20 May 1997


(Says no democracy that wants to join is excluded) (880)

Washington -- The case for enlarging NATO "is compelling and rooted in the most vital security interests of this country," Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott told a gathering of ambassadors, journalists, and interested parties at the Atlantic Council May 20.

Talbott placed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO) decision to take on new members -- expected to be made formally at the Madrid Conference in July -- in the context of 20th century Europe's wars and President Clinton's desire to assure a "safer and more prosperous" continent in the future.

Although the old threat which gave NATO much of its meaning during the Cold War era has disappeared, new ones are appearing, Talbott said, citing the war in Bosnia in particular.

In fact, he added, NATO does not need an enemy to justify its existence. "It needs an enduring purpose, and that it has: namely, to undergird transatlantic security, to provide the mechanisms for coordinating mutual defense, and to maintain the collective will and capability to meet new threats."

While NATO retains its military capacity, Talbott said, it can "more than ever before, foster integration and cooperation between what we used to think of as East and West."

Moreover, NATO's open door "can foster integration and cooperation among the Central Europeans themselves," he added, noting that "in pursuit of their goal to join NATO, a number of Central European states have accelerated their internal reforms and improved relations with each other." Interest in the Alliance has already spurred border agreements between Poland and Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Germany, Hungary and Romania, and Romania and Ukraine.

In addition to remaining a military alliance, NATO has an important political role, Talbott said. It can act as a catalyst for consolidating democracy, establishing the rule of law, promoting religious tolerance and human rights, and encouraging civilian control of the military.

Talbott did not identify which countries he believes will be brought into NATO at Madrid, but stressed that the conference will only be "the beginning of a process, not the end." No democracy that wants to join is excluded, he said.

When asked specifically if this pertained to Russia, he replied: "When we say no one is excluded, we mean no one." Although Russia has not applied for NATO membership, if one looks at the long term, it would be a mistake to exclude the possibility, he said.

Talbott, who studied and wrote about Russia extensively before joining the Clinton administration, readily acknowledged that there are many Russians who "nurture a Cold War image of NATO." Nevertheless, he rejected as "exaggerated" the oft-repeated argument that adding to the Alliance would spur Russian nationalism.

He then turned to the NATO-Russian agreement, or Founding Act, initialed last week by Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeniy Primakov and NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, and which is scheduled to be signed in Paris on May 27 by Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin and the heads of the 16 NATO nations.

Talbott briefly reviewed the four parts of the Founding Act. The first acknowledges respect for the principles of the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations Charter, and the right of every state to defend itself. The second and third parts outlined the new NATO-Russian Joint Consultative Council.

Part IV deals with military issues, adding clarity to NATO's previous statement that "in the current and foreseeable security environment, it has no reason, no plan, and no intention to deploy nuclear weapons where they are not deployed now," and that "additional permanent stationing of substantial combat troops is not adjudged to be necessary," Talbott noted.

This part of the Founding Act also confirmed the process of renegotiating the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, currently under way in Vienna between NATO, the former Warsaw Pact countries, and some of the successor states to the former Soviet Union.

Asked about the NATO-Russian Joint Consultative Council's powers, Talbott assured the audience that it would not in any way undercut the North Atlantic Council, NATO's governing body. The Alliance will continue to take its guidance from the NAC, he stated.

There is nothing to fear from consulting with the Russians, Talbott said. On the contrary, he added, much has already been gained from it. For example, when NATO moved to help stop the fighting in Bosnia, it was in cooperation with the Russians and Ukrainians, not against them.

Asked whether NATO enlargement would encourage Russian-Chinese relations, Talbott said that there was no reason to fear such relations and indeed, that the United States welcomes them.

Asked about the U.S. Senate's view of the Alliance's enlargement, Talbott said that he and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had met with a number of senators last week and that the cost factor was the most serious concern for many of them. "I am, indeed, concerned about burden-sharing," he said. "We've got to really work on that."

In the final analysis, he added, the Senate will probably not approve NATO enlargement if it is believed the United States must shoulder an "inappropriate burden."

Following is the text of Talbott's speech:

(Note: In the following text, "trillion" equals 1,000,000 million.)

(Begin text)

Remarks by Strobe Talbott Deputy Secretary of State The Atlantic Council of the United States May 20, 1997

Thank you, Andy (Goodpaster). I'm grateful to you, to David Acheson, and to Peter Swiers for the chance to be here today. The three of you -- and the Atlantic Council as an institution -- have played a vital role over the years in fostering intelligent discussion and clear thinking about the community that is represented by the audience gathered here this morning. As I look around this room I see dramatic evidence of how that community is growing.

In the case of a number of you -- my diplomatic colleagues from the member states of NATO and from Central Europe -- I'm astonished by your willingness to hear from me yet again. Your diligence borders on masochism. Over the last several months, we've met frequently in various conference rooms at the State Department to consult on the progress of the negotiations between NATO and Russia. Those negotiations, informed and guided in no small measure by our consultations, have now yielded an understanding that 17 leaders will sign in Paris a week from today.

Before I talk about the text of~ that document, let me spend a few minutes on its context.

A little over three years ago, in January 1994, President Clinton laid out his vision of an undivided, increasingly integrated Europe. He saw a number of institutions contributing to the process of integration. They include some, like the OSCE, of which the United States is a part -- and some, like the European Union, to which we do not belong but in which we have a very real interest.

And then there is NATO. It is of special importance because it is the only collective defense pact on the continent, the only institution with the capability of deterring threats to the common peace and, if necessary, applying force to the maintenance of security. It is also the anchor of the United States' own commitment to -- and engagement in -- Europe.

With the end of the Cold War, N~ATO changed in sweeping and fundamental ways. The Alliance has dramatically reduced levels of forces, and those that remain on alert are no longer massed at the Fulda Gap, braced for an invasion. Instead, the new NATO has ~turned its energies to tasks like bringing peace to Bosnia.

In addition to adapting itself to new, post-Cold War missions, NATO is adopting a new, post-Cold War membership.

Twelve Central European states -- a number of which are represented here today -- have expressed an interest in joining. Seven weeks from today, on July 8, the NATO heads of state and government will meet in Madrid to invite several of those states to begin talks on the terms of membership. We have already entered into intense consultations with the United States Senate on this subject. Secretary Albright and I have heard in the strongest terms from members of the Senate how ~intense the scrutiny and the debate will be as the process of ratification goes forward.

We believe the case for enlargement is compelling and rooted in the most vital security interests of this country. Quite simply, it is this:

Twice in this century Europe has exploded into world wars. Those conflicts cost the lives of over half a million Americans. The Cold War also began in Europe, and it meant the expenditure of the equivalent of over $13 trillion. The enlargement of NATO is a key part of America's attempt to ensure that Europe is a more peaceful place in the 21st century than it has been in the 20th. If Europe is safer and more prosperous, the United States will be too.

NATO is, and will remain, preeminently, a military organization -- a collective defense pact. The old threat that led to its creation 48 years ago has disappeared, but new ones have appeared. From Bosnia and Croatia in the Balkans to Chechnya and Nagorno-Karabakh in the Caucasus, more Europeans have died violently in the last five years than in the previous 45.

New threats -- arising from the south, or from the East -- may seem remote, but they are not unthinkable, especially in an era when missile technology and weapons of mass destruction are spreading.

NATO is already working to address these challenges, and the new members can help by providing strategically important locations, energetic fighting forces, and specialized military capabilities.

But NATO is not just a military organization -- it is also a political one; it is -- as Vaclav Havel pointed out while he was here last week -- a catalyst for ~strengthening the values and institutions that the Allies have in common: ~democracy, rule of law, respect for human and civil rights, tolerance of ethnic and religious ~~~differences, and civilian control of the military.

NATO has always had that political function and responsibility, including in its old, Cold War ~incarnatio~n. In the `50s, NATO provided the security umbrella under which reconciliation between France and Germany could take place, and that laid the ground for the European Union. In the early `80s, NATO promoted the consolida~tion of civilian-led democracy in Spain. On numerous occasions, NATO has helped keep the peace between Greece and Turkey.

Throughout its existence, NATO'S unified command has removed the ~incentive for military competition among West European powers. I stress that point because it's easy to forget in today's world, when the unity of Western Europe seems natural and commonplace~, that it was not always thus. For centuries it was precisely the Western European powers -- anything but unified -- that were almost constantly at war with each other. NATO helped end that pattern.

Some critics of NATO enlargement pose what they believe is the definitive rebuttal to our Administration's policy: what's the point, they ask, in having an Alliance at all -- not to mention enlarging it -- if the original and principal adversary has disappeared? An alliance, according to the line of thinking, needs a clear~-cut enemy in order to justify its existence.

Well, not necessarily. In fact, in the past, particularly in 19th century Europe, alliances not only served to wage or deter war -- they have also been a device for managing constructive, non~-competitive relations among their member-states.

NATO today doesn't need an enemy. It needs an enduring purpose, and that it has: namely, to undergird transatlantic security, to provide the mechanisms for coordinating mutual defense, and to maintain the collective will and capability to meet new threats.

President Clinton and his fellow Allied leaders believe that today, while retaining its military capacity and its core identity as a defense treaty, NATO can, more than ever before, foster integration and cooperation between what we used to think of as East and West. Moreover, NATO'S open door to the East can foster integration and cooperation among the Central Europeans themselves. We want to do for the Central and East Europeans what we did for Western Europe; we want to finish the historic project we started in 1949 -- making war in Europe impossible.

That's already happening. The very prospect of NATO membership has already begun to encourage positive, peaceful trends in Central Europe. In pursuit of their goal to join NATO, a number of Central European states have accelerated their internal reforms and improved relations with each other. To wit: the recent cooperation ~between Poland and Lithuania, and the recent accords between Hungary and ~Romania,~ the Czech Republic and Germany, and just this month a new treaty initialed between Romania and Ukraine. Agreements like these can serve as potent vaccines against the kind of ills that befell the former Yugoslavia.

Moreover, we must consider the impact on transatlantic security if we did not enlarge the Alliance. We would send the message that we permanently endorse the dividing line Joseph Stalin carved across Europe in 1945 and enforced through occupation and terror thereafter. We would say that, having been subjugated in the past, these~ states are now disqualified for security in the future -- an unconscionable form of double jeopardy.

I know there is concern that any change in NATO, including expansion of its membership, will dilute its strength or undermine its very identity. But just the opposite is true. NATO was strong during the Cold War because it was dynamic and faced the security challenges as they existed at the time. Freezing the old NATO in amber would subject it to the risk of irrelevance and perhaps dissolution.

If NATO did not take in new members, the Alliance would weaken as the Central and East European countries scrambled to jury~-rig security arrangements, no doubt often at each other's expense -- and to the detriment of the continent as a whole, certainly to the detriment of EU integration.

As we approach Madrid there will, naturally enough, be considerable focus on the countries that will be invited to make up the so-called first tranche. Those of us, from the President on down, who are working on this policy spend at least as much time thinking about those emerging democracies in the East that will not be part of the first tranche. Some have applied but will not be selected in Madrid; others have not applied; still others are wary about, or opposed to, enlargement.

While their attitudes toward NATO vary, our attitude toward them has a crucial common denominator: we are determined that the enlargement~ of the Alliance enhance not only the security of its own members, current and new, but that it also enhance the security of Europe as a whole -- members~~ and non-members alike.

To that end, we are bolstering and energizing the Partnership for Peace and creating the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, two bodies that facilitate military and political cooperation with the Alliance among the 27 Partner countries, including those of the Transcaucasus and Central Asia.

For those who have now -- or may develop in the future -- a desire to join the Alliance, we have made clear that enlargement is not a o~ne-time event. Madrid is the beginning of a process, not the end. ~~The first will not be the last.

Moreover -- and this is an especially important principle -- the process is ongoing and inclusive. When the Allied leaders gather in Madrid, they will affirm that the door is open, and that no emerging democracy that~ aspires to full integration is excluded.

Some have asked, where are the geographical limits to NATO expansion? The right answer is: let's see. The wrong answer would be one of premature and prejudicial precision, for that would be to draw a new line on the map and to betray the President's vision of an undivided, ~increasingly integrated Europe. When he articulated that vision in January 1994, he had in mind an evolving and expanding community of nations stretching to the west side of the Atlantic -- namely, to ourselves here in North America -- and to the east of the Urals -- including to the homelands of Ambassadors Abdrisaev, Nurgaliyev, Ugur, and Safaev, who are here this morning.

Their countries -- Kyrgyzstan, Kazakstan, Turkmenistan~, and Uzbekistan -- along with Ukraine and several others have not applied for NATO membership. They may or may not do so in the future. But they do belong today to the Partnership for Peace; and, we hope, they will be active in the new Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. As such, they are members of the larger community whose overall sense of a common fate and common interests NATO can -- and, for its own sake, should -- serve.

Russia is part of that community, too.

As everyone knows, the issue of NATO enlargement is acutely neuralgic in Russia, especially for the political elite there. The idea that NATO can contribute to Russia's own long-term security -- which we firmly believe -- is, to put it mildly, not self-e~vident, certainly not to the Russians. Stereotypes die hard, on both sides of what used to be the Iron Curtain. Just as many of our own experts and commentators cling to Cold War prejudices about Russians and what makes them tick, so many Russians nurt~ure a Cold War image of NATO. These include Russian hard-liners who long for what they remember as the glory days of the USSR and who exploit what they depict as the specter of NATO to whip up nationalistic p~assions. There are also plenty of Russian reformers and democrats who worry -- and warn -- that NATO enlargement threatens to strengthen those reactionary forces.

We believe that that risk is both exaggerated and manageable. President Clinton and President Yeltsin have spent many hours over the past three years discussing how to manage this issue while building on the common ground between Russia and the United States, especially when they met in Helsinki on March 20-21.

That meeting provided an important impulse to the NATO-Russia dialogue that has been underway since last summer. Then, last week, NATO's Secretary General Javier Solana, and Russia's Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, agreed on what is formally called the Founding Act~ on Mutual Relations, Cooperation, and Security Between NATO and the Russian Federation.

Let me summarize the document. The preamble and Part I set forth the rationale for NATO-Russia cooperation and a reaffirmation of the basic rules of the road of international behavior. These include respect for the principles of the OSCE and U.N. Charter and -- this is especially important -- for the inherent right of every state to choose the means for ensuring its own security. That means any European state has the right to seek membership in NATO.

Parts II and III create a new consultative forum, the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council, and set forth a possible agenda. The Council is an institutionalization of the so-called 16+1 mechanism, which has existed for some time for each of NATO's 27 partner states. The new Council will give NATO and Russia a means to explore the possibility of joint decision-making and joint action on some issues, such as the prevention and settlement of conflicts.

Let me stress that the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council is entirely distinct from the North Atlantic Council, which remains NATO's governing body. The NATO~-Russia Council will operate by consensus on those issues where NATO and Russia agree to act jointly. But that does not mean that Russia will have a veto over the any aspect of NATO activity or policy. Quite the contrary -- the Founding Act makes explicitly clear that NATO and Russia maintain total freedom to act independently if they do not choose to act in concert under the aegis of the Joint Council.

Part IV, which was the subject of the most intense discussions, covers the military dimension of the NATO-Russia relationship. Its core elements reiterate and clarify two unilateral statements of NATO policy that the Alliance made in the past. The first was NATO's assertion last year that, in the current and foreseeable security environment, it has no reason, no plan, and no intention to deploy nuclear weapons where they are not deployed now. The second was a NAC statement on March 14 this year, which proclaimed that -- again, in the current and foreseeable security environment -- NATO will carry out its various missions by concentrating on three priorities -- integration, interoperability, and the reinforcement capability; additional permanent stationing of substantial combat troops is not adjudged to be necessary.

These are, I emphasize, reassertions of NATO's own policy, independently generated and promulgated; they are not negotiated limits on NATO's freedom of action. The Alliance reserves the unilateral right to reassess the security environment at any time and, if it felt there was a new challenge, to change deployments accordingly.

Part IV also states the commitment of both NATO and Russia to pursue adaptation of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty -- a process that has already begun in Vienna. This is important, because it means that any numerical limits on treaty-limited ~equipment in Central Europe will need to be negotiated by those states, as well as with the rest of the CFE treaty's 30 member states.

A final word -- again on the context in which this document should be seen.

One of the keys to peace in every post-war era involves the arrangements between former adversaries. After World War I, we and our fellow victors got it wrong. They imposed crushing reparations on Germany at Versailles, setting the stage for the eventual rise of German revanchism, fascism, and aggression.

After World War II, we and our Allies got it right in the West, but many countries in the East suffered nearly half a century under the shadow of Yalta. That is a place name that has come to be a codeword for the cynical sacrifice of small nations' freedom to great powers' spheres of influence, just as Versailles has come to signify a short-sighted, punitive, and humiliating peace that sows the seeds of future war.

Russia is, in a very real sense, a former adversary in one of the great struggles of this century and of human history. It is the largest, most powerful successor state of the USSR, and its capital, Moscow, was the former headquarters of the Warsaw Pact.

But unlike Germany in 1919 or again in 1945, Russia in 1997 is not a defeated power. Quite the contrary, its people and its reformers deserve credit, support, gratitude, and patience from all of us for their role in defeating the Soviet Communist system that oppressed them as well as so many others for much of this century.

Part of the challenge we face in dealing with Russia now that the Cold War is over is to avoid both a new Versailles and a new Yalta. Versailles and Yalta -- those are the Scylla and Charybdis of the course we are steering as we head toward Paris a week from now and to Madrid six weeks after that.

The journey will continue beyond that, and I'd like the chance to come back and talk to you again along the way.

Return to Vinnie's Home Page

Return to NATO Page

Return to Russia Page

Return to Clinton Administration Page