NATO: A EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVE

Program 9750
December 16, 1997

Guests

Timothy Garden, Director, Royal Institute for International Affairs (RIIA)

Kristy Hughes, European politics expert, RIIA

Roy Allison, Russia expert, RIIA

This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.


JEFF MARTIN: This is Common Ground, a program on world affairs and the people
who shape events. On this edition of Common Ground, expanding NATO: how it looks
from the other side of the Atlantic.

SIR TIMOTHY GARDEN: The debate tends to center around the guarantee, the Cold War sort
of guarantee that we might all have to go to war for Warsaw or wherever. But that’s not
actually a realistic problem.

JEFF MARTIN: Two foreign policy experts from Britain discuss the role that NATO
expansion plays in the evolving Europe. And we also hear from a specialist on Russia, who
notes that most political leaders there are not too pleased with the Founding Act which was
agreed to at NATO last spring.

ROY ALLISON: They were compelled to accept something which is regarded as against
their security interests.

JEFF MARTIN: Common Ground is produced by the Stanley Foundation. I’m Jeff
Martin.

MARTIN: This past July the 16 members of NATO, meeting in Madrid, agreed to open the
organization to three new members: Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. The event was
widely covered and many observers believe that NATO expansion will be the hallmark of
President Clinton’s foreign policy. Policy experts in the United States are divided on
whether expanding NATO is a good idea. The public at large seems largely disinterested,
although that may change next spring when the Senate takes up the debate over ratifying the
treaty.

It seems to look a little different from the other side of the Atlantic, or at least in
London. The consensus among several experts I spoke with at the Royal Institute for
International Affairs was that NATO expansion needs to be looked at in the context of a
changing European political landscape. I asked Sir Timothy Garden, a retired officer from
the Royal Air Force and the Director of the Royal Institute, whether that is a view that is
shared by most Britons.

SIR TIMOTHY GARDEN: I think it’s slightly difficult to generalize about what Britons
think in this, because the vast majority of Britons have fairly low awareness of NATO or
indeed the implications of NATO enlargement. It would be true to say that the elites who
discuss such issues, those in government and those associated currently with government, are
very supportive. There are those of, if I put in the sort of retired diplomats who, a bit like
the United States, worry a lot about the potential implications for the redivision of Europe.
But I would say that those currently influencing policy are as supportive of the project as is
the United States government.

MARTIN: In the United States there will be a process by which next year the Senate will
have to ratify the expansion. And it’s anticipated that there will be some debate about that,
and in some respects the American people may be, will be more, become more aware of what’s
involved than they are now. Has there been any of that debate and is there a similar process
that will go on here?

GARDEN: No, there hasn’t been apart from the columns of the Times where people
will write and debate such issues, but not widely read perhaps. And the government process is
so different in the U.K. I was at the American Ambassadors’ last night and he remarked on how
the whole United States was astonished by the way the new government, elected on May 1st,
started governing on May 2nd. Policy was coming out. We have a different system. The
current Labor administration has a very large majority in the House of Commons. If it
believes that ratification of the treaty is appropriate it will tell its party so; they will
vote that way, and it could be done almost with no debate. Now, I think they will put aside
some time to debate the issues, but since it was also their predecessors, the Conservative
Party’s policy as well, I see little chance of there being any serious problems in the U.K.
with ratification.

MARTIN: You come from a military background, right?

GARDEN: Yes.

MARTIN: You’re a retired military officer. Yeah. Does it make military sense to
expand NATO?

GARDEN: Well, you have to go back a stage, really, and say what is it you want NATO
for? And it’s the usual sort of military answer: tell us what you want us to do and we’ll
tell you what the best way of doing it is. And NATO is changing. The debate tends to center
around the guarantee, the Cold War sort of guarantee that we might all have to go to war for
Warsaw or wherever. But that’s not actually a realistic problem. What we have at the moment
is a set of strange affairs in Europe. If we think of the Balkans and what’s been happening
in Bosnia and Albania, and further afield, what we see is NATO being used as a very useful
military organization which has common procedures; everybody can work together, in the sorts
of operations that are happening. And already the Poles are involved in that, Hungarians are
involved in that; indeed a much wider range of nations are involved. So bringing them into
that fold has great military utility. That’s a different argument from the political utility,
which is also an important aspect. But you did ask me from a military point of view. So, yes,
from a military point of view it’s enormously helpful to have a set of nations who’ve got to
operate together as multi-national military forces in the same organization using the same
procedures.

Now, from a military security point of view, the question is do we see there is some great
threat that we’re defending against. No, we don’t. Sitting here, as we are in London, it
would be difficult to think of a time when we were less threatened. We are more secure than
we have been certainly in this century. And we worry about economic problems perhaps more
than military security problems. We worry about drugs more than bombs. We worry about
terrorism, particularly in the U.K. But these are not the sorts of problems of the Cold War
or indeed the inter-war, between the two World Wars period. And so while I can build a
scenario like anybody else of all sorts of potential things in twenty or thirty years time
when NATO would be useful, I don’t think it is terribly productive to be talking about the
military utility for the Cold War scenario, because that doesn’t exist anymore.

MARTIN: But as Garden has said, Europe still does have very real security needs. The
political question is whether NATO is the right organization to meet those needs. It was
after all, created to oppose the Warsaw Pact, an alliance that no longer exists. I asked
Garden why NATO and not the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, for example,
or perhaps a new organization? Is it because NATO is the only organization in which the
United States is a member.

GARDEN: Well, it’s a factor. And I would, I mean would also argue that actually NATO
is only one part of this process of trying to lock in to every better security for the future
of Europe. NATO has an important part to play in that, but I don’t think it actually has the
most important part. Now we’re talking on the political side. It seems to me that the
European Union enlargement process, which goes on in parallel, is even more important. I
quite often when talking to people from the aspirant NATO nations in Central and Eastern
Europe, say to them, “You would be much better to be fighting harder to get into the European
Union rather than into NATO.” Because it is in—, it may not be a security organization, but
it is inconceivable that a European Union nation could be attacked from outside without the
rest of the European Union nations taking a very close interest in this. So, the two go
together. And that’s actually quite helpful because it means where there are particular
difficulties, and there are some, one can think of it in the Baltic republics, where there
are difficulties with a rapid NATO enlargement encompassing the Baltic republics because of
the sensitivities of the Russians, one might be able to down the European Union path rather
faster there. And make them feel more comfortable. So I think you have to look at the EU
and NATO, although they don’t work together, as part of a continuing process to improve
European security.

And you asked about the OSC. I think that’s a different organization. It’s a useful
gathering but it doesn’t have any teeth to it. Whereas NATO has military teeth and the EU
has economic teeth. And you’ve got to have a real process in order to join either of those
organizations. And in some ways, part of the reason that NATO has been running ahead of the
EU enlargement process is that it’s a little bit easier to meet the criteria and show you’ve
met them for NATO membership than it is, all the detailed negotiations over agriculture and
taxes and customs duties, in order to joint the EU. So that will take a longer time, but not
much longer.

MARTIN: But Kirsty Hughes, who heads the European program at the Royal Institute for
International Affairs, says there is no coordination of the parallel efforts to expand NATO
and the European Union.

KIRSTY HUGHES: I think these processes clearly are strongly inter-related. The
politicians have kept them separate; the politicians in Europe and America have refused to
make any connections between the two key enlargements of the European Union and NATO. But
they’re both responses to the end of the Cold War, the changes in Russia, unification of
Germany. And they’re both about, how do we deal with the New Europe and what do we with these
new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe? Both organizations have been having to think,
which countries should come in first? Should we enlarge at all, before that. Which countries
should come in first? What are the implications of enlarging slowly or quickly? Is there an
endpoint to the enlargement, in the sense of which countries are eligible? Which countries
will never be eligible? And all these issues have implications for the future stability of
Europe and for the future stability organizational structure of these two key organizations
on the European scene. So it’s obvious one should be looking at the two together. What does
it mean that Romania has for the moment been excluded from both the EU and NATO? What does it
mean that Estonia is probably being included in the first round of the EU but excluded from
NATO? And because these two organizations are not talking to each other they are taking these
decisions separately, only on the criteria for each organization without really thinking
through what I would call the geo-political or wider security stability implications, from
the two actually being terribly interdependent.

MARTIN: Is that at least partially explained by the fact that the United States is a
member of NATO, but it’s not a member of the EU?

HUGHES: Well, I think the fact that the U.S. doesn’t have any direct input into the EU
is one part of it. But obviously there’s a significant number of the EU members are members
of NATO, so politically they’re the same people, a lot of them, but organizationally the two
bodies are not talking to each other. And they’re not trying to talk to each other. We don’t
expect complete coordination of the two processes or of NATO officially to be given a seat on
the EU or vice-versa, but for the NATO and EU to have set up some joint discussion committee,
officially, would have seemed perfectly feasible but hasn’t happened.

MARTIN: Umm hmm. Okay. I should actually back up and ask you sort of the broad
question probably about whether you think NATO expansion makes sense.

HUGHES: I think the key question is, given the post, given the Cold War is over, does
NATO make sense? So it’s not “Does NATO enlargement make sense?” If the answer is NATO makes
sense and NATO should carry on existing, NATO is going to carry on existing, then yes,
certainly it should enlarge. These are new democracies in Eastern Europe. They want to join,
they want to be part of one of the key Western institutions, they want the broad security
that it will bring. And I don’t think we have any right or any reason to say to them, “No,
you can’t join, this is going to be a West exclusive club. We know the Cold War is over and
you had wonderful revolutions, but no you can’t join.” So I think in that fundamental sense,
if NATO has an ongoing role it has to have one that includes being an enlarged NATO.

MARTIN: Okay. Does it make sense?

HUGHES: I think what NATO has done remarkable well in the circumstances so far, in
redefining itself. It was set up for the Cold War. It’s a Cold War organization. It was set
up to oppose the Soviet Union, which doesn’t even exist any more. Russia is clearly not at
the moment a security threat to Western Europe, let alone the U.S. And so in that sense NATO
has lost its function and in the medium run of 10-15 years it’s not clear if it will continue
to exist in anything like its current form. But for the moment it’s done very well. Its
acted in Bosnia much more successfully than the EU or UN. Its managed to put much more
emphasis on out-of-area peacekeeping and these sorts of activities. So I think NATO is
redefining itself. If it does that successfully it may find that it’s the basis for a new
European security organization, rather than being superseded by something else that may
develop over the next 10-15 years again.

MARTIN: Talk to me a little bit about the sort of the status of the European Union and
its general direction.

HUGHES: I think one thing people often don’t realize is that the EU in its own way was
also a Cold War organization. We recognize that NATO has to redefine itself but people are
less aware that the EU has also had to redefine itself. The end of the Cold War means that
in fact there’s more diversity of interest in many ways across countries that are member
states. Or alternatively, that they have more freedom to express diversity of interests.
And the end of the Cold War of course also meant that Germany unified and the EU and Germany
itself is still trying to come to terms with the implications of that. Add to that
enlargement and the fact that the EU is going to grow, that it’s no longer clear exactly
where the geographical limit to the EU may be, and the EU has an enormous challenge to try
and define what sort of organization is it going to be in the 21st Century. How big is it
going to be? How is it going to function when it’s bigger? What are its key policies going
to be? Is the dream of some Europeans of ever closer union, every closer integration, going
to be realized? Or has that now become entirely irrelevant? It’s facing enormous problems
of unemployment throughout Europe. It’s facing the self-imposed challenge of moving to the
single currency, which if it’s not successful could cause really difficult political dynamics
among the member-states. And, as with NATO, it’s facing this problem of dealing with the
demands from the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe. So it has an extremely full
agenda. It’s dealing with it quite well so far, but there’s a lot of big questions and big
hurdles ahead.

MARTIN: Our topic in this edition of Common Ground is NATO expansion from a
European perspective. In a moment we will continue with a look at how Russia is responding
to developments.

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The evolution of the post-Cold War Western Europe has been watched with a wary
eye from Russia. Last spring, Russia signed the Founding Act, a document which formalizes a
relationship with NATO, and which was intended, at least in part, to alleviate Russian
concerns about an expanded NATO. I asked Timothy Garden to characterize the Russian response
so far.

GARDEN: I think it is too early to say at the moment. One of the, I think one of the
disappointments has been the way Russia did not make good use of the Partnership for Peace
arrangement, which proceeded it. And those nations that really did get in and use NATO, I
mean, that’s what it was about, were able to modernize their military, move towards the
democratic control of the military quite fast, using NATO as a help through the Partnership
for Peace. And we as a result have had some really good developing relationships with Central
European nations. Russia was I think pretty suspicious; didn’t want to be left out, but didn’t
actually want to be involved properly in it. Now, the Founding Act gives Russia a very
special status. It gives it an opportunity to again work with NATO and let NATO help it with
what is a key problem: that is the modernization of the Russian military. Whether it uses it
that way or not, I think the jury is still out on. It may merely wish to use it as a whipping
boy for internal political reasons, to show that you are still fighting NATO, but you’re
fighting it in a different forum. Trying to make it as difficult as possible to do the
enlargement process, claiming that you’ve got a veto over this, that or the other. Now, if
it goes down that route, it won’t have been helpful, although at least it means they’re
talking together. But it could really be the basis of a developing cooperation which it seems
to me is an important part of the jigsaw. And certainly the NATO side are very seized with
the need not to say, “Ah, we’ve not got the Russians salted,” but to say this is an important
element of improving European security.

MARTIN: The long-term Russian response to NATO expansion may turn out to be benign.
And in fact many experts think that will be the case. In the short-term the Russians seem to
have little choice but to accept it, a point that was reinforced by Roy Allison, Head of the
Russian and Eurasian Program at the Royal Institute, when I asked him about the Founding Act.

Is this something that at a most fundament level I guess, something that the Russians felt
they were forced into, or is it something that they’re a bit more comfortable than that about?

ROY ALLISON: Certainly it seems that among the political elites, most of the political
elites and the political parties represented in the Russian Duma, they feel that they were
compelled. This was a, not the first or the second best option for them. They were compelled
to accept something which is regarded as against their security interests. This remains the
dominant view unfortunately. And has been vocally expressed in the Russian state Duma.
However, I think with the passing of a little time this elites and the security policy elites,
will come to see some clear benefits arising from the Charter opportunities. And I think even
the Russian military may see some opportunities as arising in this new relationship with their
Western counterparts. And I think that is what we should hope will develop. And I think
there’s every reason to believe that the Russian elite will, that their concerns will diminish
as they see there is not some Western conspiracy to reduce their military potential, to
undercut their capability, behind the drive for NATO enlargement.

MARTIN: You mentioned the Russian elite has been sort of lukewarm on the idea. Any
sense of what the general Russian populace feels about it? Or is it something that they haven’t
focused on? There’s so much turmoil in Russia that, I don’t know, is it possible to get an
accurate reading?

ALLISON: Well, frankly, the Russian population is concerned about much more mundane
issues. Most are concerned with day-to-day routine survival in conditions of economic
hardship. This remains true even though the economy may pick up in the next year or so.
And the concern about NATO or Germany or the United States as a potential challenge is not
something that really I think enters into their thinking very much. Whatever the discussion,
debate or concern in the media which, or perhaps the more elite media in Russia, it’s true
that there are some gut feelings of anxiety, especially in the older generation. And among
those who are more committed to Communist thinking, which is a diminishing group of course.
But really I think that it’s not a source of, or has a sort of strong constituency that can
be drawn upon and used. Russians are concerned with how to, how their economic conditions
will improve. They’re concerned with law and order. They’re concerned with the day-to-day
affairs that people are elsewhere in the world.

MARTIN: Is there a fairly strong nationalist tendency within Russia which could be
played upon by people who are really opposed to NATO expansion, if they wanted to whip up
some public fury?

ALLISON: There is. I think that it should be understood in the West that this
nationalism, Russian nationalism, is not just a passing phenomenon in a time of transition.
I think it is, it’s fairly deep-rooted. There’s an attempt to try and identify something
specific to their people, specific to Russia, to give them some form of identity. And this
means reaching back into the past, often reaching back to traditions, trying to develop,
trying to identify some way in which Russia may be considered great. This constant talk
about Russia a Great Power reflects that. But at the same time I don’t think this nationalism
is necessarily negative. It can be positive in state building. It can be positive in
building support behind state institutions and the like. It’s a very difficult time for
Russia because Russians are torn often between Russia and other CIS states. Many are, have
relatives in the other CIS states, particularly Ukraine, where a very close feeling of
association, belonging with Ukraine. This nationalism can be exploited but I think there’s
diminishing potential to exploit it in an anti-Western direction.

MARTIN: The Founding Act is generally said to have included assurances that make the
NATO expansion process less threatening to Russia. Can you expand a little bit on what that
sort of compromise looks like? And what sort of assurances there are for Russia?

ALLISON: Well the formula that was agreed is one that Yeltsin can use to try and
assuage nationalist opinion in Russia. I’m not sure that it’s altogether effective in that,
and it would assuage Russian military leaders in all respects. Certainly Yeltsin came away
with much less than he was seeking. The references to non-forward deployment of nuclear
forces—certainly this has some substance. But it’s not fully convincing, since in a crisis
Russian leaders feel that NATO could rapidly bring forward such nuclear assets, if they felt
necessary, so long as the infrastructure for receiving them is there in the new NATO, eastern
NATO countries. But those are extreme situations and the general assurances on the status of
the new NATO members, that they will not be receiving in peacetime nuclear weapons, forward
position weapons, is quite helpful certainly. In the area of conventional weapons, the
agreement on revising the CFE treaty, the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, goes quite a
considerable way to satisfying Russian concerns about the nature of that treaty and how it
had become outdated since it was signed at the end of the Soviet period. So I think that in
those areas some Russian concerns are met. But there remains some key areas of uncertainty.
I think I should emphasize one; that is the status, future status of the Baltic states. It’s
clear that the Russians wanted to have built into the agreement with NATO a commitment on the
part of NATO to, not to include these states in the future. I think that was a key security
concern that expressed basic, basic views of the Russian military leadership and political
leadership. And it was not accepted on NATO’s side. So I think overall, in conclusion, that
the formula that was developed is one that has assuaged Russian concerns—political concerns—sufficiently.
And I think that some of the residual military concerns will decline as the
positive political benefits of the relationship become apparent.

MARTIN: My guests in this edition of Common Ground have been Sir Timothy Garden,
Director of the Royal Institute for International Affairs, along with Kirsty Hughes and Roy
Allison, who head the European and Russian Programs there. I’m Jeff Martin.

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