Kennan’s Warning on Ukraine
Ambition, Insecurity, and the Perils of Independence
THERE is little evidence of national "good neighborliness" in history, which runs more to invasions, violence and wars. All empires have, like the Roman Empire, been established by conquest, and all great nations have sought to expand their boundaries. The Good Neighbor doctrine, born in the Americas, is a radical break with this tradition, and history offers little guidance for those who wish to put it into practice.
It is not surprising that sincere good neighborliness in America meets mistrust and resentment, just as it has throughout history. The story of the territorial expansion of the United States includes episodes of violence and war, and not only at the expense of Mexico. Extracontinental conquests were made to assure strategic security. "Dollar Diplomacy" and the Theodore Roosevelt policy of the Big Stick are still remembered in the Americas, and the memory offers emotional barriers to the advance of Pan-Americanism. The history of the Latin peoples carries the same story of violence and of war among themselves; and these too are sources of resentment. If all these discords cannot be surmounted, American unity is impossible.
Fortunately, there is also a powerful trend toward solidarity which opens a path. The destiny of our community of nations was early revealed by the sympathy felt in the United States for the struggle for freedom of the peoples of Latin America and by the recognition by the United States of the new independent governments there. In a dramatic and moving gesture, President Monroe received a crippled patriot, Manuel Torres, in June 1822, as diplomatic representative of Greater Colombia--the first recognition of the free nations of Latin America. The Monroe Doctrine was received with approval when it was proclaimed, and undoubtedly saved the Latin Americas from the greed of Europe. United States' support of the Mexican liberals of the "Reform" in their struggle against Maximilian's Empire carried the community further along this path, and the conference summoned by Blaine created the body later known as the Pan American Union and renewed the noble mission of Bolívar, which Henry Clay said opened "a new epoch in human affairs."
The idea of Pan-Americanism is essentially Hispano-American. It began with Bolívar in 1826, and before it crystallized at the Washington Conference in 1889 various plenipotentiary congresses (in 1847, 1864 and 1877) had made Lima the seat of the "Americanist" movement. A Continental Treaty had been signed at Santiago, Chile, in 1856, and in 1888-1889 an important International South American Law Congress had met in Montevideo. These occasional congresses were guided by the ideal of collective defense against aggression from outside the continent, and, at the same time, showed that America had undertaken her task of developing the principles of international law. The Inter-American Conferences initiated in 1889 have enriched the heritage of international law and given the first example of continental solidarity. They have helped develop a system of conciliation and arbitration for the peaceful solution of international conflicts. The American system has repudiated the idea that conquest creates right, has proclaimed the juridical equality of nations, established the essentially New-World doctrine of "nonintervention," and constructed an international order on the principle of "one for all, and all for one." In the process, distinguished men gave their names to new legal doctrines: Calvo, Drago, Gondra, Espinosa, Bustamante, Estrada. Their bold conclusions regarding international justice are embodied in a new Law of Nations.
The Lima Conference of 1938 authorized meetings of Ministers of Foreign Affairs to supplement the Pan-American conferences. Such meetings were held in Panama, Havana, Rio de Janeiro and Chapultepec in the stormiest days of our contemporary history. Decisions at these conferences were not limited by academic formulas of international law. Forthright political, economic and military measures were taken to meet the danger which confronted the hemisphere, and the common interests of the continent were greatly strengthened.
This most recent advance toward continental solidarity was made possible by the Good Neighbor Policy. The continent as a whole had been a spectator to the tragedy of the First World War. Even when some of the Latin American nations declared war on Central European countries, or broke off relations with them, the prevailing Latin American attitude was one of neutrality, and doubtless there existed secret sympathy for Germany. But the attitude of the Latin American peoples in the Second World War was very different. The Good Neighbor Policy had wrought a significant change in the hearts of Latin American peoples and in their faith in the United States. The change was a result of the unequivocal repudiation of imperialism by the United States, and the wholehearted support of this friendly policy by public opinion there.
The very strength of the United States emphasized her sincerity. Her power had increased greatly since the First World War. The decision was spontaneous, free of the slightest trace of coercion by any other nation. The United States responded to Latin American feelings and juridical principles with utmost cordiality, revoking the 1905 Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, and declaring that the Doctrine was intended to apply against Europe and not against Latin America. Marines were withdrawn from Nicaragua and Haiti, the Platt Amendment was repealed, the unilateral Wilsonian doctrine of "nonrecognition" abandoned, and the principles of "nonintervention" and the equality of nations affirmed in numerous documents and conferences. In one decade, the United States cleared the horizon.
When threats of a second world war had begun to darken the world, public opinion in Latin America had, therefore, rid itself of its more serious resentments and prejudices. The consultative meetings of Foreign Ministers in Panama, in 1939, and Havana, in 1940, had demonstrated a growing solidarity in this hemisphere. It came to a climax at the meeting in Rio de Janeiro, in January 1942, five weeks after Pearl Harbor, when all America raised the flag of a common destiny. This was the romantic period of continental solidarity. Everyone followed the news from the fighting fronts, shared the pride in the great documents of human brotherhood formulated during the struggle, hailed the days of victory as a triumph for all. During these four years of war the 21 American flags were displayed together--from the stores of Fifth Avenue to the shops of the most remote villages of South America.
But the compass veered with the end of the war, and American unity began to break up. Why? Because the 21 American nations forgot that the essence of Pan-Americanism is economic solidarity. The nation most responsible for this mistake was the United States. On April 14, 1939, President Roosevelt had declared that the United States was prepared to coöperate economically with all Latin American peoples, and the countries which had gladly worked for a common objective during the war justifiably hoped that they would share the benefits of peace. But in 1947, when the 21 American nations met at Rio de Janeiro to sign a pact of military defense, the problem of economic defense and the promise of a common prosperity were forgotten.
The economic objectives of the inter-American system were, in fact, formulated first in the United States. When the Pan American Union was born in Washington it was called, significantly, the "Commercial Bureau of the American Republics." The first conference, in 1889, put forward the basic idea of an inter-American bank; it has never materialized, though the proposal recurs again and again--at the Seventh International Conference held in Montevideo in 1933, for example, which recommended that the Third Pan-American Financial Conference, scheduled to be held in Santiago, Chile, should press on with plans for the establishment of a central continental bank. The Chilean Conference did not meet, however. The Inter-American Financial Economic Advisory Committee, set up by Resolution 13 of the Panama Conference of 1939, offered to draft an agreement for the establishment of an inter-American bank. Again nothing was done.
Numerous institutions for economic coöperation have, of course, been established, but when the question of actually constructing a unified continental economic system comes to the fore, the Pan-American spirit seems to fade away. An Inter-American Development Commission, established by the Havana Conference of 1940, carried on many activities during the war, promoting various agreements and conventions to stimulate production of vital strategic raw materials, assuring markets to the producers, and guaranteeing a minimum price for these materials. An assured market and the stimulation of a fair price are the legitimate ideals for economic security of Latin America. Agreements were signed with the United States by Brazil, Bolivia and Chile. The Coffee Convention--comparable to the world-wide Wheat Convention adhered to in 1940 by 14 producing countries--was a model of what can be done. It brought a sharp rise in prices and still exerts a beneficial effect.
Though space will not permit me to give a detailed plan, the United States has developed effective methods which could be useful in establishing Latin American economic collaboration. The various committees engaged in adjusting agricultural production throughout the United States can serve as examples of how an assured consumption of Latin American products might be organized. Likewise, minimum prices can be established by contracts for given periods. One-crop countries would benefit tremendously from quotas such as are now being used for sugar on this continent and for wheat in world agreements. The Federal Surplus Commodity Corporation, so useful in reducing the dangers of economic crises through overproduction, serves as an example of a system of storing crops until market conditions improve.
The objective would be to treat the whole hemisphere as one economic unit, and thus to rescue Latin American economy from the grip of blind economic forces. The Latin American countries frequently make bilateral trade agreements with the United States, but these give rise to the charge of imperialism, for separate, weak nations are likely to be victims of their own needs, and of the strength of buyers, sponsored by some powerful nation, who frequently control world monopolies.
The industrial might of the United States--to which Latin America is contributory--is concentrated; but Latin American producers are unorganized. Nothing and no one defends them. They are at the mercy of foreign markets over which they have no shadow of control. This is the explanation of their protests against inequality, and of their demands for fair treatment. No Pan-American plan will be considered satisfactory in the countries of Latin America unless it addresses itself constructively to the problem of fair prices and secure markets. The efforts of the Inter-American Development Commission to regulate trade have been fruitful, but its activities should be oriented toward continental economic unity. To increase the purchasing power of the Latin American masses would be of incalculable value to the United States also.
The establishment of the Inter-American Bank would make possible the harmonious development of the economic resources of the continent. This expansion must be pursued along three lines: first, by the construction of large public works which private enterprise cannot undertake, such as sanitation, communications, large dams and electrification; second, by increasing the investments of private capital from the United States; third, by assisting capable native youths with loans which would give them the opportunity to take an active part in the economic development of their countries. I am thinking here not of grants for education, but of financial aid for those who seek capital.
Public works could be financed through the Inter-American Bank by means of loans to the governments, handled according to customary banking rules in order to avoid abuses. There have been instances in the past in which dollars loaned for public works have been deposited in the private accounts in foreign banks of unscrupulous politicians.
The Inter-American Bank could also assist greatly in establishing a basis of confidence for direct private investments. Both the United States and the Latin American countries want to create this atmosphere of confidence, but the task is very difficult. No country of Latin America is willing to grant foreign capital greater privileges than it gives to domestic concerns or to make promises that are contrary to its constitution. Some investors still look for the kind of protection that will never again be given anywhere in the world. On the other hand, some Latin American countries should review their own practices and remedy abuses. The only sound basis is the application of the golden rule; if cordial relations are to prevail it must be applied on both sides, not in letter but in spirit. Practical good sense is needed to channel investments into areas where the investor can be properly protected and where development will profit the nations in whose territories investments are made, raising their standard of living, ensuring fair prices and providing opportunities for permanent employment. The strength of any guarantee depends upon the degree to which the United States and the Latin American nations, through constant consultation, are willing to maintain an atmosphere of mutual confidence and respect.
The Inter-American Bank, as proposed at the Seventh International Conference of American States at Montevideo, would be an autonomous institution, performing the functions of a continental bank. Its principal objectives would be to establish and promote inter-American credit, help stabilize currency, control foreign exchange, and stimulate trade. It would be chartered by the United States Government. Latin American states would commit themselves to subscribe to an important block of shares, in proportion to the foreign trade of each. Shares would be subscribed to only by participating governments.
The World Bank, the Export-Import Bank and the Mutual Security Agency have comparable objectives, but an investment and credit institution created exclusively for American countries would undoubtedly be much more effective than these institutions can be and would have a decisive psychological influence. None of the American nations holding shares and having responsibility for the management of the bank would resent its intervention in loans and investments and vigilant supervision.
The Inter-American Bank, with the national banks, could also exert a most useful effect on inter-American relations by opening a source of credit to the younger generation of Latin America. Everyone dislikes the humiliation of receiving charity. Genuine coöperation should awaken the creative powers in men and help them develop initiative. Nothing could so benefit Latin American youths as to make available to them reasonable amounts of credit --protected by every kind of guarantee--at moderate interest. United States capital could thus find a secure and humanitarian outlet, and its employment would help solve the struggle for funds which, in its present form, frustrates the best and most legitimate aspirations of Latin Americans. The American peoples ask to be allowed to share equitably in the benefits of a hemispheric economy. They know that investments, and the achievements of technology, go hand in hand with legitimate profits for investors, high wages, fair prices and an enlightened, reciprocal trade policy that promotes industrialization.
The people of the United States share these ideals. The exploitation of the weak is no longer permitted in the United States. Its abolition correspondingly marks the end of colonial exploitation. The ninth Resolution of the Inter-American Conference for the Maintenance of Continental Peace and Security, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, proposed a basic agreement for economic collaboration. The purpose of this agreement was to promote technical and financial coöperation, guarantees for investments, a higher standard of living, and industrialization. It was approved by the Bogotá Conference of 1948. But in the tragic atmosphere of violence and revolution at Bogotá, efforts to take further action met the fate of all similar efforts for more than a century: the question was passed on to another conference, to convene in Buenos Aires. This was not held. Preparations are now being made for a conference at Caracas, and the American states have been asked by the Inter-American Economic and Social Council of Washington to supply information regarding resources, raw materials, transport, and needs for capital and technical assistance.
Together with the question of common defense, the Caracas Conference will undoubtedly address itself to finding a practical solution of the problem of hemispheric economic coöperation. It will do so because Latin America is faced with the urgent obligation of defending its resources. The inheritance of future generations is gravely threatened. The sense of peril is sharp in Latin America and the outlook is dark. The population is increasing at an accelerated pace, on land rapidly being worn out by erosion. Products are meeting increasingly powerful competition from Africa. Many of the countries with one-crop economies are mortally threatened. Just as quinine and rubber were transplanted to the jungles of Malaya, Burma and Indonesia, so hardwood fibers, copra, cocoa, sugar, peanuts, coffee, cotton and about 20 other less important agricultural products are now being intensively cultivated in Africa. European countries have used Marshall Plan aid to develop these products; their resulting production even of minerals such as tin and copper is usurping the share of similar Latin American enterprises in world markets.
Moreover, modern technology is conspiring against New World products by substituting synthetics for fibers. The whole Mexican state of Yucatan, once prosperous from cultivation of henequen, is now suffering an acute crisis because henequen is being sold at lower prices in Africa and because it can be replaced by synthetic fibers. Cotton threatens to decline if not to disappear as the raw material for textiles in a few years; the masses of the world may presently wear chemical synthetics. Copper, used especially in the electrical industry, is being successfully replaced by aluminum alloys. Even petroleum may be replaced as a fuel by atomic energy when the latter becomes used for commercial purposes--in the near or distant future. Latin America has stoically watched its wealth vanish. But Latin American statesmen will be held responsible by history if they do not seize this decisive moment to provide for the future. No charge could be so serious as that they had abandoned the land to exhaustion.
The United States is faced with a dilemma: to leave Latin America to its fate and accept the resulting triumph of extremist doctrines there, or to use all the material and moral means at its disposal to organize an economic community. The path of isolation is perilous for the United States. It opens the door for the defection of the peoples of Latin America in an hour of danger, with the consequent disruption of the supply of raw materials, and sabotage, treason and espionage. The cost of forces to guard the security of a hostile hemisphere would be greater than the cost of cordial participation in a fair partnership. It should not be forgotten that one of the aspects of the present world contest is the opportunity sought by empires and large nations to develop the backward countries of the world. Russia, under tyranny, is focussing her efforts on the conquest of Asia. The European empires have taken over Africa under their systems of colonialism. The Pan-American system must develop America under hemispheric solidarity.
The neglect of Latin America by the United States has brought lamentable results; the confusion created by the activities of President Perón in Argentina is an eloquent example. Conflicting economic interests of the United States and Argentina have given rise to endless difficulties throughout Pan-American history. To solve them, President Perón seems to have adopted a policy designed to divide the American states into two parts: the United States and Latin America. For the latter he proposes a "third position," which means renunciation of the cause of the free world--in practice, estrangement from the United States.
Save for the strength and sacrifices of the United States in the global struggle, the whole world would now be subjected to the terror of the Soviet régime. Seen in this light, "Latin Americanism," as advocated by President Perón, may not mean the fraternity of Latin American peoples. It may mean a weak and truncated system instead of a strong inter-American system. Then its final result will not be to unite the Latin peoples, but to disrupt the Organization of American States. The so-called Latin American "unification" which a false school of thought is advocating at this moment when two ideologies are fighting a death struggle means that a political weapon forged in Moscow is being brandished, deliberately or unwittingly, by those who are trying to destroy the unity of the Americas at the expense of the free peoples of the world. It endangers the whole hemisphere--and all mankind.
All of these difficulties will disappear when Latin America and the United States treat their problems together in the true spirit of Pan-Americanism, with clarity of vision and purity of motive.
Everything I have discussed seems to bristle with difficulties; but where there's a will there's a way. The first step should be a campaign to appeal to the common sense of the Latin American people. The root of Latin America's great evils is poverty. And that does not spring from congenital incapacity or racial inferiority; it comes from lack of investments. What are investments? What is an enterprise? They represent man's ability to conquer nature. Without enterprise, without investments, without capital, nothing can be done; that is why the strength of a nation is reflected in its investments. The capital which sets up a business is not formed, as primitive minds may imagine, by money in circulation, nor even by credits and financial arrangements. Capital is the accumulation of the savings of generations. When we say we need United States investments, spiteful minds think of a caricature labelled "Wall Street." They do not realize that the "reserves" are the accumulated resources of intelligence, order and willingness to sacrifice--the savings of the multitudes of people spread throughout the great North American continent. This capital represents billions of hours of work transformed into forces which are a sacred heritage and the mainsprings of civilization. Such capital also represents struggles to realize the people's claims to a better life and the conquests of inventive genius, all implicit in the technology which has put into man's hands the power of lifting himself out of poverty and misery. All this wealth, this store of achievement, this vast power for human deliverance, is epitomized in these magic words: Enterprise, Capital, Investment. It is this accrual that the United States, motivated by idealism and by the new American spirit of helping other nations to help themselves, can use to enable the Latin American peoples to redeem themselves not only from the oppression of man but of nature--from soul-destroying poverty.
However, Latin America would not alone be the economic beneficiary of such an effort. It is the best market of the United States. As the Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, the Latin American countries purchase one-half of the automobiles exported by the United States, 40 percent of the exports of chemical products, one-half of the medical products, 40 percent of the industrial machinery and 34 percent of the agricultural machinery. And still more important (as that newspaper adds) are Latin America's exports to the United States. They are vital: 100 percent of the United States requirements of vanadium, 95 percent of the quartz crystal, 60 percent of the copper, more than half the antimony, beryllium, bismuth and lead--not counting oil from Venezuela, manganese from Brazil, sugar, coffee, cocoa, and about 20 more secondary products. And all this takes place in an America broken up into economic compartments, with wretched wages and permanent unemployment in great sections of it. To consider the possible future of a united continent stirs the imagination.
The moral problem of freedom is as important as the economic problem of prosperity. The idea of mutual assistance against aggression--the idea of collective security--follows naturally from a system of real solidarity. At present, despite the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance signed in Rio de Janeiro in 1947, the United States has encountered a marked lack of response in its efforts in this field. This resistance comes partly from the social injustice under which the masses live; it is a protest against the national tyrannies and national dictatorships that exploit and oppress them. The inability of the Pan-American system to defend the democratic rights of the peoples causes this resentment to be extended to it. The inter-American system seems indifferent to the usurpations, the flagrant violations of popular will, and the spoliation to which undefended populations are subjected. Is it, therefore, the people ask, an accomplice of these forces? The only convincing answer is the creation of a Pan-American organization which can give voice to fair protests and bring the full light of public opinion to bear upon the assaults committed on their democratic rights.
The Caracas Conference will have an opportunity to solve the two outstanding problems of the Americas: economic solidarity and democratic solidarity. They cannot be solved unilaterally. If the United States attempted to solve them alone the result would be a return to intervention. Neither Argentina nor Brazil nor the United States nor Mexico nor any other country by itself can direct the future of the continent. We must be guided by the shining words written by Bolívar in 1823: "To concentrate the power of this great political body calls for the exercise of an authority . . . whose very name alone should put an end to our quarrels. Such a respected authority can exist only in an assembly of plenipotentiaries appointed by each one of our Republics." But unanimity in such a body would unquestionably be impossible, and insistence upon it would raise insuperable obstacles. The dogma of unanimity is the misfortune of our times; it makes one recalcitrant more important than all others together. The Pan-American system is beset by reservations and dissidence; most of its resolutions have not been ratified by all the governments. But we can make a start without unanimous agreement. The progress made has not been achieved through the written word, much less by unanimous consent; what has advanced is the moral force of principles. Moreover, this is the way all great historical advances are made. Important human causes always start in the minds of prophets--of men of genius. Step by step paths are opened, but only after long struggles do the ideas of a minority win universal assent. Thus the road to a Pan-Americanism that will save the masses from age-old poverty, malnutrition and decay will open up; those who pull back will feel their isolation--and they will always find the door open to useful coöperation.
We face the formidable task of winning the war for freedom. This does not mean only a triumph of arms: victory would be something more human, more noble. To win this war is to build a world of justice--of happy homes, from which slave wages, unemployment and fear have been banished. This is the undertaking that the two united Americas must carry out.