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Mar 4, 1998, 3:00:00 AM3/4/98

Archive-Name: gov/us/fed/congress/record/1998/mar/03/1998CRS1283B
[Congressional Record: March 3, 1998 (Senate)]
[Page S1283-S1286]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]




<bullet> Mr. MOYNIHAN. Mr. President, in this morning's New York Times,
Thomas L. Friedman has written a powerful critique of what he calls
``fumbling on NATO expansion.'' In it he refers to a letter in the
spring issue of The National Interest from George F. Kennan who warns
that NATO expansion is an historic blunder. Ambassador Kennan's letter
came in response to an article by Owen Harries, editor of The National
Interest, on ``The Dangers of Expansive Realism'' in the current,
winter issue of The National Interest.

[[Page S1284]]

It is surely a rare moment when three respected commentators on
foreign affairs, and in Ambassador Kennan's case, a participant of
historic standing, each of quite distinctive points of view, come
together in such strong agreement. In an article in The New York Times
of February 5th, 1997, Ambassador Kennan stated that ``expanding NATO
would be the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-
cold-war era.''
I ask that the column by Thomas L. Friedman, the letter by George F.
Kennan, the article by Owen Harries, and the article by Ambassador
Kennan in The New York Times be printed in the Record.

[From the New York Times, March 3, 1998]

Ohio State II

(By Thomas L. Friedman)

Last week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee put on a
shameful performance. Senators Jesse Helms, Joe Biden & Co.
rolled over like puppies having their bellies rubbed when
Clinton officials explained their plans for NATO expansion by
dodging all the hard questions. It's too bad CNN couldn't
entice the Clinton team to go out to Ohio State again and
hold a town meeting on NATO expansion. If they had, it would
sound like this:
Student: ``I've got a question for Secretary of Defense
Cohen. When you were here before, you had a hard time
defining what the endgame would be if we bombed Iraq. What's
the endgame of NATO expansion? I mean, if we just admit
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, all we will be doing
is redividing Europe slightly to the east. And if we actually
do what you advocate, expand NATO to the Baltic States, up to
Russia's border, we will be redividing NATO, since the
British, French and Germans are not ready to go that far
because they know it would be treated by Russia as a
strategic threat.''
Secretary Cohen: ``Son, we've got our endgame on NATO
figured out just like we do on Iraq. It's called kick the can
down the road and hope it all works out in the end.''
Student: ``National security adviser Berger, you now say
NATO expansion will only cost $1.5 billion over 10 years,
when just last year the Pentagon said it would be $27 billion
over 13 years, and the Congressional Budget Office said it
could be $125 billion over 15 years. How come NATO expansion
gets cheaper every day it gets closer to a Senate vote? And
how does it get cheaper when France says it won't pay a dime
and the Czech Republic doesn't own a single advanced fighter
jet, so it will need to buy a whole new air force?''
Mr. Berger: ``Our NATO numbers were prepared by the same
accountants who said the U.S. budget was balanced. I rest my
Student: ``Secretary Albright, you say we have to bomb
Iraq, because Saddam has all these weapons of mass
destruction. But the Russians have 7,500 long-range nuclear
missiles, loose warheads falling off trucks and a bunch of
Dr. Strangelove scientists looking for work. And we have a
Start 2 nuclear reduction treaty that the Russians have
signed but not implemented because of resistance in the
Russian Parliament to NATO expansion. How could you put a
higher priority on bringing Hungary into NATO than working
with Russia on proliferation?''
Albright: ``Oh, please. You want to blame everything on
NATO expansion, like it's El Nino.''
Student: ``I'm sorry, Madame Secretary, but that's not an
answer. You keep dodging this question. You can say that the
Russians can't stop NATO expansion. And you can say that it's
worth risking a new cold war to bring these three countries
into NATO. But you can't deny that NATO expansion has
contributed to Russia's refusal to ratify the Start 2 treaty,
which is an enormous loss to U.S. national security.''
War veteran: ``Secretary Cohen, I thought we fought the
cold war to change Russia, not to expand NATO. But now that
we've changed Russia and should be consolidating that, you
want to expand NATO?''
Secretary Cohen: ``NATO expansion is not directed against
Russia. It's meant to secure the new democracies in East
Heckler: ``If it's meant to secure democracy in new
democracies, isn't the most important new democracy Russia?
And why is your P.R. campaign for NATO expansion being funded
by U.S. arms sellers, who see NATO expansion as market
expansion for their new weapons?''
Student: ``I just got the spring issue of The National
Interest magazine. It contains a letter from George Kennan,
the architect of America's cold-war containment of the Soviet
Union and one of our nation's greatest statesmen. Kennan says
NATO expansion is a historic blunder. What do you all know
that he doesn't?''
Mr. Berger: ``I have the greatest respect for Mr. Kennan,
but our team has its own Russia expert, Strobe Talbott, who
speaks Russian, has written books about Russia, and some of
his best friends are Russians. He couldn't possible be anti-
Russian, and he's for NATO expansion.''
Student: ``Excuse me, but didn't Talbott write the first
memo to Secretary of State Christopher opposing NATO
expansion, because. . . .''
Bernard Shaw: ``Sorry to interrupt. We've got to close.''

[From the National Interest--Spring 1998]

The Dangers of Expansive Realism

I read your article [Owen Harries, ``The Dangers of
Expansive Realism'', Winter 1997/98] with strong approval. It
was in some respects a surprise because certain of your major
arguments were ones I myself had made, or had wanted to make,
but had not expected to see them so well expressed by the pen
of anyone else. I can perhaps make this clear by commenting
specifically on certain of your points.
First, your reference to the implicit understanding that
the West would not take advantage of the Russian strategic
and political withdrawal from Eastern Europe is not only
warranted, but could have been strengthened. It is my
understanding that Gorbachev on more than one occasion was
given to understand, in informal talks with senior American
and other Western personalities, that if the USSR would
accept a united Germany remaining in NATO, the jurisdiction
of that alliance would not be moved further eastward. We did
not, I am sure, intend to trick the Russians; but the actual
determinants of our later behavior--lack of coordination of
political with military policy, and the amateurism of later
White House diplomacy--would scarcely have been more
creditable on our part than a real intention to deceive.
Secondly, I could not associate myself more strongly with
what you write about the realist case that sees Russia as an
inherently and incorrigibly expansionist country, and suggest
that this tendency marks the present Russian regime no less
than it did the Russian regimes of the past. We have seen
this view reflected time and again, occasionally in even more
violent forms, in efforts to justify the recent expansion of
NATO's boundaries and further possible expansions of that
name. So numerous and extensive have the distortions and
misunderstandings on which this view is based been that it
would be hard even to list them in a letter of this sort. It
grossly oversimplifies and misconstrues must of the history
of Russian diplomacy of the czarist period. It ignores the
whole great complexity of Russia's part in World War II. It
allows and encourages one to forget that the Soviet military
advances into Western Europe during the last war took place
with our enthusiastic approval, and the political ones of the
ensuing period at least wit hour initial consent and support.
It usually avoids mention of the Communist period, and
attributes to ``the Russians'' generally all the excesses of
the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe in the Cold War
Worst of all, it tends to equate, at least by implication,
the Russian-Communist dictatorship of recent memory with the
present Russian republic--a republic, the product of an
amazingly bloodless revolution, which has, for all its many
faults, succeeded in carrying on for several years with an
elected government, a largely free press and media, without
concentration camps or executions, and with a minimum of
police brutality. This curious present Russia, we are asked
to believe, is obsessed by the same dreams of conquest and
oppression of others as were the worst examples, real or
imaginative, of its predecessors.
You, I think, were among the first, if not indeed the
first, to bring some of the above to the attention of your
readers; and this, in my opinion, was an important and
valuable service.
George F. Kennan,
Princeton, New Jersey.

[From the National Interest--Winter 1997/98]

The Dangers of Expansive Realism

(By Owen Harries)

. . . it is sometimes necessary to repeat what all know. All
mapmakers should place the Mississippi in the same location
and avoid originality. It may be boring, but one has to know
where it is. We cannot have the Mississippi flowing toward
the Rockies, just for a change.
--Saul Bellow, Mr. Sammler's Planet
In many ways NATO is a boring organization. It is a thing
of acronyms, jargon, organizational charts, arcane strategic
doctrines, and tried rhetoric. But there is no gainsaying
that it has a Mississippi-like centrality and importance in
American foreign policy. When, then, proposals are made to
change it radically--to give it new (and very different)
members, new purposes, new ways of conducting business, new
non-totalitarian enemies (or, conversely, to dispense
altogether with the concept of enemies as a rationale)--it is
sensible to pay close attention and to scrutinize carefully
and repeatedly the arguments that bolster those proposals.
Even at the risk of making NATO boring in new ways, it is
important to get things rights.
Before getting down to particular arguments, the proposed
expansion of NATO into Central and Eastern Europe should be
placed in the wider context that made it an issue. For nearly
half a century the United States and its allies fought the
Cold War, not, it was always insisted, against Russia and the
Russian people, but against the Soviet regime and the
ideology it represented. An implicit Western objective in the
Cold War was the conversion of Russia from totalitarianism to
a more or less normal state, and, if possible, to democracy.
Between 1989 and 1991, a political miracle occurred. The
Soviet regime, steeped in blood and obsessed with total
control as it had been throughout most of its history,
voluntarily gave up its Warsaw Pact empire,

[[Page S1285]]

collapsed the Soviet system upon itself, and then acquiesced
in its own demise--all with virtually no violence. This
extraordinary sequence of events was by no means inevitable.
Had it so chosen, the regime could have resisted the force of
change as it had on previous occasions, thus either extending
its life, perhaps for decades more, or going down in a welter
of blood and destruction. That, indeed, would have been more
normal behavior, for as the English scholar Martin Wight once
observed, ``Great power status is lost, as it is won, by
violence. A Great Power does not die in its bed.'' What
occurred in the case of the Soviet Union was very much the
A necessary condition for its being so was an
understanding--explicit according to some, but in any case
certainly implicit--that the West would not take strategic
and political advantage of what the Soviet Union was allowing
to happen to its empire and to itself. Whatever it said now,
such a bargain was assumed by both sides, for it was evident
to all involved that in its absence--if, that is, it had
become apparent that the West was intent on exploiting any
retreat by Moscow--events would not be allowed to proceed
along the liberalizing course that they actually took.
Further, there seemed to be basis for the United States
objecting to such a bargain. For after all, its avowed
objective was not the eastward extension of its own power and
influence in Europe, but the restoration of the independence
of the countries of the region. In effect, the bargain gave
the United States everything it wanted (more, in fact, for
the breakup of the Soviet Union had never been a Cold War
objective), and in return required it only to refrain from
doing what it had never expressed any intention of doing.
Now, and very much at the initiative of the United States,
the West is in the process of reneging on that implicit
bargain by extending NATO into countries recently vacated by
Moscow. It is an ominous step, Whatever is said, however
ingenious and vigorous the attempts to obscure the facts or
change the subject, NATO is a military alliance, the most
powerful in the history of the world, and the United States
is the dominant force in that alliance. And whatever is
claimed about spreading democracy, making Europe ``whole'',
promoting stability, peacekeeping, and righting past
injustices--all formulations that serve, either consciously
or inadvertently, to divert attention from the political and
strategic reality of what is now occurring--cannot succeed in
obscuring the truth that the eastward extension of NATO will
represent an unprecedented projection of American power into
a sensitive region hitherto beyond its reach. It will
constitute a veritable geopolitical revolution. It is not
necessary to accept in its entirety the resonant but
overwrought dictum of Sir Halford Mackinder (``Who rules East
Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland
commands the World Island; Who rules the World Island
commands the World'') to recognize the profound strategic
implications of what the U.S. Senate is being asked to
\1\ When I wrote this, I thought that I was drawing attention
to something that was implicit but unacknowledged in the
policy of NATO expansion. But in his latest book, Zbigniew
Brzezinski directly and honestly links American primacy to
``preponderance on the Eurasian continent.'' In the same
chapter he quotes Mackinder's dictum. See The Grand
Chessboard (New York: Basic Books, 1997), chapter 2.
Why is the Clinton administration acting in this way? And--
a different question--does it serve American interests that
it is doing so, and that its expressed intention is to
proceed much further along the same path?
Immediately after the end of the Cold War there was no
great enthusiasm either in America or Western Europe for
enlarging NATO. In the early days of the Clinton
administration, Secretary of State Warren Christopher,
Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, and Ambassador-at-Large
Strobe Talbott were all opposed to it.
How, then, did it come about that by the beginning of 1994
President Clinton was declaring that ``the question is no
longer whether NATO will take on new members, but when and
how''? It was certainly not by a process of ratiocination,
vigorous debate, and the creation of an intellectual
consensus concerning interests, purposes, and means. To this
day there is no such consensus, and no coherent case for NATO
expansion on which all of its principal supporters agree.

how enlargement happened

The Clinton administration's conversion from indifference,
or even skepticism, to insistence on NATO expansion was the
result of a combination of disparate events and pressures:
The strength of the Polish-American vote, as well as that
of other Americans of Central and East European origin.
The enormous vested interests--careers, contracts,
consultancies, accumulated expertise--represented by the NATO
establishment, which now needed a new reason and purpose to
justify the organization's continued existence.
The ``moral'' pressure exerted by East European leaders,
for whom NATO membership is principally important as a symbol
that they are fully European, and as a means of back door
entry into the European Union.
Conversely, the growing eagerness of some West European
governments to grant these states membership of NATO as an
acceptable price for keeping them out of, or at least
delaying their entry into, the European Union.
The concern and self-distrust felt by some Germans, and not
least by Chancellor Helmut Kohl, at the prospect of their
country's being left on the eastern frontier of NATO,
adjacent to an area of political weakness and potential
Growing doubts about democracy's prospect of success in
Russia, and fear of the reemergence of an assertive
nationalism there.
The need of some American conservative intellectuals for a
bold foreign policy stroke to ``remoralize'' their own ranks
after some dispiriting domestic defeats, the enthusiasm of
others for ``a democratic crusade'' in Central and Eastern
Europe, and the difficulty of yet others to break a
lifetime's habit of regarding Moscow as the enemy.
Formidable as this combination of pressures was, it is
doubtful that it would have been capable of converting the
Clinton administration on NATO expansion were it not for the
addition of one other crucial factor: Bosnia. The war in
Bosnia focused American attention on post-Cold War Central
Europe, and it did so in a most emotional way. Bosnia also
raised in acute form the question of the future of NATO, as
the alliance's feeble response to the crisis cast doubt on
its continued viability, and it raised the question
specifically in the context of instability in Central and
Eastern Europe. The domino theory, forgotten for two decades,
was quickly resurrected and applied. ``Bosnia'' was
increasingly understood not as referring to a discrete event
but as a metaphor for the chronic, historically ordained
instability of a whole region.

russia is russia is russia

Taken together, these pressures were politically
formidable, especially for an administration as sensitive to
pressure as was Clinton's. But they had very little to do
with America's national interests, and the administration's
subsequent attempts to make a case for NATO's eastward
expansion in terms of those interests have been perfunctory
and shallow. A much more serious attempt has been made
outside the administration, mainly by commentators of a
realist persuasion. The case they have made, however, is
badly flawed.
The realist case is based largely on the conviction that
Russia is inherently and incorrigibly expansionist,
regardless of how and by whom it is governed. Kissinger has
warned of ``the fateful rhythm of Russian history.'' Zbigniew
Brzezinski emphasizes the centrality in Russia's history of
``the imperial impulse'' and claims that in post-communist
Russia that impulse ``remains strong and even appears to be
strengthening.'' Thus Brzezinski sees an ``unfortunate
continuity'' between the Soviet era and today in defining
national interests and formulating foreign policy. Another
realist, Peter Rodman, speaks in the same vein, explaining
the ``lengthening shadow of Russian strength'' by asserting
that ``Russia is a force of nature.''
In arguing in this way, these commentators are being very
true to their realist position. But they are also drawing
attention to what is one of the most serious intellectual
weaknesses of that position--namely, that in its stress on
the structure of the international system and on how states
are placed within that system, realism attaches little or no
importance to what is going on inside particular states: what
kind of regimes are in power, what kind of ideologies
prevail, what kind of leadership is provided. For these
realists, Russia is Russia is Russia, regardless of whether
it is under czarist, communist, or nascent democratic rule.

* * * * *

ends and means

Another of the central tenets of realism is that if the end
is willed, so should be the means. The two should be kept in
balance, preferably, as Walter Lippmann urged, ``with a
comfortable surplus of power in reserve.'' In the case of
NATO expansion, this tenet is being ignored. The NATO members
are moving to assume very large additional commitments at a
time when they have all made substantial cuts to their
defense budgets, and when more such cuts are virtually
certain. (The French Cabinet, for example, announced in
August that the military draft, which dates back two
centuries, is to be phased out and that defense procurement
expenditure is to be cut by 11 percent.) The irresponsibility
of such a course of action raises the question of the
seriousness of the new commitments being undertaken. After
all, such pledges have been made in the past, only to be
broken: Munich, 1938, was the last occasion on which Western
powers guaranteed the security of what is today the Czech
It is not only in terms of power that realists should be
concerned with the balancing of ends and means. They should
also consider the suitability of the instruments involved--
particularly the human instruments--for the tasks at hand.
Not to do so is likely to result in the sort of unpleasant
surprise that some realist supporters of NATO expansion got
as a result of the March 1997 Helsinki summit. At that
meeting, so many concessions were made to Moscow by the
Clinton administration that we now have an almost lunatic
state of affairs: in order to make acceptable the expanding
of NATO to contain a potentially dangerous Russia, we are
coming close to making Russia an honorary member of NATO,
with something approximating veto power.
Some of the initially most ardent supporters of expansion
are now deeply dismayed by

[[Page S1286]]

these developments. But surely the likelihood of such an
outcome was foreseeable. After all, they knew from the start
that the policy they were pushing would be negotiated not by
a Talleyrand or a Metternich--or an Acheson or a Kissinger--
but by Bill Clinton, the man who feels everyone's pain.
Kissinger has been clear-eyed enough to label what happened
at Helsinki a fiasco.
This image of a Europe ``made whole'' again after the
division of the Cold War is one that the advocates of NATO
expansion appeal to frequently. But it is not a convincing
appeal. For one thing, coming from some mouths it tends to
bring to mind Bismarck's comment: ``I have always found the
word Europe on the lips of those politicians who wanted
something from other Powers which they dared not demand in
their own name.'' For another, it invites the question of
when exactly was the last time that Europe was ``whole.'' In
the 1930s, when the dictators were on the rampage? In the
1920s, when Germany and Russia were virtual non-actors? In
1910, when Europe was an armed camp and a furious arms race
was in progress? In the 1860s, when Prussia was creating an
empire with ``blood and iron''? When exactly? And then there
is the simple and undeniable fact that at every step of the
way--and regardless of how many tranches of new members are
taken in--the line dividing Europe will not be eliminated but
simply moved to a different place. Only if Russia itself were
to be included would Europe be ``whole.'' Anyone who doubts
this should consult an atlas.
One final note: During the last few months advocates of
expansion have been resorting more and more to an argument of
last resort--one of process, not of substance. It is that the
United States is now so far committed that it is too late to
turn back. That argument is not without some merit, for
prestige does count, and undoubtedly prestige would be lost
by a reversal at this stage. But that granted, prestige is
not everything. When the alternative is to persist in serious
error it may be necessary to sacrifice some prestige early,
rather than much more later. To proceed resolutely down a
wrong road--especially one that has a slippery slope--is not
statesmanship. After all, the last time the argument that is
too late to turn back prevailed was exactly thirty years ago,
as, without clear purpose, we were advancing deeper and
deeper into Vietnam.

[From the New York Times, February 5, 1997]

A Fateful Error--Expanding NATO Would Be a Rebuff to Russian Democracy

(By George F. Kennan)

In late 1996, the impression was allowed, or caused, to
become prevalent that it had been somehow and somewhere
decided to expand NATO up to Russia's borders. This despite
the fact that no formal decision can be made before the
alliance's next summit meeting in June.
The timing of this revelation--coinciding with the
Presidential election and the pursuant changes in responsible
personalities in Washington--did not make it easy for the
outsider to know how or where to insert a modest word of
comment. Nor did the assurance given to the public that the
decision, however preliminary, was irrevocable encourage
outside opinion.
But something of the highest importance is at stake here.
And perhaps it is not too late to advance a view that, I
believe, is not only mine alone but is shared by a number of
others with extensive and in most instances more recent
experience in Russian matters. The view, bluntly stated, is
that expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of
American policy in the entire post-cold-war era.
Such a decision may be expected to inflame the
nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in
Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development
of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold
war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign
policy in directions decidedly not to our liking. And, last
but not least, it might make it much more difficult, if not
impossible, to secure the Russian Duma's ratification of the
Start II agreement and to achieve further reductions of
nuclear weaponry.
It is, of course, unfortunate that Russia should be
confronted with such a challenge at a time when its executive
power is in a state of high uncertainty and near-paralysis.
And it is doubly unfortunate considering the total lack of
any necessity for this move. Why, with all the hopeful
possibilities engendered by the end of the cold war, should
East-West relations become centered on the question of who
would be allied with whom and, by implication, against whom
in some fanciful, totally unforeseeable and most improbable
future military conflict?
I am aware, of course, that NATO is conducting talks with
the Russian authorities in hopes of making the idea of
expansion tolerable and palatable to Russia. One can, in the
existing circumstances, only wish these efforts success. But
anyone who gives serious attention to the Russian press
cannot fail to note that neither the public nor the
Government is waiting for the proposed expansion to occur
before reacting to it.
Russians are little impressed with American assurances that
it reflects no hostile intentions. They would see their
prestige (always uppermost in the Russian mind) and their
security interests as adversely affected. They would, of
course, have no choice but to accept expansion as a military
fait accompli. But they would continue to regard it as a
rebuff by the West and would likely look elsewhere for
guarantees of a secure and hopeful future for themselves.
It will obviously not be easy to change a decision already
made or tacitly accepted by the alliance's 16 member
countries. But there are a few intervening months before the
decision is to be made final; perhaps this period can be used
to alter the proposed expansion in ways that would mitigate
the unhappy effects it is already having on Russian opinion
and policy.<bullet>


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