Presider: Dr. Leslie H. Gelb (President, Council on Foreign Relations):
Good evening. Welcome to the second or the third of our Great Debates, it depends on how you’re counting. The first formal one was about six weeks ago when Madeleine Albright, our new Secretary of State designate, and Jeane Kirkpatrick debated about the United Nations. Before that we had a trial run with Bob Ellsworth, one of Senator Dole’s closest friends and advisors, and Tom Donilon, the chief of staff of the State Department.
And tonight we’re very lucky, indeed, to be talking about, I think, the issue that will be front and center in United States foreign policy for the next year or two: the question of should NATO expand Eastward. It goes to the heart of United States relations with Europe, the way our relations will develop with the nations of Eastern Europe and Central Europe, and the future of our relationship with Russia as well. NATO has been the core security commitment of the United States. What’s going to happen with it?
Our two debaters tonight couldn’t be better positioned and more knowledgeable to address this subject. Michael Mandelbaum and Dick Holbrooke. But before I introduce them and the debate begins let me just take an opportunity to thank some people. You know that Jeff Bewkes, a new Council member, and HBO have helped to sponsor these enterprises. And all along for the last year and a half several of our members have been an advisory board to us in these Great Debates, in the Policy Impact Panels, in our radio show, America and the World, which is moderated by Kati Marton. And I want to acknowledge these members who have been just terrific in helping us through the initial phases of learning how to do this public educational process: Steve Robert, Tom Hill, Vincent Mai, and Steve Friedman. On behalf of the staff of the Council and the membership of the Council, we thank you four very, very much indeed.
Mike Mandelbaum has a Ph.D. from Harvard. Richard Holbrooke has a B.A. from Brown. That should not be held against him. Their educations, formal educations, stopped at that point. Mike Mandelbaum has gone on to teach at Harvard, to be a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, to write many books of considerable importance about U.S. foreign policy, to be wooed by various administrations to come join them and advise them directly. Instead, he moved on to Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, where he is a professor, and, at the same time, he continues to grace the Council by being our director of East-West studies. And for those of you who still like to read books, this is a marvelous one called The Dawn of Peace in Europe which Michael penned for the Twentieth Century Fund. Distinguished publisher, a terrific book and it gets into a lot of the issues that we’ll get into and more. I commend it to you.
Dick Holbrooke went on from Brown to the Foreign Service to be the Director of the Peace Corps in Morocco, to be Editor of Foreign Policy magazine, to be Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, to being a very good investment banker, to returning to government as Ambassador to Germany, and Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, and then on to one of those rare accomplishments one dreams of in life, making a contribution to peace by putting together the Dayton Accords.
I welcome our debaters. We will begin with Dick Holbrooke stating the affirmative position for five minutes. Then Mike Mandelbaum, the negative position. Then they’ll each have a rebuttal period of two minutes. Then I’ll talk to both of them for about five minutes. And we’ll open the floor to you and your questions. I thank you very much. Ambassador Holbrooke will you please begin.
The Honorable Richard C. Holbrooke, former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Vice Chairman, CS First Boston:
Thank you Les. I’m delighted to be here today and to help sell Michael’s book. I just hope, Michael, that you sell enough so it won’t be said of your book that the unsigned copies are more rare than the signed copies.
Dr. Michael Mandelbaum, Director of the Project on East-West Relations, Council on Foreign Relations; Christian A. Herter Professor of American Foreign Policy, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University:
So far it’s close.
Gelb: You have three minutes left.
Holbrooke: Do we get to talk as long as you did in introducing us? In the...
Gelb: Two minutes.
Holbrooke: The proposition before the Council today is whether the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should enlarge or not. In one sense it’s academic because it will enlarge. The question isn’t will it but how and when should it. It has been decided by the President and by all the countries of NATO. But since we’re here to debate the proposition let me put the case for enlargement.
In the summer of 1945 the Red Army swept westward and the Allied armies swept eastward and met in Central Europe. It is not insignificant to note at this point that the eastward expansion of the American army was deep into Czechoslovakia. But in accordance with agreements reached in 1944 the armies relocated to the lines which then became frozen into the division of Europe. Because of those lines 16 nations joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and nations to the East of the Iron Curtain joined the Warsaw pact. Are we going to spend the rest of our lives with that division? The accident, where the war ended in 1945. Are countries like the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, and others to remain outside that organization indefinitely? Are we to harden a division that was inadvertent, accidental, and unfortunate in 1945? If we do so, what are the consequences?
Well let’s start with the obvious. In this century, in the lifetimes or ourselves, our parents, our grandparents, Europe has fought the two worst wars in history and the Cold War. They all started and played themselves out on the plains of Central Europe. And they all required American involvement to resolve them or stop them. The U.S. must learn the lesson from this history. And that history cannot permit us to leave those countries in a netherworld between the old Western Europe, a concept which really doesn’t exist anymore as any of you who have visited Prague or Budapest know, and old Eastern Europe—a phrase which we at least in the State Department abolished and replaced with the proper term Central Europe two years ago.
Therefore, we believe—when I say “we” I mean my former colleagues and myself—that NATO should enlarge carefully and gradually to add countries. Now each new member of NATO will constitute a defense treaty between the United States and that country and require a two-thirds vote of the Senate, and Article 5 guarantees which say that in accordance with our constitution, an attack on one is an attack on all, require that we recognize that extending Article 5 guarantees is the most solemn commitment our nation can make. It can’t be done arbitrarily and there are many countries in NATO’s Partnership for Peace that either never will seek NATO membership or never will qualify. But there are some that will. And we must be seeking to bring them in.
European Union membership is not sufficient. First of all, the EU is moving much too slowly for reasons I can get into later but we’ll save for now. And secondly, it’s not a substitute for NATO because NATO means the United States and it’s the U.S. presence in security terms that’s required in Central Europe. They need this reassurance.
Now what about the Soviet Union and its successor states? And particularly Russia and Ukraine. First of all, let’s dispense with Ukraine. They have said they don’t want to join NATO, resolving a huge problem that could otherwise have arisen. As for Russia, Russia’s objections are well known and loudly voiced. But there is no indication that this is a core issue between the two countries. This is theater of a very minor sort. It will not determine the future of Russia. It will not determine the outcome of power struggles in Russia. And it will not determine the shape of the Russian military. The private conversations that everyone from Kozyrev to Primakov to Lebed have had in Brussels, Washington, and elsewhere indicate that while they go through the rituals—and certainly Chernomyrdin repeated this in Lisbon at the OSCE Summit two weeks ago—they have to object just as they objected to Pershing deployments in the ‘80s. But they will accept it and it will not pose a direct threat to Russia.
Let me be clear. NATO was formed to contain the Soviet Union. A new, enlarged NATO is not there to contain the Soviet Union or Russia. It is there to promote stability and peace in Central Europe. And it is not, should be viewed, as an anti-Russian organization, nor do the Russian really believe that it is that.
Finally, NATO’s own role. Bosnia is a case in point. It was only when NATO belatedly and reluctantly, but decisively, came into the mix that the war was brought to an end. NATO has this role as David Gompert has very courageously pointed out in an extremely important essay in Dick Ullman’s Council on Foreign Relations book called Yugoslavia and Its Wars. NATO’s, the failure to bring NATO in in 1991-92 was the reason the war exploded in Yugoslavia and bringing NATO in belatedly, as I said earlier, last year was decisive.
So, NATO will have a role. I wish to point out that all the countries trying to join NATO have put troops under NATO command. And in the case of Hungary, you have 6,000 Americans on Hungarian soil. Something none of us in this room could have imagined a few years ago. Precisely because they are important parts of the emerging new coalition of forces in Europe. The goal of which is to finally put the incipient instability of Europe to rest.
Russia, my final point, Russia has an important and indispensable role in the security architecture of Europe. Since 1917 that has not been defined. Although from 1815 to 1914 I think it really was. We must find out what that role is. There has been an engaged dialogue with Moscow on this. They have an important role, the so called “16 plus 1” dialogue which Bill Perry instituted is continuing and must continue. But they can be fitted into a stable security architecture in Europe without them joining NATO which would make NATO something else and without them over reacting to NATO’s inevitable enlargement.
Gelb: Thank you, Ambassador Holbrooke. Professor Mandelbaum?
Mandelbaum: Thank you. This issue has been wrongly framed, in my view. It’s framed as follows: NATO expansion to Central Europe is, of course, a good thing, it’s important, it brings with it benefits, but it may have some costs. The goal of American policy is therefore to minimize the costs. I think the premise is wrong. I believe there are no good reasons to expand NATO to Central Europe. I believe we will get no benefits from this. I believe that all of the reasons cited in favor of this measure are hollow, bogus, nonexistent, or promise things that are available without NATO expansion. All policy is a matter of gains and losses, upsides and downsides. In thinking about this issue, what it is important to bear in mind is that whatever the downsides may be—and we will discuss those, I trust, in the course of this hour—there is no upside.
Now, let me support that assertion by touching on the four main reasons that are given in favor of NATO expansion. First, it’s said to be a way of promoting, bolstering, safeguarding democracy in Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. But democracy is not remotely threatened in any of these countries. It’s not that democracy is taking root, these are democracies as much as we are. And nothing is going to dislodge that.
Moreover, insofar as democracy might be in jeopardy, NATO is not the vehicle to bolster it. There is no historical reason, no body of scholarly research that suggests that belonging to a transatlantic military organization can make a significant contribution to democratization. But if one accepts this—in my view—false premise that NATO is a vehicle for democracy then obviously we are extending it to the wrong countries. We should be bringing in major countries where democracy is threatened, namely Russia and Ukraine. And let us remember that the future of Europe and American interests in Europe will depend far more heavily on whether Russia is a democracy than whether Hungary is.
Well, let me take up the second argument that is made: neocontainment. This is a way of blocking the inevitable expansionist tendencies of Russia. But first, nothing is inevitable about Russia, neither peace nor expansion. Second, even if Russia does become a threat, its military is in such disarray that it is years, perhaps decades away from a point at which it could threaten its neighbors. We will have plenty of time to prepare if Russian neoimperialism appears. But if Russia is a threat it certainly does not threaten the three countries that are first in line to enter NATO, none of which has a border with Russia. The countries that would be threatened by a recrudescence of Russian imperialism, namely the Baltic states and Ukraine, are not being offered NATO membership, which would leave us in the odd position of giving NATO to those who don’t need it and denying it to those who under this assumption do.
Well, that brings me to the third reason. It is said that we must expand NATO to Central Europe because now there is a security vacuum between Germany and Russia. It will be filled by something and it ought to be filled by NATO. Again, I believe that is flat wrong. And I have written a book, as Les mentioned, The Dawn of Peace in Europe, to make the contrary assumption. I believe we now have an unprecedented and highly desirable security order in place in Europe. It consists of the three major changes since 1989. The change of map and the emergence of new countries—crucially Ukraine, whose security is vital to the future of Europe. Second, the changes of government, in particular the fall of communism which as I argue in The Dawn of Peace in Europe was a standing cause of conflict in Europe. And third, and not least important, a change in the military balance brought about by the later arms control agreements signed between 1987 and 1993 which may look similar to those who went before but are different in content, in genuinely revolutionary ways.
In sum, the Clinton administration has no need to create a new security structure in Europe. It inherited one. The best security structure that Europe has ever had. The task is to preserve and strengthen that security structure and NATO expansion will do neither.
Fourth and finally, the argument we are going to hear more and more as the weeks and months go on, “Well, Mandelbaum, you may have some pretty good points but it is too late. It’s over. We made a commitment. We made a promise and we cannot renege.” This, I may say, seems to me the last refuge of a weak argument but even this isn’t true. After all, we’ve never named the countries that will join NATO although the hints have been clear. On the other hand, we did promise at the time of German unification—in a promise conveyed directly to Gorbachev and Shevardnadze, the leaders of the Soviet Union, by the foreign ministers of the United States and Germany—that if the Soviet Union allowed a united Germany to join NATO, then NATO would not be expanded eastward. This is flatly asserted in the authoritative and very good book on the American role in Germany unification by Condoleezza Rice and Philip Zelikow and has been verified by our ambassador to Moscow at the time, Jack Matlock. So when people say we can’t back down, we’re already committed, what they mean is that we have to keep a promise we have not made by breaking a promise that we have made.
I want to say one more thing about the “it’s too late” argument, the “we can’t back down” assertion. This argument had great resonance during the Cold War because of a particular context. During the Cold War it was feared that if we did back down anywhere we would invite aggression by the global rapacious adversary with whom we were locked in conflict. That’s one reason we fought in Korea. It’s the reason we stood firm in Berlin. And whatever one may think of these policies in retrospect, they were certainly plausible at the time. There was a global conflict. The Soviet Union was aggressive. It did make sense. At least it was plausible to argue that backing down could have dire consequences. But the war is over. The context has been transformed. Whatever price we might pay for backing down, changing direction, stringing this out, finding a better way to go—and I admit there would be a price—it surely would be far lower than the price we feared we would pay from such tactics during the Cold War. And the price we would pay for changing course is, I believe, considerably lower than the price that we’re likely to pay as we move ahead—a point on which I will expand when there is time.
Gelb: Thank you very much Professor Mandelbaum. Ambassador Holbrooke it seems that Professor Mandelbaum is saying that while you may be a good guy your position is totally without merit.
Holbrooke: I didn’t hear the first part of the argument.
Mandelbaum: Dick, you can assume it.
Gelb: Three minutes to respond.
Holbrooke: Okay, look, Michael, you made four points. The fourth one is about whether it’s going to happen or not. But for purposes of this debate I will certainly stipulate that we ought to argue its merits. But for the purpose of the audience, not to mislead you, it will happen. Now let’s argue whether it should have or shouldn’t have and I’m also willing to argue about how to do it, to deal with some genuine complexities about it which are getting obscured in this treatment of this whole area between Germany and Russia as if it’s a single place. Which it isn’t. If it were, we wouldn’t have had two world wars and the Cold War during this century.
First of all, Michael, and I quote, “That Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic are just as democratic as we are.” I’m not sure when you were last there but Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic are certainly not just as democratic as we are. The good news is that they’re moving that way. But anyone who thinks that this is irreversible has not been there, not talked to their leaders, and I say with all due respect, not studied their history.
Secondly, you are arguing essentially two positions which I find extraordinary for a person who has studied Europe. One, you are willing to relegate permanently to second- tier status Central Europe. There is no other way to put it, ladies and gentlemen. The proposition that Michael has put forward will lead every country that is not now in NATO—whether it joins the EU or not—permanently in a subordinate position. And whether you agree with it or not, they feel they have a security vacuum. Now I happen to agree with a fundamental point: Russia is not going to attack Poland, Hungary, or the Czech Republic. There is no scenario under which this could happen. Or the other countries. But the people of that region have a deep insecurity and it manifests itself in other important ways. Hungary’s relations with Slovakia and Romania, unresolved since the Treaty of Trianol in 1920, were only resolved in the last year, partially and incompletely, under massive America pressure with the two state treaties recognizing the rights of the Hungarian minorities because we said that NATO membership was not going to be considered unless they resolved it, that it was a necessary but not sufficient condition for membership.
Second point that you made on the containment of Russia. I quite agree. I specified in my remarks that NATO’s enlargement is not to contain Russia. So we are not disagreeing on that point. The Russians are still arguing it.
So I just want to stress that we cannot leave Central Europe and its present second-tier category forever without risking a repetition of history. South Eastern Europe is seething with problems beyond Bosnia itself. The Greek-Albanian border is tense. Macedonia could implode at any time. The Hungary-Romanian situation can hardly leave anyone happy. Moldova, Ukraine, Romania, the Baltics are all still unstable and NATO’s gradual enlargement can deal with them. The United States position in Europe will be strengthened by this in ways that enhance our national interest, I can assure you of that.
Finally, I repeat again, NATO should change and evolve. The argument you’ve just heard is a passionate, articulate, and, in my mind, wrong argument for the status quo as defined in 1949.
Gelb: Well, Mike, Dick implicitly praised your personality but went on to use the “e” word and said your arguments were—if I can quote him—“extraordinary.”
Mandelbaum: Yes, I thought it was a little early in the game for ad hominem arguments but I guess I must have been doing pretty well. But leaving aside the “only if you knew what I knew” line, let me make a couple of points because I think they are important. First, there’s the argument which we just heard that the prospect of NATO membership is helping to resolve problems in Central Europe. There are a number of things to be said about this. First, it partakes of what we all learn in first year social science class as the post hoc fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc. It’s not true that because one thing comes after another it was caused by another. Moreover, if what we might call the prospective membership effect is so powerful for these countries, why is it NATO? Why not the prospect of membership in the EU or the Council of Europe?
Holbrooke: I answered that already.
Mandelbaum: Third, not to be indelicate, this argument if framed differently verges on an ethnic insult to these countries because it suggests that they would never do the right thing themselves without our bribing them to do so. It suggests that they are unruly and disorderly countries that have no capacity to make themselves into democracies without our baby-sitting them. Nonsense. These are—and I have been there recently—civilized European countries which have a multitude of problems, all of which are the legacy of forty years of communism, which will take at least a generation to resolve, which will be resolved, and which have nothing whatsoever to do with NATO membership.
Let me make one final point. At the risk of being politically incorrect, it is not the obligation of the taxpayers and citizens of the United States to ensure that there is democracy in Hungary. It is in the interest of the United States to give Hungary and other countries the chance to determine their own political system for themselves, which we have done and which they are doing. And there is no doubt about the direction in which they are moving, indeed, have moved. We just elected a president, reelected a president, whose campaign slogan was opportunity and responsibility. The government can give citizens opportunity and its their responsibility to take advantage of it. Well, we’ve given these countries opportunity by fighting and winning the Cold War. It’s their responsibility to capitalize upon it and I have no doubt that they will.
Gelb: Okay, given the format that Karen Sughrue has worked out for us, I get to talk to our two debaters for a few minutes myself, but I would urge you to talk to each other. You don’t need me to pass you on. You can address each other directly. But Michael, let me begin by asking you a question. If this policy is so wrong headed on almost every count why are they doing it? What do you think their motive is?
Mandelbaum: It’s a good question, Les, and I don’t know what the real motive is. The easy answer is that not enough people have read my book but once the whole world does so. I don’t know because I don’t know how and why the decision was taken. But it is a mistake. It is not, as I say, going to produce anything that we need. It does threaten real adverse consequences. And let me take the opportunity, if I may, to say something about these adverse consequences. Well, let me say something else. Let me say something else because I think there is a related question which you raise which is a good one and it is my responsibility to answer. And that is if this is nothing, why are the Central Europeans so interested in belonging to NATO and they certainly are. Well, they’ve had a painful historical experience caught between two giants, Germany and Russia. And they want to make sure that they are on the right side if and when Europe is divided again. And for that one could hardly blame them. But it is we who have propagated the idea that another division of Europe is inevitable and indeed NATO expansion would draw another line in Europe where none now exists. It is we who have propagated the idea with the unintentional collaboration of the Europeans in Maastricht, their project for European unity, it propagated the idea of a membership Europe for which people have to qualify. Or better yet, a fortress Europe. Either you’re inside the fortress and safe or outside and vulnerable. Well, that was true in the Cold War. But it’s not true now. We do have the possibility for one Europe and we shouldn’t subvert it.
Gelb: Thank you. Now Michael has come back to a point that threads throughout your argument that you really do have to address, Dick. Right now Europe is not divided in the sense of any blocks or alliances. Why wouldn’t the position that you're advocating really lead to a division of Europe, even if you believe that down the line it will all work out well. Why isn’t the first step division?
Holbrooke: I’m not sure I follow the question. Europe is divided. There are members of the EU and there are nonmembers of the EU. There are members of the CIS. There are members of NATO, non-NATO members. These are all legacies of the Cold War and where everyone stood in 1945. Everyone wants a united Europe although the Europeans are having one of their traditional Euro-battle arguments about how to expand the EU.
Michael has said several things in his last comments which are so profoundly wrong, in my view, that they require some additional comments. The EU, as I said in my opening remarks, is neither a substitute for NATO—because it doesn’t involve the U.S.—nor is it moving fast enough from anyone’s point of view—except perhaps the agricultural interests in France. Poland is not going to get into the EU in the foreseeable future. I would guess that 2001 is the earliest date for it and that would be lucky because Chirac is not going to be able to figure out the cap. So let’s be realistic.
As for the Council of Europe, a useless organization which just had the bad taste to bring in Croatia. It has no meaning at all. It’s useless. The only Europe wide organization, as we all know, is the OSCE which the U.S. has been trying to strengthen, which has an important role here.
Second point. Michael has really not outlined a single so-called adverse consequence so far although he has attempted to do so in his book which please buy. I want you all to buy it. But the adverse consequences are simply not there. It’s not going to unsettle Russia. The only problem of NATO enlargement and it is a real problem is the gray area, the countries that won’t get in right away but, as Michael pointed out, wish to get in. That is a dilemma and there are ways to deal with it. Ronald Asmus and Steve Larrabee at Rand have written some very important papers on that. And this issue is being addressed as a high priority.
Michael also stated that all the problems of Central Europe are the legacy of forty years of communism. All the problems, I quote. That’s profoundly wrong. If anything, it’s what happened at Versailles in 1919-1920 that created the Yugoslav mess by trying to merge into a single country parts of Austro-Hungary and Ottoman Empire. Inevitably it exploded. It happened to do it on our watch. The problems of the region are very deep. They’re ethnic, historical, and political. And the U.S. does have a role in promoting democracy in this area, and free press, and the other basic human rights and freedoms. So I think very strongly that NATO’s enlargement is a key to doing this.
Mandelbaum: Les, let me comment. First, Dick, I guess I didn’t make my point clear to you. I do not believe and I do not think we should endorse this so-called membership Europe, the idea that unless you’re a full member of the EU, unless you’re a member of the European currency, you’re not a real European. By these standards Finland isn’t a European, Sweden isn’t a Europe, and Switzerland....
Holbrooke: Michael, keep the European currency out of it.
Mandelbaum: Fine, let’s keep the European currency out. But Dick...
Holbrooke: And the currency has nothing to do with it. And, as far as European Union membership goes, again, an enlarged EU is something which you yourself support, we all support it. Full European membership can take many forms but you are creating false criteria here. We’re talking about NATO.
Mandelbaum: Dick, let me make the point one more time and then I do want to go on to an important point, the down sides. I believe it is wrong to propagate the idea that you have to be a full member of any particular European organization in order to be a real European, in order to be secure, in order to be democratic, or even to be prosperous. Among the other consequences of taking such a position is that Russia can never be a part of Europe. And that is profoundly against our interests.
But let me talk about the downsides because it is an important issue. First, we would draw a new line of division in Europe where none exists and we would relegate the Balts and the Ukrainians to the wrong side. Second, there would indeed be adverse effects with Russia. At the very least we would see the end of the kind of cooperation that we had at the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the post Cold War era. In my opinion the great diplomatic achievement of the Clinton administration was the moment when the president called Boris Yeltsin and said please remove your troops from the Baltic states and he did. That request was honored in the context of the certain kind of relationship that will be, has already become impossible in the wake of the plan for NATO enlargement.
Third, as far as Russia is concerned, whatever individuals may now say—and of course, the Russians cannot stop this—the risk is that over the long term this will turn the Russian political class against the post Cold War settlement which is extraordinarily favorable to us. Indeed, that we designed with the exception of those parts, notably in independent Ukraine, that is so extraordinarily favorable to us that we never even thought to ask for.
Finally, there is absolutely no doubt that this will hinder, and is already hindering, the important task of reducing Russian nuclear arsenals. Let me remind you all that the first task of American foreign policy is to reduce threats to the United States. The only thing that threatens the United State is the Russian nuclear arsenal. That ought to be the focus of our concern. We are going to forfeit the chance to reduce the threat to the United States even further. And in return, let me come back to this point, we will get nothing.
Holbrooke: Les, may I just point out that Ukraine is a non-issue here, to use Michael’s earlier word, a bogus issue, because they have announced that they don’t want to join NATO. And the statement that NATO enlargement will end cooperation with Russia is really astonishing because the Russians themselves have said flatly, publicly, and repeatedly that it will not end cooperation. They object to it but they are going to go on. There is no evidence whatsoever that it will end cooperation with Russia.
Gelb: Thank you. I am loathe to intervene at this point to move on to the next stage of our format because they seem as they talk more and more to disagree more and more. But let’s open up the floor to you all. I’ll recognize you. The usually procedure. Identify yourself. Short, sharp, and to the point question. Or if Marshall Shulman wants to attack one or both of the speakers, Marshall, you may do that. Marshall, where are you? Marshall, do you want to start us?
Marshall Shulman: Sure.
Gelb: Please go ahead.
Shulman: You’ve already given the identification. Thank you. A couple questions, Dick. One, I’m not clear about the win in your argument. That is you’ve argued that this is going ahead but you haven’t made clear why it needs to go ahead in 1998. And it isn’t clear to me why you feel it is necessary to cut off the time for the developments in European security architecture that might put this into a different framework and create a different reaction. May I tag on a second question?
Shulman: It’s relevant.
Gelb: Let him answer that one first.
Holbrooke: That’s a very good question, Marshall. First of all, the President’s speech in Detroit set 1999. It was Dole who said this is a terrible mistake, it ought to be 1998. No big deal. Nineteen ninety-nine will be the tenth year after the fall of the Berlin Wall. And as everyone in this room understands, whether they support the proposition or not, the Central Europeans want to join NATO and ten years is enough time to get this started. But I want to be clear on this. Since 1949, NATO has added four countries: the Germans in 1952, ‘53, excuse me; Greeks and Turks in 1950; Spain in 1982. Because of the process it can take a while. In Spain’s case it took ten years. Les worked on it part of the time he was part of political-military affairs.
This is a process. I don’t think there is any guarantee that there will be a new member by 1999. But there is a guarantee that the process will begin with the NATO summit for designated countries without excluding others. So I accept your point. It is a very important point, I want to stress it for all of you, that it is a process. And if during the process a country reverts to the kind of government that is unacceptable—like Slovakia with Meciar, who is a very dangerous man and who as head of a country as a NATO member is not in anyone’s interest—if that were to happen to some other country, if that country were to withdraw from the process as I think Malta will certainly do. Malta being interested in this too. There are noncommunist interested countries. That will also be taken into account.
Gelb: Thank you, Dick. Hans is threatening me here so I’m going to... Identify yourself.
Hans Binnendijk: Hans Binnendijk, National Defense University. Dick?
Holbrooke: Is this about Israel’s membership?
Binnendijk: No, no, no. Please, don’t make me so naive. After all, I appointed you Secretary of State. I’m sorry you didn’t make it, Dick.
Gelb: Is that your question?
Binnendijk: Two minutes.
Gelb: Short question.
Binnendijk: I know. It’s no longer an academic question. You’re right it’s already in. Two short questions. One, what is it going to cost? And second, how are you going about it? Remember the fight to have NATO in more favorable conditions in 1949.
Holbrooke: You’re talking about the process?
Binnendijk: The process now with a Republican Congress, with 50 billion dollars, people will begin to ask the question why do we need this.
Holbrooke: As Senator Nunn, whose skepticism of this issue has echoed Michael Mandelbaum’s, and who is the first blurb on Michael’s book, that’s just a coincidence, Senator Nunn has asked the cost question. It has been costed out. Each of the countries that joins. This is not a country club. You do not just go to Brussels and pick up the key to the NATO locker room. There are obligations. It’s an integrated military structure. The Kissinger proposal was give them the political guarantee but don’t make them part of the military alliance. Ridiculous idea from our point of view because it would have caused enormous constitutional problems. They must go through the process. It will cost each member a certain amount of money. And by the way we do not need, and I do not believe we should ever forward deploy nuclear weapons. It’s totally unnecessary, it’s expensive, potentially destabilizing, and there is no value to it in the modern world. And, then the U.S. will have to cost it out. The Pentagon has costed it out for each country but I’ve seen the preliminary figures and I don’t believe them. I think they are just very vague.
Second point about the process. You’re talking about the domestic process. Well, I assume that if this room voted you wouldn’t get a two thirds majority for NATO enlargement today. I know the sentiments of groups like this. The elite foreign policy groups, curiously enough, which are so forward leaning in most issues are very hostile to this issue. In the Congress because it was the only foreign policy point in Gingrich’s Contract With America, because over 80 senators signed on to Senator Hank Brown’s sense of the Senate, I’ve always assumed that you’d get it through for Poland very easily for obvious reasons. I think Hungary and the Czech Republic would come along. After that, and this is a real dilemma, there are countries which may have an equal claim from one point of view and are difficult for another. And that’s the issue we’re not going to have time to debate tonight, about the gray area. My own personal view, and here I stress that despite your kind nomination, here I speak as a private citizen, my own view is that we’re going to have to devise something that is Partnership for Peace plus or NATO minus for areas like the Baltics or Romania. But that’s over the horizon.
Gelb: Dick, can I go on? Mike, do you want to respond?
Mandelbaum: Yes, I’d like to continue with describing the down side. Two points. Two more points here. First, we’re told that there’s going to be trouble. Well we can’t evaluate that without seeing it but I have three reservations without having seen it. First, the fact of such a special arrangement gives Russia special status in European security that it now lacks and that it’s never asked for. Russia now has the same obligations that all other countries in Europe have, namely to respect the sovereign integrity of all other Europeans and abide by its commitments in the arms control treaties. We don’t need any thing more from Russia and we shouldn’t give the Russians more.
Second, I see no reason to put limits on military cooperation to the East or deployments. Why draw yet another line in Europe? We can all imagine circumstances in which we would wish to put weapons where we have no intention of doing so. Why put it in writing. Third, whatever this charter is to evolve, I see no way to satisfy both the Balts who are going to come knocking at the door, demanding to be let in to NATO on the grounds that there claims is as good as the claim of the Central Europeans. And incidentally I think that’s wrong. I think their claim is much better. But I don’t see how you reconcile that claim which we will certainly hear with the Russian’s allergies to bringing countries bordering them into a western military alliance.
Well, I want to talk about the American debate as well because I think that really needs some attention from this side of the aisle. But, Les, if you give me permission I’ll do it otherwise...
Gelb: I would like you to come back to that in your concluding remarks if you would. Unless there would be additional questions.
Mandelbaum: All right.
Holbrooke: But Les, I must insist that when Mike says that Russia has never asked for special status in Europe it would be unfortunate to mislead the audience. Russia has repeatedly, unambiguously said so. The “sixteen plus one” dialogue is their idea. It is supported by all the NATO members. And it is vital that Russia be made part of a stable security architecture for all of Europe. And the “sixteen plus one” is the way to do it. They do want a special status. And we all accept that they should have it along with an expanding NATO. This is the core theme of the administration’s foreign policy and it should not be misstated. Enlarging NATO and taking into account Russia’s legitimate security role in Europe.
Mandelbaum: Les, since time is short and this is a crucial point I want to get to. I believe—and this comes of course to the subject or the subject in one of its original incarnations of this discussion—I believe that this measure is likely to have deleterious consequences on what I argue in The Dawn of Peace in Europe is absolutely crucial and that is the American commitment to Europe. And that is so for a number of reasons. First and foremost, there now is a broad consensus in favor of the American commitment. This will fracture it. This will weaken it. And therefore, it will weaken European security and American foreign policy and will do so, let me remind you, for nothing.
Second, Senator Richard Lugar, whom I regard as the leading voice on foreign affairs now in the Senate, favors NATO expansion, gave a speech at my home institution, the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, a couple of weeks ago in which he said that when Congress looks at this issue it will care above all about burden sharing. The implication was that while Congress is all in favor, or may be all in favor, or may be persuaded tepidly to favor NATO expansion, it’s not going to pay a dime. Well, who will pay? Certainly not the western Europeans which are cutting their budgets in order to try and comply with the Maastricht criteria. Not the Central Europeans which are also going to have to cut their budgets because of over generous welfare benefits. And which anyway have already reduced defense expenditures. The danger is that we’ll become ensnared in the Senate in a useless, pointless, needless, counterproductive debate that will subvert what remains an essential American commitment and will do all this for nothing.
Holbrooke: The Senate is going to pass the new NATO members because the process—this goes back to Marshall Shulman’s question—will take them fully into account. Lugar, in fact, will lead the fight. Burden sharing is vital. Any country that wants to join will have to burden share at a level which is acceptable to the armed services committee. And, just to state again—the statement was just made that the U.S. consensus would be shattered—every public opinion poll taken shows that the vast majority of the American public would support the entry of at a minimum Poland and Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Mandelbaum: Excuse me. Let me intervene. There was a thorough and very good poll done by the University of Maryland which shows strong support for expanding NATO, far less support for coming to the aid of Poland’s attack, no support for paying more, and support for NATO expansion on the grounds that it is an inclusive gesture and, therefore, almost equal support for including Russia.
Gelb: Jim Hoge?
Jim Hoge: Jim Hoge, Foreign Affairs magazine. Michael, you mentioned that it’s not too late to back off the decision to expand NATO and that backing off would not have the same serious reverberations as in the time of the Cold War. How does an American president, who made the subject of NATO expansion one of his last campaign speeches, now back down and not have serious reverberations not only in Europe but in other parts of the world about the reliability of American foreign policy and the credibility of American leadership?
Mandelbaum: Good question. First of all, I believe that the western Europeans would be extremely relieved. They’ve never been happy about this and I believe that they’ve gone along with it because their great fear is the United States will leave Europe. And, therefore they feel that they have to coddle the Americans and go along with whatever they want within reason. But I do not believe that this would do anything but strengthen the western European view. As for the Central Europeans, they would certainly be disappointed. But I believe that they would not be injured because they would lose nothing. They would get on with the work of making themselves prosperous, western, economic actors, more fully integrated into whatever western organizations they choose to belong to. It would be forgotten. It would, of course, be embarrassing to the administration. After all, the president of the United States is elected to serve the national interest. And I hope that if he and his colleagues and those who are important in this debate are persuaded that the national interest in this issue is as I say it is, they will have the grace and courage to reverse its course and do the right thing.
Gelb: Thank you. Bill Luers?
William Luers: I think that at least two of the reasons why the United States pressed for the expansion of NATO, Michael, is first that we thought that we could thereby energize NATO and make ourselves relevant. You’ve just answered the question does it really do that. And because of the attitude of the western Europeans I think it won’t do that. It won’t make us more relevant. It could, indeed, make it more troublesome. The second reasons we did it was because we heard from the Central Europeans like Vaclav Havel that we feel insecure. NATO is going to make us feel more secure. But then he goes on to say that our insecurity stems basically from the problems of crime, and drugs, and immigration, and all those problems of modern society. And he himself has proposed that NATO take this on. Therefore, we’re responding to a false problem. And I think that what he really wants is some type of police force and not NATO. Therefore, NATO is taking on a job that it doesn’t have to do in Central Europe.
Gelb: That’s the question?
Luers: Do you agree with that?
Mandelbaum: I do agree with it. Let me make two comments. First, I do have a chapter on out of area missions, on NATO as a police force. And with all respect to my colleague tonight and with no prejudice against his fine work in Bosnia, I think Bosnia is a dead end. We’re simply not going to do that again. NATO is not—for many points of view, unfortunately—going to be converted into a European police force and a fire fighting squad. And for the reasons I refer you to The Dawn of Peace in Europe.
Second, I can’t remember what was your last point, Bill? Ah, yes. I’m sorry. The second point I want to make is this. It is said, perhaps sincerely, but wrongly, that this has nothing to do with Russia, that there’s no anti Russian motive behind that. That’s not true. One of the reasons the Central Europeans want to join NATO is that they fear the revival of Russian imperialism. And why shouldn’t they? The Poles especially have been victimized by it for two centuries. Hundreds of thousands of Poles were killed by Russian communists. They’d have to be crazy not to worry about the Russians. We should worry about the Russians. But it doesn’t follow from that that expanding NATO is the best way—or even a good way—to deal with those concerns.
Gelb: Dick, would you respond quickly please?
Holbrooke: Michael has talked about the negative consequences of expanding NATO. I have not talked about the negative consequences of not expanding NATO. Michael’s basic argument is that it’s wrong and therefore it should be reversed. I argue that it’s right. But even if it were to have a question about it, the reversal at this point would be catastrophic in terms of America’s presence and interest in Central Europe. Do not be misled. The consequences in Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, and elsewhere would be cataclysmic. What’s at stake here is the very essence of America’s role in Europe. Michael has just referred for the first time to Bosnia on which he has devoted some time in his book and said that it will never happen again. In this very room two months ago the British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind proposed exactly the opposite, that the solution to Cyprus would involve a Bosnia-type force as part of the settlement. The U.S. government has not adopted that position officially but everybody who has studied the Cyprus question—including our negotiator, Dick Beattie, who is in London today on talks of the matter—is aware of this possibility. It is not at all true that NATO will not do it again. On the contrary. After one year in Bosnia with a total casualties to all NATO forces of zero people killed, zero wounded, the Bosnian experience from a military point of view has changed the dynamic in Brussels to this kind of operation. Its flaws are on the political side. As a military peacekeeping operation it is changing history and is putting the UN and NATO into a different historic pattern which is very beneficial to NATO.
We have two absolute imperatives at the Council on Foreign Relations. One is contributing to the public debate ideas, substance above everything else. And the second imperative is finishing on time. In order to finish on time we have to move now to the closing statements. I’m sorry to all of you raised hands who have questions. And we’ll do reverse order. Mike?
Mandelbaum: He should go first so I have the last word since he had the first word.
Gelb: Mike will go first. That’s an interesting argument.
Holbrooke: It doesn’t matter to me.
Mandelbaum: Did you hear that? It’s an interesting argument, Mandelbaum, but it’s too late.
Gelb: Three minutes. Three minutes and three minutes for Dick.
Mandelbaum: Two points. One by way of rebuttal and one by way of conclusion. Cyprus is an interesting place. Bosnia is a tragic place. Central Europe is an attractive place. From the point of view of the United States of America what matters is Russia because the interest of the United States of America in Europe is preventing great wars. Great wars can only be fought by great powers. And there are two potential great powers in Europe. One is Germany about which we have no need to worry. The other is Russia about which we have a great deal of reason to worry. So the question that confronts when we talk about European security is what is the best way to ensure that Russia does not revive the kind of foreign policy that we were at great pains to oppose for four decades. That is the central question of European security. And that is the central interest of the United States. For that central interest, not to mention for all the other peripheral interests that get dragged into this debate, NATO expansion, I repeat, does nothing.
So, if you in this audience were offered the prospectus for an investment that said you might break even on this investment, you’ll probably lose something, and you might lose a great deal, but you’ll never make any money, you’ll never show a profit, you wouldn’t put your money down. That’s the proposition we’re being offered for NATO expansion. And for this one we should keep our money in our pockets.
Holbrooke: I think that my worthy colleague has really given my rebuttal. He has dismissed Cyprus and Central Europe, two of the most explosive places on earth, and said war only starts between great powers when every war since the end of World War II has, in fact, started in the periphery—Korea, Viet Nam, Cyprus, Bosnia. That is where wars start, where great powers clash in an ambiguous area. The position I’ve taken attempts to reduce the size of that ambiguous area, precisely where the worst wars in history have broken out in our lifetimes. There won’t be any war between the United States and Russia. And Germany is not going to be a military power except within an alliance. There are two European powers. Michael is right on that. One is Russia, he’s right on that. The other is the United States. Thank you.
Gelb: I think what we’ve witnessed here tonight is the beginning of the new foreign policy consensus that President Clinton has promised for his second administration. I want you to join me in thanking Dick and Michael. Terrific.