of Alliance member states - both current and prospective - may be manifested and served in an ever-expanding NATO. We all see and feel that as public debate nares up here and there as we get closer to the final, formal decisions on enlargement such issues get increased prominence' and attention in both current member countries and, in a different way, in countries likefY to become members in the forthcoming or more distant future. There are certainly pertinent questions that may be asked in this context to which appropriate answers and explanations should be given. Bearing this in mínd, one important objective of our discussion this mO~ing could be, as a contribution to this ongoing exercise, to identify points that can help providF an adequate and full picture of how national interests can be served and realised in an enlargr NATO.
Before answering this question it is probably worthwhile to recall how NATO h~s managed to live up to the expectations of member states during its almost 50 years of exi~tence to date and on what grounds it is so often referred to as "the most successful organisatirn of modern history". There is no doubt that the Alliance has proved to be successful i~ pursuing its fundamental goals enshrined in the Washington Treaty: the collective defence of its members and the promotion of shared demoeratic values, that is goals and interestsl all member countries have shared.
NATO's philosophy of "one for alI and all for one" has also clearly demonstrate I the fact that the successful implementation of legitimate security interests of one member country is inextricably linked to that ofthose of other member countries. This was broadly recognised as an underlying principle of European security relationships, as weIl since the CSCE Paris Summit of 1990. While in the wider, all-European context this has remained an objective to be reached, within NATO this philosophy has been praetised successfully and NA TO- countries have indeed managed to act together in the spirit of unity of purpose. This NATO philosophy, the unity of the Alliance and the security environment it has provided to its members were instrumental in many areas: in the historic reconciliation between Germany and France; in the reintegration of Germany, Italy and Spain into a demoeratic Europe; in keeping the dispute between Greece and Turkey under control; in preventing the renationalisation of European defence policies and; in keeping the Americans in Europe.
NATO has also served successfully the national interests of its members in the sense that the most powerful Alliance ever in human history has managed to defeat its adversary, the communist rule in the Eastern part of the continent and the totalitarian Soviet Union standing behind it without a round having been shot. The enormous military potential of the Alliance has worked as an extremely effective preventive instrument at hand, sending a clear message to an outside: "don't even dare to think about using force against us".
NATO and its operating principles have succeeded in keeping disputes between member countries even in the most difficult periods to a tolerable level so that direct and outright confrontation could be avoided and thus, security interests of not only the Alliance but the continent and, in. fact, of the world as a whole could be protected. The "elite club" aspect of the Alliance that is that it requires of its members to live up to the commonly accepted norms of behaviour and, thus, to comply with the strict rules of the club has served well the national interests of its members and has also been.a major source .of attraction for countries that had regained their independence.
It may seem somewhat paradoxical but it was precisely NATO's victory, and that of Western democracies in general, over communism and the artificial separation of Europe which raised the question, shortly after the end of the Cold War, whether NATO's continued existence remained indeed justified. The emergence of new security risks and challenges on the one hand and the AIliance's ability to take up new responsibilities and missions while preserving its core function of collective defence on the other provided an unambiguous response to the question. One of the most recent and spectacular proofs of the ability of the Alliance to serve and protect national interests of both member and non-member countries has clearly been the instrurnental role NATO has played in opening up and strengthening the perspective of effective settlement of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. This has be en the most prominent manifestation of its ability to serve national interests of its members and, indeed, of countries outside in closely co-operating with them for the purpose of enhancing security in the entire Euro-atlantic region.
The questions, which will gain increased prominence in the light of the foreseen enlargements, are manifold. Let me just quickly menti on some of them. There is, first of all, the issue whether an enlarged NATO will be equally able to serve the legitimate security interests of current members or the enlargement will dilute the cohesion and effectiveness of the Alliance to an extent which practically makes the whole enlargement undesirable. Some still fear, in spite of the balanced approach taken by NATO, that the decision on enlargement will provoke harsh reactions in countries strongly opposing enlargement. In other words what is the cost-benefit ratio of enlargement? How can NATO ensure that consensus-building within the Alliance does not become far more diffieult and painful? Will NATO be determined enough to continue to apply vis-a-vis future new members the same set of criteria for admission which would certainly help preserve the undiminished coherence and effectiveness of the Alliance? Will NATO be able to harmonise national interests of a larger group of countries and to have the interests of all their members respected? Why would current NATO members want to be dragged into problems which have never been of their own or - as it is put sometimes bluntly - why should American soldiers die for Budapest,Warsaw or Prague?
How does public opinion in the prospective new members look at the possibility of having their national interests respected and enhanced in an Alliance after having belonged, for almost four decades which has just done the opposite? In other words, now when these countries have regained their independence why don't they enjoy their sovereignty instead of losing it again by joining NATO? Or is it rather true that a country can realise its own interests more efficiently and fully, and can have a bigger say on issues that concern it as a member of a powerful group than alone? Can long-term national interests and demoeratic norms of behaviour be assured more effectively both within state and among states if a country is firmly anchored in the community of demoeratic nations also organisationally? What do the recently invited countries expect from NATO with regard to the implementation of legitimate national interests and how do they wish to contrib ute to the ability of the Alliance to take into account, harmonise and enhance national interests of its members in an enlarged NATO? Can a country in this part of the world guarantee its security and defence at least almost as efficiently and cost-effectively than through membership in NATO? If it is in a country's basic national interest to assure stable and secure external conditions for the country's normal internal development could it do anything wiser than to belong to an Alliance which is powerful and reliable enough to prevent even the slightest risk of any aggression?