In the Wall Street Journal, Transatlantic Center director Ronald D. Asmus discusses new practical steps that NATO can make in the changed geostrategic situation that now exists in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Georgia. Now that the "confidence-building steps" towards Russia which have guided the Alliance's Central Europe policy in recent years are plainly no longer necessary or desirable, he notes that
Since the Alliance began enlarging a decade ago, it has not conducted any defense planning against a possible Russian military threat to new members in Central and Eastern Europe or the Baltic states. We have unilaterally refrained from such steps partly as a confidence-building step toward Russia. New members have complained bitterly about this. It is why the Alliance is seen by many in the region as hollow. It is time to take this step as a prudent part of Alliance defense planning.
Asmus sees the future direction of NATO policy and practice in a stiffening of the Alliance's security guarantees to existing members by putting into place in the new member states "the infrastructure, reinforcement capabilities and symbolic deployments we are fully entitled to as a stabilizing and confidence-building measure for new allies."
The whole article can be read here.
NATO also needs to reassure those partners likely to be the next targets of Russian pressure and possible aggression, first and foremost Ukraine. This means rethinking NATO's enlargement strategy. In the mid-1990s, NATO adopted an enlargement strategy based on integration and not as a strategic response to Russia. We consciously raised the bar and requirements for new members. Our focus was less on protection than on democratic reforms to help anchor these countries to the West. But we also consciously left ourselves the option of lowering the bar in the future if the security environment took a turn for the worse. It now has done just that, and we need to shift our criteria again.