The Influence of small States on NATO decision-making. The membership experiences of Denmark, Norway, Hungary and the Czech Republic


  • Honkanen Karoliina

Publish date: 2002-01-01

Report number: FOI-R--0548--SE

Pages: 136

Written in: English


The study approaches NATO´s decision-making system from the perspective of smaller member states. It examines the member- ship experiences and strategy of four small states: those of Denmark and Norway, Nordic founding members of NATO, as weil as those of the Czech Republic and Hungary, the newest small member states. The topic of small-state influence in NATO is relevant for the Finnish and Swedish NATO debate, in which a key dimension has been influence. Proponents have considered a chair at NATO´s decision-making table the most important reason for joining, while opponents have feared that membership would reduce freedom of action in foreign policy. NATC´s decision-making system is based on equality of all member states, which is demonstrated by the de facto veto right of each Ally and the consultation norms. At the same time, the US has been an uncontested leader of the Alliance and an informal grouping of big Allies has dominated many crucial NATO decisions. However, this has not meant that the smaller Allies would not have influ- ence within NATO. For example, Denmark and Norway managed to set unilateral conditions on their membership. Moreover, they played a key role in drafting the Harmel report (1967), which established détente as the second main function of NATO. After the Coid War, NATO´s widened agenda has given small states a possibility to find new "niches" of influence and new roles to play within the Alliance. An example is Denmarks active NATO policy, which has made it an important actor in integrating the Baltic States inta Euro-Atlantic structures and in improving their membership prospects. After the Coid War, influence may be considered a major motivation to join NATO. In the former communist countries of Eastern and Central Europe, it has been perceived that it is possible to get one´s voice heard in European politics only through full integration into both NATO and the EU.