The Breakways: a retrospective on the baltic road to Nato,

Fifteen years ago, NATO opened its doors to the Baltic states. In the United States this momentous historical decision is commonly framed either as one of the greatest U.S. foreign policy achievements or an ill-advised move that diluted the alliance by taking on indefensible nations. Meanwhile, Russian contemporary discourse on this matter revolves around broken Western promises not to expand the alliance towards its borders. Either way, the story of Baltic NATO membership is almost exclusively told through the lens of major powers, leaving the impression that Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia were mere spectators caught in a geopolitical tussle between the United States and Russia. […]

A number of things had to go right in order for the Baltic states to join NATO. Deep structural forces worked in their favor. In the post-Cold War era, the global distribution of power had shifted away from Russia, putting Moscow in too weak a position to challenge the enlargement process in a meaningful way. The Clinton and later Bush administrations were sympathetic towards the plight of Baltic nations and kept the membership door open. Regionally, the Baltics benefited immensely from their Nordic neighbors who were keen to invest in modernization of Baltic armed forces, transfer knowledge, and lobby on the Baltics’ behalf internationally. But that alone did not guarantee the outcome we have today. Events on the ground in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, namely local actors’ persistence in pushing to join the Euro-Atlantic community, their diligent efforts, and their dedication to reforms, is what finally got them over the alliance’s doorstep. For the Baltics, reaching NATO membership was nothing short of a geopolitical breakthrough, Läs artikel