The Sources of Soviet Conduct
Political Ideas in the Twentieth Century
Atomic Weapons and American Policy
The Illusion of Disengagement
On Peaceful Coexistence
The Search for Stability
The Challenge of Change in the Soviet Bloc
The Practice of Partnership
The Framework of East-West Reconciliation
The Limits of Détente
After the Cold War
On Power: The Nature of Soviet Power
The Rise, Fall and Future of Détente
What Went Wrong With Arms Control?
Containment: 40 Years Later
Containment Then and Now
Beyond the Cold War
From Cold War Toward Trusting Peace
Toward the Post-Cold War World
America's Stake in the Soviet Future
Beyond Boris Yeltsin
Can Russia Change?
Russia Leaves the West
The Costs of Renewed Confrontation
Mission to Moscow
Why Authoritarian Stability Is a Myth
What Has Moscow Done?
Rebuilding U.S.-Russian Relations
Moscow's Modernization Dilemma
Is Russia Charting a New Foreign Policy?
The Dying Bear
Russia's Demographic Disaster
Managing the New Cold War
What Moscow and Washington Can Learn From the Last One
Russia's Perpetual Geopolitics
Putin Returns to the Historical Pattern
Putin's Foreign Policy
The Quest to Restore Russia’s Rightful Place
The Revival of the Russian Military
How Moscow Reloaded
Why Putin Took Crimea
The Gambler in the Kremlin
Trump and Russia
The Right Way to Manage Relations
Why New Russia Sanctions Won't Change Moscow's Behavior
Washington's Approach Lacks Clear Goals
The Kremlin's Latest Crackdown on Independent Media
Russia's New Foreign Agent Law in Context
Containing Russia, Again
An Adversary Attacked the United States—It’s Time to Respond
Putin's Past Explains Russia's Future
What to Expect After the Election
Has a New Cold War Really Begun?
Why the Term Shouldn't Apply to Today's Great-Power Tensions
The postwar era collapsed in 1989. When the year began, relations among countries were essentially what they had been for forty years: a divided Europe, a Soviet Union that maintained an East European empire by force, and an America that assumed "superpower" responsibilities vis-à-vis its allies in NATO and in Asia. By the year's end the countries of Eastern Europe seem to have been liberated from the pressures of the Brezhnev Doctrine (though Soviet troops remained). Communist governments put in place and held there by force had collapsed. The division of Europe had been overcome symbolically with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and literally with the progressive opening of borders between Hungary and Austria, Czechoslovakia and Austria, East Germany and West Germany. More than 700,000 Soviet troops were still stationed throughout Eastern Europe, but the will to empire had apparently been replaced by a will to modernization.
Meanwhile the relative decline in U.S. economic power, the rising pressure of budget and trade deficits and the apparently declining Soviet military threat made defense costs and the "superpower" responsibilities of the United States seem less necessary to the defense of Europe and more difficult to justify or to finance. The cold war is over-nearly. The postwar era is finished-absolutely.
The structures through which international affairs have been conducted for the past forty years have been shaken to their foundations. Now comes the time of rebuilding. An American administration with an avowed aversion to "big think" (as one administration official called it) will likely be confronted with the most sweeping reorientation of U.S. foreign policy since 1947.
By 1989 four major processes of change were at work reshaping what had come to be called East-West relations: liberalization and reform inside the Soviet Union; the democratization of Eastern Europe; the determined move toward economic integration in Western Europe; and a new, apparently irresistible drive toward unification of East and West Germany. The conjunction and the cumulative impact of these ongoing changes promised to transform Europe-and the U.S. role in Europe.
All these changes were important, but the most important was change within the Soviet Union. It is, above all, Mikhail Gorbachev who is changing the world.
Mikhail Gorbachev is what Sidney Hook called an "event-making man": a man whose actions transform the historical context in which he acts. He has already loosened the reins that have tightly controlled Soviet society since the Bolshevik Revolution-largely eliminating censorship, largely freeing emigration, permitting religious freedom not enjoyed in the Soviet Union since 1917, overhauling the structures of government, and providing elections with competition, discussion of public issues and a degree of choice. Gorbachev has not brought democracy to the Soviet Union-yet-but he has sponsored a new tolerance of diversity and restraint in the use of force that have had a profoundly liberating effect. Civil society is being liberated from the suffocating embrace of the state. The consequence is an outpouring of ethnic, religious, political and economic demands and analyses, a mushrooming of political groups formed around new causes. So far economic reforms have disrupted the Soviet economy without increasing production. But all this activity and diversity, all this openness and restructuring, are transforming the Soviet Union, Europe and East-West relations.
Obviously Gorbachev is not the only source of change in the world, in the West or in the Soviet Union. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the late Andrei Sakharov, Anatoly Sharansky, the refuseniks and generations of dissidents have articulated alternatives to the stifling official Soviet prescription and have provided models of courage and honesty. Ronald Reagan and the Reagan Administration dramatized the need for change and made the case for freedom. The democracies of Western Europe provided nearby examples of the benefits of freedom.
The Information Age, the Strategic Defense Initiative, COCOM, the decision to deploy Pershing missiles in Europe and the promise of the European Community (EC) doubtless also contributed to the Soviet motivation to change. Stagnation and the worsening economic situation were an important spur to change. The fact that the Soviet Union is the only industrial nation in the world with rising infant mortality rates and declining life expectancy statistics as well as worsening living standards contributed to the felt need for change.
But it was Gorbachev who, from the apex of the Soviet system, acted. The laws of history to the contrary, the Soviet Union was founded on the decisions of a single man and is being reshaped by the decisions of another. As Lenin thought he could jump over stages of history, Gorbachev apparently believes he can move the Soviet polity "backward" in Marx's historical trajectory from "socialism" to a stage of "pluralism" that the Bolshevik Revolution "skipped" on its way to the end of history.
Gorbachev's sweeping program of political, cultural and economic reform marks the end of totalitarianism in the Soviet Union. And with the dream of total power inside the country has apparently gone the dream of total power in the world.
Political reforms have already substantially altered the framework within which decisions are made on economic, military and foreign policy. Gorbachev seems to have understood the importance of changing the political method. The new Soviet method is a kind of imperfect parliamentarianism-which moves a giant step from government by force to government at least partly representative and responsible.
The method involves significant restraint in the use of force, internally and externally-whether toward striking Soviet miners, the Baltic republics' demands for autonomy or East European protest demonstrations. Gorbachev's restraint in the use of force has transformed the situation in Eastern Europe, opened the way for a democratic revolution and altered relations with the United States and Western Europe.
The importance of these events for the world can be understood only when it is also understood that ever since World War II the Soviet Union has shaped relations among major powers in the West-absorbing some countries, provoking others to defend themselves. The opinions of revisionists to the contrary notwithstanding, the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, NATO, containment policy, the Reagan Doctrine and large American defense budgets were elements of the American and West European response to the stimulus of Soviet expansion and force.
The East European empire and the Brezhnev Doctrine symbolized the Soviet Union's will to conquest, its contempt for democratic self-determination and self-government, and its reliance on force as an ordinary instrument of foreign policy. The Soviet threat mobilized the West.
But shortly after becoming general secretary, Gorbachev said that each Warsaw Pact member could choose its own way. He said the Soviet use of force against fellow socialists or fellow Europeans was "unthinkable." Nikita Khrushchev, Leonid Brezhnev and even Joseph Stalin had made such declarations; the difference lay in what they did, not in what they said. Gorbachev accepted and even encouraged dramatic moves toward self-government by Hungary, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania. 1989 was the year during which Gorbachev demonstrated that-at the very least-there were new, much broader parameters around which the people of Eastern Europe were free to act.
The cold war was grounded in the Soviet Union's will to empire and its use of force-symbolized by the tanks that subjugated Budapest in 1956 and Prague in 1968. The abandonment of the Brezhnev Doctrine and of the effort to control Eastern Europe by force marks the end of the cold war.
We are nearly there, despite the Soviet troops in Eastern Europe, for there is powerful evidence that the will to conquest is gone, at least under this Soviet government.
These momentous, unanticipated changes will not only liberate Eastern Europe. If completed, they will liberate the United States and Western Europe from the constraints of the sustained global military preparedness imposed by the cold war.
The United States confronts these dramatic events with a new president and new administration that are cautious by instinct. The Bush Administration took longer than many wished in "reviewing" East-West relations, leading some observers to worry aloud that the United States by its slowness would "discourage" change in the East bloc. Obviously this was an unnecessary concern.
The most pressing issue confronting the Bush Administration was not how to encourage change but how to react to the changes that developed. The administration reacted carefully; the president not only declined to "dance on the Berlin Wall," as one congressional leader suggested he do, he has deliberately refrained from "gloating" about the manifest failure of communism and has offered repeated assurances that he will not seek to "exploit" the upheavals in the East. President Bush was carefully nonprovocative during his trip to Poland and Hungary in July. He indicated a desire to be helpful in the process of reform and made clear his own strong feelings about the importance of liberalization or democratization of East European dictatorships. But he has not sought to become a principal actor. He stands ready to help.
The question "Should we help Gorbachev?" should be rephrased as "What can we do to help Gorbachev?" and "What should we help Gorbachev do?":
-Gorbachev has pursued a rather large number of conflicting policies in the years that he has governed the Soviet Union. He is still engaged in a concerted effort to develop some very high-tech weapons. We do not want to help this Soviet effort.
-He is still spending billions supplying governments that deprive their citizens of self-determination and self-government and their societies of pluralism, for example Cuba and Afghanistan. We do not want to help him do this either.
-He is still resisting the introduction into the Soviet economy of private property and profit-making. We do not want to reinforce such reticence, if for no other reason than that it will cripple reform.
We want to help the Soviet people and Gorbachev as he moves his society toward pluralism, democracy and economic progress as we once helped countries of Western Europe.
The idea of a "Marshall Plan" for the Soviet Union, however, is particularly ill-conceived. It overlooks the fact that France, Britain, the Benelux countries and the other West European Marshall Plan recipients were modern industrial societies before they were devastated by war. Their people had the beliefs and habits of modern men and women. The Soviet Union is not a modern industrial society. It is rather, as The Times of London has noted, a Third World country with First World weapons. Its structures and traditions do not encourage development.
In the years since President Truman offered technical assistance to less-developed countries, aid programs aimed at economic development have been undertaken by most countries in Western Europe and North America. The world has learned a good deal about how one country can and cannot help another to economic modernization.
Whatever one may think of alternative ways of organizing society and economies, it remains a fact that command economies, in which centralized bureaucracies direct things, do not produce economic growth. This strategy of development leads to stagnation. Moreover, the ill effects of this mode of economic organization cannot be overcome by resource transfers. It is like pouring water into the Sahara.
The development of Korea, Taiwan, Chile and a dozen other successes was based on respect for market forces and on individual initiative. Their experience shows that full democratic freedoms are not necessary to make market economies work, but some profit incentives and free movement of labor are. The Soviet system still features public ownership of almost everything, little freedom of movement for workers and few opportunities to profit.
Almost everything in Soviet society discourages and inhibits movement toward a more dynamic, market-oriented economy. To increase production, efficiency and growth, material incentives are needed but still lacking. To produce the goods that will serve as incentives to produce more, enterprise, flexibility and decentralization are needed-yet centralization, rigidity and uncertainty prevail. As economist Padma Desai has emphasized, the Soviets began reform with an inadequate understanding of how a market system works, and with "overwhelming state ownership of the means of production and a one-party state." Both are extremely unhelpful.
Not only that, but as societies develop, it is not just modes of production that change. People must change. Attitudes toward time, toward achievement, toward authority, toward one's self and one's future are all associated with modernization. People must believe that their situation can get better before they will work to make it better. These human correlates of modernization drive economic development.
It is not clear that modernization can be achieved under conditions of socialism. The economic actor who drives the market system is an individual who makes decisions for himself about what is best for him to do-where to work, what to work at. The explosion of the individual into history created the energy that powered the modernization process. But socialism is proudly, confidently based on opposite conceptions. It focuses on collectives-on classes above all-and subordinates the individual to collectivity. It makes calculations in terms of the impact of policy on a collectivity. The collective rewards it offers are probably less than effective in stimulating individual effort, as intangible rewards are usually less effective than tangible incentives. A society in which rewards are collective but discipline is individual can probably neither achieve nor establish and sustain genuine growth. No socialist system has.
There is another very basic obstacle to Soviet economic growth. Socialism of any kind requires decision-makers who-at least in principle-make decisions that will be good for the whole, not "merely" for the decision-maker himself. More important, the decision-maker does not feel any direct economic consequences of his decision. He does not grow rich if he makes a good decision nor go without if he makes a bad decision. In a socialist system the one responsible for economic decisions does not enjoy economic benefits nor suffer the economic consequences.
In a system of centralized socialist planning, the decision-maker is more remote from his decision, is likely to be less informed about it and less directly affected by its consequences. A socialist system does not eliminate the self-interest of the decision-maker, but it changes the nature of his interest. The socialist planner's success depends on good interpersonal bureaucratic relations. In a market system success depends on the goods produced and the profit achieved. The socialist system tends, by its very nature, to transform economic decisions into political decisions.
How then is it possible to stimulate production? How can the hierarchical, centralized, one-party state be persuaded to forgo comprehensive control over the economy-especially if those in power do not really want to do so? How can market incentives become an effective stimulus when the centralized planners tax away the lion's share of the resulting profits? How can supply respond to demand in the context of centralized bureaucratic planning? How can workers be expected to work harder if there are no rewards for enterprise? What does it matter if, in any case, there is nothing to buy with money earned?
In this situation it seems clear that resource transfers to the Soviet Union should be avoided. Economic assistance should be tied fairly directly to programs that encourage and reinforce the development of new incentives and new modes of production-not because we want to control Soviet affairs or exploit Soviet difficulties but because we want the economy to succeed.
Moreover, it is essential that in trying to help Gorbachev the United States and other Western governments seek forms of aid that will help create and strengthen structures of freedom and promote trade that ties the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe into the business activities (not the bureaucracies) of the world, through which they can make money and, as Lenin admonished, learn to trade. What is true in the Soviet Union is also true in Eastern Europe-in both places state monopolies and entrenched bureaucracies work quietly against reform.
Mikhail Gorbachev came to the general secretary's office in 1985 with a complex global agenda on which he had already begun to act. Repair of the Soviet relationship with China was a high priority. Overcoming the division of Europe to create a "Common European House" was another. Diminishing Soviet vulnerability to U.S. missiles drove an arms control agenda that also emphasized denuclearization of Europe.
He has made great progress toward all these foreign policy goals. He visited China, charmed Europe and weakened NATO. He secured withdrawal of U.S. intermediate-range missiles from Europe. But his greatest concern has been to construct a new European order from the Atlantic to the Urals.
Gorbachev has written and spoken frankly about his conception of Europe, in which the Soviet Union is to be an integral factor. He has visited Europe's capitals and courted its leaders. What does Gorbachev want for the Soviet Union in Europe? Respect, influence, perhaps hegemony in the "great European family." He has said repeatedly that he wants to put an end to the view that his country is aggressive and threatening. There is no Soviet threat, he has insisted. But what is the Soviet Union if it is not a threat?
Here we come to the Soviet problem. The Soviet Union is a military, not an economic, power. Gorbachev would like to maintain the Soviet status as a great power, as a country whose views are taken into account.
He does not want the Soviet Union to be odd man out in a united Europe. He does not want the Soviet Union to be isolated. If the Warsaw Pact countries lunge Westward-joining the EC or the European Free Trade Association, withdrawing from the Warsaw Pact, as several clearly long to do, orienting their policies to the West-the Soviet Union stands to lose its status as a major power.
The best way for the Soviet Union to remain a great power is to be the leader of a bloc. But the Soviets can only be the head of the Eastern bloc if the Eastern bloc survives. Its viability is not certain, but one other thing is: Communist governments can only survive if they are protected by Soviet troops. Preserving the bloc requires preserving East Germany, which is the Western bulwark of the Warsaw Pact. Preserving Soviet influence requires preserving the Warsaw Pact itself, because it is the foundation of a Soviet position in Europe.
From the Soviet point of view, the disposition of Germany thus becomes part of the larger question: How can the Soviet Union prevent itself from being isolated in the new Europe? If all or most of the countries of the East opt for a multiparty system, free elections and free market policies, they will orient themselves toward the West. They will depart the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance and the Warsaw Pact.
Germany is a special problem that cannot be deferred. The disposition of "the German question" has enormous importance for the future of NATO and the EC, and for the balance of forces in Europe.
The question of German unification burst onto the European agenda last fall after the dramatic, unanticipated push of Germans west through the hole in the Hungarian border and then through West German embassies in Warsaw and Prague. Protest rallies against the government rapidly turned into demonstrations in favor of unification. "We are one people!" they shouted. West German generosity and hospitality seemed to say the same. The world was suddenly reminded that the existence of East Germany depended on the division of Europe into communist and democratic blocs, and vice versa. A separate democratic East German state makes no sense. One of the first acts of a Germany that enjoyed self-government and self-determination would be to vote for national unification.
Suddenly other countries remembered that there were two divisions of Germany undertaken for two quite different reasons: the first division, carved out by the Allies, was designed to render Germany less dangerous; the second, carved out by Stalin, was designed to consolidate forever Soviet power in one part of Germany. Now the fear of a powerful, reunited Germany remains-even when the Soviet appetite lessens.
The very question of unification creates problems: To oppose it risks alienating the Germans forever; to support it means opposing Gorbachev and helping make Germany the most powerful state in the EC.
Gorbachev has made no proposal for the elimination of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, or for a unified, neutral Germany, or a unified Germany of any kind-doubtless because East Germany is an important chip in the high-stakes poker game Gorbachev is still playing.
If East Germany joins West Germany in the EC it would enhance the power of the West and contribute to the isolation of the Soviet Union. As long as the East German state exists, it serves as a bridge between East and West over which Gorbachev can walk on his way to play an important role in the "great European family." Both Germanys still remain dependent on the Soviet Union for progress toward the dream of a single Germany. And as long as Germany is divided the Soviets need not worry about re-creation of a major central European power.
The Soviet government faces two alternatives in Europe. It can try to maintain the status quo, preserve Communist parties and governments (under some guise) and keep Soviet troops and the Warsaw Pact in place. This option requires preserving an East German state and accepting the continued presence of American troops and NATO to protect the continent from Soviet hegemony.
Or the U.S.S.R. could sacrifice the East German state for a unified but neutral Germany, with the expectation that a neutral Germany would mean the end of NATO and of the U.S. military presence in Europe. This option would also re-create a major power-Germany-in the center of Europe.
After the Malta summit in December, the Soviets and the East German government (which is still wholly responsive to Soviet policy) came out squarely against unification. "We say no to reunification," read banners at one demonstration attended by the new East German Communist Party chief Gregor Gysi, the new president, Manfred Gerlach, and the Soviet ambassador to East Germany. But, as I write, word has arrived that Gysi has proposed the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Germany, and the reduction of German forces-tantamount to a neutral Germany. Bonn has indicated some interest.
Obviously the United States has a major stake in this. NATO without Germany is not viable, especially since France is not a fully integrated member. An American military presence in Europe outside the NATO framework is not likely to be acceptable either in Europe or the United States. A good many Americans-especially American officials-are as keen to remain in Europe as they are to "help" Gorbachev.
Several moves by U.S. officials have indicated that the Bush Administration has decided to support the Soviet position on reunification, as against the position of West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Indicating this tilt, the United States has:
-undertaken a nearly public rebuke to U.S. Ambassador Vernon Walters for commenting that he expected Germany would be unified within five years.
-attended a four-power meeting on Berlin called by the Soviets, thus taking the position that German reunification requires the consent of the World War II Allies. Bush later made this explicit: "Our policy position is that there are certain responsibilities reserved under the Allied powers that have to be considered when you deal with German reunification." (The French have also described this position as "nearly identical" to their own.)
-given East German Prime Minister Hans Modrow and the state he leads a certain credibility and legitimacy-at a moment when mass emigration and political upheaval had put both in doubt-with Secretary of State James Baker's sudden, unexpected trip to Berlin. "I felt it was important that we have an opportunity to let the premier and the people of East Germany know of our support for the reforms that are taking place in this country," Baker told reporters in Potsdam.
-embraced, through the president's statement at the December NATO summit in Brussels, two conditions for reunification, one difficult, one nearly impossible: that unification come about gradually and that a unified Germany retain ties to the EC and NATO.
Both the United States and the Soviet Union may be said to have a kind of objective vested interest in the continued division of Europe. The United States has in common with the Soviet Union the prospect of a significantly reduced future role in Europe. For four decades, in a divided Europe in which the Soviet Union maintained control of Eastern Europe, Western Europe needed U.S. help to defend against Soviet forces in a forward position. American military power was viewed as essential to the security of Western Europe, either because West European states were unable to defend themselves or because they (and we) had grown accustomed to the United States shouldering the burden.
If the cold war is over, the United States loses the related economic burdens and also its "superpower" status. It loses a good deal of the influence in Europe and Asia to which many Americans have become attached and accustomed.
NATO is not the only institution that is crucially affected by the question of German unification; so is the EC. Germany outside the Community is unthinkable. But a unified Germany inside the EC would alter the balance of power among the 12, and quite possibly leave Britain and even France more open to adding new members from the East-despite what European Commission President Jacques Delors had said about not admitting new members before 1992. Hungary has already applied for and been granted observer status in the European Parliament. Poland has manifested interest in a close relationship with the EC, and it seems very likely that one or more of the East European countries will apply for formal membership. How that application looks to the 12-when and if it comes-will be influenced by what happens on German unification.
The cold war was a direct result of successive Soviet governments' policy of using force to extend and preserve power in Eastern Europe. It will be over when the Soviet Union removes its troops from all East European countries that request it to do so (as the United States once removed forces and abandoned bases in France).
A withdrawal of Soviet forces is prerequisite to the full self-determination and self-government of Eastern Europe. Even though Soviet forces in the region have not been used to preserve entrenched governments, they could be; and there is no guarantee of the policy of Gorbachev's successor. No one can be certain of the Soviet Union's future, and therefore the maximum efforts should be made to make the world safer during the period that the Soviet Union is governed by men ready to reduce force and forces.
Obviously the United States should not agree to treating NATO and Warsaw Pact forces equally. NATO forces are present with the full consent of the host countries. Those countries participate in NATO voluntarily. When the countries of Eastern Europe have chosen their new governments, their decisions about membership in the Warsaw Pact will have a validity comparable to those of NATO members. The withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Europe should be-in the first instance-a matter between East European governments and the Soviet Union, when the East European peoples have elected governments that can make legitimate decisions in their behalf.
Meanwhile, just as the principal goal in Conventional Forces in Europe talks should be deep reductions, the primary goal of arms talks should be arms reductions and destruction, not arms limitations: START, not SALT. The Bush Administration should seek the greatest mutual verifiable reductions compatible with protecting the United States against attack from the missiles of the dozen other countries with the capacity to produce and deliver nuclear and other unconventional weapons of mass destruction.
If troop withdrawal and the destruction of weapons are to come, it will be because the Soviet Union has lost its will to empire and is focused on international development. It will not be because we have devised a perfect agreement.
Americans have a well-known tendency to attempt to settle international disputes by contract. Hans Morgenthau, George Kennan, Henry Kissinger and others have noted an American tendency to legalism in the conduct of foreign affairs. We have attempted to outlaw war by contract, to guarantee human rights by contract, to eliminate categories of weapons by contract. The Covenant of the League of Nations was one elaborate contract authored by Americans. The Charter of the United Nations is another, of which Americans were the principal architects. Arms control agreements are the most common contemporary example of a contractual approach to international affairs.
But such contracts achieve their goals only when they serve the interests and reflect the power relations of the signatories. There is no supranational referee to enforce international contracts, no supranational police to ensure compliance; if there were one, it would be as politicized by interested parties as the United Nations has become.
Contracts are not needed to prevent nonaggressive nations from engaging in aggression, and they do not bind aggressors. No arms agreement is needed to protect us from the nuclear missiles of France and Britain and no arms agreement alone can be relied upon to protect us from potential adversaries. Arms agreements have never succeeded in containing, or even slowing, an arms race-though they have occasionally diverted weapons development onto another track.
However, the destruction of weapons is helpful, especially when it occurs in conjunction with a refocusing of national attention and resources. It is reasonable to hope that sweeping internal reform will bring such refocusing.
The basic problem between the U.S.S.R. and the United States is Soviet expansion and empire. That is the problem in Europe and in so-called regional conflicts. The difficulties will only be resolved as the Soviet appetite for expansion ends, as it seems to be doing. When it does end, the Soviet Union will be willing to halt its heavy flow of arms to Afghanistan and permit the Afghan people self-determination. When it ends the Soviet government will stop organizing and channeling huge arms shipments to Cuba, Nicaragua and Syria. It will cease equipping terrorist groups. It will become part of the solution to these problems.
Until then the United States can attempt to negotiate an agreement that may-or may not-expand areas of peace. But like arms agreements, these will prove unreliable and only marginally helpful. (For example, the United States did not negotiate Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. They decided to withdraw and we negotiated an agreement about what would follow-an agreement that did not work well.)
The end of the cold war-when it comes-will inevitably reduce the importance of the U.S. role in Europe. The Soviet threat made NATO and U.S. military power vitally important to Western Europe. NATO is, and from the viewpoint of Europeans always has been, about the defense of Europe. This is its raison d'etre. NATO is the framework through which Americans were integrated into the task of deterring and, if necessary, defending Western Europe against attack. Regular communication and cooperation in this common task strengthened the bonds between the United States and other NATO members. Gorbachev and his colleagues are quite right in believing that removing the Soviet threat removes the reason for large numbers of U.S. forces in Europe.
Is it time to dismantle NATO? The Bush Administration has already begun to scramble to find other functions for the alliance. The central theme-and title-of Secretary Baker's speech at the Berlin Press Club in December was "America in Europe After the Cold War." At about the same time that President Bush, seeking to reinforce NATO, declared that "the United States is and will remain a European power," Baker in Berlin asserted, "NATO will remain North America's primary link with Europe," and proposed new functions for the organization.
Baker's vision of a "New Europe on the basis of a New Atlanticism," with NATO as its central institution, reflects the familiar American view of NATO as a multipurpose alliance of democracies, a view Europeans have always resisted and are likely to continue to resist.
Baker proposed four new functions for NATO in the "new security structure for Europe." France objected to the first-a NATO arms control verification staff-even before Baker articulated it in Berlin. The second-a larger NATO role in dealing with regional conflicts and unconventional weapons-has been successfully resisted by Europe throughout the cold war because almost all NATO countries pursue their own national interests in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. This is why it proved impossible to get an effective anti-terrorist policy among NATO countries, why France did not permit overflight of U.S. planes en route to a bombing mission in Libya, why Italy has sometimes limited the right of U.S. planes to land at NATO airbases, and why Germany's foreign office resisted cooperation on sales to the Middle East of the essential elements of a chemical weapon plant. It is why this or that European state has declined to help "resistance movements" in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia and Nicaragua. It is extremely unlikely that significant joint planning to deal with these matters can be developed, regardless of what happens in Eastern Europe.
The United States' NATO partners are also not likely to be enthusiastic about Baker's third suggestion: that the West work through the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe to develop measures to promote human rights and democratic institution-building in the East. West European governments have endorsed Gorbachev's proposal for reconvening the 35 members of the CSCE. They see the CSCE as a place for cooperation and bridge-building to the East and will resist East-West polarization-which in any case will not develop if Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and East Germany complete the transition to democracy.
Finally, American leaders need to face the fact that while most NATO members feel friendly and even grateful to the United States for its help through the long period of Europe's vulnerability, they do not regard the United States as a European power. They have not invited the United States to join the EC and are not about to do so. They are not enthusiastic about declarations like Baker's that we will create a new Europe on the basis of a new Atlanticism. Europeans are already engaged in creating a new Europe on the basis of the EC. They do not see the United States as a "partner" in this process. Americans need to understand this.
Willingness to withdraw U.S. troops also entails risks for Europe. It will leave the Soviet Union the strongest power on the continent. In a relationship between neighbors, one of whom is very strong and one much weaker, the independence and security of the weaker depends simply on the restraint of the stronger. Western Europeans know this. It is not likely that they will seek mutual withdrawal of U.S. and Soviet troops as an acceptable security arrangement. It is also not likely that American taxpayers will accept a prolonged U.S. presence in Europe in the absence of a persuasive Soviet threat.
If things develop in Eastern Europe as expected, Europeans will have new burdens to assume. Americans will have old burdens to relinquish. We will need to learn to be a power, not a superpower. We should prepare psychologically and economically for reversion to the status of a normal nation, still seeking to encourage democratic institutions, strengthen the rule of law and advance American interests.