With the recent announcement that the next NATO Summit will take place in London in 2014, many questions arise as to what exactly will be addressed. It is assumed that they will discuss the withdrawal of ISAF troops as well as the training force that will remain to help the Afghan National Security Forces. It would not be a surprise if the crisis in Syria was brought up, probably with a lot of pressure from Turkey as the conflict spirals out of control. But there is another topic that has been raised at every summit and will certainly be addressed in London: enlargement. London seems a prime opportunity for accession, as it fits perfectly within the 5 year pattern of adding new members since 1999 (3 in 1999, 7 in 2004, and 2 in 2009). During the Chicago Summit (2012), former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she believed that the Chicago summit would be the last NATO summit that did not involve enlargement. She highlighted four states in particular: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Macedonia, and Montenegro. The question is, which of these states are likely to join the NATO ranks come 2014? All four have worked closely with NATO in the past and have contributed to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, but there are distinct hurdles to each one’s accession.
Bosnia is probably the most likely candidate to accede at next year’s summit. At the Chicago summit, state accession was regarded with a high amount of enthusiasm from NATO members. One of the remaining hindrances to accession is the registration of military property as state property. Bosnia passed a law regarding this at the end of last year, but has so far failed to fully implement the legislation. For this reason, Secretary General Rasmussen called on Bosnian leaders to resolve this issue in February of this year, hinting that it is the only thing holding them back from membership. If the state can agree on implementation, then Bosnia will be the 29th member of NATO.
Georgia presents a wide array of issues. First, they have not yet joined NATO’s Membership Action Plan (MAP), which is normally the prelude to accession. They are still stuck in the Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) phase, and it is still questionable as to whether or not the 28 NATO members will offer the MAP to the Caucasus state. Second, they still remain partly in the Russian sphere of influence. The country is fairly divided on whether or not they should lean towards Russia or Europe. Parts of the country are still in Russian hands following the peace agreement reach between the two states, which could present a huge issue, especially regarding Article 5. Third, internal politics are fairly unstable relative to current member states which could present an issue over accession. Overall, it is fairly likely that Georgia will be invited to join the MAP, whether it is at the London Summit or the summit after that, but accession is probably five years to a decade away (barring any extreme changes in the current geopolitical situation).
(Former Yugoslav Republic of) Macedonia
Macedonia has been ready for NATO since Chicago. However, there is one major issue: Greece. Greece is still upset that the small Balkan nation’s name matches that of the northern Greek province. At Chicago, every single member, except for Greece, voted to allow Macedonia into NATO. Therefore, without a resolution to the name issue it is highly doubtful that Macedonia will accede in London.
Montenegro had a very detailed list of reforms for its third MAP cycle following the Chicago Summit. They have matched many of these reforms but they still have work to do in the areas of defense and security, strengthening the rule of law, and public support. Therefore, accession strictly depends on whether or not Montenegro can meet its MAP in this cycle. At the moment, it seems that they have much to accomplish in the next few months; chances are they will come into London with most of their MAP goals achieved, but will still need to start their fourth cycle.
At the moment, Bosnia is the strongest horse in the race. Not far behind is Macedonia, but she is stuck behind the Greek veto barrier with no visible way around it. Montenegro is a close third, but she needs the political willpower and public motivation to push the reforms through as quickly as possible, while also enacting and implementing them correctly. Georgia is pretty far behind the others, but a MAP offer in London would definitely push her much closer to accession. It is questionable that even one of these four will join NATO in London, making it even more doubtful that two will.