Can Putin Survive?
The Lessons of the Soviet Collapse
The beginning of the 1980s has been difficult, and the problems will be mounting as the decade goes on. Judging from the experience of the past year, the Western democracies' firmness, their resolve to stand their ground, and their willingness to cooperate will be tested, above all, in the following areas:
(1) Confrontation and cooperation between East and West. With its arms buildup the Soviet Union has been departing from the principle of military balance. In Afghanistan it has provoked the entire community of nations. At the same time, though, it is apparent that General-Secretary Brezhnev wants to keep the door to talks and negotiations open.
(2) Independence and nonalignment of the Third World nations. Today these are decisive factors in the world's political balance. They are, however, threatened by unsettled political conflicts, the taking of East-West confrontation to the Third World, and by the disastrous consequences of the oil price explosion and unchecked population growth.
(3) The structure of a working world economy. The consequences of the oil price explosion on the world economy affect all nations: in the West, and East, and above all the developing countries. They limit almost every government's room for maneuver in the areas of economic policy and finances. In many countries they are endangering social and political stability. In the process of the necessary reconciliation of differing economic interests, the danger of conflicts and tensions is growing within nations and in international relations.
In this situation there is little on which we can depend in shaping our policy. There are no simple solutions. The search for stability, or at the least calculability or dependability, has been a continual theme in the statements of all politicians at the beginning of this year. At the same time, though, we know that, again and again, political and military balance, as well as economic stability, must be reestablished, that conflicts must be contained or settled in rapidly changing circumstances, and that all nations must soon jointly tackle the great challenges to the future of mankind in spite of all conflicts dividing them.
In the final analysis, stability will only be possible in the unsteady world situation in the 1980s to the extent that governments and politicians, but also businessmen, bankers and working people, can depend on each other's calculability. In view of the dual threat of nuclear catastrophe on the one hand, and economic and ecological catastrophe on the other, it will be of vital importance that nations and governments do not allow themselves to be swayed from a steady and moderate course by conflicts and tensions which are often of only artificial topicality.
The most important factor contributing to stability is and remains the partnership between Europeans and Americans. This historic partnership remains a constant of our policy. Our basic foreign policy orientation is not negotiable. Our American and our European friends as well as our partners the world over can depend on it. In addition, on no occasion have I left any doubt about this point in the minds of the Soviet leaders. In a ceremony at the Paulskirche on the occasion of the bicentennial celebration of the United States I said:
German-American friendship and alliance . . . have been a major and to us very tangible and lasting achievement in those thirty years. It is at the same time one of the factors that has helped maintain world stability, a factor which everyone can rely on and-with reference to third quarters-has to reckon with.
The European-American partnership, and thus the alliance founded on it, to us is not just a matter of power politics. To be sure, that is part of it. The Atlantic Alliance and partnership, however, above all reflect the fact that a community of nations shares the same fate-a fact which no politician could ignore even if he wished to do so. I should like to quote from my speech in the Paulskirche once more:
Apart from our historical and cultural ties, it is above all the human links that have engendered on both sides of the Atlantic that large measure of identity of political and social values that is today the solid foundation of our friendship.
Thus not only we Germans but all West European allies welcome the new self-confidence and determination which are becoming apparent in the United States. After the American elections, President Giscard d'Estaing and I, as well as the other heads of government in the European Council, were agreed that Europeans could not but be happy to see an America which is determined to accept its international responsibilities to the full.
We Europeans are aware that only in its alliance with Western Europe can the United States meet its responsibility as a world power. America's political and military presence in Europe is an indispensable condition not only for the security of West Europeans but also for the American role as a world power. Only in close cooperation, mobilizing each partner's potential for the common cause, will Europeans and Americans be able to make their contributions to the world's political and economic balance.
We know from our own experience that it is difficult enough to set and maintain a clear foreign policy course within a democratic system. A parliamentary consensus and acceptance by various social groups often depend on factors other than foreign policy interests. This also applies to foreign policy cooperation among democracies. Basic national trends which influence elections and government opinion are sometimes in opposition to each other. Pacifist tendencies, national protest, isolationism or neutralism can occur simultaneously in different countries. The human weakness of blaming others can easily become a national tendency and cloud one's view of others' achievements.
We can learn from experience: a successful partnership among democracies calls for a high degree of sensitivity to the requirements of the democratic opinion-forming process in partner countries. In addition to the demanding task of domestic leadership, leading politicians are faced with the difficult task of coordination and consultation outside their countries. It was therefore an encouragement to me that President Reagan, who at that time had just been elected, and I were in complete agreement on the central role of early and close consultation among allies. I was also impressed by the fairness and openness with which Secretary of State Alexander Haig and others, in Senate hearings, expounded upon the vital contribution of the allies to our common security.
I have no doubts as to the West's ability to cope with its challenges and tasks. And I see no reason to abandon the Alliance's dual strategy of defense capability and willingness to cooperate. In the 14 years since the Harmel Report the political and military integration of the Alliance has increased. We Germans have thrown our full political and military weight into the scales of the West, in three ways:
First, through our Ostpolitik we have, in constant consultation with our allies, settled difficult conflicts originating in the legacy of Hitler's war of conquest. Without our treaty policy there would have been no quadripartite treaty on Berlin. This treaty has made a substantial contribution toward reducing the danger of a clash of the nuclear powers in the heart of Europe. It was only on this foundation that it was possible to conclude the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in Helsinki, in opposition to the original Soviet aims, with the explicit confirmation of North America's responsibility for European, and thus also for Atlantic, security.
Second, we have increased the size of the federal armed forces to a total of 500,000, consistently raised our defense budget by about three percent in real terms annually, and attained the capacity to arm and have ready for combat within a few days 1.2 million trained soldiers. Today we have at our disposal more than twice as many trained soldiers, in proportion to the population, as the United States. We provide about 50 percent of NATO's land forces in central Europe. More of the Alliance's military facilities are concentrated in German territory than anywhere else. We contribute more defense aid to our partners Turkey, Greece and Portugal than any other partner in the Alliance with the exception of the United States.
Third, along with our partners in the European Community we have made progress in working out common positions on major international issues. Western Europe's weight and influence in world affairs and its contribution to political balance between East and West have grown. The decisions by Greece, Portugal and Spain to join the European Community also significantly strengthen democracy in Europe.
I might add that the Germans and the French as well as the other European partners are aware that the great political and economic achievements of the European Community are unthinkable without German-French cooperation-an "entente parfaite et sans faille" as President Giscard called it. This was, historically, the core of the new Europe, and so it remains. The statements which President Giscard and I issued in February 1980 and again in February 1981 contain the substance of a joint foreign policy, a European contribution to today's Western policy on world affairs. What Henry Kissinger said in 1976 in his Alastair Buchan Memorial Lecture is true now more than ever: "A vital and cohesive Western Europe is an irreplaceable weight on the scales of global diplomacy. American policy can only gain by having a strong partner of parallel moral purposes."
Western policy continues to center on maintaining a balance of military forces. The members of the Alliance are faced with the urgent task of reestablishing the balance which the Soviet Union upset through its advance in two spheres: in the Third World and through the rapid development of a new nuclear medium-range capability for which there is no adequate counterbalance on the Western side.
There is no doubt about this: our security depends, among other things, on a secure supply of energy and other raw materials. The Soviet advance in Afghanistan, Yemen, Ethiopia and Angola affects Western security interests for which the Atlantic Treaty does not give exhaustive geographical definition.
For us Germans, however, military contributions outside the contractually defined NATO territory are subject to limitations which will be understood by everyone who is familiar with our more recent history and our Constitution, which drew the appropriate conclusions from that history. As our allies know, we shall not, however, be inactive in the Alliance while other allies protect interests which we share outside the NATO area. Through an active policy of economic and political partnership, we shall moreover help the countries of the regions concerned to maintain their independence. I am thinking of our support for Pakistan or for Somalia and the nations of southern Africa.
A vital question in Europe is the implementation of the NATO dual decision of December 1979. We cannot do without the stationing of American medium-range weapons in Western Europe as long as the Soviet Union, with its new SS-20 missiles, poses a threat to the whole of Western Europe, the Mediterranean countries and the Middle East, as well as important parts of Asia. Owing to their limited range, the SS-20s are directed not at the United States but practically only at countries which cannot reach the Soviet Union with similar weapons. Thus the Soviet Union has upset the military balance in Europe and created for itself an instrument of political pressure on the countries within the range of the SS-20, for which the West so far has no counterbalance.
The partners in the Alliance have linked the necessary decision on modernization with an offer to negotiate with the Soviet Union at the same time on limiting land-based nuclear medium-range missiles. This was done to prevent an arms race, to prevent mutual increases to higher and higher levels, which would create new dangers, provide no additional security, and demand of both sides unjustifiable economic sacrifices. The intention is to clear the path for the Soviet Union to remedy the dangerous mistake it made by upsetting the balance.
At the same time, the members of the Alliance owe it to their own public to show that they are doing everything in their power to stop the uncontrolled growth of nuclear arsenals, the dangers of which, for geographical reasons, are particularly apparent in my country. Only a policy which aims at the necessary military balance at the lowest possible level-to be agreed upon jointly-can count on the public's full approval in the countries of Western Europe. Our people expect preparation for the stationing of American medium-range weapons to be accompanied by the active implementation of the second part of the dual decision. This is why I made the following comments before the Bundestag:
This dual decision by the Alliance is, militarily, an indispensable part of Western strategy and, politically, a test of the Alliance's solidarity. Whoever, in the current world situation, calls this dual decision or one of its two parts into question calls the Alliance into question.
Since the Federal government regards the dual decision as vitally important for the security of Europe, it has strongly supported arms-control negotiations between the superpowers. It has always supported a continuation of the SALT process. During my talks in Moscow last summer the Soviets gave first indications of a willingness to respond to the NATO offer of negotiations on medium-range weapons. The talks began last fall in Geneva, and I hope and trust that they will be taken up again this year. I can only concur with President Reagan's statement in his message to Congress on February 18:
We remain committed to the goal of arms limitation through negotiation. I hope we can persuade our adversaries to come to realistic, balanced and verifiable agreements. But, as we negotiate, our security must be fully protected by a balanced and realistic defense program.
Thinking about our security I inevitably find myself coming back to the principle of balance. An approximate balance of forces is and remains a necessary element in maintaining peace. That alone, however, is not sufficient as a condition for peace. The willingness to talk to one another and to be open to others and their interests is also necessary. That is, practically, the will to stabilize the balance politically.
In the present circumstances this approach seems to me to be promising, provided that two conditions are met: the first is basic agreement that security can only rest on the balance of forces. This precludes, as stated in the German-French statement of February 6, 1981, "the acceptance of a position of weakness as well as the quest for military superiority." Confidence-building measures in the military sphere which we are striving for with the aid of a conference on disarmament in Europe, about which negotiations are currently being held in Madrid, could politically prop such a basic agreement. The fact that General-Secretary Brezhnev has now declared his fundamental willingness to apply such measures in all the European part of the Soviet Union represents substantial progress. The second condition is that the West give convincing signals of its determination to allow no shifting of balance in favor of the Soviet Union.
In view of the difference in political systems it is inevitable that the Soviets speculate on what must appear to them to be the weakness of Western democracy: our public debate on questions of security and defense. We can demonstrate that the democratic decision-making process also means strength. The European partners in the Alliance must give the first signal by making the necessary preparations for the implementation of the dual decision. At the same time, though, the United States must vigorously work toward arms limitation talks between the superpowers.
The troubled beginning of the 1980s has made it apparent that the will for independence, self-reliance and nonalignment has become the strongest political force in the countries of the Third World-perhaps the only one uniting them. Traditional psychological strains on their relations with the West are therefore becoming less prominent. The totally inadequate development aid by the Soviet Union, its lack of cooperation in finding peaceful solutions to conflicts, and above all its invasion of Afghanistan have opened the eyes of many in the Third World. This important political and psychological turning point in the developing countries is, at the same time, a confirmation for the West that it is on the right path with a policy of equal partnership as well as with its material aid, its political support for peaceful solutions to conflicts, and its active participation in the United Nations. It is now up to us to increase and turn to best advantage this political capital, which we have accumulated at the price of great effort and material sacrifice.
The Western democracies' status and prestige in the countries of the Third World are not simply a function of East-West confrontation. We need not allow the Soviet Union and its helpers to dictate how we are to act. There is no reason at all for us to share the burden of the Soviet Union's inappropriate development policy, for example by unnecessarily putting the label of East-West confrontation on conflicts in Third World countries. We must respect the Third World countries' desire for nonalignment as well as their will to bring about genuine reforms. This is in keeping with our own conception of worldwide cooperation in partnership. It does not preclude the possibility of Western democracies helping their partners in the Third World to safeguard their state of nonalignment through their own defense capability. But the decisive contribution of the Western democracies to worldwide partnership must be made in the field of worldwide economic cooperation and by providing political assistance in the peaceful settlement of regional conflicts.
We Germans were delighted over the happy solution to the hostage affair in Tehran and appreciate the recognition which our contribution to the release of the hostages found in America. But this was a solution to only one of the many conflicts standing in the way of worldwide cooperation in partnership. I think that the Western democracies' position and influence in the world can be used even more systematically to contain conflicts and find peaceful solutions to them. We have not yet exhausted the means of cooperation-in the international organizations, in coordinated bilateral action and, particularly, by sharing the load of responsibility. Here, too, credible support for the independence and self-reliance of Third World nations will stand us in good stead.
Support in the development of regional structures for economic cooperation and security seems to me to be especially important. This offers, in the long run, the best prospects for effectively containing regional conflicts and keeping alien powers out of them. Here Western Europe can offer the benefit of its own experience. Economic cooperation between the European Economic Community and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), for example, is now being supplemented by consultation and the intensive exchange of political views. The wide network of cooperation agreements between the EEC and most Third World countries also opens up channels of political communication. In southern Africa we now have the chance, after Zimbabwe, to help Namibia also to achieve independence. With their diplomacy in the framework of the United Nations, the five Western countries have made substantial progress. They should now carry on their efforts even more vigorously.
In the Middle East, Americans and Europeans have built up close relations with all of the nations of a region whose political stability plays a central role in the supply of energy and in the world's political balance. I cannot predict if and when the rigid fronts in the Middle East conflict will become more flexible. But I think the time will soon come for Americans and Europeans to consider together how, through concerted, if not necessarily identical, diplomatic action, they can contribute to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace settlement.
In the world economy we must cope with the fact that the OPEC nations achieved a balance-of-payments surplus of more than $100 billion last year, which means that the other nations had a deficit of the same magnitude.
As a result, signs of crisis are perceptible in all industrial countries: marketing and trade difficulties, problems of financing, protectionist tendencies and, above all, unemployment. Everywhere we are faced with the need for painful structural changes, for an expensive adjustment to alternative production techniques conserving energy and raw materials and to new energy sources, as well as meeting the requirements of a worldwide division of labor. If we do not now resist the temptation to isolate ourselves with our problems and to seek refuge in protectionist formulas, we will be in danger of drifting together into a world economic crisis of unknown dimensions.
First priority should therefore be given to the task of maintaining a working world economy. The Western industrial nations will very soon have to coordinate their policy in that field. But in the long run this coordinating mechanism is not enough. The oil-exporting nations must be involved, above all Saudi Arabia, whose annual current-accounts surplus of $40 billion indicates its position as the world's largest energy supplier and creditor. The Soviet Union, too, as a large industrial nation will not be able to remain in splendid isolation but, increasingly, will have to face its responsibility for the world economy (as well as its moral and economic obligations to the developing countries). After all, Poland's economic problems are not only a result of domestic factors.
Those who are most severely affected by the structural crisis of the world economy, however, are the oil-importing developing countries. According to estimates by the International Monetary Fund, the current-accounts deficit of these countries will grow from slightly over $62 billion in 1980 to almost $70 billion in 1981. This means that the total amount of development aid (ODA) by the Western industrial nations can only play an inadequate role. In 1980 it amounted to slightly over $23.5 billion while the annual increase in the developing countries' oil bill from 1979 to 1980 amounted to almost $24 billion. Moreover, there are the catastrophic effects of too-rapid population growth in many of these countries. That which in the industrial countries leads to unemployment, painful structural change and problems in economic growth means increased hunger and starvation in the developing countries.
We regard overcoming hunger and want and promoting the economic development of disadvantaged regions of the world as both a humanitarian necessity and a necessary contribution toward securing peace on a long-term basis. There are no simple formulas for future cooperation between North and South, nor for the North-South dialogue. This dialogue must, above all, see things as they are. This leads to the following priorities:
(1) No nation in the world can refuse its share of common responsibility, neither the developing countries, nor the state trading countries of Eastern Europe, nor the oil-producing countries, nor the large Western industrial nations.
(2) A solution to energy problems is of vital importance. Here the OPEC countries are called upon not only to make direct investments, to provide grants and make contributions to the recycling process, but also to be willing to engage in a dialogue between oil producers and consumers. The industrial countries are called upon to cut down on the use of oil and develop and utilize new energy sources and technologies.
(3) Population growth control is unavoidable. We cannot hope to ensure a life in dignity for six billion people in 20 years or for ten billion people 30 years later.
(4) Official aid by the industrial nations continues to be necessary. Equally important, however, is private investment, at the same time the most effective instrument for the transfer of technology. And still far more important is the progressive integration of the developing countries in international trade relations which, in turn, requires the willingness of the industrial nations for structural change in their own countries.
(5) Equally important is the willingness of the developing regions for multilateral cooperation.
These questions are to be discussed at the proposed North-South summit meeting in Mexico. That summit should not negotiate, nor should it be considered a matter of political prestige. What it should do is clarify political priorities among heads of government and provide political impulses for a realistic North-South dialogue.
Ten years ago, in this periodical, I wrote the following on East-West relations: "Not unlike President Nixon, the Bonn government is also trying to 'build agreement upon agreement' without in any way deluding itself that this could be a process easily or speedily accomplished."1 In February of 1980-after Afghanistan-President Giscard and I had to conclude that "détente would not survive another blow of this kind." A year later we repeated this in view of the situation in and around Poland. This time, unlike 1970, we were able to invoke the duty of political moderation which the Final Act of Helsinki imposes on all signatory nations. It has now become a recourse for all Europeans in East and West.
After the experiences of the last ten years we must conclude that West-East policy still contains elements of confrontation which require great vigilance. However, it also contains essential elements of cooperation which make the dialogue seem promising. In practical terms this means cooperation on the foundation of a balance of military forces. I should like to expound on this in the light of the experiences of the difficult past year:
Last summer I went to Moscow because I was convinced that, particularly in times of crisis, contact must not be lost. I made it very clear to the political leaders in the Kremlin where we Germans stand and what our views are. I was able to do this because our positions had been previously coordinated with our partners in the Alliance. I listened and tried to gain an impression of the persons involved and of political opinion-making in the Kremlin. It was my impression that the understanding of the leaders in the Kremlin for the long-term tasks of world economic and political cooperation is growing. The present generation of leaders in the Kremlin is still aware, from its own experience, of what war means. My conclusion is that, precisely because relations are difficult and extremely complex, we need not less communication but more. A meeting between President Reagan and General-Secretary Brezhnev at the appropriate time would thus be a logical step in current East-West relations.
The German treaties of the past ten years with Moscow, Warsaw and Prague, the basic treaty with the German Democratic Republic, and the Quadripartite Treaty on Berlin are, along with the Final Act of Helsinki, a strong foundation for admittedly limited yet dependable cooperation. I know from a great number of talks what this means for the citizens of the countries of Eastern Europe. It also means a great deal for a nation and a divided people in Germany's geographical and political situation. A leading statesman from the Third World wrote the following to me after a visit to the Federal Republic of Germany last year:
Soviet armed forces on the FRG's borders for the last 35 years have taught the Germans to adopt a foreign policy that does not oscillate between arrogant assertiveness and humiliating acquiescence. As a result many people have come to recognize that the FRG can be depended on to chart a firm middle course, one that eases East-West person-person and state-state relations, without tilting the balance in favor of the Soviets in the longer run.
My conclusion is that treaties and agreements between East and West can lead to admittedly limited, but, as a whole, dependable cooperation between treaty partners.
Economic exchange with the East is in the interest of both sides. There is truly little danger of one-sided dependence: only some two percent of our exports go to the Soviet Union. Our volume of trade with Switzerland, for example, is twice as great as that with the Soviet Union.
In the longer term, I regard two considerations as important: First, cooperation in energy policy which can reduce Western Europe's heavy dependence on the Middle East and concentrate the interest of the Soviet Union on Siberia's sizable gas and oil reserves. In this connection it goes without saying that we do not want to exchange one kind of dependence for another. Second, gradually bringing the Soviet Union to accept its share of responsibility for a working world economy and a reconciliation of interests between industrial and developing countries.
My conclusion is that carefully balanced economic partnership is in the interest of both sides.
We will only be able to meet the challenges of the 1980s effectively if we orient our policy, beyond the necessities of day-to-day politics, on the longer term standard of reliable partnership.
This policy of reliable partnership begins with and is based on cooperation among democracies. It should help us to translate the internal strength of democracy into effective foreign policy. I, for my part, have never shared the fainthearted belief that democracies, in their foreign policy, must always vacillate between unpolitical credulity and the equally unpolitical demand for punishment of the other side. In a democracy, too, one can understand that world politics is always power politics, especially between nations which are rivals in their political convictions, social structure and size.
I appreciate the fact that President Reagan has repeatedly promised frequent and close consultations with the allies. It would also be desirable to agree on a global concept for Western policy, with shared responsibilities, to face the challenges of the 1980s.
Finally, reaching beyond the necessary confrontation, I think the elements of cooperation which have been built up in the last ten years with the Soviet Union and its allies must be developed further. Thus we must carefully see to it that longer term chances for cooperation are not spoiled by the necessary short-term confrontation or even tests of strength. This is why I believe that, in addition to the further development of contractual and economic cooperation-on the basis of balance-we should also take to heart the elements of international crisis management which I named in May 1978 before the United Nations:
-clearly explaining to the other side the choices and options open to us;
-defusing dangerous situations through willingness to compromise;
-enabling those involved to save face.
1 Helmut Schmidt, "Germany in the Era of Negotiations," Foreign Affairs, October 1970.