- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 7, 2002

For the past decade, the United States has pursued a vision of a Europe "whole and free." Remarkably, most of the specific elements of that foreign policy agenda will be accomplished by the end of this year. But given the magnitude of the threats we face elsewhere, now is not the time to be complacent about our relations with our European allies and with Russia.

U.S. policy toward Europe since the end of the Cold War has pursued three major agendas. First, extend Western institutions, and especially NATO, to the East to provide security and stability. Second, remove the threat to peace and security emanating from the former Yugoslavia. Third, ensure that Russia was no longer an enemy and if possible, bring Moscow into partnership with the West.

Although issues remain in all three areas, from Washington's perspective, this agenda is largely fulfilled. At its upcoming summit in Prague in November, NATO will issue invitations to the largest group of aspirant countries possible. Although peace in parts of the Balkans remains tenuous, the threat to southeastern Europe posed by the government of Slobodan Milosevic is gone. And even if Russia is not fully integrated into the West as a market democracy, we certainly no longer fear that Russia will revert to communism, re-nationalize its economy, and become an enemy anytime in the near future.

Paradoxically, the achievement of the 1990s agenda means that there is little substance left as we look at our future policy toward Europe and Russia. NATO enlargement and NATO-Russia are now essentially items of the past. The United States will maintain a presence in Bosnia and Kosovo, but will hope that the Europeans can manage any issues that arise there. And once George Bush and Vladimir Putin sign an arms-control agreement, there will be little left for the old U.S.-Russian agenda: NATO-Russia will be stable; the ABM treaty will be history; and whatever arms reductions are going to be taken will have been agreed upon.

Now what? The real NATO agenda is still out there: What can this alliance do that will deal with the real threats? The United States wants NATO to be able to deal with terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, but many in Europe are wary of having the alliance serve the U.S. agenda. Since the United States will not want to run operations through the North Atlantic Council as it did in Kosovo (not only NATO's first war but also likely its last), it will become clear that the United States wants to work when it needs to with allies, but not as an alliance. A NATO that serves the useful purpose of ensuring stability and security within Europe will be good for Europe, but will be of decreasing interest to the United States unless it can adapt for the broader agenda.

The problem of having succeeded in many areas of the 1990s agenda is that it will highlight the growing rifts between Europe and Russia, particularly over trade. We tend to assume that because we share values and culture, there is a limit to the conflict. But the close relationship is a product of the post-World War II environment. With no agreement on the nature of the current threat and given the narrow political space on both sides to manage trade, we cannot take anything for granted.

As we think about our agenda with Europe and Russia, we should not be too hasty to assume that Europe cannot help us, and we should not take for granted that Russia is securely pro-Western. In today's world, we should be grateful for all the friends we can get. And NATO's history of joint training and of developing interoperability for military missions should not be discounted. Allies may not spend as much as we believe they should, but they do spend enough to be helpful, and in some cases, most significantly in the case of the British ability to fight on the ground, they can do things we either do not want to do or that we cannot do as well.

As for Russia, it is the only country in the world with a significant relationship with all three countries in Mr. Bush's axis of evil: North Korea, Iran and Iraq. We cannot deal with the rogue-state problem without Russia, which can make things a lot easier or a lot harder. We must recognize Russia needs inducements given the financial interests it has at stake, and we should not be squeamish about buying Moscow's cooperation.

Transforming NATO to deal with the real threats and more fully integrating Russia into the West should remain high on the U.S. foreign policy agenda. Europe is essentially whole and free. Now we have to make sure that Europe (including Russia) is an effective partner as we manage problems elsewhere.


James M. Goldgeier is director of the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at George Washington University.


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