The Future of NATO, With Ivo H. Daalder

Ivo H. Daalder, president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss what the Russian invasion of Ukraine means for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

April 12, 2022 — 32:15 min
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Host

James M. Lindsay

Senior Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair Full Bio

Episode Guests

Ivo H. Daalder

President, Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Show Notes

Ivo H. Daalder, president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, sits down with James M. Lindsay to discuss what the Russian invasion of Ukraine means for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

 

Articles and Podcasts Mentioned on the Podcast

 

Ivo H. Daalder, "The Return of Containment,” Foreign Affairs, March 1, 2022

 

Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay, "Why Putin Underestimated the West," Foreign Affairs, April 7, 2022

 

Ivo H. Daalder, World Review with Ivo Daalder, Chicago Council on Global Affairs

 

Books Mentioned

 

Ivo H. Daalder, Getting to Dayton: The Making of America's Bosnia Policy (2000)

 

Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay, The Empty Throne: America's Abdication of Global Leadership (2018)

 

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Transcript

Jim Lindsay:

Welcome to The President's Inbox, a CFR podcast about the foreign policy challenges facing the United States. I'm Jim Lindsay, Director of Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This week's topic is The Future of NATO.

Jim Lindsay:

With me to discuss what the Russian invasion of Ukraine means for NATO is Ivo Daalder. Ivo is the President of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, where among other things, he hosts the Chicago Council's World Review with Ivo Daalder. You can watch this weekly conversation with leading journalists about emerging global stories on the Chicago Council's website, or listen to it in podcast forum. Before taking up the presidency of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Ivo served as US ambassador to NATO, a post he held from 2009 to 2013. Before that, he was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Ivo has written and edited 10 books. His most recent is The Empty Throne: America's Abdication of Global Leadership, which he and I co-wrote. Ivo also has written two pieces recently for foreignaffairs.com. One is, "The Return of Containment: How the West Can Prevail Against the Kremlin." The other is, "Why Putin Underestimated the West: And How to Sustain Its Newfound Unity," which he and I co-authored. Ivo, thanks for joining me.

Ivo Daalder:

Great to be here, Jim.

Jim Lindsay:

Always good to talk to you. I hope I've made it clear to everybody. We go back a ways and have written some things together.

Ivo Daalder:

We have indeed, we go back a long way, 35, 37 years, in fact. I think when we shared an office at Harvard, well, we were neither at Harvard, which is a whole other story, but.

Jim Lindsay:

We won't go into that, but it is remarkable how much time has passed, but let's sort of begin with the question of, where NATO is today. And I will note that back in November of 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron, warn that NATO was at risk of becoming brain dead. How has the Russian invasion of Ukraine transformed the alliance?

Ivo Daalder:

Well, if it was brain dead, then all of a sudden it had a remarkable recovery. In some ways, NATO today is more important, more united in how it thinks about its role in the world than perhaps anytime in the last 30 some years, since the end of the Cold War. Not that in those 30 years, it didn't think about a role. It didn't have a role. It wasn't able to be united. It was. It was able to address the questions in the Balkans. It was able to launch a major operation in Afghanistan and other operations, and importantly, bringing in 14 new members to NATO in that time. But fundamentally, it's a military alliance that is fundamentally about defending the territory of its members. And for the first time, since the end of the Cold War, NATO members feel in their gut that their security now depends on the ability to operate together in order to defend their territory from a new threat, the Russian threat.

Jim Lindsay:

How would you say that has manifested itself in practical terms?

Ivo Daalder:

So in practical terms, some major decisions made pretty quickly after the beginning of the invasion, a significant plus-up of military forces deployed towards the East. Some of that was already happening before the invasion in response to the build up of Russian forces on the border of Ukraine, that was widely publicized by the United States starting late last year, but really accelerated after the invasion. So as a first measure, a couple of weeks ago, NATO announced that it was going to double the number of combat battalions forward deployed in the East. After the first time Russia invaded in 2014, Ukraine NATO agreed to deploy four combat battalions in the three Baltic states. And in Poland, they're now adding one in the other neighboring states to Ukraine, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria.

Ivo Daalder:

The US has significantly upped its own presence in Eastern Europe, particularly in Poland and in Romania, there are about 40,000 troops now operating under NATO command on a day-to-day basis. And the NATO response force has been activated and elements have been deployed both land, air, and sea. There's a military activity that is designed to signal to the Russians that defense of NATO territory, every inch of NATO territory, as the saying goes, is not only something that people are committed to in theory, but they are willing to do in practice.

Jim Lindsay:

I have a question I want to ask you that I suspect you've heard more than once over the last month or so, may in fact be tired of answering, but I'm going to ask it of you nonetheless. And that is, did NATO expansion provoke the Russian invasion?

Ivo Daalder:

Yeah, I am getting tired of that question. You know, the reality is that NATO doesn't pose a threat to Russia. It is a defensive alliance, not just in theory, it is in fact, in practice, a defensive alliance. It is focused on defending territory against arm detect from others. It deploys capabilities that enable that defense, but when it comes to NATO expansion, those capabilities weren't really deployed until well after Russia had not only invaded Georgia in 2008, but also Ukraine in 2014. Up to that point, the military presence of NATO in Eastern Europe and among the countries that had joined was insignificant. There was some air policing about four aircraft of the Baltic airspace, but really nothing had happened until Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. And that point, as I mentioned, four battalions were posted, of a thousand troops each really not sufficient to pose a threat to Russian territory.

Ivo Daalder:

So that's sort of the practical reality. The sort of theoretical idea is somehow that Russia, seeing its neighbors as its own sphere of influence and that NATO was interfering in that sphere of influence. Well, Russia recognized when it was a Soviet Union, and afterwards, since it's been Russia, as part of a whole series of agreements that it signed, that there are no severe influence in Europe, that countries are sovereign and independent, that borders cannot be changed by force and that countries have the right to choose their own alliances. And so the idea that just because Poland or the Baltic states, or God-forbid, Ukraine, wanted to join NATO in order to enjoy the peace and prosperity, the democratic form of governance that Western European countries of NATO had long enjoyed, that, that would pose a threat to Russia is frankly absurd.

Ivo Daalder:

It's particularly absurd after we see what has happened, Russia invaded Ukraine, not because it was a member, because it isn't. It invaded Ukraine when it was very clearly stated by the NATO countries that they would not defend Ukraine. And so, if there is this idea that some have written that Ukraine was a "de facto" member of NATO, that's news to the Ukrainians who are still fighting by themselves. And it's certain new news to NATO countries who have explicitly ruled out providing any direct military support to Ukraine despite what's happened.

Jim Lindsay:

So why didn't Ukraine become a member of NATO? This is obviously a live question for you during your time as NATO ambassador.

Ivo Daalder:

The fundamental reason why Ukraine didn't become a member is because the members of NATO didn't agree. And in order to become a member of NATO, you need to be invited. And in order to be invited, you have to have a consensus decision because every decision that is made in NATO is made by consensus.

Jim Lindsay:

And by consensus, you mean unanimity.

Ivo Daalder:

Unanimity.

Jim Lindsay:

Most of the country have to agree.

Ivo Daalder:

Well, it's not only unanimity. It's, nobody should be willing to object. And there were people who were willing to object. So in 2008, when this became a live issue, when the United States, in particular, though supported by some East European countries, wanted to respond positively to the request by the Ukrainians and indeed the Georgians for what is called a membership action plan as sort of a process by which countries align themselves over time, more closely to NATO and prepare for NATO membership. The US supported that. France and Germany, in particular said, "No, we are not interested in this." For a number of reasons, one of which is because they had, in some ways, bought into the idea that bringing Ukraine into NATO would be a step too far for the Russians and they didn't want to provoke the Russians. And so the reason Ukraine didn't become a member of NATO is because not all countries agreed and that remained the case until the very end of the peaceful period, both in 2014, and of course on February 24th.

Jim Lindsay:

So this is quite clearly Putin's war and Putin has famously said that, "Risk must always be well justified." How did he get things so wrong with his decision to invade because he didn't split the transatlantic alliance he's unified?

Ivo Daalder:

He certainly got it wrong. He got it wrong on Ukraine, first and most importantly, he had sort of bought in his own propaganda or maybe it was the bad of Russian history that he would've been reading in the two years that he was secluded for COVID, believing that somehow to Ukrainians, particularly the Russian speaking part of Ukraine, really was eager to be part of Russia in a way that he claimed the Crimeans were when he annexed Crimea in 2014 and expected basically to be able to walk in into Ukraine with overwhelming military force and be greeted like liberators, sounds familiar. The only thing that he didn't claim is it would be a cakewalk, which is what we, some of us, not us, but some people thought when we invaded Iraq in 2003. He was wrong about that. But he also believed that even if he had been wrong, that he would be splitting the Western alliance, and you know you and I wrote the piece in Foreign Affairs about why Putin got that wrong.

Ivo Daalder:

And he got it wrong for reasons that frankly, are shared by many of our friends in the West, a fundamental belief that democracies, like the countries in Europe and the United States, are reluctant to act in the face of danger. And indeed, there's a long history of Russian provocations from interfering in the 2004 elections in Ukraine to using force against Georgia in 2008, invading Ukraine in 2014, going into Syria in 2015, with relatively little, if any, response from the West, maybe a slap on the wrist here, some sanctions there, but nothing that was really going to hurt fundamentally the Russians or the Russian economy. And then a belief that perhaps late 2021, early 2022, was a pretty good time. Merkel had stepped down as chancellor in Germany, a new untested government had come in. There's a French election that would divert attention for the French.

Ivo Daalder:

The UK was still in a major dispute with the European Union and the United States had shown that it is more interested in what's happening at home than what was happening abroad and Biden who had proclaimed that America was back, had bungled the withdrawal from Afghanistan. So he thought that the West would be divided and he might get a slap on the wrist, but the war would be over before anybody knew it. And the West would respond with very little. He was wrong.

Jim Lindsay:

He was wrong. I mean, it reminds me of the quote from George Kennan, the diplomat and historian who liken democracies to prehistoric monsters, dinosaurs, that ignore what's going around them unless they are whacked on the tail. And it seems like Putin has whacked the democracies on the tail.

Ivo Daalder:

He has. And I think we can talk a little bit later about how this happened, but if you look at the German reaction and I think Germany had bought hook, line, and sinker, the idea that change would happen through trade, that change would happen through engagement. For many Germans, the end of the Cold War wasn't a function of the strength and the arms race that Ronald Reagan had started in the early 1980s. It was the accumulation of Ostpolitik, of reaching out towards the East and that's what really changed Russian society. And so, they had bought into this idea that if you bought gas from the Russians, the Russians wouldn't attack you because why would they attack you, your most important market? Well, they turned out to be wrong on that, too. And importantly, they know they are wrong and they are now looking at sort of how did they get it wrong?

Ivo Daalder:

But they changed on the dime in their policies. Remember beforehand, the German chancellor didn't want to stop Nord Stream 2, and was quite upset about efforts by the United States and the Congress to impose sanctions on, on German private companies. There was no willingness to provide arms to the Ukrainians, even though they had been attacked. But after the war, all of that changed. German defense spending was increased dramatically. Germany will soon be the third largest military spender in the world. It will codify in its constitution that it will spend at least 2% of GDP on defense. It has created a hundred billion euro investment fund to bring a German forces up-to-date. It has started to send lethal equipment to Ukrainians, anti-tank weapons, a whole variety of others. And it is trying to figure out how it can cut its energy imports and dependence on Russian energy as quickly as possible.

Ivo Daalder:

All of those are really major steps, a fundamental change brought about by a government that is led by the social Democrats, the founders of Ostpolitik, the greens, the environmentalists, who are actually, on an issue of Russia, are far more hawkish than others and the liberal Democrats. So, a huge change in a few days, really, 72 hours, a wake up call. In this case, the dragon's tale was whacked and, boy, the dragon is spewing fire and fury.

Jim Lindsay:

So let me ask you, Ivo, did NATO, in retrospect, do too little before February 24th?

Ivo Daalder:

I think so. I mean, I think this war could have been prevented. I think, looking back in active process of bringing Ukraine into NATO far from provoking Russia would've more likely deterred. I think the decision early on to rule out deploying military forces and not deploying military capabilities inside Ukraine basically sent the signal to Putin, "Whatever you're going to do in Ukraine, don't worry. We may send some arms, but we're not to do anything." And that undermine deterrent. Now, I don't blame anybody for that because I don't remember a lot of people wandering around saying that the United States should deploy troops in Eastern Ukraine, in the run up to the war. This is more 2020 hindsight. I'm sure there are one or two people who can argue this, but if you wanted to deter this more, the threat of sanctions wasn't going to do it. The actual need to confront a military operation of Russia against NATO, might well have done it. And it raises fundamental questions about where are we going from here? What do we owe Ukraine after this in terms of not only EU membership, but frankly, NATO membership?

Jim Lindsay:

Well, let's talk a little bit about what might happen going forward. Let me just begin with the question of, is NATO doing too little, too much, or just the right amount today?

Ivo Daalder:

Well, this is a big machine that is waking up from its holiday of history in some ways, where it is worried about climate and other issues which are important, but really hasn't thought about conventional defense of its own territory in a serious way in 30 some years. And it's rapidly regaining the muscle memory of how to do that. And it has a summit coming up in June at which big decisions will be made with regard to the forward presence of military forces in Eastern Europe, a new strategic concept that would lay out what NATO is for, will be adopted. And I think that process goes about as fast as a machine like this could do, where I think it is not doing enough, is to think through what is it that NATO, as an institution, might be able to do in support of a Ukrainian self defense.

Ivo Daalder:

Short of actually putting forces on the ground, there are other things that NATO, as an institution, can do. For example, it has airborne early warning capabilities that can fly over NATO territory or over the Black Sea, international waters, and gather information that they could share with the Ukrainians. And then NATO, as an institution, has not done much or anything in terms of providing military equipment. Now, countries have military equipment, but NATO could coordinate. Instead, the US is coordinating this effort. NATO countries are doing a lot, but even there, I think we are moving, seems to me, to a point where we need to rethink what it is that we're providing from largely defensive capabilities to capabilities that are necessary to reacquire territory, because the Ukrainians are on the offense and you need different capabilities, tanks, multiple launch rocket systems, artillery, much of which has already been destroyed and now needs to be sent over.

Jim Lindsay:

What do you make of the talk that the nature of the fighting is likely to change in the weeks to come as the Russians shift their focus from Kyiv and other major cities to sending reinforcements into the Eastern part of Ukraine, Donetsk, Luhansk, that the fighting is going to change because the terrain is different and the Ukrainian army is going to need different kind of weapons I'll note that Ukrainian Foreign Minister said, let me quote him here. "Either you help us now, and I'm speaking about days not weeks, or your help will come too late." Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary General said that ally should do more and are ready to do more to provide equipment and they realize and recognize the urgency.

Ivo Daalder:

I think that's right. I think that the nature of the fight is changing. So the Russians have found that when they stretch their lines of communication, they become vulnerable to anti-tank weapons and javelins, and they've suffered really a lot of losses, as a result. And so they are, rather than focusing on multiple lines of effort inside Ukraine are consolidating, it looks like to take more of the Donbas. And I assume strengthening their land bridge from the Donbas to Crimea, which is they almost control except for the city of Mariupol, which is supposed to have been falling for the last month, but keeps on resisting a Russian takeover. So it is a more concentrated effort that probably advantages the kind of combined arms capability that the Russians, in theory, have and in practice, could deploy. And therefore requires more than just the sort of anti-tank, anti-armor weaponry that we have provided up to this point and they need tanks.

Ivo Daalder:

They need artillery. They need rockets. The difficulty here is, is that the Ukrainian army has largely been trained on Soviet era equipment that the US and the UK and the richer countries don't have that equipment. It has to come from countries that used to be part of the Warsaw Pact, many of which almost all of which are now members of NATO, and they're facing this problem. They're giving up their air defense systems or their tanks, but they also still need to defend their territory in case Russia attacks them, and so that needs to be backfilled. But they'd like to be backfilled with, it's not the same old stuff that they wanted to get rid of, but the really good stuff that the United States and its allies have been making. So if you have a T-72 tank and you can charade it in for an M1 Abrams tank, that's a good deal.

Ivo Daalder:

Questions, who's paying for it? How do you get it? Are there enough M1A1 tanks in order to send them in? The Germans have just announced that they are not sending a hundred tanks that they were thinking of sending because they need them for their own national defense.

Jim Lindsay:

Well, my understanding also as the German said that those tanks are in disrepair because they've been left out in the rain.

Ivo Daalder:

They have about a hundred or so tanks that need significant refurbishment, which will take months. Some have suggested that maybe therefore, they can become directly out of the German army. And then the refurbishments can go back into the German army and the German Ministry of Defense said, "Well, I'm not sure we want to be without tanks in the next few months. That's probably not how we meet our NATO obligations," including by the way, since the Germans lead one of the battalions in the Baltic states to make sure that they are able to fulfill that equipment. So it's complicated from a logistical and other area. On the other hand, it's clear that unless this kind of capability is provided to the Ukrainians swiftly, we may be snatching defeat from the jaws of victory here, and that they've concentrated forces from the Russians pushing out from the East towards the West. If they overrun the Ukrainian forces, they can run very far, very fast. And that includes not just the Donbas, but other parts of Ukraine possibly, including Kyiv.

Jim Lindsay:

So, Ivo, as these issues of what weapons should be sent to Ukraine are discussed and worked out along with the equally important questions of how you actually get weapons there and how you get people trained to use weapons. There's a bigger question which is, what is NATO's goal in the current Ukraine crisis? Is it to compel Russia to settle? Is it to see Russia defeated? Is it even bigger than that, about sending a message to China about Taiwan and its integrity? How do you think about it on a strategic level?

Ivo Daalder:

Let me talk about what I think NATO's goal should be, whether that is NATO's goal, I'm not quite certain. I think NATO's goal's focused on the ending the war, which we all want, but we also want to end the war in a particular way. I think our goal should be that Ukraine emerges from this conflict, in the end, as a prosperous, democratic, and secure country. That is what Ukraine has wanted. It is the Russians who have sought since at least 2004 to undermine its capacity to be democratic, independent, prosperous, and successful, let alone secure. And I think there are two ways which we have demonstrated in the post Cold War period about how you do that. One is that you need to help the country's leaders address the fundamental problems in their own society within Ukraine as particularly relates to corruption, but provide the assistance it needs to become a prosperous economy, but also to strengthen its democratic institutions.

Ivo Daalder:

And you do that by offering membership in the Western clubs, the European Union and NATO. When it comes to European Union, EU has promised an accelerated timetable for EU membership. I note that today, as we are talking, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission is in Kyiv, having a press conference with President Zelenskyy and reaffirming the commitment to bring Ukraine into the European Union. As a member of the European Union, it would have security guarantees, significant security guarantees under Article 42.7 of the Lisbon Treaty to be exact.

Jim Lindsay:

Is that a good term I have to learn, Article 42.7?

Ivo Daalder:

I think 42.7 is going to be a really important term. People haven't paid attention to it, but it is a security guarantee that in some ways is more significant than Article 5.

Jim Lindsay:

Which is in the NATO treaty.

Ivo Daalder:

It's the NATO collective defense commitment. Just as a side note, Olaf Scholz, German Chancellor, was recently in Stockholm and affirmed that under that commitment, Germany would come to the defense of Sweden, which of course, is not a NATO member, but an EU member. So, bringing Ukraine into the EU is one way to do it, and I think Ukraine should expect and demand security guarantees that what happened starting on 24th February will not happen again. And I think those security guarantees are more easily provided through an institution that already exists, of which many of its neighbors are members that is NATO, then some other way. Now, will Putin like it? No, but this isn't about whether Putin likes it or not. I think he has forfeited any right to object to how countries ensure their security, particularly independent countries that have suffered so grievously because of his brutality.

Jim Lindsay:

I want to get to the question of security guarantees. Before we go there, you mentioned Sweden. There's been a lot of talk recently about Sweden, potentially joining NATO, Finland, as well. I don't want to exaggerate how far either the Swedes or the Finns have gone down that road, but how do you see that playing out?

Ivo Daalder:

The Finns have gone very far down the road. So there's a government report that is basically recommending now that Finland join NATO, in part because neutrality, which they had long ago abandoned because of the nature of a post Cold War period, but they have a 1400 kilometer border with Russia, and it turns out being a neighbor of Russia of these days, isn't necessarily a guarantee for security. So they need to find it somewhere else. And Finland, in particular, debate has moved very quickly.

Jim Lindsay:

I'm struck by how fast it's moved.

Ivo Daalder:

It's really remarkable. And Sweden's moved less quickly, still there's latest polls indicating majority wanting to join NATO. There're practical issues that I think, you don't join NATO from day one. For two reasons, one, it's a treaty commitment, so it needs to be ratified by, not only a country joining, but all the other countries. Constitutional processes take time. The United States getting 67 votes in the Senate for anything may not be the easiest thing in the world. Secondly, unlike previous enlargements, when it was sort of political, this is military. You are providing a military security guarantee to Finland to defend it against a country that has a 1400 kilometer border next to it.

Ivo Daalder:

And so you better think through how you're going to do that. You need contingency plans, you need to figure out how do you bring reinforcements in. Do you have the capabilities? What is the Finnish forces? Are they compatible with NATO force? To which the answer is yes, because they have fought alongside and been part of NATO training exercises for a very long time. But as a whole practical way of thinking through it, but I think one of the ironies is that a war that was ostensibly started because NATO was gunning too close to Russia will lead to NATO gunning closer to Russia.

Jim Lindsay:

So I want to talk about security of guarantees now, Ivo. The Ukrainians and the Russians have held some talks. I don't know how sincere these negotiations are on the part of the Russians, but we certainly see news stories floated saying that the Ukrainians would consider a ceasefire or a deal to end the fighting provided that they were provided security guarantees. Now, that raises a big question of who actually is going to provide the security guarantee. Is this talk a way of getting Ukraine into NATO without actually being a member of NATO?

Ivo Daalder:

I think when you start unpacking it, that's really where you end up with. Number one, what the Ukrainians have said is, "Since NATO didn't want to us, we can't just rely on NATO. We need something stronger, better than a NATO security guarantee," that is legally binding, approved, by the way, by a referendum by the Ukrainian people themselves, because you would need a change in the constitution, which now says that they will become a NATO member if neutrality was supposed to be in the constitution. But those security guarantees, they won from the same countries that are members of NATO, France, UK, and Germany, and the United States and Turkey, Israel, as well. Because, although I know what an Israeli security guarantee means to Ukraine, but that's okay. They have a very capable military, no doubt they can help on the training side.

Ivo Daalder:

They want these security guarantees and make them actually more significant than the NATO guarantees. If you are a senator in the United States Senate, and you're saying, "We need to provide security guarantees for Ukraine that is separate from NATO. Why don't we just bring him into NATO?" And I think that's why, as I mentioned, I think that in the end, that's where we're ending up. Second problem with the security guarantees is, I don't see what security guarantee is acceptable to Russia when NATO is unacceptable to Russia. So I don't know how you get an agreement with Russia on security guarantees. And it seems to me that therefore this entire exercise is designed to expose the hollowness of the Russian position as opposed to a serious exercise, to find a solution that the Ukrainians and Russians can negotiate together.

Jim Lindsay:

I take your point that this is a circle that can't be squared or a square that can't be circled, but I'm wondering about the impact of the war crimes that we're seeing being uncovered in the fighting and how that is going to play into any effort to find a negotiated settlement. My sense is, that has further inflamed passions in Ukraine and outside of Ukraine. I mean, you've been at the bargaining table, you've operated at the highest levels of government. How do you think through those tough questions about interest, but also public passions, the desire to want to bring criminals to account. And again, I'll point out, it's not just Americans who are talking about Vladimir Putin in his senior leadership as war criminals who have perpetuated atrocities.

Ivo Daalder:

No, and clearly these kinds of atrocities make it very difficult to negotiate agreements. It's difficult for President Zelenskyy and any Ukrainian negotiator to sit across the table of the people who ordered and are responsible for the crimes that we are seeing on our television screens, each and every day. And it is difficult for the international community to accept that, but we've done this before. It's not that it hasn't happened before. In Bosnia, in '95, negotiators sat in Dayton in which the Slobodan Milošević, later not convicted, because he died before conviction, but indicted for war crimes and genocide, was sitting at the table with the President of Bosnia and the President of Croatia, countries that had both suffered previously from Serbian war crimes in one form or another, and did sign an agreement.

Ivo Daalder:

So it's possible. It's not possible today and it's not possible tomorrow. And as your friend and mine, Richard Haas, said a long time ago and I think an apt observation, "Conflicts need to be ripe to be ended through negotiation." And this conflict is not ripe for ending through negotiations a lot more fighting, unfortunately, that will happen before we were at that stage.

Jim Lindsay:

I will note that Richard is in fact fond of saying, "Conflicts need to be ripe for negotiation." I should also point out, you make the reference to what happened in Bosnia. You know wherever you speak, having written a great book on the conflict getting to Dayton. As we look forward, Ivo, what do you see as the potential divisions in NATO today that could potentially be exploited either by President Putin or could be deepen just by domestic politics in the various member countries. We've just had the reelection of Victor Orbán in Hungary. A lot of talk about whether Hungary will actually do Putin's beating within NATO. We have the French Presidential Elections coming up. We obviously have American Presidential Elections not too far off in the distant future. So how do you think about the strength of this new found coherence and consistency in the NATO Alliance?

Ivo Daalder:

I think the strength, which is real and fundamental, I mentioned what's happened in Germany. I think if you look at opinion polls in Germany, the policy reflects a very strong view of the public, that this is the right way to think about it. And that the way to Germany dealt with this issue was mistaken. By the way, similar is now happening with regard to their views on China, which is interesting. But I do worry about domestic politics in certain countries. First of all, in our own country, I think that this is one of the first major foreign policy crises that we've had in which the president has had zero positive polling impact. There's been no bounds.

Jim Lindsay:

No rally 'round the flag.

Ivo Daalder:

No rally 'round to flag, no nothing. And it suggests that, although I think people are appalled by what they're seeing and in generally are sympathetic to helping Ukraine and are supportive of the policies the President's laid out. It just isn't penetrating politically above the din of the immediacy that people are dealing with the higher gas prices and inflation.

Jim Lindsay:

You give Biden high marks for how he's handled the diplomacy overall, correct?

Ivo Daalder:

I give Biden very high marks, and I think one of the reasons we're unified is not something that just comes by itself, but it was a very deliberate attempt by the President starting really in early November when they found out what the Russians were up to, to rally the alliance. And it took a lot of extraordinary effort that continues every single day with meetings at NATO and phone calls. And of course the President traveling, himself, to Brussels and to Poland last month. And really not only saying America's back, but we're actually figuring out how to lead. He's been very effective on that, but you need a president like that and you need a leadership throughout the European continent that is willing to understand the long term importance of maintaining unity over the short term importance of meeting the immediacy of a political desire. And that's difficult and it's more difficult today than it used to be in the past.

Ivo Daalder:

And I think our own domestic politics are worrisome. I think what's happening in France is worrisome, it's something to watch. If Marine Le Pen wins the presidency, that is going to change in a very fundamental way, how Europe, how NATO will address this crisis. And so the weakness of the West is what's always also seen as its strength, the democracies are its foundation.

Jim Lindsay:

On that note, I'll close up The President's Inbox for this week. My guest has been Ivo Daalder, President of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Ivo, thank you for joining me.

Ivo Daalder:

Always glad to be here, Jim.

Jim Lindsay:

Please subscribe to The President's Inbox in Apple podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen and leave us review, they help us get noticed and improve the show. You can find the books and articles mentioned in this episode, as well as a transcript of our conversation on the podcast page for The President's Inbox on cfr.org. As always, opinions expressed in The President's Inbox is solely those of the hosts or our guests, not of CFR, which takes no institutional positions on matters of policy. Today's episode was produced by Zoe Collis, with senior producer, Jeremy Sherlick. Zoe did double duty as our recording engineer. As always, Zoe, thank you. Special thanks to Margaret Gach for her assistance. This is Jim Lindsay. Thanks for listening.

 

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