Zbigniew Brzezinski. Foreign Affairs. Volume 74, Issue 1. January 1995.
The Clinton administration today confronts three important and interrelated questions generated by the end of the Cold War: First, what should be the scope of the Euro-Atlantic Alliance? Second what should be the role of Germany within post-Cold War Europe? And third, what should be Europe and NATO’s relationship with Russia?
It is essential to answer all three if America’s prolonged commitment to Europe is to be crowned with historic success. The failure to respond decisively to the first question could create uncertainties regarding the second and automatically conjures up troubling prospects regarding the third. Hence, the response must be comprehensive.
It is axiomatic that the security of America and Europe are linked. The Europeans almost unanimously want to preserve the Euro-Atlantic alliance. But that means both sides must define what today constitutes “Europe” and what is the security perimeter of the Euro-Atlantic alliance. It also calls for shaping a closer relationship between Europe and Russia—one that facilitates the consolidation of a truly democratic and benign Russia.
This agenda is as daunting in its sweep as the one that America faced in the late 1940s. And it is pertinent to recall that the formation of NATO was not just a response to the Soviet threat; it was also motivated by the recognition that an enduring Euro-Atlantic security framework was needed for the assimilation of a recovering Germany into the European system. Today, in the wake of the reunification of Germany and the liberation of Central Europe, the ongoing expansion of Europe—favored by a powerful Germany—necessitates addressing head-on the issue of expanding NATO. That expansion in some cases should precede the enlargement of Europe; in others, it might have to follow it.
As the European Union reaches out for new members, so will Europe’s security organ, the Western European Union. The WEU has already created a special category of associated partners, comprised of several Central European states. Their formal membership in the EU will create additional economic bonds and shared political interests inseparable from the security dimension. With most of the European Union’s members also participating in NATO, neutrality by the alliance in the face of an attack on a WEU member will become inconceivable. As a practical matter, the issue of formally widening the alliance can thus no longer be avoided.
Failure to address this issue will compound the disintegrative trends in the Euro-Atlantic alliance that the Bosnian tragedy has made so evident. The disgraceful indecisiveness of the policies of both the Bush and Clinton administrations has helped create divisive coalitions within NATO, pitting Britain and France, backed from the outside by Russia, against America and Germany. Bosnia as a regional conflict thus represents an immediate challenge to the political cohesion of the alliance. The absence of a longer-range design for Europe can deprive the alliance of its historical raison d’etre.
An Unclear Policy
It is not carping criticism to point out that, so far, the Clinton administration has projected neither a strategic vision nor a clear sense of direction on a matter of such salience to Europe’s future as enlarging NATO. To be sure, the president has stated (and his spokesmen have been repeating it like a sacred mantra) that the issue is no longer “whether” NATO will be expanded “but when and how.” The task of presidential leadership, however, is not just to define questions but also to provide answers. “When and how” is precisely what begs for answers.
The ambiguity in U.S. policy was intensified by the conflicting emphases of the president’s principal advisers. President Clinton himself stated that NATO expansion “will not depend upon the appearance of a new threat in Europe.” In contrast, his deputy secretary of state publicly affirmed, “Another factor, of course, that will determine the expansion of NATO is the overall security environment in Europe.” His vice president has gone the furthest in assuring the Central Europeans that “the security of the states that lie between Western Europe and Russia affects the security of America.” The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was even blunter, stating that “any threat to the East European countries … would be considered a threat to the United States.” The vice president also indicated that NATO will be expanded in stages, arguing that this “will be of benefit even to those countries who are not in the first group to join,” but the deputy secretary of state argued that Russia’s and Poland’s prospects of being admitted to NATO are the same.
There has been particularly widespread confusion regarding the role of NATO’s Partnership for Peace—an ambiguous voluntary association of participating states—in an enlarging alliance. The president’s own comments have contributed to that confusion: “Twenty-one nations have now joined that partnership since we began it, and they are already moving to fulfill the dream of a unified and peaceful Europe.” Is that to mean that Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan are in the same category as the Czech Republic or Hungary? Is the partnership meant to provide equal security to all? Is it a promise of NATO membership to all or to none? If all are eligible, then, as a practical matter, none are admissible.
A German commentator on this issue aptly quoted Frederick the Great’s axiom: “He who wants to defend everything defends nothing, and he who wants to be everyone’s friend has no friends in the end.” Senator Richard Lugar was undoubtedly right when he noted that “the Partnership for Peace must begin with the honest premise of strategic differentiation. All countries are not equal in the West’s strategic calculus” (italics in original). Such strategic differentiation has been slow in coming and the State Department has even actively lobbied against congressional efforts to provide it.
Fortunately, by late 1984, the Clinton administration had begun to fashion a more consistent and forward-looking policy on NATO expansion. Its proposal to initiate an alliance-wide debate regarding the “when and how” of NATO expansion was a positive step, one that could over time generate the needed comprehensive approach. It came none too soon, since failure to resolve the persisting ambiguity in current U.S. policy was intensifying Central European anxieties and causing divisive debates within key allied governments, notably Germany. The surfacing disagreements between German Defense Minister Volker Ruhe, who advocates bolder movement on NATO expansion, and Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel, who urges greater caution, signal a potentially disruptive split within the already weakened German government at a time when strategic leadership by America and Germany is especially needed.
Continued U.S. waffling could also consolidate Russian opposition to any expansion of NATO so that any eventual move to widen the alliance will unavoidably be seen as conveying a hostile message to Moscow. In the meantime, because of that ambiguity, Russian leaders with whom a clear-headed Western plan for NATO’s expansion could be constructively discussed are being locked into an increasingly negative posture by the rising crescendo of highly-vocal Russian opposition. There is little to be gained and a great deal to be risked by more delay in explicitly answering the question of “when and how.”
Germany and Russia
The need for such an answer is dictated, above all, by the changing circumstances of both Germany and Russia. NATO was formed in large measure as a response to the challenges posed to a stable European order by the disproportionate power of these two states. Over the last 40 years, NATO created a secure framework for both a constructive role for Germany in a unifying Europe and the protection of Western Europe from the Soviet Union. Today the challenge is to find a formula that consolidates Germany in a wider Europe and facilitates a cooperative relationship with the new Russia—while eliminating any potentially disruptive geopolitical vacuum between the wider Europe and the new Russia.
It must be recognized that both Germany and Russia are in the midst of sensitive and complex national redefinitions. It is no reflection on Germany—a model citizen of the democratic European community—to note that a reunited Germany has the choice of either continuing to become an increasingly European Germany or seeking a German Europe. The former is much likelier within the framework of an expanded European Union and especially a more rapidly expanding NATO, with America deeply engaged in the shaping of that expansion. The latter is more likely if NATO atrophies while an insecure Central Europe, left to its own devices, again becomes a hunting ground for its powerful western and eastern neighbors.
That is why the next phase in the construction of Europe will have to involve the deliberate promotion of close German-Polish political cooperation. Today’s Western Europe would not be a reality without prior German-French reconciliation. The post-Cold War Europe will not become a real “Europe” without a deep and wide-ranging reconciliation between Germany and Poland. Security must be a major aspect of any real cooperation between them. It will make a decisive difference to Europe’s future whether such security cooperation—already pursued by them within the WEU—is undertaken within or without the Euro-Atlantic alliance (that is, with or without America’s involvement).
The ongoing redefinition of Russia poses potentially starker choices. Germany’s democracy is not at issue, but Russia’s democracy is tenuous at best. Moreover, Germany’s commitment to the West is enduring; the only issue is how integrated or unilateral Germany’s role within the new Europe will be. Russia’s relationship to the West—indeed, its very inclination to define itself as part of the West—is uncertain. Fundamentally, the political struggle within Russia is over whether Russia will be a national and increasingly European state or a distinctively Eurasian and once again an imperial state.
That debate is sharpening. The void left by communist ideology has not yet been filled. Among the several contending schools of political thought, the “Westernists” or “Europeanists” are certainly not gaining ground. Some, like Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, who used to lead this camp, seem to be defecting. Increasingly, the most articulate and politically appealing leaders seem to be those who argue that Russia is destined to exercise geopolitical sway over Eurasia, that it is the embodiment of a distinctive Eurasian identity, and that its special political status must be asserted directly in Eurasia and indirectly in Central Europe. The Russian debate and the growing appeal of the ‘Eurasianists” signal the historical urgency of defining more precisely a stable political and territorial relationship between Europe, including its Euro-Atlantic security system, and post-Soviet Russia.
The requisite definition need not now address—let alone reject the question of whether Russia eventually might become an integral part of NATO. Ruhe, the German defense minister, is probably correct in stating that Russia’s participation would so dilute the alliance as to render it meaningless—but there is no current need to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on this sensitive issue. It is not even clear whether the Russians wish to be part of NATO. But if excluded and rejected, they will be resentful, and their own political self-definition will become more anti-European and anti-Western.
Prudence therefore dictates that the issue of Russia’s association be kept open, depending on how fast, deep, and wide the expansion of the European Union will be and whether the Euro-Atlantic security system matches that expansion. The question of Russia’s participation will have to be faced only when a wider NATO has actually reached the frontiers of Russia and only if by then Russia satisfies the basic criteria for membership. Neither is likely soon.
In the meantime, the United States should take the lead in what will doubtless be a prolonged discussion in the alliance regarding the criteria that any new members must satisfy; the timing and stages of any expansion, its special modalities, the most constructive way to respond to legitimate Russian concerns, and the best ways to address some unavoidable complications resulting from expansion. In doing so, President Clinton will also have to take into account the growing domestic and foreign interest in this issue and the manifest need for American leadership.
A Program for Action
The criteria for NATO membership should be generic: they should define the essential political standards any new member must satisfy to qualify for the alliance’s security umbrella. The alliance is, after all, a community of like-minded democratic states that share a common political culture, are contiguous to one another by land and sea, and are convinced that a threat to the security of one would adversely affect the security of the others. French Defense Minister Francois Leotard put it well: “The possibility that the new democracies will join the Atlantic alliance must not be viewed on the basis of solely military considerations, but should also be viewed globally, combining the various political, military, economic, and even cultural dimensions of their integration with the West.”
Some opponents of NATO expansion have lately taken refuge in defining capricious preconditions for entry, demanding, for example, that the armed forces of any would-be member first be fully upgraded to NATO standards. Since no Central European nation could afford this, the demand is an obvious exclusionary tactic. In any case, a distinction should be made between political criteria that qualify a state for admission into an allied community and operational and logistical standards for effective military integration once within the community. The former need to be satisfied before admission; the latter can be pursued over a number of years both before and after admission.
There appears to be a broad consensus that the basic criteria for membership include a stable democratic system based on a functioning market economy; the absence of entangling territorial or ethnic disputes; an evident respect for the rights of national minorities; preferably, geographical contiguity to the alliance; constitutionally grounded civilian control over the military; and transparency in defense budgets and policy. As a practical matter, interoperability in logistics, communications, command and control, and weaponry would be desirable, but these could be pursued after formal admission.
The explicit articulation of such basic criteria for NATO expansion would prejudge neither the timing nor the scope of the alliance’s future expansion. It would, however, clarify the existing situation, making it more obvious which states might qualify and roughly by when The criteria would also serve as a spur for desirable internal reforms among would-be members. These criteria would strengthen the emerging consensus that in the foreseeable future only four Central European countries—the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia—are likely to be considered seriously. It would leave open the possibility for others, including theoretically Russia itself.
The first step, which should be taken at the earliest opportunity this year, would be for the alliance to declare formally its criteria for expansion and to indicate which countries at this stage appear to meet them. This would terminate the counterproductive debates with Moscow over whether NATO should or should not expand. The longer this is delayed, the more vociferous Moscow’s objections are likely to be.
This step would not be tantamount to admission, but it would set the formal process of admission in motion. During that process, some further differentiation may become necessary: instead of four Central European countries, the first cut might include only Poland and the Czech Republic. Slovakia, for internal reasons, may qualify later, and that could have the effect (for geographical reasons) of somewhat complicating Hungary’s admission, unless NATO is willing to leapfrog spatially. An unintended benefit of a step-by-step expansion would be the implicit message that NATO does not intend to be an exclusive club with slightly increased but closed membership, that a new line is not being drawn after the first admissions, but that the alliance’s expansion is a staged and long-term process of enlarging the democratic community. Others can aspire to it and thus have an incentive to meet its standards.
Even the initially limited expansion of NATO would take several years. Unanimity on expansion in the alliance will not be easy to achieve. Negotiations between allies—even with strong American leadership and energetic German support—are likely to be tedious, with some states blackmailing the alliance on this issue to obtain satisfaction for their parochial concerns (the example of Greece on Macedonia springs to mind). The new members will also have to satisfy the alliance that they will address over time a large number of post-admission issues pertaining to logistics, operations, command and control, as well as weapons standardization—all of which will take time and money to resolve.
Nonetheless, it is certainly possible, given effective and focused leadership, to complete the political phase of the admissions process by the years 1996-98, at least for Poland and the Czech Republic and perhaps for Hungary and Slovakia as well—and in any case for all four by the end of the decade.
Meeting Russia’s Concerns
In expanding NATO, One should note that neither the alliance nor its prospective new members are facing any imminent threat. Talk of a “new Yalta” or of a Russian military threat is not justified, either by actual circumstances or even by worst-case scenarios for the near future. The expansion of NATO should, therefore, not be driven by whipping up anti-Russian hysteria that could eventually become a self-fulfilling prophecy. NATO’s expansion should not be seen as directed against any particular state, but as part of a historically constructive process of shaping a secure, stable, and more truly European Europe.
Since any foreseeable expansion of the alliance is likely to be pacific, the specific military dispositions arising from enlarged membership need not involve the forward deployment of NATO troops—especially American and German forces—on the territory of the new Central European members. Periodic joint maneuvers, coordinated planning, prepositioning of equipment, and joint command exercises would be sufficient to give substance to the guarantees inherent in NATO’s Article Five, while the formula of “no forward deployment” of NATO forces in Central Europe would underline the nonantagonistic character of the expansion. This should mitigate some of Russia’s legitimate concerns.
There are other steps that should be taken to reassure Russia, to propitiate its sense of status, and—most important—to engage it in a transoceanic and transcontinental security system. However, not all of Russia’s concerns are legitimate—and the alliance should not shrink from making that known.
Just five years ago, the alliance had to overcome Russian objections to the inclusion of the reunited Germany in NATO. Wisely, the Bush administration spurned those who favored acquiescence to the Kremlin. Faced with U.S. determination to include the united Germany in NATO, with or without Russia’s assent, Moscow wisely assented. The present circumstances call for a similar display of constructive firmness.
The Kremlin must be made to understand that bluster and threats will be neither productive nor effective and may even accelerate the process of expansion. Russia has the right neither to veto NATO expansion nor to impose limited sovereignty on the Central European states.
At the same time, Russia should be approached on a two-track basis: the independent decision of the alliance to enlarge its membership should be accompanied by a simultaneous invitation to Russia to help create a new transcontinental system of collective security, one that goes beyond the expansion of NATO proper. Such a two-track strategy for enhancing European peace in the post-Cold War era would satisfy, both substantively and symbolically, the common Russian insistence on a wider all-European security system.
The proposal to Russia of a new joint structure should have two components: first, a formal treaty of global security cooperation between NATO and the Russian Federation; and second, a new mechanism for special security consultations within the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The treaty would underscore that the expansion of NATO is not directed against Russia while leaving open the question of Russia’s eventual membership. It would recognize the Russian quest for status and could provide for joint consultations regarding peacekeeping operations. Implicit in the proposed treaty would be an incipient Atlantic-Eurasian framework of security cooperation.
Similarly, the initiative to upgrade the CSCE through more effective mechanisms for security consultations would be designed to meet some of Russia’s aspirations. The West cannot accept the Russian effort to dilute NATO and make the CSCE the central organ of European security—for the obvious reason that a highly diverse, unwieldy, and unstructured conference that operates on the principle of unanimity could become the guarantor of European security only when there is no longer any insecurity in Europe. But NATO and Russia can together explore ways of injecting into the CSCE procedures that would permit prompt joint reactions by NATO and Russia to regional threats to peace, perhaps through a special consultative mechanism involving the major players: the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Ukraine.
The two-track strategy—combining the expansion of NATO with new transcontinental security architecture embracing Russia—would represent a productive response to Russia’s concerns. In fact, some Russian leaders have privately indicated that they would not be averse to the proposed arrangement—though their freedom of choice is narrowing as Russian nationalists, feeding on continued American ambiguity, become more vocal. It is a felicitous coincidence that the plan outlined here would constructively exploit some earlier Russian ideas—notably President Boris Yeltsin’s late 1993 suggestion of a special relationship between Russia and NATO. A Russia whose goal is neither to render NATO impotent nor again to dominate Central Europe would have good reason to favor this approach.
Baltic and Ukrainian Complications
Admittedly, the expansion of NATO, even if accompanied by a positive resolution of Russia’s concerns, will create new problems.
The most important of these will be the status and security of the Baltic states and Ukraine. The fiercely independent Baltic states want to be an integral part of Europe. Ukraine currently defines itself as “neutral”; it has resisted Russian pressures to integrate itself into the Moscow-dominated security treaty of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and it is the only former Soviet republic to have created a large national army.
Russia has grudgingly accepted the independence of the Baltic republics and has formally acquiesced to the independence of Ukraine—but there is a widespread consensus among the Russian political elite that eventually, in some fashion, Ukraine will and indeed should be reintegrated under the Kremlin. That aspiration makes it important that the proposed treaty between NATO and the Russian Federation not be confused with the acceptance by the West of any equivalence between NATO and the CIS. The treaty, therefore, should be with Russia directly. Russian officials would like to establish NATO/CIS parity because it would aid Moscow’s efforts to reintegrate the former Soviet Union. In January 1983, Secretary of State Warren Christopher was uncharacteristically forceful but quite right when he warned that “Russia must avoid any attempt to reconstitute the U.S.S.R.”
The Baltic and Ukrainian issues pose rather different political and psychological complications. The Baltic reaction to NATO expansion is quite predictable: the Balts will step up their efforts to become the next members. Their eventual membership will have to be addressed in the wider Scandinavian context. In any case, the Baltic states already enjoy a status in many ways similar to that of Finland during the recent past: formally neutral but aware of the West’s enormous sympathy, to the point that any aggression against them—especially if resisted—would surely precipitate a serious international crisis. By the turn of the century, the Baltic states will probably follow Sweden and perhaps Finland in joining the WEU. That will make them also the implicit beneficiaries of the NATO umbrella. Until then, delay regarding NATO membership is justified, unless for some reason Russia adopts an overtly threatening posture toward the Baltic states.
The Ukrainian problem is more delicate and unpredictable. If Russia accepts the two-track approach as outlined above, Ukraine may be less likely to press for immediate formal membership, especially if in the meantime its relations with Russia become more stable. If Russia’s reaction to NATO expansion is altogether hostile, Ukraine will be faced with a divisive choice. Some Ukrainians will urge Kiev to press more vigorously for NATO membership, especially if their own relations with Russia should also worsen. Others will advocate accommodation with Moscow.
The problem of Ukraine cannot be deferred. Ukraine is just too big, too important, and its existence too sensitive a matter to both Russia and the West. As NATO expands and seeks to establish a special security relationship with Russia, it will have to consider Ukraine’s new relationship to NATO. In doing so, the alliance has to be conscious of Russia’s special sensitivity on the Ukrainian question, but also of the West’s broader interest in consolidating geopolitical pluralism in the territory of the former Soviet Union. Ukraine’s secure independence is clearly the most decisive and substantive expression of that post-Soviet pluralism. That is why the allies unanimously agree that Ukraine’s long-term survival is in NATO’s interest.
Russia has to face the Ukrainian issue as well. For the Kremlin, keeping open the option of the eventual reabsorption of Ukraine is a central strategic objective. Accordingly, Moscow recognizes that it would not be in Russia’s interest to intensify Ukrainian insecurity or precipitate conditions in which the eastward expansion of NATO prompts Ukraine to seek early admission into the alliance. That consideration should serve as a powerful incentive to Russia to explore the possibility of joint arrangements with the West that, in Moscow’s estimate, might reduce the likelihood of dramatic changes in the geostrategic landscape of the “near abroad.”
The overarching NATO-Russian Federation treaty should therefore include a special annex containing a joint, formal, and very explicit commitment by both parties to Ukraine’s independence and security. At this stage, such a commitment need neither foreclose nor promise any future relationship between Ukraine and NATO, no any special and truly voluntary cooperation between Russia and Ukraine. It would provide assurance to Ukraine that its political status is respected, enduring, and in the interest of both NATO and the Russian Federation—irrespective of the innermost fantasies of the Russian signatories.
The NATO-Russian Federation guarantees for Ukraine would be derived from the joint interest of the two parties in a nonantagonistic process of meshing transatlantic and Eurasian security. If that interest exists or can be nurtured through constructive discussions undertaken by a strategically focused U.S. leadership, such an agreement with Moscow is attainable.
At some point in the future—but probably only some years after 2000—both the European Union and NATO will have to reassess the nature of their relationships with Russia and Ukraine. Assuming that by then the European Union and its security arm, the WEU, will have expanded to encompass several Central European states (perhaps including also the Baltics), it will be natural and timely for the EU to consider more comprehensive ties with its new neighbors to the east. The same will be true of NATO, especially if in the meantime a democratically consolidated and economically reformed Ukraine has successfully enlarged the scope of its participation in the Partnership for Peace and satisfied the criteria for full membership.
It is surely in Russia’s interest to become more closely tied to Europe, notwithstanding the complications inherent in Russia’s Eurasian geography and identity. It is surely in the long-range interest of Ukraine gradually to redefine itself as a Central European state. The proposed arrangement would provide the needed historical pause and the requisite sense of security for Russia and Ukraine to work out a stable balance between close economic cooperation and separate political coexistence—while also moving closer to Europe as Europe moves toward them.
Of course, a major disruption in European-Russian or Russian-Ukrainian relations cannot be ruled out. The Russian obsession with big-power status, the growing desire to reconstitute a bloc of at least satellite states within the territory of the former Soviet Union, and the effort to limit the sovereignty of the Central European states could produce a crisis with the West. In such a case, an enlarged NATO would have no choice but to become again a defensive alliance against an external threat.
The resulting disruption in the construction of a wider transcontinental security system would be damaging, especially to Russia itself. Several decades ago, the Soviet Union spurned participation in the Marshall Plan and chose instead to go it alone—until it collapsed from historical fatigue. Threatened by the new Muslim states to the south and facing a possible future conflict in the east, today’s Russia is in no position to engage also in a conflict with the West. Moscow can perhaps delay somewhat the enlargement of NATO, but it can neither halt Europe’s growth nor prevent the concomitant extension of the Euro-Atlantic security umbrella over the wider Europe. It can merely isolate itself again. The Kremlin leaders should realize this. The two-track plan outlined here could help them avoid the basic error made by their Soviet predecessors.
American public opinion, especially given the Republican landslide in the November 1984 congressional elections, would support such a program. Despite the ill-considered negative lobbying by the powerful officials on the seventh floor of the State Department, the Congress, even prior to the recent elections, approved the so-called Brown amendment. (Only 22 senators—21 of them Democrats—voted against it, while 74 supported it.) This law stipulates that henceforth four Central European states are to benefit from the special cooperative privileges in logistics and weapons acquisition otherwise reserved for NATO members. Earlier in 1984, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a resolution favoring the eventual inclusion in the alliance of several Central European states. The 1994 elections reinforced congressional support for early NATO expansion.
The expansion of NATO will bring new responsibilities, and some will argue against it. The proposed expansion is a serious step that should be undertaken with a full appreciation of its additional burdens and even risks. But America’s crucial relationship with the larger Europe must be addressed. The Partnership for Peace has already enlarged the scope of the alliance’s obligations by stating that each “active participant” in the partnership would be entitled to consultations with NATO if it felt threatened. Partnership for Peace members are thus de facto covered by Article Four, which provides for consultations regarding out-of-area threats. Under Article Five, formal membership in the alliance would guarantee protection against an attack, entailing a major new obligation to which some will doubtless object.
Critics will probably evoke the worst-case scenario in arguing against any new obligations—namely, the risk of U.S. entanglement in a conflict in Central Europe. Although the probability of any such conflict is low, it is fair to counter: could NATO really remain passive if some new form of aggression occurred? Would America and Europe not feel threatened by an invasion of Central Europe? Would there not be massive pressures for a strong reaction? Last but not least, would any such attack be more or less likely if it was known in advance that NATO would be obligated to respond? Paradoxically, the worst-case scenario raises questions that actually reinforce the case for NATO expansion as a form of deterrence—even though the approach advocated here should be pursued not as a hostile initiative but as a part of a larger architectural effort designed eventually to span Eurasia.
At the other extreme, exploiting the approaching 50th anniversary of Yalta, some will argue that the failure to expand the alliance foreshadows Yalta II—a de facto recognition of a special Russian sphere of power within the territory of the former Soviet Union and Central Europe. Continued hesitation and ambiguity regarding America’s longer-range vision of Europe’s security will fuel these charges. Even though, given the current state of Russia and the new realities in Central Europe, a new Yalta is not even possible, nothing less than a display of presidential leadership will rebuff the growing temptation to engage in demagogy on the sensitive issues of relations with Russia and Europe’s future.
A number of European states would support forthwith such an American initiative. Others will hesitate or initially oppose it altogether. Germany will be sympathetic, and that is critical. France has been ambivalent, but its desire to retain a commanding position in the EU is enhancing its stake in expanding the current Franco-German liaison into a wider Franco-German-Polish axis, thereby widening the scope of European security cooperation. Britain has its own special reasons for favoring a wider, rather than a deeper, Europe—and it is simply a fact of life that a wider Europe cannot be two-thirds safe and one-third insecure. It will take time and effort to translate these inchoate European attitudes into affirmative unanimity. It can happen over the next several years—but only if America leads.
U.S. leadership, to be resonant, must also provide a longer-range vision of Europe’s future, thereby defining the American-European connection by tomorrow’s shared goals, not yesterday’s fears. In scope, today’s “Europe” still evokes Charlemagne’s: essentially a Western Europe. That Europe had to be an American protectorate, with European unity forged beneath NATO’s umbrella by France and a truncated Germany. But in the post-Cold War era, the territorial reach of the emerging Europe is more reminiscent of the Petrine Europe of the Holy Roman Empire. By 2010, that Europe may also include some southern European states (such as Romania, Bulgaria, and others), which will doubtless insist on admission in the footsteps of their Central European neighbors. Most important, a united and powerful Germany can be more firmly anchored within this larger Europe if the European security system fully coincides with America’s.
The progression from Charlemagne’s Europe of 1990 through the Petrine Europe of 2010 will set the stage—perhaps by 2020—for seeking Charles de Gaulle’s vision of a Europe stretching “to the Urals.” At this time, no one can say what precise shape such a Europe might take. Nor can one define what America’s relationship with it might be. But one way or another, both America and Russia will have to be engaged in truly cooperative relationships with the European Union to make a Europe to the Urals feasible. The evocation of such a vision—of a plan for Europe—is a powerful incentive to shape a future that will truly benefit the current as well as the next generation of Americans and Europeans.