CEERN Committee on Eastern Europe and Russia in NATO <br>
1613 5th St., NW,<br>  Washington, DC 20001<br>  •   phone (703)
521-5759 <br> •  fax (202) 462-4816

Background on the Committee on Eastern Europe and Russia in NATO

Where it came from, what it is, and why

All the basic questions about the Committee were recently asked by a prospective member. Some informal answers were sent back to him (and he proceeded to join). Here, now released for wider consumption, are his questions and the answers.

1. "What, precisely, is the mandate of the Committee, and from whence does it emanate?"

Our Committee was, as far as we know, the first public organization formed in the West to promote serious consideration of NATO expansion. I got it going at the beginning of 1992, by getting a group of interested people together on this subject. We incorporated in D.C. As to my personal background and how it happened that I knew serious people who would be interested: From 1983-1991 I was executive director of the Association to Unite the Democracies, an organization that way back when included some of the main founders of NATO among its followers. In that capacity I began to write hypothetically in 1985 and seriously after 1987 about the goal of expanding NATO to secure and stabilize Russia and other countries emerging out of Communism. From 1988 onward, letters and articles of mine about this subject appeared in various papers such as the NY Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, The Economist, International Herald Tribune, and lesser places such as my association's house organ, The Federator.

After 1989, the idea of joining NATO was taken up by all the new Central-Eastern European governments. NATO was still reluctant to discuss the issue. In 1991, upon the collapse of the Soviet Union, the new Russian government also approached NATO: Rutskoi visited NATO and asked it to play a greatly expanded role in the collapsing Soviet area; Yeltsin sent it a letter about Russia joining, too. Amazingly, NATO still didn't want to discuss the issue, evidently seeing more the complications in this than the opportunities. In light of this non-response, I belatedly recognized the reality that NATO was too tied down in intergovernmental habits to be able to respond in a timely fashion to the new opportunities, and there would be a need to get a wider public discussion going on the issue. And so, building on my previous contacts, I proceeded to take the initiative to form the Committee on Eastern Europe and Russia in NATO.

As of 1992, practically no one in the West was publicly giving serious consideration to any kind of NATO expansion. Our formal corporate mission was, accordingly, to promote serious consideration of the question of NATO enlargement to the countries emerging from the Soviet bloc. Our guiding thought from the start was to include Russia and its neighbors together in NATO, and to adapt NATO sufficiently that it could go on functioning effectively with a lot more members around the table.

Both sides of this equation are essential for describing us. We are pro-NATO and pro-Russia, pro-Russia and pro-Central Europe. Since 1994, the inter-governmental debate has often pressed these three groups into opposing camps -- with NATO and Central Europe on one side, Russia on the other -- making it harder to continue taking a "both-and" position; still, we have continued. After all, we got there first, so why should we let the latecomers redefine the issue, especially when they don't seem to have really tried to think the issue through to a synthesis? We took as our point of departure the question of what adaptations are needed to meet the opportunities of the new era, not what is the line of least resistance; accordingly, we were impelled to work out a synthesis adequate to bring the three groups together. The synthesis approach is still relevant now, maybe even "now more than ever", now that the antitheses are in danger of playing themselves out.

2. "What is its structure? When and at what levels does it meet? What vehicles exist for communication between members?"

It's informal in structure. Its purpose being to promote intelligent discussion of the issue, we do this through our individual efforts and connections, and meanwhile communicating among ourselves to this end. We use all the usual means -- telephone, e-mail, fax, mail, travel, and occasional get togethers.

We initiated the idea at GWU of holding a conference on Russia and NATO. The conference was held February 4, 1997; 150-200 people came.

Some of our members are:

In America: Prof. Bruce Russett, Prof. Michael Doyle, Prof. Celeste Wallander, Prof. Charles Kupchan, Dr. Edward Teller, Dr. Ariel Cohen, Cynthia Neu, Prof. Rey Koslowski, Dr. Ira Straus

In Western Europe: Alan Lee Williams OBE (Director, Atlantic Council UK), Avv. AntonLuigi Aiazzi, Tiziana Stella, Rick Wicks, Jan-Philipp Goertz, Amb. Adam Watson

In Central-Eastern Europe: Dr. Géza Jeszenszky (Chairman, Hungarian Atlantic Council), Mihajlo Mihajlov, Dr. Alexander Mirtchev, Adrian Petrescu, Dr. Daniel Daianu

In Russia: Dr. Andrei Kortunov, Dr. Alexander Yanov, Dr. Vladimir Pantin, Dr. Dmitry Mikheyev, Prof. Nicolai Petro, Oleg Abolin, Dr. Igor Khripunov, Oleg Petrov, Gen. Geliy Batenin

3. "Have any forms of consensus been reached thus far?"

We've had it from the start, by and large. The only internal division is that there are a few important members who would rather that we concentrate more on supporting enlargement to Central-East Europe, but most of those involved wanted to remain helpful to Russia as well as to CEE. In fact, we are probably the only organization in the NATO expansion business that is on genuinely warm terms with both the Russians and the Central-East Europeans.

In early '92, when we were getting started, I did an 8-page outline on problems and solutions for "Bringing Eastern Europe and Russia into NATO." That served to encapsulate our initial consensus. It looked at the changes needed for giving a favorable response to the efforts of the easterners to join. The introductory lines spoke to the spirit of the time of the revolutions underway: "In the end, all the adjustments in NATO, even in the most extreme scenario, are minor in comparison with the revolution that the countries of the former Soviet bloc are putting themselves through. We have asked them to turn themselves inside out – in effect 'reverse polarities' – in order to cease being our enemies. They have done it. Now the West owes it to them, and to itself, to make a few bureaucratic and procedural readjustments in order to accommodate them as allies. If the West feels that this is too much to ask of it, then in a sense it deserves to lose them and to have them as enemies again." How the spirit of the times has changed since those hopeful days! Nevertheless, the standard remains valid: the West should aim at sufficient adaptation to make full use of the opportunities raised by the infinitely more radical adaptations that people are putting themselves through to our east. In its own self-interest, it can afford nothing less.

From time to time this study was revised and extended, on the basis of comments from members and in response to external developments. It grew to 120 pages by 1994. After that, some parts of it became outdated: a substantial public discussion had in fact finally begun on the issue, and actual NATO policies had been formulated on it.

In January '94, NATO accepted in principle the goal of enlargement, meanwhile established the Partnership for Peace, and declared the door to membership open in principle to all Partner countries. NATO expansionism by then had become a major political business. Most people in that business attacked PfP and turned anti-Russian in 1994. Our Committee, however, saw the NATO decision as a major victory -- something which many other expansionists came around to seeing a year or two later -- and we looked immediately into the ways to move forward from it. Recognizing that there were serious adjustments involved in expanding membership and that it wasn't just a matter of naming candidates and letting them in, we wrote that the logical way for NATO to follow up on its commitment to enlargement was to get on with making a study on how to do it. This is something that NATO in fact proceeded to decide to do in December.

We ourselves did not sit waiting during those 11 months; we did our own study, proceeding from our previous studies and encapsulating our recommendations in a draft Protocol on NATO Enlargement. We circulated this draft among members for comments and corrections, and it was pretty broadly accepted as was, with minor corrections. It has since been a sort of unofficial platform. It serves several functions: as a compendium of the adjustments NATO needs to make, as a goal toward which to push NATO to increasingly approximate as it in fact adapts, and as a concrete proposal on how enlargement can be done.

In Sept.-Oct. '95, after NATO completed its internal study on enlargement, we prepared a commentary on that study. After circulating the drafts among members for suggestions, we put on the finishing touches. It was complimentary to NATO for having made a study at all and for having raised some of the serious issues that were too often neglected, but critical of it for having inadequately followed through on the central adjustments needed for making enlargement fruitful. William Colby (the former CIA Director, and a member of our Committee) released it for us on Nov. 2 -- again, not as a statement of Committee policy, but as a basis for more serious public discussion -- at a press conference we held under the auspices of the National Press Club. He described the NATO study as an example of old thinking, and defined the period since the collapse of Soviet Communism as an era of lost opportunities. (I last saw Colby a month later, at the funeral of our fellow Committee member, Bernard Yoh. Then Colby himself mysterious drowned. The Illuminati-watchers are saying it's no accident...)

4. "Has it proven safe to assume that members will confine their Committee-related efforts and interactions to the matter at hand?"

I have't known of any cases to the contrary, certainly not when members are speaking in the name of the Committee.

5. "What does Committee membership actually involve?"

The Committee has no membership fees. It consists of likeminded people who agree on the basic points: reaching out by NATO to its former enemies, adaptation of NATO for more flexible functioning in the new era -- and adaptation and flexibility that is sufficient to meet the challenges of full-fledged expansion. There's even some leeway on these basic points: a few members stress bringing in the Eastern Europeans not the Russians; a few don't care about keeping NATO going at all, only about its inclusion of Russia.

Membership in turn confers no particular material benefits, just intermittent communications, being consulted occasionally for our occasional Committee studies (and for our extremely occasional promulgation of quasi-official Committee policies), being able to speak in the name of the Committee (we trust that members will in good faith speak in keeping with the general trend of the Committee when they speak in its name) -- and being a part of an effort to get more serious discussion and policy on what is probably the most important question extant in the construction of the post-cold war order. If you agree with the basic points, just let us know that you want to be a member and you'll be welcome aboard.

Ira Straus

U.S. Coordinator
1625 S. 10th St.
Arlington, VA 22204
703/521-5759
Irastraus@aol.com