April 26, 1999
At the 50th anniversary summit, NATO members unanimously showed their support for the strikes against Yugoslavia and announce a new oil embargo against the Serbs. Following a report on the weekend's events, experts assess the outcomes of the summit and discuss the evolving role of NATO.
MARGARET WARNER: To assess the summit and NATO's future, we turn to two NewsHour regulars: Presidential Historian Michael Beschloss and journalist and author Haynes Johnson. They are joined by Jim Hoagland, foreign affairs columnist for The Washington Post; Michael Mandelbaum, a professor at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and author of numerous books on international security; and Ronald Steel, a professor of international relations at the University of Southern California, and author of several books on America's relationship with Europe.
MARGARET WARNER: Jim Hoagland, is this a new NATO that we saw this weekend?
|A new NATO?|
HOAGLAND, The Washington Post: Margaret, I think it probably yes
is, yes, certainly in aspirations it is. If you look how geographically
NATO has extended into Central Europe you, not only by the admission of
the three new mechanics, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, but also
by the war that we are waging that NATO is waging in central Europe right
now, which leads clearly to the second change, the second newness of NATO
out of the summit, and that's a functional change, taking on the responsibility
for defending not simply the territory of member states, but human rights
and values of the transatlantic community as it's put; that NATO will
no longer regard a sovereign country as free to do whatever it wants to
its citizens. So that's a big increase both geographically and functionally
and would I say politically. You just heard Secretary-General Solana --
as did President Clinton -- extend a security guarantee on behalf of NATO
to seven front line states in the Balkans. This has been done without
any consultation with the parliaments of the member countries. It's been
done over a weekend. I think this is an extraordinary development in NATO's
history. We'll look back on it to see if it was a wise thing. I think
it's a necessary thing in the current circumstances. But I think when
you look at the other thing that happened, which is that there were no
new decisions on the means to accomplish these rather grand goals that
have been taken on, that they still remain rather modest both in terms
of Kosovo and in terms of commitments, particularly by the Europeans as
to what they will do to bring about a common European defense. Something
like somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of the combat missions will be
flown by American planes. This war underlines that dependence of Europe
on the United States. That hasn't changed. If anything, it has deepen.
So when you look at the combination of all these things, I think you can
say that NATO, in contrast to most organizations that hold a big summit
like this where the work is done, everybody knows what is done, you do
it out of the history of the thing -- NATO has taken a big leap into the
MARGARET WARNER: Ronald Steel, would you agree a big leap into the unknown and do you think it's wise?
RONALD STEEL, University of Southern California: Well, I think it is true that this is a new NATO, but I also think it's an old NATO. It's a new NATO in that it's an organization which was devised to protect Europe against an outside aggressor against the Soviet Union, which is described in its charter as a defensive organization, has clearly taken on totally new responsibilities involving itself in the internal affairs of countries that are not member nations and, in effect, acting as a policeman. And it's doing so, I think, on clearly on its own volition. Nobody has empowered it to do so. I think it raises a very profound question of whether we want to endorse that principle that a military alliance can declare the universal right to intervene in the internal affairs of another country, however heinous it might find the behavior of such a country. We may find ourselves regretting the principle, even though we may endorse particular application in this case. I also think it's an old NATO in the sense that here we have once again, the United States playing the dominant role just as it did during the Cold War, protecting, in effect, Europe from itself even though the Cold War is long since over. And what I regret about this summit is not the attempt to punish ethnic cleansing, most of which of course took place after the bombing, but rather the fact that this was a great opportunity to rethink what NATO was all about 50 years after its founding, the disappearance of its enemy, the expansion of Europe, whether the old relationship of the United States and Europe, which was built upon European dependency, European weakness, America's predominant strength, whether this should be maintained. And it's clearly been the decision both on American policy makers and of Europeans, too, that this is a convenient thing to maintain. Now I think that was a mistake and I think that we are going to have to -- we're living with the consequences of that and I think, as Jim Hoagland suggested, it is taking us into unknown directions.
MARGARET WARNER: Where do you think it's taking us, Michael? Was NATO saying for better or worse NATO's future is Kosovo, or Kosovo fiscal they occur in the continent of Europe?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, Presidential Historian: Well, the problem is that it's very fuzzy what the future of NATO is going to be intended to be. You know if you go back to 1949, 50 years ago, for us Americans to get involved in and found NATO was a radical act. We'd never been in a peacetime military alliance since the Constitution was signed. The whole idea of America was that we wouldn't get into a situation in which we were in an alliance that compelled us to go to war even without a war declaration from the Senate. The NATO Treaty did that. It worked because we Americans felt that for 45 years, there was an overwhelming Soviet threat. We all agreed on the goal of preventing the Soviets from invading Western Europe and perhaps encompassing the rest of the world. And also American public opinion knew what we were getting into. We want to do this. We knew what kind of risks it would involve, so if those risks were called, Americans would have been willing to pay the price. Now none of those things are really present. There has been no serious debate in this country over how large NATO should be, what it should be doing. There's not an overwhelming Soviet threat or threat of another kind that binds us all together. And so the problem is that there is fuzziness not only among Americans in terms of understanding with we are now committed to, but also among those 19 members.
|Defining NATO's mission.|
MARGARET WARNER: So do you think the expansion, Mike Mandelbaum, is wise, this expansion both in area and in mission?
MICHAEL MANDELBAUM, Johns Hopkins University: Margaret, I think that the new NATO that was unveiled here this weekend, the aspirations of which have been well described, is, in fact, dead on arrival, making this celebration a kind of funeral disguised as a wedding. There is a whole new set of missions. But in order to carry out these missions, NATO would have to engage regularly in the kind of war it's now fighting in Yugoslavia, and not just in Europe but elsewhere. Whatever the outcome of this war, I cannot imagine there will be any appetite for repeating it, let alone repeating it many times among the member countries of NATO, including the United States. As for expanding membership, the alliance is committed to a rolling, open-ended expansion to the East and to the South. The problem is that to include some of the countries to the East to which it has promised membership, notably the three Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, NATO would risk a military confrontation with Russia. And it's not going to do that. So I think expansion, at least to the East, is dead in its tracks. And as for these grandiose new missions, well, I think that's just verbiage.
MARGARET WARNER: Do you think it's dead on arrival?
HAYNES JOHNSON, Journalist/Author: Well, I love your expression about a funeral disguised as a wedding and clearly, I think what everybody's been saying, and I agree very much with what Jim started out on this, there is a new role and it is profound. It's a tremendous shift away from the defensive reasons upon which NATO began which was strictly defense Cold War -- two parts. There was the Marshal Plan was the economic side to rebuild Europe, this was, the NATO was the military side do that. We are now talking about almost Woodrow Wilson, I made a note to some talking here - it's like Wilson talking about World War I was the war to save democracy, to make the world safe for democracy. And that was to lead to the dream of the international peace force so there wouldn't be wars again, the League of Nations. That failed, it led through World War II, the UN and here we are today in this new sort of unknown charter that we are going to expand and will raise -- sounds wonderful. We are going to react with force wherever it takes place to unknown character. We haven't spelled it out. Our leaders haven't spelled it out. NATO hasn't spelled it out to its own people. And you have at the background of this, is a condition in the United States where we have not a volunteer army, all volunteer, not people who serve through a draft, and still the public is not involved in this case. But if we get into a real condition of how you get out of this, with an on the ground in Europe, this is an involving process. It was 29 years -- 39 years ago today that John Kennedy had a press conference about the end of the Bay of Pigs. And someone asked him a question what did it mean? And he quoted from Confucius. Nobody could ever find where the phrase came from - you know -"Victory has a thousand fathers" - you remember this, Jim - "and defeat is an orphan." Well, here, what is victory in the Balkans. What does it mean if you don't win. And what does that mean? This is, I think, where we are in this new charted -- uncharted territory.
MARGARET WARNER: Well, what does, Jim Hoagland, what does NATO - this new NATO have at stake in Kosovo? Has it essentially bet the farm, bet future on the victory in Kosovo and what would victory have to consist of?
JIM HOAGLAND: I think it's certainly staked its credibility as a military organization on the outcome in Kosovo. It's a high-risk gamble. But one of the things I think we have to take into account here there individual describing the big goals that were adopted are the modest means that being employed. This is a new NATO but practicing warfare by new rules --zero casualties on the allied side, a war practiced at 15,000 feet, really a restriction on humanitarian efforts that could help the people in Kosovo who have been chased from their homes who are somewhere in the hills. We're not doing everything militarily we could do in a humanitarian sense. So there are a lot of limitations placed largely by public expectations and politicians' willingness to take on those expectations. We've got to takes that into account. I think that is what is really the threat to NATO credibility. Unless we begin to see some matching of these huge goals, with the means we're prepared to employ, in what is after all, war -- I guess I disagree with Michael Mandelbaum that this is the death knell for NATO -- not at all. I think they came through the summit with very little damage done. They maintained a unity that is really based on very clear human values shared by 19 democracies. I think that's a very important development. What they haven't done is to show that NATO can be an efficient, effective, fast fighting force, which is what it should be.
|A double standard?|
MARGARET WARNER: Ronald Steel, what do you see as the implications of this gap between the means and the new ends? Do you see it as troubling as Jim Hoagland does?
RONALD STEEL: Yes, I think it's very open ended. It's also very selective -- that these aims in Kosovo to bring back these refugees who have been victims of the attempt to keep Yugoslavia together, to keep Kosovo a province, have been applied very selectively. Clearly we have been careful not to apply the same principle to NATO members themselves. The principle has not been applied in Turkey where the Turkish government, a friendly NATO government, has done similar things with regard to its Kurdish minority. And, therefore, one also has to worry about the expansion of NATO into areas where nationality problems are just as severe as they are in Yugoslavia and perhaps even more so - all of these associated nations of Eastern Europe and Central Asia we've been hearing about. But having engaged its power in this case in Kosovo, having established a set of goals, the United States, will find it, I think, very difficult to step back from it without suffering a loss of credibility. Now credibility is this enormous problem for a great power. A small power can accept a cutting back of its goals, can even accept a defeat and disguise it as a victory. That's very hard for a major power, which is why a great power should not establish goals that are greatly divorced from its defense or a very narrow definition of its national interests.
MARGARET WARNER: You've been trying to get in, Michael.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS: Presidents have to be clear about what those goals are and what cost it may require to achieve them. And that's been the problem with this one because most Americans didn't hear much about Kosovo from the Clinton administration almost until the bombs began to fall. And we're in almost the worst situation, which is that the debate takes place after the military action has begun, when people are a little bit inhibited because Americans and others are in harm's way. That's about the worst way to do something like this. A democracy is strongest when you have an open debate at the beginning, a leader who is willing to tell people unpleasant truths, and if they've learned them and accepted them, then if you get into a situation that requires ground troops and things begin to go sour, at least the country has been signed on.
MARGARET WARNER: One person who was out talking a lot about why these new missions were needed was Tony Blair. And he said, and he said to it Jim in an interview on Friday and he said it other places, that even though there's not an external threat, there's not a danger that someone going to advance on Europe, that this instability in Southeastern Europe is a security threat, is a threat to the stability of those countries. Is there nothing to that, Michael Mandelbaum, that you see?
MICHAEL MANDELBAUM: Well, whatever may be said about the threat that instability in Southern Europe poses, it doesn't seem to be serious enough to get western leaders to risk actual casualties to deal with it. They are eloquent in the means that they have chosen to deal with this problem, and those means, as has been described by the other panelists, are so modest as to risk being ineffective. If this really is the great challenge of the next century, then you'd think that we would be devoting more resources and running more risks to deal with it. But we're not. Let me add one other point. I hope that this does not mark the end of NATO all together. I think this is the end of this grandiose new NATO. But I think we continue to need some version of the old NATO to keep the United States anchored in Europe. And my concern is that in the wreckage of this new and unnecessary and unviable NATO, and especially if there is a backlash against the course of this war in Yugoslavia, the United States will pull out of Europe all together, which would be a very bad thing indeed.
MARGARET WARNER: Briefly, do you see this risk of a public backlash?
HAYNES JOHNSON: Oh, yes, absolutely. I just watched the beginning of the show tonight, we saw these helicopters coming, the sky filled with them. What did you think about? I thought about Vietnam. I mean, I think most Americans did. And yet we're not committed in that sense. So they are there. What are they there for? And what happens when we have one body, two bodies, three bodies? Can you do this by bombing? No, you can't. I don't think any military person thinks you can bomb them into submission in this way. It has never worked in the past. I hope it does. I'm not saying that but I think there are enormous risks as Jim and the rest of us have been saying here.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. We have to leave it there. Thank you all five very much.