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Why Does Everyone Want to Join NATO?

February 20, 2022 10:50 a.m.

As I’ve noted recently, I’ve usually been in the ambivalent/skeptic camp when it comes to NATO enlargement. There were many good reasons, from the U.S. perspective, to oppose NATO enlargement back in the 1990s and in the subsequent smaller expansions in the last quarter century. The U.S. has very good reasons not to extend security guarantees with what amount to existential implications to every country bordering Russia or adjacent to its borders which is or feels threatened by Russia. So you can say NATO expansion was dubious policy. Or you can claim, though the evidence for this is murky at best, that the U.S. broke some “deal” it made with the Soviets/Russians at the end of the Cold War. But all of these points ignore a basic foundational question: why did or do all these countries — Poland, Hungary, Romania, Lithuania, et al. — want to join?

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