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NATO Enlargement: Why a Fourth Round is Long Overdue

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama with John Kerry in Wales, September 2014. Image: US Department of State/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Atlantic-Community.org on February 23, 2015.

Since the late 1990s, the NATO alliance has experienced three distinct phases of enlargement: in March 1999, March 2004 and April 2009. Some security experts have taken a rather cynical view of this process, arguing that NATO’s eastward expansion was a factor in causing the current instabilities in the Ukraine. In fact, this analysis has proven to be very weak as it does not consider the efforts the alliance made to build a real dialogue with Russia over the course of 20 years. These individuals would equally want to be reminded of the so-called ‘dual-track approach’ to NATO enlargement, launched in the 1990s. This meant that any possible enlargement of NATO would have to go hand-in-hand with the formulation of a strategic partnership with the Russian Federation. This was the basis for the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act and was a coherent part in the setting up of the NATO-Russia Council in 2002.