Great Debates Series
Council on Foreign Relations
December 9, 1996
Expanding NATO: Will it Weaken the Alliance?
Richard C. Holbrooke and Michael E. Mandelbaum
Presider: Dr. Leslie H. Gelb (President, Council on Foreign Relations):
Good evening. Welcome to the second or the third of our Great
Debates, it depends on how you're counting. The first formal one
was about six weeks ago when Madeleine Albright, our new Secretary
of State designate, and Jeane Kirkpatrick debated about the United
Nations. Before that we had a trial run with Bob Ellsworth, one
of Senator Dole's closest friends and advisors, and Tom Donilon,
the chief of staff of the State Department.
And tonight we're very lucky, indeed, to be talking about, I think,
the issue that will be front and center in United States foreign
policy for the next year or two: the question of should NATO expand
Eastward. It goes to the heart of United States relations with Europe,
the way our relations will develop with the nations of Eastern Europe
and Central Europe, and the future of our relationship with Russia
as well. NATO has been the core security commitment of the United
States. What's going to happen with it?
Our two debaters tonight couldn't be better positioned and more
knowledgeable to address this subject. Michael Mandelbaum and Dick
Holbrooke. But before I introduce them and the debate begins let
me just take an opportunity to thank some people. You know that
Jeff Bewkes, a new Council member, and HBO have helped to sponsor
these enterprises. And all along for the last year and a half several
of our members have been an advisory board to us in these Great
Debates, in the Policy Impact Panels, in our radio show, America
and the World, which is moderated by Kati Marton. And I want to
acknowledge these members who have been just terrific in helping
us through the initial phases of learning how to do this public
educational process: Steve Robert, Tom Hill, Vincent Mai, and Steve
Friedman. On behalf of the staff of the Council and the membership
of the Council, we thank you four very, very much indeed.
Mike Mandelbaum has a Ph.D. from Harvard. Richard Holbrooke has
a B.A. from Brown. That should not be held against him. Their educations,
formal educations, stopped at that point. Mike Mandelbaum has gone
on to teach at Harvard, to be a Senior Fellow at the Council on
Foreign Relations, to write many books of considerable importance
about U.S. foreign policy, to be wooed by various administrations
to come join them and advise them directly. Instead, he moved on
to Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, where
he is a professor, and, at the same time, he continues to grace
the Council by being our director of East-West studies. And for
those of you who still like to read books, this is a marvelous one
called The Dawn of Peace in Europe which Michael penned for the
Twentieth Century Fund. Distinguished publisher, a terrific book
and it gets into a lot of the issues that we'll get into and more.
I commend it to you.
Dick Holbrooke went on from Brown to the Foreign Service to be
the Director of the Peace Corps in Morocco, to be Editor of Foreign
Policy magazine, to be Assistant Secretary of State for European
Affairs, to being a very good investment banker, to returning to
government as Ambassador to Germany, and Assistant Secretary of
State for European Affairs, and then on to one of those rare accomplishments
one dreams of in life, making a contribution to peace by putting
together the Dayton Accords.
I welcome our debaters. We will begin with Dick Holbrooke stating
the affirmative position for five minutes. Then Mike Mandelbaum,
the negative position. Then they'll each have a rebuttal period
of two minutes. Then I'll talk to both of them for about five minutes.
And we'll open the floor to you and your questions. I thank you
very much. Ambassador Holbrooke will you please begin.
The Honorable Richard C. Holbrooke, former Assistant Secretary
of State for European and Canadian Affairs, U.S. Department of State;
Vice Chairman, CS First Boston:
Thank you Les. I'm delighted to be here today and to help sell
Michael's book. I just hope, Michael, that you sell enough so it
won't be said of your book that the unsigned copies are more rare
than the signed copies.
Dr. Michael Mandelbaum, Director of the Project on East-West Relations,
Council on Foreign Relations; Christian A. Herter Professor of American
Foreign Policy, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies,
Johns Hopkins University:
So far it's close.
Gelb: You have three minutes left.
Holbrooke: Do we get to talk as long as you did in introducing
us? In the...
Gelb: Two minutes.
Holbrooke: The proposition before the Council today is whether
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should enlarge or not. In
one sense it's academic because it will enlarge. The question isn't
will it but how and when should it. It has been decided by the President
and by all the countries of NATO. But since we're here to debate
the proposition let me put the case for enlargement.
In the summer of 1945 the Red Army swept westward and the Allied
armies swept eastward and met in Central Europe. It is not insignificant
to note at this point that the eastward expansion of the American
army was deep into Czechoslovakia. But in accordance with agreements
reached in 1944 the armies relocated to the lines which then became
frozen into the division of Europe. Because of those lines 16 nations
joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and nations to the
East of the Iron Curtain joined the Warsaw pact. Are we going to
spend the rest of our lives with that division? The accident, where
the war ended in 1945. Are countries like the Czech Republic, Hungary,
Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, and others to remain outside that organization
indefinitely? Are we to harden a division that was inadvertent,
accidental, and unfortunate in 1945? If we do so, what are the consequences?
Well let's start with the obvious. In this century, in the lifetimes
or ourselves, our parents, our grandparents, Europe has fought the
two worst wars in history and the Cold War. They all started and
played themselves out on the plains of Central Europe. And they
all required American involvement to resolve them or stop them.
The U.S. must learn the lesson from this history. And that history
cannot permit us to leave those countries in a netherworld between
the old Western Europe, a concept which really doesn't exist anymore
as any of you who have visited Prague or Budapest know, and old
Eastern Europe -- a phrase which we at least in the State Department
abolished and replaced with the proper term Central Europe two years
Therefore, we believe -- when I say "we" I mean my former colleagues
and myself -- that NATO should enlarge carefully and gradually to
add countries. Now each new member of NATO will constitute a defense
treaty between the United States and that country and require a
two-thirds vote of the Senate, and Article 5 guarantees which say
that in accordance with our constitution, an attack on one is an
attack on all, require that we recognize that extending Article
5 guarantees is the most solemn commitment our nation can make.
It can't be done arbitrarily and there are many countries in NATO's
Partnership for Peace that either never will seek NATO membership
or never will qualify. But there are some that will. And we must
be seeking to bring them in.
European Union membership is not sufficient. First of all, the
EU is moving much too slowly for reasons I can get into later but
we'll save for now. And secondly, it's not a substitute for NATO
because NATO means the United States and it's the U.S. presence
in security terms that's required in Central Europe. They need this
Now what about the Soviet Union and its successor states? And particularly
Russia and Ukraine. First of all, let's dispense with Ukraine. They
have said they don't want to join NATO, resolving a huge problem
that could otherwise have arisen. As for Russia, Russia's objections
are well known and loudly voiced. But there is no indication that
this is a core issue between the two countries. This is theater
of a very minor sort. It will not determine the future of Russia.
It will not determine the outcome of power struggles in Russia.
And it will not determine the shape of the Russian military. The
private conversations that everyone from Kozyrev to Primakov to
Lebed have had in Brussels, Washington, and elsewhere indicate that
while they go through the rituals -- and certainly Chernomyrdin
repeated this in Lisbon at the OSCE Summit two weeks ago -- they
have to object just as they objected to Pershing deployments in
the '80s. But they will accept it and it will not pose a direct
threat to Russia.
Let me be clear. NATO was formed to contain the Soviet Union. A
new, enlarged NATO is not there to contain the Soviet Union or Russia.
It is there to promote stability and peace in Central Europe. And
it is not, should be viewed, as an anti-Russian organization, nor
do the Russian really believe that it is that.
Finally, NATO's own role. Bosnia is a case in point. It was only
when NATO belatedly and reluctantly, but decisively, came into the
mix that the war was brought to an end. NATO has this role as David
Gompert has very courageously pointed out in an extremely important
essay in Dick Ullman's Council on Foreign Relations book called
Yugoslavia and Its Wars. NATO's, the failure to bring NATO in in
1991-92 was the reason the war exploded in Yugoslavia and bringing
NATO in belatedly, as I said earlier, last year was decisive.
So, NATO will have a role. I wish to point out that all the countries
trying to join NATO have put troops under NATO command. And in the
case of Hungary, you have 6,000 Americans on Hungarian soil. Something
none of us in this room could have imagined a few years ago. Precisely
because they are important parts of the emerging new coalition of
forces in Europe. The goal of which is to finally put the incipient
instability of Europe to rest.
Russia, my final point, Russia has an important and indispensable
role in the security architecture of Europe. Since 1917 that has
not been defined. Although from 1815 to 1914 I think it really was.
We must find out what that role is. There has been an engaged dialogue
with Moscow on this. They have an important role, the so called
"16 plus 1" dialogue which Bill Perry instituted is continuing and
must continue. But they can be fitted into a stable security architecture
in Europe without them joining NATO which would make NATO something
else and without them over reacting to NATO's inevitable enlargement.
Gelb: Thank you, Ambassador Holbrooke. Professor Mandelbaum?
Mandelbaum: Thank you. This issue has been wrongly framed, in
my view. It's framed as follows: NATO expansion to Central Europe
is, of course, a good thing, it's important, it brings with it benefits,
but it may have some costs. The goal of American policy is therefore
to minimize the costs. I think the premise is wrong. I believe there
are no good reasons to expand NATO to Central Europe. I believe
we will get no benefits from this. I believe that all of the reasons
cited in favor of this measure are hollow, bogus, nonexistent, or
promise things that are available without NATO expansion. All policy
is a matter of gains and losses, upsides and downsides. In thinking
about this issue, what it is important to bear in mind is that whatever
the downsides may be -- and we will discuss those, I trust, in the
course of this hour -- there is no upside.
Now, let me support that assertion by touching on the four main
reasons that are given in favor of NATO expansion. First, it's said
to be a way of promoting, bolstering, safeguarding democracy in
Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. But democracy is not remotely
threatened in any of these countries. It's not that democracy is
taking root, these are democracies as much as we are. And nothing
is going to dislodge that.
Moreover, insofar as democracy might be in jeopardy, NATO is not
the vehicle to bolster it. There is no historical reason, no body
of scholarly research that suggests that belonging to a transatlantic
military organization can make a significant contribution to democratization.
But if one accepts this -- in my view -- false premise that NATO
is a vehicle for democracy then obviously we are extending it to
the wrong countries. We should be bringing in major countries where
democracy is threatened, namely Russia and Ukraine. And let us remember
that the future of Europe and American interests in Europe will
depend far more heavily on whether Russia is a democracy than whether
Well, let me take up the second argument that is made: neocontainment.
This is a way of blocking the inevitable expansionist tendencies
of Russia. But first, nothing is inevitable about Russia, neither
peace nor expansion. Second, even if Russia does become a threat,
its military is in such disarray that it is years, perhaps decades
away from a point at which it could threaten its neighbors. We will
have plenty of time to prepare if Russian neoimperialism appears.
But if Russia is a threat it certainly does not threaten the three
countries that are first in line to enter NATO, none of which has
a border with Russia. The countries that would be threatened by
a recrudescence of Russian imperialism, namely the Baltic states
and Ukraine, are not being offered NATO membership, which would
leave us in the odd position of giving NATO to those who don't need
it and denying it to those who under this assumption do.
Well, that brings me to the third reason. It is said that we must
expand NATO to Central Europe because now there is a security vacuum
between Germany and Russia. It will be filled by something and it
ought to be filled by NATO. Again, I believe that is flat wrong.
And I have written a book, as Les mentioned, The Dawn of Peace in
Europe, to make the contrary assumption. I believe we now have an
unprecedented and highly desirable security order in place in Europe.
It consists of the three major changes since 1989. The change of
map and the emergence of new countries -- crucially Ukraine, whose
security is vital to the future of Europe. Second, the changes of
government, in particular the fall of communism which as I argue
in The Dawn of Peace in Europe was a standing cause of conflict
in Europe. And third, and not least important, a change in the military
balance brought about by the later arms control agreements signed
between 1987 and 1993 which may look similar to those who went before
but are different in content, in genuinely revolutionary ways.
In sum, the Clinton administration has no need to create a new
security structure in Europe. It inherited one. The best security
structure that Europe has ever had. The task is to preserve and
strengthen that security structure and NATO expansion will do neither.
Fourth and finally, the argument we are going to hear more and
more as the weeks and months go on, "Well, Mandelbaum, you may have
some pretty good points but it is too late. It's over. We made a
commitment. We made a promise and we cannot renege." This, I may
say, seems to me the last refuge of a weak argument but even this
isn't true. After all, we've never named the countries that will
join NATO although the hints have been clear. On the other hand,
we did promise at the time of German unification -- in a promise
conveyed directly to Gorbachev and Shevardnadze, the leaders of
the Soviet Union, by the foreign ministers of the United States
and Germany -- that if the Soviet Union allowed a united Germany
to join NATO, then NATO would not be expanded eastward. This is
flatly asserted in the authoritative and very good book on the American
role in Germany unification by Condoleezza Rice and Philip Zelikow
and has been verified by our ambassador to Moscow at the time, Jack
Matlock. So when people say we can't back down, we're already committed,
what they mean is that we have to keep a promise we have not made
by breaking a promise that we have made.
I want to say one more thing about the "it's too late" argument,
the "we can't back down" assertion. This argument had great resonance
during the Cold War because of a particular context. During the
Cold War it was feared that if we did back down anywhere we would
invite aggression by the global rapacious adversary with whom we
were locked in conflict. That's one reason we fought in Korea. It's
the reason we stood firm in Berlin. And whatever one may think of
these policies in retrospect, they were certainly plausible at the
time. There was a global conflict. The Soviet Union was aggressive.
It did make sense. At least it was plausible to argue that backing
down could have dire consequences. But the war is over. The context
has been transformed. Whatever price we might pay for backing down,
changing direction, stringing this out, finding a better way to
go -- and I admit there would be a price -- it surely would be far
lower than the price we feared we would pay from such tactics during
the Cold War. And the price we would pay for changing course is,
I believe, considerably lower than the price that we're likely to
pay as we move ahead -- a point on which I will expand when there
Gelb: Thank you very much Professor Mandelbaum. Ambassador Holbrooke
it seems that Professor Mandelbaum is saying that while you may
be a good guy your position is totally without merit.
Holbrooke: I didn't hear the first part of the argument.
Mandelbaum: Dick, you can assume it.
Gelb: Three minutes to respond.
Holbrooke: Okay, look, Michael, you made four points. The fourth
one is about whether it's going to happen or not. But for purposes
of this debate I will certainly stipulate that we ought to argue
its merits. But for the purpose of the audience, not to mislead
you, it will happen. Now let's argue whether it should have or shouldn't
have and I'm also willing to argue about how to do it, to deal with
some genuine complexities about it which are getting obscured in
this treatment of this whole area between Germany and Russia as
if it's a single place. Which it isn't. If it were, we wouldn't
have had two world wars and the Cold War during this century.
First of all, Michael, and I quote, "That Hungary, Poland, and
the Czech Republic are just as democratic as we are." I'm not sure
when you were last there but Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic
are certainly not just as democratic as we are. The good news is
that they're moving that way. But anyone who thinks that this is
irreversible has not been there, not talked to their leaders, and
I say with all due respect, not studied their history.
Secondly, you are arguing essentially two positions which I find
extraordinary for a person who has studied Europe. One, you are
willing to relegate permanently to second- tier status Central Europe.
There is no other way to put it, ladies and gentlemen. The proposition
that Michael has put forward will lead every country that is not
now in NATO -- whether it joins the EU or not -- permanently in
a subordinate position. And whether you agree with it or not, they
feel they have a security vacuum. Now I happen to agree with a fundamental
point: Russia is not going to attack Poland, Hungary, or the Czech
Republic. There is no scenario under which this could happen. Or
the other countries. But the people of that region have a deep insecurity
and it manifests itself in other important ways. Hungary's relations
with Slovakia and Romania, unresolved since the Treaty of Trianol
in 1920, were only resolved in the last year, partially and incompletely,
under massive America pressure with the two state treaties recognizing
the rights of the Hungarian minorities because we said that NATO
membership was not going to be considered unless they resolved it,
that it was a necessary but not sufficient condition for membership.
Second point that you made on the containment of Russia. I quite
agree. I specified in my remarks that NATO's enlargement is not
to contain Russia. So we are not disagreeing on that point. The
Russians are still arguing it.
So I just want to stress that we cannot leave Central Europe and
its present second-tier category forever without risking a repetition
of history. South Eastern Europe is seething with problems beyond
Bosnia itself. The Greek-Albanian border is tense. Macedonia could
implode at any time. The Hungary-Romanian situation can hardly leave
anyone happy. Moldova, Ukraine, Romania, the Baltics are all still
unstable and NATO's gradual enlargement can deal with them. The
United States position in Europe will be strengthened by this in
ways that enhance our national interest, I can assure you of that.
Finally, I repeat again, NATO should change and evolve. The argument
you've just heard is a passionate, articulate, and, in my mind,
wrong argument for the status quo as defined in 1949.
Gelb: Well, Mike, Dick implicitly praised your personality but
went on to use the "e" word and said your arguments were -- if I
can quote him -- "extraordinary."
Mandelbaum: Yes, I thought it was a little early in the game for
ad hominem arguments but I guess I must have been doing pretty well.
But leaving aside the "only if you knew what I knew" line, let me
make a couple of points because I think they are important. First,
there's the argument which we just heard that the prospect of NATO
membership is helping to resolve problems in Central Europe. There
are a number of things to be said about this. First, it partakes
of what we all learn in first year social science class as the post
hoc fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc. It's not true that because
one thing comes after another it was caused by another. Moreover,
if what we might call the prospective membership effect is so powerful
for these countries, why is it NATO? Why not the prospect of membership
in the EU or the Council of Europe?
Holbrooke: I answered that already.
Mandelbaum: Third, not to be indelicate, this argument if framed
differently verges on an ethnic insult to these countries because
it suggests that they would never do the right thing themselves
without our bribing them to do so. It suggests that they are unruly
and disorderly countries that have no capacity to make themselves
into democracies without our baby-sitting them. Nonsense. These
are -- and I have been there recently -- civilized European countries
which have a multitude of problems, all of which are the legacy
of forty years of communism, which will take at least a generation
to resolve, which will be resolved, and which have nothing whatsoever
to do with NATO membership.
Let me make one final point. At the risk of being politically
incorrect, it is not the obligation of the taxpayers and citizens
of the United States to ensure that there is democracy in Hungary.
It is in the interest of the United States to give Hungary and other
countries the chance to determine their own political system for
themselves, which we have done and which they are doing. And there
is no doubt about the direction in which they are moving, indeed,
have moved. We just elected a president, reelected a president,
whose campaign slogan was opportunity and responsibility. The government
can give citizens opportunity and its their responsibility to take
advantage of it. Well, we've given these countries opportunity by
fighting and winning the Cold War. It's their responsibility to
capitalize upon it and I have no doubt that they will.
Gelb: Okay, given the format that Karen Sughrue has worked out
for us, I get to talk to our two debaters for a few minutes myself,
but I would urge you to talk to each other. You don't need me to
pass you on. You can address each other directly. But Michael, let
me begin by asking you a question. If this policy is so wrong headed
on almost every count why are they doing it? What do you think their
Mandelbaum: It's a good question, Les, and I don't know what the
real motive is. The easy answer is that not enough people have read
my book but once the whole world does so. I don't know because I
don't know how and why the decision was taken. But it is a mistake.
It is not, as I say, going to produce anything that we need. It
does threaten real adverse consequences. And let me take the opportunity,
if I may, to say something about these adverse consequences. Well,
let me say something else. Let me say something else because I think
there is a related question which you raise which is a good one
and it is my responsibility to answer. And that is if this is nothing,
why are the Central Europeans so interested in belonging to NATO
and they certainly are. Well, they've had a painful historical experience
caught between two giants, Germany and Russia. And they want to
make sure that they are on the right side if and when Europe is
divided again. And for that one could hardly blame them. But it
is we who have propagated the idea that another division of Europe
is inevitable and indeed NATO expansion would draw another line
in Europe where none now exists. It is we who have propagated the
idea with the unintentional collaboration of the Europeans in Maastricht,
their project for European unity, it propagated the idea of a membership
Europe for which people have to qualify. Or better yet, a fortress
Europe. Either you're inside the fortress and safe or outside and
vulnerable. Well, that was true in the Cold War. But it's not true
now. We do have the possibility for one Europe and we shouldn't
Gelb: Thank you. Now Michael has come back to a point that threads
throughout your argument that you really do have to address, Dick.
Right now Europe is not divided in the sense of any blocks or alliances.
Why wouldn't the position that you're advocating really lead to
a division of Europe, even if you believe that down the line it
will all work out well. Why isn't the first step division?
Holbrooke: I'm not sure I follow the question. Europe is divided.
There are members of the EU and there are nonmembers of the EU.
There are members of the CIS. There are members of NATO, non-NATO
members. These are all legacies of the Cold War and where everyone
stood in 1945. Everyone wants a united Europe although the Europeans
are having one of their traditional Euro-battle arguments about
how to expand the EU.
Michael has said several things in his last comments which are
so profoundly wrong, in my view, that they require some additional
comments. The EU, as I said in my opening remarks, is neither a
substitute for NATO -- because it doesn't involve the U.S. -- nor
is it moving fast enough from anyone's point of view -- except perhaps
the agricultural interests in France. Poland is not going to get
into the EU in the foreseeable future. I would guess that 2001 is
the earliest date for it and that would be lucky because Chirac
is not going to be able to figure out the cap. So let's be realistic.
As for the Council of Europe, a useless organization which just
had the bad taste to bring in Croatia. It has no meaning at all.
It's useless. The only Europe wide organization, as we all know,
is the OSCE which the U.S. has been trying to strengthen, which
has an important role here.
Second point. Michael has really not outlined a single so-called
adverse consequence so far although he has attempted to do so in
his book which please buy. I want you all to buy it. But the adverse
consequences are simply not there. It's not going to unsettle Russia.
The only problem of NATO enlargement and it is a real problem is
the gray area, the countries that won't get in right away but, as
Michael pointed out, wish to get in. That is a dilemma and there
are ways to deal with it. Ronald Asmus and Steve Larrabee at Rand
have written some very important papers on that. And this issue
is being addressed as a high priority.
Michael also stated that all the problems of Central Europe are
the legacy of forty years of communism. All the problems, I quote.
That's profoundly wrong. If anything, it's what happened at Versailles
in 1919-1920 that created the Yugoslav mess by trying to merge into
a single country parts of Austro-Hungary and Ottoman Empire. Inevitably
it exploded. It happened to do it on our watch. The problems of
the region are very deep. They're ethnic, historical, and political.
And the U.S. does have a role in promoting democracy in this area,
and free press, and the other basic human rights and freedoms. So
I think very strongly that NATO's enlargement is a key to doing
Mandelbaum: Les, let me comment. First, Dick, I guess I didn't
make my point clear to you. I do not believe and I do not think
we should endorse this so-called membership Europe, the idea that
unless you're a full member of the EU, unless you're a member of
the European currency, you're not a real European. By these standards
Finland isn't a European, Sweden isn't a Europe, and Switzerland....
Holbrooke: Michael, keep the European currency out of it.
Mandelbaum: Fine, let's keep the European currency out. But Dick...
Holbrooke: And the currency has nothing to do with it. And, as
far as European Union membership goes, again, an enlarged EU is
something which you yourself support, we all support it. Full European
membership can take many forms but you are creating false criteria
here. We're talking about NATO.
Mandelbaum: Dick, let me make the point one more time and then
I do want to go on to an important point, the down sides. I believe
it is wrong to propagate the idea that you have to be a full member
of any particular European organization in order to be a real European,
in order to be secure, in order to be democratic, or even to be
prosperous. Among the other consequences of taking such a position
is that Russia can never be a part of Europe. And that is profoundly
against our interests.
But let me talk about the downsides because it is an important
issue. First, we would draw a new line of division in Europe where
none exists and we would relegate the Balts and the Ukrainians to
the wrong side. Second, there would indeed be adverse effects with
Russia. At the very least we would see the end of the kind of cooperation
that we had at the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the
post Cold War era. In my opinion the great diplomatic achievement
of the Clinton administration was the moment when the president
called Boris Yeltsin and said please remove your troops from the
Baltic states and he did. That request was honored in the context
of the certain kind of relationship that will be, has already become
impossible in the wake of the plan for NATO enlargement.
Third, as far as Russia is concerned, whatever individuals may
now say -- and of course, the Russians cannot stop this -- the risk
is that over the long term this will turn the Russian political
class against the post Cold War settlement which is extraordinarily
favorable to us. Indeed, that we designed with the exception of
those parts, notably in independent Ukraine, that is so extraordinarily
favorable to us that we never even thought to ask for.
Finally, there is absolutely no doubt that this will hinder, and
is already hindering, the important task of reducing Russian nuclear
arsenals. Let me remind you all that the first task of American
foreign policy is to reduce threats to the United States. The only
thing that threatens the United State is the Russian nuclear arsenal.
That ought to be the focus of our concern. We are going to forfeit
the chance to reduce the threat to the United States even further.
And in return, let me come back to this point, we will get nothing.
Holbrooke: Les, may I just point out that Ukraine is a non-issue
here, to use Michael's earlier word, a bogus issue, because they
have announced that they don't want to join NATO. And the statement
that NATO enlargement will end cooperation with Russia is really
astonishing because the Russians themselves have said flatly, publicly,
and repeatedly that it will not end cooperation. They object to
it but they are going to go on. There is no evidence whatsoever
that it will end cooperation with Russia.
Gelb: Thank you. I am loathe to intervene at this point to move
on to the next stage of our format because they seem as they talk
more and more to disagree more and more. But let's open up the floor
to you all. I'll recognize you. The usually procedure. Identify
yourself. Short, sharp, and to the point question. Or if Marshall
Shulman wants to attack one or both of the speakers, Marshall, you
may do that. Marshall, where are you? Marshall, do you want to start
Marshall Shulman: Sure.
Gelb: Please go ahead.
Shulman: You've already given the identification. Thank you. A
couple questions, Dick. One, I'm not clear about the win in your
argument. That is you've argued that this is going ahead but you
haven't made clear why it needs to go ahead in 1998. And it isn't
clear to me why you feel it is necessary to cut off the time for
the developments in European security architecture that might put
this into a different framework and create a different reaction.
May I tag on a second question?
Shulman: It's relevant.
Gelb: Let him answer that one first.
Holbrooke: That's a very good question, Marshall. First of all,
the President's speech in Detroit set 1999. It was Dole who said
this is a terrible mistake, it ought to be 1998. No big deal. Nineteen
ninety-nine will be the tenth year after the fall of the Berlin
Wall. And as everyone in this room understands, whether they support
the proposition or not, the Central Europeans want to join NATO
and ten years is enough time to get this started. But I want to
be clear on this. Since 1949, NATO has added four countries: the
Germans in 1952, '53, excuse me; Greeks and Turks in 1950; Spain
in 1982. Because of the process it can take a while. In Spain's
case it took ten years. Les worked on it part of the time he was
part of political-military affairs.
This is a process. I don't think there is any guarantee that there
will be a new member by 1999. But there is a guarantee that the
process will begin with the NATO summit for designated countries
without excluding others. So I accept your point. It is a very important
point, I want to stress it for all of you, that it is a process.
And if during the process a country reverts to the kind of government
that is unacceptable -- like Slovakia with Meciar, who is a very
dangerous man and who as head of a country as a NATO member is not
in anyone's interest -- if that were to happen to some other country,
if that country were to withdraw from the process as I think Malta
will certainly do. Malta being interested in this too. There are
noncommunist interested countries. That will also be taken into
Gelb: Thank you, Dick. Hans is threatening me here so I'm going
to... Identify yourself.
Hans Binnendijk: Hans Binnendijk, National Defense University.
Holbrooke: Is this about Israel's membership?
Binnendijk: No, no, no. Please, don't make me so naive. After
all, I appointed you Secretary of State. I'm sorry you didn't make
Gelb: Is that your question?
Binnendijk: Two minutes.
Gelb: Short question.
Binnendijk: I know. It's no longer an academic question. You're
right it's already in. Two short questions. One, what is it going
to cost? And second, how are you going about it? Remember the fight
to have NATO in more favorable conditions in 1949.
Holbrooke: You're talking about the process?
Binnendijk: The process now with a Republican Congress, with 50
billion dollars, people will begin to ask the question why do we
Holbrooke: As Senator Nunn, whose skepticism of this issue has
echoed Michael Mandelbaum's, and who is the first blurb on Michael's
book, that's just a coincidence, Senator Nunn has asked the cost
question. It has been costed out. Each of the countries that joins.
This is not a country club. You do not just go to Brussels and pick
up the key to the NATO locker room. There are obligations. It's
an integrated military structure. The Kissinger proposal was give
them the political guarantee but don't make them part of the military
alliance. Ridiculous idea from our point of view because it would
have caused enormous constitutional problems. They must go through
the process. It will cost each member a certain amount of money.
And by the way we do not need, and I do not believe we should ever
forward deploy nuclear weapons. It's totally unnecessary, it's expensive,
potentially destabilizing, and there is no value to it in the modern
world. And, then the U.S. will have to cost it out. The Pentagon
has costed it out for each country but I've seen the preliminary
figures and I don't believe them. I think they are just very vague.
Second point about the process. You're talking about the domestic
process. Well, I assume that if this room voted you wouldn't get
a two thirds majority for NATO enlargement today. I know the sentiments
of groups like this. The elite foreign policy groups, curiously
enough, which are so forward leaning in most issues are very hostile
to this issue. In the Congress because it was the only foreign policy
point in Gingrich's Contract With America, because over 80 senators
signed on to Senator Hank Brown's sense of the Senate, I've always
assumed that you'd get it through for Poland very easily for obvious
reasons. I think Hungary and the Czech Republic would come along.
After that, and this is a real dilemma, there are countries which
may have an equal claim from one point of view and are difficult
for another. And that's the issue we're not going to have time to
debate tonight, about the gray area. My own personal view, and here
I stress that despite your kind nomination, here I speak as a private
citizen, my own view is that we're going to have to devise something
that is Partnership for Peace plus or NATO minus for areas like
the Baltics or Romania. But that's over the horizon.
Gelb: Dick, can I go on? Mike, do you want to respond?
Mandelbaum: Yes, I'd like to continue with describing the down
side. Two points. Two more points here. First, we're told that there's
going to be trouble. Well we can't evaluate that without seeing
it but I have three reservations without having seen it. First,
the fact of such a special arrangement gives Russia special status
in European security that it now lacks and that it's never asked
for. Russia now has the same obligations that all other countries
in Europe have, namely to respect the sovereign integrity of all
other Europeans and abide by its commitments in the arms control
treaties. We don't need any thing more from Russia and we shouldn't
give the Russians more.
Second, I see no reason to put limits on military cooperation
to the East or deployments. Why draw yet another line in Europe?
We can all imagine circumstances in which we would wish to put weapons
where we have no intention of doing so. Why put it in writing. Third,
whatever this charter is to evolve, I see no way to satisfy both
the Balts who are going to come knocking at the door, demanding
to be let in to NATO on the grounds that there claims is as good
as the claim of the Central Europeans. And incidentally I think
that's wrong. I think their claim is much better. But I don't see
how you reconcile that claim which we will certainly hear with the
Russian's allergies to bringing countries bordering them into a
western military alliance.
Well, I want to talk about the American debate as well because
I think that really needs some attention from this side of the aisle.
But, Les, if you give me permission I'll do it otherwise...
Gelb: I would like you to come back to that in your concluding
remarks if you would. Unless there would be additional questions.
Mandelbaum: All right.
Holbrooke: But Les, I must insist that when Mike says that Russia
has never asked for special status in Europe it would be unfortunate
to mislead the audience. Russia has repeatedly, unambiguously said
so. The "sixteen plus one" dialogue is their idea. It is supported
by all the NATO members. And it is vital that Russia be made part
of a stable security architecture for all of Europe. And the "sixteen
plus one" is the way to do it. They do want a special status. And
we all accept that they should have it along with an expanding NATO.
This is the core theme of the administration's foreign policy and
it should not be misstated. Enlarging NATO and taking into account
Russia's legitimate security role in Europe.
Mandelbaum: Les, since time is short and this is a crucial point
I want to get to. I believe -- and this comes of course to the subject
or the subject in one of its original incarnations of this discussion
-- I believe that this measure is likely to have deleterious consequences
on what I argue in The Dawn of Peace in Europe is absolutely crucial
and that is the American commitment to Europe. And that is so for
a number of reasons. First and foremost, there now is a broad consensus
in favor of the American commitment. This will fracture it. This
will weaken it. And therefore, it will weaken European security
and American foreign policy and will do so, let me remind you, for
Second, Senator Richard Lugar, whom I regard as the leading voice
on foreign affairs now in the Senate, favors NATO expansion, gave
a speech at my home institution, the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced
International Studies, a couple of weeks ago in which he said that
when Congress looks at this issue it will care above all about burden
sharing. The implication was that while Congress is all in favor,
or may be all in favor, or may be persuaded tepidly to favor NATO
expansion, it's not going to pay a dime. Well, who will pay? Certainly
not the western Europeans which are cutting their budgets in order
to try and comply with the Maastricht criteria. Not the Central
Europeans which are also going to have to cut their budgets because
of over generous welfare benefits. And which anyway have already
reduced defense expenditures. The danger is that we'll become ensnared
in the Senate in a useless, pointless, needless, counterproductive
debate that will subvert what remains an essential American commitment
and will do all this for nothing.
Holbrooke: The Senate is going to pass the new NATO members because
the process -- this goes back to Marshall Shulman's question --
will take them fully into account. Lugar, in fact, will lead the
fight. Burden sharing is vital. Any country that wants to join will
have to burden share at a level which is acceptable to the armed
services committee. And, just to state again -- the statement was
just made that the U.S. consensus would be shattered -- every public
opinion poll taken shows that the vast majority of the American
public would support the entry of at a minimum Poland and Hungary
and the Czech Republic.
Mandelbaum: Excuse me. Let me intervene. There was a thorough
and very good poll done by the University of Maryland which shows
strong support for expanding NATO, far less support for coming to
the aid of Poland's attack, no support for paying more, and support
for NATO expansion on the grounds that it is an inclusive gesture
and, therefore, almost equal support for including Russia.
Gelb: Jim Hoge?
Jim Hoge: Jim Hoge, Foreign Affairs magazine. Michael, you mentioned
that it's not too late to back off the decision to expand NATO and
that backing off would not have the same serious reverberations
as in the time of the Cold War. How does an American president,
who made the subject of NATO expansion one of his last campaign
speeches, now back down and not have serious reverberations not
only in Europe but in other parts of the world about the reliability
of American foreign policy and the credibility of American leadership?
Mandelbaum: Good question. First of all, I believe that the western
Europeans would be extremely relieved. They've never been happy
about this and I believe that they've gone along with it because
their great fear is the United States will leave Europe. And, therefore
they feel that they have to coddle the Americans and go along with
whatever they want within reason. But I do not believe that this
would do anything but strengthen the western European view. As for
the Central Europeans, they would certainly be disappointed. But
I believe that they would not be injured because they would lose
nothing. They would get on with the work of making themselves prosperous,
western, economic actors, more fully integrated into whatever western
organizations they choose to belong to. It would be forgotten. It
would, of course, be embarrassing to the administration. After all,
the president of the United States is elected to serve the national
interest. And I hope that if he and his colleagues and those who
are important in this debate are persuaded that the national interest
in this issue is as I say it is, they will have the grace and courage
to reverse its course and do the right thing.
Gelb: Thank you. Bill Luers?
William Luers: I think that at least two of the reasons why the
United States pressed for the expansion of NATO, Michael, is first
that we thought that we could thereby energize NATO and make ourselves
relevant. You've just answered the question does it really do that.
And because of the attitude of the western Europeans I think it
won't do that. It won't make us more relevant. It could, indeed,
make it more troublesome. The second reasons we did it was because
we heard from the Central Europeans like Vaclav Havel that we feel
insecure. NATO is going to make us feel more secure. But then he
goes on to say that our insecurity stems basically from the problems
of crime, and drugs, and immigration, and all those problems of
modern society. And he himself has proposed that NATO take this
on. Therefore, we're responding to a false problem. And I think
that what he really wants is some type of police force and not NATO.
Therefore, NATO is taking on a job that it doesn't have to do in
Gelb: That's the question?
Luers: Do you agree with that?
Mandelbaum: I do agree with it. Let me make two comments. First,
I do have a chapter on out of area missions, on NATO as a police
force. And with all respect to my colleague tonight and with no
prejudice against his fine work in Bosnia, I think Bosnia is a dead
end. We're simply not going to do that again. NATO is not -- for
many points of view, unfortunately -- going to be converted into
a European police force and a fire fighting squad. And for the reasons
I refer you to The Dawn of Peace in Europe.
Second, I can't remember what was your last point, Bill? Ah, yes.
I'm sorry. The second point I want to make is this. It is said,
perhaps sincerely, but wrongly, that this has nothing to do with
Russia, that there's no anti Russian motive behind that. That's
not true. One of the reasons the Central Europeans want to join
NATO is that they fear the revival of Russian imperialism. And why
shouldn't they? The Poles especially have been victimized by it
for two centuries. Hundreds of thousands of Poles were killed by
Russian communists. They'd have to be crazy not to worry about the
Russians. We should worry about the Russians. But it doesn't follow
from that that expanding NATO is the best way -- or even a good
way -- to deal with those concerns.
Gelb: Dick, would you respond quickly please?
Holbrooke: Michael has talked about the negative consequences
of expanding NATO. I have not talked about the negative consequences
of not expanding NATO. Michael's basic argument is that it's wrong
and therefore it should be reversed. I argue that it's right. But
even if it were to have a question about it, the reversal at this
point would be catastrophic in terms of America's presence and interest
in Central Europe. Do not be misled. The consequences in Prague,
Warsaw, Budapest, and elsewhere would be cataclysmic. What's at
stake here is the very essence of America's role in Europe. Michael
has just referred for the first time to Bosnia on which he has devoted
some time in his book and said that it will never happen again.
In this very room two months ago the British Foreign Secretary Malcolm
Rifkind proposed exactly the opposite, that the solution to Cyprus
would involve a Bosnia-type force as part of the settlement. The
U.S. government has not adopted that position officially but everybody
who has studied the Cyprus question -- including our negotiator,
Dick Beattie, who is in London today on talks of the matter -- is
aware of this possibility. It is not at all true that NATO will
not do it again. On the contrary. After one year in Bosnia with
a total casualties to all NATO forces of zero people killed, zero
wounded, the Bosnian experience from a military point of view has
changed the dynamic in Brussels to this kind of operation. Its flaws
are on the political side. As a military peacekeeping operation
it is changing history and is putting the UN and NATO into a different
historic pattern which is very beneficial to NATO.
We have two absolute imperatives at the Council on Foreign Relations.
One is contributing to the public debate ideas, substance above
everything else. And the second imperative is finishing on time.
In order to finish on time we have to move now to the closing statements.
I'm sorry to all of you raised hands who have questions. And we'll
do reverse order. Mike?
Mandelbaum: He should go first so I have the last word since he
had the first word.
Gelb: Mike will go first. That's an interesting argument.
Holbrooke: It doesn't matter to me.
Mandelbaum: Did you hear that? It's an interesting argument, Mandelbaum,
but it's too late.
Gelb: Three minutes. Three minutes and three minutes for Dick.
Mandelbaum: Two points. One by way of rebuttal and one by way
of conclusion. Cyprus is an interesting place. Bosnia is a tragic
place. Central Europe is an attractive place. From the point of
view of the United States of America what matters is Russia because
the interest of the United States of America in Europe is preventing
great wars. Great wars can only be fought by great powers. And there
are two potential great powers in Europe. One is Germany about which
we have no need to worry. The other is Russia about which we have
a great deal of reason to worry. So the question that confronts
when we talk about European security is what is the best way to
ensure that Russia does not revive the kind of foreign policy that
we were at great pains to oppose for four decades. That is the central
question of European security. And that is the central interest
of the United States. For that central interest, not to mention
for all the other peripheral interests that get dragged into this
debate, NATO expansion, I repeat, does nothing.
So, if you in this audience were offered the prospectus for an
investment that said you might break even on this investment, you'll
probably lose something, and you might lose a great deal, but you'll
never make any money, you'll never show a profit, you wouldn't put
your money down. That's the proposition we're being offered for
NATO expansion. And for this one we should keep our money in our
Holbrooke: I think that my worthy colleague has really given my
rebuttal. He has dismissed Cyprus and Central Europe, two of the
most explosive places on earth, and said war only starts between
great powers when every war since the end of World War II has, in
fact, started in the periphery -- Korea, Viet Nam, Cyprus, Bosnia.
That is where wars start, where great powers clash in an ambiguous
area. The position I've taken attempts to reduce the size of that
ambiguous area, precisely where the worst wars in history have broken
out in our lifetimes. There won't be any war between the United
States and Russia. And Germany is not going to be a military power
except within an alliance. There are two European powers. Michael
is right on that. One is Russia, he's right on that. The other is
the United States. Thank you.
Gelb: I think what we've witnessed here tonight is the beginning
of the new foreign policy consensus that President Clinton has promised
for his second administration. I want you to join me in thanking
Dick and Michael. Terrific.