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The enlargement to the East decided upon by the NATO countries in Madrid in July of 1997 represents an important contribution to the stabilization of the Central and Eastern European post-communist countries, based on the premise that in spite of the ending of the Cold War the geopolitical interests and objectives of the Western European countries and the U.S.A. in Europe still differ substantially from those of Russia and that the creation of a comprehensive European security architecture can only be regarded as a desirable distant goal. The initiation of the process of the enlargement of NATO prevents the formation of a security policy "grey zone" in central and eastern Europe which would have included the danger of new "hegemonial contests" in Europe. Russian fears of an increasing strengthening of "American dominance in Europe" in the course of NATO enlargement to the East might be alleviated by a further deepening and expanding of the NATO program Partnership for Peace (PfP+).
Since contrary to the EU, NATO also is a military order power which assists its members militarily in case of threat, EU enlargement, from the viewpoint of the central and eastern European post-communist countries, cannot be regarded as a substitute for NATO enlargement but only as a supplement to it. The Western European Union, as the future military arm of the EU, can only be used militarily in a meaningful way within the framework of the structure of the Combined Joint Task Forces created by NATO and will therefore in the longer term have to resort to the resources of the North Atlantic Alliance.