Toward a Europe Whole and Free
The Struggle for Europe
Madeleine Albright, Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group; Board Director, Atlantic Council;
Stephen Hadley, Chairman, Board of Directors, United States Institute of Peace;
Moderator: R. Nicholas Burns, Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Federal News Service
R. NICHOLAS BURNS: Good morning. We’re on to the next session. I’m Nick Burns, Atlantic Council board member. I teach at Harvard. It’s a great pleasure for me to be able to have this conversation with two good friends and two of my old superiors in the U.S. government: Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Former National Security Advisor Steve Hadley.
And as we begin, I think we want to salute Governor Huntsman and President Fred Kempe and Vice President Damon Wilson for their leadership of the Atlantic Council. It is the fastest-growing think tank in Washington, maybe in our country, in its influence. And it’s the premier think tank that commits itself to trans-Atlanticism. So thank you very much, Governor, and thank you, Fred. (Applause.)
Madeleine and Steve don’t need an elaborate introduction, but I’d like to say about both of them, when we think about the reason for this conference and the reason for this panel, “The Struggle for Europe,” the struggle for the trans-Atlantic community, Madeleine Albright’s life has been intertwined with the Cold War. And we’re not seeing the return of the Cold War but we are seeing the return of Cold War passions.
At the advent of the Cold War, her family was forced to leave Europe. Her entire professional life was focused on sustaining freedom and democracy, recovering it in the Eastern half of Europe. And you all remember, when she was our ambassador to the United Nations, she very aggressively, successfully, rightfully pushed for American intervention with Europe in Bosnia and Kosovo, and then very significantly was the architect on the U.S. side of the first round of NATO enlargement in 1997 that brought in Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. And she has continued to be a champion of both European democracy and our trans-Atlantic community.
Steve Hadley served – began his professional life in Washington in the Gerald Ford administration. He has been a supreme trans-Atlanticist. And I know for a fact, working with Steve but in George H.W. Bush’s administration and particularly George W. Bush’s administration, Steve has always stood up for this community and in November 2002 was instrumental in the U.S. support for bringing in seven new members into the NATO alliance. So both of them are supremely well qualified to talk about this subject.
We thought we’d try to do three things in about 35 minutes and then go to you for questions: Number one, how do we access the seriousness of this crisis in Europe, produced by Vladimir Putin? Number two, how do we assess the effectiveness of the trans-Atlantic response? And number three, what’s the best way to sustain democracy, freedom, the health of NATO and the EU as we oppose what President Putin has done?
And I thought I’d begin with Secretary Albright. And, Madeleine, just to ask you, you’ve thought deeply about these issues. You’ve lived and thought deeply about the history of Central Europe. How serious a crisis is this, in your judgment?
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, it’s great to be with you, Nick and Steve, and all of you. Thank you all for being here. And this is one audience that is really tuned in on this. So it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to discuss this. I think it’s very important. It’s very, very serious. I think it is potentially a game-changer in terms of the kinds of discussions we’ve been having since the fall of the Berlin Wall. And I think it’s really important for people to understand how serious it is.
In order to put it into some context, I think it is essential to go back a little bit in history. You make me sound like Methuselah, but nevertheless – (laughter) – the truth of the matter is we are dealing still with the remnants of World War II where, in fact, as a result of arrangements made after the war, the – Central and Eastern Europe was, quote, “liberated” by the Red Army, and then by a series of salami tactics, slowly really bringing one country after another within the Soviet bloc. And that was not by choice of the countries, frankly. We can go over the history.
So then 50 years these countries are stuck behind the Iron Curtain. And one of the things that I did in ’91 as a private citizen was to go all through Europe and ask what some of the questions were after the fall of the Wall, and there were many different answers about different questions but the one that was most salient for this discussion, whether we were in Czechoslovakia or Bulgaria or in the Baltics, people said, we want to be Europeans. We have – are Europeans; we want to be Europeans. And I think that is really something absolutely essential. And then when the first President Bush came in he talked about a Europe whole and free, because that is really what responded to what people wanted.
By the way, just to show that history repeats itself, the United States, with the Marshall Plan, invited everybody in it, including the Soviet Union. And Czechoslovakia accepted and then the foreign minister of Czechoslovakia was hauled to Moscow and told, no way. My father at the time was his chief of staff, and Jan Masaryk came back and he said, I now recognize that I am not the foreign minister of a sovereign country. So as President Barroso says how the Russians said, you can’t be in the European Union, it did have a few reverberations.
So we come to the end of the Cold War, and one after another countries did want to be Europeans. And so what we began to look at was how to do it. And let me just – President Barroso said, were we respectful of the Russians? We were asked to do something that has never been asked before, is how do you devolve the power of your major adversary without – without being on the field of battle? And it wasn’t easy. I do think that there had been a mistake made in saying that we won the Cold War. The bottom line is they lost the Cold War. And that is not a semantic difference. It is that the system fell apart.
And so later we were dealing with how, in fact, to be respectful of Russia, how to deal with them. We helped them in a number of different ways, trying not to be patronizing. But in that particular survey that I did, one group, where we met in Russia – I’ll never forget this focus group – this man stood up and he said: I’m so embarrassed. We used to be a superpower and now we’re Bangladesh with missiles. And the problem is an identity problem that has happened. And I think that that is what President Putin has kind of glommed onto and identified himself with that embarrassment and is trying to rectify it.
But I think what is important is that these were all independent countries. Ukraine is an independent country. And these are countries that did in fact want to be a part of NATO. They wanted to be a part of NATO immediately. And what we made very clear – and we can spend the whole time talking about this – is NATO is not a charitable organization. You actually have to be capable of being a member of the alliance. And so we went about it, I think, actually quite slowly. And I think it was absolutely the right thing to do. And it is essential to understand that these are countries that wanted to be part of a different system and did not want to be part of the Soviet bloc. And the Warsaw Pact fell apart. It isn’t something that we forced. It fell apart.
MR. BURNS: Thank you, Madeleine.
Steve, Fred Kempe, our president, opened the conference yesterday by asserting, I think rightly, this is the most serious challenge to the international system in recent years. It’s certainly a profound crisis for the trans-Atlantic community. How do you see this, given your long history?
STEPHEN HADLEY: It’s very serious now, and we don’t know really how serious it will become, let me tell you. What we know now is that Putin really rejects the post-Cold War order that was established about respect for sovereignty, respect for territorial integrity, right to choose your alliances and right to be free of the use of force or intimidation by force. He has rejected that, torn that up. Second, we know that he wants to reestablish some sense of a Russian empire. This is not the Soviet Union but it is a Russian empire, and that’s what the Eurasian Union is about. That’s what the CSTO is about. And of course, as José Barroso said, Ukraine is key. With it, it’s formidable; without it, it’s not.
We also know about Putin – and we saw this in the Georgian crisis. You know, when he went into Georgia we were all thinking – and Damon Wilson will remember because he was much at my side in that – today Georgia, tomorrow Ukraine and the Baltics the day after. Well, you know, we’re two-thirds of the way down that road. We saw in Georgia that Putin, when he gets started – he’s very good at taking advantage of targets of opportunity. Saakashvili gave him one. In some sense, disarray in Kiev gave him another one. He’s very entrepreneurial. He takes advantages of these things. And his objectives escalate depending on how well he’s doing and how much resistance he meets. And we saw that in Georgia. He had three demands. We’re a week into the crisis and suddenly he tells Condi Rice, oh, by the way, we have another demand; we want to overturn the government in Tbilisi. And that then became the focus of our efforts to stop that.
So it is a very serious challenge to the post-Cold War order in Europe, which is based on these kinds of principles that we think are international principles. But if he does well and does not meet resistance, I think this is also about shattering NATO and potentially shattering the EU, because if he were to do something in the Baltics and we did not respond, that’s the end of Article 5. It’s the end of article – of NATO. And his attitude towards the EU, which was kind of live and let live, has clearly changed and he’s now opposing not just membership in NATO but he’s also opposing membership in the EU.
So I think potentially this is not just about reestablishing some kind of Russian empire. It’s also, quite frankly, an effort to see how far he can go to disrupt NATO and perhaps even disrupt the EU. So we don’t know, but in order to avoid the kind of progression I’m talking about, it’s very important for us to be taking strong measures now. And I salute the Atlantic Council, and Jon and Fred and Damon and everyone, for the timing of this conference and the way it was prepared because it could not be more urgent and could not be more important.
MR. BURNS: Good. Let’s go to the question of how we’ve done so far, two months into this crisis. And maybe, Madeleine, I can start with you and just ask about the European Union.
As President Barroso said, the EU has been on the frontlines of this; quite rightly has decided, as was decided in Georgia in 2008 with the United States, there’s no military response to Putin. There’s no direct confrontation or military response. That wouldn’t be right; it wouldn’t be smart. But the EU has been a major provider of assistance for the government of Ukraine and the EU has tried to unify itself on sanctions, but there’s a perception that the European Union has not done enough, that in fact it’s divided inside, that certain countries more reliant on trade with Russia are very resistant to exposing their companies to sanctions. There’s an imagery problem: Chancellor Schroeder, former German chancellor, public embrace of Putin in St. Petersburg yesterday; German executives traveling to meet Putin in Moscow. What advice would you have to the European Union, to Europeans as they respond to this?
MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say I think one of the things as we look at this crisis – and it’s not just a situation; it is a crisis – is that it’s really taking place in three different, kind of, circles, venues. One of them is obviously Ukraine, and I hope we come back to really discussion what needs to be done for Ukraine. One is in terms of what Putin is doing, and we’ve begun to talk about that. And the third is the – not just Europe but U.S.-European relations, European-Russia relations. So I think it is one of the really important circles of all of this.
I think it was very interesting the way President Barroso described, thanks to the questions of Fred, in terms of the differences among the Europeans. And I think that one has to understand that. They are at different dependencies, not on – not just on energy but in terms of their own economies. And I think, frankly, the response is a little bit, if I may say so, a mixed bag. I think it is hard to get 28 countries to do anything together, but in fact I think, from an American perspective, one would like them to be firmer.
I was trying to think as I was listening to this is whether one could actually make clear that it’s not so bad that the Europeans are sanctioning people in the government and that we are sanctioning individuals within the business sector, that maybe that could be shown as kind of a one-two punch instead of making it look as though we’re completely disaggregated, because I do think that both are valuable to do. But what this points up is that the Europeans – I think one of the things that Putin was trying to do was to divide Europe, and I think the initial reaction was one of uniting Europe, and the job now is how to try to keep them – us and the Europeans together and make it very clear that this is a long-range story.
I think part of the problem for all of us is we are short-term. This is a long story and I do think that there needs to be a lot more work in terms of the European Union being more aggressive in terms of the way that it sees what Russia’s – Russia is doing, and that we understand often with sanctions that the targeting countries also bear the burden of it. That is the way it works – targeting and targeted – and that this is something that is necessary in order to deal with what we are both saying is a game-changer and a really – I think it is a critical point in what 21st century international governance is about.
MR. BURNS: Yeah. Madeleine, a quick follow up. When the Russian Duma formally fulfilled President Putin’s request and annexed Crimea, what we heard from both Brussels and Washington was, well, there’s not going to be a military response but we’re going to drive up the economic cost to Putin. I think an objective analysis would say, well, certainly the Russian stock market has declined, but that decline began before this crisis. And there has been capital flight over the last several weeks from Russia, but have the costs really been high enough to affect Putin’s behavior?
MS. ALBRIGHT: I think, because Putin is living in his own world and because he is making up facts, it is hard to know what affects his behavior. But ultimately I do think it has to be damaging in terms of questions. Their economy wasn’t in great shape before.
MR. BURNS: Yeah.
MS. ALBRIGHT: I think that it is in trouble in a number of different ways because they never had any reform programs because they had high oil prices, and that this has to hurt. The question is – and this is the problem – Putin’s numbers are up in terms of popularity –
MR. BURNS: In Russia.
MS. ALBRIGHT: – and partially – go back to my man about the – you know, a country – Bangladesh with missiles – is there really has been an identity problem in Russia, plus the propaganda in Russia is so stunning. I was listening to Russian TV. I mean, they are just basically – you know, one of the narratives is to these little old people: The people in Ukraine are the fascists who are the children of the Nazis who killed your relatives during World War II, and therefore it is essential for you to go in and save your Slavic brothers and sisters. That’s all that’s out there.
And so the combination of that and the identity crisis, and Putin – I think Putin is a spectacular example of somebody who has something in his head that is fictitious and then also has people around him who only tell him what he wants to hear. And so there is a genuine problem in that, which is something that Angela Merkel actually pointed out.
MR. BURNS: Thank you. And Chancellor Merkel will be here –
MS. ALBRIGHT: Right.
MR. BURNS: – tomorrow to see the president.
MS. ALBRIGHT: Yeah.
MR. BURNS: Steve, I wanted to ask you to assess, if you could, the U.S. response, and maybe in a historical framework. You were national security advisor, right with President Bush, when Putin invaded Georgia in August 2008. Are there lessons that you learned and that the Bush administration learned that might be helpful to the Obama administration? I think most people would say that President Obama has wanted to do more than Europe in driving up the economic costs and the severity of the sanctions. He’s wanted to be aligned with Europe because he wants to have a combined impact. There are critics who say that the president’s been largely reactive and hasn’t done enough to lead. How do you – how do you see this?
MR. HADLEY: Well, I have a lot of sympathy for them. These are very difficult crises to manage and I’m not going to criticize them. I will – I will say a couple things.
One, in terms of – this is a much bigger crisis than Georgia. You know, the Russians were in South Ossetia and Abkhazia before they moved. They’re in them now. This is a bad outcome but it is not the same as the annexation of Crimea and the threat to the eastern provinces of Ukraine. So it is a much more serious crisis now and it requires a much more serious reaction.
I have said that I thought, in retrospect, we failed by not getting economic sanctions in place over Georgia. We were four months, five months before the end of an administration in the middle of the biggest financial and economic meltdown since the Depression. And so when you go to the Situation Room and say, I think we ought to sanction Russia over Georgia, people say, are you not reading the papers? So it was a difficult time but I think it still was a mistake. I think the reset came much too soon and left the Russians out of the corner much too soon.
MR. BURNS: The Obama reset?
MR. HADLEY: The reset that occurred –
MR. BURNS: Yeah.
MR. HADLEY: – of U.S.-Russian relations in 2009.
I think most people would say that our sanctions response has been too slow. We’ve lagged events. And we have – we have threatened the big punch, which is something aimed at the economy, these sectoral sanctions, but we’ve aimed the punch to try to deter him from doing something more rather than delivering a punch for what he has already done. I think that’s probably – was read by Putin as weakness.
I think the biggest risk in we’re going to put all of our effort and all our struggle into the issues of sanctions, which is very important but is a – only a piece of what needs to be a strategic reaction to what Putin has done that both, yes, tries to deter his future action, reassures our allies, but it also eliminates targets of opportunity, softness in Europe that gets back pursuing our narrative, our vision for a Europe whole and free and at peace, and that involves – and that basically stopped in 2008, both in terms of EU enlargement and NATO enlargement.
We need to get our vision for Europe moving forward again. And there are a number of things – and we can talk about concrete things we can do to do that, but my concern is we’re going to focus all about sanctions, all about short-term punishment and not reconstructing an order in Europe that will change the landscape strategically, deny Putin opportunities to do this further, and really go towards creating what this has all been about since the end of World War II and again at the end of the Cold War, a world whole, free and at peace, when Russia has an appropriate role. That’s really – we’ve got to get on with that work.
MR. BURNS: Thank you. I want to pivot to what we do, but before we do I want to ask both of you a quick tactical question. The New York Times had a very interesting article yesterday saying that there are – there’s a spirited discussion in the Obama administration right now: Does the United States continue to align itself with Europe on the pacing and severity of sanctions or does the United States, perhaps Canada, separate because the U.S. is willing to go ahead? How do you – what advice do you have?
MR. HADLEY: You lead. We’ve got to do it with the Europeans because it’s the Europeans, as José Barroso said, that have big punch in terms of the relations. But, you know – and we will have this debate and we will always – as we always are, we’ll be ahead of them leading but not separating from them, because in the end of the day, on the sanctions piece they’ve got a bigger stick than we do.
MR. BURNS: Madeleine?
MS. ALBRIGHT: I think that there are two aspects to this, is there are those in the American – and I’m not saying – just generally as one reads the newspapers – very much a sense that think this is all about U.S.-Russia and that the thing that we have to be careful of is not to let Russia disintegrate and that these are just a bunch of countries that maybe they weren’t independent in the first place, and so why don’t we try to figure out what is the whole thing about Russia? I think that that is very short-sighted because this is a much larger question in terms of Europe generally, the Europe whole and free, and how the – whatever term one uses, the Western world, operates at this point. So I’m very troubled by this kind of sense. A number of discussions that I’ve overheard, listened to, been a part of, of kind of saying, let’s just make sure that we’re not too tough on Russia so that it doesn’t fall apart.
So I think that’s one that – the other part I think is I happen to believe that the partnership with Europe – I mean, you described me; I’m kind of the epitome of the partnership – is it has to be strong but Europe has to play its role. And one of the things I think that did happen in the last eight years is basically that the Europeans are not playing that role. The European Union is not living up to – what I always say is I was born in Europe; therefore I’m just like all the Europeans here. It’s just that I happen to have been raised in the United States so I can say what I think about Europe – (laughter) – which is that the Europeans fell apart in many ways. The European Union did not live up to its various potential and a lot of national feelings came up and a variety of things.
And so the U.S. can do whatever and lead – I agree with that – but there is a responsibility that the Europeans have to get their act together and to recognize the fact that they have a responsibility also for this Europe whole and free, and that we have to do it together.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
Let’s pivot to the – to the heart of the matter, and that is what’s the strategy going forward? Steve correctly says we need a strategic orientation here. Madeleine, you say, correctly, it’s a long-term effort; we can’t just think short term tactically. Are the elements of a strategy effective economic and political support for a new Ukrainian government post-May 25th, driving up the cost to Putin but, importantly, reinforcing NATO and making the NATO commitments real, particularly to the Balts – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania – the Poles, the Romanians? Are those at least three elements to begin with?
MR. HADLEY: I would build up from that in addition to the NATO piece, and we can go into the details. The United States, as the United States, needs to reaffirm its commitment to European security and needs to demonstrate it in terms of our own deployments, our own posture in Europe, and really make it clear to Europe that within the NATO framework the United States is still committed to the security of Europe.
I think the – it is very important for the EU to make it clear that it’s not only offering association agreements to Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, but that is a path towards membership, that the door is still open. A lot of work is going to have to be done but the door is open. We need a comprehensive energy strategy that we and Europe need to be working on right now, because that is how you reduce Putin’s long-term leverage on Europe. And there are lots of pieces. There are pipelines that don’t – that he cannot control. There are new sources of supply. There is shale oil and shale gas in Europe that Europe has got to find a way to get onto the market. And then of course the LNG from the United States.
We have – and then finally I would just emphasize the TTIP is terribly important as an instrument for binding Europe and the United States together. So we have a huge amount of pieces on the table, potentially huge amount of leverage on Putin. He’s actually in quite, objectively, a weak situation. But subjectively – you can have all the objective leverage in the world. If you’re subjectively willing to use that in a coordinated way pursuant to a strategy to achieve your objectives, you’re not going to get where you need to go, and that’s the big task we’ve got before us.
MR. BURNS: Thank you, Steve. Does that sound right to you, Madeleine?
MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, I definitely think that we need to reaffirm NATO. I’m a great believer in it and that has to be done. I think there are steps beyond that, however – for instance, there are a series of NATO meetings that are coming up.
One of the things that had been – I was asked to look at a new strategic concept for NATO at one point, and basically we were saying that NATO has more partners than it has members, and it needs to understand that this – while it is basically a European operation it does have amazing strength. It is the most powerful alliance in the history of the world and it needs to be made – it needs to be made very clear that we reaffirm it. I also do think that what is interesting is there needs to be a better coordination between NATO and the EU. That is one of the missing aspects. And when you talk about the energy part of this, that is something that has to be worked on.
What I would like to raise – because I’m very troubled by having read the newspaper this morning – there is a poll out there that says the American people are not interested in this.
MR. BURNS: The Wall Street Journal.
MS. ALBRIGHT: Right.
MR. BURNS: OK.
MS. ALBRIGHT: And again, to make myself Methuselah here, the bottom line is I have gone back and looked at how what happened at the beginning of World War II, why something like Munich happened, which is that the British and French were exhausted from World War I. They had lost a whole generation of young men. Their budgets were a mess. Their military was in shambles. And so while I will always believe that Neville Chamberlain is one of the more odious characters of history, the bottom line is they were willing to make an agreement with the Germans and Italians over the heads of the Czechoslovaks in order to have peace.
We are exhausted from Iraq and Afghanistan. That article today, the poll, shows Americans want to worry about themselves, because not enough had been happening in terms of domestic issues in the previous time, and basically don’t know what our role is in all of this. We cannot allow that to be the determinative factor. The Ukrainians have to be at the table over any discussion that is there, and we have to recognize that ultimately if nothing is done, whether it’s NATO strengthening or the EU or the energy, that in the long run we will pay for it. And so I am very troubled by that poll. I think it is very dangerous. And I think as we have this discussion here with so many of our foreign friends, is that we have to recognize that there has to be a different approach to this, that this is a very serious crisis.
MR. BURNS: Steve, after – to follow on to Madeleine’s statement, after the president’s press conference in Manila, the White House told reporters that the president was going to make a major speech at the West Point Commencement to articulate the broad outlines of his foreign policy strategy going forward. In light of this poll, in light of – what I think we all fear is isolationism right and left in the political spectrum, on the extremes, what advice would you have, based on your experience with the president, for leading the American people to be outward-oriented, not inward-oriented?
MR. HADLEY: Well, you know, the tendency of Americans always is to look inward. It’s where we live. You know, we’ve got a lot of things we need to fix here at home, both for its own purposes and if we’re going to provide leadership in the world. So Americans always have a tendency to look inward and it always takes a president who goes to the American people, not once, not twice, but consistently, explaining to the American people why what happens out there matters here, and what we can and need to do about it.
And when presidents have done that in a systematic and sustained way, the American people get it. They’re smart and they figure it out and support it. So these polls are, in some sense, because we have not had this kind of presidential leadership – and I don’t – I don’t mean to be critical but it is a fact. And Zbig Brzezinski was very clear yesterday. You know, the president needs to speak to the country about Ukraine.
I’d like to say one thing, having been very hawkish up here. I have one other objective that I think we need to have – achieve, and I want to say a word about it.
MR. BURNS: Please.
MR. HADLEY: And that is, we need to make sure that by our actions we are not the ones that are redividing Europe. Nobody wants that. And that is why, while I think we have to be very tough in our response to what Putin has said – and I think I’ve laid that out – but we do it – have to do it in a way that makes clear that the door is still open for a Russia that is willing to return to the kinds of consensus we thought we had at the end of the Cold War on international principles.
What do I mean? So in the TTIP we have to have a vehicle so that countries you said are not on the table can become part of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, that the door is open to a Turkey and potentially a Russia, that Ukraine ultimately moving into the EU does not mean that Ukraine has to sever its historical and economic ties with Russia. These are doable do’s, and – but we need to leave the door open to Russia. Why? Because I think if we don’t, the Europeans will be reluctant to follow because they do not want a redivision of Europe. And finally, for those people in Russia who do not want Putin to be their future but want a more democratic, Western-oriented Russia, we want to show that the door is open to them.
MR. BURNS: Thanks. That was the reason that President Truman invited the Soviet Union to participate –
MS. ALBRIGHT: Right.
MR. BURNS: – in the Marshall Plan.
MR. HADLEY: Exactly.
MS. ALBRIGHT: I do agree that we need to leave the door open, but let me just say – obviously we all believe in presidential leadership, but I think the thing that has to happen is to recognize that we also need leadership in Congress. We cannot have people who are proud not to have passports or people that are elected to come to Washington to do nothing. And so there is that role.
And it usually takes me a little bit longer, but we also have to blame the media, because partially there is not enough of an explanation to the American people as to how important it is. We have now spent zillions of hours – I’m really sorry about the people that were lost in the plane – the Malaysian plane, but the bottom line is what is happening in Ukraine is so much more important for America’s future and there’s no explanation of it. It is very rare that you actually get more than two minutes trying to get some sound bite about where Ukraine is, and basically to have some explanation. And so we have not mobilized Americans to understand what the stakes are here. And it’s going to take a while and I think we all have a responsibility in that, which is why this conference is important. Thank you, Fred.
MR. BURNS: Thank you. Before we go to questions – and we will – two quick tactical questions, one on NATO, one on Ukraine, and what should we do on both?
On NATO, there has not been a NATO summit. The heads of the NATO governments have not convened anywhere in the world. There’s an – there was an opportunity during the president’s last trip. There’s a first of week June G-8 meeting, now G-7. Shouldn’t NATO symbolically get together at the head-of-government level to say, we’re standing united?
MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, I think the – I mean, the president was in Brussels and he met with a – I think that that – that these were meetings that had been prescheduled but I think that they were used very well. I really do. And I do think that there needs to be a lot of work at NATO. It strikes me from reading about – Secretary General Rasmussen I think has really motivated a lot. There will be summits. I don’t know the schedules, but to me it is more a matter of declaratory policy in terms of the importance of NATO, and then what has been done, as far as I can see, of moving forces around and making clear that Article 5 is the central aspect of it. So that part I don’t see – I think that the NATO aspect of this has to be an ongoing work.
MR. HADLEY: I know why we didn’t have it, but I’m sorry we didn’t have a family photo of the president of the United States with all the leaders of the major European countries in this last trip. I think this is a terrific opportunity for the president to show leadership, to go to the American people, emphasize the importance of this crisis. That’s for friends – for people who have friends in the White House. I have some. My message to them is, this is a terrific opportunity for the American president to answer a lot of his critics by showing leadership. It’s a – it’s a wonderful opportunity and I certainly hope he takes it.
MR. BURNS: OK, quick tactical question, Steve, on NATO. So we promised – the Europeans and Americans and Canadians – President Yeltsin, in 1997, that as we enlarged, as NATO expanded, we would not station substantial – key word – forces in Eastern Europe. The United States has now deployed 600 ground troops to Eastern Europe, F-16s, F-15s. Is that enough? Should we do more? How do you define “substantial”?
MR. HADLEY: We’re going to have to sort that out. I think the – Damon I thought very expertly yesterday got people to make the point, which is if Putin is ripping up all the agreements that sustain the post-Cold War order, we can’t be bound by them. That said, we’ve got to do this in a smart way and we’ve got to have a balance in what we do. We have to – part of it has to be our deployments. I think part of it has to be helping people put people in a position to defend themselves, and that includes the Ukrainians.
I wouldn’t be talking about NATO membership for Ukraine. I wouldn’t put it on the table. I wouldn’t take it off the table, because that rewards Putin’s aggression. It’s not on the table. The Ukrainians aren’t talking about it. What we need to be talking about is what can we do to help the Ukrainians defend themselves, not because they’re going to stand up and defeat the Russian army, but because they have asked for our help, they need it for morale purposes, as Zbig said. But more to the point, it is an element of increasing the cost to Putin if he continues to push forward. These are the kinds of conversations I think we need to have.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
MS. ALBRIGHT: I think that Putin’s goal at the moment is to destabilize certainly the Baltics as well as Moldova, and he’s doing it in Ukraine. So the question is, what are the things to do so that that doesn’t happen? As far as the Baltics are concerned, I think obviously the kinds of movements on the NATO are most appropriate and consultations with them and all that. Moldova I think we also have to make clear how we stand with them. And we haven’t really talked about Ukraine enough itself.
MR. HADLEY: Right.
MS. ALBRIGHT: And I think the issue there is it’s an unbelievably complicated country of people that have been let down by their leaders, there’s just no question about it, in terms of we all cheered them in the Orange Revolution and people were elected and then they disappointed them in a number of different ways. And so the protests in the Maidan were people who were calling for some kind of change in their own country.
It’s not going to be easy. I’m trying to figure out, as elections go forward now – the IMF obviously has conditions. That’s the way that they operate. We have said that we would give a certain amount of money, but I try to visualize, as a political person, how you campaign on the basis of you thought it was hard in the Maidan in the cold; let me tell you what’s going to happen next.
MR. HADLEY: It will get worse, yeah.
MS. ALBRIGHT: And you really have to tighten your belts and all those things. So this is not easy. And I think that what we need to do is help them in some way. I think we should try to provide riot control – I mean, there are a variety of things – or, for instance, one of the things that we looked at in the Balkans was to create a gendarmerie of having something between an ordinary policeman and the military people. There are a number of things.
The other parts that I think we should do is send not just Americans but members of the European Union experts to sit in the ministries with the people, the technocrats there in Ukraine, to figure out how to – how to absorb the money that’s coming in, how to really watch that they’re not putting money in their pockets, and try to figure out how to really rebuild Ukraine, because for me what I see is Putin not marching in with 40,000 troops, but this way of undermining the entire system and saying, look, these people aren’t helping you; you need us, and just constantly pushing on the destabilization. And it’s creeping destabilization. So I do think we need to focus more on Ukraine itself.
MR. BURNS: OK, in case we don’t get this question, here’s the final thing we need to both, I think, get you to talk about. There’s an argument in the United States between, say, realists and liberal internationalists, realists saying we’ve got to recognize the symbiotic Russia-Ukraine relationship, that Ukraine is going to have to be a neutral country, and that the United States should, in effect, maybe behind the scenes, push Ukraine towards neutrality. Liberal internationalists, others, both parties, would say, no, that in the modern world every European democracy should be able to choose which way it’s looking. How do you both see that big question?
MR. HADLEY: I think, you know, countries’ futures are hopefully no longer arranged by big powers behind closed doors, that people get to vote, people get to decide. And it is, as I tried to suggest in the remarks and I think Madeleine I’m sure agrees with this, Ukraine can satisfy the desires of its people for a close relationship with the West, with the EU and the like, and the trick is to do it in a way that does not require putting up a wall between Ukraine and Russia but takes into account the historical ties there and the economic ties that are there.
That is the outcome. You know, Brent has talked about this, the best outcome would be – that is completely unrealistic – is if Russia and the United States, the EU, were to work together to try to build a prosperous Ukraine. That is what would really be in Russia’s interests and which would reintegrate Russia both its standing in Ukraine and re-knit up the kind of Europe whole and free we would like. That’s what Putin ought to be doing. Instead, he’s in the 19th century.
MR. BURNS: But he’s not doing that, right?
MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, I have always not liked the dichotomy between realism and idealism because I never know if I’m a realistic idealist or an idealistic realist. (Laughter.) The bottom line here is that we do – have to do exactly in terms of – countries have to be able to choose their own form of government, and they can’t choose their geographical location, but they can choose their orientation, and we have to allow that, or not just allow it but really be proponents of it.
However, realistically, they are where they are. And I do think that if they choose it, they have a way of be having a part of a Western perspective and not be enemies of Russia. And I – and I do think that that idealism and realism go together in this particular way because it would be unconscionable in the 21st century to just decide that X country is going to be in one aspect or the other. That is definitely – it’s not only 19th century, it’s 20th century. It cannot happen again.
And I know – I have to say as I was reading about when Zbig is described Polish-born, therefore, he has opinions, I would be described as Czechoslovak-born, which means – I don’t think that kind of limits your capability of thinking. What it does do is give you some kind of historical context for what has gone on here, and therefore, we need to recognize that these have been countries there – for the most part created as a result of World War One. They have the capability of making decisions about their own future, and we need to support that.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
MR. HADLEY: One last word. Julie Finley is here. Julie was very active in the early days of what we call NATO enlargement or NATO expansion. In retrospect, and I think I had a hand in that name, it was a wrong name because it suggested that we were gobbling up. It was – what it really was, of course, as Madeleine pointed out in her comments, was a response to the desire of countries in Central and Eastern Europe; given their history and given how they saw their future, it was a response to their desire to move West. And that’s what we did, and we were right to do it.
MR. BURNS: Yeah. And another of the fathers of this is Sandy Vershbow, ambassador to NATO, ambassador to Russia and now deputy secretary-general of NATO. So welcome, Sandy.
Time for questions. We have 15 minutes. We have one microphone.
General, yes. General Chuck Wald.
Q: So secretary, I’m an idealist and a realist. The ambassador’s an idealist and Steve’s a realist. (Laughter.)
But in all seriousness, words mean something. And granted, it’s good to be multifaceted how you get to the end state here, I get that. But one of the things that we have done I think over the last couple years, and words mean something – “pivot” became a big word; you used it a minute ago. And I don’t think we ever intended that to mean we’ve leaving places. But some of our actions have shown that maybe we aren’t that serious. I would suggest that Phil Breedlove as the NATO commander has his hands full, fully full, with everything that has to do with NATO. And we’ve taken the four-star positions out of Europe – namely the deputy commander – as well as the Army commander for that matter, but namely the deputy commander. I would suggest that it’s more than symbolic to put a four-star back there to show a commitment back to NATO and to Europe.
MR. BURNS: Can I also add to General Wald’s question for both of you, is it time to reconsider the planned defense budget cuts that would bring the Army to very low levels, lowest since 1940?
MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, let me just say, I think that there has been generally a misunderstanding about pivot and rebalancing. I have that the United States is not monogamous. We are both an Atlantic and a Pacific power. And the bottom line is that what – there had been the idea, frankly, that the Europeans were going to be our partners in dealing with issues around other parts of the world. That for reasons that I said earlier kind of didn’t come to fruition.
I think that – I was just reading the whole of the 2015 budget and the QDR, and I think what made me sad, frankly, as I read it was how much of it is determined by budget issues and not by the necessity of America’s role. And so it goes back to an earlier question. We are paying dearly for some of the other – the mistakes made previously.
And so part of the – I’m trying to be nice – is that basically, we have a problem where we need to look at what our goals are and then go to Congress and try to figure out how to change the sequestration and all the various budget aspects.
MR. BURNS: OK. Steve.
MR. HADLEY: Footnote. I would have pivoted without talking about it. It’s the messaging that was wrong.
But the point is, we don’t live in an disaggregated world. What I would say to the administration, you know, it’s fine for them to celebrate this Filipino defense agreement, but the success of our policy in Asia, our policy in Asia, is going to have more to do with how we handle this Ukrainian, this Russian crisis in Europe than it is about basing agreements in the Philippines.
MR. BURNS: OK. Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger in the second row.
Q: Good morning. I want to thank the panel for pointing out that we need a more comprehensive strategy that goes beyond just punishing Russia with the sanctions. And I certainly agree that the sanctions are necessary.
Two quick points. First, I think that it is not sufficiently understood in this country here that on the 25th of May, we are trying to help the Ukrainians conduct their elections, but it is also the day when we’re going to have elections of the European Parliament. Now, you can ask, what has this to do with the other? I just want to point out a very interesting development which has to do with President Putin’s role in Europe. You may have noted that the people who were invited and attended at the invitation of the Russian government the Crimean operation were not, as you would normally expect, the post-Communist parties from Europe alone. It was the representatives of the nationalistic right-wing movements throughout Europe. In other words, what – the point I’m – the quick point I want to make here is President Putin, by playing to be the hero of nationalistic forces in Western Europe, is deliberately weakening the very core of the European project. And therefore, we should not be surprised that on the 25th of May, when the right-wing forces in Europe will score more of a victory than we would like them to, there will be gleeful happiness in the Kremlin. I think it’s very important to understand that this is something that Putin’s actions are also producing far beyond the threats to eastern Ukraine. Thanks.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
MS. ALBRIGHT: I think it’s a very interesting point, though it’s my understanding that some of the movement to the extremes was taking place even before. This is just exacerbating it in many ways on the parliament.
MR. HADLEY: But it is the point that part of Putin’s agenda is not just about undermining NATO; it’s also undermining the EU. It’s very serious.
MR. BURNS: Yes, ma’am. Right in the center here. In the fourth row.
Q: Sam el-Ketbi, chairwoman of Emirates Policy Center in Abu Dhabi. I was tweeting what you are telling about Putin. And my follower – most of them are Gulfees and Arab – they’re saying, so might be this is the time to move towards Russia while it looks that United States is weak towards Ukraine. I can understand what is the domestic constraint on the foreign policy, but what is going now in the region showing that United States is having a weak foreign policy towards Syria, towards Ukraine, so this is what makes the country more leaning towards Russia. Thank you.
MR. BURNS: So this is essentially part of the point that I think Steve you made, that issues are related, that what happens in Syria might very well form part of the perception of what’s happening with American leadership in Europe. How do you both address that?
MR. HADLEY: It’s true. And that’s why I think there’s a terrific opportunity for President Obama here to step up and show leadership and to – and to really be out front in managing this very serious crisis. I think it can in some sense go some way to dispel the conclusions many in the world have drawn from some of past behavior in Syria and other places.
MR. BURNS: Madeleine.
MS. ALBRIGHT: I think that the United States has to be continually engaged. I think that President Obama has spoken about that a number of times in terms of partnerships in dealing with others. You can’t – I think this is not just what is going on in the United States. There is a genuine lack of cohesion in terms of how we operate through the institutions. And I would think that the countries in the Middle East might want to pay some attention to what Russia is really like towards minorities.
MR. BURNS: I’m being told that we’re – we no longer have time for questions, so I apologize to all of you who had questions. But I want to give you both the chance just to say one more thing to sum up your thoughts, maybe from this perspective: Shouldn’t we from a more positive perspective look at the real strength of the European Union – which has been a great success over many decades – and the strength of the American democracy and have some confidence that we can outlast President Putin and that it’s our system and our belief in democracy and our military might, NATO, that can in the end, if we play this correctly, end up with, you know, our strategic aims met? Do you have quiet confidence, both of you, that could be the case?
MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, I definitely do. And let me just say this: I actually believe that Putin has won a Pyrrhic victory, that he has harmed the future of the Russian people in terms of their capability of being part of a world where resources are – they’re in trouble, there’s no question, in terms of the Russian economy. And I think in the long run, Putin has bought himself a whole mess of problems. There is no question in my mind.
And I think our problem is if we pull ourselves apart by criticizing each other, instead of trying to figure out what the common themes are here and recognizing that the strength of democracies is to have diversity of views but ultimately that our strength comes from the kind of systems that we have and that Putin cannot live in the 19th century, that is what’s going on here. And so I do think – I have ultimate faith in this and that he’s bought himself a pile of problems.
MR. BURNS: Thank you. Steve.
MR. HADLEY: I’d agree “yes, but” to Madeleine. One, Russia has great economic problems. It is interesting that what he’s doing in Ukraine is accompanied by a major crackdown on the political rights and civil rights in Russia. And it shows the kind of Eurasian union he intends. And hopefully countries will draw some lessons from that. We have all kinds of leverage in this situation. We ought – this is actually a terrific opportunity for us. I think in the end, Russia is – Putin is playing a weak hand. But as I said before, leverage is only good if you’re willing to harness it, United States and Europe working together, in a smart strategy to achieve our objectives. So there’s – objectively, we should be fine. Subjectively, it’s going to depend on leadership, as it always does.
MR. BURNS: OK. Many, many thanks to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, National Security Adviser Steve Hadley.
MS. ALBRIGHT: That was fun. (Applause.)