The Magazine

The Treaty of the Democratic Peace

What the world needs now.

Feb 12, 2007, Vol. 12, No. 21 • By TOD LINDBERG
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Democracies also have a pretty good record of speaking up for free and fair elections, human rights, and other liberal values in nondemocratic states and states in transition. Liberal democracies regard the spread of liberal democracy as in their collective interest. The United States and Europe stood in solidarity in support of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, for example, and the united front contributed to the pressure on the streets to force the government to nullify the results of the election it had stolen. It's striking that the leading outside opponent of the Orange Revolution was none other than Vladimir Putin, Russia's increasingly autocratic leader, who values Russian influence in its near-abroad so highly that he is happy to make common cause with such dictators as Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus.

Without question, the post-Cold War "enlargement" agenda of NATO and the European Union fostered democratic development in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Both NATO and the E.U. emphasize democratic development as a precondition for beginning the process that leads to membership. The prospect of access to Western institutions, including the security they offer and the economic opportunities they create, provided an incentive to young (and in some cases unsteady) democracies for good policy choices, political development, and cooperative rather than competitive strategies with their neighbors. There is no better illustration of this than the decision in 2000 of countries aspiring to join NATO to work together for membership for all who qualified rather than for each to try to establish its bona fides by invidious comparisons highlighting the shortcomings of the others. That cooperative effort led to a far bigger round of NATO enlargement in 2004, seven countries in all, than anyone had anticipated only a few years earlier.

Likewise, the E.U. increasingly points with considerable justification to the regional success of its "soft power," to use Joseph Nye's term for the ability of a state to get others to want what it wants. In truth, it's a lot more work to get into the E.U. than to qualify for NATO membership; the amount of national law that has to be brought into harmony with the E.U.'s acquis communautaires is vast. But the benefits are also quite substantial in terms of market access, standardization, and investment flows. Poorer countries are also eligible for assistance from Brussels, not only as new members but also as aspiring members. The hard political choices required to fight corruption, increase transparency, and develop a democratic political process thus make one eligible for rewards both long- and short-term.

It's easy now to be complacent about Central and Eastern Europe, because of the extraordinary tales of political and economic success that have unfolded there. But suppose Western institutions hadn't reached out to Central and Eastern Europe in the 1990s. Suppose, instead, they had made it clear that the E.U. was an institution for rich Western European countries alone and that NATO was closed to new membership, if indeed it wasn't going out of business. Does anyone really think that 15 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the outcome would have been the same in terms of the region's peaceableness, democratic development, and economic growth? In an international culture of self-help rather than cooperation and integration, what would have kept Slobodan Milosevic's bloody-minded nationalism from becoming not an aberration but the norm?

The attractive power of NATO and the E.U. have led to proposals for enlargement beyond the original geographical origins of each. Ivo Daalder and James Goldgeier have recently made the case for a "Global NATO" in Foreign Affairs, and Jan Ole Kiso and Adrian Taylor recently offered a European perspective along the same lines in Europe's World. The E.U. is grappling with the question of "European" identity in assessing future enlargement. Both NATO and the E.U. have expressed support for robust policies of engagement with nonmembers in their "neighborhood." Nevertheless, there is significant resistance among current members of the E.U. and NATO to the transformation of either by enlargement outside the limits of Europe or the Euro-Atlantic, however construed. The defeat by referendum of the E.U.'s proposed Constitutional Treaty in France and the Netherlands in 2005 has given rise to much talk of "enlargement fatigue."