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The Warsaw Voice » Other » November 12, 2002
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Strength in Alliance
November 12, 2002   
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Prof. Adam Daniel Rotfeld, Under-Secretary of state in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former longtime director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), talks to
Andrzej Jonas and Witold Żygulski.

The meeting of NATO defense ministers in Warsaw on Sept. 24-25 was informal, and also unusual-both on account of the timing and the topics discussed. What role does Poland play in this?

The unusual character of the Warsaw meeting was also proved by the fact that it was the first meeting of its kind in a new NATO member country one of the three newly admitted to the alliance in March 1999. At the same time, this was an expression not only of appreciation of Poland's role within NATO, but also trust and confidence in Poland. The Warsaw meeting should be seen as an important stage in the preparations for the NATO summit in Prague this November.

Did the road to this meeting lead through the anti-terrorist conference organized by President Aleksander Kwaśniewski in Warsaw last November?

The president's attitude is worthy of recognition for many reasons. He was one of those politicians who immediately and properly responded to the events of 9/11, by convening an international regional summit in Warsaw. Later, as it usually happens, many other politicians began to do the same, or something very similar, organizing meetings dedicated to the fight against terrorism.

The conference that the Polish president convened was especially valuable for those of Poland's neighbors who do not belong to the NATO security structure. Some of them have no chances for that in the near future, even though almost all of them-with the exception of Belarus-consider NATO membership desirable. In situations involving a threat, countries not belonging to any security alliance seek to edge closer to such structures-like people, who feel more secure in a group. The Warsaw conference was a response to this need. It was the practical implementation of the political philosophy of inclusive security, under which some elements of engagement and security are also offered to those who do not belong to a given alliance. It was also an expression of President Kwaśniewski's aspirations-expressed several times on the international forum-to make sure that those countries which, after the next round of NATO and European Union enlargements, find themselves outside these organizations, do not feel left to their own devices.

Of course, the November 2001 conference strengthened our position as a member of the Euro-Atlantic community and in that sense was one of the steps en route to the recent NATO ministerial conference. But even more important on this road were the political steps and decisions that brought about the January 2002 visit of Vladimir Putin to Warsaw-the first visit by a Russian head of state to Poland since 1993-and primarily the July state visit of Aleksander Kwaśniewski to the United States. As it is known, President Kwaśniewski was the second head of state- after the president of Mexico-whom U.S. President George W. Bush invited to pay a state visit. According to some security analysts, today's Poland occupies in U.S. foreign policy a role similar to that of some other close European friends of the United States.

Is it possible to say then that, on the eastern flank of NATO, Poland plays a role similar to that of Spain in the West?

Yes, it seems so. Poland's role in this area is very similar, and its current relations with the U.S. might serve as an illustration of a real partnership within NATO. We have a job to do here: to explain the East to the West, like we do in the case of Ukraine.

What can you say about the relationship between the United States and its key NATO allies?

Washington's relations with the United Kingdom are different from those with France or Germany. In France, since de Gaulle's time, there has been a view that the use of the nation's armed forces must not depend on anyone from the outside to any extent; this explains why France decided to leave NATO's military structures-although my very personal prediction is that one day they will return there. As far as Germany is concerned, during the recent election campaign, certain differences, if not cracks, manifested themselves in views on German/U.S. relations. Differences-if we limit the issue to terminology; cracks-if we are talking about a new philosophy of political thinking. Since the Federal Republic of Germany came into being in 1949, through 2002, the very principles of foreign and security policy have never been an element of an election campaign in Germany. There were very strong worries that Germany might take what is referred to as the "German road:" a separate security and foreign policy. I don't think any such thing has ever happened.

Germany remains a very important link of the trans-Atlantic security system and an active initiator of European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). On the other hand, certain things have been said with excessive emphasis, and not everything can be immediately erased or forgotten. Several factors are important to explain that. Today's Germany is not only an economic giant (despite certain problems) but also a global political power. Today, a new generation of politicians have assumed power and look at the world with different eyes. This is the generation of Joschka Fischer and Gerhard Schroeder himself, the rebellious generation of 1968. They have a deep sense that one has to exclude the use of force in international relations, though after 9/11 a different question became the order of the day: If one is not supposed to use force, then how should one guarantee security and protect one's own society from new threats?

We are touching the key issue here: What is security today?

Security can be defined as a combination of two factors: a response to real and imminent threats, on one hand, and to the perception of the threats, on the other. The latter is often much more important than the real facts-we respond according to how we perceive a given reality. The sense and perception of security can be greater or smaller, higher or lower, than the actual threat. Today, perception is all the more important since new threats are difficult to define and predict. Formerly, the threat was linked with the risk of an unexpected attack by a real enemy on the territory of the state; the outstanding German thinker Carl Schmitt in his Begriff des Politischen (The Notion of Politics) wrote that the essence of politics boils down to the relationship between friend and foe (Freund Feind Unterstellung). In other words, the enemy always sets priorities in your security policy. But who is the enemy today? Just recently, the former Warsaw Pact countries led by the Soviet Union were seen as the enemy of NATO, while the Warsaw Pact members saw NATO countries led by the U.S. as the enemy. India defines its enemy as Pakistan and vice versa: for Pakistan, India is the enemy. In Europe, no one threatens anyone from the outside today. There is no direct external threat in the region coming from any single state or a group of states. The same goes for the U.S.

After the 9/11 attack on the United States, terrorism has been defined and declared as the global enemy. This is, however, a very broad concept. There are many definitions, but none has been generally adopted and universally recognized under international law or in the political and intellectual debate. As a rule, in the past, terrorism was seen as an individual act of violence aimed against a politician or an institution, an act staged against a clearly specified target by a clearly specified organization. On 9/11, an act of terror was committed whose four features are qualitatively new: the scale and nature of attack, the new type of adversary and, last but not least, the target. The target was the mightiest global power, which had considered its territory the safest in the world, a kind of sanctuary in security terms. This act was not committed from the outside, but from within U.S. territory, even though it was prepared, inspired and financed from outside. It was staged without any sophisticated weapons, and passenger planes with innocent civilians were used as an instrument of mass destruction with a limited range. The attacks were carried out by a non-state criminal network. So, we are dealing with a qualitatively new phenomenon. Some call it megaterrorism.

NATO ministers met in Warsaw at a time when the U.S., looking for a solution to problems linked with the new types of threats, is announcing new guidelines for its defense doctrine, under which preventive strikes would become admissible. At the same time, efforts are in progress to assemble a coalition of countries that would support a potential intervention in Iraq. Within NATO, differences of opinion are appearing, and Russia is also taking the floor. What was the role of the conference, and what role did Poland play in it?

Security is a process, and the conference was an important element of this process. The U.S. is in the process of defining a new security doctrine. Its strategy has already been specified; it is based on the experience of 9/11. New threats require a new answer.

The meeting of NATO defense ministers was organized parallel to another conference in Warsaw on the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR); it was focused on one of the most destabilizing elements of the military dimension of security and followed by another meeting, which was also held in Warsaw and dedicated to Arms Export Control. The conference was initiated by the U.S., U.K. and Poland. Many tend to play down arms export control, even though the threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is considered to be one of the greatest new threats we are facing today. If such weapons fall into the hands of irresponsible politicians within irresponsible countries, or-what's probably even worse-if such weapons will be made available to irresponsible non-state entities, they would cause an unimaginable threat for global security. The issue of proliferation, earlier the domain of a narrow group of specialists, is now coming to the fore. For the threat of proliferation to occur, it is not enough to have access to weapons of mass destruction; it's also necessary to have the means of delivery. The best such means are missiles. These problems were discussed both during the MTCR meeting and the Fourth International Conference on Export Controls on Sept. 30-Oct. 4, 2002.

The conferences held in Warsaw are an example of painstaking rather than spectacular construction of ways of guaranteeing security in Poland and the entire region. They create a forum for discussion and for shaping a new set of rules and procedures under international law.

What is, in your view, the main threat and challenge to the international security system?

Without a doubt, there are many serious challenges. However, it seems to me that the weak or failed states represent the greatest new type of threat to security today- since they are unpredictable. One example of such a country was Afghanistan; those who had the money could control the situation there. The same goes for Somalia or the Sudan-these countries are so poor that they do not control the situation in their own territories. They are often happy that someone has taken an interest in them and the only product and source of income is drug trafficking. When the international community organized the program for rebuilding Afghanistan's statehood after the U.S. operation against the Taliban, it became clear that the local society was unable to function independently. The same happened with Cambodia after the defeat of the Khmer Rouge rulers or- to be more precise-their slaughter.
For many years, I have asked myself the question: How long can the international community play the role of such an external assistant prosthesis" with regard to various quasi-states, societies, tribes or nations which want to have their own state, but are unable to organize and maintain it? The United Nations assumed all administrative functions in Cambodia and organized the country's life from scratch. The costs were higher than the UN's annual budget. Later there were some other examples- in Africa, the Balkans etc. There is a certain limit above which the UN system will no longer be able to play such a role.

Polish Foreign Minister Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, in his statement at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 15, proposed how to make the UN system and mandate relevant to the new needs without revising its foundation act, the UN Charter. The UN organization is based on a charter formulated more than half a century ago. One may quote dozens of anachronistic provisions and articles of this document, but an attempt to revise the charter would be- as we know- unrealistic. The most important reason is the excessive differences in opinion among the United Nations' members. The essence of the Polish proposal presented by Minister Cimoszewicz is to keep the UN Charter as a foundation act and supplement it with a new political document, a New Act of the United Nations for the Dawn of the 21st Century.

What are the new problems? We are dealing with completely new developments. Non-state entities are appearing, their influence on the global situation is incomparably greater than that of most UN members. For example, huge IT companies- Bill Gates certainly exerts greater influence on global economy than many poor sovereign states. There are 191 member countries today. Consequently, we have new challenges and new threats that call for a new philosophy according to which the international community operates.

Before such a change takes place within the UN, can the Atlantic Alliance take on the role of guarantor of global security?

NATO could take on such a responsibility if all its members were guided by a similar philosophy. But not everyone in NATO is convinced that the alliance was set up for this reason. Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, the key and fundamental provision for the alliance, calls for the need to defend allied country territories (an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all (...)."
In the early 1990s, U.S. Senator Richard Lugar came up with his "out of area or out of business" formula, pointing out that unless NATO decided to operate outside its area, it would be marginalized. Since then it has become obvious that if threats arise outside of the transatlantic area, the defense system aimed against them should also be built "out of area." The question is how this defense should be built. There are two schools of thinking about the present and future role of NATO: the first one-learning by doing, and as the result of actions undertaken in response to the real threats a new security system will emerge; and the second one- a search for legal solutions predefining any action. The Americans hold the view that a law without force is a law that won't be enforced. These two contradictory trends inescapably lead to differences both in political philosophies and in the practice of security policies; many U.S. commentators therefore believe that the U.S. must independently set its own security strategy.

Was this difference of opinion visible during the Warsaw conference?

The main authors of the new U.S. security concept, stated that if threats emerged outside NATO territory, only preemptive strikes could neutralize them effectively. In Donald Rumsfeld's view, adapting to surprise- adapting quickly and decisively- must be a condition of 21st-century military planning. His deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, proclaimed: the mission must determine the coalition, not the other way round- the coalition must not determine the mission. It means in practice that the tasks determine the doctrine.

The great American statesman Henry Kissinger published a kind of handbook for the new U.S. administration a year ago: Does America Need a Foreign Policy?, like Niccolo Machiavelli once wrote The Prince for the ruler of Florence. According to Kissinger, America needs friends; it can exercise the leadership if it can build a consensus of democratic states around its policy. An enlightened U.S. leadership is necessary to build an alliance of willing and capable" countries.

The Warsaw conference was an attempt to translate these ideas into the language of practice. Thus the concept of NATO Response Forces has emerged.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov participated in the Warsaw conference as a guest. How does Russia fit into the entire range of problems we have been discussing? After all, it seems that Russia is now closer to the West than ever before in its history.

The new position of Russia in the international order is indeed evident. Vladimir Putin, responding to the events of 9/11 last year, supported the U.S. so radically that the move had to change the way America looks at Russia. Just several months earlier, some leading politicians of the new Republican administration defined Russia's position as only one of 180 or more countries worldwide. After September 2001 it suddenly turned out that Russia is a global actor in the first row among the greatest superpowers of the modern world. It has secured a place in the G-8 group, which has a decisive voice in defining the new global order.

Of course, Russia's position is not a result of a single phone call made by President Putin. It matured gradually. A report on the state of the nation offered by Putin in 2000 on the Internet in an English-language version, showed that pragmatic men had assumed power in the Kremlin.

During his August 1993 visit to Warsaw, Boris Yeltsin stated that he sympathized with Poland's desire to join NATO. Two weeks after returning to Moscow he revised his position. But, in a confidential letter to the four Western powers, he recognized that integration of Central European states with NATO would not produce a situation in which the alliance would somehow turn against Russia. What more, he said, Russia had never considered NATO an aggressive pact. Yeltsin argued that he favored a situation in which relations between Russia and NATO would be several degrees warmer than those between the Alliance and Eastern Europe". All that explanation was confidential. The same could not be stated publicly in Russia due to internal conservative forces. My intention is to say that Vladimir Putin's thinking has deep roots and a realistic foundation. Russia does not have enemies on its western border. The real threat to Russia's security is posed on its southern borders. But only today does the situation allow a new-generation politician to say it loudly and officially what his predecessor could only write in a confidential letter-and subsequently carry out in political practice. As a result, Russia signed in May 2002 a declaration in Rome on qualitatively new relations with NATO. Sergei Ivanov's participation in the Warsaw meeting was one of the results of that declaration. There is a Russia-NATO Council, whose meetings are arranged, as a rule, a day after the official meetings of the alliance. Russia is treated as one of the powers responsible for shaping the contemporary security system and as one of the most important actors in global politics. By the way, at present, none of the world powers-Russia or China, India or Japan etc. is treated as hostile toward the United States. The Bush administration treats them as partners in shaping the new global order. It does not mean that Russia and other powers have unlimited freedom to do what they wish. For example, no one is giving Russia the right to military intervention in Georgia to prevent the Chechen separatists from staging operations from the Pankisky Gorge area. The establishment of the anti-terrorist coalition cannot be identified with an opportunity to solve Russia's internal problems in Chechnya and gain a leverage to secure international approval for using illegal measures against Chechen separatists. An understanding of this reality brought some positive developments and understanding between President Putin and President Shevardnadze of Georgia at the CIS meeting in Kishinev in October 2002.

Does this mean that it will be possible to work out an effective international security system to meet the threats head on?

The security system is undergoing constant changes, and it would certainly be naive to say that we are on the eve of the emergence of an ideal one. The events of last year show that even when it seems that we have neutralized all the key threats of the past, new ones crop up unexpectedly.

The adaptation of the existing international security system to new tasks and requirements calls for the elaboration of new principles and norms adequate to the new needs and, as Joseph Nye rightly noted, even the largest power since Rome cannot achieve its objectives unilaterally. The world needs the United States as never before, but the United States needs the rest of the world, too.

After the 9/11 attack on the United States, terrorism has been defined and declared as the global enemy.
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