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

Unless Ukraine gets a clearer signal from NATO or the EU regarding its membership prospects, why should the Ukrainian government choose difficult reform over populist measures in advance of the next elections or even the ones after that?

IT MAY be too late to believe that carrots are still useful in dealing with Iran. The United States has been working to convince the IAEA board to report Iran to the UN Security Council, where the United States will hope that it can somehow get the votes it needs to impose sanctions. In contrast, there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful about Ukraine, which is why NATO's role in helping anchor Ukraine in the West is so important.

But to envision a further round of NATO enlargement to include countries like Ukraine, the Bush Administration must be convinced of the alliance's future relevance to want to invest in its rejuvenation. To date the signs are not encouraging. Already, the alliance is limited both by the lack of deployable European units for Afghanistan and by the unpopularity of the Iraq War in Europe. And given that both President Bush and Secretary of State Rice have made clear that promoting democracy in the Middle East is a central goal (at least rhetorically) of this administration's second term, NATO is increasingly only relevant to them to the extent that NATO members are willing to use the institution as part of this larger effort. But the European allies have not been enthusiastic about American foreign policy in the region, largely of course because of opposition to the war in Iraq, and their consent to using NATO beyond the mission in Afghanistan is unlikely. Europeans have not had the will to develop the capabilities they need to deploy more troops for these kinds of missions, but they have even less incentive today given American downplaying of the institution. But as the Europeans are even less ambitious regarding NATO's mission, the Bush Administration will be even less interested in this particular institution. And a NATO that increasingly becomes a symbolic body, instead of an action-oriented international organization that can protect and enhance its members' security, cannot serve as the basis for a meaningful process of enlargement. Countries like Ukraine will have less interest in engaging in a painful reform process to join an "honorary club" of European democracies--after all, it already belongs to the OSCE and the Council of Europe.

The opportunities for NATO to be more pro-active are slipping away, and further enlargement to the east will be the casualty. It was the United States that drove NATO's previous enlargements, and those efforts paved the way for the European Union to move forward. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) warned in 1993 that NATO had to "go out of area or out of business", a mantra that justified not only the efforts to stabilize the Balkans but the enlargement process itself. If the United States does not push enlargement to include countries like Ukraine, the process will come to an end. And given that the EU is now looking inward rather than further east or south, the carrots that were available to the Poles, Czechs and others--so instrumental in their recent achievements--appear to have been lost. In 2005 the Ukrainian government suffered a serious fissure amidst charges of continued corruption at the highest levels. If the West does not work actively with the Yushchenko government to get reform back on track, Ukraine may fall back into the pattern of failed reform that gripped the country in the 1990s. If the West cannot move forward with the integration of Ukraine, there will be little hope for the rest of the former Soviet Union.

THE BUSH team has tended to think about international organizations in terms of constraints on U.S. power rather than as a package of incentives to other states. This misses the point that, although some ˆ la carte bargaining is always possible between states, much like a prix fixe menu, the most important choices are structured by those who control the menu itself. At the end of the Cold War, the United States found itself in the extraordinary position of having almost historically unprecedented control over the menus that mattered most to many other states. The ability to structure the agenda in this way was a significant asset in the 1990s.

In this decade, the United States has let that asset lapse. This leaves us with fewer carrots to offer states that fall into the category of midlevel influence problems--not the North Korea type but rather the Brazil, Indonesia and Ukraine type. And the reality of the global situation is that in the near future the United States will need to offer more positive incentives and upside benefits to partners with whom it wishes cooperation on a whole host of issues, from economic adjustment and the management of our dual deficits to vital cooperation on security issues and particularly the management of terrorist infrastructures that locate elsewhere but threaten principally U.S. interests. This adds up to an expensive agenda if we have to pay for the carrots all by ourselves. Prudence dictates that a sound, realistic U.S. foreign policy not erode those institutions that could help to ease the burdens.

James M. Goldgeier is Henry A. Kissinger Scholar in Foreign Policy and International Relations at the Library of Congress and an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. Steven Weber is professor of political science and director of the Institute of International Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Essay Types: Essay