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.
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.
JAMES GOLDGEIER: All right, I think we're going to start, even if some folks are still standing, because I don't want to cut in further to the time we have.
It's great to welcome you all here to continue this session -- really greatly appreciative to Radek Sikorsky for getting us off to such a great start. And we continue with an excellent panel looking at NATO's role in the international system.
I'm Jim Goldgeier from here at the Council on Foreign Relations and it's a great pleasure for me to be able to oversee this panel of three of the leading international relations scholars in the world -- really delighted to have all three here. Of course, Charlie just came from downstairs -- from upstairs -- but greatly appreciative for Steve Walt for coming down from Boston and for Ole Weaver for coming over from Europe.
They authored, in the late '90s, a book called "Atlantic Security: Contending Visions". And so it'll be interesting to see if they would like to share thoughts on their views of NATO at 60 compared to their views of NATO at 50.
And I just want to open by saying, you know, we've seen NATO adapt to two major events in the international system: 20 years ago, the collapse of the communism -- and it's great to be able to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the collapse of communism in this November; the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall and NATO's adaptation to move from defending against a Soviet attack to, in those years after the collapse of communism, attempting to help stabilize Central and Eastern Europe and working with Central and Eastern European countries to carry out political and economic reform and the great success that we saw there; and then the adaptation after September 11th and the major effort that we talked about in the previous session in Afghanistan; NATO going out of area to deal with threats arising from outside of Europe.
I hope we can get into some discussion about how well NATO's done, because as we've seen, there are still outstanding questions. And with respect to stabilizing the continent, the issues of future members for countries like Ukraine and Georgia. And with respect to the adaptation -- going out of area -- as I mentioned in my question at the end of the previous session -- the comments by Secretary Gates about a two-tiered alliance. And perhaps we're seeing now the re-Americanization of the war in Afghanistan with the introduction of 17,000 more American troops.
But this panel's designed -- since these are not only experts on transatlantic relations and NATO as an alliance, but also experts on -- more broadly on international relations -- sort of having them help us think about, before our sessions tomorrow, NATO's role in the international system, it's relationship with other institutions and how they view the alliance at 60.
So I won't go on anymore. They're each going to speak for 15 minutes and then we'll open it for a conversation.
So we're going to start with Steve Walt.
STEPHEN WALT: Thanks, Jim.
I have a bit of a confession to make. I'm here under false pretenses. I actually haven't been paying as much attention to NATO over the past eight or 10 years as I used to, and that may or may not be revealing insofar a I have been trying to focus on the things that I thought were really important and NATO kind of fell off my radar scope after September 11th.
So in order to do this, in order to meet my assignment today, I've had to look back at the book we did 10 years ago and try and revisit that. I want to revisit that as a way of looking both backwards and forwards, essentially answering four questions: First, what did I say back in 1998? Now, most of you probably didn't read the book, but anyone who did probably forgot it even faster than I did, but I want to at least summarize what I said.
Second, I want to say what I think I got right back then; third, what I got wrong -- and there were several important things; and lastly, and probably most important, what do I wonder about now? And I want to lay out five somewhat heretical questions to ask about NATO at this stage.
Well, my essay was entitled: "The Precarious Partnership" and that summed up the argument pretty well. I argued that there were a set of powerful, structural forces beginning to pull the United States and Europe apart. Some of those were tensions at the level of the international system, the most obvious being, of course, the collapse of the Soviet Union, which removed NATO's main rationale and created the possibility of much greater freedom of action by its various members. Europeans, I thought, would worry less about disagreeing with Washington and Washington would pay less attention to Europe over time.
I thought that also was going to make it harder to figure out the geographic mission and focus of the alliance and that within Europe, NATO expansion would increase, the heterogeneity of views within the European part make it more difficult to achieve consensus. Finally, I thought that within each individual country there were a set of demographic and generational changes under way that were going to undermine the transatlantic consensus.
So as you can imagine, I reached a really upbeat conclusion that the alliance would experience growing and largely unavoidable tension. Now, I didn't predict NATO was going to collapse, for the same reason that you can never quite predict when a bad marriage may finally decide to call the lawyers and seek a divorce. But I did expect greater friction. And to head that off, I argued that NATO's should lower their expectations, stop basing relations on the presumption of unity and try to preserve the most important parts of the relationship.
So what'd I get right? I think it's clear cooperation within NATO is no longer something that we can take for granted, and that's something, of course, we just heard from the foreign minister. What I said back then was the European powers have less need for American protection, which means their ability to make independent decisions is growing. The United States has less need to provide security and stability in Europe, so the American commitment to Europe is likely to decline.
I think that was correct. The Kosovo War produced bitter divisions between the United States and Europe -- some observers arguing NATO nearly came apart -- and among other things, that experience made the Bush experience quite wary of using NATO in Afghanistan at first.
Now, you could argue that this was NATO's first actual war, but it was a little bit like a trip that quarreling couple takes to try and restore the relationship. They end up fighting the entire time, come back and tell their friends that they really had a wonderful trip.
The most obvious case of this, of course, were the divisions over the U.S. decision to invade Iraq -- and I don't think I need to rehearse those in any detail. But I would remind people that this also fostered fairly deep divisions within Europe itself, with old Europe being more skeptical than new Europe. And again, this is precisely what one should have expected. In fact, 10 years ago I said informal coalitions within the alliance are likely to become more significant.
Another sign of trouble: the Bush administration's initial rejection of NATO help in Afghanistan after September 11th. NATO invokes Article 5 for the first time in its history and we essentially say thanks, but no thanks. We eventually get into trouble and ask for help, but the contributions of Europe has varied enormously and the United States has clearly done most of the heavy lifting. All you need to do is look at the casualty figures of each of the participants and you get some sense of that. About 653 U.S. soldiers killed last time I checked; 145 U.K.; 108 Canadian; 28 German; 24 French.
Meanwhile, the European members are moving ahead with plans for an independent security policy under the auspices of the ESDP. Now, that's a gradual process and everyone continues to pay lip service to NATO, but it's another sign again of Europe's capacity to make independent decisions.
Well, last but not least, it's proven very hard to get any consensus on problems like Iran -- and especially with respect to any sort of military action. If something does happen militarily, it will be the United States alone, not as part of NATO. And very sharp disagreements over Ukraine and Georgia last summer.
Well, finally, I argued that the end of the Cold War would create greater uncertainty about the proper geographic focus of the alliance, and I think that's right too. There's no really clear consensus over how far NATO ought to expand. It finds itself taking out-of-area missions on a somewhat ad hoc basis, and mostly at Washington's behest.
And finally, most prescriptions for fixing NATO involve harmonizing American and European perspectives on a very wide range of security issues, but it's not clear to me that that is even possible. Harmonizing them assumes we have the same interests and that's not always going to be the case. I'm going to come back to that at the end.
Finally, I think it was correct to argue that Europe was going to be less important for the United States than it had been during the Cold War. And that's actually good news. It means that Europe is mostly stable and prosperous and doesn't need the same level of American interest or protection. Just, as everyone knows, in the Cold War the United States had over 200,000 troops committed to Europe, lots of other military assets focused on that arena.
By 1998, when we wrote our book, European command was down to about 121,000 U.S. troops. Today we're down to about 80,000. Our focus has clearly shifted to other regions. And again, that's not bad news. That's especially not bad news from Europe's point of view, because sometimes getting a lot of American tension can be rather worrisome.
The final sign of underlying trouble that I would just point to is the number of books, papers, studies, et cetera that focus now on fixing what's wrong. In 2002, Charlie and I participated in a council study group with the title, "Renewing the Transatlantic Partnership". Recently, RAND and Bertelsmann put out a study on "Revitalizing the Alliance". A coalition of five different think tanks here in Washington put out a study called "Alliance Reborn". Notice the prefix "re" for all of these -- revitalizing, repair, restore, renew -- this is revealing. If so many smart people think NATO needs help, it probably does.
Bottom line, I think a lot of my earlier analysis has been borne out, but I wasn't 100 percent clairvoyant, so let me confess what I got wrong. First, like everybody else, I didn't pay enough attention to the emergence of al Qaeda. I didn't see 9/11 coming, and therefore, I missed the possibility that a new external threat might be arising to replace, in some ways, the old Soviet threat.
One caveat I'd note is that the events since September 11th suggest that getting transatlantic cooperation on how to deal with that threat has proven quite difficult.
Second, I clearly overstated America's willingness to intervene in lots of places around the world and to let our allies free ride on those security efforts. I thought, in fact, the United States would gradually disengage and return to more of a policy being an offshore balancer, pass more of the burden to its allies. This didn't happen under either President Clinton or President Bush for a variety of reasons.
But I would remind everybody that before 9/11, some of Don Rumsfeld's ideas about how to rearrange the American military and how it was deployed around the world were somewhat consistent with that. He didn't like the idea of large, big, permanent American military deployments. He wanted mobility. He wanted lots of things based here in the United States -- more of an expeditionary force. He didn't get that for all the reasons that we know, but it suggests where the United States might have gone had 9/11 not happened.
Finally, I think some of this forecast may still be vindicated, partly because of the failures of the Bush administration and partly because of our current economic situation. It is hard for me to imagine the United States sustaining its current level of global activism in light of our current economic situation. As was said in the opening session, we are going to have to make some pretty hard choices.
Lastly, I underestimated Europe's willingness to remain deferential to American leadership. I think that was easy to explain in the 1990s, but I thought a new generation of Europeans was going to emerge that would not be particularly deferential. What I missed was the new generation was going to be just as happy to continue spending 1 or 2 percent of GDP, as long as Uncle Sam was willing to do the heavy lifting. Well, again, there were a few flashes of independence, but a surprising degree -- at least to me -- of European deference.
So what do I wonder about? And let me close by laying out five questions that I now have -- and as I said, they're going to be somewhat heretical.
I do still wonder about the impact of generational change. And if you'll forgive me, I have that same sense as I look around the room and detect that I'm probably about the median age here and that's not reassuring with respect to the alliance. If you're 20 years old today, you were born the year the wall came down. You were 12 years old when Bush became president, amid a period when the American image in Europe sank to new lows -- at least in much of Europe.
The Berlin crisis, flexible response, the INF issue -- all the familiar landmarks of NATO's glorious past -- are ancient history to someone who's 20 today. Is an alliance led by the United States the only world the young European can or will imagine going forward? And what about Americans whose ancestry is from Asia or India or Latin America? Are the traditional varieties of transatlantic cooperation going to resonant as powerfully for them, as it has for NATO's founding generation and for most of us in the room?
Second, the perennial question: How do you get Europe to do more? We have 60 years of history and well developed social science theories explaining why free riding occurs. Does anyone seriously believe Europe is going to take on an equal share of alliance burdens, so long as the United States continues to be willing to do as much as it has in the past?
Third: Over the next 10 or 20 years, America's strategic attention is going to be focused on the Middle East, Central Asia and East Asia. What are the bases for enduring and close transatlantic cooperation then? And if the United States were to try to contain a rise in China at some point down the road, would Europe support that goal or would Europe tend to incline towards a middle position between these two great super powers?
Number four -- and following from the third point -- why do we believe that NATO can or should strive for consensus on literally dozens of international issues? And here I'm thinking of the recent RAND-Bertelsmann report. As I said before, the usual position of people who want to fix the alliance is to propose a new effort to get Europe and America to agree on a whole range of very naughty problems like terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, Central Asia, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the reform of threatened woods, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
But is there any reason to either expect or to require this? Might we be better off picking two or three of the most important issues, where we share strong common interests, and agreeing to disagree on lots of others?
Finally, my last heretical question: Is there a point where the alliance might actually end? I don't actually think so. I think it will gradually become less and less relevant.
Now, in a different article I wrote back 10 years ago, I compared NATO to Oscar Wilde's "Picture of Dorian Gray". It still looked youthful. There were lots of meetings, exercises, summits, a busy bureaucracy, but in reality, it was getting somewhat old and tired.
I still think that's an apt metaphor. There's no need for an acrimonious divorce, but perhaps NATO at 60 can look forward to NATO at 75 enjoying a quiet and well-deserved retirement -- still alive, but a lot less active.
Thank you. (Applause.)
OLE WAEVER: Thank you for this chance to take part in this interesting discussion. In contrast to Steve, I'll not go back to -- I didn't reread my article. I'm a little bit afraid of what I would find there. So I'll take a different strategy and just talk from where I am now.
And my introduction has three parts: one about emotions, one about means of transportation and one about global power structure.
And I have entitled my talk: "NATO, the Endearing Alliance." That's not just my poor translation -- I did say "endearing" and not "enduring" and I'm sure most people here would have preferred if I would have said "enduring", but I'm not able to defend that position scientifically.
So what's the point in saying "endearing" here? The point is that I think we are often misled by the fact that NATO is basically very, very popular in policy circles all around. And that leads us into a logical (error ?). In policy analysis, we very often meet the argument that if the crisis is admitted, warnings are sounded, but then ultimately, the worry is trimmed by an argument that goes like this: In the last instance, all parties prefer to have NATO and nobody is going to ultimately kill it. Yes, we dance on the brink, but then we all know that NATO is too valuable and therefore, we will always sit tight for it. Point me someone who would really prefer not to have NATO?
The problem is that this argument is not valid. The threat against NATO is not a decision to dismantle it, but the lack of decisions necessary to reproduce it or one might even say to regenerate it and regenerate its particular strengths.
And here I think we are often fooled by the word, the label, "alliance". NATO is far more than an alliance. An alliance traditionally was a mutual pledge. Mostly it was a piece of paper, sometimes a bit of coordination and preparations. But NATO is an elaborate institutional network and not the least, it involves quite intrusive procedures for intermingling our militaries -- training standards, equipment, communication systems, exercises, operations together. And this happens in one of the most sensitive fields, something that is traditionally seen as close to the heart of sovereignty of a state.
So coming from Europe where we have all these discussions all the time about when things start to hurt in relation to sovereignty. And it's basically not surprising to anyone that the military area is the last that we manage to get to in this whole process.
So why is it that in NATO that we could do this -- that we could do things? Well, basically, of course, during the Cold War it was possible because we had this extraordinary conflict -- long, intense, bipolar, simple. And today, there's no similar ability to make difficult decisions.
Take an example like Special Operations Forces. It has become clear that for a number of years now how valuable Special Operations Forces are, but often at the same time, how national they are. They're linked in any similar way to other units. They are no interoperable at all. They are much less coordinated than other forces and it is seen as a very national thing, the way you do it, because it often has some domestic connotations as well and other purposes and so on.
There are lots more known failures -- defense budgets, of course. That's not likely to change. As the minister already talked about, the payment system, which -- while I assert the idea that we always pay for our own costs and there's therefore no way really to, in a sense, help out by paying instead of doing things.
We have the headline issue these days of Afghanistan and the supply of troops -- and especially troops without constraining caveats. And we have, of course, the well-known bigger political issues like deciding on the Iraq war and so on.
But I'm just listing these briefly, because I think actually the other one is more interesting. More important than these high profile issues are the less noted, ongoing or rather continuously not occurring micro decisions about how to develop infrastructure, organization, procurement, interoperability at an updated level and so on.
It has been observed now for years and stated in every report on the state of NATO that the technology gap is growing between the U.S. and the allies and it's still true and it's more true than ever.
So the picture I'm painting here is really that NATO is a gift from the past, but it's a precious gift. It's not one that can be produced today. In that sense, it's like a 17th century painting in our museums. That they're products of a different time and we should protect and keep them, but we cannot again become that culture able to generate this kind of art.
So in that sense, in terms of the quality of NATO as an institution, I think we have to get accommodative to the basic situation that in some sense, we are sliding down a slope here. But is there any reason to clutch as much as we can and try to get the nails in and prevent that we slide faster than we want, but the direction is, in that sense, given because the institution -- the most unique and most unlikely element of the institution was produced under conditions that are no longer present.
And I'm not saying this in order to prepare for post-NATO discussions and say we should therefore already now start to aim at another situation. I honestly believe that NATO is extremely valuable and it's better than any imaginable alternative. But we should not fool ourselves by having expectations that are unrealistic ideas about how it's possible to compensate for weaknesses by finding another way of whipping each other into doing the things that we really should be doing.
A familiar way of addressing this is, of course, to end up talking about will -- I could have taken any number of quotes, but just one from the chairman of the House Commons Defense Committee, James Arbuthnot, quote "As it approaches its 60th anniversary in 2009, NATO remains indispensible to our security and central to our collective defense. But its credibility, and cohesion -- indeed its future -- is threatened by a profound lack of political will among its members."
And here I would have to say from a kind of fear perspective that a question that ends up with a conclusion in terms of lack of will -- and especially that ends up with that conclusion year after year after year -- is problematic and is very problematic both among politicians and policy analysts to end like that. But if you end up and find that it's a lack of will year after year after year, well, then there's probably something more at stake. Then there's something structural. Then we'd actually have reasons and we'd have to start adjusting to that and not fooling ourselves by talking in terms of will.
This thing about focusing on the bottom line value of NATO by having this military infrastructure with military multiplier factor and the possibility of whether we can regenerate that or not, can also be phrased in relations to a formulation which was very popular a few years ago -- or some years ago. People were saying, especially around the end of the Cold War and the first years after, that NATO would change from a military to a political alliance. And here I think it's important to note just that the opposite has happened and was always likely to happen.
NATO is today less of a political alliance, less automaticity, less a place where you can agree collectively. There's not a lot of "one for all and all for one". It's more a military alliance in the sense that the unique value of NATO exactly is that there are these many previous agreements now embedded in equipment procedures. And all the actions together means that today it is simply better and easier to do things together with NATO countries than with other countries. We can do things that we couldn't do with others, simply because of those past decisions.
So to use another metaphor -- the famous toolbox metaphor -- NATO is there with all these enabling resources that other institutions don't have. And in that sense, I'm less worried that we will see more of the use of this toolbox by subsets -- coalitions of the willing and so on -- and more worried about the fact that the toolbox will be aging and that we're not really able to update it, because updating the toolbox demands very costly, very complicated, very sensitive decisions that we're no longer able to make.
And the danger is that NATO is so endearing that we are blind to this. That we focus -- at the political level we focus on the crisis and overcoming crisis and we can tell the story of saying NATO is always in a crisis, but it ultimately will overcome them and so on. The problem are the low-key issues, the ability to solve and make the right decisions on the much more troublesome updating on the hardware side, on the ability to cooperate in the future.
My second worry is a bit where valuing of NATO has led to a morbid form of developing NATO's agenda. There is a kind of double or quit pattern where we're getting to worry and then we find new actions to cover over this. We had the discussions about around the end of the Cold War whether NATO could survive without the Soviet threat. Then we got into a discussion of partnerships and eventually enlargement and enlargement and enlargement and now partnerships again and so.
Then we got into the discussion of out of area or out of business, leading into the Balkan wars and the actions there. There interestingly, we see how the survival of NATO becomes an issue in its own right. It was very explicit. In the Kosovo situation, the argument was made very openly that now the survival of NATO is stake and thereby, everyone was faced with the argument that whatever you in the beginning thought about this Kosovo situation, by now you have to think about the NATO issue. So for the sake of NATO, you have to do the right thing.
And after 9/11, we again had a criticism of potential irrelevance. In the words of George Bush, "NATO must focus on the true threats to freedom to stay relevant and that is global terrorism today." So then we got to the story that then took us to Afghanistan and now we have exactly the same argument again that Afghanistan determines the fate of NATO. We could take a million different quotes, but just take Joe Biden's from putting it very clearly less than a year ago in a Senate hearing: "The future of NATO is at stake in Afghanistan." And I think that's a widespread perception that if Afghanistan is mishandled, it's really the future of the alliance as such.
So there is a pattern here where a crisis of irrelevance is solved by getting into new trouble, and thereby raising the bet and using, in essence, the survival of NATO as adding priority to the issue. So in that sense, the endearing alliance misuses its own popularity by investing it in these various issues.
And we see this now pointing into the future in the discussion about missile defense. Interestingly, some of the arguments made for bringing missile defense into NATO exactly point to the consequences for the alliance itself. (Inaudible) -- wrote an article a few years ago on how missile defense could heal transatlantic relations. And a kind of -- (inaudible) -- has written about how the fact that here we'll get back to the core of defending the territory together will have a bonding effect on the alliance and so on. So healing and bonding and so on. And then we're deciding a missile defense. With that, in a sense deciding on the issue for what it will do for NATO rather than thinking about the issue itself.
I'm skipping here the whole question of pros and cons of missile defense, but the fact of NATO's -- (inaudible) -- of missile defense seems here to be made in a way where we see the positive effects on NATO, but they're clearly also are new burdens being brought in. There'll be new discussions of the visibility, of security, about who is really paying for whom. And maybe most importantly, it will bring NATO into taking responsibility for a very controversial issue in relation to Russia. At the same time, as the Georgia-Ukraine issue is inevitably becoming bigger and bigger on the agenda. And thereby, we are really bringing NATO into an even more controversial field.
I think it's striking how in the Georgia-Ukraine discussion, the discussions are different from the first rounds of enlargement. And I'm reminded of that, coming from Denmark where we were, actually, when the discussions about the Baltic countries. And at that time, there was very strong attention to the question of, can you really defend them? Is it physically, logically possible and so on?
And now it seems to me we have much more often the argument, well, the fact that you've become a NATO member really means that you don't have to defend, because when someone is a NATO member, that in itself deters and so on. But that is an incredibly risky -- maybe it's the ultimate bet in this series of bets. Because it seems to me that one thing we learned from the Georgian story is that the Russians will be smart enough to get Georgia into another trap where it will appear a self-caused conflict. And if the Russians are smart enough to do this, and next time just make a much smaller infringement than the one this time -- and one that's still seen as largely Georgian self-caused -- will we then come to defend a country that we really can't defend physically? And what we will have produced then? We will have produced the first blatant Article 5 failure and that is what alliances usually die from.
In relations to the EU, one sometimes talks of a bicycle theory of integration, that the EU has to move ahead with integration in order to stay upright. Otherwise, if it tries to stay where it is, it would fall. The relative metaphor in that sense would seem to be rather a pogo stick in the sense that we have to move ahead as well but we're doing it in big jumps, and to me it seems from the first part of it, also we're doing it up hill.
What does that mean for conclusions to be drawn? Some make this a basis for a public -- (inaudible) -- a call for a return to core functions. For instance, the British NATO Researcher Chris Colga (sp) says, "In a desperate attempt to prove its continuing relevance, NATO has gone global, fighting an unwinnable war in Afghanistan. NATO needs to return home to recognize that it's sole -- (inaudible) -- is European security."
That seems to me not realistic. There's no basis for a transatlantic agreement on this kind of mission. But notice, it's the reason to try to jump from not just the first or the best cliff in order to generate new excitement. The game that NATO has gotten itself locked into is, in my view, a dangerous one. It's one that usually does not end well. But on the other hand, I think we should try to play it as confidently as possible and try to stop this process of (not celebrating the ?) all the time.
Finally, a few words about structure: all my arguments have in some sense implied an argument about structure implied that there are things you can do in some periods of history and things you can't do under different conditions. But exactly what is my picture of the global structure?
I expected a bit more from my new realist friend here, so I'll have to say something that is really not usually in my area, book, and my role play, but anyway, if you take the basic question of what is the global structure, what kind polarity do we have here? Well, it's in some sense simple, but it's a very confusing result we get to.
No, we did not have uni-polarity. The U.S. is not dominant enough for that to be the case. I guess there's an argument that is easier to make now than maybe five years ago. No, we do not have multi-polarity. The U.S. is more equal than the other great powers. Sam Huntington actually gave a very nice summary of where we are then: We have uni-multi-polarities. And that actually tells us a little more than it sounds like. It sounds like a simple compromise, but it's more than that. It really is -- it's uni-multi-polarity in the sense that the U.S. thinks the world is uni-polar and acts that way. The other great powers think it's multi-polar and act that way and that's why we have the mess we have. I think that actually is a very simple theory that tells you quite a lot.
In a book that I wrote together with Barry Buzan we made a very similar argument saying that the global power structure is one-plus-four-plus-regions. And it's taken all these polarity discussion and assumes that there's only one level of power, but there's only one superpower. That doesn't mean that there are not great powers and the rest are just regional powers. There are one superpower, maybe four great powers -- China, Japan, Russia and the EU -- and you have to look at this one-plus-four-plus regions complex pattern. And that explains -- and I would say we are still there.
I mean, after the Bush administration's self-defeating strategies and after the financial crisis and so on, we might be a bit more multi and a little less uni, but it still is uni-multi-polar. I mean, it still is one-plus-four, and it will remain the case for a long time.
And that tells us, actually, quite a lot about why things look different from the U.S. and from Europe. From the U.S., it is a global perspective. The U.S. is the only superpower. And there is a certain skepticism of regionalists, because regionalists will always -- (inaudible) -- any attempt to set a global agenda and so on.
The EU still is -- the European countries still come out of a region, so there'll naturally be a hierarchy of kind of three -- (inaudible). The important security questions are those relating to our own region. And there the main security institution is the EU, not NATO, because what is it that keeps Europe organized and in place and cooperative on a day-to-day basis? It's the European Union. Even if NATO played an important role in bringing us there, it's not credited anymore for that. It's the European Union that structures Europe on a day-to-day basis in its peaceful format.
Second security agenda will be neighboring regions, which seen (from a plane ?) is not from a global perspective. And seen from Europe then it's Russia, then it's the Middle East, but seen from a specific perspective.
And then only thirdly, if we really have to, there are global questions. And then there even in the global agenda we would tend to favor regional answers to global questions. From that sense, I think the power structure actually tells us quite a lot about why we do have these different perspectives.
I'm not going into detail about the EU-NATO issue, because we have a whole panel on that tomorrow. But just one little reminder that we also create a special choices here, because we have to remember that the bottom line is you fill the same national forces -- the same credibilities we are talking about, whatever we call the institution. Most of all this has been generated and decided and paid for in the national format.
So for instance, when we had NATO's prior capabilities, commitment, NATO's response force and so on -- the whole transformation agenda -- that at the same time strengthens NATO and improves the opportunity for EU action. I think there was a widespread sense in Europe at that time with these positions, but this was emphasized and supported, because in the short run, it would smooth cooperation with the U.S., and in the long run it would help to build European forces at an up-to-date technical level.
So very often, there is this -- we label the issue, and then there's the bottom line, which is really less separate than it looks.
And here's it's important to note that in that sense, the European capabilities are slowly growing. And they should not be compared to NATO's, because we're never going to fight each other, fortunately. So it's not EU capabilities compared to NATO. It's EU capabilities compared to the relevant missions. And the missions follow from the approach Europe takes to security problems.
And since Europe generally doesn't define issues in terms that lead to the same kind of high-scale military actions as the relevant answers, maybe the tools are actually more appropriate than would seem if you took another standard measurement.
So that concludes my message. It's probably a bit irritating. It's a well-known psychological mechanism that we want things to point in the same direction. So if NATO is a good and useful organization, we want it to have a bright future. And if it's doomed, it would be more logical to conclude that we should get rid of it. But what if it is a valuable, but dwindling resources? That's a much more complicated situation.
Of course, we will have to devote a bit of energy to think about post-NATO futures, but not so much that we hasten their arrival. But I think it's important to try to stop this "double or quit" attitude and to stabilize at the level we are.
So it's maybe a strange conclusion from a Dane that we should have less existential angst and try to learn to live with the idea that NATO will hollow out and that it's actually not that catastrophic. And if we can learn to live with that idea, it will not happen nearly as soon as people worry about.
GOLDGEIER: Thanks very much. (Applause.)
All right -- we're such a cheerful group! I'm here moderating and I suppose that's not going to change with our next speaker.
So please, Charles.
I can see why they scheduled drinks for after this panel. (Laughter.)
CHARLES KUPCHAN: I will try to provide a little bit more optimistic view on NATO's future than my two colleagues. And in some ways am going to borrow from some of the insight that Stephen and Ole offered.
So let me just kind of begin by telling you a little bit where I'm coming from before I get into some more specific comments about NATO's purposes and where we go from here.
I share the broad perspective that Steve laid out that we are now in a world in which structural change, the disappearance of the Soviet Union, differences in threat perception mean that the alliance that we knew during the Cold War, and that we hope will continue, will not continue as an alliance. And that's simply because in the world that we live in today, with different capabilities, with changing strategic priorities, different perceptions of external threats, the alliance will lose some of its integrity, some of its unity, some of its solidarity.
But my comment about that is that that is inevitable. And that the best thing we can do about it is recognize that these changes are occurring and make the most of the areas of agreement that are left.
The second comment I would make is that I think that, over the course of its history -- both during the Cold War and since the Cold War's end -- has become much more of an alliance. It has become a security community. It is a political community. It is not just a military alliance. And as a result, it is in many respects part of a much deeper and embedded network of institutions and relationship that has come to be called the West.
And in that sense, I think that even though we may be somewhat skeptical of NATO's future from a realists perspective, because interests have changed and threats have changed, if we see NATO as more of a political community and a security community, we may arrive at a more upbeat set of conclusions about the stickiness of the alliance and it's ability to function reasonably well moving forward.
And I'm struck by the degree to which in the course of the second term of the Bush administration, the United States and Europe were naturally drawn back to each other, despite an enormous amount of acrimony over the Iraq war and other policy issues during Bush's first term. And in many respects, I see the equilibrium that has returned to Atlantic relations -- even before Obama took office -- as a reasonably positive sign that there is a community that is based in politics and values and not simply an alliance that is based upon coming together to confront a common threat.
Moving forward, I would therefore suggest that NATO needs to confront two realities as it sort of prepares for its next decade. One is that it should simply accept that there will be fundamental differences of agreement that are -- fundamental differences of perception that are much more serious than they were during the Cold War. Yes, we may have disagreed about Pershing or Cruise; yes, we may have disagreed about pipeline issues, but those disagreements were generally paved over by the common purpose in Europe. And with that common purpose in Europe, many of the issues that we disagreed about during the Cold War are now front and center on NATO's agenda -- the Middle East, Iran, how to deal with areas outside the European theater -- and I don't think these differences are going to go to way. And simply, we need to accept that NATO will be more of a contingent partnership than a partnership that we can take for granted.
The second point is that I think even though I would agree with Radek and others that NATO now has to focus more and more attention beyond its borders and take on a global agenda, I would be quite sober and quite conservative in my assessment about how much of a role NATO can play. I think we are learning some tough lessons in Afghanistan about how difficult it is to engage militarily in areas that are distant from American and European reservoirs of power.
This is really testing the integrity of the alliance. NATO hopefully will come out of Afghanistan with its core integrity intact, but it is by no means clear. And so when I hear talk about NATO becoming an all-purpose military vehicle for intervening around the world, when I hear talk about adding Israel and Australia and Japan and turning the alliance into a global alliance of democracies, I end up thinking that this is the best way to bring the alliance crumbling down by saddling it with a commitment that it can never sustain and not a way of updating it to a new agenda.
So let me drill down a little bit and make a few comments on three issues. One, what are the core purposes that I would identify for NATO moving into the next century or moving into the next decade at 60th anniversary; second, a few a comments on NATO in Europe; and then a few comments on NATO beyond Europe.
As far as purposes go, I think there are five that we should continue to focus on and that we may want to look to to inform a new strategic concept. One is the preservation of NATO as one of the anchoring institutions of the West. And many people say, well, West -- NATO is becoming a political club and to some extent losing its military character. And here I'm going to disagree with Ole. I think that's true, but I think it is good news, not bad news. I think it is a positive fact that NATO is becoming more political and less military in the sense that it suggests that it will have a staying power, that it has a political super structure and not just a military super structure.
And yes, there are many different components to the West -- the EU, bilateral relationships, contact groups various groupings of one kind or another -- but it seems to me that NATO is perhaps the central network of what we call the West. And preserving that network is a top priority in and of itself, especially as we are moving into a world in which the West -- the United States, North America and Europe together -- will no longer enjoy the primacy either in material terms or in ideational terms that they have enjoyed for the last 60 years.
The second purpose: territorial defense. I think obviously Article 5 has to remain operational. I am not one who believes that the invasion of Georgia by Russia is a cause to begin remilitarize NATO's eastern frontier. That may come one day, but I see no sign, at least thus far, that Russia is returning to the past of territorial aggression in a way that would warrant the remilitarization of the eastern frontier of NATO. And I do think that NATO can afford to put more attention on terrorism, on threats from weapons of mass destruction, on dealing with proliferation, on dealing with cyber threats, precisely because we can assume, at least for the foreseeable future that a traditional territorial threat from Russia is not of urgent priority.
A third purpose -- and I'm surprised that this really hasn't come up yet tonight -- is the pacification of the remaining part of Europe that has yet to be locked in. And I think that the Balkans are not out of the woods yet. The situation in Bosnia seems to be getting worse, not better. The situation in Kosovo is tenuous, even though the first year of independence has gone reasonably well. The Black Sea region, the Caucasus region -- there is a lot of unfinished business in Europe itself. And I would therefore be a little bit reluctant to sort of say NATO's job in Europe is finished. Let's focus on Afghanistan and points beyond.
The fourth purpose is in fact missions beyond European territory. And here, as I said before, I would be exceedingly modest and exceedingly sober about taking on missions -- be they a peacekeeping force it the West Bank or the Gaza Strip or deploying forces to Darfur or Somalia or points beyond. It seems to me that given the work we have left to do in Europe, given the situation in Afghanistan, NATO should be very, very careful about turning itself into a global alliance or serving as the military foundation for a so-called league of democracies.
And finally, I think hat even though I would agree that many of the challenges facing NATO are global, they are beyond the European theater, I would rather see NATO serve as an example; I would rather see NATO serve as a training tool, as a tool of assistance for other regional bodies -- for ASEAN, for the Defense Union taking shape in South America, for a Mediterranean union of one sort of another -- than I would trying to, as I said, look to NATO to perform missions that at least from my perspective are vastly beyond its reach and risk jeopardizing its core integrity as a foundation institution of the West.
Let me say now a few things about NATO in Europe and how I see the evolution of European security moving forward.
It seems to me that it's useful to think about there being three concentric circles as a basis for European security: the European Union, NATO and then a OSCE or a broader European security architecture that reaches from North America to Russia's east.
And here I think that I agree with Ole that in many respects, the EU is the most important institution of European security. And that's because it is the foundation for maintaining Europe in a non-war state. And obviously, that is a condition that we need to preserve and we want to extend. But I do think that the EU today is facing challenges of a sort since we really haven't seen since its founding in the early post-World War II era.
As someone who goes to Europe on a fairly frequent basis, I worry about what I sense is a renationalization of political life across the union. I worry that political life is no longer being animated by the European project in the way that it was only a decade ago. And I think that this is in part about some of the generational changes that Steve was talking about -- generational changes that make the Atlantic community and the European project of less salience and of less urgency to Europeans who lived through World War II or the rebuilding of Europe.
So I see an urgent need for Europe to restart its process and its project of integration to move ahead of Lisbon, to have a president that serves for five years, to have a so-called foreign minister, because it seems to me that that forward momentum remains critical to kind of revising the European project.
And second, I really do believe -- and here, again, I'll associate myself with Steve -- that Europe has been disappointingly slow in rising to the occasion as a geopolitical entity. I am someone who was bullish about the EU. I expected the EU to be further along than it is on matters of foreign and security policy. I agree wholeheartedly with what Radek said earlier today about a need for a better bang for the buck. Europe spends a reasonable amount of money on defense and it has very little to show for it.
And it seems to me, then, unless that deficit is corrected, that the United States will increasingly over time lose interest in Europe. And that's, as Steve said, because our priorities are shifting to other parts of the world. And if Europe isn't able to contribute in a more serious way to those collective responsibilities, it seems to me that the EU -- that the European theater -- will be of decreasing relevance to the United States.
And so after many decades of saying to the Europeans, don't get too strong, don't rock the boat, don't threaten NATO, I think we're in a world today where exactly the opposite is true; that the best way to consolidate NATO and the Atlantic alliance is for the Europeans to get their act together. Because if the Europeans do, it seems to me that the Americans will be ready to listen to them and ready to go the distance to secure European cooperation.
On Russia, I don't have any brilliant ideas on what we can do to make Russia more of a participant in this game rather than an object, but it seems to me that it is something that we need to do. I'm someone who was skeptical of the enlargement of NATO from the get go -- largely because I worried that it would end up excluding Russia from the game. And to some extent, I fear that that continues to be the case.
The Russians are talking about some kind of new European security architecture. We don't know exactly what they have in mind, but it seems to me it is well worth exploring some type of super structure or directorate -- a U.S.-EU-Russia counsel of some sort as a way of trying to pull the Russians into a security architecture, in which NATO remains autonomous and at the core, but not one in which the Russians continue to see the enlargement of NATO as directed against them.
The final point on NATO -- I would be interested if some of the perm reps that are here -- and I think we have five, six, seven of them either former or current perm reps -- on decision-making within the alliance. I find it difficult to believe that given some of the forces that all three of us have been talking about that this alliance will survive if it continues to make decisions by consensus. It seems to me that we're simply not in that world anymore. That given caveats, given different threat perceptions, given the pressures of domestic politics, we need to look soberly at a different kind of decision-making mechanism in which countries may want to opt out or disagree, but in which we can no longer assume that unanimity of one sort of another is going to carry the day.
My final comment focuses on NATO and its role in the global architecture. I think it has become accepted, if not conventional wisdom, that the United States -- along with its European partners -- will be losing the hegemony that they have enjoyed over the last five or six decades. Even the National Intelligence Council, in its report that was released not long ago, stated rather soberly that this was the case.
I do, however, think that there is a somewhat misleading debate that's taking place -- at least in Washington -- about what we do about that. And I think it's misleading because the conventional wisdom is yes, NATO and the U.S. and Europe may be losing their primacy, but while we still have the luxury of doing so, let's universalize the Western order. Let's bring Russia and China and India and Brazil into the room and let them sit at our table so that they play by our rules long after the West no longer enjoys its primacy.
I don't think it's going to work that way. I think that the West is going to have to compromise on some of its own notions of order, on some of its own views about what role democracy should play as a defining institution of order. And I think that NATO needs to start having a debate, the United States and the Europeans together, in NATO in the context of the EU-U.S. consultations about exactly what that next international order is going to look like because I think we're naive if we think we can really simply open the doors to a League of Democracies or a global NATO and countries like Russia and China are simply going to come in and sit at our table. We may need to find a new table in which we give as much as we get.
So even as we talk about how to bring a certain measure of stability to Afghanistan, how to finalize the peace in the Balkans, I think we do have to have a debate about NATO's role in the global architecture. But it's one in which I think we have to be exceedingly modest, conservative and sober and have a more realistic view about the degree to which the West will simply be one notion, one version of modernity in an international system that will inevitably, in my mind, be pluralistic and diverse.
Thank you. (Applause.)
GOLDGEIER: Thanks to all three of our panelists. And I'm going to take the prerogative of the chair and ask the first question and get the discussion started. And fortunately, we have a good amount of time with the three. And I'll ask what I hope will be a provocative question, although none of you seems to need this stimulation to be provocative.
But oftentimes, especially, you know, when we think about international institutions and we think about the range of post World War II institutions, a lot of times, people ask the question, you know, if it didn't exist, would we create it?
And I hear different things. I mean, for a while, I thought that Charlie's emphasis was really on the need for this institution and the need for a transatlantic institution, although, at the end of his remarks, talking about the need to think about other institutions as a complement. I heard more skepticism from Steve and Ole about, you know, the answer to that question. I mean, if it didn't exist and we're thinking from scratch today about the security problems we face and how we would deal with them, would this be an institution that we would create? And do you believe that it's even worth asking that question in order to try to think about where NATO fits in in the toolbox, both for the United States and for Europe?
And I'll start with --
WALT: Well, I guess, you know, for counterfactual, thought-experiment purposes, it's kind of fun to pose it, but we're not going to be able to experiment with that experiment, all right. We have it, it exists. And I thought Ole actually presented the sort of case for having this residual capability that we've accumulated over many decades and its continued utility. But I think it's pretty clear that if NATO, as we know it today, did not exist, in other words, there was a set of European countries, there was the United States, we didn't have any formal military arrangements to cooperate with each other and we didn't have an alliance, we didn't have Article 5 or anything like that, I don't think we would be creating it now. We might be engaging in certain amounts of ad hoc military cooperation on certain functions, but I don't think we would invest the enormous diplomatic effort to try and build the kind of arrangement that we have now. We just wouldn't feel the need.
Look at the challenge we have to try and building a security partnership more or less from scratch with India, where you can make various geopolitical arguments for doing so, the world's, you know, largest democracy, et cetera, et cetera, and it's still a long and slow process. I don't think we'd be doing that with Europe if it didn't exist currently.
One final point, though, is also if you look at the places where NATO does in fact fight, it tends not to fight as an integrated military command at all. It has various divisions of labor. It assigns responsibility to different areas, say in Afghanistan or of Iraq, to different people, it gives them different functions because the capabilities aren't in fact equal and aren't able to fight in an integrated fashion, even after 60 years of getting ready to do just that or pretending to.
GOLDGEIER: Thoughts from either of you on that?
WAEVER: I mean, I would say the same but just phrase it the other way around. I would say yes but -- actually, I'd say the same thing. Yes, we would try to create it and our attempt would get us 10 percent of the way to where we are now.
KUPCHAN: I would say that we would not try to create it. And if we tried, we'd fail. And we would not try simply because the structural conditions that prompted us to form NATO to begin with are gone. We would fail, in part, because I don't think you could sell it domestically, certainly in the United States or perhaps also in Europe. And I think that's in part because of a fundamental change and the domestic politics of foreign policy and the erosion of a kind of liberal internationalist bipartisan center that existed after World War II but that is, in my mind, almost dead today.
One final thought. One of the reasons that I hope that NATO survives is precisely for the reason that you articulated, that we can't rebuild it if it collapses. And I think many people take for granted that once a security community forms it lasts forever. But I think we need to be appropriately cautious about grouping the states that may, at one time, have enjoyed stability, enjoyed alliance, enjoyed a state of being non-war but then found themselves at loggerheads again. Geopolitical rivalry can sneak back in. We know it in this country. We have seven decades of stable union and then half a million people died.
We know that unions fall apart. Yugoslavia is gone. Czechoslovakia doesn't exist. So I think it would be unwise for us to assume that either the EU or the NATO alliance is here to stay. And that's one of the reasons I think we need to be very cautious about keeping it alive and well.
QUESTIONER: I would like to ask Charles Kupchan to elaborate a little more on his concluding comments about the need for an additional table or an enlarged table or new architecture. I assume you were talking, however, in relationship to the theme of our meeting, which is NATO. And I would like you to comment on the implications for what you were saying of two developments which potentially could be significant in some respect in regards to the issues that you were pointing towards.
The first is the approaching reactivization of France's membership in NATO. What is that going to infuse into NATO's strategic thinking?
And secondly, what is your reaction to some of the still somewhat imprecise but nonetheless publicly voiced hints from Moscow that the Russians are thinking about proposing some discussions or negotiations regarding some additional security architecture for Europe or Eurasia, more generally?
KUPCHAN: In my concluding remarks, I was attempting to sort of broaden our discussion in the most ambitious way and to suggest that we are at an historical intersection globally and not just in the context of sort of figuring out where NATO goes from here in the sense that I do think we are in a world in which with China taking its place as a great power by 2020 or 2025, with the share of global product that will be produced by the West shrinking, with the global financial crisis, we just need to be, I think appropriately, forthright in thinking about what the world is going to look like and the degree to which it will be amenable to a universalization of the Western order.
So in my own mind, I tend to distinguish between what the order may look like in a transatlantic context and how that transatlantic order is going to kind of fit in with a larger global structure.
To come specifically to your questions on France and NATO, I think it is all for the good that France is planning to reenter into the military structure. I think that the best news, from my perspective, of that development is a hope that it will ultimately lead to a re-balancing of the NATO-EU relationship. As I mentioned in my remarks, I think that is essential to the health of the alliance moving forward and that the imbalance that exists today will, over time, have a seriously corrosive effect, especially in a United States which is likely to feel the pain of economic dislocation for several years to come.
On Moscow, I wish, number one, I knew more about what the Russians have in mind. I just came back from Moscow two days ago. And I asked many Russians what in fact they have in mind, and I didn't get any answers. But I do think that there is potentially some low-hanging fruit, that with some creativity, with some innovation, there may be a way of marrying what we have in the West with some kind of broader, trans-European, transatlantic architecture in which the Russians feel like they have more of a voice. I don't think we're there yet. I think that given the financial crisis in Moscow and the degree to which the Russians have been portraying their country as surrounded by enemies and U.S. being enemy number one, there's work to do, as Roddick put it, on mindsets.
But I do hope that we can get out from this dead end of expanding NATO into Georgia, into Ukraine and seeing it as directed against Russia as opposed to finding some way of making this a more cooperative and inclusive venture.
GOLDGEIER: Anyone else?
WAEVER: I think this architecture discussion should be seen in relation to what has happened over the last 20 years. Because in some sense, one could say the end of the Cold War, German unification and so on was embedded in a kind of grand bargain where it was assumed that NATO and EU and OSCE would, to some extent, be complementary.
You couldn't make an architecture in the sense of a -- (inaudible) -- but the fact that they would unfold in parallel created a kind of accessibility of the whole process to the French and to the Americans and to the Russians. And that whole pattern has less -- if you look at it today, it's the OSCE part that has fallen out of the picture, partly because of the Russians themselves because they started rescinding the more kind of Council of Europe-like element of the OSCE and they were always ambitious themselves whether they wanted the OSCE with the part to just play the cards to try to -- (inaudible) -- NATO or they wanted a kind of great power concept system which they probably were more inclined to.
But the idea that there was a kind of a balance between a strengthening of three different kinds of institutions, that has been undermined by the fact that the OSCE never came to play that role.
In that sense, I think it's sensible to go back and say, could we restore some balance to that by having a third component? And there are some country issues. We have already talked about energy security. And I think that might be helpful to get a forum to discuss. So I think it's sensible to take the discussion. They must feel like they are the losers in the way it has been playing out.
WALT(?): Well, I guess I would just comment that I think the experience with the Russians in OSCE should make us sober and conservative, to use Charlie's term, about sort of what the game is with respect to creating some kind of broader architecture.
QUESTIONER: I'm Mitzi Wertheim. I'm with the Energy Consensus. Hi, Steve. I was at the council meeting, and I can't remember whether it was 15 or 20 years ago when Dean Rusk was our speaker for this event. I don't know how many people here were at that event. But what struck me, my recollection was he said, this is a decision that the next generation has to make, whether or not NATO continues. And I'm struck at the age of the people in here and that we don't have a younger generation as a part of this conversation. And my question for you is, what are the generational issues related to addressing this? And are they going to care?
GOLDGEIER: I actually see a couple of hands from some of the younger members. So would you mind if I -- we asked them (Samil ?) to do one?
Was that on this cord?
QUESTIONER: This is unrelated to generational change.
GOLDGEIER: It's not related, okay. All right. Then I'll let you say something about that.
WALT: This is a point I briefly made in my talk, and I wish I had had, you know, sort of hard survey data on attitudes that I could display. But it is hard for me to believe that the changes that have happened in the world aren't starting to affect the people who are going to inherit all of the chairs in this room and be in charge of foreign ministries and defense ministries going forward. And yes, they'll be socialized. And yes, they'll read all these briefing books left by their forebears.
You know, I have a 15-year-old son. And if I said, tell me about the Berlin crisis, although he has inherited a certain interest in international politics, he wouldn't know what I was talking about. It wouldn't be something that generates much interest. And I suspect this is true elsewhere in Europe. It's not the sort of thing -- this idea that we all grew up with and have taken to heart that there is this strong, central, you know, indispensable bond between Europe and America is, I think, not something that resonates nearly as powerfully for 20-year olds, 25-year olds. They like to travel here, we like to travel there, but it's not the same strategic focus, and particularly is you've just been reading your local newspaper for the last 15 years, that's not been where the action has really been and especially not since 2000, 2001. And that's true for where Europeans have been focusing their attention, where we've been focusing our attention.
So I sense that the generational issue is in fact a huge one, but I can't prove it. And there are younger people here who know more.
GOLDGEIER: Sunil you had --
QUESTIONER: Sunil Desai -- U.S. Marine Corps. And I guess I would say to follow on that that since I now am a parent that that's more of my interest and certainly driving and trying to help shape the future. I have a younger brother, though, who's not a parent yet, and he's very engaged and wants to change the future, although he's looking more at Asia than Europe. So the question I wanted to ask was for Charlie. When you said that NATO, you saw it more as a political security community, like a military alliance, do you see that that means that there needs to be more formal perhaps amendments to the treaty regarding non-military threats, so economic security, energy security or transnational crime?
KUPCHAN: I don't know that I would try to shovel into the North Atlantic Council everything from fighting HIV to energy security to stopping the polar icecap from melting. I do think, though, that if one thinks about NATO as a part of a network of institutions and contacts that kind of give life to the West as a meaningful political community, that we do need some kind of shift in our institutional connections.
I guess off the top of my head, I would say that a lot of the issues that we need to be discussing with the Europeans aren't right for NATO but they fall through the cracks of other institutions and that we may, therefore, want to think about perhaps institutionalizing some kind of EU-U.S. consultative mechanism. And maybe that could somehow fit with NATO but be creative here.
But I do think that there are so many items now that are on the agenda that we don't quite know where to put, that we do need to update the infrastructure. Some of it goes to NATO. I think some of it would not. But I think the most important thing from my mind is seeing NATO, not just as the hardware, not just as a place where the militaries cooperate but as part of this political community that is hopefully going to survive.
GOLDGEIER: We should also keep in mind that as much as we've dumped on NATO and what it can and can't do, it does remain among our most capable institutions. So there is this temptation for it to do these other things because to look out there, you know, what are the other ones that can?
QUESTIONER: Kori Schake from the Hoover Institution. Charlie, I am delighted to hear you commit yourself to being modest, conservative and sober. I think that alone posits well for the transatlantic relationship and to the future. My question is provoked by Stephen Walt's comment that sort of teases that the U.S. would seek to contain China and that would be a cause of friction in the transatlantic relationship because I think that pretty dramatically understates the U.S.'s ability to cooperate with rising powers.
And I think I might even be willing to take it as far to suggest that they might be our natural allies in the world for reasons of political culture, not political science. And that specifically with regard to China, the last few administrations, at least, have done reasonably well at it. And it seems to resonate with the Chinese, this notion of a responsible stakeholder. They are taking larger roles on things we're interested in them taking larger roles for. We and they seem to be finding ways that are mutually beneficial to cooperate.
And so my question for the council is, what happens if Steve Walt's wrong and the arrow goes the other direction? What advice would you give Europeans for managing the transatlantic relationship if the United States and China start to become hands across the Pacific in a way that the Europeans might want to contain China but we do not?
WALT: I want to make it very clear what I was saying and what I wasn't saying. I wasn't saying that a rivalry, an intense rivalry or a new cold war with China is inevitable. But I do think it's a very realistic possibility if you go out 20 or 30 or 40 years. And here's where I will put on my realist hat and say I don't know very many cases in history where the two largest economies, the two most capable military powers, if indeed China eventually starts to rival the United States in terms of military power, we're linking arms and doing hands across the Pacific, as was just suggested.
That might happen. I think an adroit and intelligent diplomacy to prevent this from being a really intense rivalry. But I think the possibility certainly exists, and I don't think I'm the only person in Washington, D.C. who's ever had this idea, that maybe the United States and China might end up being fairly serious rivals at some point down the road, not right now but some point down the road.
If that happens, then the question I raised was, what would Europe's position be vis-a-vis a rivalry between the United States and China if it in fact occurred? If I'm wrong and if it doesn't happen, I probably won't be alive by the time we get there, then my question about what Europe's response would be is sort of moot and your question becomes -- but I don't have good advice to give to Europeans.
I must admit I do have a little bit of trouble imagining a sort of Sino-American condominium that was directed in a way that, you know, was troublesome for Europe but that's another thing.
WAEVER: I think that there are two aspects to the rise of China. One is what Charlie I think very importantly pointed to, the whole -- which I think will be maybe the most important issue for the coming years, this whole adjusting to a post-Western world where we can't take for granted that it's always on our terms, that we can just define it and others have to accept our definitions and if others see it differently it's their problem because, ultimately, they will learn to see it our way.
But getting beyond that, there China is -- since the essence of that challenge. And that will be a challenge both to Europe and to the U.S. on different issues. There will be issues where it's more difficult for Europeans to not be able to talk in a certain moralistic way, which we are used to, and so on, and there will be other issues where it's difficult for the Americans.
But there's a separate kind of question which is whether one takes it as a worry as such that the power structure in the world is changing. And there, I think, the Americans will count power and say we're changing from basically something almost unipolar to something else. That will be in itself a worry for any strategizing person in Washington, and that is not a worry in its own right in the same way in Europe. We don't worry in the same sense about the number of powers and counting and interfering in that process. So that's a big difference there.
GOLDGEIER: You asked about advice, I mean, my own would be that I would hope that we and the Europeans would engage in a really serious strategic dialogue across the Atlantic about how to manage the rise of Asia. I think that that's something that has gone on a little bit but not to the extent that it needs to go.
QUESTIONER: Andrew Pierre, Georgetown University. Charlie, you mentioned in your recent discussions in Moscow concern about the economic situation in Moscow. Obviously, the tsunami has hit the world, and we've seen a meltdown of governments in Iceland, Latvia, and there could be more to come, serious concerns in Ukraine, Central Europe, Eastern Europe, not to mention our own country and Western Europe. And although that's not the main topic of this conference, I don't think you can separate these broad economic issues from superiority in defense and even NATO itself.
So I've got a three-part question. The first one is, do any of you believe or not believe that the current economic turmoil which isn't just current, it's going to be around for a while, is going to have significant impacts upon NATO institutionally in terms of defense spending and the like?
Secondly, will it have an impact upon issues like Afghanistan? Afghanistan is money. Afghanistan is politics and European-American relations and so on. All of this is likely to be affected by the current meltdown which may still have a long ways to go.
And the third which is a bit more philosophical question. My sense in talking to Europeans is that many have a kind of acute sense that this crisis kind of began with subprime mortgages and moved onto the lack of regulation and derivatives in the American system. The United States coughed and the rest of the world got pneumonia. And if that's an accurate perception, at least the way the Europeans see it, it raises questions about how the Europeans will see the wisdom of American leadership or American policy and not on superiority but more broadly on political issues.
And if in fact the Americans -- now, some people think the United States is becoming a country of nationalization. And I think it was Newsweek that asked, are we becoming like the French? But it raises a broad question as to whether the American model is going to be one which Europeans will sort of try to distance themselves more and more and what implications, if any, this will be for the transatlantic relationship. And I don't know if there are going to be uni- or multi-polar or not. But if we are, it's going to raise some questions about the balance within the multi-polarity.
GOLDGEIER: Thank you, Andrew. And I can't help but note that given the discussion earlier about generational change, perhaps the silver lining is that since everyone here will be retiring later then those involved in the transatlantic relationship will continue to promote it, so the younger generation won't be taking over as soon as it might have if the 401(k)s had stayed at the levels last year. Who would like that?
WALT: They'll stage a revolution instead.
KUPCHAN: I'll make a few brief comments and then pass it on. And I'll start with your last remark, Andrew. I think that yes, there will be a certain skepticism toward the American model that is a result of the financial crisis, and that it reinforces the remarks I made earlier and Ole was just talking about, about the post-Western order in the sense that I think we will see a rethink about the relationship between states and markets, about regulation versus deregulation, about how countries should go about organizing how to meet the material needs of their citizens. And that debate is going to be more diverse and broader than it would have otherwise been and I think expedite the sort of more diverse international system that at least I think is coming.
On the more immediate impact of the financial crisis, you know, I think it will be more difficult to get increments of assistance, of troops from countries simply because budgets are constrained. But I don't, in the short term, think that you will see, you know, an immediate cessation or withdrawal of troops or resources because of this.
But there are two things that I do think will come about. One is a less-activist American foreign policy. I do think that in the combination with the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan and the financial crisis, there will be a political desire to lighten America's load. And I think that that raises questions about the need for Europe to step up to the plate.
And the other concern I have is the political impact of economic distress in Central and Eastern Europe, Russia in particular, where countries that are sort of in this Neverland of democracy, not democracy, generally don't do well amid economic crisis. It's a breeding ground for populism and nationalism. And it's also conceivable to me that somewhere in Central or Eastern Europe, you could have unnatural or unconstitutional regime change as a result of this. We've already seen governments fall, but it's generally been constitutional. One hopes that continues.
What if it becomes unconstitutional? What if we see serious domestic unrest? How does NATO cope with that if those countries are already members?
WALT: I just want to, you know, pick up on that a little bit. I mean, I've actually been struck the last six months or so by a real disconnect between how the discussions of domestic politics and domestic policy have reacted to the financial crisis and how discussions of foreign and military policy have reacted. There's been an overwhelming sense that huge things had to happen domestically, that we had to, you know, bail out banks, we had to nationalize things, maybe we had to do a lot of things differently, re-regulate financial markets. And people don't necessarily agree on what to do, but the sense that real action had to be taken, real change had to happen was overwhelming in terms of domestic policy.
And the foreign policy and national security debate has proceeded as though the meltdown didn't even happen, all right. You've gotten an occasional acknowledgment that, well, yes, we're going to have to be a little bit more prudent, and yes, we may not get the F-22 after all, et cetera. But the idea that this was a really seismic event that may have very far-reaching implications in some of the ways that Charlie just pointed to but also just in terms of raw resources has not yet sunk in, it seems to me, to planners in the United States and elsewhere. I think it will.
And remember, we don't even know where we are with respect to this particular crisis. We don't know if we're in the elevator shaft and on the third floor about to hit bottom or on the 23rd floor with a long way to go. That's one point.
So my implication is the same as Charlie, my conclusion. We're going to have to be setting priorities much more carefully than the United States and its allies have done for the last 20 years or so when we basically thought we could do just about anything and get the Chinese to pay for it.
Two other quick points. I think your point about what this will do to the American image abroad is on the money. And here, I think that we often forget that one of the great assets the United States has had in the past was this sort of aura of competence, that by and large most American leaders, most American officials knew what they were doing. I know there were exceptions in every era, but there was a general sense that the United States really was pretty competent and when it put its mind to it it could actually achieve most of what it set out to do.
I think that has been tarnished. And I don't think it began in 2001, the sense that Americans really did know what they were doing. And one of the things, it seems to me, that the Obama administration has on its to-do list is reestablish that when the United States and its leaders think carefully about our problems and commit the national will to it, they can actually achieve the results they intend. That's going to make others more likely to follow America's lead, more likely to want to follow whatever initiatives we've set.
In my view, that also requires setting some priorities, making some choices, making sure that what you're getting into you have some idea you know how to fix.
GOLDGEIER: I think I'm going to take two questions at a time now so that we can try to get everybody in in the last 15 minutes. We have one here and then Steve Kull.
QUESTIONER: I'm Burton Gerber, Georgetown University. Unless I missed it, I heard no reference at all tonight to the term United Nations. And while the United Nations is often an obstructive organization and nothing much happens deliberately so by a number of powers, many of the Europeans look upon the United Nations as a system that should authorize certain kinds of activities, particularly military-type ones. So are we realistic in talking about NATO can be an effective military alliance when so many of the European countries, at least what Secretary Rumsfeld would call the old Europe, look for United Nations authorizations before they'll get into it?
GOLDGEIER: And Steve, please.
QUESTIONER: Steve Kull, Program on International Policy Attitudes. It's striking me that there has been little discussion of the principles that are really the bedrock of NATO, which is the principle that cross-border aggression is illegitimate and collective security is the logical response. That was a guiding principle that made the response to 9/11 and elicitation of Article 5 that created a lot of cohesion. It guided the response to the Gulf War that also created a lot of cohesion.
But now the question is, what do we do? In Bosnia, we elaborated a kind of new principle related to genocide or mass violations of human rights. Our presence in Afghanistan now is groping for a concept, it's groping for a principle. What are we doing there and what is the basis? What legitimates and what establishes the goal? Has it just become that NATO is like the Security Council with Chapter 7 and basically it can come up with any idea that it decides is important for security? Or does it need to actually invoke a principle?
This problem comes up, too, in relation to Iran and dealing with its nuclear program. There's really no clear principle, including in the NPT, that specifies what the problem is, what principles are being violated. Is it a function of NATO to articulate those principles, or is that just something that the U.N. Security Council is limited to?
So the question is, do you see any kind of emergent principles that can guide and direct NATO? And do you think that it is the role of NATO to formulate new principles that can guide its future direction?
GOLDGEIER: All right, well those two questions went together, so that was fortuitous. Ole wanted to --
WAEVER: Well, I think this links closely to this post-Western argument that we have touched on a few times. And I think we are, in that sense, moving out of a bracket in history where we, as a result of the end of the Cold War, believe so much in our own rhetoric and our own ideology and so on that it was possible to address issues out of any bound framework and say, we know what the right principle is then we should do it. And the combined effect of the problems in Iraq, in Afghanistan and the economic crisis where the idea that there's a perfect economic model and you know where it is and proved it worked at the end of the Cold War. That, I think, is the main effect of the economic crisis. The idea that one part of that is always right and, you know, we could go there and ask for the truth and so on, that has been lost as well.
So I think we are moving out of that period where we can deal with the issues just on our own without having to talk to others who see it differently. And in that sense, we are moving back towards the kind of U.N. Security Council international law framework, not just because Europeans are old-fashioned and insist on that out of an old habit but because, in a sense, you can only move away from it if it's possible to, in a sense, create your own new center of authority and force it on the world. And we could that for a while. We believe strongly enough in it ourselves because of the way the Cold War ended and on the way we saw the end of the Cold War and because of the balance of power in the world.
But when that period is coming to a close, when we have to start accommodating to a world of many power centers, many truths and many different stories, we'd better find a way to talk to those others, and we've got to find a kind of regulated way of doing that. So in that sense, I think we will be drifting back towards a more U.N.-empowered idea of who sets the ultimate authority for deciding the big issues. There, the period of exception is coming to an end now.
KUPCHAN: I would basically agree with that. And I think you're right, Steve, to point out that we now live with this model of kind of enormative order that is full of contradictions. And it seems to me that one of the things that we will, of necessity, need to do moving forward is deal with some of those contradictions and think about what that next normative order is going to look like.
And I think that part of it will involve reform of the U.N., expanding the Security Council so it enjoys more legitimacy. But part of it will also be revisiting some of the principles about sovereignty. You know, do we move ahead with the responsibility to protect? Should we countenance more ambitious delusion of the notion of sovereignty? My guess is that we will actually be doing the opposite, we will be returning to a much more traditional intact notion of sovereignty, in part because that's what most of the world is comfortable with.
But I do think that, you know, this is a debate that we will inevitably have to take up over the course of this coming decade.
GOLDGEIER: Do you want to weigh in?
WALT: I'll just say very briefly that I think it is something of an oversimplification of American history to say that there was a period where we played neatly by Marquis of Queensberry rules and always looked for international legitimacy. And then there was a period where we stopped. And now there's going to be a period where we start.
I think there are a lot of Latin American countries that would tell a slightly different view, for example. And there are some other examples that are easy to think of. I think we've acted like most other great powers in history. We've used force when we felt we had to. If we could get international approval, we did. But if we couldn't, we didn't much care.
GOLDGEIER: I can see a hand back there. Yes, in the way back.
John, can you -- and then behind him as well.
QUESTIONER: (Herman Colton ?) -- of SAIS Johns Hopkins. Does Russia need NATO as an enemy in order to maintain its authoritarian system?
GOLDGEIER: And then we'll -- have the questions.
QUESTIONER: (Name and affiliation inaudible) -- in Washington. I would like to push a little bit more, Charlie, on Russia and the concept of need to create the new strategic infrastructure in the triangle -- USA, EU and Russia. Let me notice that there are basically two camps in the NATO discussion about Eastern policy. One is the one camp which says that we need to continue what was successful at the end of the '90s and at the beginning of this century, so enlargement. They want to try to push enlargement into Ukraine and maybe Georgia. This camp, at least until recently, ignores the sad reality that these countries are not prepared to join the Alliance.
But I'm afraid that the second camp which says Russia first, also ignores the sober reality that Russia doesn't want to join our camp, even as you describe as an autonomous power. They want to build their own power to grow in it, to strengthen it, basically, what they had been doing for the last 400 years.
So my question, Charlie, is, aren't we all trapped in our expectations, in our wishful thinking? And maybe it isn't for us anything to do vis-a-vis Russia but just to wait until Putin himself and Putinistas in Moscow are replaced by somebody else who is more willing to cooperate? Thank you.
GOLDGEIER: Let me just ask if there are any other Russia questions to throw onto these two before going to the panel. And just a reminder, we do have the first panel of the day tomorrow is on NATO and Russia.
Please, that was to you.
WALT: I'll answer the first one very quickly. I don't think Russia needs NATO to preserve an authoritarian set of traditions. Because if my history is correct, Russia has had authoritarian traditions for 8(00) or 900 years before NATO came into existence. So it's not clear to me that it needs NATO to be inclined in an authoritarian direction.
KUPCHAN: I would not venture a guess at, you know, what domestic politics in Russia would look like were we not to have expanded NATO, were we not to have proceeded with the independence of Kosovo, were we had never to move forward with missile defense. Russians tell us that their sense of disgruntlement is, in part, a response to the degree to which they feel that the United States and its allies in Europe have not accorded sufficient respect for Russia's legitimate security interests. They tell us that we can listen and we can make our own judgments.
I come down on the side of basically saying that to dismiss those concerns is to be naive, that any country when faced with the greatest military alliance in history moving in its direction, any country when faced with other steps that the United States has taken along with its NATO allies would be disconcerted. The United States would be if the tables were turned on it.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't have proceeded with enlargement. I'm not saying it hasn't had benefits. I'm saying I think that the Russians are justified in saying, this makes us uncomfortable. That leads me to believe that we should at least try to see if we can find a creative way of bringing them into some broader European architecture without, at the same time, compromising NATO as a potential hedge against Russian aggression.
As I said earlier I don't know what that formula is. I don't know how we go about doing that. But I do think that we haven't tried hard enough to do that. It would be in our interests to do that. And that way, if Russia goes off the deep end and says, we want nothing to do with you and we want to reconstitute a sphere of influence all around our borders, at least we can be satisfied in saying, we did our best not to have that happen. Then Russia has made its own decision, and we will let them sleep in the bed that they made. It's better that they make the bed than that we help them make it.
WAEVER: I think it's the same as Charlie was saying, but let me just spell out one element in this. To bring it back to the architecture question, I think it's important to remember that seen from a Russian perspective, it's not an expansion policy, as I said as a wish to consolidate an old sphere but that, especially with this wish to be recognized as a power, no one can be a successful leader in the Kremlin and tell the Russian people, no one respects us, no one takes us serious as a power. Russia has to be a power.
But there's a lot of symbolics in that, meaning that we have to think about combinations of things, especially if we want to do certain things the Russians don't like. We have to think seriously about doing some other things that serve this symbolic need. But -- and this is the reason why some of the things we did at the end of the Cold War were so stupid because we didn't feed that symbolic need. That's why we should respond positively to things like the architecture thing, especially if we want to do other things that they don't like.
And this brings me to underlining, I think, the importance of the Ukraine question. I think that all of what we have been discussing until now probably will end up at the Ukraine question in the last instance and the fate of the NATO alliance will land there as well because I think it is so obvious that this is where the Russians are drawing the line. It's a bit like China and Taiwan, that there's this sense of saying, this might be stupid what we're doing on this but we've going to do the most stupid thing that's necessary if it's over this issue. That's the way China feels about Taiwan, and that's the way Russia feels about Ukraine -- that this is not an issue like any other issue. It's THE issue.
And therefore, I think we will end up having a really big tension between American and European perspectives on this one because there are people who want to approach this in this idealistic, euphoric attitude we have had for the last -- (inaudible) -- saying they have a right to join, it's about principles and so on. We couldn't care about what others think. And then there's a European perspective of where we have to say, if we look at them grow on the issue in relation to Russia, there's really no reason why we should have a conflict with Russia in the long run. Even energy -- basically, there are shared interests and so on.
But there's clearly -- if we put the Ukraine issue, we're going to have a conflict with Russia. So in that sense, it seems to me, you could probably boil down the question about NATO's future and so on -- I've been saying for a long time that the types of question will be how we handle the Ukraine question because that can blow up the whole thing.
GOLDGEIER: Before I go to the last question, because I do disagree with at least some of what was just said on how -- I mean, I do agree that we need to be sensitive to the Russian concerns. I would disagree that we didn't understand that. I mean, we did understand that, and there were symbolic things that we did try to do in the 1990s. You know, we wanted to establish a NATO-Russia council before the Madrid summit in 1997 to try to ease the pain for Russia. Russia was invited into the G8 in large part as a way of finding something. So the sensitivity was there. What's proven difficult is matching up what, to me, are two very different world views about what Europe should look like.
But I'll give you the last question here, please.
QUESTIONER: Thank you very much. I have a brief comment rather than a question. So can I -- ?
QUESTIONER: As an ambassador of Russia and the first Russian ambassador to present credentials to the secretary-general of NATO back in '98, who has worked with George and his predecessor, I'm listening to all debate about Russia, Russian role with a whole lot of disappointment. To me, all this debate means that NATO and those who are favoring future for NATO are more carriers of the Cold War mentality than we are. What you are discussing now, how to deal with Russia complex of inferiority, we do not have complexes. Do we need NATO as a justification of authoritarian rule? Sure. And, too, we need NATO as a partner, as a serious partner. But I underline the word "serious."
Currently, NATO doesn't have relations with the Russians. After the events in South Ossetia, NATO decided not to talk to us, no business as usual is the formula. We don't like business as usual as it was usual because it was talking past each other rather than working together.
And hearing this debate, I understand that most probably people do not understand what we need in NATO. NATO countries are our neighbors. They need to be predictable to us. They are not. NATO still is a military machine, and it was underlined several times, and I agree. The main vocation of NATO to be a military alliance hasn't changed, and we need to take it into account.
As a partner to us, NATO failed, and events in South Ossetia was a testing point for our relations. We do not have no longer meetings of NATO-Russian council. Has the world changed as a result of this? Did you feel the difference in relations with us since we have disrupted all the contacts we've been making? We didn't. That means that after all these years, NATO-Russian council hasn't acquired a quality that would have made a difference in our relations, and that's very disappointing to us.
I have an explanation why. Maybe George will support me. We had long, long debates with him as to whether we can have NATO-Russian joint decisions. And it proved to be impossible because NATO says that joint decisions, it's only within NATO. (Russian phrase) -- as George with his pronouncement said in Russian, that means joint understanding. It's possible. But joint understanding can work as to what we have agreed during discussion.
So whenever we try to develop a formula whereby we define a common challenge, common to you and to us, we agree that we want to work on this challenge. And we bring our capabilities together to fight this challenge. All this beautiful logic ended on the second part where we have to jointly take decisions that we work, how we work, that will involve bringing Russian officers to NATO structures and maybe NATO officers to where Russian military could be attached. NATO wasn't available.
What is the reason? I feel that NATO was developing relations with us like people who were concurrently -- (inaudible). They kept the hand on GA-38 Magnum (sp) -- (inaudible). They would extend the hand as far as shake hands. And if they didn't like the guy, they would change the hands. That was the logic behind NATO-Russian council in the very beginning.
But that's why it didn't materialize in something that makes a difference in our relations, and that's very disappointing to us. Because when we started this process, when we came to -- (inaudible) -- there was a feeling that now we have an agenda. I remember together with George we developed a very good document -- very good document -- that enumerated the challenges, other than Article 5-related challenges, for NATO that we can and should work together on. And we failed, NATO knows. And even the Russian council proved to be more important than we feared.
So if you are looking for new role for NATO, the role that will be not be lip service to the relations with Russia and developing serious relations with Russia, we shouldn't look for compensating for our inferiority complexes. We do not have any. We want serious cooperation and we want NATO to be a partner rather than potential challenge each and every day on our borders. Thank you.
GOLDGEIER: Well, I appreciate Ambassador -Kislyak's remarks and it does tie into tomorrow morning's panel. So that's quite helpful. And I'm delighted to hear him emphasize the seriousness with which he would like to see U.S.-Russian cooperation. And I would just respectfully add to his comments that the disappointments are on both sides on how things have developed.
I'd just like to thank the panelists. You've done a great job. I'd like to thank everyone for your questions. And we have drinks and then dinner and then pleasure of hearing Lord Robertson later this evening. Thanks. (Applause.)
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