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Cold War Reflections and Today's Realities

Speakers: James M. Goldgeier, Whitney Shepardson Senior Fellow For Transatlantic Relations, Council On Foreign Relations, and Robert M. Kimmitt, Senior International Counsel, Wilmerhale; former Undersecretary of State For Political Affairs (1989-1991), and U.S. Ambassado toGermany (1991-1993)
Presider: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, cfr.org
November 16, 2009, Washington DC
Council on Foreign Relations

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BERNARD GWERTZMAN: It's nice to be back in Washington. I spent a lot of my younger days here.

And we're going to talk about "Cold War Reflections and Today's Realities." And we have with us Bob Kimmitt, who's now with WilmerHale, but at the times we're talking about he was undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, and later became, probably, our first ambassador to the unified Germany; and Jim Goldgeier, who's the senior fellow for transatlantic relations at the council, and also is a professor at George Washington University.

And I thought we'd first reminiscence (sic) a little bit. This guy's too young, maybe, but -- (laughter) -- I'm the moderator, but if you don't mind me stealing a few minutes to reminiscence (sic), myself, I was foreign editor of The New York Times at that time in New York. And we were well aware of all the turmoil in Eastern Europe. I had been a former bureau chief in Moscow for the Times back in the Brezhnev days.

And the first real inkling was -- as you all remember, or don't remember -- was the changes suddenly in Poland in the spring of '89, when the Walesa movement sort of won popular vote in the elections for the parliament after they'd been under martial law for all those years, and that really started the ball rolling.

But even then -- I became foreign editor on August 1st of 1989 -- things were so slow in Europe and in the rest of the world that I sent out a memo to the correspondents saying, "This is your timing to get those long-thought-about feature stories in the paper." And somebody sent a note in saying, "You know, there's an interesting yarn: Some East German tourists are sitting in the West German Embassy in Budapest, saying they're not going to leave until the Hungarians let them go to Vienna." And so I sent Serge Schmemann, who was the Times bureau chief in Bonn, down there to take a look and -- the rest is kind of history. As you know, the Hungarians decided to let all the East Germans who wanted to get out, they could get out.

And they all went to Austria, and that started an avalanche of East Germans running around, and their -- Honecker, who was the leader in East Germany, had to resign.

The -- but we -- I kept still waiting for the Soviet troops to be sent in to put order into East Berlin, and it didn't happen. It didn't happen.

And on November 9th, there was a press conference -- which has now been recorded by everybody, but it was a press conference in East Berlin by a guy named Guenter Schabowski, who was a Politburo member. And he didn't know what to really say, is that he had -- there had been a meeting, and they had drafted new regulations so that East Germans leave on a more regular basis.

Serge Schmemann, who was our correspondent in -- who was running our operation in Berlin right then, went to the press conference, but he wasn't convinced anything dramatic was going to happen, went back to his hotel room in West Berlin to file and -- so I'm going to cut my dialogue short here, but I went to the front page meeting at The Times at 5:00 that afternoon, saying, "Something's going on in Berlin, but I'm not quite sure what." So they dummied, you know, laying out the front page for the next day -- (chuckling) -- in those days, of course, people got their news from newspapers -- and saying, you know, maybe a breakthrough in Berlin or something like that. And then about two hours later Serge called and said, "It's -- the wall is open; thousands of Berliners are coming through." I said, "How do you know?" He said, "My interpreter in East Berlin just walked in my hotel room in West Berlin with his wife. They walked through the wall." (Soft laughter.) And that kind of started it.

Where were you, Bob?

ROBERT M. KIMMITT: I was in my office on the seventh floor of the State Department, watching those dramatic images. They were particularly dramatic for me because I had been the son of a military officer who was stationed in Berlin from '45 to '47 and then back in Germany between '60 and '64. When I was just 12 and 13 I had gone actually through the Brandenburg Gate several times with no problems prior to -- I was 13, so it's '61. And so to actually see that was particularly dramatic.

I'd actually, though, give a little compliment to you and The New York Times, and I'll take you 15 days before the fall of the wall.

And if you look in The New York Times for October 5th, 1989, you'll find a front-page story by Johnny Apple, who had interviewed President Bush about a range of issues. But the headline was, Bush Not Concerned about German Unification.

And Johnny's question had been, there's a lot of talk about this; do you think it's possible; does this concern you? He said, of course, I'm not concerned about it, I trust that the Germans, if they reunite, will reunite within NATO and that we'll work with the other interested parties.

He mentioned the Soviets, the British, the French. And in a way, he sort of set the foundation for what would later become the Two Plus Four Process with his comments 15 days before the wall fell.

GWERTZMAN: I forgot that story completely. Interesting.

KIMMITT: And if you look in a lot of the German books about unification, they usually start with that interview, because it was that instinctive reaction by the president that set us on our course.

And by coincidence, I had in that evening for consultations -- this is again October 25th -- the troika, the EU troika, so the current president, the immediate past president, the presidency to come. It happened to be, let's see, Spain, France and Ireland at the time.

Bob Blackwill and I were having dinner with them at the Addison Hotel. And the French political director had just arrived and said to me, Mr. Kimmitt, there's a lot of talk in Europe about the possibility of German unification? Do you think about this? Or has the U.S. government thought about it?

And I pulled out the article and handed it to him and said, we've got our marching order from the president. Not only are we not concerned, we would welcome it. NATO would have achieved one of its principal goals.

And his comment was, well, I know, you said that but what do you really think about it? (Laughter.) And I said, be careful, we have a tendency in America to sort of mean what we say.

And I think that that was a very important part and again links in with that continuum that, as you say, started long before the night of November 11th. It came to a dramatic conclusion and, I guess, a dramatic beginning with that evening.

GWERTZMAN: And Jim, you were in graduate school then, right?

JAMES M. GOLDGEIER: I was. I was writing a dissertation on Soviet foreign policy -- a really wise choice there -- but -- so of course I was, you know, like everyone else, incredibly excited with the fall of the wall and then had that "uh-oh, what is that going to mean for my field of study?"

But of course, you know, even then at the time, I mean, what we thought was, this was part of what had been going on under Gorbachev, and the tremendous change in Soviet foreign policy. Nobody was thinking that this was going to herald the collapse of the Soviet Union.

GWERTZMAN: Well, how do you -- I mean, you've written a lot now in your scholarly works now, et cetera, on what's happened between -- in the last 20 years. What's your verdict? You've -- you've generally been, if I read you correctly, sort of disappointed in the way things have turned out, foreign policywise, for the United States? Or am I reading too much into it?

GOLDGEIER: Yeah, I think I don't -- I wouldn't say that. I mean, first of all, you know, think back to how many things we got wrong at that time. I mean, President Bush may have said that he wasn't concerned -- and fortunately that was the case. There were other European leaders who did not feel the same way.

GWERTZMAN: You mean there weren't European leaders --

GOLDGEIER: I mean, yeah, there were European leaders who -- right -- who didn't feel the same way.

The -- nobody, with the fall of the wall, really anticipated that Germany was going to be unified by the following October. I mean, there were people still talking even in the weeks after the fall of the wall about how long the process might actually take.

Certainly, as I said just a moment ago, nobody was anticipating the Soviet Union was going to break apart. People were talking about how it was Germany and Japan that had been the true winners of the Cold War, that while the United States had been providing for their security, Germany and Japan had become these dominate economic powers and they were going to clean America's clock in the coming years, because the United States had -- you know, distract itself with its military spending and wouldn't be able to keep up with these two incredibly dynamic economies. So I would just start by just saying that, you know, many of the expectations that we had at the time were incorrect.

And I think the -- probably the biggest question, because I think that we -- I don't know that we could have really imagined how well things would have turned out in Central and Eastern Europe. I mean, maybe you have a different view, but the process in the succeeding 20 years in terms of bringing the Central and Eastern Europeans into Western institutions, NATO and the European Union, is really quite a remarkable development and one that people were writing about on this November 9th, but I don't think normally give as much credence.

And -- but the last thing I would say is just that I think one of the biggest questions is, could things have turned out differently in U.S.-Russian relations over the course of the period, the issue of really whether or not more could have been done to draw Russia closer to the West. There are a lot of people who think there were a lot of missed opportunities.

I look at it somewhat differently in two ways. One, I think we overestimated tremendously in the 1990s our power to change Russia, and I think that it would have served us well in 2003 to have thought more about how hard it was to change a country like Russia, as we thought we would in the 1990s.

And the other thing is that I do think there was a good-faith effort, even with NATO enlargement, to try to bring Russia closer to the West. And those who argue that we missed tremendous opportunities there I think also fail to take into account the Russians themselves and their own conflicting views about what it was they really wanted with respect to the West.

GWERTZMAN: Of course, we had pretty good -- we had very good relations, I would say, with Yeltsin when he was president, which of course -- Russians now -- look upon now as a sort of dark period because of the corruption and the sellout of their industries to these wealthy businessmen.

And Putin coming to power in 2000, he came in as a tough -- a tough guy, and he is still a tough guy in a way. Could the negotiations over the enlargement of NATO been handled more adroitly? Or in other words, there was a lot of debate at that time, in the State Department and elsewhere, about what to do about NATO, right, at that time?

KIMMITT: Sure. I mean, NATO had been asking questions about itself for a long time. I mean, it didn't require the events of November 9th to lead to the Harmel report and other questions that NATO had asked during its time.

But I'm glad you ended up where you did, Jim. I mean, I was listening carefully in terms of what was done wrong, because I'd like to come back to that. But with regard to the Soviets first and the Russians, I thought actually there was a good effort to take into account their perspective as we put together what we thought was the best U.S. national security policy; that is, combining foreign policy, defense policy and international economic policy dimensions.

We can go back further, but let's just start even in the Bush administration. We still had that agenda with the Russians, that had arms control, had regional issues, had bilateral issues. I was really in charge of the regional issue program, and that was to help get Russians out of Afghanistan, because they were still there on January 20th, 1989; Vietnamese out of Cambodia; Cubans out of both central America, Angola and Mozambique; East Germans out of Eritrea.

And we were trying to do that in a way that didn't make it look like a defeat, a capitulation for them, because our interests, I think, were served pretty broadly. Certainly throughout the process of German unification, the Soviet dimension was crucial, not just for us, but for the Germans, for everybody, all throughout.

Even before Germany was fully unified, we began really, I think, almost historic cooperation with the still-Soviets on the first Gulf War. Jim Baker really says that the Cold War ended when he and Shervardnadze issued their joint statement condemning what Saddam Hussein had done at the Moscow airport in early August of 1990.

And then as we went along -- I was talking to Don Bandler about this, and we're really lucky because we have in the audience today many people who were very much involved in this. Right from the start, as we talked about new security architectures in Europe -- it wasn't just a question of NATO, the security architectures in Europe -- the Soviet, and later Russian, dimension was always an important part of that. And interestingly, immediately after German unification, especially, there was really much more debate between the EU and the U.S. about what their relationship was going to be -- European security and defense identity, NATO versus the EU and so forth.

But all the way along, there was a feeling that there would be this outreach to the Soviets, later Russians. And if you look at some of the institutions that were established eventually, North Atlantic Cooperation Council, but also things like APEC were set up at that time, Russians play a very important role in that. Indeed they will chair APEC in Vladivostok in 2012.

Indeed, they will chair APEC in Vladivostok in 2012.

So I never really felt that it was a way to exclude them, because, over time, what made -- reunification work, what made the regional agenda work, what made almost everything work once we started again using the U.N. Security Council -- remember, that was in the Gulf War -- you had to have the Soviets and the Russians there or it just didn't work.

And I would say, fast-forward to today, even in the second Bush term, which I think was a term that had a lot more of the multilateral flavor to it than people believe -- I mean, we've got the Russians now involved in a Quartet process in the Middle East -- that was something resisted by Democrats and Republicans for generations; five-plus-one process on Iran; six-party talks on North Korea. The Russians were crucial in the compacts that were put together for both Iraq and Afghanistan, and, along with Germany and the U.S., were the three countries who forgave all debt to former Afghanistan.

So we've got a range of issues still today with Russia. And maybe we'll get into those, but my recollection was, certainly starting January 20th of '89 and maybe going back a little bit further, especially once Gorbachev came on board, the question was, how do we advance our interests, but not on a zero-sum basis -- how do we advance it in a way that allows them also to find their interest in finding those common-ground positions with us?

GWERTZMAN: I guess historically there's no question that Gorbachev became really a crucial figure in history. The decisions he took to let east Europe build its own way and not to really interfere, and then to announce the breakup of the Soviet Union, was -- incredible historical steps which we still feel today. I guess we -- what do you see today as -- on the Russian question, do you think, when Putin is gone, that we'll have a revival of more democracy in Russia?

I mean, this is -- in other words, is Putin an aberration from what started in 1991, or will there be another hard-liner, you think? I mean, what is in the Russian spirit right now?

GOLDGEIER: Well, I'm not one to talk about spirits, but I would say that I think it's important to understand, if you think about the last three leaders of Russia -- the last leader of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev, and then Yeltsin and Putin -- and you think about the role of democracy or not, it's been for instrumental purposes. Gorbachev opened the system because he didn't see any other way to rejuvenate the Soviet economy. That was the -- that was the bet he made, that he had to open it up and he had to get criticism of that old system out there so that people would buy into his need -- his belief that they needed to restructure that economy. And of course, you know, the Chinese were watching, and made a different choice after they saw what happened to him. But -- but it was an instrumental thing.

Yeltsin came along, and Yeltsin thought, "Well, the only way that I can succeed is to out-Gorbachev Gorbachev." So he became more pro- Western, more pro-democracy, more pro-market than Gorbachev had been. That was his political strategy for how he was going to first take down Gorbachev and then pursue a close relationship with the West -- very, very instrumental.

And you know, Putin comes in after the decade of Russian collapse, and his central strategy, his primary goal, was to prevent further collapse. He was tremendously concerned about the forces within Russia that might continue to potentially break the country apart, and his number-one goal was order. And he was going to create order, and he was going to rebuild the economy and he was going to help Russia reemerge on the world stage.

So I think you have to look at this in the context of the kinds of strategies that leaders use. And of course, there's a lot of debate today about this -- this -- this relationship between Putin and Medvedev, but look at what Medvedev is doing.

Look at the -- look at the way in which he's carving out a place for himself. He's using some of these issues to distinguish --

GWERTZMAN: Well, that's why -- that's why I asked, in other words, if Putin would've disappeared tomorrow, would Medvedev institute new change? And I -- okay.

Do you have any thoughts on that, Bob?

KIMMITT: Not on the political prognostication. What I will say, though, going back to my point about bringing the Russians into key bodies that matter: I was actually in Hong Kong -- can't remember if (Peter Bass was ?) with me or someone else -- when I was still undersecretary, the first time we had the Russian political director sit down with the seven G-7 political directors to prepare for the London Summit in '91 at the G-7. Remember, as it turned out, Gorbachev was really just invited to dinner, not for the full meeting. Yeltsin took a much more active role the following year in Munich.

And really, they've been an important part of the G-8 since that time. With this growth into the G-20, that even further institutionalizes their role in the process. You'll find right now that the two organizations that they want most badly to get into are the WTO and the OECD. I will tell you, at least in the 18 months of the financial crisis in which I've participated, the Russians played a very constructive role, both in the (G-)8, in the (G-)20. And more broadly, they felt a lot of the same pressures, certainly in areas like investment, cross-border investments, sovereign wealth funds and so forth. I think they understood how important it was for them to be at the table while those issues were being discussed.

And while, as you said, there's still a lot of concern about corruption and oligarchy in the economic system, over time, I read relatively positively this desire to come into these organizations that are rules-based organizations, that help set the framework for a more prosperous world where, letting all boats rise, the Russians, as well as we, the Europeans and the Asians, will advance.

GWERTZMAN: By the way, I forgot to mention at the beginning -- I apologize to the people here -- the -- everything here is on the record, so if you wanted to quote, you're free to quote. And you're supposed to turn all your devices off, but I haven't heard anything ringing, so I guess we're okay.

KIMMITT: Ringing from the stage or from the --

GWERTZMAN: (Laughs.) All right, the -- why don't I throw it open to the audience here for any questions?

And please identify yourself and wait for the microphone.

Woman in the back was first. Go ahead.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)

GWERTZMAN: Speak up a bit.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)

GOLDGEIER: Well, yes, I think -- I think the Cold War is over. That doesn't mean that all conflict is over or all problems are solved. And I think actually one of -- one of the most interesting things about the period we're talking about is just how hard it was for different people to recognize that the Cold War was over.

Before the Bush team -- Bush-Baker team came in, Reagan and Shultz had declared the Cold War over at the end of their administration, with Gorbachev's December '88 speech to the United Nations. And the new team came in and they weren't sure.

So they spent that whole first year trying to figure out whether or not the Cold War was over. And there was a huge disparity among the team. I think, you know, I've argued in my writings that Secretary Baker was among the first, because he had the most direct contact early on, with his Soviet counterparts, and recognized the changes that were taking place.

But there were others such as Vice President Quayle and a guy named Robert Gates who took a lot longer to convince that the Cold War was over. So you know, perceptions are hard to shake.

The Cold War did end in Europe at that time. You could argue certainly that elements of the Cold War in Asia still exist. After all, we still have the conflict between the two Koreas. That's a leftover from the Cold War. And really you know, even as we move toward more hopeful relations between China and Japan, there are still issues in Asia.

So I think the remnants from some of these things will last for some time. But in Europe, it was over then.

KIMMITT: And it was in '89 that Frank Fukuyama's book came up on the end of history. And I think most people concluded that history has continued to march. There are still ideological- philosophical battles raging, including in Latin America.

I would say, though, that again looking at it from an economic and financial perspective, if you take a look at now in the G-20, the active participation of Mexico, of Brazil, of Argentina, that's a pretty disparate group representing Latin America in the 20. A lot of people forget that APEC is Asia-Pacific, and therefore APEC last year, for example, was chaired by Peru. Peru, Chile, Mexico have been very active participants there.

Mr. Chavez and others would have a different view, a less inclusionary, a less participatory view, I think both politically and for the economy, but it seems to me that the enlightened Latin leaders are looking for ways certainly to look first at what is required at home, but to become ever more engaged in both regional and global organizations that help set the rules of the road for the conduct of the global economy going forward.

GWERTZMAN: (Inaudible) -- Cuba, but anyway, that's another Cold War issue.

QUESTIONER: I don't know if others are having a problem with the mikes. There's a warble. I'm a little hard of hearing, and it makes it very difficult. I've seen brother Schwebel here leaning forward. I don't know if one of the staff can help on that.

I want to ask anyone here who cares to talk about it, what do we know now about the diplomacy between the GDR and the Soviets during these critical days? I mean, what light does historical research shed on the reasons why the Russians didn't do -- or the East Germans, to begin with, didn't use more force and the Russians did not use more force?

GOLDGEIER: Well, the Soviets let these East European leaders on their own. I mean, that was the critical decision in that time, was that the Soviet Union under Gorbachev made the decision, you guys are on your own, good luck.

And it's interesting, because we had at GW some years ago -- it's probably been 10 years now -- we had as a guest Anatoly Chernyaev, who was Gorbachev's national security adviser, and we asked him this question; you know, how did you -- why did you do this? How could you just let it all go?

And he said, you know, you guys just have a totally different perspective on that year.

You were so focused on what was going on in Eastern Europe in 1989 and were, you know, wrapped up in the -- in these events.

He said, we were just fighting for our survival in the Soviet Union. We spent -- he -- according to -- (his argument ?) was, we spent 5 percent of our time -- Gorbachev spent 5 percent of his time thinking about Eastern Europe. He was focused on getting perestroika to work, and he was having an awful lot of trouble getting it to work and knew we had to get it to work if he was going to survive politically. So that -- you know, his focus was his domestic economy.

And once he decided that he wasn't going to spend a lot of time worrying about his East European colleagues and they were on their own, they had no legitimacy. They never had legitimacy; they were only there because the Soviet Union backed them up. So once the Soviet Union's backing was gone, those leaders on their own had no capacity to maintain themselves.

GWERTZMAN: Might try it without a microphone. I don't know if that's better.

KIMMITT: The only thing I would add to that is, I think some of you may have been at the event, I guess it was two Mondays ago, when Hans-Dietrich Genscher, Brent Scowcroft and I presented for a group put together of the German Marshall Fund. And I actually was with Genscher in Bonn this past week.

He said at that conference, and reiterated when I saw him more recently, how out of step the East Germans were with the Soviets, and indeed how out of step the East Germans were with almost every other member of the Warsaw Pact: that Honecker was almost always the hardliner in the Warsaw Pact meetings in the late '80s, and even into the critical year of 1989.

And so, while I think there was a paternal brotherhood, the famous kiss, we remember the East Germans had celebrated the 40th anniversary, right, of the GDR in 1989 in October, just before the wall fell, I think underneath it was both the Soviet Union focused much more on what was happening internally and an East Germany that was increasingly out of step even with its non-Soviet colleagues around the Warsaw Pact table.

QUESTIONER: I have a follow-up on that. (Off mike) -- that the Russians need not and could not -- or could not -- maintain the Warsaw Pact, that they didn't need it, they couldn't do it -- (off mike) -- it appeared (that they willingly gave up ?) the Soviet role on the world stage.

GOLDGEIER: Well --

QUESTIONER: (Which has always puzzled me ?).

GOLDGEIER: Right. Well, part of the problem is, you can't use the words "Gorbachev" and "decision" in the same sentence. He's a terrible decision maker, terribly indecisive guy. And he was constantly changing his mind about what he wanted. He was -- he drove his colleagues crazy with his indecisiveness. And in fact one of the best observers of this was Jack Matlock, who's written -- who's written quite a bit on that.

But you know, the main thing -- again, to concentrate on the economy and rebuilding the economy, he had to get rid of the competition with the United States, because he was trying to reorient the resources of the Soviet Union toward the domestic economy and away from the militarization, which had soaked up such a huge part of Soviet GF -- GDP. So he had to get rid of the competition with the West if we wanted to have a prayer of rebuilding at home.

GWERTZMAN: Over here.

QUESTIONER: (Joe Guthrie ?). Let me test the contrarian notion of -- based, perhaps, on the idea of the reflection on history that whatever humans do, they overdo. It seems to me the Cold War more dramatically and -- much more than a war against Russian aggression, it had enormous domestic -- it became a war against social contracts, the socialist Europeans, the regulation. So if we're reflecting on it now, in today's realities, haven't we put ourselves in a position, through this overplay, in which it's rather difficult to deal with the realities in our own economy today because of that mind-set? Is that too contrarian a notion in looking, reflecting back on the war?

GOLDGEIER: I mean, I think that particularly when we really found out the state of the Soviet economy and the Warsaw Pact economies, including the East German economy, which was to have been the crown jewel of the Warsaw Pact economies and which now has cost the West Germans effectively $2 trillion to help support since 1989, I think that notion of a command economy certainly lost whatever credibility it did.

I'm not sure, though, Joe, that that put to rest the debate that still rages between us and the Europeans on that right balance between prudential regulation and market discipline.

QUESTIONER: But to some extent -- (off mike) -- raising of the arms race, you know, that drove the Soviet economy into that; as it created an enormous deficit for us, which we overcame later in the next period of globalization, but now are back facing again. But didn't we -- weren't there enormous pressures made by the arms race that rode that economy as -- you know, as it was, into a collapse?

KIMMITT: The Soviet economy, I think, had a lot of endemic problems. I mean, but certainly, I think, trying to compete with the U.S. and the West, particularly in terms of technological advance, became something that they could not do with an economy that had as many other structural problems.

QUESTIONER: Nancy Bernkopf Tucker, Georgetown University.

One thing -- Jim mentioned it just briefly in passing, but I think one element that you haven't raised is the Tiananmen massacre in June of 1989. And at one time, I wrote an article and did some research, and it seems to me that a lot of people in Eastern Europe were looking at what happened there and saying, "We're not going to commit that same kind of massacre here, because it's not doing much for the Chinese --" at that time, it didn't seem to be "-- and we don't want the same kind of blood in the streets here." So I think that contributes to a decision not to use violence.

GWERTZMAN: Well, that was -- if I can just add, that certainly was apparent in East Germany. There was a big debate over Honecker, who was the East German leader then, who ordered the use of force against the protesters that were going to take place in Leipzig. And he was argued out of that, and eventually was forced to resign, over people in the East German parliament who were saying they didn't want another Tiananmen Square.

QUESTIONER: My question on that, though, is for Bob Kimmit.

If the Eastern Europeans were looking at it in a China context, and the Soviets were looking at it in a China context, what about the U.S. government? Was there -- was there a feeling that China was relevant to what you were dealing with? And you know, did you overcome the barriers between different regions to talk to each other about what was going on?

KIMMITT: That is, did the U.S. and China overcome those differences?

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)

KIMMITT: Right.

QUESTIONER: (Off mike.)

KIMMITT: I don't recall that direct connection ever being drawn. You're right. The events of Tiananmen Square provoked a series of actions, not just by the U.S. You may recall that the G-7 summit that year was in France. I think it was in Fontainebleau.

And as always happens at the G-7 summit, it's sort of hijacked by the issue of the day. The issue of the day was Tiananmen Square. And there were very tough sanctions put in place against China.

There was very little dialogue with China during that time. Indeed I think the first time that we talked again to the Chinese was, or at least the first time that we sat down again with the Chinese was at the Cambodia Conference in Paris in August of that year.

And then we also met with them in the perm five context at the U.N. General Assembly meetings in September of that year. Again there were therefore, at least at the foreign minister level, at the table also with the Soviets and others.

I don't recall though a direct connection between what was going on in Europe and what was going on in and with China at the time. I do know though that you hear an awful lot in China and did particularly back then of the lessons they learned of what happened, particularly that Gorbachev thought that he had set a process in motion that he could control. He clearly could not.

They can give you chapter and verse with real detail on exactly what happened to the Ceausescus, that there were quite similar/different -- quite different circumstances and results throughout some of the countries of East and Central Europe. So I had always looked at sort of from China looking back and learning lessons for what had happened, in Europe, rather than the other way around.

QUESTIONER: Rick Tilman (sp), Arms Control Association. I wondered if you could speculate on why the strategic competition has been so resistant to the dramatic changes that we've seen in political and economic spheres. And I would just use two data points: The 2002 Moscow Treaty: It was clear that Russia would be willing to go down to a 1,500-operationally deployed warhead level; the U.S. would not go below 2,200.

In terms of the START II treaty, we passed up -- it was our initiative to pass up the opportunity to eliminate all land-based missiles with multiple warheads, because we wanted to have more strategic defense options than the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty allowed. So if in fact we are still holding on to our Cold War nuclear posture, why has that been so slow to follow the -- all the changes in these other spheres?

GOLDGEIER: I mean, it is -- it is -- it is quite striking that -- and in fact, to my mind, this negotiation that we're having, I'm -- it's great that the U.S. and Russians are having this negotiation for this follow-on to START, but I think the obvious question is, why'd this take so long to get even to the numbers that we're talking about -- right? -- which are still incredibly high? There's no real purpose that you could imagine needing those high -- those high numbers.

But I would just say -- I would just say two things. One, it's interesting to note that there were arms-control agreements reached in the administration of Bush 41, and there were arms-control agreements, as you mentioned, reached in the administration of Bush 43. We do not have arms control in the eight years of the Clinton administration, which is quite striking, especially since the lead Russia person, Strobe Talbott, is an arms-control guy. And I --

GWERTZMAN: But you had the comprehensive test ban treaty that the Senate refused to ratify, right?

GOLDGEIER: Like I said, we didn't have arms control during the eight years of the -- of the -- of the Clinton administration, and I think there were a number of reasons for that, but I think, in large part, it was that it was -- it would have really required really taking on the Pentagon on these issues, because that -- there was a real stickiness in terms of the ideas about the maintenance of the American triad and how important it was to continue to have a robust triad and the role of nuclear weapons in American strategy.

And I think, you know, you're not really seeing the change until today, where you have a president who would really like to move in a very different direction. But even there, look at this agreement, right, the upper end of the follow-on is 1,675, yeah, so it's a little below the 1,700 which was the lower end of the previous agreement. I mean, even with that, it's still hard to make this move.

KIMMITT: I'd just say, I've been away from arms control for about 16 years. So I couldn't have even given an answer that informed. But when I was last involved of course, one of the dynamics was this powerful, conventional army that the Soviets had up to and including, you know, the Fulda Gap. And a lot of our nuclear decision-making was based on that.

You know, the situation is reversed now. In fact, a lot of times, people ask questions about arms control almost like, why isn't the U.S. prepared to take certain of these steps?

I think it's important now that the Russians look at the tremendous conventional forces that we have, as something that they need to be concerned about, and that they may have some very different views about the importance of nuclear weapons, both as they look to the West and to the East, different than perhaps they did the last time that I was involved in this.

I do think that as Jim said that, you know, with some of the proposals in the new administration, I think it's going to be a very active time, not just on a bilateral basis. But what this means for important nuclear questions elsewhere, from Korea to Iran, I think, are going to be some of the really interesting topics, as nuclear negotiations unfold in the months ahead.

QUESTIONER: Moving on to another field -- is that better, yeah -- Russia-Ukraine becoming a perennial, I'm afraid, I don't know. But I'd be interested in your thoughts, in this more contemporary stage, as to, you know, who is going to do the heavy lifting.

Is Russia going to try to sidle in, or be more aggressive? How are the Europeans going to deal with this, and NATO?

KIMMITT: I'll identify him. That's Don Bandler, former Foreign Service officer, former deputy chief of mission in Bonn, before he was ambassador elsewhere.

You know, one thing that we're -- I mean, we focus a lot on Russia, and Russia is very important. To me, some of the most interesting developments over the past 20 years is what's been going on in Central Europe, or maybe the old West Europe and East Europe divide.

And in a way, it seemed to me an awful lot of NATO expansion was fueled both by the desire of those countries, the former Warsaw Pact, to come into NATO -- I mean, so there were many times, possibly up to and including Ukraine, or at least part of the Ukrainian leaders, whom we would have had significantly to brake, if you didn't want things to proceed along the path that had been set up by NATO itself.

So, you know, who was it really pushing? I think it was the people in those countries -- but supported very much, Don, you'll remember, by the Europeans, and particularly the then-existing members of the European Union, who were pushing hard for these countries to come into NATO before they came into the EU. Because we pay for NATO; they pay for the EU.

Now, a lot of those same European countries, who now are having concerns that NATO expansion may have gone too far too fast, were some of the most aggressive in pushing for bringing in those immediate entrants -- Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and so forth. And a certain dynamic, a certain momentum, was created, and who was to say it was going to stop on the western border of Ukraine or the northwestern border of Georgia.

So again, to me, while it is important what the U.S. did, how the Soviets and Russians played it, some of that change that has been taking place in the EU body politic, particularly as it relates to NATO and security structures, I don't think has been looked at perhaps quite as closely.

GOLDGEIER: Can I just add, on Ukraine, you know, there's been tremendous frustration since 1991 in the developments in Ukraine, the political developments as well as economic developments. On the specific question of NATO, the conditions, not only has it been put on the back burner more generally -- Ukraine's future membership in NATO -- but the conditions have been stiffened. The NATO leaders at Strasbourg/Kehl added to their usual criteria something having to do with the -- in a sense sort of bringing instability into the alliance. And that was directed at Georgia and Ukraine.

And the president himself in July in Moscow added the criteria that a majority of the population would have to support NATO membership, which was a line clearly directed at Ukraine and was not there for previous members for whom getting a majority support was also difficult in a couple cases.

But I'd also say, more broadly, what you're also seeing in Europe with the frustration on Ukraine is especially an effort to move away from Ukraine's position as a transit point for energy supplies, and the tremendous impetus for both Nord Stream, as well as South Stream, because the Germans and Italians and others are looking at the situation and saying, "We don't want to depend on these guys and their dispute with Russia for getting gas into Europe." And they're going to make every effort they can to make Ukraine a -- less central in those calculations, which I think will also have a big impact.

QUESTIONER: And I would -- I would just say, if I could, (really ?), just the flip side of sort of the NATO process on Ukraine, and a little bit of the moving of the goal posts, the flip side of that is the EU process on Turkey.

GWERTZMAN: Let's keep the questions a little shorter, because we're running near time.

The woman in the back. I guess you have two women in the back.

QUESTIONER: Oh. (Laughs.) Thanks very much.

Ambassador Kimmitt, I was wondering if you could address one of the negative sides of the ending of the Cold War, the wars as Yugoslavia broke up. And I know that Germany had an important role. What was the U.S. advising Germany at the time in terms of recognition, and any other thoughts you have on that?

GWERTZMAN: (Please identify yourself ?).

QUESTIONER: Oh, I'm sorry. Sheri Fink, ProPublica.

KIMMITT: Yeah. I mean, I remember that it was in November of 1990 that we signed what I think was called the Treaty of Paris, and that was the agreement between the EU and the U.S. to a whole series of contacts, including what were to have been twice-a-year summits. They hold them now just one a year. And we held the very first one at the State Department, I recall, in April of '91, so very shortly both after the Gulf War had ended and after Jim Baker had made his first trip to the region afterward. And the subject matter was Yugoslavia. That was the key issue on the table.

My recollection was that the Europeans basically stuck their hand up and said: You know, this is in Europe. We would like to take the lead on this; you know, we want very much to have your support.

My other recollection is, we were more than happy to let them take the lead. There were some people, including Brent Scowcroft, Larry Eagleburger, who had served in Belgrade in their careers -- Brent as an air attache; Larry, of course, as ambassador -- who thought, you know, this was a very complicated situation; that at the end of the day, we weren't yet in a position with the Soviets that this is something that we could deal with in the Security Council. In other words, we couldn't replicate what we did during the first Gulf War.

I do recall, though, going to your question, I arrived in Germany the third week in August of '91. I always say that the bloom had come off of reunification at that point, because the true cost of unifying with the East was becoming apparent; it was the week of the first coup attempt against Gorbachev, earlier in the week; and then lastly, the war in Yugoslavia was really coming home to the Germans.

And I remember -- and Don will remember this better than I, because he was in the political section then -- on the front page of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung almost every day was a call for Europe, led by Germany, to be doing more in Yugoslavia. And again, my recollection of our diplomacy at the time was to try to support the idea that maybe this was something appropriate for the European Union, led by Germany, France, some of the other major countries, to try to take the lead on it.

That's what we really tried, certainly till I left Germany in '93.

I do recall that when Warren Christopher came over for his first visit -- if I recall, Don, maybe March of '93, first as ambassador -- he opened with Yugoslavia. You know, this is clearly the defining issue for the bilateral relationship, for the European-American relationship, for the NATO, and just really trying to figure out what the Europeans thought we together should do. And there were really no good answers. I left government at the time. We know who it played out subsequently.

I do think it was good that the Europeans had that instinct to try to take the lead on it. To some degree I think some of their structures at that time were relatively immature. I think there are still lessons for today that can be learned from what we did both eventually right and maybe initially wrong in Yugoslavia in terms of the EU-U.S. relationship and the inter-relationship between and among security structures in Europe.

GWERTZMAN: I'm going to take two questions at a time. The gentleman right here.

QUESTIONER: Under Yeltsin, the Russian Federation was a principal --

GWERTZMAN: Identify yourself.

QUESTIONER: Stephen Schwebel. Under Yeltsin, the Russian Federation was a principal proponent of the Energy Charter Treaty and provisionally applied it all these years. But a few months ago it gave notice that it will not ratify that treaty. Could you comment on that?

KIMMITT: I don't have a lot on this, Judge Schwebel. I would say that what I said about the very cooperative role of Russia during the financial crisis and work that we did in them, organizations ranging form the G-8 to APEC to the G-20, has been in almost every area except energy. And I think that that question of energy security broadly stated is one of the great challenges faced in Europe today. It's one that has political, it has security, it has economic dimensions to it.

I'll have to say I have trouble reading what the Russian plan is on this, because almost every week there seems to be a new development.

Sometimes they'll follow sort of standard market approaches; other times they go back to a more traditional command-economy approach. I think at the end of the day they know this is from whence a lot of their strength derives. But I think using that strength in a way that advances not just their interests but the globe more broadly is more in their interest.

Welby Leaman is here, who does a lot of very good work at Treasury on investment issues. And the Germans in November of 2008 passed their first-ever investment review law. And although it doesn't say so in the law, it was spurred by a concern about Gazprom and other major Russian state-owned enterprises making major acquisitions, particularly on energy and electricity distribution, in Europe. And if you go to Europe now, that's still something very much on people's minds. And people in Europe are asking the same question you did. I -- unfortunately, I just don't have a better answer.

QUESTIONER: Welby Leaman from Treasury. And any good work I did at CFIUS was marching orders from Mr. Kimmitt, so thanks.

I was wondering whether there were lessons that we learned from German reunification -- from the process of actual reunification -- that would be helpful when we get to the point of the Koreas reuniting.

KIMMITT: Yeah, it's a great question, Welby, and I've spent a lot of time talking with the Koreans about this. They know the details of German reunification, particularly the cost. And again, the net transfer from West to East, starting in 1989-90, was $100 billion a year. So we're at 2 trillion (dollars) and rising right now.

That's actually one of the reasons that the Koreans in APEC in 2005 were proposing, first, observer status in APEC for North Korea. You can imagine how enthusiastic we and the Japanese and others were about that. But then secondly, the Koreans have also put forward the idea of a "Northeast Asian Development Bank," something that -- go along the ADB, with the idea being that they know that, if and when unification comes, it's going to be very costly, maybe even more costly.

And they're just not sure that they could do what the Germans did almost singlehandedly. I mean, the Germans made those net transfers on their own, continued to pay a disproportionate amount of the EU budget, continued to have their development assistance rise and had an economy that moved along relatively well.

I mean, it took some hits. They went through a mild recession. I think the Koreans think it would be a lot tougher for them to do that.

So I think the lessons that they draw are -- sorry, the lessons that they draw are primarily in the economic area. But I also think they like the notion of a two-plus-four-type process; that there are a lot of issues that would have to be discussed between the two Koreas.

And those have accelerated -- had accelerated. They've slowed down a little bit. But then that there are other interests at play -- the U.S., Japan, Russia, China -- in the case of Korea -- also the U.N. -- that if we ever did get into a process, it would have to have that sort of multi-layered diplomatic approach.

GWERTZMAN: Sorry to say we have time for one more question.

QUESTIONER: Paula Stern.

I wanted to go back to your comment in passing about Japan in '89, when the U.S. was so riveted on Japan, as opposed to the Soviet threat per se, leaving aside the military threat as Joe said, which has always kind of overhung.

Today, China looking back at the history, I could imagine, would see that the United States is now looking at China as a challenge both economically, as was Japan in '89, and militarily and diplomatically and politically, as was the Soviet Union in '89.

My question is out of the box, I admit. But I'm interested in if there are any lessons here. Or is the situation so very different that how we handled ourselves vis-a-vis the Soviet Union in '89 and Japan in '89 is -- has any application for what we ought to be doing vis-a-vis China both in our dealings with them, on an economic as well as strategic basis?

In other words, I mean, it's a completely different challenge. But are there any lessons there, you know, how we handle challenges, if you will?

GOLDGEIER: I would give two answers. And I hesitate a little, because of the China expertise that's sitting over here to my right. But, you know, first of all, think about how wrong we were about Japan's trajectory. And I think this is one of the things that we have a difficult time with, with respect to China's trajectory. We extrapolate from the past three decades and assume that we're going to continue to see that kind of growth. You know, what if we're at the peak? So I -- I mean, we -- we may be overestimating China's future development.

QUESTIONER: Yeah.

GOLDGEIER: I would say, though, on the other thing -- other thing, in terms of lessons, that I think this is why you see this discussion, even though there's tremendous debate about what this term "strategic reassurance" means; but the -- but the notion that we're trying to find some way of conveying to the Chinese that we don't seek to thwart their rise, but that we seek to have it occur in a certain way. And it's that -- I think that conversation that we're trying to have with them, about how their rise will be accommodated within the international system, stems from the kinds of past experiences we've had internationally.

KIMMITT: I think it's a great question, Paula. And it's, in my view, one of the reasons why this notion of a G-2 with exclusivity is an idea that I just don't think holds up. It's not good for the U.S. It's not good for China, in my view.

I think the lesson from '89 and onward is, you need to have a strong, broad-based, bilateral engagement between the U.S. and China, just as we did between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. I think it's good that what we created at Treasury, the Strategic Economic Dialogue, is now a strategic and economic dialogue.

Secondly, though, you have to remember your key, even pivotal, partners in that part of the world: Germany, France, U.K., clearly, in Europe, as we were dealing with the Soviet Union; and today, Russia, clearly Japan, Korea and others, as we deal with the Chinese.

And then third, I think one of the advantages that we have with the Chinese is that they are much more integrated into groups that matter and function today than was the case with the Soviet Union in '89. So the Chinese -- in a much more active, engaged Security Council, Chinese playing an ever-more active but still cooperative role in APEC, a very cooperative role in the G-20, also acted quite responsibly during the crisis -- occasionally remind us of some of the things that we need to do on fiscal responsibility. We're not hesitant to remind them of what they need to do on aligning their currency with market realities. But I think that combination of bilateral, regional, multilateral and then global institutions is going to be a very important template for going forward.

The interesting question, of course, and that's why I'll be interested in seeing the reporting coming out of the president's trip to Asia, is what does this new Japanese initiative to become closer to China, closer to Asia -- sounded to me perhaps at the expense of the U.S., although people say it's not going to be on a zero-sum basis -- what does that mean?

I would always want the Japanese to get closer to China, get closer to their neighbors in Asia. I think actually that's been one of the relative weaknesses in our Pacific policy, in that here was such a heavy Japanese reliance on the U.S. But it doesn't have to be at the expense of a closer relationship with the United States if we've got a common set of interests and that we pursue them, both on a bilateral and multilateral basis.

But I think it's really more a question for the Japanese, particularly the new governments, do they see it the same way as we, and that is, trying to keep the bilateral relationship strong as a way of ensuring greater peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia, and from there having a very salutary effect on the rest of the world.

GWERTZMAN: Thank you very much, everybody.

(Applause.)

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