EAST MEETS WEST
DECEMBER 11, 1996
As the North Atlantic Cooperation Council gathers in Brussels to chart NATO's future, Russia and the western military alliance are forging a new relationship. Russia's foreign minister has accepted an offer to re-negotiate ties between his country and NATO. But he also warned that NATO plans for eastward expansion could divide Europe. After a background report on NATO and its members, two experts debate the pros and cons of NATO expansion.
JIM LEHRER: Now, two strong differing views of all this--former Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Richard Holbrooke was a major architect of the Clinton administration's NATO expansion plans; Michael Mandelbaum is a professor at the Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, author of a new book “The Dawn of Peace in Europe.” Mr. Mandelbaum, you think expanding NATO is a bad idea. Why?
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
Charles Krause looks at the history of NATO and the heated debate over NATO's future.
November 15, 1996:
In a Newsmaker interview, Defense Secretary William Perry talks about the future role of NATO.
July 8, 1996:
Poland's President Kwasniewski comes to the NewsHour and explains why he is pushing for Polish NATO membership.
Material by and about NATO operations worldwide.
MICHAEL MANDELBAUM, Johns Hopkins University: I do, Jim. This is an unusual issue, in my opinion. Most issues have pros and cons, gains and losses, up sides and down sides. I believe that NATO expansion has no up side. I believe that all the reasons advanced in support of it are either hollow, bogus, non-existent, or promise things that we're going to get anyway, without NATO expansion. And that's without talking about the down side. So let me simply go over very quickly the four major arguments cited in favor of expanding NATO.
JIM LEHRER: Why don't you give me the down side. We'll get the up sides from Mr. Holbrooke. Why do you think it's a bad idea?
MICHAEL MANDELBAUM: Well, it has--it is a bad idea first because it will draw a new line of division in Europe and leave countries very important to us, the Baltic states and Ukraine, on the wrong side of the division, and, therefore, vulnerable.
JIM LEHRER: So you agree--you agree with Mr. Primakov, the Russian foreign minister, that it will re-divide Europe, is that right?
MICHAEL MANDELBAUM: I think it will re-divide Europe where Europe is now not divided. Second, it will poison our relations with the Russians, perhaps not irrevocably. The Russians are not going to refuse to speak to us. But already, the kind of close cooperation that we enjoyed during the Gulf War and made it possible for President Clinton to pick up the phone, ask President Yeltsin to remove Russian troops from the Baltic states, and have him exceed to his request, that kind of close cooperation is gone. We know that the START II Treaty, which would reduce the number of nuclear weapons aimed at the United States, is hostage to NATO expansion in the Russian Duma, which has to vote in favor of it. And finally--
JIM LEHRER: Meaning that if--excuse me to interrupt--just to make sure we understand the point here--that if NATO does expand, the Russian--the politics of Russia will force them to hold on longer to their nuclear capability than they would otherwise?
MICHAEL MANDELBAUM: This is what they say, and this is what observers of the Duma say. Finally, where Russia is concerned, and most importantly, this would de-legitimize and Russianize the entire post-Cold War settlement in Europe, which is extraordinarily favorable to us, which we designed and which Russia accepted, the withdrawal of their forces from Central Europe, the unification of Germany, the dismemberment of the Soviet Union, arms treaties dramatically in our favor, which Russia accepted without complaint. This would be the first piece of the post-Cold War system that Russia does not accept.
JIM LEHRER: Because the end result of this NATO expansion would be everybody lined up against Russia?
MICHAEL MANDELBAUM: That is the Russian fear. The Russians believe that this is designed to exclude them, but let me mention one other point, briefly, Jim. I think it's bad for what is most important here, and that is the American commitment to Europe. I believe NATO is important, and NATO must continue. And that means the United States must maintain its commitment to Europe. But I believe that expanding NATO in this way will weaken that commitment when it becomes clear, as I believe that there are simply no good reasons for doing it.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Secretary Holbrooke, let's go back. Let's back up through this. First of all, the commitment that the United States takes on with this, the expanded commitment, what do you think about that?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE, Former Assistant Secretary of State: (New York City) Well, Jim, I've got to say at the outset that I'm really shocked that Michael one day after the NATO countries unanimously announce their plans would call the President's policies bogus. I also think that he is oblivious or deliberately obscuring all the positives which have been implicit and explicit in the piece you just showed from Poland, throughout Central Europe. He said Europe does not divide it today. That's certainly not true, Jim. The division of Europe today is NATO/non-NATO, and the issue here is will the Europe remain forever divided along the lines of the accident of history, where the Soviet army ended up in the summer of 1945. As the Polish ambassador pointed out, Poland, Hungary, the Czech republic, and other Central European countries deserve to be part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization just as much as Germany, Italy, and Greece, and expanding NATO, enlarging NATO, which is going to happen, regardless of this debate tonight, will be done in a careful way that takes into account the Russian legitimate security concerns and gives Russia a place in the European security architecture which it deserves. But Michael's position, as he just gave it to you, amounts to a very simple point. He would let NATO's policies and American strategic interests be determined by the Russians. That is not an acceptable way to run American national interests, and it is, in addition to all the factual errors he just made, it's just not the way American national security policy must be made.
JIM LEHRER: But what about the concerns that he raises that this will raise within Russia--in other words, that it will cause the politics of Russia to become more militant and that it will increase their need to keep up their nuclear capabilities, et cetera?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Jim, the issue never came up in the last election in a serious way. The Russians have very clearly said they oppose NATO enlargement but they will live with it. Michael's apocalyptic vision that President Clinton will no longer be able to call President Yeltsin is self-evidently false. They're already planning a summit for three months hence. A broad range of cooperation, particularly Vice President Gore's vitally important commission with Premier Chernomyrdin goes forward on a dozen fronts every day, U.S. investment in Russia increases, the ties are growing. Now, the number one point that must be stressed, which is obscured by what you just heard, is that NATO is no longer what it once was. It is no longer an anti-Russian, anti-Soviet alliance. It is to preserve and promote in--to preserve and promote stability in Central Europe, that vast area between Germany and Russia, where the two worst wars in human history and the Cold War all played themselves out in the lifetimes of our parents and our grandparents, and ended with a triumph for democracy which is not locked in and is not stable. NATO's enlargement is vital to the people of that region and will be done, and I stress will because we're not--we're debating here something which has already been decided. The question is how and when, and will it get full support of the people, and it will be done in a way that is clearly careful and consistent with creating a stable security architecture for Europe.
JIM LEHRER: It is no longer, Mr. Holbrooke, an alliance against anybody?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: It is not an anti-Russian alliance. That was declared--
JIM LEHRER: Who is it against then?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: It is an alliance for peace, stability, and expanding the principles of freedom and democracy that are embodied in Article 10 of the original NATO treaty. And the Russians may not like it, but they will live with it, and they will come to see over time that it is in their interests too that countries like Poland, a source of so much tragedy in the last two centuries, finally be stabilized and given a sense of security.
JIM LEHRER: All right. Let's take up the strongest criticism, the word you used and Mr. Holbrooke just reacted to, Mr. Mandelbaum. Why is this bogus?
MICHAEL MANDELBAUM: Well, Richard Holbrooke is obviously easily shocked. I note for the record that he cited no factual errors. I certainly didn't say the Russians would not cooperate with us. I said the kind of cooperation we had at the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the post-Cold War era is not now available, and the evidence for that is the failure of the Duma to ratify Start II. But let me take a couple of points that I think are important. First of all, there are these great benefits that supposedly we are getting from the prospect of NATO enlargement. Richard Holbrooke talks about all the dangerous currents that are at bay because of the prospect for NATO expansion. And it's true that there have been a couple of treaties signed between Slovakia and Hungary and between Hungary and Romania.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: With the United States' active diplomatic efforts to make them signed, and that was a major step towards stability in Europe, and it was linked to NATO, Michael. And you know that.
MICHAEL MANDELBAUM: Jim, if I may have the floor, first of all, that partakes of the post-hoax fallacy. It assumes that--
JIM LEHRER: The what?
MICHAEL MANDELBAUM: --which is to say if event X happens after event Y, it doesn't mean it was to caused by event Y. It could have been caused by the prospect of membership in the European Union. Second, it paints a rather unattractive and unfair picture of these countries. It suggests that they'll not do the right thing, that they'll not treat their minorities well, that they will only be democracies if we drive or coerce them to do so. It's not true. These countries of Central Europe are decent, law-abiding, democratic European Union countries that don't need NATO in order to pursue democracy. And there's a final point here, Jim. Democracy in Hungary is certainly important, but democracy in Russia is vital. The test of NATO expansion for American interests is whether it promotes democracy in Russia. And not even its most fervent advocates would suggest that this is a step toward democracy in Europe.
JIM LEHRER: Is that true, Mr. Holbrooke?
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Well, first of all, Michael didn't answer your question about bogus. Second of all, democracy in Hungary and democracy in Russia are both important, and Michael is mis-stating the situation in Central Europe today, which has many elements of hope but many elements of instability. Had NATO moved into Bosnia in 1991, instead of 1995, had the previous administration shown the courage that President Clinton did, we would have hundreds of thousands of people alive today and 2 million less refugees. NATO has a vital role to protect and promote, and it is deterrent, but it is deterrent for different issues, Jim, and once again, there is no evidence, except what you've heard, which is an assertion not supported, for the proposition that NATO enlargement would destabilize Russia. My former colleagues in the administration led by the president, vice president, and Deputy Secretary Talbott have worked very hard and very successfully with the Russian leadership to make them understand that as NATO enlarges, it will be done in a way that also improves security for Russia. We have not mentioned a very important point which was in your lead item, which is that NATO will set up a parallel track discussion with Russia about its own security needs. The 16 countries of NATO, plus Russia--so Russia will be given a special place in European security while NATO enlarges and not at Moscow's expense.
JIM LEHRER: Before we go, Mr. Mandelbaum, would you agree with Mr. Holbrooke on one thing, that this is going to happen whether you and the Russians like it or not?
MICHAEL MANDELBAUM: No, I would not, but Jim, let me respond to a couple of points. First, these great dangers that Richard Holbrooke sees lurking in Central Europe are visible only to him. All these dangers are visible only to Richard Holbrooke.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Only to me, Michael? Come on.
MICHAEL MANDELBAUM: Second, Jim--
JIM LEHRER: Let him respond.
MICHAEL MANDELBAUM: Second, Jim, if we don't want to exclude Central Europe from NATO, why are we excluding the Baltic states and Ukraine, which have suffered just as much, which are just as democratic, and which have a prior concern in that they border on Russia?
JIM LEHRER: Let me ask you, back to--
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Jim, I want to clarify a very important point. You--
JIM LEHRER: All right.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Ukraine has said they don't want to join, and no country in the partnership for peace is excluded, so let's keep our facts clear here.
JIM LEHRER: Mr. Mandelbaum, is this going to happen?
MICHAEL MANDELBAUM: Jim, it doesn't have to happen, and we will pay a high price with no benefit. Unless the Constitution has been repealed, it has to be discussed in the Congress and ratified by the Senate. There would be a price for diverting course now, but it would be a smaller price than we would pay by plunging ahead unwisely.
JIM LEHRER: All right. So we'll have a chance to talk about this again. Mr. Holbrooke, Mr. Mandelbaum, thank you both very much.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE: Thanks, Jim.