For the most part, political and scholarly debates about the future of the North Atlantic Alliance embrace enlargement and military conflict management as crucial factors. Yet another set of determinants lies in the political relationships within the Alliance itself and vis-à-vis other international institutions. The Madrid `Enlargement Summit' of July 1997 and a proclaimed `new' NATO notwithstanding, those issues continue to have a strong impact on NATO's performance and on North Atlantic Alliance politics. Enlargement not at all terminates their relevance. It sparks a second wave in shaping NATO's future, but the first wave remains, and it remains critical.
The subject matter of the present analysis is this first wave of NATO's adaptation between 1990 and mid-1997, an institutionalist approach beyond the narrow scope of the common neorealist-neoliberal debate providing the frame of reference. One lesson for the `new', enlarging Alliance is that it should refrain from adopting too diffuse political responsibilities and claiming a too broad spectrum of functions in post-strategic security politics.