Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott
Remarks at a Conference on the Future of NATO
The Royal Institute of International Affairs
London, U.K., October 7, 1999
America's Stake in a Strong Europe
Thank you, Lord Carrington, for that kind introduction and for your leadership over the years on many issues and in many institutions, including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Many of us here today remember the steadiness and clear-headedness with which you saw us through the deployment of intermediate-range nuclear forces in the mid-1980s, and then, the energy and determination you brought to the search for peace in Bosnia. Given the topic of this conference, it's especially appropriate for an eminent British statesman to be calling us to order on the premises of a venerable British institution.
The United Kingdom, under Prime Minister Blair, is now politically at the center of Europe and intellectually at the center of European deliberations over how better to deal with threats to continental peace and transatlantic security. That trend is personified by this afternoon's keynote speaker, who is about to become the first British Secretary-General of NATO since Lord Carrington. I haven't quite gotten used to referring to George as Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, but I certainly have no trouble imagining him in his new office in Brussels, where he will bring to the helm of our alliance the same verve and skill that have marked his stewardship of the Ministry of Defense these past 2 years.
George, of course, will be taking over from Javier Solana, whom I must learn to address as Señor PESC. For the last 4 years, he has led the alliance in meeting a series of what can only be described as existential challenges. I say that because nothing less than the continuing existence of the alliance, and certainly its continuing relevance and effectiveness, depended on its being able to open its doors to new members, undertake new missions, establish partnerships with former adversaries, and bring peace to the Balkans. The personnel shift involving George and Javier may be one of the more auspicious in recent history.
Both in the jobs they are leaving and in the ones they are assuming, these two men stand for the complementarity of NATO and the EU. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what I'd like to talk about this morning. More specifically, I'd like to talk about the transatlantic relationship in the wake of the conflict in Kosovo, and offer an American perspective on how we might ensure the continuing vitality of that relationship.
On Sunday, it will be exactly 4 months since the suspension of air strikes against Yugoslavia. We've all been thinking about the lessons of that experience. The most basic question is whether the alliance was right to take the action that it did. That issue will be discussed -- and debated -- in the first two sessions today. Lord Carrington will, I suspect, guarantee that it is a very real debate indeed. It will continue for many years to come. I will be among those who argue that NATO was right to enforce the principle that, in Europe on the eve of the 21st century, national leaderships must not be allowed to define national interests or national identity in a way that threatens international peace and that leads to crimes against humanity.
But there is, of course, another question: even if NATO did the right thing, did it do it right? Did it succeed? Did we win? In one sense, of course, the answer is clearly "yes": as a result of NATO's political cohesion and military effectiveness, Slobodan Milosevic capitulated to the terms that the leaders of the alliance established in Washington on April 23rd as conditions for an end of the bombing. But that's not quite a dispositive answer to the question, is it? Asking whether the alliance's first major military action in half a century was a success and a victory calls to mind Zhou Enlai's famous answer to the question of how he assessed the French Revolution: "It's too early to tell," he replied.
Kosovo is a classic case of having to establish the strategic wisdom of an action we have taken -- that is, its long-term beneficial consequence -- by the way in which we implement the peace we have imposed. We're off to a solid start, but it's only a start, and we could all too easily transform a tentative success into a lasting failure if we were, either out of complacency or out of exasperation, to disengage too soon. That's why we must keep KFOR in place -- and keep it at its punching weight -- long enough for local government and civil society to take root. And it's why we must do everything possible to support the democratic opposition in Serbia until it brings about the democratic transformation of Serbia. That, in turn, can happen only when Yugoslavia is under new management.
The ultimate verdict on Kosovo will also depend on the effect that the war and its aftermath, have, over time, on transatlantic attitudes, relations and institutions. On this subject, I sense a basic difference of view on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Many Americans are saying: never again should the United States have to fly the lion's share of the risky missions in a NATO operation and foot by far the biggest bill. Many in my country -- notably including members of Congress -- are concerned that, in some future European crisis, a similar predominance of American manpower, firepower, equipment, and resources will be neither politically nor militarily sustainable, given the competing commitments our nation has in the Gulf, on the Korean Peninsula, and elsewhere around the world.
Now let me turn to what I think I'm hearing on this side of the ocean. Many Europeans seem determined never again to feel quite so dominated by the U.S. as they did during Kosovo or, for that matter, during Bosnia; in the next crisis -- whatever, wherever and whenever it is -- our allies want a say in the conduct of operations more nearly commensurate with the political onus that they bear in supporting the war. At least no one, on either side, is complacent about the status quo. And by the way·It did not take Kosovo for both Americans and Europeans to recognize that there is an asymmetry in the transatlantic relationship, that is unwelcome and unhealthy, and that we must find ways to rebalance our respective roles.
We started that process within the alliance at the Berlin ministerial of the North Atlantic Council 3-and-a-half years ago. In many ways, Kosovo confirmed our foresight. But Kosovo also dramatized the extent of the imbalance, and thus it should spur us to redouble the corrective effort that we began in Berlin.
As I see it, there are three main dimensions to the problem we collectively face and to the solution we must collectively apply. The first is military. Here the two relevant sets of initials are ESDI -- the European Security and Defense Identity -- and DCI, the Defense Capabilities Initiative. The second dimension is economic and commercial, and the task there is to enhance cooperation among our defense industries. The third challenge is political, and it requires an intensified effort by all the structures and organizations of our community, notably including the EU, to reach out more proactively, more comprehensively, and more quickly to the post-Communist East.
Let me take these three points one at a time. On ESDI, I'll start by reiterating what I hope is a clear, unambiguous statement of American policy. It's a policy of support: the U.S. is for ESDI. It's in our interest for Europe to be able to deal effectively with challenges to European security well before they reach the threshold of triggering U.S. combat involvement. As ESDI goes from being a concept to a reality, our support will be guided by the answers to two questions: first, will it work? Will it be able to do what it's supposed to do? Second, will it help keep the alliance together and that means the whole alliance, European and non-European, EU and non-EU? We would not want to see an ESDI that comes into being first within NATO but then grows out of NATO and finally grows away from NATO, since that would lead to an ESDI that initially duplicates NATO but that could eventually compete with NATO. That's a long-term concern, obviously, but NATO, after all, is about the long-term, and so is this conference.
In the nearer term, we and our Canadian neighbors will be watching closely to see how the EU defines its security relationship with the other six allies who do not happen to be EU members: Iceland (where I am flying later today), Norway, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and, of course, Turkey. We hope that ESDI will allow non-EU allies to help shape planning and decisions for European-led military operations, and to participate in those operations if they so desire. We would also hope that, once ESDI is a reality, all allies would, whenever possible, continue to act together.
Our ministers committed themselves to precisely these principles first in Berlin in 1996, then again in Washington this past April. However, two other meetings seem, to our ears at least, to have emitted a somewhat different set of signals. The Anglo-French Summit at St. Malo last December raised concerns among non-EU Allies that they might not be sufficiently involved in planning and decision-making structures. Then came the EU leaders' declaration at Cologne in June, which could be read to imply that Europe's default position would be to act outside the alliance whenever possible, rather than through the alliance.
Now, I'm aware that we're talking here about the nuances of a work-in-progress with multiple authors. It's an iterative process, going back to Berlin 4 years ago, extending forward to Helsinki, 2 months from now and beyond. As ESDI does go forward, taking on form and content, we trust it will manage both to fulfil the aspirations and commitments and to allay the apprehensions that it has generated along the way.
Let me turn to the related question of resources, which is crucial to the alliance in general and to ESDI in particular. As George Robertson has said frequently and forcefully, even the best laid plans for ESDI will come to naught unless its European advocates and architects ensure that it has sufficient military muscle. Hence the Defense Capabilities Initiative -- DCI -- which the alliance leadership announced in April. That was in the midst of an operation in which many of our nations had planes in the air, but in which American B-2s and F-117s undertook many of the most vital missions. That's because they were the only ones that could fly at night, in any weather, evade defenses and deliver pinpoint strikes. For similar reasons, U.S. planes also flew two-thirds of the transport, refueling, and intelligence missions. Moreover, it took months for most allies to get their KFOR contingents pre-positioned in Macedonia and deployed into Kosovo.
That's why we -- all of us -- need DCI: it's mostly about transport and logistics, about getting forces to the area of operation and keeping them fed and equipped. Already, a number of allies, including our British hosts as well as France, Norway, and the Netherlands, are restructuring their forces and acquiring the necessary equipment. But there's still a long way to go. Given the constraints we all face on spending, the challenge here is not so much to spend more but to be more efficient. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I realize that much of my message so far has been hortatory; I've stressed what we hope our European partners will do better or differently.
Let me assure you that Secretary Albright, Secretary Cohen, and the rest of our colleagues have spent a lot of time thinking about our end of the bargain about where there's room for improvement in the U.S.'s own contribution to the common cause. In that spirit, we've broadened European military representation in NATO's new command structure; we support European command of operations where European forces predominate on the ground KFOR being the most obvious case in point. We're also committed to supporting EU-led operations by making available NATO transport, intelligence and logistics assets. And once Javier and his colleagues are in place, we're in favor of establishing a mechanism for ensuring NATO-EU coordination so that we can hammer out the practical arrangements for sharing assets and modernizing our defenses.
Now a few words about the vexatious issue of defense industry cooperation, which is all the more nettlesome arising as it does in the larger context of U.S.-EU trade disputes. We absolutely must find a way of jointly developing, and jointly benefiting from, new technologies. Here, as with ESDI, the U.S. will look for fresh and reciprocal approaches. We'll do that because again: as with ESDI -- the U.S. has a stake in a strong, integrated, self-confident and militarily capable Europe. That requires viable defense industries on both sides of the Atlantic. In pursuit of that goal, while guarding against illicit and dangerous transfers of sensitive know-how and equipment, we will explore new ways to promote technology-sharing, streamline licensing procedures, and encourage appropriate joint ventures. As we do so, we hope that the EU, in refining its own policy on defense industry trade, will keep the door open for cooperation between defense firms on both sides of the Atlantic.
Finally, I'd like to address the political dimension of the challenge. Both NATO and the EU have, over the past decades, accomplished a great deal in the political sphere. NATO began life as a collective-defense alliance, and it remains one today, 50 years and 6 months later. But NATO has also always had a political function. For example, in the early 1980s, it promoted the consolidation of civilian-led democracy in Spain, and on numerous occasions, it has helped keep the peace between Greece and Turkey. Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has served as a catalyst for strengthening democracy, rule of law, respect for human, civil, and minority rights, including among non-members. The Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council are institutional manifestations of this mission.
Similarly, politics has always been both the subtext and the context of European economic integration. That was true when the European Coal and Steel Community provided an umbrella for the reconciliation of Germany and France in the aftermath of World War Two; and it has been true in the post-Cold War era. The European Union not only gave Europe its first "stateless currency" since the days of the Roman Empire but also helped bring into being a concert of liberal democracies in some ways the first, and certainly the most advanced, in history. That development is all the more propitious for the U.S., now that the United Kingdom is, finally, front and center in carrying that great experiment forward.
A crucial aspect of what has made the EU so successful to date and so promising for the future is the way it has dealt with the related issues of communal identity, civil society, national sovereignty, and international integration. As we Americans watch what is happening under the aegis of the EU, one of the things we most admire is the way in which the old system of nation-states is giving way to a new system in which nations feel secure enough in their identities and in their neighborhoods to make a virtue out of their dependence on one another. The treaties of Westphalia and Versailles seem to be giving way to those of Maastricht and Amsterdam. On matters where borders have become an obstacle to efficiency and prosperity, such as commercial activity and monetary policy, much of Europe is investing authority in supranational bodies; on other matters, where communal identities and sensitivities are at stake, such as language and education, central governments are devolving power to local authorities.
In this fashion, Europe is managing and sublimating forces that might have ignited civil strife and conflict across borders in what has, instead, been half a century of unprecedented peace and prosperity. Our hope is that the EU as the principal force for positive change in Western Europe -- will find new and imaginative ways to induce, in the post-Communist East, the protection of minorities, the empowerment of regions, and the pursuit of transnational cooperation.
One way, obviously, is to keep bringing new members into the EU itself. You're doing that. We recognize that EU enlargement is a complex process, involving transfers of sovereignty and profound adjustments in national governance, economies and regulatory systems. We hope we will be able to congratulate the newest members of the EU sometime during President Prodi's tenure and see it launch the next round of accession negotiations early in his term. But enlargement is not the only tool in the EU's kit bag for enhancing the stability of the continent. Prime Minister d'Alema recently called upon the EU to be "not just wise and generous" but "open."
If the EU further opens its markets to non-members in the East, the result will be not just more prosperity for those countries but also better prospects for market reform and political stability. We in Washington are taking Mr. D'Alema's advice ourselves. We're doing so in various ways: by looking for ways to increase access to our own markets for products from Southeastern Europe, by providing unilateral trade preferences for the region for 5 years, and by setting up new regional investment and equity funds.
There are other programs that bear the EU's imprimatur and that comprise what we recognize and welcome as an overarching effort to define "Europe" as inclusively and extensively as possible. Let me cite three:
First, the EU's Partnership and Cooperation Agreements and their complementary assistance programs provide a mechanism to help the former Soviet republics develop democracy, establish the rule of law and encourage trade and investment. This important work is now in the capable hands of Chris Patten.
Second, the EU's Northern Dimension Initiative will help Nordic, Baltic, and Russian citizens solve common problems, such as managing nuclear and environmental waste, as well as battling infectious disease, international crime and terrorism.
Third, there is the Stability Pact for Southeastern Europe: if (and it's a big if) it gets the funding it needs from the EU and other donors -- will help policemen in Bulgaria, border guards in Macedonia, and bankers in Romania all to feel themselves to be participants in, and beneficiaries of, the great venture of European integration.
What all three of these undertakings have in common is that they reach out not just to aspirants for EU membership but to other emerging democracies as well. In that sense, they're comparable to NATO's PfP and EAPC programs. They dramatize what I mentioned at the outset: the essential complementarity of the European Union and the Atlantic alliance. Just as the EU and NATO have different but overlapping memberships, so they have different but mutually reinforcing missions. Just as the U.S. wants and needs its European allies to be equal partners in our common defense, so all of us in NATO should want the EU to succeed in nurturing within a the broadest possible political and geographic space those values and institutions, those habits of national and international life, that have come to characterize Western Europe over the past 50 years. If that happens, the EU will be able to go about its business of deepening and broadening in a far safer, more hospitable environment. And our alliance will be less likely to face another test like the one that it had to pass earlier this year. In that case, we will have indeed learned, and applied, the ultimate lesson of Kosovo.
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