Media Conference Call: The NATO Summit: Afghanistan and Enlargement (Audio)

Media Conference Call: The NATO Summit: Afghanistan and Enlargement (Audio)

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OPERATOR:  Excuse me, everyone.  We now have Anya SCHMEMANN: in conference.  Please be aware that each of your lines is in a listen- only mode.  At the conclusion of the presentation, we will open the floor for questions.  At that time, instructions will be given if you would like to ask a question. 

I would now like to turn the conference over to Ms. SCHMEMANN:. Ma'am, please begin.

ANYA SCHMEMANN:  Thank you.  Thank you, everyone, for joining us.  I'm Anya SCHMEMANN:.  I'm director of communications at the Council on Foreign Relations.  We're very pleased to have two of our experts on NATO and trans-Atlantic relations with us this morning to talk about the upcoming NATO summit.

We have James Goldgeier, who is the Whitney Shepardson senior fellow for trans-Atlantic relations here at the Council on Foreign Relations.  He's also professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University and the author of the soon-to- be-released book America Between the Wars:  From 11/9 to 9/11, with Derek Chollet.

We also have Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall on the line.  She's an adjunct senior fellow for alliance relations at the Council on Foreign Relations.  Also a senior research scholar at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford, and a senior adviser to the Preventive Defense Project.  Liz served as a deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia in the first Clinton Administration.

And it's good to have you both on the line with us today.

ELIZABETH SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Thank you, Anya.

JAMES GOLDGEIER:  Thanks.

SCHMEMANN:  What I thought I would do is just ask you to give just a few brief words to frame this discussion and then we'll turn it right over to questions.

And Jim, if I could start with you -- actually, Liz, I'd prefer to start with you.  Why don't we do that?

I know you're just back from a trip to NATO headquarters, where you participated in a strategic exercise with senior military commanders at NATO, led by General Craddock, looking at some of the issues of future security challenges and NATO military operations.  So if you could say a few words about some of your impressions as we head into the summit next week.  

What are the challenges that the alliance faces and, in particular, how do we expect the member states to respond to the request for more troops in Afghanistan?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Thank you, and thank you all for calling in this morning.

I would say that the headline from my time at NATO in late February was that NATO is doing far more and far less than it should be doing today.  And that is what is most striking.  If you spend time with the senior military leadership, as I did, what is astonishing is the op tempo of NATO.  There are 64,000 allied soldiers who are currently deployed on NATO missions on three continents, and that's more than has ever taken place in the alliance's history.  So while there's political grousing about troop commitments, the reality is that NATO is doing a huge amount.  Twenty-six nations are operating together in a wide variety of military contingencies, principally, of course, in Afghanistan, where 46,000 troops are deployed, and that includes participants from the NATO nations as well as 13 non-NATO partners.

We're also in the Balkans, with 16,000 troops in Kosovo, and then other missions, including a small training mission in Iraq, support to the African Union for a possible need for airlifts to support Somalia or Darfur, and an ongoing Indian Ocean operation which actually includes ships from Russia and Ukraine.  So that's the -- the good news story is how much NATO is actually doing. 

The bad news is that it's so preoccupied with getting these things done that there is very little bandwidth for having the kind of strategic discussion that the alliance needs to have about its future. And what I was also impressed by in a negative sense was the extent to which the urgent has crowded out the important.  So that especially on the political side there has been little of the patient brick laying that needs to be done to create the kind of consensus that is necessary for the alliance to face the future challenges it needs to be prepared to face.

SCHMEMANN:  Okay, thank you.  And on Afghanistan, how -- what kind of pressure is that putting on the alliance?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  There's tremendous pressure, and the U.S. administration is -- as everybody knows -- begging for more troops. And there is great frustration at NATO about this, because many countries feel they're doing all they can in the face of a lack of domestic support for an increased commitment.  Indeed, it's hard for the countries who are there now to maintain support for the commitments they've already made.

And this is creating a huge amount of tension and eroding the cooperative feeling in the alliance.  That is, rather than being -- feeling appreciated for what they are doing, the allies feel that they're being beaten up for what they aren't doing, and that's not a good sensation for allies who have to -- especially when they go home to their publics and find that the public support is diminishing for these commitments.

So Germany is a very good example in this case, where you have a large percentage of the population that does not support the deployment of the Bundeswehr anywhere, and yet we are really putting tremendous pressure on the Germans to do more than they have been willing to do, both in terms of numbers of troops deployed in Afghanistan, as well as reducing the caveats on where those troops can be deployed.  So polls show, for example, that 86 percent of the Germans -- polls show that 86 percent of the German public doesn't believe the Bundeswehr should be fighting anywhere, and 61 percent want even the non-combat mission pulled out.

SCHMEMANN:  Now, in terms of a strategic vision and a common threat assessment, as NATO heads toward its 60th anniversary next year, what kind of leverage or opportunities does a new American administration have to reshape the discussion?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  This is a very important focal point for the future, and I think there's going to be a tremendous opportunity. It will exist as of November 5th, 2008, and that is a new American administration needs to work immediately to generate a new consensus on the purposes of this alliance, looking toward the 60th anniversary summit that will take place in April 2009, so essentially a year from the current summit.

We need to conduct a very serious strategic discussion that looks at capabilities -- first of all, that looks at the objectives of this alliance.  And we should begin with listening to the views and perspectives of our allies, who feel they've been ignored or discounted because of the U.S. preoccupation with fighting the global war on terror, as the administration has called it in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

So listen first to what the allies think the alliance should be about.  Second, we should be engaging the allies in a discussion of the broader security challenges that we will all face together, and that is not about Afghanistan or Kosovo.  That's about countering proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, managing Russia, responding to the rise of China, containing and defeating Islamic extremism, achieving energy security, dealing with global climate change.  

These are the issues that need to be on the NATO agenda.  It's a strategic conversation.  And from that, the allies need to then agree on what they're willing to do about it collectively and individually. So this plan to develop what I would call a trans-Atlantic declaration, a new statement of the alliance's mission, needs to be underway as soon as a new administration is elected, and needs to be ready for announcement at the NATO summit a year from now.

SCHMEMANN:  Okay.  Good, thanks.

Jim, the other big item on the agenda next week, of course, is expansion.  And the alliance is ready to admit three new members -- Croatia, Albania, and Macedonia.  But members are split over whether to grant a membership action plan to Ukraine and Georgia.  Of course, President Bush met recently with President Saakashvili and is planning on stopping in Ukraine on his way to Bucharest.   What are the prospects for the membership action plan for these two countries, and what the issues?  Of course, we know that Russia is opposed and President Bush announced yesterday that he'll be meeting with President Putin following the summit.  What can expect on this side?

GOLDGEIER:  Well, I think there's too much disagreement within NATO right now for there to be -- for Georgia and Ukraine to be offered membership action plans at this summit.  And what we've seen is a real split between the United States and Germany on this issue.

Some of the allies support the United States in wanting to see Georgia and Ukraine receive membership action plans, and it's important to remember that membership action plan simply means a formal mechanism by which those two countries would be able to work with NATO to try, over the next however many years, to fulfill the criteria to then, at some future point, be invited to be members.  

So it doesn't mean being offered membership.  It means being put on a track to become members at some future date.  This was a vehicle that was put in place in the late 1990s in order to make the process for new members a bit more formal than it had been previously.

So the United States would like to see this go forward.  I think, particularly for the Bush administration, it's one reason why -- I mean, it's something they would really like to have done at this summit, since this is the last NATO summit for this administration. And I think what they don't want to see is Ukraine and Georgia getting this in the next administration and having the next administration get the credit for having gotten this to happen.

There's still a chance that what will happen at the summit is some agreement to go forward with this later in the year.  But the Germans have been very clear that they don't want to see this happen at the summit.  They are eager not to anger the Russians.  

    The German position is that there's a new president.  A new president of Russia has just been elected.  They would like to try to establish good relations with that president.  They don't want something like this, which Russia really opposes, to get in the way of doing so.

And I think we're seeing what it means to have this particular U.S. administration in its final year.  It's a lame-duck administration.  People are already looking to the future.  And from the German perspective, you know, we have a new Russian president coming in, and, you know, it's important for the Germans to establish a good relationship with them.  And if that meant taking a public position at odds with the United States, then we've seen that the Germans were willing to do that.

I was surprised in the run-up -- the concern I've had in the run- up to the summit is really with the very public split between the United States and Germany on these big issues, the ones that Liz talked about and then this one.  You know, we saw in February very public American complaints that the Germans weren't doing enough in Afghanistan and requests that the German government do more to explain to the German population why more needs to be done in Afghanistan, and the German complaints right back that "Look, you know, we're doing all we can.  We're doing important things in the parts of Afghanistan where we're operating, and that should be respected.  And we have a domestic public that, you know, we're -- that is constraining us."

And so that was February.  And now we're seeing in March an American effort to push forward on the Membership Action Plan for Georgia and Ukraine and the Germans coming right back and saying, "We don't support this."  And so I think, you know, the public nature of the split should be of some concern.  And I think, you know, following on what Liz said, I think, in general, it's actually unfortunate that the summit is taking place, because I don't think NATO is prepared for this summit, and it's going to highlight a number of the differences that exist.

And I think that, in fact, the problem is it's not just -- it's unprepared for this summit, and we have to do -- Liz is exactly right. We have to do all the things she was saying for NATO, and that should be done by the 60th anniversary next year.  The problem is that the next American administration isn't coming in until January, and so it's not going to have much time to prepare for that one.  So I think, in fact, the timing, not only of this summit but also, of course, next year's, is timed to the 60th anniversary of the alliance.  But I think, from the perspective of what the United States can do with a lame-duck administration this year and a very new administration coming in in January, I think the timing is not great for pushing forward on what needs to be done at NATO.

MS. SCHMEMANN:  Now, just very briefly, in terms of the U.S.- Russia relationship, Georgia said this week that a snub next week would essentially amount to bowing to Russian pressure and would give Russia leeway to continue supporting the breakaway regions in Georgia and would undermine the reformers in Georgia and Ukraine.

What are we to make of those kind of announcements?  Is that credible?  Or is the U.S.-Russia relationship getting back on track? What can we look forward to with that Putin-Bush meeting coming up?

GOLDGEIER:  Well, I mean, I think we are in a different place in U.S.-Russia than we were last year, largely because we're past the Russian presidential election.  You know, for whatever reason, even though it was very clear who was going to win -- everybody outside could see who was going to win the Russian presidential election -- but, you know, for whatever reason, Putin seemed to feel that he had to do everything he could to make sure of that outcome, even though I think everyone knew what it was going to be.  So we really saw a lot of anti-American, anti-western rhetoric last year that I really do attribute to the Russian campaign season.

And I think we've seen -- since the election, presidential election, we've seen a ratcheting down of that.  We have seen the Russians, though.  They've made very clear that they really do not want to see Ukraine and Georgia be allowed to move forward with membership.  And this is a tough issue for NATO, because NATO certainly wants to have a good relationship with Russia, but there is this principle in NATO that, you know, the door to membership is open to European countries that can meet the criteria.

We also have in Europe, really since the 1975 Helsinki Final Act that attempted to create an environment in Europe, a set of principles for European security, a notion that countries are allowed to choose their security future, their alliance partners.  And so certainly if Ukraine and Georgia wish to pursue this relationship with NATO, from a NATO standpoint, these countries should be allowed to do so.  Even the Germans have been saying in recent days that, you know, they do agree with that.

I mean, I think nobody really wants to be in a position where Russia is seen as having a veto over what NATO decides to do, even if countries are trying to be as sensitive as possible to where the Russians are.  But I do think the U.S. and Russian --

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Can I just add one comment on what Jim has said?  I think that in the case of Ukraine, one disconcerting    dimension is the extent to which the Ukrainian public is not unified around the opportunity to have an expanded and ultimately membership relationship with NATO.  And that seems to me to be something to be tracked closely by those who are trying to sort out how we should proceed, because domestic support for membership would seem to be a very important criteria.

MS. SCHMEMANN:  Okay, good.  With that, I think we can go right to questions.  We have a number of people on the line, and I'm sure there are many questions.  Just as a reminder, we are on the record.  And let's try to keep questions and answers as short as possible so we can get through as many as we can.

So operator, at this point we're ready to take some questions.

OPERATOR:  At this time we will open the floor for questions.  If you would like to ask a question, please press the * key followed by the 1 key, *1 on your touchtone phone, now.  Questions will be taken in the order in which they are received.  If at any time you would like to remove yourself from the questioning queue, press *2.

Our first question comes from Andrew Gray, Reuters.

QUESTIONER:  Yeah, hi there.  Thanks very much for taking the time to do this call today.  I know a lot of us are heading off to Bucharest, and we really appreciate this.

I just wanted to ask if you could talk a bit more about the Afghanistan mission, how you see the prospects for countries coming up with more troops and other resources at this summit, where you see the prospects of getting a strategic vision document for the Afghanistan mission, how meaningful that would be, and in general how successful you think U.S. efforts have been at drumming up more resources for the Afghan mission.

MS. SCHMEMANN:  Liz, why don't you take that one?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Thank you, Andrew.

You know, I think there are two ways of looking at this.  As I said at the outset, the fact of our doing as much as we are doing together in Afghanistan is something to be admired and valued.  It's quite extraordinary.  And when you spend time with the commanders, as I have done recently with the people who have been responsible for this mission, the complexity, the demands on allied troops, the non- permissive environment in which they're operating, to use the military euphemism, is requiring that this alliance grow militarily in very substantial ways.

So, first of all, let's note what we are already doing today. Then you get to the question of what is it possible that we can do going forward.  And I think it is going to be hard to generate larger troop commitments because of the questions that many of the allied    publics continue to have about the viability of this mission.  How can we really achieve a stable state in Afghanistan?  What does success look like, and is it feasible for NATO militarily to achieve?

So we will continue to have, I think, a substantial debate in the alliance about the requests the Americans have put forth repeatedly for greater troop commitments and fewer caveats on the use of those troops.  That said, we do see in the news of the last 24 hours French willingness to contribute more in Afghanistan.  I don't think that's going to be 20,000.  I think it's more likely to be several thousand.

But, as I understand it, these commitments, especially if they are not heavily caveated, will be valuable.  

I think the most important event at the summit, with respect to Afghanistan, is the fact that not only are NATO leaders meeting, but NATO has invited those who will participate in the non-military element of Afghan stabilization to join in this event.  And that is very significant -- and something I've been advocating for a long time, which is that NATO needs to have connectivity beyond NATO to other partners.  

And that has certainly been true in Afghanistan where we have other countries, far beyond NATO, participating -- the Australians, the Japanese, for example, in the work in Afghanistan, but also non- national, non-military contributors.  That is, for example, we have the U.N. special representative coming, we have the involvement of the European Union, the discussion about who is going to do the other pieces that are going to be necessary to our ultimately succeeding in stabilizing Afghanistan.  And much of that will require non-military contributions.  

So what I would watch, as a journalist, and what the I would be doing were I in Bucharest is trying to get a sense of how much capacity is being stood-up on the non-military side, because our militaries do extraordinary work, but what they are not being backed up with is a substantial non-military support.  And here you see also, in the news of the last 24 hours, with the recent report on failure to contribute and to deliver upon the promises made for reconstruction assistance in Afghanistan, where we really have a tremendous gap, and that is the need to do the development piece, the reconstruction piece that will allow Afghanistan to function as a country.  

SCHMEMANN:  Okay, let's take another question.   

OPERATOR:  Our next question comes from Ahu Ozyurt with Media.  

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  I'm sorry, where is Media?  

QUESTIONER:  I'm sorry, I just, you know, generalized my affiliation.  I work for CNN Turk and Milliyet, both Turkish organizations.  

And my question is to Elizabeth.  Could you elaborate about the last point that you made about non-military efforts?  And would you -- I mean, should we be expecting something from the summit linking    towards that angle of the Alliance, and maybe the participation of some other members -- other countries and non-allied members? 

I know there's been some traffic in Washington regarding the Egyptians, the Bahrainis, and some Muslim countries might be taking some of the security aspects in Afghanistan.  Do you think that is a possibility or a probability?  And what sort of a non-military outcome should we expect from the summit?  

SCHMEMANN:  Liz, if you could say a quick word, and then I want to bring Jim in on that, quickly, as well.  

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Yeah.  I can't predict that, honestly. That's why I said I would be -- I would, as a journalist, I'd be digging on that.  I mean, I can't predict the outcome.  But I do think that the discussion about what is being -- what is described, in NATO parlance, as a comprehensive approach, is being tested here in Afghanistan.  That is, can we bring to bear, not just military capability but the non-military capabilities necessary to succeeding in environments like Afghanistan and also Iraq?  

We all see clearly how militaries cannot solve the problems alone of failed states.  And so, what is going to have to happen is that we're going to have to build bridges across institutions, and bring in capabilities that have traditionally not been understood to be necessary for military operations, and here the involvement of the EU -- of EU capabilities, of the U.N., of its capabilities, and other entities, and NGOs is going to be critical to success.  

SCHMEMANN:  Jim, did you want to say a word about the connectivity to other organizations or countries outside of NATO?  

GOLDGEIER:  Well, no, I just -- I mean, you know, I think the point is just that, I mean NATO, the military folks who are there, you know, are trained in doing their military missions, and so much of what needs to be done in the reconstruction and stabilization in the kind of places, like Afghanistan and Iraq.  

I mean, all the stuff to help make these societies function again, these are not things that the military is trained to do.  And they've been asked to do these things, and they, you know, to the extent that they can, they have tried to do these things, but that's not what they're -- that's not what they're trained to do.  And these other -- there are other institutions out there that are trained to do these things.  

But, as Liz was saying, I mean, what we still -- what we still haven't gotten is the, is the way in which the organizations can work together seamlessly to take advantage of the kind of training they each have.   

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  And this is a very important question for the European Union, I think, to what extent it is going to make good    on the ambition to be the provider of much of this non-military capability.  

SCHMEMANN:  Okay.  Let's take another question.  

OPERATOR:  Our next question comes from Gregory Schmidt (sp) with Estigo (sic).  

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  I'm sorry, what is that organization?  

QUESTIONER:  Der Spiegel, from Germany, yes.

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Der Spiegel, thank you.  Okay, got it.  

QUESTIONER:  That's okay, don't worry.  

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Hi, Gregory.  

QUESTIONER:  Hi.  I have a question on what you said about the public split -- or the very public split between Germany and the U.S., on both Afghanistan and now the discussion on NATO expansion.  How is that perceived -- I mean, what do you think, how is that perceived in Washington, in the White House, in the current administration?  Are they really angry with the Germans?  Are they concerned?  What is your take on that?  

SCHMEMANN:  Jim?  

GOLDGEIER:  Well, I mean, I can't speak for the folks in the White House, I just -- you know, I can just -- you know, as somebody looking at this from the outside, I think that, you know, you don't want, in the run-up to a summit like this --  

There are always disagreements.  I mean, we had disagreements prior to the 2006 in Riga on certain issues, for example.  At that time one of the -- one of the big disagreements among United States, France, Germany concerned how we were going to articulate the issue of global partnerships outreach to countries such as Australia, Japan, South Korea, and so on.  And there was a lot of private disagreements, and negotiation and discussion.  And then, you know, then we got to the summit and had the outcomes that we did at the summit.  

I'm just quite struck by the how much of this is playing out so publicly.  And I think that that is -- you know, is not what you want to see in advance of a summit like this, because it just makes it, it makes it harder to reach agreement if countries have made very public the positions that they have.  It makes it -- it makes it a lot harder to negotiate outcomes that are acceptable to everybody.  

SCHMEMANN:  Liz, did you feel these tensions when you were recently at headquarters?    SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Not on the military side, but on the political side.  There is a frustration with the demands that the United States continues to make of allies for more troops and fewer caveats, without an appreciation of what the domestic constraints are for each of the countries, as I had previously said.  And also a sense -- as I talk to senior diplomats representing the allied countries, that there's a real lack in the Alliance today of a common sense of commitment and direction.  

And that is because so much of their time is spent on Afghanistan, for example -- and Kosovo to a lesser, but significant degree -- that they don't have the kinds of conversations that used to characterize the North Atlantic Council.  There was a real -- an ongoing discussion that set strategic priorities, where the Allies had give-and-take about the threats that they faced; they went back to capitals; they got guidance; they fed it back into the discussion at NATO.  

And they had a continuous process of setting Allied expectations of Allied behavior.  And based on that, they would then give guidance to those over at the military headquarters in Mons -- M-o-n-s, as to what the militaries needed to be doing to prepare to meet those threats.  But the important piece that's missing today is that broader sense of strategic agreement.  

And so we have ended up with a very substantial collective commitment in Afghanistan -- that builds on the NATO invocation for the first time in its history of the Article 5 guarantee after 9/11 -- but the reality is that the mission has morphed far beyond what was initially agreed upon.  And there is a big strain on the alliance over whether this is something that can be sustained.

SCHMEMANN:  Okay.  Let's take another question.

OPERATOR:  Our next question comes from David Fittamer (sp), freelance journalist.

SCHMEMANN: David, can you tell us who you're writing for?  (No audible response.)  Shall we take another question?

OPERATOR:  Our next question comes from Matalina Iakob (sp), Realitatea.

SCHMEMANN:  Matalina (sp)?

QUESTIONER:  Yes?

SCHMEMANN:  Can you tell us your affiliation, please?

QUESTIONER:  Yes.  It's a Romanian TV station.  It's called Realitatea TV.  It's a 24-hour news channel.

My question is, actually, last day -- yesterday, President Saakashvili said if Georgia and Ukraine are not invited to join the membership action plan now in Bucharest, then it will take a long, long time for these two countries to get into NATO.  And actually, he was referring more to Bush administration as an administration that encouraged other former ex-communist countries like Romania and Latvia to join NATO.

So my question is:  Do you think his vision is right?  That if Georgia won't get on track now -- and Ukraine -- we won't see these two countries into NATO soon -- in the next, I don't know, five years?

SCHMEMANN:  Jim, you want to tackle that?

GOLDGEIER:  Well, I mean, my view is it's going to be a long time anyway -- whether they're in the map or not -- just because there's so much disagreement within NATO about -- or so much concern about doing this in important parts of NATO.

And as I said before, I mean, the membership action plan simply puts this on a track, but the invitations are going to come much later.  I do think that this administration, you know, has been very supportive -- really wants to see this happen, wants to see this as part of its legacy of its NATO policy.  And I think what the U.S. administration is hoping for is that even if it can't get agreement next week on moving forward on this now, that it could get agreement that, you know, that this will be happening sometime soon.

And I don't -- you know, the premise of the question is that the next administration wouldn't necessarily be as -- the next American administration wouldn't necessarily be as supportive of this as the Bush administration.  Certainly, if you listened to John McCain's speech yesterday, I think that you would feel that he has every intention of supporting a very similar policy on the NATO issues as the Bush administration. 

And given that it was the Clinton administration that pushed forward with NATO enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe in the mid-1990s, I don't think that it's necessarily the case that a Democratic administration wouldn't also see this as something that was important for NATO to do.

So I think either way -- I mean, that's -- you know, that's the problem.  People hear "membership action plan" they think, oh, it means that, you know, these countries are getting into NATO right away.  And that's not going to be the case in any event. 

SCHMEMANN: Okay.  Let's take another question.

OPERATOR:  Our next question from David Fittamer (sp), freelance journalist.

QUESTIONER:  Can you hear me now?

SCHMEMANN:  Yes.

QUESTIONER:  Okay.  I have a question about what NATO members feel about the role of Iran in fighting the drug trade in Afghanistan.

SCHMEMANN:  Liz?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  I don't know. 

SCHMEMANN:  Jim, I don't know if you have this one? 

GOLDGEIER:  Yeah.  I have -- no.  I have nothing to offer on the drug trade.

QUESTIONER:  Or about the role of Iran in general in terms of stabilizing Afghanistan.

GOLDGEIER:  My only comment -- there is I, you know, I think we saw -- after September 11th I think, you know, there seemed to have been a possibility for, you know, some common interest between the United States and Iran on trying to deal with some of the problems coming out of Afghanistan. 

But you know, given the state of the relationship between the United States and Iran as it's developed since then, you know, we haven't seen the development of whatever kind of potential collaboration there might have been -- you know, that might have existed six, seven years ago.

SCHMEMANN:  Thank you.

Jim, on a totally different note -- the question about Iran made me think -- we haven't really discussed, actually, Kosovo much in all of this.  It was mentioned once or twice, but it seems to be sort of a, you know, the large elephant in the room, perhaps, that is overshadowing this meeting next week.

What -- has it just -- in terms of what NATO can do moving forward, how do you think that Kosovo will be discussed next week?

GOLDGEIER:  Well, I think NATO has to, you know, affirm that -- you know, affirm its role in trying to ensure that violence doesn't' erupt between the Serbs and Kosovars. And that, you know, it has a role to play in trying to see the situation evolve peacefully.

And I think, you know, although we've seen a split among countries regarding the recognition of Kosovo's independence, I do think that NATO is on the hook for ensuring that Kosovo -- that the Kosovo independence be respected, and for example, to prevent the participation of -- the formal partition of Kosovo, as some of the Serbs have called for. 

I think that NATO, you know, has to take a very strong stance on opposition to partition and a strong stance that it will be able to be there to support the independence of Kosovo -- given where we are and given that the recognition by the major NATO countries of that independence.

SCHMEMANN:  Liz, did you have any thoughts about Kosovo as a security challenge for NATO?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  NATO is committed to an operation in Kosovo.  I think that the, as Jim has said, the political foundation    of that is not solid.  And there is a possibility that this will become a much more difficult operation, which will strain the alliance further.  But to date, we have made this commitment and we have moved forward in having sustained the troops there -- post independence.

And if I were doing contingency planning, I would be planning for a range of scenarios, some of which would be very difficult.

SCHMEMANN:  Okay.  Operator, we'll take another question.

OPERATOR:  There are no more questions in the queue.

SCHMEMANN:  I would like to give everyone a reminder out in the directions in case anyone joined late.

OPERATOR:  Yes, ma'am.

If you'd like to ask a question at this time, please press the star key followed by the one key on your touch-tone phone now.

Our next question comes from Leah Colums (sp), KERA Television.

QUESTIONER:  Thank you.  And KERA is a PBS affiliate in Dallas Fort Worth.

Liz and Jim, thank you so much.  This has been a very insightful presentation.

I am hearing some people say that NATO might be headed toward a two-tier situation with some nations willing to go to war and risk causalities and others preferring not to.  Do you see things evolving in that direction?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  This is a piece that's in The New York Times on the op-ed page this morning that you may be referring to, Leah (sp). 

And of course, there's been a discussion in the alliance for quite some time.  Some would say that it has been the case since the creation of the alliance that there have been those with substantial military capabilities and those with less substantial military capabilities.  

The alliance has definitely moved in the direction, since the end of the Cold War, of accepting what has been called niche capabilities; that is, that some allies will do airlift, some will do more peacekeeping, some will provide refueling, some will do minesweeping.

As a person who thinks about military capability, I am uncomfortable with that direction because I think that we should be asking each of the allies to participate to the greatest extent possible across the board in the development and the sustainment of their militaries.  And we see across Europe a substantial decline in defense spending, where most of the allies are spending less than 2 percent of their GDP on defense.  And I think that's a worrisome trend.

However, as the piece in today's New York Times indicates, the reality of the alliance is that we're not going to have everyone doing everything.  And in particular, we're not going to have everyone doing everything at the level at which the United States is capable of fighting.  And this has been described in the past as the challenge of closing the gap between American technology, as it is displayed in our military capabilities, and the capabilities of others.

So I wouldn't give up on the effort to keep the allies capable, to ensure that those who are members are asked to do more, to press the European Union to stand up a capable defense of its own, because it has expressed that ambition, and to not allow for the development of what could be a situation in which some are capable of doing nothing and the United States, Great Britain and France bear the burden of doing everything, because I think that will ultimately lead to a tremendous sense of disenfranchisement on the part of a lot of NATO members.

So this will be a continuing effort.  We'll need to work it.  And it goes back to my original point, Lee, about the necessity of achieving strategic consensus that sets allied expectations for what the alliance is about what we're willing to do to support those missions.

If we can achieve a greater degree of agreement on the ends of the alliance, on the mission of the alliance going forward, there's a greater chance of asking the allied governments to make investments in defense going forward.  And then we have the possibility of doing more together in the future.  QUESTIONER:  Thank you very much.

GOLDGEIER:  Yeah, I would just -- on that, Lee -- hi -- I would just add that I think, you know, in the American discussion, the United States is certainly willing to do more militarily and the American public is willing to do more than many of our partner countries in Europe.

But where I think it's a problem -- and we've seen this in the last couple of months -- is with a country like Canada.  I think, you know, the domestic opinion in Canada -- you know, there's tremendous concern about the Canadian losses in Afghanistan and the mission, and there really is this sense of frustration.  "Wait a minute.  Why is it that, you know, Canada, you know, is bearing heavy losses?  And why is it that there are major countries in Europe, you know, with populations larger than that of Canada that aren't willing to bear these costs?"  And so I think that's really where we're going to see the problem of the two tiers.

QUESTIONER:  Thank you.  Very good points.

OPERATOR:  Our next --

SCHMEMANN:  Do we have other questions?

OPERATOR:  Yes, ma'am.  Our next question comes from Francine Kiefer, the Christian Science Monitor.

QUESTIONER:  Hi.  I have two questions, if I can squeeze them in.  One is, is there any possibility far, far, far down the road that Russia might become a NATO member?  And the second question is, even though the MAP process is not the same thing as enlargement but just starting the discussion, Georgia and Ukraine are very particular examples.

And one of my questions is, has there been enough discussion in the United States about, you know, considering this is a defensive alliance, whether Americans would want to send troops to Georgia some day on the side of the troubled Caucus region?  I mean, even though this is only the MAP process, do you feel there's been enough discussion in the United States about what bringing countries like Ukraine and Georgia into the alliance would actually mean?

SCHMEMANN:  Jim.

GOLDGEIER:  Well, you know, they're terrific questions.  You know, on Russia as a NATO member, when NATO began the process in the early to mid '90s of looking toward enlargement into, you know, the former Warsaw Pact countries, and at the same time also had put forward the Partnership for Peace, that was an effort to relate to all the countries in the region.

I mean, the United States position, you know, under then- Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, who Liz worked for, worked with, was    that, you know, the NATO treaty says that NATO is open to any European democracy that can, you know, contribute to alliance security and meet the kind of political and economic criteria that NATO has.

And at that time, the statement to -- you know, the message to the Russians was -- you know, and a message to a Russia that was democratizing -- was, you know, "This door could be open to you someday."  I don't know how much, you know, anybody on either side really, you know, believed that, you know, that was going to -- you know, sort of at what point that might happen, but it was important. It was a very important message to the Russians that that door was open.

But, of course, we've seen Russia politically take a very different turn in the intervening years.  And so I think, you know, it's off the table in part because the Russians have said, you know, it's not something they're interested in.  But, you know, it's mainly off the table because Russia has gone in such a non-democratic direction.

You are right on --

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Before you move to the second question, may I just make a comment on that, Jim?  I think it should not be off the table.  And my own view is that we should never close this door.

GOLDGEIER:  Yeah.

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Yeah.  Okay.

GOLDGEIER:  No, I agree with that in principle.  I just think that, you know, the problem is the direction the Russians have gone. You know, it meant that there's not the kind of discussion that we even had, you know, 10, 12 years ago about it.

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Although, I mean, let's look at what we do have.  We have a NATO-Russia Council, which is meeting in -- that's the reason the Russians are going to be in Bucharest.  And it is a 26- plus-one forum.  And it's an important one, and it requires the alliance engage Russia at a senior level collectively.

And that, in itself, is a -- you know, again, when we look at sort of glass is half-full, glass is half-empty, the fact that it exists, as difficult as it can be, as incendiary as the rhetoric can be from the Russian representatives, as we heard recently from Mugosin (sp), it happens, and it requires preparation and engagement on an ongoing basis.

GOLDGEIER:  To answer the second one, the MAP question -- and, you know, yes, you know, if countries are in the alliance, that means that they have an Article V guarantee in which the alliance countries are, you know, prepared to defend one another and ensure their common security.  And there should be a debate about that each time this is considered.  Typically, you know, what you see is this debate takes place when the issue then comes up to the Senate for ratification of the new members joining the treaty.  And I think that one of the things that's important is not to leave the public debate about what this means to that Senate ratification process, particularly since the Senate will need to be involved in this before countries become members, that the Senate should be involved sooner than that in terms of being part of the overall discussion about new members.

SCHMEMANN:  Liz, did you want to comment on that, the implications of membership, particularly of a rather volatile country such as Georgia?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Well, you know, I think about it in several ways.  One is as the questioner, as Francine asked about, whether or not we are prepared to fulfill an Article V commitment.

    And the reverse is also important, which is are these countries that we are considering for membership -- not just Ukraine and Georgia, which are farther down the line, but the three who are actually under active consideration at this meeting -- Croatia, Macedonia and Albania.  Are these countries going to be security contributors to the alliance or are they going to be only security consumers?  Are they ready to be Article V guarantors?  And that's a very important question from my vantage point, and one that has not been entirely satisfactorily answered.

SCHMEMANN:  Do we have any other questions?

OPERATOR:  Yes, ma'am.  Our next question comes from Andrew Gray, Reuters.

QUESTIONER:  Hi.  I just wanted to jump in at the end and see if we can get -- everybody has had a chance to ask a question -- 

MS. SCHEMEMANN:  Sure.  

QUESTIONER:  -- sort of -- just to follow up on that, the idea that -- certainly that the Pentagon and Secretary Gates have been pushing recently that they hope to have a strategic vision document for the Afghan mission, which they hoped would allow everybody to coalesce around some common goals and then in turn make it easier for European government to sell the mission to their publics.  Do you have any sense as to how likely they are to get that document and for it to be effective in any way?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  I'm so sorry. I don't, Andrew.  The one thing I would say is that it's going to have to include non-military elements.  And that will be very important for success for the actual ability to achieve goals that would be agreed upon by the participants.

GOLDGEIER:  I'd also like to say, Andrew -- just coming back to something that Liz said earlier, I think -- you know, the larger problem is the lack of sense of a failure to articulate what is the common purpose -- what is the purpose of NATO today and the future, and -- you know, something that NATO really lacks.  In the '90s, you know, there was this sense that -- you know, the major goal was creating a Europe whole and free and the policies that NATO was pursuing, whether it was enlargement or dealing with Bosnia and Kosovo or even the relationship with Russia, all fit into that effort in the    aftermath of the Cold War to create a Europe whole and free. And there was this -- there was a sense of purpose.

And I mean -- you know, that's even bigger than the vision for Afghanistan, but I think it's part of what makes it difficult with respect to Afghanistan in particular is that we don't have now this larger sense of what the purpose of NATO is today given that NATO's now operating in these places like Afghanistan.

QUESTIONER:  Thank you.

SCHMEMANN:  Do we have other questions?  I know we have a number of Japanese reporters on the phone who I'm sure are interested in this Afghanistan question as well.  

OPERATOR:  There -- 

SCHMEMANN:  Is there anyone else in the queue?

OPERATOR:  There is no one in the queue right now.  

SCHMEMANN:  I'd like to just ask perhaps one more question and then we can just wrap it up.  And again, back to Russia and the somewhat surprise announcements -- you know, that Bush will be traveling to Sochi -- of course, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics -- after Bucharest and meets with Putin.  And some have speculated that it's a way to sort of blunt -- you know, any criticism from Putin at the Bucharest event.  And of course, they're going to be discussing missile defense along with some other things.  Do you think it's likely that Putin will sort of play nice at the summit next week?  And what can we expect from him there?  

GOLDGEIER:  Well, I would just say -- I mean, especially -- you know, at their meeting in Sochi -- you know, what we've seen from both Bush and Putin over the years -- you know, when they are together, they do play nice.  And you know, no matter what else has been said before and after, you know, they do want to, you know, make clear that they are partners.  And I think that we will see them do that.  We -- you know, we don't know whether there's -- there is a deal in the offing that would eliminate the tensions that have existed over the proposed missile defense deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic.  But presumably they are -- you know, working hard on that in advance of the meeting in Sochi.

But I also think for Putin, it is a chance -- you know, Putin is now in a difficult position that -- you know, there will be a new president of Russia soon, in -- by early May -- the inauguration of Dmitry Medvedev and, you know, Putin clearly wants to remain a dominant figure in the Russian political sphere.  And I think that, you know, having this kind of meeting, you know, can help in his own efforts to remain the person that's shaping the direction that Russia is heading.  SCHMEMANN:  Liz, a final word?

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  I would --if I were advising of -- the president's team of preparation for the summit, which I am not, I would advise that they should expect the unexpected from Putin.  

MS. SCHERMANN:  Good.

Well, on that note, we will wrap things up.  Thank you very much for participating, and thank you to all our callers, and we will have a transcript of this conversation up on cfr.org shortly.

And thank you all.

SHERWOOD-RANDALL:  Thank you all.

GOLDGEIER:  Great.  Thank you.

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