Macedonia became a full-time NATO membership candidate at the Washington Summit
From 23-25 April 1999, NATO held the 15th Summit in its 50 year history in Washington, DC. The Summit took place during an exceptional period in the Alliance’s history, in the midst of a commemoration of its 50th Anniversary, tempered by an unprecedented NATO air campaign aimed at bringing peace to Kosovo, in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Although much of the focus at the Summit was necessarily on the crisis in Kosovo, in Washington NATO leaders nonetheless put their imprimatur on a host of other programs and accomplishments with long-term implications for the Alliance.
The achievements of Washington fulfilled the promise of the Madrid Summit held two years earlier, in July 1997. At Madrid, the Alliance invited the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to begin accession talks and promised that the door would remain open to others. In Washington, the leaders of these three countries took their place for the first time at the Summit table, and the Alliance unveiled an initiative designed to help other interested countries prepare for possible membership in the future. “The three new members will not be the last,” Alliance leaders stated in the Washington Summit Communiqué.
At Madrid, NATO leaders had pledged to enhance the Partnership for Peace program (PfP) and the full range of Alliance partnership activities; in Washington, leaders noted the progress achieved in this regard and unveiled new initiatives designed to continue the work. At Madrid, Alliance leaders had requested a review of the Strategic Concept (in essence the roadmap of Alliance tasks and the means to achieve them); in Washington a new Strategic Concept was approved, one that reflects the transformed Euro-Atlantic security landscape at the end of the 20th century. At Madrid, NATO and Ukraine had signed a Charter on a Distinctive Partnership; in Washington NATO leaders and the Ukrainian President held their first Summit meeting and acknowledged the importance of Ukraine to Euro-Atlantic security and stability.
The work of the Washington Summit is reflected in all the Summit documentation, but most comprehensively in the Washington Summit Communiqué and the Strategic Concept. The Communiqué captures, in a single document, the major themes of the Summit and of the Alliance at this key period in its history. The Strategic Concept equips the Alliance for the security challenges and opportunities of the 21st century and guides its future political and military development.
The concrete accomplishments of the Summit – in the form of decisions and programs – have set the stage for the Alliance to enter the 21st century. While recognising that the Euro-Atlantic security climate has changed dramatically over the last ten years, the Strategic Concept also acknowledges “the appearance of complex new risks to Euro-Atlantic peace and stability, including oppression, ethnic conflict, economic distress, the collapse of political order, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” It sets out the Alliance’s purposes and tasks for the future and reflects the resolve of Alliance member countries to maintain an “adequate military capability and clear preparedness to act collectively in the common defence….”
An important feature of the transforming military posture of NATO is the development of the European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI) within the Alliance. At the Washington Summit, Alliance leaders summing up the Summit welcomed the progress achieved so far and called for continuing work to make ESDI a reality. NATO also launched a Defence Capabilities Initiative (DCI), designed to help Alliance military forces become more mobile, interoperable, sustainable and effective. Similarly, the Alliance has introduced changes in the integrated military command structure reflecting the transformed security environment. These changes will allow NATO to carry out its operations more efficiently.
The Washington Summit Communiqué outlines another new Alliance initiative, on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). NATO’s principal aim with regard to these destructive weapons is to “prevent proliferation from occurring, or, should it occur, to reverse it through diplomatic means.” In order to respond more effectively to the challenges of proliferation, NATO has established a WMD Centre within the International Staff at NATO Headquarters. The Centre will coordinate an integrated political-military approach to the following tasks: encouraging debate and understanding of WMD issues in NATO; enhancing existing programs to increase military readiness to operate in a WMD environment; and increasing the exchange of information on WMD destruction assistance programs among allied countries.
Even as they welcomed three new members to their first Summit, NATO leaders emphasized that the door would remain open to others. A Membership Action Plan (MAP), the “practical manifestation of the Open Door,” was unveiled at the Summit. The MAP is a program of activities from which interested countries may choose, on the basis of national decisions and self-selection. The program covers five areas: political and economic issues, defence/military issues, resources, security and legal issues. NATO stresses that the program should not be considered a list of criteria for membership, and that active participation in PfP and EAPC remains essential for countries interested in possible future membership. The Alliance underscores the fact that any decision on membership would be made on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the Madrid Summit Declaration and the Washington Summit Declaration.
After the Summit-level meeting of the North Atlantic Council, leaders or representatives from the countries in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council also met in Washington. EAPC leaders discussed the situation in Kosovo and expressed their support for the demands of the international community, and their abhorrence of the policies of violence, repression and ethnic cleansing being carried out in Kosovo by the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Leaders expressed their support for broad-based security and for economic and democracy-building efforts for the southeastern Europe region. They also endorsed a report entitled “Towards a Partnership for the 21st Century – The Enhanced and more Operational Partnership”, which aims to improve the ability of the Alliance and Partner forces to operate together in the future.
Although Russia declined to participate in the Washington Summit because of events in Yugoslavia, NATO leaders through the Washington Summit Communiqué reiterated their commitment to partnership with Russia under the NATO-Russia Founding Act. They also underscored the fact that close relations between NATO and Russia are of mutual interest and of great importance to stability and security in the Euro-Atlantic area.
NATO leaders also held their first-ever summit with the President of Ukraine. Both sides welcomed the progress in their Distinctive Partnership and discussed a variety of Euro-Atlantic security issues.
The Washington Summit Communiqué reiterates the importance of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue as an integral part of the Alliance’s cooperative approach to security. NATO leaders directed the Alliance to pursue early implementation of enhancements to the political and practical cooperation initiated under the Dialogue.
The achievements of the Washington Summit were both practical and conceptual, the fruit of several years of work. They also reflected the immediate priorities of NATO member countries, in particular the urgency of bringing to an end the conflict in Kosovo and restoring the rights of the people of Kosovo. They demonstrated that NATO is an Alliance that has been able to adapt to changing times and has shown itself ready to take on the challenges of the next century.