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Opening Remarks by Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski at the Council on Foreign Relations "Nato At 60" Symposium

Speaker: Radoslaw Sikorski, Foreign Minister, Poland
Presider: Kay King, Vice President, Washington Program, Council on Foreign Relations
Author: Charles A. Kupchan, Senior Fellow for Europe Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
February 25, 2009
Council on Foreign Relations

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This session was part of the CFR Symposium on NATO at 60, which was made possible through the generous support of the European Commission, CFR's Program on International Institutions and Global Governance, and the Robina Foundation.

 

KAY KING:  My name is Kay King. And I run the Washington program of the council. Welcome this afternoon.  We're delighted to see so many people here for today's symposium.  I am especially happy to see so many out-of-town guests, and especially members of our national program who have decided to join us today.  A special welcome to all of you.

This is the council's first symposium in our new building.  And we are especially happy to be welcoming you to our new digs.  We hope that you enjoy this spacious new building that we have.  Over the next day, you will be examining NATO at 60.  And as someone who quite frankly is a little closer to 60 than I am to 30, I want to think that NATO is a relatively young organization.

But nearly 20 years after the end of the Cold War, NATO is not without its challenges.  Some of the pressing issues that you all know: Georgia, Ukraine, missile defense, Afghanistan, burden-sharing -- these are just a few of the issues that you'll be examining in this symposium.  But of course there is the underlying issue of NATO's mission, and the question of how is that changing and how should the member countries respond.

And so to address these questions, my colleague, Charlie Kupchan has organized in advance of the April summit a really wonderful program that he is putting on for you over the next day.  And so I am going to turn the podium over to him so he can provide you greater detail of what to expect, and then also to introduce our special guest speaker.

Before I turn things over to Charlie, though, I just want to tell you, for those of you who don't know a little bit about him.  He is the council's fellow on Europe studies.  He is also a professor of international affairs at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service.  And he has also done his time in government as a director for Europe at the National Security Council in the Clinton administration.

So with that, I'm going to do one other quick plug for the council, which is to say that I hope you take a look at the table on your way in.  It has a lot of the different studies that the council has done in this realm, including one that we've just published on Ukraine.  And I would hope that you would all take a look and take copies of the materials that are out there.

So with that, thank you for joining us, and let me turn things over to Charlie.

CHARLES KUPCHAN:  Thank you very much, Kay, and let me also extend my welcome to all of you here at our first symposium in the council's new building.

About five or six months ago when we were thinking about symposia for 2009, we looked at the schedule, we looked at the fact that we would have a new president, be it a Republican or Democrat, early in 2009 with only a few months to prepare for the NATO summit in April, and thought that sometime in late February/early March would be a good time to bring together analysts, politicians, observers to debate the core issues that will be on the summit agenda in April.  And this is the result of a decision to try to shed some light and to stimulate public debate on issues ranging from enlargement to the war in Georgia, to NATO's relations with Russia.

The conference is organized along the following lines: The evening sessions today are going to be focused on trying to set the stage, give you a broad overview of the challenges that the alliance faces moving forward.  Our opening speaker Radek Sikorski, the foreign minister of Poland, will get us going.  We will then have an opening panel that will run from 5:30 to 7:30 that we'll try to sort of step back from the policy agenda and put that agenda in a broader conceptual framework.  At 7:30, we will all pile out those doors to grab drinks and dinner, to be back in this room by 8:00 where we will dine and have Lord Robertson, the former secretary general of NATO who will lead the discussion this evening.

We reconvene tomorrow morning at 10:00 for a session on NATO and Russia.  We then go straight into a luncheon where the main speaker will be General Eikenberry from the Military Committee at NATO with responses by our very own general Bill Nash.  That will focus principally on the mission in Afghanistan.  We'll then segue immediately into a panel on Afghanistan in the afternoon, and close the conference tomorrow 4:00 to 6:00 with a panel on NATO and the relationship to the European Union.

This meeting is organized by the European Studies program here at the Council on Foreign Relationship in cooperation with the CFR's program on international institutions and global governance.  I want to thank Stewart Patrick for collaborating with me on the program, and also thank the European Commission as well as the Robina Foundation for generous financial support for this meeting.

Unlike most Council meetings, the proceedings tonight and most of the proceedings tomorrow will be on the record.  They will be recorded as well and will likely appear on the Council's website.  The one exception will be the luncheon tomorrow with General Eikenberry and General Nash, which will be conducted under normal Council rules of "not for attribution."

If you haven't already done so, please turn off all of your electric gadgets to they do not disturb us as we enter into the core debate and speeches of the evening.

It is now my pleasure to introduce our opening speaker, the foreign minister of the Republic of Poland.  Radek Sikorski was born in Poland.  He was living there until 1981, active in political resistance to the regime, and then left Poland in 1981 and lived in Great Britain from '81 to '89 as a political refugee during which time he served as a journalist covering wars in Afghanistan and Angola.

He then moved back to Poland in the early 1990s.  He served as deputy minister of defense starting in 1992 -- '98 to 2001 he was undersecretary of state at the ministry of foreign affairs.  He then left Poland for a second time.  He came to the United States not as a political refugee as far as I know -- (scattered laughter) -- but to serve as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute where he was the director of the New Atlantic Initiative.  Many have had the good fortune to become a colleague and a friend of Radek, so it is a special pleasure to welcome you back to Washington.

Radek then returned to Poland.  He has been elected to both the senate and the parliament.  From 2005 to 2007, he was the minister of national defense.  He is now serving as the minister of foreign affairs.  Please join me in welcoming Radek to the Council on Foreign Relations.  (Applause.)

RADOSLAW SIKORSKI:  Thanks, Charles, for that introduction -- (inaudible) -- anybody who is ready to -- (inaudible) -- himself on my behalf.

Ladies and gentlemen, NATO at 60.  Few international organizations can take equal pride in having achieved so much for world peace, but I prefer to leave that to historians.  To me, NATO's anniversary is an occasion to reflect on its future.  By April, our club will have 28 members.  Despite its ripe-old age, there is no shortage of candidates to join the organization.  Surely this proves its vitality, importance, and attractiveness.

Why then, as we come up to the summit, do we have so much moaning about the state of the alliance?  We are a club of the most advance nation's in the world.  As the transatlantic community, we have at our disposal the best-trained soldiers, the largest resources, the most powerful weaponry, the most modern technology, backed up by the largest economies on earth.  We also have a reasonably efficient organizational structure and the substantial experience of corporations in joint resolution of problems.

Why then do we complain so often about the condition of the Euro-Atlantic security mechanism?  Perhaps we no longer are capable intellectually of keeping up with the changes in our security environment.  Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, which used to untie the allies, our strategic thinking has become muddled, and our sense of solidarity has declined.  But if I were to mock the ideology and terminology, present-day NATO has a problem not with its base but with its superstructure.

Politics, including the lack of public support for security requirements and commitments, rather than materiel considerations, is the cause of difficulties in generating, for example sufficient troops and hardware for our priority operation in Afghanistan.  But it is also why we are unhappy with the state of -- (inaudible) -- of the NATO response force.  It's a question of will.

But if it is indeed us politicians who are spoiling the alliance, then we are the only ones who can fix it.  But first and foremost, we need to concern ourselves with the transatlantic security debate.  Everyone on both sides of the Atlantic should realize that the time of unflinching transatlantic unity, if it ever existed, is gone.  Contradictory interests and different perceptions of threats and ways of addressing them are evidenced not only between America and Europe, but also within Europe.  That is something natural, and attempts to invoke political correctness won't change reality.

What could help is better quality of the dialogue inside our Euro-Atlantic community.  We also need the conviction that community interest, which emerge from the mediation of national interests, once they are mediated, should take precedence over the particular interests of nation states.  Then we require consistency in implementing our agreed objectives.

Afghanistan is a good example.  The decision to conduct the operation was taken jointly.  So why do we have problems with its successful conclusion?  In fact, we even have trouble agreeing what would constitute the fulfillment of the major mission in that country.

I'd like to state my credentials, because as Charles mentioned, I used to travel to Afghanistan back in the '80s but I have been traveling ever since.  And I think that Afghanistan is a classic counterinsurgency, which is to say a conflict, a war that cannot be won by purely military means.  In a counterinsurgency, you need to isolate the problem from basis of support.  This is what the Russians didn't have because we were able to supply the mujaheddin through Pakistan, and this is what we, unfortunately, cannot do ourselves.

And this is why I think it was the right thing for the new administration to name a special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan because we now have an equally serious problem with both countries.  There are actually no al Qaeda in Afghanistan; al Qaeda is in Pakistan.  And we now have Taliban in Pakistan who are every bit as dangerous and nasty as the people in Afghanistan.

Just two weeks ago we lost an engineer, someone who was prospecting for gas in Pakistan -- a completely innocent person -- whom the Pakistan Taliban captured and completely blind to any attempts of negotiation -- murdered in an al Qaeda-style beheading.

We now have Pakistani Taliban controlling area, like the Swat Valley, where I used to go on R&R after missions inside Afghanistan.  They are now about a hundred kilometers from Pakistan's capital.

And the question is, will the Pakistani madrassas be the only places where poorer Pakistanis can get education, or will we generate enough resources for the secular Pakistani educational system to create some competition for them.  And will we inside Afghanistan create enough security for NGOs to return and for developmental activity to begin.

The -- (inaudible) -- center of gravity of that conflict is in the four or five southern and eastern provinces of Afghanistan, and unless we win there, we will not have won anywhere in Afghanistan.

I'm very glad that Poland has increased its commitment in Afghanistan.  We are responsible, of course together with the Afghan government.  But we are militarily responsible for the Ghazni province, which sits astride the Kabul/Kandahar road.  And I believe this year is the crucial year for that conflict.

We are not winning in Afghanistan.  Let us think back to 2001 when, thanks to the Northern Alliance and the clever use of Air Force and some intelligence assets, we liberated Kabul from the Taliban.  If we had thought in 2001 that in eight-year time we would have 70 percent of the territory of Afghanistan accessible to the Taliban, we would have been appalled.  And last year according to the supreme allied commander of NATO, there was a 40-percent increase in arms incidents in Afghanistan.  In other words, the trend does not favor us, and we need to change the trend.  And with the year of the Afghan election, which is to say the one thing that is a genuine achievement in Afghanistan, is a test year for all of us

Ladies and gentlemen, Afghanistan is not the only indicator of our defense of credibility.  Guaranteeing the security and defense of the member states remains our original and overriding goal.  In the 21st century, this has to be as multidimensional as varied are the current challenges and threats.  Today the point is not only to ensure the territorial integrity and sovereignty of members, but also their protection from WMD proliferation to national terrorism, cyber attacks, and energy threats.

We should get use to the idea that whenever a potential threat appears to a member state, the alliance should have a significant role to play.  It does not have to be the leading role in that instance; it can be a complementary or supporting role.

There are fears in which NATO's effective collaboration with other organizations -- (inaudible) -- states would constitute an adequate response to a threat or a challenge.  At the same time, we must not pretend that certain types of challenges or threats do not affect our community, only to mention energy issues.

Our organization must be capable of arising at a prudent compromise between getting involved in everything everywhere and at all times, and sharing responsibilities in selected areas with other organizations.

It is essential to work out effective mechanisms and practices of cooperation between NATO and the EU.  Surely we don't need any more technical, formal, and procedural obstacles here.  It is time to abandon the particular interests that have been paralyzing organizations between the two most powerful organizations of the Euro-Atlantic area -- (inaudible) --particularly in Afghanistan.

It is tragic that in Afghanistan where, as I mentioned, the counterinsurgency -- you need the military components to provide the base physical security and you need the developmental component to win the hearts and mind.  Only then do you have any chance of success.  And here we are the most powerful alliance on earth and the biggest economy on earth, a developmental superpower, which the EU is.  And because of some technical and (exotic ?) reasons, the two organizations that share most of its membership are not cooperating in Afghanistan and therefore not maximizing our chances of success.

Russia is another key point of reference for many -- (inaudible) -- by the alliance.  After several years of practicing political correctness in NATO's relations with Russia, we find ourselves practically at the point of departure.  The reason -- it's fear of admitting that the substance of NATO's cooperation with Russia is on -- (inaudible).  The conflict in the Caucasus demonstrated that we are dealing with a partner who is pursuing its own agenda without concern for our opinion.

At the same time, it has turned out that Russia is not yet prepared to discard the archaic stenotypes of NATO.  NATO is a threat, and she still thinks about its (immediate ?) neighborhood in terms of a struggle for zones of influence.  Changing the mental stereotypes of the Russian military and political leadership will require more time than we expected.  Before that happens, we should recognize that Russia and the Euro-Atlantic community may have contradictory interests in certain areas and at certain times.

At the same time, Russia is of course a very important partner with a huge and only partly utilized potential to complete with stability and security for us to turn our backs on Russia.  Thus it is our duty to make the fullest use of the opportunities for cooperation with Russia in areas where our interests converge, including in the fight against terrorism and fundamentalism, stopping WMD proliferation, or creating conditions for stable development of our countries.  Our cooperation with Russia should be practical and depoliticized.  The one boundary that we should not cross as we seek compromise and understanding is the boundary of our common values and the security interests of our society and our members.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope that the forthcoming summit of NATO takes the decision to begin work on a new strategic --(inaudible)--.  That work will determine what kind of an alliance we need to be in the second decade of the 21st century.  In my opinion, the short answer would be as follows:  We need an organization that is politically and militarily effective, and can guarantee the security of its members and their defense for known challenges and threats, an organization that can contribute to resolving crises around the globe.

We need to enhance the political and military credibility of the alliance.  The political part should be founded on allied solidarity, community of values, and a more harmonious transatlantic cooperation.  It is essential to upgrade the efficiency of decision-making and to show consistency in implementing its joint decision.  NATO's military potential -- understand its capacity to rapidly generate forces for collective defense and out-of-area operations.  We must not treat the alliance's military clout as a big stick that we swing around blindly.  It should be  a scalpel that should remove any kinds of -- (inaudible) -- threatening the security of our community.

To be effective, we need to conduct an honest assessment of the Euro-Atlantic security environment.  Such a common assessment for the entire Euro-Atlantic area should simultaneously take into account geostrategic specifics of the individual member states.  In conducting this evaluation, we would be assisted by an enhanced mechanism of intelligence sharing.  Defense planning should be regularly updated on that basis.  In order to maintain NATO's forces ready for action, we should streamline command structures and hold field and staff exercises more often.

The -- (inaudible) -- development of NATO along two mutually compatible parts capable of independent action with regard to the original function of collective defense and the prominent role in the global security system, jointly with other partners, including the UN, the EU, or even the OSCE.  Joint missions and operations should be implemented in the framework of global partnerships.  That part of development should be reinforced with an open-doors policy designed to boost the organization's prestige.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude with the following remark.  The 60th anniversary of NATO should not be reduced to an exchange of niceties about an organization on the verge of reaching retirement age; rather, it should stimulate a discussion of its future, because NATO, I firmly believe, can still bring much good for a very long time to the whole of the Euro-Atlantic community and its neighborhood.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

KUPCHAN:  Thank you very much, Radek.  Let me get the conversation going by asking you to say a little bit more about Russia.  You, I think the before the Georgia war, had conversations with your counterpart from Moscow, and it seemed that Polish-Russian relations might be heading in a better direction.  Since the Georgia war, things have taken a somewhat more difficult turn.

But I'm wondering if you could give us a little bit more detail about how to pursue pragmatic cooperation on Afghanistan, on Iran, on nuclear arms control, on conventional arms control, and at the same time not step away from some of our read lines, our values, the question of future enlargement, and maybe you could say a few things about Georgia and Ukraine in this.  But how do we balance the need for cooperation with the need also to put some pretty tough limits on how far we're willing to go.

SIKORSKI:  With regards to Georgia, you may not know that Warsaw is actually the first NATO capital that Minister Lavrov visited after the conflict.  He's been with me; I've been to Moscow twice.  Our prime minister has been to the Kremlin, and he's been in power for eight months, and actually our relations have improved -- you know, the whole series of goodwill gestures.  We've lifted a previous objection to Russia negotiating entry into OECD.  They have lifted an embargo on some of our agricultural products.  We've agreed in the EU, the EU's mandate for negotiating a new partnership and cooperation agreement with Russia.

At Poland's insistence -- some people were not happy with us at the time; today they are grateful -- we included in the mandate a proviso whereby the commission is obliged to persuade Russia to abide by the energy charter.  If the energy charter had been fully in operation in January, we would not have had the gas crisis because the energy charter is about arbitration procedures.  So they could have had their disputes with Ukraine, but it could have happened without cutting off consumers either in -- (inaudible) -- oil inside the EU.

So I believe we have a pragmatic relationship which has -- (inaudible) -- been enhanced by the business of missile defense because we were very careful to make the process of our conversations with the United States completely transparent to the point of publishing the rather detailed technical agreement on missile defense with the U.S. on the Internet.  And not only that, we have conducted a series of consultations with Russia on confidence-building measures, so that Russia knows that if MD goes ahead, which we don't know because that depends on the new administration, but if it does, Russia will have technical supervision of the site, and we are prepared to agree to an invasive inspection.

So the Polish -- the bilateral Polish-Russian relationship is actually much better than it has been for a while.  But I think -- I hope we all agree that the rampaging around Georgia was not acceptable, and that in conjunction with the gas crisis has undermined Russia's credibility as a predictable -- as a predictable partner.

The question in my mind is how Russia will deal with the financial crisis, which as you -- I think you know is doubly serious for Russia, because what's a financial and economic crisis for us is somewhat mitigated by the lower gas prices, whereas for Russia this is actually a double-whamming.  So just as the unity of the European Union and the stability of the euro area is being tested by the crisis, so I think that Russia's system of government is going to be tested.  And I hope of course that Russia will draw what to me seems the only sensible conclusion, which is to say, well, Russia is part of the world.  Russia is affected by developments in other countries because she's more interconnected with us than perhaps even many of us realize.  And I hope nobody succumbs to some kind of -- (inaudible) -- temptation because we all know it wouldn't work.

KUPCHAN:  Thank you.  Let's open it up.  Please wait for a microphone, and state your name and affiliation.  Charles Gati.

QUESTIONER:  Thank you very much.  Radek, nice to see you.  I'm not going to ask you to put your cards on the table now; that would not be fair.  But in rather general terms, could you say something about the kinds of compromises that NATO might make with the Taliban?  After all, if military solution we all agree is not at hand, you will have to make some political compromises.  What are these compromises that you're thinking about?

SIKORSKI:  That is really tough because we -- I believe we should self-consciously behave as guests in Afghanistan.  We will never efficiently second-guess the Afghans themselves in fixing their politics.  Let's not make the mistake that just because Afghanistan is poor it is politically unsophisticated.  It is politically unbelievably complicated, and we can't do that job for them.  And if we tried, it would I think question the genuine achievement that we have in Afghanistan, which is constitutionally democratic government.

You know, when I traveled to the Afghan villages in the 1980s, I went back to one of the villages a couple of years ago.  I went back to the village near Herat, where I took a picture of a family killed in a bombing, which gained a prize of photography.  And so I thought I would go back and see how they are doing.  And the village was very still unbelievably poor.  They lived mainly off dowries for their daughters.  But what was actually wonderful was that everybody had voted in the election, both men and women, and all of the kids, boys and girls, were in school.  And I thought to myself, you know, that's worth it; it was worth it to have been there in the '80s, and it's worth it for our soldiers to be there now.

And so I think we can't now suddenly say, we'll appoint a -- (inaudible) -- for you.  First of all, it won't work.  We would -- and second, we would undermine our own achievement.  I think the Taliban have already -- (inaudible) -- that anybody who is willing to join in the constitutional process can do so.  And we should let the process -- the constitutional process continue.

KUPCHAN:  Next question.  Stefano.  Could you wait for a microphone and introduce yourself, please?

QUESTIONER:  Stefano Stefanini, the Italian ambassador to NATO.  Thank you, Minister.

I have two questions.  The first is related -- when you presented your vision of NATO emerging from the strategic -- (inaudible) -- you mentioned the first point -- of course, NATO be able to provide the security of its member states, which is the core business.  And then you mentioned capacity of intervening in a crisis around the globe.  Do you see this as two different things, or you see NATO capacity of intervening around the globe, as in Afghanistan, as part of assuring the security of its member states?

And the second question is a follow up on Russia.  With the benefit of hindsight, given the fact that all of us bilaterally -- certainly in Italy, and what you have told us, Poland -- maintain a normal working relationship with Russia in the aftermath of the Georgian crisis.  Do you think that the decision we took all of us together on August 19th at NATO -- no business as usual -- was not the right decision, or was it -- and if it was the right decision, why the discrepancy between what we have been doing bilaterally and what NATO as a whole has been doing with Russia?

SIKORSKI:  I'll start with the second.  Well, Russia should really fulfill the commitment that she freely entered into with the French president (at ?) the EU.  And we should get back to business as usually with Russia, but equally Russia should as soon as possible do what she said she would do because that is what we need to maintain our own credibility.

As regards NATO's defense of its members out of area, Afghanistan is not a good example because Afghanistan is an out-of-area operation, but Article V invoked in response to an attack on the territory of a member state, and that shows you that actually conceptually it's difficult to make that distinction.  And also in terms of generating capabilities -- less to it than meets the eye -- mainly greater mobility of forces helps in out-of-area operations, but it would also be enormously helpful in territorial defense of member states because actually we're quite a large area.  And to move forces around the NATO area also needs much better lift and consultation capabilities than we have the (moment ?).  So I don't see the contradiction.

KUPCHAN:  Ambassador Eldon.

QUESTIONER:  I'm the British prime rep to NATO.

Radek, you quite rightly spoke in terms of a need for modernization reform.  How do we square that and the need for greater effectiveness with the impact of the credit crunch and the world financial crisis?

SIKORSKI:  I think crisis times are good times for choosing priorities.  I'll give you an example:  Anticipating the crisis, I started closing down foreign embassies.  I'm at 20 right now and a few more to go.  And I don't think that Poland's foreign policy has suffered at all.  In other words, we can all find places where there is unnecessary spending, and in Europe in particular.  We spend a lot of money on defense and we don't get much capability for it.  So this is the best possible time, because, you know, you find that in a crisis people become more adaptable, but if you actually -- if everybody understands the seriousness of the situation, your own bureaucrats tell you things that they didn't tell you before, and then you can actually take some changes.  And I think in defense establishment, there is plenty.  I was defense minister myself.  There is really a lot that can be reallocated to true priorities.

KUPCHAN:  There was a question right there.  You?

QUESTIONER:  Sue Pleming from Reuters.  I just wanted to ask you about your meeting today with Secretary Clinton, and where you are at the moment in terms of missile defense.  Has this been put in the deep freeze for a long time, and does this depend on what Russia does in terms of trying to curb around nuclear ambitions?

SIKORSKI:  I don't have anything new to tell you from what has been stated publicly by Secretary Gates and President Obama and our prime minister.  This is a (NATO-approved ?) but still a U.S. project, and we think it's only natural that a new administration take stalk of all kinds of programs including this one.  So it's really up to the United States to make up its mind.

KUPCHAN:  Ambassador Koloft (ph).

QUESTIONER:  Minister, what's your view of the cooperation between NATO and the European Union ESEP European security and defense policy first of all, how it should work in the future?

SIKORSKI:  Well, Poland has been an enthusiastic support of ESEP for several reasons.  First of all, it's always better to have two insurance policies rather than one.  Secondly, we don't want a situation like in the 1990s in the Balkans whereby Europe, the richest economy on earth, was not able to prevent genocide right next door.  And we had to wait and ask the American taxpayer to prevent ethnic cleansing a few hundred kilometers from EU capitals. So we should have the force to back up diplomacy, our policy with military force.

And therefore Poland took part in the military mission from the start.  We were in the Congo.  We are in Bosnia, and we're in Chad.  We've joined the Eurocorps last year.  We are in the European Defense Agency.  That is, by the way, one mechanism where more synchronization of spending and our research could take place.  As Europe, we spend -- depending on the exchange rate -- and they vary quite a bit these days -- but we spend between a third and a half of what the U.S. spends on defense, but we get nothing like the capability.  We need to achieve the kinds of economy of scale that the United States gets out of its defense industry, and I think the EDA is one of the roots towards that.

And of course I know that some in this town used to worry that a stronger European defense capability would be some kind of a challenge to the United States, but my impression is that those worries are over, that the mainstream view in the U.S. is that if Europe were militarily more capable ad more confident, we might occasionally disagree, but on the 95 percent of issues where we do agree, we would actually be able to get the business done together more effectively.

KUPCHAN:  Marvin?

QUESTIONER:  Marvin Kalb with the Kennedy School at Harvard.

Mr. Minister, you mentioned that this is the year for Afghanistan.  You expected something. I'm not quite sure what it is that you expect, and I was wondering if you could help us understand whether you believe that there will be some political reconciliation.  Define that.  Military victory?  How?  Could you help us out on that?

SIKORSKI:  Well, for example, if the Taliban managed to disrupt the election so much that they became -- that they became non-credible, that would be a serious blow because it would undermine the one genuine success -- not the only one, but the most visible success in Afghanistan that we have.

I believe that we should lower our expectation in Afghanistan and increase our resources because the gap between our ambitions and the resources has been too broad recently.  We need the central government of Afghanistan to penetrate more those five southern and eastern provinces enough for developmental activity to be able to be restarted because in several of those provinces, there is nothing -- we have done no NGO functioning; there is no developmental activity.

So my definition of success this year would be if by the surge we established enough physical presence on the ground for there to be a chance of a political -- of a developmental and therefore political process carrying in the provinces.  But let's not make a mistake that Afghanistan can be fixed in a year or two.  I mean, Afghanistan is harder than the Balkans.  The Balkans took us 15 years and Afghanistan is harder.

KUPCHAN:  (Donny ?).

QUESTIONER:  Thank you.  Hi, Radek.  Nice to see you.

I'd like to ask you about the prospects for transatlantic relations a little bit more broadly.  What do you expect President Obama can accomplish?  He comes in with a widely observed Obama-mania in Europe, so much so that the mantra these days is managing expectations.  We worried about what are the prospects for relations, and whether a new face in the White House will be enough, or whether there's a danger of a renewed disappointment, because most of the challenges on the agenda right now are fairly difficult, intractable, and getting darker at every moment.  (Laughter.)  What do you expect from President Obama?  (Laughter.)

SIKORSKI:  Well, I think President Obama has already achieved something which seems very difficult to achieve even a few months ago.  He has restored America's moral credibility.  He has restored America's capacity to be the leader of the democratic world.  You can only be a leader if others are willing to follow, and he has restored that function.  It doesn't mean everything; it doesn't mean -- I expect him to say to Europe that Afghanistan is his priority.  I'm -- (inaudible) -- a bigger share of global leadership if you will give me resources to fix the war that you joined willingly and unanimously, invoking Article V, which seems a fair deal.

So in that sense, the Europeans will have a harder nut to crack because we will have to think how do we come up to the challenge so nicely put.  And that is why I think Afghanistan is so important.

KUPCHAN:  I'm going to take two final questions and then we'll move to the panel, one from Don Bandler.

QUESTIONER:  Thank you.  Well, Radek, the expansion of NATO -- Poland, Hungry, and Czech Republic is really something very important in our generation and very successful.  What is your thinking about further movement forward and additional states in East Europe or perhaps a little bit in the southern vector.  Do you think that the time is coming for that?

SIKORSKI:  Radek, why don't you hold your thought.  I'll take one more question and then come back to you for final remarks?  Who would like to -- Jim.

QUESTIONER:  Jim Golgeier.  Thanks for your -- thanks for being here, thanks for your remarks.  Curious your reaction, not just -- well, I guess you can probably only speak for yourself and your own country.  But, you know, we saw Secretary Gates a few weeks ago complain about this two-tiered alliance with some willing to fight and others not.  And just curious your reaction as to sort of what you think this kind of discussion about a two-tiered alliance means for NATO.  How seriously do you view it?

SIKORSKI:  When I was defense minister, I tried to coin the phrase that he who gives without caveats -- (inaudible) -- national restrictions, gives double.  This was our experience from Iraq.  As Poland, we were in charge of the multinational division, Central South, between Baghdad and Basra -- five provinces -- 26 nations.  It was a complete nightmare for our commander to have to deal with the national caveat of members of the coalition.  Some were in Iraq, but they could only be inside the base.  Others could leave the base but had to be back for the night.  Others could stay out for the night, but not beyond 50 kilometers.  So manager -- you know, running a war on that basis is a complete nightmare.

So we certainly believe that there should be joint rules of engagement, and that when you give soldiers to NATO, they should then be used according to military logic.  But at the same time, we all have politics.  And there are good historical reasons why some historical reasons can't do that, have strict supervision by their parliament.  And so let us not imagine it will go away easily.

But where I think we could compensate for it somewhat is in more creative financing operations because at the moment you are -- costs lie where they fall, whatever the -- everybody pays for himself.  And that means that countries are having to make very painful decisions.  You know, you want to be pro-NATO, you want to be pro-alliance, you want to send your troops, therefore you're more out-of-pocket and you have even less resources for modernization.

So perhaps there is a mechanism whereby -- whereas you can't give troops, at least give money so that others can fill the shoes so that there is a feeling -- you know, that there is -- as humans we are very sensitive to everybody pulling their weight, and I think we should find ways of sharing the burden and the risk fairly.

KUPCHAN:  And then there was Don Bandler's question.

SIKORSKI:  That's about enlargement.  Well, yeah, certainly.  I mean, I was delighted to be able to say to Secretary Clinton how grateful we still are that the Clinton administration took the bullet and decided to enlarge NATO, and I think it was a success both for Poland, and for the United States, and for the alliance.  We have put 18,000 troops through Iraq.  I know it (wasn't ?) a NATO operation. We have 1600 in Afghanistan and other members are contributing too.

I believe we should maintain the Bucharest consensus, namely that countries will join when they fulfill the criteria.  But at the same time, after Georgia, I think we have to acknowledge that the Russians have imposed a greater discipline on us in thinking about this because previous rounds of enlargement were done in the safe -- the insurance policies were written in the pretty safe conviction that they would not have to be paid out.  And we now have to think about it in a more difficult way.

KUPCHAN:  Thank you very much.

Please join me in thanking Radek for getting us off to a wonderful start.  (Applause.)

Thank you very much.

We will take a five-minute break while we assemble the panel for the first session.  This would be a good time to run to the restrooms if you need to, and we will begin at about 20 minutes to six.

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