Balancing, Bandwagoning And Power Maximization: Nato Enlargement Through The Lens Of Offensive Realism
NATO enlargement has stimulated debates among scholars. Prominent offensive realists have argued that it was a reckless act their theory cannot account for. Are they right? Through an analysis of the distribution of power between future NATO members, Russia, and the United States in the 1990s and early 2000s, I demonstrate how a “robust” and “expansive” offensive realism can yield intuitions on what induced NATO enlargement, particularly when applied in conjunction with balance of threats theory. Accordingly, I argue that NATO enlargement can be understood as an act of balancing against Russia and of bandwagoning with the United States by future NATO members, and as an act of domineering maximization by the United States. As such, offensive realism does have theoretical tools that explain the policy, provided it is brought to its logical conclusion. While I do not endorse the theory, I demonstrate how it can deliver useful insights.