Since September 11, senior American policymakers have been understandably focused on the war against terrorism-an effort that fixes their gaze on the Middle East and Central Asia, terror cells in western Europe and Southeast Asia, and the exigencies of homeland security. In their peripheral vision, they remain aware of other major zones of policy concern: Russia, China and Taiwan, the Balkans (still), and even the occasional bout of dyspepsia in places such as Argentina and Venezuela. Thank heaven, therefore, for those unproblematic spots that do not generate problems and the consequent need to spend energy and anxiety on them-places like central and eastern Europe.
Alas, we should not yet be so thankful. While we have been attending to other, more pressing matters over the past half dozen or so years, the post-communist success stories that most people expected to write themselves after 1989 have turned into tales with rather mixed plot lines. Intentions and expectations have fallen out of harmony with one another. Thus it is that the road to NATO's November 2002 summit in Prague is paved with good intentions-and outdated expectations.
The intention is to invite as many as seven countries from central and eastern Europe-Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from the Baltics; Slovakia and Slovenia from central Europe; and Romania and Bulgaria from the Black Sea region-to join the organization. Together with Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, admitted in 1999, they make up a sort of "top ten" of the post-communist world. These ten have accomplished much more than their neighbors in the Balkans and the non-Baltic parts of the former Soviet Union and, not surprisingly, are among the leading candidates for early entry into the European Union.