Getting to No

Getting to No

Mini Teaser: The limits of using international organizations to pursue U.S. foreign policy aims.

by Author(s): James M. GoldgeierSteven Weber

The economic incentives provided by the EU and the security provided by NATO were the big carrots that made the West's foreign policy in Europe so successful in the 1990s. Without NATO, the presence of lingering security dilemmas would have made the EU much more hesitant. What countries really wanted was the perceived economic benefits of the EU, but they could not have achieved them if they had to worry about securing their survival alone.

That is why events of the past year signal a more fundamental foreign policy deficit inherent in the Bush Administration's skeptical attitude toward international institutions. Carrots are measured and evaluated in the eye of the beholder. If the presumed targets of our influence value membership in international organizations, we should be in a position to enhance (or reduce) the benefits of those memberships. Enhancing the role played by these organizations in international life makes membership a more attractive thing to offer.

But U.S. policy in recent years has systematically had the effect of reducing the importance of international institutions and thus the attractions of membership. For example, rather than emphasize NATO's role in the provision of international security, as the Clinton Administration did in Kosovo, the Bush team has sought less cumbersome "coalitions of the willing" to fight the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq--believing that the lesson from the Kosovo War was that working through NATO was too time-consuming given the need for unanimity. And rather than make a concerted, continual effort to push forward with the Doha Round of WTO negotiations, the administration has pursued the much smaller Central American Free Trade Agreement and a set of bilateral deals with different states.

Of course, bilateral trade deals and coalitions of the willing certainly have real short-term advantages. But the costs of letting international institutions atrophy or of actively trimming their authority are measured not just in vague notions about legitimacy and long-term sustainability of policy. There are costs as well in hard-headed, short-term calculations of what the United States can offer on the upside to shape other states' behavior. If the United States undermines the most significant multilateral clubs at a time when important prospective members show an interest in joining, it will have severely damaged its ability to deploy cooperative strategies and promises that enhance the coercive strategies and threats with countries where we are trying to effect change.

IT IS ENTIRELY possible that Iran under the new presidency, in its ability to be influenced to change its behavior by carrots, is becoming more like North Korea than it is like Ukraine. Unlike the window of opportunity that presented itself a year ago, it may be that nothing the United States and the EU could offer as positive inducements would in fact thwart the mullahs' nuclear ambitions, at least at this time. In the spring of 2005 the United States dropped its longstanding objection to the WTO establishing a working party on Iran's accession in exchange for Iran's suspension of nuclear activities. Although WTO chief Pascal Lamy has signaled that the talks will go forward, Iran's bid to join should be linked to its willingness to suspend its uranium-enrichment programs; after all, carrots should be rewards to abiding by international norms.

But what of Ukraine? Here, the problem lies with the fact that the two international organizations that the Yushchenko government seeks to join don't seem to have a real game plan for moving Ukraine's prospects forward. After the "Big Bang" of 2004 (which admitted seven new countries into the alliance), enlargement is no longer central to NATO's activity. The alliance is understandably focused on the critical near-term issues of the success of the International Security Assistance Force operating in Afghanistan and the training of Iraqi security forces, as well as the longer-term need to develop expeditionary and deployment capabilities to deal with out-of-area crises that may arise in the future. As a result, even though President Yushchenko made it clear at the NATO summit in Brussels in February that Ukraine was ready to proceed with a formal MAP that, once fulfilled, would lead to membership, NATO was hesitant to move forward on a MAP. In April NATO created instead an "Intensified Dialogue" with Ukraine.

And for the European Union, even prior to 2004 there were doubts about expanding to encompass Ukraine, expressed most colorfully by former European Commission President Romano Prodi, who once said that Ukraine "has as much reason to be in the EU as New Zealand." While the negative reaction to EU enlargement among the populations of western Europe--highlighted by the French and Dutch votes against the European constitution in the summer of 2005--has centered on Turkey, Ukraine's prospect for membership in the EU will be one of the casualties of those votes. The EU website has an enlargement map that provides color codes for acceding countries, candidate countries and potential candidate countries--and Ukraine remains part of the gray blob to the east. One finds Ukraine on a different EU map, that of the European Neighborhood Policy, whose goal is to offer a "privileged relationship" with Europe's neighbors to the east and the south, rather than membership. Without concerted effort by the West to help Ukraine advance political and economic reform, it will not be able to make the leap from one map to the other.

Indeed, in contrast to the concerted effort by NATO and the EU to reach out to the central and east Europeans in the 1990s to help them succeed, the attitude expressed today is that achieving membership in the Euro-Atlantic community is largely on Ukraine's shoulders. When Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked in Brussels in February 2005 about Ukrainian membership in NATO, she said, "Things that were unimaginable 15 years ago are now imaginable, but I think that we need to do practical things here." When President Bush was in Brussels later that month he added, "NATO is a performance-based organization, and the door is open. But it's up to President Yushchenko and his government and the people of Ukraine to adopt the institutions of a democratic state." Similarly, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in Kiev in June said of Yushchenko's "bold" strategy to join NATO: "NATO cannot drive this process. The responsibility--and the substantial burdens involved--rest squarely on the shoulders of the Ukrainian leadership."

Countries do have to carry out reform before being invited to join, since once membership is achieved, a significant form of immediate and direct leverage is lost. But if Ukraine is to have any chance of success, the Western institutions need to be more active in helping Ukraine pursue its membership goals, so that Yushchenko has something tangible to show his population and his military, in exchange for carrying out needed reform. After all, even when NATO puts countries on the fast track for membership, it takes years before they actually fulfill the criteria necessary to become members, and it takes significantly longer to join the European Union.

The alliance's point man for the relationship with Ukraine, Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy Martin Erdmann, has said, "At some point, once Allies have had the chance to review Ukraine's progress in the framework of the Intensified Dialogue, they might decide to invite the country to join the [MAP] process." Unfortunately, however, Ukraine has lost the precious momentum for reform it had coming out of last winter's presidential election. Economist Anders Âslund has traced the many missteps taken by the government of Viktor Yushchenko and his first prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, during the first half of 2005 as the government decided to look toward the parliamentary elections of March 2006 rather than undertake critical reform. The result has been slower economic growth and reduced foreign investment. Âslund argues that a range of "largely populist objectives took so much of the government's time and effort that liberal policies such as accession to the WTO, integration with the European Union, and deregulation were put on the back burner."

Even Ukraine's progress in carrying out the measures necessary to join the WTO by the end of 2005, a much more modest goal of the Orange Revolution, has been more difficult than many had hoped. The Yushchenko government was only able to get part of the legislative package necessary for WTO membership through Parliament in early July before the summer recess. The broad coalition that helped bring Yushchenko to power fractured, and on this issue, the socialists did not support the government's legislative efforts. The government still hopes that it will have done enough to be considered for membership at the WTO meetings in Hong Kong in December.

The Ukrainian government's problems culminated in September with Yushchenko's dismissal of the government amidst charges of continued corruption and an open split between the president and prime minister in advance of the parliamentary elections. In a hopeful sign, new Prime Minister Yuri Yekhanurov has stated that the sales of government-owned assets, reduction of the budget deficit and the rate of inflation, and the passage of the legislation needed for WTO accession are among his top priorities.

Essay Types: Essay