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Right the First Time

Right the First Time

Mini Teaser: Michael Mandelbaum, The Dawn of Peace in Europe (New York: Twentieth Century Fund Press, 1996)"We must fulfill the promise of our time: an undivided Europe of free nations.

by Author(s): Jeffrey Gedmin

Michael Mandelbaum, The Dawn of Peace in Europe (New York: Twentieth Century Fund Press, 1996)

"We must fulfill the promise of our time: an undivided Europe of free nations. . . . NATO enlargement is on track and it will happen."
-Warren Christopher, March 20, 1996 in Prague

"The process of NATO enlargement has begun. . . . It is irreversible. . . . Our friends and partners in the new democracies can rely on us."
-Volker RŸhe, April 30, 1996 in Washington, DC

Exuberant diplomatic pronouncements notwithstanding, NATO enlargement is far from secure. The German government-the key to the issue in Europe-remains divided between Volker RŸhe's pro-enlargement defense ministry (controlled by the Christian Democrats) and Klaus Kinkel's hesitant foreign ministry (controlled by the Free Democrats). Chancellor Helmut Kohl has tilted toward Kinkel's more cautious approach. Like Kinkel, Kohl is nervous about the impact that enlargement would have on Russia. He ranks European Union "deepening" through the establishment of a single European currency as his top foreign policy priority-a troublesome project in its own right that is sure to devour Kohl's energy in the months ahead.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ocean, the Clinton administration lost its hard charger on NATO enlargement with the departure of Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke from government. While statements such as "the train has already left the station" are certain to continue, there is little in the current administration's record to suggest consistency or resolve, and the case against NATO enlargement has been gathering steam. American scholars, pundits, and former policymakers in this camp include Paul Nitze, Senator Sam Nunn, Russia expert Robert Conquest, former Under Secretary of Defense Fred Ikle, former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Jack Matlock, and The National Interest's Owen Harries. Stephen Sestanovich of the Carnegie Endowment belongs to this group, as does Fareed Zakaria of Foreign Affairs, Charles William Maynes of Foreign Policy, the Washington Post's Jim Hoagland, and Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. Among the most vocal critics of NATO enlargement is Michael Mandelbaum, and his most recent book, The Dawn of Peace in Europe, is sure to become a major intellectual document in the ongoing debate.

An adviser to Bill Clinton in the 1992 campaign, Mandelbaum is Christian A. Herter Professor of American Foreign Policy at Johns Hopkins University and director of the project on East-West relations at the Council on Foreign Relations. From those points of institutional reference, Mandelbaum has been an active voice in the debate between minimalists and maximalists over post-Cold War American foreign policy; clearly Mandelbaum belongs to the latter group. He has argued against the dissolution of the Atlantic Alliance and for a sustained American involvement in Europe on realist grounds: American power is ballast and insurance against Germany and Russia. He puts the two countries in different categories, to be sure. Germany is democratically secure and a trusted ally; nevertheless, contends Mandelbaum, "the withdrawal of the United States from Europe would lead to a more powerful Germany." If Europe were to provide for its own defense, and the Germans concluded that British and French nuclear weapons afforded insufficient protection, Germany might acquire nuclear weapons. In Mandelbaum's view, such developments would constitute a dangerous renationalization of European security policy. Central to Mandelbaum's concerns about European security, however, is not Germany but Russia, since "the resumption of an aggressive, imperial Russian foreign policy cannot be ruled out." Thus, Mandelbaum's purpose in keeping NATO intact is simple and clear: "To keep an eye on the Russians and a hand-friendly, but firm-on the Germans."

But Mandelbaum does not suggest that the maintenance of NATO alone will suffice to safeguard the peace. Part two of The Dawn of Peace in Europe argues Mandelbaum's case for a "common security order" in Europe to replace "the grim imperatives of power politics." This confessedly Wilsonian velleity is central to Mandelbaum's argument against NATO enlargement. Those who fear that a security vacuum in Central and Eastern Europe would constitute an irresistible temptation for Russia, argues Mandelbaum, have missed a major point: Both a floor-to-ceiling array of arms control regimes and a web of normative and institutional connections within Europe preclude such a vacuum. One can build on this, too; Mandelbaum envisages a series of inclusive security arrangements roughly analogous to the Concert of Europe-the informal understandings forged among the great powers in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars that, he argues, constituted, "the most successful postwar European settlement."

Mandelbaum concedes that these "common security" structures cannot prevent all conflict in Europe. He makes no pretense of offering solutions to future Bosnias and, as with the Concert of Europe, common security does not "impose any particular definition of justice throughout Europe." Rather, Mandelbaum's primary aim is a system that would prevent the circumstances that could give rise to another major war on the continent. "The voluntary acceptance of treaty-imposed restraints on their own forces by each European country", he writes, "reassures all the others that none harbors aggressive designs." A common security order built around an arms control regime can work, in his view, because of the more intrusive on-site inspection and verification that has evolved since the late 1980s. As for Russia, the cause of most concern in any security order, the best chance for sustaining its commitment to common security lies in the establishment of a working democracy. Even short of this, however, Russia is unlikely to abandon its treaty commitments, if only because of its own weakness. And if Russia were to withdraw anyway? A defection would destroy the arrangement, Mandelbaum acknowledges, but the common security order would buy the United States and its allies adequate time to respond-including expanding NATO then if necessary.

Mandelbaum devotes the final third of his book to speculations about the future of Russia and the United States. Both countries' interests, he contends, will be advanced by the "common security" regime he sketches and injured by nato's enlargement. Opening the alliance to new members in Central and Eastern Europe, Mandelbaum contends, could produce "the worst nightmare of the post-Cold War era: Weimar Russia", an ailing former power excluded from the normal dynamics of the balance of power and driven to domestic political crisis because of it.
Fundamental to Mandelbaum's new common security order are the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty and other arms control agreements negotiated during and just beyond the last years of the Cold War. And central to his affection for this option is the contention that common security can accomplish what NATO enlargement cannot, namely that it neither alienates nor excludes Russia while reassuring the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. But in putting the case this way, Mandelbaum undermines at least one important aspect of his own argument. He underestimates the fears of the Central and East Europeans. After all, NATO enlargement became a topic of international debate mainly because the Central and East Europeans took pains to raise the issue, not because the West sought to extend its influence. The Visegrad states of Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic have feared the Clinton administration's 1993 Partnership for Peace as a substitute for actual admission to NATO, and there is little reason to assume that their concerns could be assuaged by the common security order Mandelbaum offers as a substitute. Mandelbaum himself acknowledges that these fears are real, noting, for example, that the repercussions of a Russian annexation of Ukraine (hardly a far-fetched scenario) would immediately be felt and legitimately feared in Poland-and in Germany, too.

Mandelbaum raises the supposedly prohibitive cost of NATO enlargement to bolster his opposition to it. But citing such grounds for refusing admission to new members can be misleading. As Jeremy Rosner has observed, current estimates of the costs of NATO enlargement suggest a U.S. contribution of about $1 billion annually-a considerable sum, but still less than one-half of 1 percent of the current defense budget, and only a fraction of the $7 billion Congress added to this year's Pentagon request.

Mandelbaum also wonders whether the American public would be willing to "run the same risks for Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, as it did for Cold War Bonn." Arguing that enlargement would find little popular support in the United States, Mandelbaum cites a Chicago Council on Foreign Relations poll finding that a mere 32 percent of Americans would be willing to defend Poland were it attacked by Russia. But the utility of such polls is at best dubious (a 1978 Chicago Council on Foreign Relations poll found only 48 percent of Americans prepared to send troops to defend West Berlin in the event of a Soviet takeover). In early 1991, when the public was busy concentrating on how the United States should best spend its "peace dividend", who would have suspected that an American president could convince a majority of Americans to send their sons and daughters halfway around the world to liberate a tiny, unfamiliar country called Kuwait? Whether Congress and the American people will support enlargement, and on what terms, are legitimate questions. But the answer is more elusive than Mandelbaum suggests here.

Most compelling in making his case against NATO enlargement is Mandelbaum's concern about the Baltics, Belarus, and Ukraine. After all, it is these countries that are most immediately vulnerable to Russian neo-imperialist aggression, and NATO enlargement could well increase their insecurities. Ukrainian independence, Mandelbaum convincingly argues, is of utmost importance to Western strategic interest, for a successful reincorporation of Ukraine would mean that Russia would once again become "a multinational empire with a foreign policy of expansion westward, and thus a threat to Europe." But it is not clear that NATO expansion is the main issue, one way or another, in the future of Ukraine.

Particularly unconvincing is Mandelbaum's claim that the common security order can succeed where other arms control arrangements have not. It was hard to imagine at one time, for instance, that Iraq, a signatory of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty, could nearly acquire a bomb within the treaty's safeguard system. What is more, as Mandelbaum understands, a common security regime depends on the perpetuation of NATO and on the American commitment to Europe. It is still not a foregone conclusion, however, that the perpetuation of NATO is possible in the absence of a clear mission-clarity that enlargement, as well as out-of-area missions, could well provide.

Similarly, it is difficult to accept Mandelbaum's unqualified assumption that NATO enlargement is preordained to ignite Russian hostility. It is worth bearing in mind that Mikhail Gorbachev and his foreign minister, Eduard Shevardnadze, initially rejected German unification, and later adamantly opposed a united Germany in NATO. And, for a time, West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher insisted privately that NATO membership encompassing what had been East Germany would remain entirely unacceptable for Moscow. But the "two-plus-four" process succeeded in engaging Moscow constructively and convincing the Soviets that a united Germany in NATO would be not a threat, but rather a reliable partner and a source of stability in Europe. Since the same holds true of NATO enlargement, why assume perpetual Russian hostility to the idea?

Of course, Mandelbaum is right to contend that any security arrangement that fails to take account of Russian interests in Eastern Europe would be reckless and short-sighted. But that is precisely why some, like Zbigniew Brzezinski, have proposed enlargement in association with confidence-building measures, such as a formal treaty between NATO and Russia, complemented by a new mechanism for special security consultations within the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Such proposals reflect the same constructive spirit that inspired nato's establishment in 1991 of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, in which former members of the Warsaw Pact were invited to participate.

Finally, Mandelbaum rejects outright the possibility that NATO enlargement might actually improve Russian behavior abroad, because such a prospect is unconvincing to "those who know Russia best: Russians themselves." Prior to July's presidential election, though, and presumably when Mandelbaum's manuscript was already at the printer, Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov was already suggesting that "Russia could live with nato's enlargement" provided nato's infrastructure did not move east. For that matter, in April, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, whose country is intimately and acutely attuned to Russian sensitivities, had already told NATO Secretary General Javier Solana that his country would not oppose NATO enlargement as long as nuclear weapons were not deployed on the soil of new members.

Even Boris Yeltsin gave his blessing-at least for a moment-to NATO enlargement during a trip to Poland in August 1993. Back then Michael Mandelbaum was writing in the Washington Post that admitting Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic into the alliance was a good idea, provided that enlargement be accompanied by a clear definition of new NATO policy toward the former Soviet Union. Mandelbaum was right the first time.

Essay Types: Book Review