Growing Strong, Growing Apart

The Erosion of Democracy as a Core Pillar of NATO Enlargement, 1949–2023

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Table of contents



1. The Roots and Causes of NATO Enlargement

2. Democracy as a Founding Principle of the Alliance

3. The Erosion of NATO's Democratic Tenet

4. NATO Enlargement during the Cold War Era

5. NATO Enlargement after the Cold War

6. The Prospects for Future Expansion



Explores the role of democracy in NATO expansion decisions throughout the organizations history and looking forward into the future.


Since its establishment, NATO has admitted a variety of new members in several enlargement rounds, even though some of these countries fall short of the organizational expectations of democracy—as stipulated in an elaborate scheme of texts, speeches, and statements. Growing Strong, Growing Apart maintains that this policy results from gradual erosion in the prominence of democratic discourse within the organization, normalizing deviations from previous optimistic expectations that became increasingly unsustainable after the end of the Cold War. Eyal Rubinson's analysis of NATO's conduct in this regard builds on archival research and interviews with NATO officials and senior member states' representatives. He discusses this theme in depth through detailed case studies, each covering a different period, emphasizing the place of cognitive processes in international organizations’ decision-making.

Eyal Rubinson is Lecturer at the Department of Middle Eastern Studies and Political Science, Ariel University, Israel, and Visiting Scholar at the Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals (IBEI), Spain.


"This is a great addition to the literature on NATO enlargement. The specific issue Rubinson covers—the importance of democratization in NATO's enlargements throughout the organization's history—has received much less attention than other issues such as US-Russia relations. The argument is well-conceived and well executed." — James Goldgeier, author of Not Whether But When: The US Decision to Enlarge NATO