Forces: August 4, 2002


: At the start of this year, it appeared likely that the only nation to be offered NATO membership at the November 2002 summit would be Slovenia, which is probably the best candidate (its location is closest to NATO's center of gravity and its small military force almost entirely NATO compatible) but the least important (as its tiny military would be no great strategic asset). Momentum is now gaining, however, for a "big bang" approach that could see seven nations offered a fast-track plan for membership: Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. It had long been assumed that Russia would adopt an "over my dead body" attitude toward membership for the three Baltic nations, but the Russians now appear to regard such a move as considerably less troublesome. Huge questions remain, such as how fast can any of these nations (beyond Slovenia) attain NATO compatibility. The three previous new entries (Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary) have been members for three years and are at least two years behind schedule.--Stephen V Cole


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