by Ira L. Straus
This article is based on remarks made at the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow in December 1994. The author bears sole responsibility for the views expressed.
The prospect of Russia-in-NATO still sounds like a joke, a contradiction in terms. Like a sheep joining a pack of wolves. (In the West it's treated like a wolf joining a herd of sheep). It is the opposite of what most people have assumed that NATO was all about. People feel a sort of cognitive dissonance about it.
In fact, it sounds almost as strange to speak of Russia-in-NATO today as it would have sounded half a century ago to speak of Germany joining the Atlantic alliance. At that time, the Atlantic alliance was engaged in a world war against German power. Yet within a decade, Germany had indeed joined the Atlantic alliance.
The current arguments against Russia-in-NATO might be summarized as follows:
1. NATO is an anti-Russian alliance.
2. An alliance requires an enemy for its cohesion.
3. Russia is the enemy (or "potential threat") which defines NATO.
4. If Russia were in NATO, then NATO would fall apart. Or it would move its border up to China and make China the enemy.
All of this has an air of plausibility, but it is wrong from beginning to end. NATO was never just an anti-Russian alliance, it was always also a positive-sum structure internally. The positive sum total would be increased by adding Russia. The enemy relation was real, but mature societies do not need fixed enemies for their internal cohesion. If NATO is still somewhat immature, the point is to grow up and outgrow the enemy relation -- which NATO has been trying to do ever since 1989. Russian membership, far from destroying NATO, is needed so NATO can complete this transition. A NATO that included Russia would face a basket of potential threats, not any single fixed enemy. As to the Chinese border, NATO would be no more involved there than it is along its border with Mexico today.
Interestingly, the argument against Russia-in-NATO is a mirror image of the argument of the Russian nationalists for treating the West as "the enemy." For Russia to hold together -- so the argument goes -- an external enemy is needed. It was a terrible mistake by Gorbachev and Shevardnadze to abandon the enemy-relation; it led to the collapse of the Russian empire. Now Russia must project an image of the West as the enemy in order to pull itself together.
The mirror-imaging is not entirely accidental. The arguments on both sides -- the New Right in Moscow, Henry Kissinger and his followers in the West -- have roots in the ideas of Carl Schmitt, a brilliant Nazi scholar and theoretician of realpolitik. Schmitt held that enemy relations are primary in politics: the category "friend" exists only in a dialectic with "enemy," "self" with "other." The state is the agency which defines the enemy; a true state -- not a decadent liberal pseudo-state, but a real regenerate state -- must have the power to define "the enemy" by wilful sovereign decision. With this line of argument, Schmitt helped lure Germany into real decadence, as it went about defining enemies and invading them until the whole world united to destroy the Nazi monstrosity.
The arguments today for defining Russia as the enemy of NATO, and vice versa, are as wrongheaded as Schmitt's arguments were for his own Germany.
The Generations of the Atlantic Alliance
The North Atlantic Treaty made no mention of a Soviet Russian enemy or of any other enemy for that matter; it defined the purposes of NATO in positive terms. This was entirely logical -- even though resistance to Soviet power was NATO's main active business at that time -- because NATO did not come out of nowhere. It was the third generation of the Atlantic alliance.
The first generation of the Atlantic alliance came in World War I. The second generation came in World War II. The third generation, NATO, was formed in peacetime and helped prevent World War III. The fourth generation, for the post-cold war era, is now in process of formation, by way of restructuring and extending NATO. There is not much question whether there will be a fourth generation; it is only a question of how it will be organized and who will be included.
The first two generations of the alliance fought against German power. In the third generation the old enemy, Germany, was included. And so it is perfectly reasonable to think of including Russia in the emerging fourth generation.
The time lapse between the generations of the Atlantic alliance has grown shorter with each generation. Between the first and second generations came a lapse of 20 years, and the renewal of the alliance came only in the course of the world war. Between the second and third generations, the lapse was only 4 years, in face of a fear of war but with the hope (which proved justified) of averting the war. The fourth generation is being built directly upon the institutional foundations of the third, without any time lapse.
The inheritance from generation to generation has also increased. The World War II alliance inherited little from World War I. NATO inherited more: when Eisenhower established NATO's Supreme Allied Command, he was in a sense simply reestablishing the post he had left off in 1945. Thanks to the inheritance, the institutions of NATO were able to progress much farther than those of the World War I and II alliances, adding a permanent peacetime political-diplomatic structure, as well as various economic and scientific structures, not to mention the structures of military coordination. In the 1990s, a reformed NATO may be able to progress still farther since it can receive the entire institutional inheritance of the old NATO.
This inheritance is indispensable. If it is true that wars and enemies are needed to propel a group into strong cohesive structures, then we have to cherish every strong structure of collaboration that has been built against the backdrop of wars and enemy relations. It took two world wars and a cold war to build the Atlantic alliance to the point of today's NATO. It would be dreadful to squander that inheritance and start all over again in Europe. We cannot afford two more world wars, or even another cold war.
There is no reason to believe that, if we were to scrap NATO and start from scratch today, we could produce a structure of European cooperation at all comparable to NATO in its effectiveness. The willingness to make new far-reaching international commitments is far weaker in the West today than it was in the 1940s. The spirit of internationalism, which grew up in the face of the two world wars, has faded. The movements for international integration have faded with it. What remains are the institutions that grew up with the help of that spirit -- NATO, the UN, and the European Union -- and the possibility of reforming them to bring them closer both to their original goals and to the needs of the future.
The Atlantic Idea: An Open Nucleus
The history of the three generations of Atlantic alliance shows why it is not unreasonable to think that Russia could be a member in its fourth generation. However, this is not all. It is not only conceivable. It is also the logical thing to do, the realization of the historical intentions that underlay NATO.
This can be seen clearly if we recognize that it is not only external threats which have defined the Atlantic alliance, but also an internal inspiration -- not only fears but also hopes and friendships, not only resistance to negative dangers but also ideas of positive construction.
The inspiration for the Atlantic alliance came from the way of thinking known as Atlanticism. The Atlantic idea has developed internally among the Atlantic democracies over the entire course of the last century. Like the alliance itself, the idea has developed in several generations. The generations of the Atlantic idea emerged well in advance of the generations of actual alliance: the causal sequence was clear, the idea was prior to the reality.
The first generation of the Atlantic idea emerged in the late 19th century, in the movements for English-Speaking Union and Imperial Federation. These movements aimed at uniting Britain with the self-governing areas of her empire (Canada, Australasia, Capetown) and reuniting Britain and America on the basis the positive side of the American Revolution -- its democracy and federalism. This, they hoped, would not only liquidate the negative (isolationist-schismatic) side of the American Revolution, it would also provide the strategic and intellectual foundations for Britain and America to lead the entire world gradually to freedom and unity. They failed to achieve their goals, but they laid the cultural-intellectual foundations for the Anglo-American diplomatic rapprochement at the turn of the 20th century. That rapprochement finally overcame the habit in America of treating Britain as the main enemy, and so made possible the first generation of the Atlantic alliance in World War I.
The second generation of the Atlantic idea was more mature. Emerging after World War I, it put aside any snobbish notions of Anglo-Saxon exclusivity, envisaging instead a union of all the democracies of Europe and North America. Its clearest expression was given by the New York Times correspondent at the League of Nations, Clarence Streit, who found that whenever the Atlantic powers were in agreement the League of Nations worked, and when they were not united the League failed. The Atlantic democracies, he concluded, were for better or worse the leading powers of the world -- better when they were united, because then they led the world toward unity; worse when they were divided, because then they led the world toward chaos.
United, the democracies could easily deter Germany from launching another world war; divided, they enticed Germany to try its luck again on military aggression. United, the democracies could revive world trade and currency stability; divided, the democracies slid into the economic nationalism which wrecked the world economy. The only way to impart coherence to the world order was to unite the Atlantic democracies reliably. For reliability, diplomatic forms of unity and inter-governmental organization were not enough; a federation was needed, uniting the peoples to govern their common business together democratically.
And so Streit wrote Union Now: A Proposal for a Federal Union of the North Atlantic Democracies (1939), a book which so well captured the spirit of the times and drew such a tremendous response that it gave birth not only to the Atlantic Federalist movement but also, to a large extent, to the European Federalist movement and the World Federalist movement. These three movements in turn prepared the grounds for the development of NATO, the European Union and the United Nations.
Second generation Atlanticism was an "open" Atlanticism. Its proposed union of the Atlantic democracies of 1939 was meant to be a "nucleus" union -- an immediate nucleus for the leadership and coherence of the world order, and a nucleus open for all other countries of Europe (Europe broadly construed) to join when they also became democracies. It was anticipated that Italy, Germany and Japan might be in the first wave of new members to join after the initial nucleus was formed, then perhaps Eastern Europe and Russia in the second wave. Eventually the colonial world could also join, although it was vaguely admitted that problems of population and immigration might present some difficulties. Then the earth would finally be united in a world federation.
United, the democracies could entice frustrated new powers like Germany and Japan to turn to democracy as a way to get into the democratic union; divided, their power-politics games drove the emerging powers to despair of democracy, which was not enough, in their more backward societies, to hold society together in the face of the international turbulence. United, the democracies could offer membership in the Union, and through the Union provide a way for emerging powers like Germany and Russia to get their "place in the Sun" as partners of the democracies; divided, the democracies could only treat the emerging powers as an external force and resist their growing strength. United, the democracies would attract; divided, they would repel. United, their attractive power would enable former enmities to be put aside, and then transcended forever through the power of their federal institutions to eliminate mutual fears and focus attention on common interests; divided, they would keep reproducing lines of conflict.
This vision combined in a "dialectical" way, so to speak, the aspiration to global unity with the reality of Atlantic leadership. The Atlantic democracies would unite and provide leadership, but under the banner of world order and as a nucleus open to further accessions. The initial nucleus would unite partly for the sake of external defense against hostile regimes, but the peoples under those regimes would be attracted to join the nucleus and so liquidate the element of enemy-relations which helped inspire the federation. Countries would be united federally to the maximum geographical extent that was practically feasible at any given time (initially only the Atlantic democracies), while they would exercise a collective global leadership to the minimum extent necessary (initially a very considerable extent). As more countries joined, the federalist nucleus element in the world would grow, its leadership of the world order would grow less and less difficult, and the world would finally arrive at the final synthesis. The synthesizing factor would be modern federalism, which in America had already succeeded in growing from an initial nucleus of 13 states to a vast union of (then) 48 states.
I have expressed in Hegelianized style here the vision of Streit, who actually wrote in a very straightforward non-Hegelian English, in order that the reader may form an idea not only of how many seemingly contradictory stages it envisaged, but how many of them have already been realized in the integration of the industrialized world. The integration began among the Western industrialized democracies, which in 1939 were a minority even of the industrialized world; it soon expanded to include the former World War II enemies of democracy; and today the democratic idea has triumphed in all the remaining areas of the industrialized world. The idea of Russia-in-NATO is only a part of this process of development; it has solid historical ground beneath it.
The second, Union Now generation of the Atlantic idea helped pave the way not only for the second generation Atlantic alliance in World War II, but even more so, for the third generation -- the institutionalized Euro-Atlantic community that was built during the cold war. It provided inspiration and support, like a sort of background music, for the Marshall Plan, the OEEC (out of which grew the OECD and G-7), NATO, and European Community (now Union).
That the Atlantic federalist idea played a decisive role in inspiring the development of the Euro-Atlantic structures is a fact that is little-known and that it would take far too many pages to document adequately. Indeed, it will come as a surprise to many. Yet the internal inspiration for the alliance system was no less necessary than the external threat. Without the internal inspiration, the external pressure would have only produced ad hoc emergency cooperation -- and only after the war had already broken out, as had been the case in the World War I and II alliances -- not the extensive institutionalized peacetime cooperation that NATO displayed. For documentation, it will have to suffice here to quote what the main author of the North Atlantic Treaty, Theodore Achilles, told me in 1983:
"If it hadn't been for Union Now, I don't think there would have been a NATO Treaty. A lot of people got a hold of that book and read it -- Chris Herter, Will Clayton, Jack Hickerson, myself.... I heard Clarence Streit speak in 1941, got a copy of the book and read it. From here came the whole idea of Atlantic unity... It would be hard to name all the people who had gotten the idea from Union Now."
The meaning of this becomes even clearer when it is recalled how much history stands behind the names mentioned by Achilles. Will Clayton -- the chief international economic statesman of the United States in the 1940s, and one of the main authors (according to the well-researched new biography by Gregory Fossedal, the main author) of the Marshall Plan. Jack Hickerson and Achilles himself -- the chiefs of the West European division of the State Department, who initiated the feelers that led to NATO, won the State Department over to the idea, and carried through the basic negotiations.
Some striking conclusions flow from this history. NATO was built atop the idea of a nucleus of united Atlantic democracies, which would proceed to attract its initial enemies to become democracies and join. Expansion of NATO to include all new democracies in the former Soviet bloc area is not only not a heretical idea, it is actually the true orthodox Atlanticism. It is virtually mandated by the original ideas behind NATO.
This may be underlined by what was said in 1948 by Lester Pearson, the main Canadian founder of NATO: that NATO should become "a model of what we hope the whole world will some day become". But then, Pearson too was a supporter of the ideas of Streit.
The Paradox of Westernization without a United West
The idea that Euro-Atlantic integration would have an attractive influence on the Soviet bloc was long disputed by ideological neutralists, as well as by advocates of traditional balance-of-power diplomacy. It was argued that Western unity would repel the Soviet Union and force it into a counter-alliance, such as actually emerged a few years later in the Warsaw Treaty Organization. But the WTO was not a real alliance; like so much else in the structures of Communism, it was a façade for imperial control. It collapsed when the imperial coercion was removed; NATO survived. And immediately the former members of the WTO began a rush to join the EU and NATO. At the end of 1991 the Yeltsin government sent a letter to NATO announcing that Russia's goal, too, was to join NATO eventually. The attractive aspect of Western unity proved far greater than the repellant aspect.
This is not surprising, when we look at how the Westernizing tendency in Russia has always perceived the question of "the unity of the West". Ever since Chaadaev, Russian Westernizers had tried to envisage in the West some sort of coherent leadership of the world; this was a necessary basis for urging Westernization on Russia. To be sure, this coherence was generally not available in a political form, it was only available as a metaphysical construct. This metaphysical construct proved an unsteady foundation, inadequate for anchoring Russia to the track of Westernization in the face of real-world turbulence.
In practice, Westernization always ran (prior to 1945) into a paradox. What did it mean for Russia to "join Europe" in the time of, say, Peter the Great? It meant joining a system of power-politics confrontations, replete with recurrent wars. In the course of confronting and fighting other powers, it becomes valuable to deepen the national cause by developing a nationalist ideology of affirmation of national peculiarities and opposition to the values of the enemies -- enemies which, within the European system, were always to Russia's West and thus "Western". Joining the West thus implied, in the second phase, development of a nationalist virus of resistance to the West. We might call this the "dialectic of Westernization".
The problem goes deeper than war per se. It was not just any war against Western powers that caused the problem. After all, when the West united and defeated Russia in the Crimean War, this actually served to discredit the anti-Westernizing trends that had prevailed under the regime of Nicholas I and led to the second Westernization of Russia under Alexander II.
The main problem arose when world wars got underway in a divided West and spilled over into Russia -- as in World War I, and before that, in the Napoleonic wars. The result was a massive discrediting of the West. No longer did the West look like a good place to join, a model of sound society and governance. Quite the opposite: it looked like a hornet's nest, something to keep away from; a hotbed of chaos, incapable of governing itself, needing some outside force like Russia to impose order on it.
After Napoleon, an ideological reaction -- romanticism -- set in against the West, not only in Russia but in Germany, where a similar conflict raged between Westernizing impulses and pre-Western traditions. The two romantic nationalisms, whose ideas and consequences have been profoundly explored in the works of Hans Kohn, Walter Laqueur and Alexander Yanov, fed off of one another, even as they spread hatred of one another. They looked at the world war and the terror of the French Revolution, and traced them back to the individualism of the Western Enlightenment. Individualism had dissolved all social norms, all legitimate authority, all moral constraints. It had opened the door to unbridled egotism, to arbitrary power, to ruthless tyranny, to unlimited ambition -- in a word, to Napoleon. The solution was to restore morality within the national society, by returning to its national traditions and building an intense organic national unity. Fortunately there was a country -- Russia (or Germany) -- where the national traditions had not yet been fatally undermined by the Enlightenment as in the West; a basis remained for regenerating an organic national order. This regeneration of an intense intra-national order would somehow in turn regenerate the inter-national order.
This has been the ideology of not only of romantic nationalists and fascists, but of fundamentalist of all religions and, with slightly different language, Communists as well. It always leads to disaster. An overheating of intra-national solidarity always increases national egotism and does tremendous damage to international solidarity. What is best for international order is moderate, balanced solidarity on the national level, coupled with a structure for solidarity on the international level. What was lacking in the West in Napoleon's time was not intra-national solidarity, but a structure of international solidarity strong enough to restrain national egotism.
Despite the bad logic, the temptation is always strong to transfer the wish for greater solidarity from the international level to the national level. It removes the wish for solidarity from a level where it is hard to act on, and invests it into a level where enthusiastic political action is immediately possible. It sublimates a lonely, unrequited drive into one that can get powerful social reinforcement. It is a logical sleight of hand, but it sounds like a natural continuation of the motif of solidarity.
As long as international solidarity is short on reliability and visibility, people will be attracted to organic nationalism as a road to peace. The attraction has proved especially strong in semi-modern countries like Germany, Russia, Japan and China, which have not been controlled directly as colonies, but have felt destabilized by the influence of Western culture and rocked by the turbulence of Western power politics. What could be more natural than to reach for organic national solidarity as a protection against destabilization, whether internal or external? Thus the propensity to ideological reaction. When Europe has fallen into full-fledged world wars which spilled over into their lands, the reaction has exploded.
This happened the first time in the Napoleonic wars. By the time it happened again in World War I, romantic ideology had already had a century to congeal and metastasize. Lenin was ready for the war with his theory of imperialism, which translated the old romantic argument into Marxist economic idiom. Western individualism remained the enemy. An organic society remained the solution. And it had an aura of being forward-looking, even scientific, since it concentrated on economic nationalization, not on a revival of national-religious sentiment.
Leninist Russia pulled out of the world economy and began a struggle against the entire "imperialist world order." After World War II Russia set up an alternative "socialist world system," but this system proved far from peaceful. The splits with Tito and Mao, the Hungarian revolution, the Berlin Wall, the invasion of Czechoslovakia, the disaffection of Romania, the wars between Russia and China, China and Vietnam, Vietnam and Cambodia, the suppression of Solidarity in Poland, the reliance on martial law... there seemed to be no end to conflict in the "socialist world system".
Meanwhile, over in the West, in the "imperialist world system" on the other side of the Berlin Wall, things were more and more peaceful. France and Germany not only stopped fighting against one another, they integrated their economies and put aside virtually all of their historic suspicions of one another. Bit by bit, through the EC and NATO, free Europe was integrating itself. True, these institutions were formed against the backdrop of enmity to the Soviet Union, and for a long time were evaluated by Soviet scholars as merely anti-Soviet; but as disillusionment with "socialist internationalism" set in, the EC was revalued as a positive process of integration. The true internationalism, it turned out, was over in the West. The point was to join that real-existing integration process, along with the entire real-existing world order, not to destroy it.
This was the fundamental idea of the Gorbachev era. The orientation was not only to Westernization within Russia but to integration with the West in a "Common European Home". Thanks to the growth of Western unity, it seemeed that there was finally a way out of the old self-defeating dialectic of Westernization: now Russia could join a uniting not a divisive West.
In the last years of Gorbachev, Russia favorably revalued NATO as well as the EC as an integrative institution. In 1990 Shevardnadze visited NATO and joked about joining. Jokes, as Freud taught, reveal our hidden dreams; they are the first step out of the closet. By the end of 1991, the joke had matured into a public goal. Yeltsin, in one of his first acts in power, wrote to NATO about the goal of joining. The attractive power of Western unity could not have been more spectacularly confirmed.
The original game plan of the founders of NATO -- the plan of uniting the Western democracies, with a view to being able to attract the rest of Europe (including Russia) to join the West -- came to the verge of its final consummation. Having made good use of the enemy relation in order to build up NATO, and having seen the enemy collapse and the successor states try to join, we ought to be marching happily onward to the final synthesis.
So why haven't Eastern Europe and Russia been included in NATO already? Why the delays since the revolutions in the East? Why isn't NATO enthusiastically following up on the final stage of the game plan today? What are we waiting for?
What Has Gone Wrong?
What has happened has been a tragedy in three acts. The West had already forgotten its second generation Atlanticism by the time the East was ready for it. The West did not want to bear major burdens of adjustment after 1989; instead it simply projected more and more burdens onto the East. Up to 1993, the West was not even willing to recognize that the enlargement of NATO was a serious issue.
NATO, like the European Community, was never a real federation during the cold war years. It only had a nucleus of a federal institutions -- just as it only included a nucleus of the countries that needed to be united.
The EC Treaty formally established the goal that this nucleus should grow into an "ever closer union among the peoples of Europe," i.e. a federation. The NATO Treaty did not do that; its founders were predominantly but not unanimously federalist. The resultant Treaty was able to proclaim the idea of Atlantic unity only in a general way, not as teleological goal for further striving in the alliance. As a result, NATO stagnated while the EC advanced.
The EC, whenever it ran into obstacles and was unable to get its members to agree on how to proceed, interpreted its problems in a federalist way: it blamed its difficulties on its own insufficient authority, and for a solution, it sought increased authority and streamlined procedures. Thanks to this, its internal crises usually propelled it forward.
NATO, by contrast, adopted after its first few years, as its public ideology, the consultationist theory of Karl Deutsch, who held that the main thing in international integration was the multiplication of consultative communications channels, not the development of efficient common decision-making structures. This was a reductionist theory that grossly underestimated the reality of NATO, whose integrative structures had real content above and beyond consultations. What matters here is that NATO was trapped by this theory into blaming its difficulties on the inherent differences of the "national interests" of its members, a situation for which it could not envisage any real solution, just continued consultations and "respect" for differences in interest. Deutsch himself denounced this approach as a self-defeating form of circular logic, since the whole point of NATO, as of any international institution, was to upgrade the common interest; but his own theory left little alternative. Lost was the elementary point that the way the EC and NATO upgrade the common interest and reconcile the "different" interests of nations (such as Germany and France, which used to have opposite "national interests") is by providing channels for common policy-making and instruments for common implementation that are strong and reliable enough to make it unnecessary for the member countries to revert back to relying on separate national strategies and interests.
Next, Charles de Gaulle dealt a body blow to both NATO and the EC in 1965 and 1966. In NATO, he pulled France out of the Integrated Command. In the EC, where decisions were supposed to start being made by a 2/3 weighted majority voting, he prevented the treaty from being implemented and kept the unanimity rule in place instead.
An era of stagnation began in East and West alike. Brezhnev dragged on as General Secretary of the Soviet Union from 1964 to 1982; Joseph Luns dragged on as Secretary General of NATO from 1971 to 1984. The EC sank into what its own officers called "Eurosclerosis".
It was the EC that was the first to start coming out of the era of stagnation, in 1984. Russia followed in 1985. NATO has been the last to come out of stagnation.
In the course of the era of stagnation, the original goals of the Atlantic community got buried -- not quite killed, but buried deep within the memories of Atlantic organizations and officialdom. The 1940s and '50s came to be described as "the institution-building period of the Atlantic community," as if the institution-building was finished forever and what was built in those few years was destined to last unchanged for all time to come.
In the European Community, the situation was not quite as bad. The goal of Union was still in the preamble of the Treaty. By drawing on this goal, the EC pulled itself out of stagnation in the mid-1980s and catapulted itself back onto a course of forward motion.
The EC found this second wind, thanks largely to the need to expand outward from its original geographical nucleus. This raised the "broadening and deepening" question, namely: how to maintain the effectiveness of the EC even while increasing its membership? The first time this question had arisen had been when the EC had expanded to include Britain, Ireland, Denmark and Greece in the 1970s. At that time, the EC had responded by trying to "deepen" itself through new commitments for solidarity in monetary affairs and foreign policy. But this had not worked. No efficient method was provided for arriving at decisions in these new areas. Even in the old areas of EC business, the addition of four new members made it much more difficult to arrive at consensus.
In the face of vetoes not only from France and other original members, as in the past, but now also from Britain, Denmark and Greece, decision-making began to grind to a halt. This brought the EC to the point of a life-threatening crisis in the early 1980s. At the same time, Spain and Portugal had gone democratic and demanded membership. How to manage a further enlargement, and meanwhile undo the damaging effects of the previous enlargement?
To this question, the mainstream of EC thinking gave in 1984 a federalist answer: that this time, the "broadening" would have to be accompanied by a "deepening" of the federalist sort, by putting aside the unit-veto. Prodded by the European Parliament, it negotiated a new treaty, the Single European Act, which finally put 2/3 weighted majority voting into practice in a number of areas of economic policy.
On this basis, the EC began to move rapidly forward on its program for a single Internal Market by 1992. This in turn increased the attractive power of the West on the East, which feared getting left out of "Europe '92". A new historical phase set in: the era of stagnation came to an end, the era of rapid change began. In 1989 the changed accelerated: Communism collapsed in Eastern Europe, throwing the EC into a new round of debate on "broadening and deepening".
At the very beginning of this new phase, in May 1985, an article appeared in The Federator, the journal of Clarence Streit's Atlantic federalist movement, on the implications the "broadening and deepening" question would have if President Reagan was right and someday all of Europe would be free from Communism. I mention this article, of which I was the author, because it shows that the idea of "NATO expansion", in its original form, included Russia. It is those who have come late and reluctantly to the idea, like Henry Kissinger, who have reduced it to mechanical aggrandizement and contorted it into anti-Russian form.
The argument went as follows. A half-way streamlining of the EC, such as was then under preparation in 1985, might suffice to enable the EC to manage expansion to Spain and Portugal; but what if Eastern Europe became free and wanted to join? Far more thorough streamlining of the EC would be needed to make that possible. The EC would not be ready for the Eastern Europeans in their hour of need. Yet entry into the EC would be a matter of urgency for them, far more important for stabilizing their democracy and calming nationalist disputes than it was for Spain or Portugal. Further: Eastern Europe would become free only if there was a revolution in Russia as well. The EC could never include Russia, for reasons of political balance. Only trans-Atlantic institutions were big enough to include Russia and still maintain a good internal balance. This means that the task would fall to Atlantic institutions, above all to NATO, to integrate Russia and throw a stabilizing umbrella over its democratization. But NATO was totally unprepared for this. Unlike the EC, it did not even realize that it would have a responsibility to throw a stabilizing umbrella over the East. And its consultationist ideology would obstruct it from "deepening" enough to handle "broadening". If the victory of democracy in all of Europe, which President Reagan had just prophesied before the European Parliament, was not to lead only to new tragedies, NATO and the EC needed to get started right away on preparing themselves so they would be ready when the time came to integrate the East.
Needless to say, the institutions of Western unity did not start their preparations in 1985 for the end of Communism. In 1989, the EC President, Jacques Delors, acknowledged that the EC was not prepared. Fortunately he recognized that the EC had an obligation to the Eastern Europeans and should start preparing itself urgently. The great "broadening and deepening" debate was reopened. The Maastricht Treaty on European Union was negotiated, considerably extending the area of voting not vetoing on economic matters. Three new states were admitted. A further round of negotiations is scheduled for 1996.
NATO was not only unprepared in 1989; it did its best to ignore the issue when the Eastern Europeans kept asking in. Finally, in December 1991, when Yeltsin sent his letter, it became impossible to hold silent. Manfred Wörner, the Secretary General of NATO, acknowledged the real crux of the problem: that expanded membership would dilute the alliance and make its unit-veto decision-making process more cumbersome.
Notice that Wörner, unlike Delors, did not say that broadening of membership could have this effect if internal deepening and streamlining of decision-making were not done as well; instead, he simply said that it would have this effect. He dared not dispute the consultationist assumption that no streamlining of decision-making was possible or desirable. While Delors said that broadening was obligatory, therefore deepening must be prepared urgently, Wörner simply concluded that broadening of membership could not and should not be done. NATO's consultationist ideology thus led to the exact opposite conclusion as the EC's federalist ideology on the historic question of broadening its membership.
Wörner later changed his view on enlargement, but without indicating how to solve the problem it would raise for decision-making. That problem continues to obstruct actual enlargement, especially inclusion of Russia: it is assumed without discussion that Russia-in-NATO would mean a Russian veto power that could destroy NATO.
In 1992, as a way of getting around the fears that expansion of NATO would mean dilution of NATO, some NATO circles turned to the idea of expansion on a basis of new "criteria" and "standards" for membership. The idea was that, if the countries that joined NATO were first asked to meet all kinds of criteria such as becoming stable democracies, and had to adjust themselves in all kinds of ways to the habits and procedures of NATO, then there would be no danger from letting them in: they would be well-enough behaved that they would not use their unit-veto anyway. In this way, instead of adjusting NATO itself to the normal problems of managing real-life countries, NATO circles projected all of the burdens of adjustment onto the countries that wanted to join. Since no adjustments on the Eastern side would ever really solve the problem, there was a tendency to keep adding to the criteria and projecting still more burdens of adjustment on the Easterners.
The emphasis on criteria and on one-sided adjustment encouraged differentiation between the Eastern countries rather than integration among them. They began to compete against one another to show the West who had better met the criteria. The Czech Republic willingly accepted the separation of Slovakia, partly because it hoped to get into NATO and the EC faster this way. Slovenia and Croatia left Yugoslavia in the hope of getting into Europe faster. Ukraine left Russia with the same illusion on its mind.
In 1993 the Clinton Administration -- thanks, interestingly, to its sympathy for Russia -- finally opened the door to a serious public discussion on expansion of NATO. Western elites quickly turned in favor of NATO expansion eastward, with a door explicitly open to Russia. However, this openness was poorly operationalized. The expansion was usually conceived as proceeding one country at a time, as each country met various "criteria". Russia was the last country that could expect to meet the criteria to NATO's satisfaction. Russia rightly feared isolation.
In January 1994, the Partnership for Peace was established. It included Russia on an equal basis, but emphasized technical cooperation and criteria, allowing renewed differentiation in the next stage. Russia, in a move that began a process of increasing isolation, held back. It wanted a more serious consultative link with NATO. But it also wanted to placate its domestic nationalist critics. It greatly strengthened the position of those in NATO who did not want to include Russia.
As 1994 dragged on, the debate in NATO turned more and more against Russia. NATO expansion came to be redefined as expansion without Russia.
For four years, the Eastern Europeans had been continuously demanding into NATO, with a door open to Russia; but Russia, which still felt ambivalent about joining NATO, concentrated on opposing early Eastern European membership. After the Dec. 1993 elections, there was growing suspicion of Russia -- and growing criticism of the Clinton Administration for its friendliness to Russia. Henry Kissinger intervened to give an aura of respectability to the crudest anti-Russian positions. Up to then, NATO expansionists had all held that the door of membership should be held open to Russia, but Kissinger called bluntly for slamming the door shut in Russia's face.
More moderate writers suggested, as a sort of consolation prize for Russia, that a new "super-alliance" could be formed between Russia and NATO. This was to be based on close consultative links between NATO and Russia -- links that Russia was seeking in any case. Negotiations are going on between Russia and NATO for such links. What has not been considered is that NATO, with its unit-veto decision-making procedures, lacks the structural capability for acting collectively as an ally for a non-member country. From the standpoint of either Russia's interests or NATO's interests, the "super-alliance" is a worse solution than Russian membership in NATO. At best it could serve as a psychological stepping stone to the more logical solution.
If the super-alliance were to serve the purpose of preventing the isolation of Russia, it would have to be given a very strong structure -- so strong as to simulate actual membership on the NATO Council. So why not simply go ahead and put Russia on the Council?
This -- a sort of "political membership" in NATO -- is in fact a goal of the Westernizers within the Russian leadership. To be sure, it would make the unit-veto intolerable in the NATO Council; but the "super-alliance" would do that anyway. So how could it be made to work?
The Way Out: No Vetoes All Around
The recent NATO slogan, "no surprises, no vetoes", contains the key to the way out. All that is needed is to take this slogan literally when it comes to the "no vetoes" part -- not only no vetoes for Russia, but no vetoes for anyone else, either. If NATO circles have been using the "no vetoes" slogan inconsistently as if to mean a veto for everyone except Russia, the logical Russian response ought to be: "no vetoes all around."
Is it possible for NATO to function without vetoes? On this question there is widespread confusion. A generation of consultationist rhetoric has put NATO into a habit of denying that it can be done. Yet the main author of the North Atlantic Treaty, Theodore Achilles, explained to me, a few years before his death in 1986, that despite all the rhetoric about consensus in NATO, nevertheless the Treaty deliberately left the decision mechanism open, so that the NATO Council would have the flexibility to make decisions by whatever methods it needed. It is entirely possible to abolish the veto in the NATO Council. Consultation and consensus are not the whole story in NATO and never have been. The Council has proceeded without consensus on occasions in the past. If it wanted to, it could even take a formal vote. It would not need any new authority for this.
In 1994 NATO took a major step toward greater flexibility -- but only on the administrative level, in the form of Combined Joint Task Forces (CJTFs) or "coalitions of the willing." Subgroups of the NATO countries are to be permitted to go ahead with common actions in the name of NATO, using the collective NATO resources, without all of the NATO countries having to participate. However, this reform on the administrative level gets cut off at the political level. There, it seems, authorization for a CJTF to organize itself or take action will still wait on consensus in the NATO Council. This only raises the contradiction to a higher level. It nullifies most of the value of the CJTFs.
A more logical method would be to take a vote in the Council to authorize a CJTF to organize or act. There is no way the Council can vote to command a NATO country to send national troops into action; but there is no reason why, when some NATO countries want to act, the Council cannot vote to authorize them to use the common resources of NATO in their action. Each country would probably be given a population-based weight, with a 2/3 vote needed to carry a resolution. Countries that stay out of a particular action would simply have to agree not to undercut it.
Weighted voting would enable the alliance to include Russia. It would also give Russia the full great power weight for which it is constantly pleading. It is, in fact, the only way to give Russia its full weight for use in a constructive manner, without giving it any veto. For America, too, it would have important advantages: it would enable America to exercise its leadership by persuasion and by its natural voting weight instead of by implied threats and arm-twisting.
Voting not vetoing is the crux of the problem of NATO expansion. The old NATO countries have been reluctant to think about voting. It is something that will have to be proposed by the prospective new members. Thus far they have shown too much humility to press NATO to make such an internal reform, but it is the only way to pull themselves as well as NATO out of the dead end on NATO expansion.
The veto is the principle of decision in a gang; the vote is the principle of decision in a community that has the confidence to govern itself on a basis of freedom and to address its problems with intelligence and subtlety. A gang that operates by the veto needs an enemy and a gang leader; a society that operates by the vote can work primarily for positive purposes. A NATO based on the unit-veto is an instrument fit for the old cold war era; a NATO based on the vote is a NATO fit for addressing the complex issues of the new era.
A NATO that votes is a NATO that can make the decision to include Russia, and that, having done so, would not thereby subject itself to a Russian veto. A NATO that does not vote can neither afford to let Russia in, nor have any chance of arriving at the decision to let Russia in.
Can NATO avoid isolating Russia?
Entry into NATO is the only real path for avoiding isolation of Russia. If NATO is to come around to this, Russia will have to push for it consistently and persistently. Russia will have to explain to the West the consistent meaning of its own slogan of "no vetoes," and in the process show the West -- what the West seems unwilling to figure out for itself -- how a NATO that includes Russia could continue to function effectively.
This is not happening. The original Yeltsin-Kozyrev policy of late 1991 pointed in this direction, but under nationalist pressures, Russian diplomacy quickly became inconsistent and hesitant. Russian diplomats learned by early 1992 that it was politically humiliating to talk about joining NATO, since the West failed to give any kind of positive response. So Russia stopped talking about it.
The Central and East Europeans, however, did not stop. No matter how often the West ignored them or put them down, they went right on talking about joining NATO. They did not yield to the temptation of feeling offended; with the sort of "patient impatience" that is needed to change the world, they patiently continued to make their urgently impatient request. Every day, month after month, year after year, they talked about joining NATO. They got people accustomed to the idea. They pointed out the urgent reasons for it. They criticized the prejudices and habits that stood in its way. They refuted the arguments, good and bad, that were used against it. Bit by bit, they pried the door of NATO open.
But the door was pried open only for the Central and East Europeans, not for Russia. By falling silent, Russia took itself out of the picture. The result of the influence of the Russian nationalists was real damage to the Russian national interest. Expansion of NATO came to be talked about as if it meant only expansion without Russia. This left Russia isolated diplomatically, and in danger of isolation strategically as well.
Thanks to the quiet of official Russia and to the noise of the Russian nationalists, the West never got accustomed to the idea of Russia-in-NATO. The "cognitive dissonance" about Russia-in-NATO -- the old unthinking assumption that it was an absurdity, that it was contradictory to what NATO was all about -- was never overcome. The advantages of it were never appreciated. When prejudices were expressed against Russian entry into NATO, they usually went uncriticized. All imaginable arguments against Russia-in-NATO appeared in the Western press, usually without any refutation. The occasional responses that did appear came from those few of us in the West who took it upon ourselves to support the Russian case. This was not enough. In the case of the East Europeans, it was the constant drumbeat from the governments and intelligentsia of their countries that wore down the prejudices in the West and eventually gave the idea of expanded membership the respectability of conventional wisdom. In the case of Russia, it was the prejudices against Russian membership that gained the respectability of conventional wisdom.
Putting Russia-in-NATO on the agenda
The main problem was not Russophobia but simple Western laziness. We in the West are not going through a revolution, as are the peoples throughout the former Soviet bloc. We are living in stable times, enjoying our peace and normalcy. Revolutionary times call for a wholesale revolutionary response, but our responses are piecemeal, gradual, belated. In reality, no doubt, we face revolutionary opportunities and dangers, but for the West this reality is only external information, not a living experience. The laziness of the West, no matter how deplorable it may be, is not surprising.
An idea such as Russia-in-NATO, which reverses previous political assumptions, is immediately possible for a Russia that is in the throes of a revolution that overturns virtually all of its previous political assumptions, but in the stable West it has to be repeated a thousand times before people will take it seriously. The Central and East Europeans have done their thousand repetitions. The Russians, bowing to nationalist pressures, have not. They are suffering the consequences: the NATO mindset has not moved for them, it has moved only for Central-East Europe. Russia is left isolated.
It will require more effort to overcome this isolation than would have been required to prevent it in the first place. Fortunately the direction of the effort is clear. It consists, first, of following the example of the Eastern Europeans and telling the West a thousand times that the forces of Russian democracy want Russia in NATO, as an anchor to the West and to democracy. Second, to explain a thousand times that Russian democrats want Russian membership to strengthen NATO not weaken it, since Russia needs to be effectively integrated with the West through an effective NATO not an impotent NATO. Third, to work out the ways by which NATO can be adapted to include Russia without weakening itself, such as a policy of "no vetoes all around" and a weighted voting system. Fourth, to explain to the West a thousand times the advantages of such a system.
The Eastern Democrats: the Third Generation Atlanticists
The reader may have noticed that we spoke earlier of three generations of the Atlantic alliance, but only two generations of the Atlantic idea. Where is the third generation? What happened to the Atlantic idea after 1949? The unhappy answer is that, in the West, it got bureaucratized. It grew defensive. It settled down into the status quo and the era of stagnation.
Official Atlantic inter-governmental structures, once established, gave birth to an official Atlanticism. Official Atlanticism, with all of its resources, easily overshadowed the original Atlantic idea: when the Atlantic Union Committee merged with several other Atlantic associations in order to form the Atlantic Council, the idea of Union quickly got submerged. Official Atlanticism spoke of the merits of the Atlantic Community and of incremental improvements in it; it expressed Atlanticist themes in the form of a celebration of the status quo and a rebuke of all the critics of the alliance, rather than a program for transformation. At best, the original Atlantic idea remained buried in the back of its minds. If official Atlanticist circles have begun to speak a bit more in the vein of the original Atlanticism in the last several years, this has been largely under the influence of the Eastern Europeans, who have recalled parts of the original Atlantic idea so many times that they have shamed the Western officialdom and drawn its original ideals up out of the depths of its subconscious.
It is in the East that the new generation of the Atlantic idea has been forming. To the democratic dissidents of the East, the original ideas of Euro-Atlantic federalism -- the ideas of European and Atlantic union, the promise that the Euro-Atlantic home was meant for their peoples, too, once they became free -- rang true and found a deep resonance. (They had a similar resonance to the democratic wings of the resistance movements during World War II.) The dissidents adopted and developed the authentic Atlantic idea. Now they have taken the helm of government, and the new Eastern democracies are teaching a remedial course in Atlanticism to the old Western democracies.
One of the great leaders of this new generation, Vaclav Havel, explained it thus in a speech to the American Congress on the 22nd of February 1990: The West has a lot to teach the East about democracy, but the East also has something very important to teach the West. While the West was going about its daily routines in a normal society, democrats in the East were living in conditions of enforced inaction and reflection. This enabled them to reflect on what would be needed in the world after Communism was gone -- to look ahead, to dream, to analyze their dreams without cynicism.
Today the West, too, needs these dreams. It needs the ideas of the Easterners. For these ideas are not arbitrary fancies of the Eastern imagination. They are the reflections in the East of the West's own long-buried plans. They are the updating for the future of the basic Euro-Atlantic gameplan -- an updating which was absolutely necessary, but which the West neglected to give to its own plans. Bit by bit, as the East keeps telling the West of its ideas and goals, it reminds the West of its own ideas and goals. Bit by bit, it draws those ideas out of the depths of the Western collective mind and propels them back onto the leading edge of world politics.
The West needs all the prodding it can get from those in the East who have shared its underlying vision and developed it for the future. It needs the Easterners to keep reminding it of what is needed, even when it ignores them or puts them down. It needs the Easterners to be brave and propose the full range of the transformations that are needed in the Western club, even when they are kept in the position of humble supplicants for membership in the Western club.
Power rarely correlates precisely with wisdom. The ideas of Eastern democrats on the new era and its needs are far better than the ideas of the West. The West needs to hear the ideas of the Easterners -- more of them, the full range of them as they were expressed in 1990, when they included Russia as well as Eastern Europe in an expanded NATO, when they looked forward to a fundamentally transformed NATO -- and to keep hearing them day after day, until the day arrives when the West is finally awakened from its lethargy.
The expansion of NATO is, as it is sometimes said in Russia, an "objective process." In other words, it is virtually inevitable. It is a product of historical circumstances and of deep-rooted national interests, not of the subjective desires of a few individuals. There is nothing Russia can do that would suffice to prevent it. Its only choices are to make the best of it, or make the worst of it.
The Great Rush West was inevitable among Russia's European subject nations, once the constraints of imperial control were lifted. Zhirinovsky and his "Last Rush South" -- this is only a distraction, born of disappointment, from the Great Rush West. Russia cannot afford to be left behind in the Great Rush West. It only isolates itself when it fights a hopeless rearguard battle against the Great Rush West. This may serve the nationalist interest in feeling embittered against the West, but it cannot serve any true national interest.
When something is inevitable, the only way to avoid isolation is to work with it in order to shape it for the better. If Russia is to respond to "NATO expansion" in a way that breaks it out of its current diplomatic isolation and prevents its future strategic isolation, it will have to stop emphasizing, as its main point, that it is "against NATO expansion" or wants to slow it down, and instead start emphasizing that it wants into NATO and wants in early -- and on terms that make NATO stronger because more flexible, not weaker. If it does this, it may yet be able to make itself a leader on the international arena in the new era.
The Russian government, for domestic political reasons, is not carrying out the program of elaborating this positive Russian interest in NATO and explaining it a thousand times to the West. The national interest of Russia is suffering from this failure. It falls to the non-governmental level -- intelligentsia, journalists, scholars -- to do this. If Russia is to be saved from isolation, it will have to be done by the initiative of its best people.
The author, Ira Straus, is U.S. Coordinator of the Committee
on Eastern Europe and Russia in NATO. In the 1980s Dr. Straus
was Executive Director of the Association to Unite the Democracies,
whose founding in 1939 marked the second generation of the Atlantic
idea; its early adherents included the persons in the State Department
-- Will Clayton, Theodore Achilles -- who were most involved in
the creation of the Marshall Plan and NATO. Straus first wrote
about the prospect of NATO expansion to Eastern Europe and Russia
in 1985 in The Federator, journal of the Association to
Unite the Democracies. He can be reached at (703) 521-5759, or