Small Wars Journal

Poland: A Case Study for the Inclusion of Former Warsaw Pact States in NATO

Wed, 05/11/2016 - 1:10am

Poland: A Case Study for the Inclusion of Former Warsaw Pact States in NATO

Joshua A. Perkins


Did the addition of former Warsaw Pact states, and in particular Poland, as members to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) make NATO a stronger or weaker alliance and did it advance the argument for NATO expansion or result in retrenchment?  For decades, Poland has been significant in Europe as a buffer state between Russia and Western Europe.  It stands to reason that Poland would work in conjunction with NATO against their greatest perceived threat, and former oppressors, Russia.[1]  Did it make sense for NATO to accept Poland as a member state or would it have been better for NATO to treat Poland as a neutral state as it does Finland, Austria, Switzerland, etc., instead of accepting Poland as a member state?  Poland’s history with Russia is similar to those of other former Warsaw Pact states that have joined NATO since the U.S.S.R’s collapse and this paper will use Poland as a case study relating to the entry of former Warsaw Pact nations into NATO. 

Poland has grown as a source of contention between NATO and Russian relations with the previously proposed missile defense system being placed in Poland’s territory.  The proximity of such military capabilities so close to Russia would no doubt decrease Russia’s security and could have led to a security dilemma between Russia and Poland (and NATO through proxy).

The addition of Poland was a move by an alliance that is still transitioning from the mindset of countering Soviet influence to one of collective security.  Ensuring collective security for the international system and Western identity does not require the acceptance of every state that wishes to become a member state of NATO.  NATO provides the political/military structure for U.S. involvement in European affairs.  If NATO weakens as a result of NATO expansion then the U.S. can no longer remain engaged in Europe.  The loss of the U.S. military presence could spark an arms race in Europe.[2]   

In the following pages, this paper will seek to demonstrate that the addition of Poland as a member state of NATO has weakened the alliance, supporting the minimalist/retrenchment position.  This is an important conclusion since it carries implications in the event other former Soviet Bloc nations, i.e., Ukraine and Georgia are allowed to join NATO.  It also carries implications for the U.S. and its ability to maintain the unipolar international system.

It’s important to understand which types of states will add strength (or weakness) to the NATO alliance if NATO wishes to remain influential in the international system in the future.  A diminished alliance will harm the United States most in its ability to shape the international system.  It will also harm Europe as a whole in their attempt to maintain collective security if new states add increased counter-balancing to the alliance or add an increased risk of warfare. 

The case study of Poland is first an argument against the expansion of NATO.  Therefore, it is necessary that this paper first conduct a literature review of the minimalist and expansionist theories before moving to the specific lessons that Poland provides us.  Secondly, this paper will detail methodology on how it will measure the gain or loss in NATO’s strength following Poland’s admission in a research design section.  Thirdly, this paper will present an empirical analysis.   Lastly, this paper will make conclusions based on research and examination of the evidence as to whether or not Poland’s acceptance into NATO has weakened the alliance. This paper will also discuss what conclusions may be drawn for the resiliency of the alliance in the future and what the implications are for future states that become members of NATO.

Literature Review

Minimalist View 

Michael Mandelbaum puts forward the argument that NATO should not be concerned with the promotion of democracy as a stated goal of the alliance.[3]  The states that are considered for acceptance into NATO are already states that are internally stable and promote democracy since that is a precondition of their being considered for membership.  As a result, it would be unnecessary to pursue a policy of expansion for the purpose of democratization. To remain relevant NATO must concern itself with the reemergence of a nuclear Russia.

If NATO expands further into Eastern Europe, Mandelbaum claims it will create a new dividing line between East and West.  This will create a feeling of isolationism for the states east of the divided line that have yet to be included in NATO.  Mandelbaum argues that this can destabilize Europe and cause a security dilemma because those left east of the divided line will be less inclined to give up their nuclear weapons acquired from the Soviet Union during the Cold War to protect against Russia.  If Stephen Walt’s theory of alliance formation is true, states east of the divided line may bandwagon with Russia for no other reason than they have no ally to balance against Russia.[4]  Continuing with the destabilization train of thought, Thomas Christensen and Jack Snyder’s theory on chain ganging (alliances that lead to war like World War I because of the mutual defense pacts) and passing the buck (new states not stopping aggressive states in the hopes that they can get another alliance state to engage the belligerent state for them) suggests that every new inclusion into NATO increases the odds that Central European states will pull the alliance into an unnecessary war because the new member state can feel emboldened by the new level of protection the alliance offers.[5]

Mandelbaum asserts that since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia and Western Europe have operated through a process of consensus.  They have used negotiations and treaties to reshape Europe.  He posits that if NATO were to expand further into Eastern Europe it would result in political strife within Russia and lead to a resurgence of politicians arguing for imperialist policies to protect Russia from the West.  Political leadership of this sort would view any decisions made unilaterally by NATO involving Easter European states admitted into NATO as illegitimate because Russia was not involved in the decision.  If Russia views all decisions as illegitimate then Russia will only work to undermine or overturn those policies.

Michael Brown offers another minimalist view that the inclusion of each new state redefines the ‘interests’ of NATO and will make it more difficult to get consensus on which engagements to participate in and begin creating factions or ‘coalitions of the willing’ within NATO.[6]  Brown provides Bosnia as an example, but NATO’s current participation in Libya is also an excellent example.  In each instance that NATO fails to react as a cohesive alliance to participate in military actions its reputation will diminish.

Michael Brown also argues that since NATO has produced a new strategic concept for itself to ensure the security of all European nations, and/or their interests abroad, NATO is forced to involve itself in issues that are not of vital national security interests for the U.S. or Western Europe.  The farther away NATO engagements are from the vital interests of the great states involved in NATO, the less political will the internal state constituencies have for NATO to remain intact.  This is due in part to the monetary costs involved and in part because those constituencies do not see the benefit to themselves.  NATO will involve itself in more and more peripheral engagements to remain relevant in the international system and in doing so push itself closer and closer to internal collapse.

Expansionist View

There are two arguments between expansionist scholars.  The first is that NATO must expand in Europe.  The second is that NATO must expand globally.  Robert Hunter contends that it’s necessary for any NATO expansion because it keeps the United States engaged in and committed to Europe.[7]  Ivo Daalder and James Goldgeier argue that with the end of the Cold War the U.S. fulfilled its mission in securing Europe and therefore NATO needs to expand to give the U.S. new purpose.[8]  If the U.S. were to disengage from Europe it would cause Central and Western Europe to return to the balance-of-power politics of the 20th century.  Hunter argues that the situation in the former Yugoslavia shows that Europe dithers on how to handle significant European events and shows the need for U.S. leadership.

Hunter claims that NATO has ended war as an instrument of foreign relations within the boundaries of NATO member states.  As NATO expands so too does the ‘European Civic Space’ NATO creates within its boundaries.  To protect that civic space, Hunter argues that NATO must expand wherever it can before Russia has an opportunity to recover and reclaim its lost territory.  Hunter contends that if NATO can successfully expand it will take power politics in Central Europe off the table.

David Gompert and Richard Kugler advance the argument that NATO expansion increases NATO’s power projection in Central Europe.[9]  An increase in power projection takes away the need to station actual forces in Central Europe, which would cause pushback from Russia.  Christopher Ball suggests collective NATO military projection reduces the need for increased military capabilities in each member state.[10]  If NATO were to fail to project power in Central Europe it might be interpreted by Russia as tacit approval for Russia to try to dominate Central European politics as it once did in the past.

A second part of NATO expansion is in its mission rather than in member states.  Ivo Daalder and James Goldgeier suggest that since threats, i.e., terrorism, are now global NATO must shift to a global mission of security to attack threats at their source.  Attacking threats at their source are the only way to ensure that they do not become threats to European Security in the future.

A final concept of the expansionist perspective is the belief that NATO brings unity to states that have shared ideologies, cultures, economies, etc.  Daalder and Goldgeier go a step farther to describe the need for NATO to move beyond Europe and start to incorporate states with the same shared virtues such as Japan, Australia, India, etc.[11] Promoters of expansion have argued that NATO needs to go out of area or go out of business because it will lose it relevancy.  Daalder and Gloldgeier maintain that NATO must go global because a regional military alliance cannot survive against a global threat.  Therefore NATO must begin to transition into a global alliance based on the same principles of its founding.

Research Design

While examining whether or not NATO is made stronger or weaker by adding new member states to the alliance it will be appropriate to use Poland as a case study.  For reasons discussed previously Poland serves as an example of what states from the former Warsaw Pact and states like Ukraine and Georgia can expect to experience after joining NATO.  Like Poland, each state was previously under the control of the Soviet Union, transitioned to democratic governance, and adopted capitalist economic policies.  It would be fair to expect to see similar results in each of these states as one would see in Poland. 

Key Issues

If the minimalist perspective is correct, one would expect to see a resurgence in the authoritarian movement in Russia and a quelling of democratic politicians and policies in Russia during the period of Poland’s acceptance into NATO.

This paper will review the changes in military capabilities in Poland and Russia prior to and after the acceptance of Poland into NATO.  Logically, we should expect to see an increase in military capabilities located within Poland’s borders if this paper’s hypothesis is correct.  An increase in the security dilemma between Poland and Russia means a weaker alliance more prone to war.  One would also expect to see increased aggression towards states to the south of Russia during, or after, Poland’s acceptance into NATO as an attempt by Russia to increase its aggregate power to counter NATO’s influence in Eastern Europe.

This paper will review the economic data between Poland and Russia.  If the expansionist view is correct then Poland would benefit from a healthier economy having assimilated into the shared free market economies of other NATO member states.  If the minimalist view is correct one would expect to see a trade policy from Russia that is punitive in nature towards Poland as a repercussion of their having joined NATO. 

Finally, if NATO is made stronger by Poland’s admission then one would expect to see consensus on issues that involve Polish forces in NATO military engagements.  This paper will review the participation of Polish forces in NATO military actions since their acceptance.  If the minimalist perspective is correct Polish participation will be mixed because of a failure for Poland to find shared national security interests with NATO.

Empirical Evidence

NATO is a military alliance so it makes sense to judge the strength or weakness of Poland’s addition primarily in military terms.  NATO’s greatest threat in Europe’s immediate area is Russia.  As such, this paper will focus its attention on data and empirical evidence that contribute to an increase in the security dilemma between Poland and Russia since Poland’s addition to NATO.


Since Poland’s addition to NATO in 1999, Poland has only failed to increase their defense spending over the previous year’s spending one time (fiscal year 2000).[12]  Poland’s military spending has now reached levels surpassing their Cold War defense budget climbing to an all-time high of $9.3 billion USD for their defense budget versus their 1988 spending of $7.5 billion.[13]  An analysis of this reveals that the spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was decreasing prior to Poland joining NATO and has held steady roughly at 1.9 percent.[14]  While these facts are accurate, it doesn’t take into consideration the economic increase in GDP that Poland has experienced since leaving the U.S.S.R. in 1990, embracing a capitalist system, and joining the European Union (EU) and enjoying the economic benefits that come with membership in the EU.  The increase in Poland’s GDP growth offsets the increase in Poland’s defense budget to make it appear that defense spending has decreased if measured in terms of GDP only. 

It is important to note that during this same time frame Russia’s defense spending has also significantly increased.  Since Poland’s acceptance into NATO in 1999, Russia has increased their spending every year. While Russia’s 2015 defense budget falls well short of its Cold War budget in 1988 of $296 billion USD, at $46.6 billion USD, it’s still more than Russia’s 1999 military spending of $19 billion USD.[15]  Since Poland has joined NATO Russia has increased their military spending by 145%.  I do not posit that Poland’s addition to NATO is the direct cause and effect to Russia’s increased defense spending, but I do argue that it is one of the variables responsible for Russia’s increased military spending when combined with the rise of significant states in Russia’s sphere of influence.  When Poland is considered in the aggregate with states like China, they all threaten the power position of Russia in Eurasia.  As a result Russia is working to counter what they see as a security dilemma and a threat to their safety and hegemonic goals. 

Falling Short

The Budget Department for Poland’s Ministry of National Defense released budget information comparing Poland’s 2015 defense spending to that of other NATO member states.[16]  The Budget Department used two measurements.  First, the Budget Department showed that in 2015 Poland spent $342 USD per capita.[17]  The average for European nations who are member states of NATO is $484 USD per capita.[18]  Poland matched 70% of the cost of their fellow European state defense budgets.  When compared to NATO member states on whole Poland only matches defense spending by 34%.  The NATO average for all member state defense spending per capita was $1002 USD.[19]

Second, the Budget Department showed that in 2015 Poland spent $131,000 USD per soldier.[20]  $131,000 USD is $12,000 USD less than the average for other member states of NATO who are European countries.[21]  Poland’s budget is $148,000 USD less than the average budget for all NATO member states, which is $279,000 USD per soldier.[22]  When measured against all NATO member states, Poland only spends 47% as much as their fellow NATO members on their defense budget. 

With budget measurements that fail to meet half the defense spending of other member NATO states, how can one say that NATO is left stronger with Poland’s addition to NATO?  Do these numbers not put Poland in a ‘free-rider’ status?  Poland surely benefits from the combined strength of NATO whose member states outspend Poland on each of their military budgets on average.

Some will argue that the addition of Poland makes NATO stronger in absolute terms because no matter how much, or little, Poland spends in terms of their military budget that amount represents an increase in the military budget for NATO as a whole.  This premise should be dismissed given the fact that Poland’s addition to NATO needs to be measured in terms of relative gain.  Adding Poland to NATO gives NATO a voice in the conflicts NATO chooses to engage in around the world.  If any absolute gain in military terms strengthened NATO then adding Moldova would make NATO a stronger alliance.  Moldova only spends $19 million USD on military spending, using half of a percent of their GDP to support their military infrastructure.[23]  That limited military capability does not increase the strength of NATO.  It potentially spreads NATO forces too thin if NATO were forced to protect such states.  Each new addition to NATO is a new commitment of military protection.  It’s also a potential dilution of the ‘coalition of the willing’ for NATO commitment to any future engagement.  Adding Poland as a member state of NATO is not a guarantee of their commitment to NATO action in the future.

Dilution of NATO’s Political Will

It seems very apparent that each additional voice added to the decision making process concerning which engagements NATO will involve itself in is another potential voice that will go the opposite direction and prevent NATO from providing a united front to those who would threaten its security.  NATO can still act, but if all states within NATO don’t act in concert with one another it demonstrates to the world that the military alliance is fractured.  A military alliance that cannot speak with one voice is not as strong as a military alliance that acts as a cohesive unit. 

A case in point is Poland’s involvement in Libya, or lack thereof.  The United States of America, Great Britain, and France have all committed troops and equipment in Libya as part of Operation Unified Protector.  Even Sweden, who is not part of NATO, committed radar surveillance equipment and tanker assets to help support NATO’s mission in Libya.[24]  Poland has been noticeably absent in their involvement in Operation Unified Protector.  Poland has neither committed equipment nor ground forces to NATO’s efforts in Libya, even after direct urging by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates during a closed door meeting before Mr. Gates retired from his post.[25]

One would have expected that since NATO’s involvement in Afghanistan was the first invocation of Article V of the NATO Charter that Poland would have been a larger part of the invasion force.  Article V states that “the parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defense…will assist the party or parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.”[26]  However, Poland only contributed 300 soldiers to the mission in Afghanistan in 2002 as part of the NATO led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).[27]  In January 2007, Poland’s forces in Afghanistan fell to 160.  Their presence in Afghanistan comprised .45 percent of the total ISAF force in Afghanistan.  The average contribution from NATO states to ISAF forces in January 2007 was 1,270 troops.[28]  This means that Poland was contributing 12.5% as many troops to the NATO mission in Afghanistan when compared to the average NATO member state. 

Poland has increased their involvement in Afghanistan since 2007.  Poland’s involvement in ISAF is now up to 2,580 troops.[29]  That is a 1,512% increase, but it still falls short of the 95,175 soldier increase in ISAF troop levels in Afghanistan where the average NATO member state contribution is 3,312 soldiers.[30]  Poland is still only contributing 54% as many troops as their average NATO member state counterpart.  It’s a marked improvement over their initial 12.5% contribution, but it shows Poland is not meeting the half way mark on troop contribution.  Poland has made one of its most significant contributions to NATO/ISAF’s mission in Afghanistan by taking over responsibility for Ghazni Province from the United States in 2011.[31]

Poland’s contribution to the mission in Afghanistan is highlighted because it would be expected that if Poland were going to fully commit to any NATO mission it would be the first action when NATO invoked Article V of their charter.  However, there are other examples of Poland’s minimalist approach to military involvement in NATO alliance military actions. 

In Iraq, Poland’s highest troop levels were 2,500 soldiers in 2003-2004.[32]  That’s only 500 more troops than Georgia’s peak contribution of 2,000 troops in 2007.  Georgia only withdrew 1,000 of those troops after hostilities with Russia broke out.  Georgia has an Army with 32,850 personnel while Poland has an Army with a personnel size of 137,878.  Georgia contributed 6.1% of their total military defense force while Poland contributed 1.81% of their total military defense force to the mission in Iraq.  Previously, Poland had 20 soldiers deployed to Iraq to help NATO’s mission.[33]

Poland’s Value - Proximity

If there is any value in Poland’s addition to NATO it is purely in its location.  It’s fair to say that Poland is a free rider when 44% of their overall defense budget is provided through various foreign investment programs that are made available to Poland through their membership in NATO.[34]  The NATO Security Investment Program and the Foreign Military Financing Program are examples of two such programs.  Poland’s addition to NATO is valuable to primarily the United States and to Poland, but Poland’s addition does not make NATO itself stronger.  I have already shown how Poland itself benefits from its addition to NATO.  Poland gains access to valuable loan programs to modernize its military forces.  Poland also gains stronger allies that can offer it military protection from historic enemies, e.g., Russia.  The United States gains access to territory that is close in proximity to Russia and Iran.  Two states that threaten the United States’ global hegemony in their respective geographic areas. 

The United States signed an agreement with Poland in 2008 that would have placed a missile defense shield in Poland only 193 miles away from Russian soil.[35]  It would have consisted of 10 interceptor missile systems that were needed to defend against long range missiles, which might come from states like Iran, from threatening Europe.  Russia felt threatened by such a missile system being in such proximity to their border.  Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, a Russian defense official, went so far as to say that Poland deserved some form of retribution for their action in accepting the missile defense system within their borders.[36]  The missile defense system has been suspended by President Obama’s administration, but the fact that the agreement was signed in 2008 under President Bush’s administration shows the increased activity, militarily, between Russia and Poland.  In November 2011, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev threatened to target Poland and United States military sites if Russia was not included in an agreement on how the missile shield would have been organized in Europe.[37]

Russia’s Show of Prestige

This security dilemma is illuminated by Russia’s invasion of a close ally to the United States and NATO, Georgia.  Georgia was the first member of NATO’s Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP).[38]  By joining the IPAP Georgia signaled their official relationship with NATO, despite not being a member state of NATO.  I posit that Russia used Georgia’s ongoing conflict with South Ossetia as a pretext to use its military force as a warning to NATO.  Georgia has had a history of conflict with South Ossetia since 1920.  Since 1989, Georgia and South Ossetia have either participated in military actions against one another or cease-fires.[39]

Russia’s invasion of Georgia, a NATO IPAP participant, took place one week prior to the signing of the missile defense shield agreement between the United States and Poland.  Russia has had troops in South Ossetia since 1992 so why did it choose to invade at that particular moment?  The push to expand into Eastern Europe by NATO to include former Soviet states has decreased Russia’s sphere of influence and started to leave Russia isolated.  This is in keeping with minimalist theory.  As such, Russia feeling threatened by United States, Poland, and NATO action is trying to consolidate its power in the region by pushing south to hold onto its sphere of influence. At the same time, Russia is signaling to NATO and the West that it is willing and capable of using military action; Russia is trying to project its prestige.  The threat Russia feels from NATO expansion into Poland is evidenced by their reaction in Georgia.  Jim Nichol argues that Russia targeted the destruction of Georgia’s military so that it would have a harder time meeting the NATO full membership military requirements.[40]

Russia has also raised the level of apprehension by performing war games that simulated a nuclear strike against Poland in the fall of 2009.[41]  In the simulated attack, Russia practiced delivering nuclear payloads to Polish targets.  Russia also simulated an amphibious assault and cutting gas lines that lead into Poland.  All the simulated attacks were offensive in nature.  The war games are used as a show of prestige and to send a message to Poland and its allies.

Energy Security

Poland relies on Russia for 40% of their natural gas imports.  Russia has displayed its willingness to use its natural gas imports to Europe as a political tool to punish actions it does not approve of when it cut off natural gas flowing into Ukraine that affected the rest of Europe in 2006.[42]  Poland is supplied directly by Russia through the Nord Stream pipeline.  The Nord Stream pipeline allows Russia to bypass Ukraine and provides leverage to Russia over Poland’s foreign policy directly by being able to shut off supply to Poland without causing other European nations to suffer as they did when Russia was punishing Ukraine in 2006. 

Russia has tried to hurt Poland by using its expertise in energy policy to broker a deal with Poland that limited their gas lines to three pipelines which causes Poland to rely more heavily on Russian imports.[43]  The fact that Poland only has access to the three Russian pipelines prevents Poland from importing natural gas from countries like Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.[44]  Russia has attempted to buy polish owned refineries in Poland to gain a greater control over Poland’s energy to increase Russian leverage over Poland’s foreign policy, but Poland has recognized these attempts and prevented the sale so far.[45]

Recognizing the aims of Russian attempts to influence Poland’s foreign policy through its control over Poland’s energy, Poland has worked hard to diversify its energy in order to meet its energy demands in the future.  Poland has discovered large amounts of shale oil in within its border that it plans to access to so that it can continue to decrease its reliance on Russian energy imports.  Poland also plans to build the first nuclear plant in the Baltic by 2020.  These are all strategic decisions by Poland to prevent itself from becoming a puppet to Russian ambitions through its dependency on natural gas imports from Russian controlled energy companies. 


The empirical evidence shows that Poland’s addition to NATO has threatened NATO’s overall position in Europe.  The addition of Poland to NATO went against agreements between the United States and Russia that NATO would not add the Baltic States to NATO following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.  Any strength that Poland may have added to NATO is countered by the greater reaction it has caused in Russia’s counterbalancing.  NATO would have been better served by recognizing Poland in an official capacity, such as an IPAP member, without fully including Poland as a member state.  NATO would have been able to hold Central Europe in its sphere of influence through its power projection. 

Instead, Poland’s addition has led to an increase in the security dilemma between Russia and NATO.   Poland is modernizing its military and its improved weapons capabilities are a direct threat to Russia’s defense.  As a result, Russia is also stepping up their investment in their military infrastructure.  Russia has simulated nuclear strikes against Poland and simulated invading its territory.  Poland has previously signed agreements that would have placed weapons systems inside its territory with the capacity to strike Russia.  All of these factors do not increase the security of NATO states, which is their stated goal of collective security.  These factors may benefit Poland and the United States, specifically, but they do not improve NATO’s strength and position in the region. 

Russia has already taken military actions against a potential future NATO member, Georgia.  Russia’s action in Georgia is a direct response to NATO’s expansion eastward.  Russia is also seeking to increase its control over Poland’s energy supply.   NATO tried to expand quickly into Central Europe before Russia could rebound as Germany did following World War II.   NATO’s actions, however, have worked against their intended goal.  Whereas Russia was willing to make concessions and go along with the new status quo when the Soviet Union initially collapsed, NATO’s actions have caused the exact response they were hoping to prevent.  Russia is returning to its old confrontational ways seeking to dominate its neighbors and increase its sphere of influence.  Adding Poland to NATO only showed Russia that they would be taken advantage of and their agreements would not be honored unless they had the power to enforce them, and so they `have reacted accordingly. 

Poland’s limited participation in NATO conflicts and its minimal military forces does not outweigh the increased insecurity their addition to NATO causes.  While their participation in NATO is beneficial to Poland and the United States it does not make NATO itself stronger.  Being a part of NATO opens up Poland’s borders to United States missile systems and allows Poland to modernize its military, but Poland is a state that cannot contribute significant forces to offensive operations.  Poland can bring NATO into a conflict and dilute its cohesiveness in military action around the world, but they cannot bring to bear significant military power to influence hegemonic powers that actively balance against NATO.

End Notes

[1] Stephen M. Walt, “Alliance Formation and the Balance of World Power,” International Security, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Spring, 1985), pp. 8-9

[2] Michael E. Brown, “Minimalist NATO: A Wise Alliance Knows When to Retrench,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 78, No. 3 (May-Jun., 1999), pp. 204-218

[3] Michael Mandelbaum, “Preserving the New Peace: The Case Against NATO Expansion,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 74, No. 3 (May-Jun., 1995), pp. 9-13

[4] Stephen M. Walt, “Alliance Formation and the Balance of World Power,” International Security, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Spring 1985), p. 17

[5] Thomas J. Christensen and Jack Snyder, “Chain Gangs and Passed Bucks: Predicting Alliance Patterns in Multipolarity,” International Organization, Vol. 44, No. 2 (Spring, 1990), pp. 137-168.

[6] Michael E. Brown, “Minimalist NATO: A Wise Alliance Knows When to Retrench,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 78, No. 3 (May-Jun., 1999), p. 208.

[7] Robert E. Hunter, “Maximizing NATO: A Relevant Alliance Knows How to Reach,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 78, No. 3 (May-Jun., 1999), pp. 190-203.

[8] Ivo Daalder and James Goldgeier, “Global NATO,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 85, No. 5 (Sep. - Oct., 2006), pp. 105-113.

[9] David Gompert and Richard Kugler, “Free-Rider Redux NATO Needs to Project Power (And Europe Can Help),” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 74, No. 1 (Jan. - Feb., 1995), pp. 7-12.

[10] Christopher L. Ball, “Nattering NATO Negativism? Reasons Why Expansion May Be a Good Thing,” Review of International Studies, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Jan., 1998), pp. 43-67.

[11] vo Daalder and James Goldgeier, “Global NATO,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 85, No. 5 (Sep. - Oct., 2006), pp. 105-113.

[12] Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, “Poland,” The SIPRI Military Expenditure Datatbase, (Sweden, 2011).

[13] Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, “Poland,” The SIPRI Military Expenditure Datatbase, (Sweden, 2011).

[14] Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, “Poland,” The SIPRI Military Expenditure Datatbase, (Sweden, 2011).

[15] Ibid.

[16] Budgetary Department, “Basic Information on the MoND Budget for 2015,” Ministry of National Defence, (January, 2015). Web. Accessed 11 March 2015.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, “Moldova,” The SIPRI Military Expenditure Datatbase, (Sweden, 2011).

[24] Stephen Fidler and Julian Barnes, “Gates Calls Others to Join Libya Fight,” The Wall Street Journal, June 9, 2011.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Article V, North Atlantic Treaty, Washington D.C., April 4, 1949

[27] “International Security Assistance Force,” Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Poland to NATO, (2005). 

[28] “ISAF Regional Commands & PRT Locations,” International Security Assistance Force, January 2, 2007.

[29] “Troop Contributing Nations,” International Security Assistance Force, October 18, 2011.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Christopher Blanchard, “Iraq: Foreign Contributions to Stabilization and Reconstruction,” CRS Report for Congress, December 26, 2007, p. 16.

[33] Budgetary Department, “Basic Information on the MoND Budget for 2011,” Ministry of National Defence, (March, 2011), p. 17

[34] Budgetary Department, “Basic Information on the MoND Budget for 2011,” Ministry of National Defence, (March, 2011), p. 5

[35] Thom Shanker and Nicholas Kulish, “Russia Lashes Out on Missile Deal,” The New York Times, August 15, 2008.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Will Englund and William Wan, “Medvedev Threatens to Target U.S. Missile Shield in Europe if No Deal is Reached,” November 22, 2011.

[38] “Individual Partnership Action Plan/IPAP,” NATO, December 7, 2011.

[39] Jim Nichol, “Russia-Georgia Conflict in August 2008: Context and Implications for U.S. Interests,” Congressional Research Service, March 3, 2009.

[40] Ibid, p. 11

[41] Matthew Day, “Russia ‘Simulates’ Nuclear Attack on Poland,” The Telegraph, December 6, 2011.

[42] Henry Helen, “The EU’s Energy Security Dilemma with Russia,” Polis Journal, Vol. 4 (Winter, 2010), pp. 5-6.

[43] Keith Smith, Russian Energy Politics in the Baltics, Poland, and Ukraine: A New Stealth, p. 48

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.


About the Author(s)

Joshua A. Perkins is an Armor officer serving with the 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armor Brigade Combat Team at Fort Carson, Colorado.  He earned his master’s degree in political science, with a specialization in national security and diplomacy, from the University of West Florida. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not reflect those of the Department of Defense or United States Army.


There is a great deal wrong with this article. If we are to agree with the "minimalist" view of NATO, then we must consider the possibility of removing pre-enlargement members from the alliance who are causing security dilemmas (e.g. Turkey), who dilute the alliance's consensus (e.g. Italy, Greece, Spain and to some extent Germany) and who are not contributing to collective defense (e.g. below 2% GDP defense spending). Nevertheless, I will engage below with the author's points...

Perkins: "The addition of Poland to NATO went against agreements between the United States and Russia that NATO would not add the Baltic States to NATO following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War."

There were some informal agreements on NATO membership as part of the discussions over German re-unification, however, both the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact were alive and well at the time, and neither side envisioned the possibility of Poland or the Baltic republics joining NATO. The "eastward expansion" pertained specifically to the German Democratic Republic and not a future Europe in which the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact were dissolved.

Perkins: "Poland is modernizing its military and its improved weapons capabilities are a direct threat to Russia’s defense. As a result, Russia is also stepping up their investment in their military infrastructure."

Firstly, all militaries modernize and attempt to improve their capabilities. This is true of the United States as much as it is of Tajikistan. Secondly, Poland has not attempted to develop or purchase any strategic offensive capabilities such as ballistic missiles or bombers, and most systems can be used in both offensive and defensive tactical roles. In comparison, Russia has continued to develop its offensive capabilities and has deployed them in Kaliningrad. Poland does not border Russia proper, yet Russia has a militarized outpost bordering Poland. Who is the aggressor?

Perkins: Russia has simulated nuclear strikes against Poland and simulated invading its territory. Poland has previously signed agreements that would have placed weapons systems inside its territory with the capacity to strike Russia.`

So Russia simulating nuclear strikes on and an invasion of Poland is no less hostile than Poland operating fighter aircraft that could strafe inside Kaliningrad?

Perkins: "Poland can bring NATO into a conflict and dilute its cohesiveness in military action around the world, but they cannot bring to bear significant military power to influence hegemonic powers that actively balance against NATO."

Poland is strengthening its military as Germany is allowing its to rust, and arguably Poland has more modern MBTs that are at battle-readiness. Poland is proximate to and has an interest in opposing NATO's adversary, Russia. The idea that Poland's inclusion in NATO has sparked Russian revanchism is absurd. Even under Yeltsin, Russia was beginning to want to reclaim its "Yalta privileges".

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 05/11/2016 - 11:06am

This article helped me to understand some of the backroom maneuvering:

"Lobbyists' NATO Goldmine
Lucrative Niche Is Found Amid Expansion


Updated June 2, 2007 12:01 a.m. ET

RIGA, Latvia -- The steady expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been widely touted in the West as a way to spread freedom. It also has opened a door for Washington lobbyists, who have profited by helping shape the process as it has unfolded."

Madhu (not verified)

Wed, 05/11/2016 - 11:00am

Thank you for this analysis.

I posted the following on another thread ("Crimea Twofer") because as a civilian, I am becoming increasingly alarmed with the dangerous rhetoric coming out of NATO and its counterpart in Russia:


<blockquote>The new need to think harder about limited war, including <strong>limited nuclear war</strong>, implies a need to rethink how to make nuclear threats credible to deter aggression against U.S. allies. These threats have to be made credible because they are not directly related to the protection of the continental United States. Nuclear consultation will be an indispensable tool for this task.</blockquote>

- War on the Rocks

This newer generation of young scholars seem to view nuclear weapons as if they are a video game without any sense of the danger that older generations understood. There was more discussion of the effects of nuclear war. They seem not to be aware of things that we all once knew, of a certain age and generation, I mean, during the Cold War people did not take these things as lightly. It is a frightening attitude and their professors or other mentors ought to bear some blame.