| RUSSIA AND EASTERN AND CENTRAL EUROPE: OLD DIVISIONS AND NEW BRIDGES |
The problems of interethnic relations in Central and Eastern Europe and theformer USSR are inseparable from the larger tapestry of regional securityissues. We certainly know from the Yugoslav and Chechen disasters, if we didnot know before, that interethnic tensions, magnified by politicalrivalries, can escalate into hostilities that not only devastate thecombatants and disrupt their neighbors but also do serious damage tointra-European interests and strain the Euro-Atlantic alliance. An approachthat takes these dimensions into account is imperative for anyone trying todeal with the political dynamics and consequences of interethnic rivalries.
With this in mind, the Project on Ethnic Relations (PER) has given attentionboth to local, on-the-ground aspects of interethnic issues and to theirinternational dimensions. One of PER's most important efforts in theinternational sphere has been to bring together leading policy-makers andexperts from Eastern and Central Europe with their counterparts from theRussian Federation in an effort to deepen their understanding of the rolethat ethnonational sentiments and perceptions play in their mutual relationsand to explore practical steps that might be taken to protect the regionfrom the self-destructive behavior that has been the hallmark of so much ofthe twentieth century.
There has been a remarkable lack of communication between Russia and most ofher neighbors to the west since the collapse of Communism. This can beexplained to some extent by the fear and resentment with which many formermembers of the Soviet bloc recall their involuntary association with Moscow;and, on the Russian side, by the inward-looking preoccupation withrebuilding a shattered economy and establishing a new sense of nationalidentity following the loss of empire. Nevertheless, the failure to createregular lines of communication represents a serious loss of opportunity.
Responding to this need, PER has organized two high-level discussions inMoscow, bringing together Central and East Europeans and Russians along withAmerican policy-makers and analysts. The first of these discussions tookplace in January 1995, a few weeks after the outbreak of the Russian-Chechenwar. It focused on comparative experiences with ethnonational rivalries inthe region and on the emerging problems of "East-East" relations and theirpart in East-West political and military dynamics. It is summarized in thePER report, "Ethnonationalism: Fears, Dangers, and Policies in thePost-Communist World" (1995).
The second meeting, which is reported here, took place on March 29 and 30,1996, and was marked by an intensive debate over the implications ofprospective NATO enlargement: the Russian participants against it, theAmericans and Central and East Europeans in support. While this alignment ishardly news, the arguments, in an informal setting where frankness was therule, vividly revealed the depth and nature of the national politicalsentiments on both sides, and demonstrated the difficulty as well as theurgency of initiating confidence-building measures. In pursuit of this aim,the participants have asked PER to create a standing working group toexamine these and related questions and in due course to convene a thirdmeeting.
We acknowledge with gratitude the indispensable contributions of our Russianpartners in organizing this discussion. Alexei Salmin, president of theRussian Public Policy Center, played a key role in creating the agenda andselecting the Russian participants. His staff provided expert and efficientlogistical support for the meeting. Special thanks are due to BorisMakarenko, deputy director of the Center for Political Technologies, whoalso serves as PER's liaison in Moscow, for his tireless efforts inconnection with all aspects of the meeting and for his substantivecontributions to the debate.
A list of participants is appended to the report. Many of them occupyofficial posts, but all attended the meeting in their individual capacities.
This report was prepared by Thomas Szayna, an American participant. Incompleting the report, he consulted with Boris Makarenko. The report, forwhich PER takes full responsibility, has not been reviewed by theparticipants. The final manuscript was edited by PER's senior editor, RobertA. Feldmesser.
Allen H. Kassof, President
Princeton, New Jersey
A note on terminology
In order to ensure the participants' ability to engage in frank discussion,none of them spoke for attribution. However, making sense of the differencesthat emerged necessitates some form of identification of the participants inthis report. For this purpose, those from the Czech Republic, Hungary,Poland, Romania, and Slovakia are identified as "Central European"participants. Those from Armenia, Moldova, and Ukraine are identified as"East European" participants. Russian and U.S. participants are identifiedas such. The division into Central and East European participants stems fromthe differences between them that became clear early in the discussions on awide range of questions. Specifically, distinctions arose between formerWarsaw Pact members, non-Russian CIS members, and Russia. The terminologyused here in no way implies that somehow Russia is not located in theeastern part of the European continent or that Moldova somehow belongs to adifferent geographic sphere than Romania.
Another problem with terminology has to do with the acceptance of newmembers into NATO. Russian participants tended to describe the process as"NATO expansion," and a few even referred to it as "NATO proliferation." TheCentral Europeans were more disposed to refer to the process as theircountries "joining NATO," or simply as "NATO enlargement." The differencesover which term to use not only implied certain positions but even came updirectly during the discussions, showing the depth of disagreement andemotional feelings about the topic. This report uses the term "NATOenlargement," since that is the term commonly used in current discussions ofthe process in the U.S. Usage of this term does not imply any favorable orunfavorable views toward the process.
Relations between Russia and the former Communist states in Central andEastern Europe have been limited since the fall of Communism. Weakenedpolitical ties and (by comparison with the pre-1989 era) low levels of tradeand economic ties have replaced the previous extensive relations. Thisdecline is an international dimension of the fundamental transformationprocesses taking place in the region. These changes also may deepen distrustand make misperceptions more likely--as, for example, in the debate over anew security structure in Europe and NATO's role in it. In order to initiatediscussions between Central and East European and Russian foreign anddefense policy-makers, PER has sponsored a series of conferences to providea forum in which the issues can be discussed. One of these meetings tookplace in Moscow on March 29 and 30, 1996. The following points emerged ascentral during the discussion:
The Central Europeans and the Russians have different views of NATO and ofthe goal of its enlargement. The Central Europeans see their membership inthe organization as a natural step on the way to full integration intoEuropean security and economic institutions, which, in itself, they perceiveas a fundamental and unassailable aspiration shared by their societies.Russians, on the other hand, see such membership as primarily ananti-Russian move, seeking to isolate Russia and to keep it fromparticipating fully in European security arrangements. They continue tobelieve that NATO has only partially changed its previous role as a militaryorganization designed to counter the USSR (and, implicitly, Russia). Since,in this view, Russia has little or no chance of becoming a NATO member,Russians do not want to see NATO become a Europe-wide security institution.
Russia could accept NATO enlargement, but only with certain provisions, suchas a pledge not to station foreign troops or nuclear weapons on the newmembers' territory, an overall Russian-NATO agreement on security, and,ideally, Central European participation only in the political, not themilitary, structures of NATO. Unless Russian views are taken into account,Russian reaction to NATO enlargement is likely to be a strengthening of theCommonwealth of Independent States (CIS) into a Russian-led securitycounterorganization and an overall climate of confrontation. The EastEuropean states are caught in the middle of the debate, unlikely to joinNATO, concerned about Russian countermeasures in the CIS, and uncertainabout being able to safeguard their sovereignty status.
Little agreement was found at the meeting about the increase in trade andeconomic relations between Central European states and Russia.
The representatives spoke at different levels, with the Central Europeanscontending that the market will determine the reestablishment of the tiesand governments can do little at this stage. Until a climate favorable tobusiness appears in Russia, the Central Europeans said, the prospects forcooperation are limited. On the other hand, the Russian representativesproposed certain large-scale projects that would involve intergovernmentalagreements.
Differences also emerged concerning the overall state of current relations.The Central Europeans did not feel that relations were bad, though they alsofelt that relations were not extensive enough. However, they pointed outthat a lack of appropriate institutions at the level of the civil societymade more difficult the establishment of such ties with Russia. The Russiansargued that phobias and biases played a role in limiting the ties betweenRussia and Central Europe.
In terms of concrete suggestions for dealing with the situation, severalRussian participants proposed a U.S.-led effort to examine the issues thatdivide Russia and Central and Eastern Europe and offer solutions. A CentralEuropean participant proposed that the whole topic of Russian relations withCentral and Eastern Europe be reexamined in November 1996, following thepresidential elections in Russia and the U.S. At that time, a working groupcould prepare recommendations for the improvement of ties.
The ouster of Communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe that began in1989 brought to an end forty-five years of Soviet hegemony over the region.The former satellites quickly reoriented their political systems towarddemocracy and pluralism and their economies toward market principles. Thesubsequent breakup of the USSR ensured the sovereignty of these countriesand the continuation of their transition processes and led to the emergenceof Russia and other successor states, which also embarked upon a similarpath of reform, though at varying paces.
With the collapse of the former Soviet mechanisms of control over theCentral European countries--especially the Warsaw Treaty Organization, inthe military realm, and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA),in the economic realm--ties between them and the USSR (and later withRussia) changed drastically, from highly extensive to very limited. Economicties in particular suffered because of the disruptions associated with thetransition process, currency problems, and the lack of appropriatemechanisms for trade. In Russia's push for Western investment and aid,dealing with the other countries of the "East" became distinctlyunimportant. Meanwhile, the later starting point for the transition processin Russia than in Central Europe and the instability the Central Europeanssaw in Russia and the other states of the former Soviet Union strengthenedtheir perception of Russia as a source of instability and not worth theeffort to expand relations. Mutual distrust and resentment between theCentral European states and Russia also seem to have played a role incausing a reduction in the level of contacts. Many Central Europeans hadlong considered that the USSR was synonymous with Russia and that the recenthistory of Soviet domination was built on earlier historical attitudes. ManyRussians, however, felt the distrust was undeserved and misplaced.
It was in the midst of this state of relations that the debate over NATOenlargement began in 1993. There were many reasons for the CentralEuropeans' desire to become NATO members. For one, their goal of joining theEuropean Union (EU) showed signs of becoming an increasingly distantprospect, because of West European inability to agree as to when and underwhat conditions to bring in new members. Secondly, they were attracted bythe change in NATO's role, from being an anti-Soviet military alliance tobeing a crisis-prevention and peace-enforcement mechanism that would preventthe renationalization of defense policies in Europe in a time of flux. Inits new form, NATO still offered the Central European states a shieldagainst any threats to their sovereignty while they were going through adifficult transition period. Thirdly, NATO membership would amount to amajor step on the road to integration into other Western multinationalinstitutions.
However, Russian views of NATO differed greatly. To Russia, NATO enlargementseemed designed to isolate Russia and to draw new lines of division. Itseemed to exclude Russia from participating directly in the Europeansecurity architecture, and it implied a continued view of Russia as anadversary. In addition, the Central Europeans' open lobbying for NATOmembership drove home to many Russians the humiliation over their loss ofempire and their forced adjustment to a diminished status in the world.
The limited trade and economic relations as well as the disagreements onbasic security matters have continued to encumber the Central Europeancountries' relations with Russia. Trade and economic ties have stabilizedand even increased slightly, but they remain far below the levels of tradeduring the days of command economies. As NATO has taken steps to prepare tobring in new members, the divide between the Central European states andRussia has, if anything, grown wider on the issue of security arrangements.
Under these circumstances, the Project on Ethnic Relations decided tosponsor discussions between Central and East Europeans and Russians on theissues that divided them. The first meeting took place in Moscow on January20 and 21, 1995, and, as befitting PER's orientation, it dealt with thedangers of ethnonationalism as a potential source of conflict and tension.Russian military action in Chechnya provided the background and a source ofmuch controversy during those discussions. The second meeting, under thetitle of "Old Divisions and New Bridges," took place in Moscow on March 29and 30, 1996. Without ignoring the security implications ofethnonationalism, this meeting also tackled the larger issues of security,including the reasons for the limited ties and the differences over NATOenlargement. This report provides an overview of the discussions during thesecond meeting.
Several themes emerged at this meeting. One concerned the perceptions ofneighbors and the orientations of foreign policy. The issues dealt withunder that heading included the principal reasons for the distancing betweenRussia and the Central and East European states and the role played byethnonationalism.
Another theme revolved around the prospects for restoration of relations.What preconditions were needed to restore dialogue between Russia and theCentral and East European states? What areas of consent and mutual interestsstill existed? A third theme, related to this, concerned the tools forrebuilding relations. Which areas of cooperation held the greatest potentialfor increased and mutually beneficial relations? Could increased contacts atthe level of "civil society" improve the present situation?
A fourth theme dealt with NATO and the differences in views of security thatdivided the Central and East European states and Russia. Why were theCentral European states pressing for NATO membership? Why did Russia opposetheir drive for membership? What areas for compromise existed?
This report groups the discussions analytically along the lines of thesethemes. It does not aim to give a detailed account of the discussions, butit does try to capture all of the main points. Though some participants madelengthy remarks, no one presented papers, in line with the purpose of themeeting, which was to facilitate an honest and open exchange of views andthe development of constructive solutions. Although all four of the themeskept recurring during the often free-ranging discussions, the issue of NATOenlargement and the overall security architecture in Europe emerged clearlyas the primary focus of the meeting.
At the outset, a U.S. and a Russian participant attempted to set the stagefor the meeting. The Russian participant described the context for thecurrent state of Russia's relations with the Central and East Europeancountries as consisting of four main challenges:
The U.S. participant placed the meeting in the context of the overalltransformation processes in the former Communist states, with theirattendant failures, problems, and successes. Simultaneous integrativeprocesses in the West provided an external but crucial background for thetransformations in Central and Eastern Europe. Interethnic issues andproblems linked to the security situation in Europe added a potentiallyexplosive component to these processes. The lack, or limited extent, ofpolitical communication between Russia and the Central and East Europeancountries is a worrisome trend, for it makes misperceptions more likely andincreases insecurity. Since the 1995 PER-sponsored meeting in Moscow, somebilateral discussions, notably between Poland and Russia, have taken place,but the process of improving communication remains at an early stage.
Perceptions of Neighbors and Foreign-Policy Orientations
A fundamental question to which the participants repeatedly returnedthroughout the meeting dealt with the identity of the contemporary Russianstate and its relationship to the Soviet Union and the Russian Empire oftsarist times. The former was an ideocratic authoritarian state, the lattera "divine empire," and under such conditions, the Russian national identityhad not developed in the same manner or to the same extent as had occurredin most other European states (although Russia's neighbors and other nationsnevertheless came to associate that identity with imperial or messianicstrivings). It was thus not surprising that, at the time of the collapse ofCommunism, there was no underlying sociopolitical outlook in Russia, basedon the idea of a "nation," that could have united the emerging state, asthere was in many Central and East European states. Five years after thevictory of democratic forces, the country continues to struggle with thisproblem. But should national identity be the basis for the new Russianstate? Or should a civic identity and a truly federal structure form itscore? And what should be Russia's role in the CIS? The answers to thesequestions have important consequences for the neighboring states.
Several Russian participants debated the question of just how Russia differsfrom the USSR. One suggested that many Russians do not themselves have aclear understanding of the difference, given the presence of twenty-fourmillion ethnic Russians outside Russia's borders and the fact that forseveral centuries a Moscow-based government has ruled some of theterritories that are now independent states. The participant posed theproblem in terms of the attempt by each of the states that have emerged fromthe USSR to create its own identity. In this sense, Russia has played therole of the "other" to the various post-Soviet states, providing theidentification of what another successor Soviet state is not. In a similarvein, this participant felt that the Central European states looked to theWest for a sense of what they hope to be and identified Russia as what theydid not want to be. A Central European participant agreed that, in hiscountry, Russia is seen as the "other." Whereas freedom is perceived as abasic value in his country, Russia stands as a symbol of the place wherethere is no freedom.
Another Russian participant put the difference in more functional terms. TheUSSR played a leadership role for a bloc of countries, but Russia has nosuch bloc. Still another Russian participant pursued this line of thoughtfurther by focusing on the internal difficulties in Russia stemming from thedisappearance of a bloc. During the Soviet era, Soviet citizens feltprotected because of the existence of the USSR and the socialist countries.Now, both are gone, with the consequence that the world seems irrational andunpredictable. In domestic politics, forty-three political parties competedin the 1995 Russian parliamentary election, instead of the single party ofthe Communist days. The current Russian political scene illustrates theoutcome; the present Communist leader, Gennady Zyuganov, appeals to the"Soviet man," emphasizing protection and predictability, while PresidentBoris Yeltsin appeals to the dynamic "market man." The Russian polity isdeeply split, and symptoms of the split can be seen in the very names andterms used. For example, there is still a Leningrad oblast, though the cityof Leningrad has been renamed St. Petersburg. This duality does not exist tosuch a stark extent in the Central European countries.
An East European participant agreed that the differences between the USSRand Russia were not clear, but he added that, among the three entities beingconsidered--the Russian Empire, the USSR, and the Russian Federation--thelast is by far the most acceptable to him.
A Central European discussant portrayed the main difference between Russiaand the USSR as arising from the fact that the USSR forcibly imposed itssystem on other countries. He also questioned some of the Russian policymoves toward Central Europe. Authoritarian forces exist in all of thecountries in Central Europe. Is Russia supporting them? And if the currentRussian leadership is not supporting them, are there other forces in Russiathat might do so? He suggested that it should be a shared goal to make surethat Russia does not see authoritarian forces in Central Europe as helpfulto it. The success of democratic forces in both Russia and Central Europe isthe best guarantee for democratic developments in Russian relations withCentral Europe.
The discussions about the differences between the USSR and Russia led oneEast European participant to suggest that many of the misunderstandingsbetween the Central European states and Russia stem from the fact that theCentral European countries and the states that have emerged from the formerUSSR are at different stages in their transformation. Whereas theinstitution-building process is over in Central Europe, it is continuing inthe former USSR. Thus, the problems that the Central European states aredealing with differ qualitatively from those of Russia and the othersuccessor states to the USSR. Several Russian participants seemed to agreewith that comment, one of them observing that, psychologically speaking, theCentral European states and Russia do not understand each other.
Perhaps the most contentious part of the meeting occurred when a Russianparticipant, discussing the formation of a Russian state identity, suggestedthat Russia's borders were "unnatural" and the country must thus becomeeither smaller or larger, mentioning Ukraine in the latter context. An EastEuropean participant responded that use of the term "unnatural borders" isunwise. No state in Europe has "natural" borders, and using the term onlyreinforces anxieties in the states near Russia about Russian intentions.
Several East European participants called attention to the aspects ofRussian foreign policy that might be a continuation of strands of the Sovietpolicy of domination of neighbors. One East European discussant saw the maindifference between Russia and the USSR as consisting of the fact that Russiahas embarked on a path toward a democracy and has abandoned militarism.Nevertheless, he felt that expansionist vestiges of the Soviet era remainedin Russian policy and complicated the improvement and deepening of relationsbetween Central and East European states and Russia. To illustrate hispoint, he referred to the Duma's resolution in March 1996 calling for thereestablishment of the USSR and to the continued presence of Russianmilitary units in Moldova.
Another East European participant felt that the crucial difference betweenRussia and the USSR lay in the role of central power. Currently, a good dealof freedom exists in regions of Russia and in the federation--much more thanhad existed in the USSR. Moreover, the CIS is a loose confederation ofindependent states rather than a Russian-led entity. Nevertheless, thisparticipant expressed uneasiness that the limitations on central power at avariety of levels may not last. He pointed to the acceleration of theintegration process within the CIS. Although this process has proceeded thusfar at different tempos, depending on the country, that implicit freedom ofchoice in the pace of integration may be in danger.
A Central European participant alluded to what he saw as expansionistelements in Russian foreign policy by noting the negative motivation inRussia's dealings with the Central European countries. According to him,Russian policy has concentrated on the countries that seem to be first inline for NATO membership. Russian policy toward the Central European statesseems to follow the line of--in his words-- "you are free to join the Westbut we will make sure that you will not," which he interpreted as a newelaboration on an old tendency to curtail the Central European states'sovereignty.
A Russian participant took issue with the allegations of "expansionist"aspects of Russian foreign policy by considering the evolution of Russianviews on security in historical perspective. According to him, Russiansecurity concerns formed around three fundamental challenges to thecountry's sovereignty: the Tatar/Mongol invasion, the German Drang nachOsten, and the Turkish expansion. Dealing with these three challenges led totheir internalization as threats in the Russian consciousness. In his view,the consequent uniting of the Slavic peoples was a method of preservingSlavic civilization and led to the Russian acceptance of the historicChristian-derived mission of protecting the weak against exploitation.Although tsarist aggressiveness and Soviet expansionism certainly existed,self-defense was also a motive behind the territorial growth of the RussianEmpire and the USSR.
This view of the evolution of the Russian state stresses the cultural or"civilizational" aspects. Thus, the participant commented that the RussianEmpire and the USSR were truly neither nations nor empires but a Slaviccivilization held together by state interests. This civilization has threecomponents: it is Christian, it is European, and it unifies Slavic andTurkic elements. The components focus on spiritual values, formed on thebasis of religion and historically shaped. In the discussant's words, Russiais a synthesis of the East and the West; it is spiritually European yetdiffers from the West, and it provides a bridge between the West and the"unstable Eastern spontaneity." The discussant felt that the distinctivenessof Russia also meant that the attempt to bring democracy to the country willfail. He asserted that his views are congruent with the "civilizational"approach to conflict proposed by the U.S. political scientist SamuelHuntington.
Another Russian participant agreed with the concept behind those commentsbut saw a need for a fundamental reconsideration of the Russian mission.According to him, the belief that underlies a new Russian mission is thatthe Russian people will live better not through expansion but througheconomic reorientation. The crucial component of such a belief is the notionof civil society, which includes economic pluralism, observance of humanrights irrespective of religion, and the promotion of a state of laws.
The comments about Russia's civilizational mission brought forth responsesfrom several participants. One Central European discussant noted thenegative implications for neighboring states resulting from the search fornew ideas and missions going on in Russia. In his view, the very concept ofRussian "missions" is quite dangerous. Indeed, he said, such formulationswould put into question the peaceful and voluntary dissolution of the USSR,for they introduced messianic overtones that harked back to a different era.He pointed out that invoking old ideas about Christian and Islamic pasts isa step backward and provokes suspicions among neighbors. The participantsuggested that a discussion about contemporary Europe should proceed withoutusing such terms or notions.
An East European participant also questioned the wisdom of using the conceptof civilizational differences in the discussions, for he felt that the useof such terminology leads to self-fulfilling prophecies. In addition, heargued that the differences between Western Europe, on the one hand, andCentral and Eastern Europe, on the other, tend to be exaggerated. Forexample, the distinction between Orthodox East and Catholic and ProtestantWest overlooks the basic similarities between the two types of Christianity.Similarly, freedom is valued in all of the parts of Europe. In this context,the participant questioned the Russian objections to the enlargement ofWestern institutions to the east by asking, "What is wrong with expandingthe zone of freedom and democracy?" This comment elicited a clarificationfrom a Russian participant that the civilizational differences were a matternot of sharp distinctions but of ranges along a continuum.
Another East European participant pointed out that a discussion incivilizational terms leads to the drawing of boundaries and dividing lines,a fact most troubling to the non-Russian successor states to the formerSoviet Union. These states are in a gray zone, and the competition over thatzone is becoming intense. In popular terminology, "Central Europe" seems tostop at the former Soviet border. What does this mean for the states on thewestern periphery of the former USSR? The participant suggested that Russiamust demonstrate that it accepts the breakup of the USSR and treat the othersuccessor states as sovereign nations. Until now, the Russian leadership haspursued farsighted policies, but will that continue? The discussant saw theaccord on a Belarusian-Russian union as troublesome, for it points to thepersistence of expansionist ideas in Russia. To the states that have emergedfrom the former USSR, this is a crucial issue.
Several Central European discussants attempted to explain the foreign-policyand security paths pursued by the Central European countries in similar"civilizational" terms. One said that the division of Central Europe fromthe West after World War II was completely "unnatural." Central Europeansalways considered themselves to be a part of Western democraticcivilization. Now, they simply want to revert back to what they consider tobe the "natural" situation of integration with the Western community. Incontrast, Russia seems to be searching for a new status to show what itbelieves to be its properly strong position in the world. This participantemphasized that the Central Europeans' effort to become reintegrated intothe West is not intended as a move against Russia. Similarly, he said, theCentral Europeans want Russia to search for its new status for itself andnot against them. The different paths do not necessitate enmity or distance;on the contrary, Central Europeans want Russia as a partner in the economic,cultural, and political realms.
Another Central European participant felt that Russia had difficultiesaccepting and understanding European integration as a whole; itsmisunderstanding of Central Europe's integration into Western structures wasonly one component of a larger problem. Some issues need clarification. Forexample, how can Russia cooperate with an integrated Europe in which Russiais not expected to be a member?
Perceptions of the Past
Some old grievances came out in the context of divergent perceptions of theSoviet era. Whereas some Russian participants spoke of both positive andnegative experiences during the Soviet era, the Central and East Europeanparticipants mentioned only negative experiences. Thus, one East Europeandiscussant declared that the Moldovan people had been brought almost to thebrink of extinction during the Soviet era, because they had been preventedfrom having ties with Romania despite the similarities between the peoplesand languages of Moldova and Romania.
A Central European discussant felt that historical legacies still burdenedrelations between the Central European states and Russia. For example, theSoviet interventions in Central Europe during the cold war or theparticipation of some of the Central European countries in the German attackon the USSR in World War II continue to influence popular perceptions. Suchlegacies will have to be overcome in order to move beyond the presentpattern of relations. The participant linked these legacies to the readinessof Central Europeans to see a threat in Russian policies. Russian behaviortends to be interpreted in the light of past Russian efforts at domination.The Duma declaration referred to above and Russia's opposition to CentralEurope's membership in NATO are two examples of Russian actions that provokeold fears. Even if no one in Central Europe believes any longer in a Russianmilitary threat, the images of expansionist and imperial Russian behaviorcontinue to play a role.
In another instance of the same problem, a Central European participantcriticized some of the seemingly expansionist themes presented openly in theRussian media. He mentioned the broadcast of a program entitled "An ArmyThat Was Betrayed" on Russian television in March 1995. The programportrayed the Soviet and then Russian military withdrawal from theterritories of the former Warsaw Pact states as akin to betrayal of thearmed forces by the politicians in Russia. Moreover, it portrayedSoviet/Russian military presence in those countries as wartime gains,supported the principle of using force, and was, to say the least, demeaningto the Central Europeans. How can such programs be broadcast on Russianstate television? They perpetuate some of the worst images of Russia inCentral Europe.
Perceptions of the Current State of Relations
Some of the Central European participants said that relations between theCentral European states and Russia were not as bad as the comments emanatingfrom Moscow would seem to suggest. One of those participants suggested that,although some misunderstandings and misjudgments exist in these relations,two issues in particular tend to be overemphasized: NATO enlargement and thechange in Central European elites. NATO enlargement is not likely to haveany great negative impact on relations; and the expectation that a return ofsocialists to power in some Central European countries would lead to agreater pro-Russian orientation has not materialized (and it will notmaterialize, because of the fundamental support in these countries for themarket and for integration).
The same participant also mentioned some of the similarities of purposes andgoals that existed until recently in Russia's relations with the states inCentral Europe. For example, there was a mutual desire in 1989 to bring downCommunism. The Soviet understanding of Central Europeans' needs was good atthat time, and there was a rapid transfer of power. In 1990, there was anunderstanding of the need to end the Warsaw Pact and withdraw Soviet troopsfrom Central Europe, as well as to institutionalize the Helsinki process(including the treaty on Conventional Forces in Europe, or CFE), all ofwhich contributed to European security and understanding. During the coupattempt in Moscow in August 1991, the Central European leaders supportedYeltsin and encouraged the West Europeans to do so, too. This commonunderstanding carried over to the beginning of talks about NATO enlargement(as evidenced in Yeltsin's declaration in Warsaw in 1993) and the initiationof the Partnership for Peace. But then a shift took place, and there ensueda stream of tough statements from Moscow. The participant admitted beingpuzzled as to just where the problem was, because he felt that even nowthere exists residual goodwill on the Central European side (and the CentralEuropeans are pleased to have Russia participate in IFOR, the implementationforce for the Bosnian peace agreement).
Another Central European participant also objected to implications thatrelations between Russia and the Central European countries were not good.He believed that the relations were good, though they are not extensiveenough. The collapse in trade and economic relations resulted from thetransformations in all of the post-Communist countries. As the transitionbears fruit, relations would become more extensive.
Prospects for the Restoration of Relations
The kind of relations that should now be established and the steps inestablishing them were issues that came up throughout the discussions. Thesemust be relations among sovereign and equal entities, and they must beadapted to market conditions. Different perceptions of the past, fears offuture dependency, and suspicions of state-sponsored initiatives impede theestablishment of new, wide-ranging ties, and the uncertain politicalevolution in Russia further complicates the problem.
Domestic Russian Politics
A Russian participant emphasized the role of the June presidential electionin Russia. He believed the consequences of the election would be crucial forties with the Central and East European states, because such issues as NATOenlargement, the pace of CIS integration, and support for Communist partiesin Central and Eastern Europe would be affected directly by the outcome. Hisjudgment was that, if Zyuganov and the Communists won, the situation inRussia would change abruptly and the continuation of reforms would be indoubt. Russia would then be likely to become more like the USSR, and, in thecontext of NATO enlargement, there would be a prospect of returning to thebipolar world and a new cold war.
The Communists' denunciation of the Belovezha accords on the dissolution ofthe USSR, this participant continued, provided an early indication of theirproclivities. The denunciation, and especially the manner in which the issueof reintegration of the USSR was approached, were telling; the resolutionignored the presidents of the former republics and asked for the opinion of"the people," in a seeming revival of the Leninist method of bypassinggovernments and addressing "the people" directly. The discussant alsosuggested that a Communist victory would probably lead to Russian supportfor Communist governments in the neighboring countries. Such support wouldprovoke incidents and increase tensions, out of fear of an attempt toresurrect the USSR. Although the discussant felt that such an attempt couldnot possibly succeed, he thought that the attempt would be made, anyway.Zyuganov's election platform openly calls for the reestablishment of theUSSR. But, the participant added, no matter who wins the elections,difficulties in relations between Russia and the Central and East Europeanstates will remain. If Yeltsin wins, relations will continue to be cool anddistant; if Zyuganov wins, relations will become much worse.
Another Russian participant rejected so bleak a prognosis. Although heagreed that the elections would be crucial in determining whether the trendtoward an open society would continue or would be stopped or even reversed,he did not think that a Zyuganov victory could lead to the reestablishmentof a totalitarian state. The attempt might be made, and aspects of such astate actually might be set up; and if that were to happen, then autarky,isolation, a return to a closed society, and a shift in economic policieswould result. But, argued this discussant, it would be an exaggeration tosay that such an outcome would lead to a Russian military threat to itsneighbors.
The discussion of Russian elections was conducted mainly among the Russianparticipants, but one Central European participant contended that theelections would not change much in Russia, regardless of the outcome. Hebased this view on the premise that the end of the cold war came aboutbecause of Soviet internal difficulties. Since those internal difficultiesstill persist and, indeed, have even increased, the specter of a new coldwar seemed out of place. Another Central European participant questioned theenormous significance being attributed to Yeltsin by the Russiandiscussants. He said that if one person was so crucial to the continuationof the transition process in Russia, it would be a worrisome sign about thestage of democracy in Russia.
Should We Look to the Past?
Noting that the Central European states and the USSR had been intimatelylinked to each other for forty-five years, a Russian participant suggestedthat it might yet be possible to retain those parts of the relationship thatwere useful for all participants. A U.S. participant added that, withoutrejecting the natural bonds between Central Europe and Russia but bearing inmind the different perceptions of the past, it should be up to the CentralEuropeans to define what had been good and what had not been good in therelationship. He also argued that in order for the Central Europeans toembark on the path to rebuilding some of the old ties, they must feel secureand integrated into the Western community. The example of Polish-Germanrelations shows that a relationship between equals liberates nations fromold phobias, and the same pattern needs to be followed in Central Europeanrelations with Russia. The shadow of Soviet domination hangs over CentralEuropean relations with Russia, and only by adopting policies based onequality and respect for others' goals will the relations developsuccessfully. A Central European participant acknowledged the existence of awidespread desire in the Central European states to improve relations withRussia in the same way that some of these countries have improved relationswith Ukraine. However, he expressed concern that this desire might not bereciprocated in Russia.
Several Central European participants questioned the logic of the idea thatprevious practice could offer useful lessons for the future development ofrelations. One Central European participant suggested that the followingquestions need to be asked: (1) Why have the links between Central Europeand the former USSR been severed? (2) What kind of links had existed? (3)Why do we need new links? (4) On what grounds should the new links be built?In a line of thinking that followed that of the U.S. discussant, heconsidered the essence of the difference between Russia and the USSR tocenter on their actions. Russia cannot make a positive impact on CentralEurope or convince the Central Europeans that the present state is indeeddifferent from the USSR unless the difference is translated into substantivenew behavior. In other words, what kind of destiny is to be permitted forour people? The discussant went on to say that the Central Europeans haveturned toward the West because the West was always an engine for thedevelopment of all of Europe. Thus, Central European businessmen are lookingto the West for sources of modernization. These links had existedpreviously, but they were severed after World War II. Now there is aperception among the Central Europeans that an opportunity exists to go backto a "normal" situation. In this sense, looking at the past forty-five yearsfor lessons on the development of future ties provides only false lessons.
Another Central European participant also questioned the whole idea of the"restoration" of ties and contacts between the Central European countriesand Russia. As he put it, "Restoration to what?" He suggested that no onewas interested in restoring the ties that existed during the Soviet period.Instead, efforts should concentrate on creating relations that werealtogether new and qualitatively much better than those that had existedprior to the fall of Communism. The crucial factor in those efforts was thepresence of an intention on both sides to solve problems in a mutuallyadvantageous fashion. Such an intention seemed uncertain or missing on theRussian side--for example, in dealing with such issues between Russia andhis country as a huge trade deficit, the repayment of debt, and the returnof confiscated objects.
Still another Central European participant observed that the break inrelations between Central Europe and Russia, especially in trade andeconomic affairs, took place spontaneously. He expected that thereestablishment of links would also be 90 percent spontaneous, as part ofnormal economic forces, and only some 10 percent would take place throughstate action. But more important, he said, were the problems at a deeperstructural level. The current trade flows in Central Europe have acompletely different direction from what they had before 1989. At present,trade flows resemble those of the days before World War II, meaning aprimary orientation toward Western Europe (less than a third of their tradeturnover was with countries that are now non-members of the Organization forEconomic Cooperation and Development). This is not a situation that theCentral Europeans want to change. Some of the Central European countries,particularly those that implemented a radical and rapid economic transitionprogram, paid enormous social costs to change the direction of trade flows.In any event, it is market forces that determine trade flows. The Russianmarket is not an easy one to work with, for a variety of reasons related tothe transition taking place in Russia. The Central European countries' tradewith the former USSR has settled at fairly low levels when compared with thepre-1989 situation, but it is still substantial. The next task is toincrease the Central European trade turnover in absolute terms, since thatwill mean the growth of Central European trade flows with the former USSR.
A U.S. participant agreed in general with the idea that only about 10percent of relations can be structured from above, but he added thatgovernments can hinder the development of economic relations. Eliminatingthat obstacle is a task worthy of consideration. Although another U.S.participant urged the discussants to give consideration to that 10-percentarea where nonspontaneous revival of ties might take place, no concreteproposals emerged from the meeting as to how to go about it.
Another Central European participant elaborated on the difficulty of doingbusiness with Russia. Although current economic and trade relations areweaker than he would like to see, he felt the reasons for the weakness arestructural: the financing problems of Russian enterprises; the instabilityin Russia, which is an obstacle to long-term investment; and the effects oforganized crime. These comments were supported by another Central Europeandiscussant, who suggested that the democratization and marketizationprocesses taking place in all of the former Communist countries were besetby a basic problem of confidence-building. Just as there is not enoughconfidence in Western Europe regarding the marketization processes inCentral Europe, so there is also not enough confidence in Central Europe inthe marketization process in the former USSR.
Yet another Central European participant placed the responsibility for thedrop in interaction and trade between the Central European states and theUSSR and Russia on the latter. He traced the collapse in trade to the Sovietintroduction of hard-currency regulations in trade with Central Europe.However, according to one Russian participant, the drop in trade andcontacts between the USSR and Russia and the Central European states wasmore than just the collapse of CMEA and the Warsaw Pact. The end of thesetwo organizations was simply a symptom of the larger systemic collapse,which has forced the Central and East European states and Russia to "crossthe wilderness." Nevertheless, he expressed the belief that "common sense"would prevail and contacts would resume. Another Russian discussant saidthat the Central Europeans are motivated by "phobias" and only time could bea remedy for the present low level of contacts and the legacy of theprevious era.
Another Russian participant suggested that, given the often conceptualnature of the disagreements, an objective research institution from a thirdcountry, such as the U.S. think tank RAND, prepare a study on thedifferences that divide the Russians and the Central Europeans and try topropose solutions. The idea was supported by another Russian participant,who suggested that the study should also include the U.S. viewpoint.
Tools for Rebuilding Relations
Just as disagreements between the Central European and Russian participantssurfaced in the discussions regarding prospects for increased ties, the sameproblems were present in the talks about the tools to use for theimprovement of ties. The differences seemed to stem from the differentstages in the transition processes, with the Central Europeans arguing infavor of market-based methods and the Russians suggesting greater stateefforts.
One Russian participant suggested several possibilities for cooperationbetween the Central European countries and Russia (and including WestEuropean participation). According to him, the most promising areas were inthe field of nuclear energy and strategically important communicationsprojects that would link the Russian Far East with the EU. However, aCentral European participant questioned such proposals, for they stillseemed to indicate thinking about trade and economic ties along the lines ofmeasures directed from above. Such a mindset, he said, was inappropriate.Indeed, he added, grandiose projects planned from above are bound to fail.But the same participant suggested two other sectors where he felt apotential existed for the growth of Central European trade with Russia: rawmaterials and armaments. However, the problem with these areas is that theyare sensitive in terms of potential strategic dependencies or for politicalreasons. Especially in the armaments realm, the Central European countrieswant to decrease their dependency on Russia (e.g., for licenses andlubricants), because they see it as a limitation on their sovereignty.
Another Central European participant observed that bilateral meetingsbetween Russia and the Central European states devoted to discussions ofsecurity matters (as have already taken place between Russia and Poland) areuseful and should be expanded. He went on to say that nongovernmentalmeetings should tackle highly technical matters and produce concreteresults.
Yet another Central European participant noted that the limited contactsbetween Russia and the Central European countries is part of the broaderissue of limited contacts among all of the former Communist states, evenamong the Central European countries themselves. According to thisdiscussant, too often these relations are too formal and often only formal.For example, Polish relations with the Czech Republic and Slovakia are notas intensive as they are with Germany or France. He suggested that relationsbetween similarly oriented political parties in the Central Europeancountries and Russia should be given more attention. The ChristianDemocratic party in the participant's country had good ties with itscounterpart in Germany (indeed, he thought, better ties than with theSocialists in his own country). The problem with establishing such ties withRussian parties is that few if any parties with outlooks similar to those ofWest European or Central European parties exist in Russia yet. Theparticipant urged the other Central European participants to pay moreattention not to the politicians of the Zhirinovsky type in Russia but tothose with whom cooperation could develop. Agreeing with this general lineof thought, another Central European participant suggested a strategy of"small steps" to promote the growth of many ties at the grass-roots levelwith Russia. Still another Central European participant noted that onereason for the limited contacts between Central Europeans and Russians isthat few opportunities exist for the Central Europeans to present argumentsto the Russian public.
Continuing in this vein, still another Central European participant agreedthat developing relations between the Central European countries and Russiaat the nonstate level is crucial. He did not think that the problem stemmedfrom a lack of political will; he pointed out that the Socialist governmentsthat have come to power in several Central European countries have not beenable to improve relations with Russia very much more than the previousliberal-nationalist governments had. Rather, the problem is structural.
Overall, several Central European participants felt that their countriescould improve relations with Russia and provide assistance to Russia basedon their own experience with and knowledge about the transformation so far.However, some of them felt that Russia was not interested in suchassistance.
One Central European participant noted that some of the countries are betterqualified than others to act as "bridges" in the improvement of relations.He suggested that Slovakia is the best suited for such a role. It has goodrelations with Germany and Russia and with the other Central Europeancountries. According to him, NATO enlargement was an abstract academic issuein Slovakia, lacking resonance at the popular level; thus, Russia can dealwith Slovakia relatively easily. On the other hand, Slovakia cannot be aRussian "agent" in the region, since such a role would antagonize Slovakia'sneighbors.
NATO and Views of Security
No other topic sparked as much discussion and controversy as the question ofsecurity and, specifically, the question of NATO enlargement. The Russianparticipants argued in favor of security arrangements without NATO, whilethe Central European discussants justified their desire to join NATO in avariety of ways. The East European participants were caught in the middle ofthe controversy, while the U.S. participants approached security from apost-cold-war perspective.
Rationale for and Consequences of NATO Enlargement
A Russian participant attempted to lay out the negative consequences toEuropean security as a whole that would come with NATO's enlargement. Hesuggested the existence of a post-Communist syndrome of thinking aboutsolutions to security problems in terms of blocs. This has led the CentralEuropeans to press for NATO enlargement. It is not NATO headquarters or thecurrent NATO members that are leading the drive for enlargement but thecountries that are applying for NATO membership. There is an implicitanti-Russian aspect to this process. However, a unique opportunity existsnow to live without blocs in all of Europe.
This participant portrayed NATO as not only a military-political bloc butalso an institution with a certain mentality. At the popular level, Russianssee NATO as an organization that has been an aggressive bloc with ananti-Russian orientation for forty years. In the current situation ofdemocratic politics in Russia, public opinion has to be taken into account;thus, such views have some influence. The participant cautioned that if NATOenlarges, a tense situation of opposing blocs will reappear, and that willbe a situation from which no one will gain. Indeed, everyone will then tryto overcome the very obstacles that would thus be built. Security could bebuilt on different grounds, for example, on the basis of security agreementsbetween countries. In any event, rather than dissolving NATO, the goalshould be to incorporate it in a new, larger, more inclusive organization.At present, the pressure for NATO enlargement is leading to the loss of thepossibility for a more unified and secure Europe. This pressure is based onshort-term considerations, which have negative consequences for the longterm. Another Russian participant warned that the integration of the CentralEuropean states into NATO would lead to their being not Russia's militarypartners but military targets.
A U.S. participant took exception to such views and suggested that thediscussions rise above the level of thinking about security in bloc terms.He objected particularly to the portrayal of NATO as an "aggressivemilitary-political bloc." He recalled the old crude British-originated maximthat NATO had three purposes: to keep the U.S. in, the Soviets out, and theGermans down. The second purpose, he said, was no longer relevant, but theother two continued to apply. The U.S. role on the European continentcontinues to be important, as does the integration of Germany intointernational structures in Europe. Forty years ago, NATO was the vehiclefor integrating Germany into the Western community of states. Today, thatintegrative function can serve to bring the Central European states into theWestern community. From that point of view, he expressly objected to thedescription of the Central and East European states as a "buffer zone." Theparticipant also pointed to the benefits of NATO enlargement to the east inpreventing the recurrence of a situation akin to that in the 1920s and1930s, when all of the states in the region had nationally oriented foreignpolicies that defined their neighbors as potential adversaries. Thatsituation led to instability and insecurity. The integration of the CentralEuropean states into NATO and the Western community is the best way toprevent it.
Another U.S. participant addressed the seeming persistence in Russia of theview of NATO as an aggressive military organization, with offensive plansagainst the USSR. Such a view is straight out of Soviet propaganda of thecold-war era, when it was disseminated to strengthen cohesion among WarsawPact members. However, the Soviets themselves knew that such a portrayal wasfalse, and anyone who was knowledgeable about security issues wouldrecognize it as such. Its persistence shows a failure on the part of theRussians to dispel some of the myths of the cold war.
Still another U.S. participant asked the Russian discussants to try tounderstand the security concerns of the Central Europeans. In a vividallusion to the power disparities that underlie some of the Central Europeanperceptions, he suggested that if you are a mouse, it does not matterwhether the elephants around you are making love or war-- you get trampledin any case. The Central Europeans' concern about security isunderstandable, even if their view of the problem is different from that ofthe Russians.
Another U.S. participant pointed out some of the seeming contradictions inRussian objections to NATO enlargement. First, the image of NATO as ananti-Russian military-political bloc ignores the fact that NATO has changedgreatly over the past five years. It has ceased to treat Russia as anadversary and is now a crisis-prevention mechanism and an instrument forpeacekeeping. The Russians are fully aware of these changes. As part of thePartnership for Peace, Russian liaison officers and representatives arestationed in Brussels, they attend meetings at NATO headquarters, and theyhave access to the highest NATO officials. Moreover, the Russian militaryvalues its contacts with the U.S. armed forces through the Partnership forPeace. Through participation in IFOR, Russian units are operating alongsideU.S. Army units in a NATO operation. How can such cooperation be reconciledwith an adversarial image of NATO?
Secondly, the argument that NATO enlargement would draw new lines ofdivision in Europe and isolate Russia represents a fundamentalmisunderstanding of the process. The enlargement of Western institutions, onthe contrary, would have the effect of dissolving the dividing lines thatoriginated in the cold war but continue to this day in the form of adivision of Europe into a part that is integrated into a security realm anda part that is not. The process of European integration has been going onsince the late 1940s, with EU and NATO being two sides of the same coin.This process is not primarily concerned with Russia, much less directedagainst Russia; it is concerned with Europe. Furthermore, the process ofNATO enlargement is deliberate, slow, and transparent. Five years after thebreakup of the USSR, NATO has not enlarged; it has gone on record only thatin principle it plans to enlarge. Meanwhile, far from trying to isolateRussia, NATO has bent over backwards to include Russia in the largerprocesses of cooperation and integration. When initially proposed, thePartnership for Peace was offered to all of the former Communist countries,including Russia (despite the fact that some Central Europeans complainedthat the program treated the "exploiters" and the "exploited" in the samefashion). In addition, in every step taken so far, NATO discussed the issueswith Russia beforehand. How can such behavior be seen as aimed at theisolation of Russia?
Thirdly, the argument that NATO enlargement might push Russian politics inthe direction of nationalism and Communism does not hold water. Five yearsafter the breakup of the USSR, NATO has not enlarged--and yet the Communistsdid well in the 1995 Russian parliamentary elections, and they are runningstrong in the 1996 presidential race. NATO enlargement thus appears to beirrelevant to Russian politics. Domestic social and economic problems arethe driving forces, and the issue of NATO enlargement is of concern only toa small foreign and defense policy elite in Moscow.
This U.S. participant also asked what the Russians' specific objections toNATO enlargement were. If Poland were to join NATO in, say, 1999, whatnegative consequences do the Russians foresee? The Polish military would besmaller, foreign troops would not be stationed in Poland, the Polish-Germanproblem would be solved once and for all, and a confident and secure Polandwould be able to cooperate with Russia without any phobias or complexes. Inother words, Russia could only gain in such a situation.
Several Russian participants responded by attempting to explain the Russianconcerns about NATO enlargement. One of them noted that if Russia is leftout of an enlarged NATO, it will be isolated from the only all-Europeanorganization dealing with security issues. Yet, he went on, there is nosatisfactory substitute for NATO. OSCE is a relic of a different age andpurpose; its large and diverse membership (ranging from the U.S. to CentralAsian states) and its failure to find a new raison d'etre do not providegrounds for optimism about its future. The Council of Europe (which Russiarecently entered) is a prestigious European "club" and an importantorganization for the promotion of democratic and human-rights standards, butit has no role as a security organization.
As for NATO itself, continued this participant, it started as a militarybloc and remains one to this day. Blocs do not stand for something; they areagainst something. The evolution of NATO in favor of greater emphasis onhumanitarian and peacekeeping issues is a step in the right direction, butthese new functions remain secondary. It is the fundamental militaryfunction of NATO that is of concern to Russia. NATO is the preeminentmilitary organization on the continent, and it continues to have a unitedmilitary command. Although it is not currently a threat to Russia, it canbecome one, given certain kinds of changes in Russia, the U.S., or WesternEurope. The accession of Central European countries to NATO would create thepotential of NATO troop deployments close to Russian borders.
Another Russian participant presented the problem in the context ofcollective security. Although NATO has evolved substantially from its roleas an organization devoted to opposition to the USSR, its evolution is notyet complete, and if the international situation becomes more tense, NATOhas the potential to be used for anti-Russian purposes. That is why Russianinterests must be taken into account in the considerations of whether toenlarge NATO. Moreover, NATO is not the only institution capable of ensuringsecurity in Europe. Indeed, the organization seems to contradict the idea ofsecurity for all of Europe. The building of new common structures stands abetter chance of providing security in a broader sense.
Yet another Russian participant said that the drive to isolate Russia wasimplicit in the motivation for NATO enlargement. He compared present-dayRussia to a "wounded bear," which is "sick" in many respects. But is thissickness contagious, and is it worth all the effort to keep it at arm'slength? This participant felt that NATO has not yet changed sufficiently.During a recent visit that he paid to NATO headquarters, he found that theanswers by NATO officials to some of his questions about NATO's future werenot fully satisfactory. He agreed that NATO was not as much an adversary ofRussia as it had been in the past, but he urged that NATO reorganize furtherand faster while proceeding with enlargement slowly. In the presentsituation in Russia, haste in the enlargement process could provokecountermeasures by Russia.
The suggestion that NATO enlarge slowly provoked responses from severalCentral European participants. Why would anything change with time? Wouldthe Russian government embark on a campaign to build up public opinion infavor of NATO enlargement? One of the Central European participants pointedout that the processes of transition and integration taking place in theformer Communist states are proceeding at varying paces in differentcountries. Because some countries are not as far along as others should nothold back the more advanced countries.
Several Central European participants attempted to explain their countries'rationale for wanting to join NATO, while insisting that this desire isneither anti-Russian in motivation nor likely to have any negativeconsequences for Russia. One Central European discussant saw no specificnational reason for wanting enlargement. He suggested, rather, that thereasons for his country's wish to join NATO are precisely the same as thereasons for the continuation of NATO that are widely shared in Western,Central, and Eastern Europe-- namely, to create a zone of stability and toprevent the nationalization of security policies. The participant alsocriticized the Russian attempt to differentiate between those Europeancountries that are in NATO and those that are not. Such differentiationencourages the suspicion among the Central Europeans that Russia seeks toestablish a special security relationship with the countries that are not inNATO (a goal that the USSR pursued in the period immediately after thebreakup of the Warsaw Pact through the mechanism of bilateral treaties withindividual Central European countries).
Another Central European participant expressed the belief that the CentralEuropean drive for NATO membership stemmed from the fundamental desire forfull integration into the democratic and prosperous Euro-Atlantic community.In a comment echoed by a number of other Central European participants, hestated that this desire is not directed at any other country or motivated byfears of another country. The Central Europeans understand that theintegration process will be protracted and slow. But the purpose is todemolish the artificial lines of division in Europe that were put in placeat Yalta and Potsdam and which have no historical precedent.
Yet another Central European participant stated that his country's goal isto participate in the formation of an integrated entity with a Euro-Atlanticidentity. Members of such an entity would be contributors to rather thanconsumers of security. As an example of what such an entity would do, hepointed to Bosnia, where military contingents from several Central Europeancountries were currently cooperating with NATO. The crucial factor, he felt,was the wish to be part of an effort to stabilize European security, andonly NATO could succeed in that effort. The participant asked whether theRussian fears centered on NATO itself or on NATO's enlargement to the east.He argued that a Central Europe that is integrated into NATO would be a moreattractive and more reliable partner for Russia, because these countrieswould then be able to deal with Russia from a position of confidence andsecurity and on the basis of mutual benefit. Healthy and vibrant relationswould be the result. Russian opposition to what are perceived in CentralEurope as perfectly justifiable aspirations already has caused problems withthe perceptions of Russia in Central Europe. For example, public-opinionsurveys in Central Europe show an increasing distrust of Russia, even thoughin some of those countries there is no history of negative views towardRussia and during 1991-92 there was even an increase in positive views ofRussia. Just as there existed a willingness to improve perceptions ofGermany in Central Europe, the same willingness existed with respect toRussia as well. But now it is the negative Russian view of what are thenormal economic and security aspirations of the Central Europeans that iscausing the increasing distrust.
According to another Central European participant, the level of support forNATO membership has remained steady for more than two years at about 80percent in the countries that favor NATO membership the most, such asRomania and Poland. Furthermore, young people in those countries areespecially favorable, which he attributed to their view of NATO as not onlya security organization but also a tool for the modernization of thesociety. In other words, joining the organization meant forming integralbonds with the most developed countries in the world. As such, NATOmembership would be a step toward achieving stability and prosperity in anintegrated and peaceful Europe. Russian opposition to NATO enlargement stirsresentment in Central Europe, for it seems to amount to an objection to thegoal of uniting all of Europe and to the attainment of higher standards ofliving and security. Is Russian opposition to NATO enlargement, asked thisparticipant rhetorically, really opposition to a united democratic Europe?
An East European participant observed that Russian opposition to NATOenlargement has not been in Russia's interests. Russia cannot stopenlargement, and its opposition to it has had the effect of painting itselfinto a corner and rekindling old suspicions.
Several Central European participants pointed out seeming contradictions inRussian policy. Two of them noted Russian opposition to NATO enlargement butnot to EU enlargement. The EU's security organization, the Western EuropeanUnion, is supposed to be brought into harmony with NATO and become theEuropean pillar of NATO. Another Central European participant observed thatthe argument that NATO enlargement plays into the hands of the extremists inRussia presupposes that the moderates in Russia do not oppose NATOenlargement. However, the moderates do oppose it. Why, then, wouldenlargement lead to a shift toward the extremists? This question wasaddressed by a Russian participant, who pointed out that there were degreesof opposition and potential reactions to NATO enlargement that differentiatethe moderate and extremist political forces in Russia.
Another Central European participant called attention to the benefits thathave accrued to Russia from NATO's existence. For decades, Turkey'sanchoring in the Western alliance has acted as a bulwark against Islamicmilitants and kept them away from the USSR. NATO also has solved the Germanproblem in European security. In addition, NATO countries spend less ondefense than they would individually, and the same is likely to be the casewhen NATO enlarges. Thus, according to this participant, Russia stands togain, and will actually feel more secure, when NATO enlarges.
Russian Countermeasures and the CIS
A Russian participant outlined what he believed were the potentialconsequences of NATO enlargement. He expressed certainty that confrontationwould result. As NATO enlarged, Russia would look to build up its owncoalition to counter it. The agreements with Belarus provide an indicationof the greater security role for the CIS that might come about. In addition,the notion of a Eurasian center and an increased focus on relations with theMuslim south might appear. The provision of nuclear reactors and technologyto Iran and better relations with countries such as Libya are two examplesalong those lines. The building of bridges with the West as well as withCentral Europe would assume an even greater salience, but by that time thesituation would have deteriorated, making the search for such bridges moredifficult. Another Russian discussant added that some countries find thecurrent unipolar world is not to their benefit, and to those countriesRussia remains attractive.
Another Russian participant considered the possibility that two main"stabilizing" forces would emerge in the foreseeable future in Central andEastern Europe. Before World War I, according to him, this area had beenstabilized by four empires: German, Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman.After World War II, stability was brought by two blocs, the Warsaw Pact andNATO. Since the end of the Warsaw Pact, the area has been unstable, but anew stability might be established by the CIS and NATO. The participantdescribed the process in "civilizational" terms--the increasing distinctionsbetween the Western and Slavic civilizations. He felt that the borderlinesbetween the two regions had shifted throughout history but that the currentperiod is one of especially rapid shifts.
In the context of the discussion of the evolution of the CIS, two EastEuropean participants questioned some of the comments regarding NATOenlargement, saying that they overlooked the states that have emerged fromthe USSR and are located between the Central European countries and Russia.According to one of these discussants, these East European states, amongwhich Ukraine is crucial, strive for neutrality and nonparticipation inblocs. He said that these states understand the Central European desire tojoin NATO, but he urged that the Central Europeans also take into accountthe interests of the East European states. Central European integration intoNATO has implications that are different from its integration into the EU.The former, he went on, conjures up weapons, whereas the latter brings upthe idea of prosperity. He suggested that not enough time had passed yet forthe popular image of NATO as a threatening organization to disappear inRussia. Thus, this East European participant agreed with some of the Russianparticipants that more time was needed and that the NATO enlargement processshould proceed slowly.
Another East European participant also wondered about the final look ofEurope after NATO enlargement. Where will NATO stop? How will it deal withthe countries of Eastern Europe? Will it define Europe in cultural (andimplicitly patronizing) terms and stop at the borders of Catholic andProtestant Europe? Will it ever be able to include Russia? In any event, theparticipant felt that for Russia to make alternative security arrangements,such as the CIS, in opposition to NATO and its enlargement, would beself-defeating.
Finessing NATO Enlargement
A Russian participant suggested that, just as the Partnership for Peace wasa compromise solution that took Russia's interests into account, a similarresolution of the NATO enlargement impasse should be sought. He calledattention to the Primakov proposal, which would bring new countries intoNATO at the political but not at the military level. In addition, Russiacould become a guarantor of security in Europe, alongside NATO. Thisparticipant urged that the current NATO "monologue" become a dialogue withRussia, so that Russian interests could be taken into account.
Another Russian participant suggested that, while Russia understands themotives for the Central European pressure to join NATO, the CentralEuropeans must recognize and understand Russian security concerns. Accordingto him, NATO, as a system of collective defense, is oriented againstsomething. From the Russian standpoint, the military machine of NATO isexpanding and diplomatic dealings over NATO's enlargement are at a deadlock.It may come to pass that Russia will have to face NATO enlargement as a factand draw appropriate conclusions from it. Issues such as the degree ofprotection for the new members and the stationing of foreign troops andnuclear weapons on their territory are of concern to Russia. The participantcriticized some of the Central Europeans for saying that they are ready fordialogue but not offering any concrete proposals. In any case, a specialrelationship between Russia and NATO is needed. Recently, this participanthad visited NATO headquarters, and in his discussions with NATO officials hedid not hear a satisfactory concept for NATO's cooperation with Russia. Sucha concept must be formulated. In addition, the idea of how NATO is to fitwith other organizations, such as OSCE, needs greater attention.
Still another Russian participant added that a threat to Russia is notlikely without the presence of foreign troops on the territory of theCentral European states in an enlarged NATO. However, the participant alsofelt that circumstances could change, and that is why guarantees that anenlarged NATO would not pose a threat to Russia were needed.
A U.S. participant questioned the validity of Russian concerns about theplacement of nuclear weapons on the territory of any new NATO members. Therole of nuclear weapons in U.S. military strategy has declined, the U.S. haswithdrawn its nuclear arsenal from Europe, and no one in the U.S. iscontemplating placing nuclear weapons on the territory of the new members.The whole idea seems so far-fetched that it does not deserve seriousconsideration in the discussions.
A Central European participant declared that in his country there was aunanimity of opinion among both elites and the general public that NATOmembership is a fundamental goal and that there are no alternatives to it.In view of such strong views, borne out by public-opinion polls, little roomfor maneuver exists in these countries. However, the participant suggested,there was room for maneuver on the Russian side. Russia could formulatecertain options for negotiation. This might not be a propitious time forsuch action, because of the forthcoming Russian elections. Nevertheless,assuming that the NATO integration process goes forward, the ball is inRussia's court regarding the specifics of NATO enlargement. The participantcautioned the Russian discussants that issuing threats about targeting theCentral European countries with nuclear weapons, renegotiating the CFEagreements, and abandoning the framework of agreements for the reduction ofnuclear-weapons stockpiles will be counterproductive and only will anger theCentral and Western Europeans and speed up integration.
Addressing the suggestion by a Russian participant that the Central Europeancountries might join the political but not the military structures of NATO,this participant pointed out that NATO is not looking for new members whosestatus would be like that of France or Spain. Furthermore, NATO enlargementwould not necessarily mean the stationing of foreign troops or nuclearweapons on the territory of the new members. But depending on Russianactions, enlargement could lead to the stationing of German and U.S. troopsthere. The participant pointed out that substantial room for negotiationbetween NATO and Russia exists. To illustrate the possibility of "creativethinking," the participant gave the example of Finnmark, the northernmostarea of Norway: Even though Norway is a member of NATO, special arrangementsprohibiting deployment of non-Norwegian NATO troops in that area haveexisted for decades.
Another Central European participant echoed the comment that "the ball iscurrently in Russia's court," in that NATO and the Central Europeans arewilling to bend to Russian concerns and informally agree not to stationforeign troops or nuclear weapons on the territories of prospective new NATOmembers.
Alternatives to NATO
A Russian participant suggested that OSCE should be the alternative to NATOenlargement, since a military alliance like NATO cannot perform suchfunctions of OSCE as preventive diplomacy, genuine peacemaking, andprotection of minority rights. In view of the existing problems in theBalkans, with continuing uncertainty regarding the solution of the conflictthere and the possibility that the Dayton agreement will unravel, said thisparticipant, OSCE was the only viable instrument for managing the strife inpost-cold-war Europe. He suggested reexamining some recent proposals, suchas the creation of a Security Council in the OSCE. He asked that the chancesfor the evolution of OSCE not be dismissed. Another Russian participantobserved that another alternative to NATO enlargement, in addition togreater powers for OSCE, was a system of reliable bilateral securityagreements.
A Central European participant suggested that Russian ideas forstrengthening OSCE be revisited in November, after the Russian and U.S.elections, but only if progress takes place in integrating some of theCentral European countries into NATO. He also suggested that, concomitantwith the potential strengthening of both NATO and OSCE, there be an increasein the role of Russian resources in the EU economies. Finally, he suggesteddealing with one regional source of problems: the high level ofmilitarization in the Kaliningrad region. If this level were to be reduced,the region could become one of the arenas for Polish cooperation withRussia.
A U.S. participant insisted that, given the goal of a united, prosperous,and integrated European continent, only NATO could guarantee security whileprogress toward that goal was being made. The reason that OSCE could notfill that role is that OSCE is a new structure, and building it up would beformidable task in itself. It seems more feasible to take an existinginstitution, NATO, and adapt it to the changed situation. U.S. policy is toallow new members to join the organization. That is a subtle but importantdifference from simply saying that U.S. policy is to enlarge NATO. Thestates that will be allowed to join NATO will be democratic, peacefullydisposed countries. As such, their joining does not pose a threat to anyother states.
A Russian participant expressed frustration about the entire NATOenlargement issue because it seemed to him that the move was designed todeal with a nonexistent problem. In the context of both present- day andlonger-term European problems, there is no military threat in Europe and noreason to expect that one might emerge. And yet considerable resources arebeing devoted to the solution of this nonproblem, resources that could beused in better ways. While there is instability in Russia, it does notnecessarily translate into a threat. As an example, the participant remindedothers of the fears in the early 1990s of massive out-migration from Russia,fears that did not materialize. Now the fears center on potential Russianthreats, but these fears are just as misplaced. The current problems inEurope have an economic and social character rather than a military one. Theparticipant suggested to the Central Europeans that, if they do believe thatthere are military threats in Europe, they and the Russians should focus onthe practical issues of security in Central and Eastern Europe. But themotive should be to find alternatives that would ensure security for all.NATO does not meet that requirement.
Some of the Russian participants said that they were not persuaded by theU.S. rationale for NATO enlargement. One of them commented that thisrationale seemed to imply that the U.S. was either extremely cynical orunbelievably idealistic. Another interpreted U.S. policy as growing out ofthe need to sell military equipment and armaments of secondary quality tothe Central Europeans, and he added that the Central European determinationto get rid of Russian standards in the military realm represented only achange of dependence from one country to another. And another Russiandiscussant asked the participants to understand the problems for the Russiandefense industry that NATO enlargement entailed. According to him, therearming of the new members' armed forces with Western weapons systems wouldinfringe on the interests of the Russian military-industrial complex. It wassimply a matter of the decline and disappearance of a "traditional" market.
A Pledge to Gorbachev?
A brief but sharp exchange took place between two discussants about whetherU.S. officials, during negotiations in 1990 over German unification, hadmade an informal pledge to Gorbachev not to enlarge NATO. A Russianparticipant declared that there had been such a pledge, but a CentralEuropean discussant responded that the memoirs of several U.S. officialsinvolved in the negotiations made it clear that no such guarantee was given.The only U.S. official to suggest anything to the contrary was the formerU.S. ambassador to the USSR, Jack Matlock, but even he said only that someinformal guarantee may have been implied. According to the Central Europeanparticipant, even Gorbachev was equivocal as to whether such a commitmentwas ever made. But the Russian participant claimed that Gorbachev personallyconfirmed to him that such an assurance was indeed given. Another CentralEuropean participant also denied the existence of any commitment about NATOenlargement. This participant had served in an official capacity at the lastCMEA meeting, and, according to him, there was no hint then that thedissolution of CMEA or of the Warsaw Pact had introduced any obstacles topotential NATO membership by the Central Europeans in the future.
Conclusions and Next Steps
The meeting produced no agreement on the basic issues of security structuresor on ways to improve trade and economic ties. The divide between theCentral European and Russian participants seemed especially wide andextended to diverse perceptions on a whole range of issues. As one Russianparticipant suggested only partly facetiously, the title of the meeting,rather than "Old Divisions and New Bridges," could have been "Old Bridgesand New Divisions."
But differences between the Central and East European countries and Russiaare to be expected. They are all engaged in fundamental processes of thetransformation of their societies. They differ in size, level ofdevelopment, and aspirations. They are all inventing and reinventinginstitutions. However, these differences should not hide the fact that acommon vocabulary and a framework for discussions also exist. The unusualelement is that it took a U.S. effort to bring participants from the variouscountries together to discuss relations between them. The meeting may havegiven an impetus to launch such efforts without U.S. mediation.
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS
Ivan Gabal, former Head, Department of Political Analysis, Office of thePresident
Istvan Szent-Ivanyi, State Secretary for Policy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Tamas Wachsler, Member of Parliament
Victor Grebenschikov, Advisor on Ethnic Affairs to the President
Vladimir Solonari, Chairman, Commission on Human Rights and EthnicMinorities, Parliament of Moldova
Henryk Szlajfer, Senior Advisor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Ioan Mircea Pascu, Deputy Minister of Defense
Petre Roman, former Prime Minister; Chairman of Defense Committee, RomanianParliament, and Chairman, Democratic Party
Oleg Bogomolov, Member, Russian Academy of Sciences, and Director, Instituteof International Economic and Political Studies
Igor Bunin, Director, Center for Political Technologies
Elena Khotkova, Senior Researcher, Center for Strategic Research
Marina Kuchinskaya, Senior Researcher, Center for Strategic Research
Boris Makarenko, Deputy Director, Center for Political Technologies, andConsultant, Project on Ethnic Relations
Viktor Parshutkin, Spokesman, Committee on International Affairs, StateDuma
Vladimir Rubanov, Deputy Secretary, Security Council of Russia
Alexei Salmin, Member, Presidential Advisory Council, and President, RussianPublic Policy Center
Valery Tishkov, Director, Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, RussianAcademy of Sciences
Vitaly Tretyakov, Editor-in-Chief, Nezavisimaya Gazeta
Mark Urnov, Head, Analytic Department, Administration of the President
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
Lev Klepatsky, Head, Department of Long-Term Planning
Vadim Lukov, Director, Department of Foreign-Policy Planning
Aleksandr Vladimirov, Head, Romanian Desk, Third European Department
Russian Public Policy Center
Maxim Bratersky, Head, Department of International Programs
Dennis Dragunsky, Director, Center for National Models of Democracy
Elena Gerasimova, Assistant to the President
Alexei Makhlai, Head, Department of Regional, International, and EconomicPrograms
Sergei Mikhailov, Director, Analytic Center
Gen. (ret.) Oleg Vishnevsky, Executive Director
Jan Carnogursky, former Prime Minister; Chairman, Christian DemocraticMovement
Dusan Slobodnik, Chairman, Foreign Relations Committee, Slovak Parliament
Igor Kharchenko, Head, Analytic Department, and member of the board,Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Deana Arsenian, Assistant Director, Watson Institute, Brown University
Daniel Fried, Special Assistant to the President; Senior Director forCentral and Eastern Europe, National Security Council/White House
Jonathan Rickert, Director, North-Central European Affairs, Department ofState
Thomas Szayna, Analyst, International Studies Group, RAND
Foreign Embassies in Moscow
Tomas Gelzecki, Minister-Counselor, Embassy of Republic of Poland
Stepan Grigoryan, Political Counselor, Embassy of Republic of Armenia
Aleksandr Kinchenko, Second Secretary, Embassy of Ukraine
Wlodzimiecz Marcynyak, Counselor, Embassy of Republic of Poland
Gyorgy Nanofszky, Ambassador, Republic of Hungary
Andras Telkes, Second Secretary, Embassy of Republic of Hungary
Vladimir Votapek, Second Secretary, Embassy of Czech Republic
Pavel Zatkai, Second Secretary, Embassy of Slovak Republic
Project on Ethnic Relations (U.S.)
Allen H. Kassof, President
Livia B. Plaks, Executive Director
Larry L. Watts, Senior Consultant