Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by U.S. Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen Commonwealth Club of California 21 July 1997
Just a few short years ago, amidst the ruins of the Soviet Empire and the rubble of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukayama wrote that the sweep of history had come to an end, and that Western economic and political liberalism would sweep the globe as the new universal culture. His thesis was captured more colloquially by a South African academic named Peter Vale, who commented, "Rejoice my friends or weep with sorrow. What California is today, the world will be tomorrow."
While Fukayama was wrong, it is true that today we truly do stand at a pivot point in history. On one side of the world coin is momentous opportunity, with flourishing markets, breathtaking technologies and brave new democracies. But on the other side of that coin are startling new dangers, rising ethnic conflicts, regional aggressors and terrorism. And it is our challenge -- America's challenge -- to move beyond the "post-Cold War" mindset, and reorient ourselves for a new century. We must articulate America's vision for this new century, and then set about achieving it -- capitalizing on the new opportunities, avoiding the new dangers.
As Secretary of Defense, I can tell you that America's security vision for this new century is quite simple: We seek a world where there is more stability in more regions, more democracy and more prosperity in more nations, and thus fewer threats to America's interests.
Underpinning this vision is the essential requirement that America remain engaged in world affairs, to influence the actions of others -- friends and foes -- who
can affect our national well-being. Today, there are some who would have us pull back from the world, forgetting the central lesson of this century: that when America neglects the problems of the world, the world often brings its problems to America's doorstep.
This lesson was well-understood by the generation of Americans that won World War II. That generation articulated a vision for peace and stability in both Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. On both continents that vision was premised upon an America that was not only forward-deployed with strong military forces, but also an America that extended a helping hand, seeking to rebuild defeated foes, such as Germany and Japan.
Today, the greatest way we can honor that World War II generation, is to complete the global vision for peace that they articulated, both in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. In so doing, we would also bequeath a great gift to the first generation of the next century.
This great task is made more imperative by the fact that today technology has miniaturized the globe, reducing the vast oceans that lap our shores to mere ponds. Today, we cannot simply zip ourselves into a continental cocoon and watch the world unfold on CNN.
Centuries ago, Archimedes discovered the secret behind the lever and declared: "Give me a place to stand, and I will move the world." Today, history has given the United States a place to stand. Using our ideals, our diplomacy and our military might as our lever, we have the unique opportunity to move the world, not simply for the betterment of others, but for the betterment of ourselves.
Indeed, it is our duty and our destiny to put our muscles to this lever and engage both the Atlantic and Pacific communities in the greater cause of building a new century. A new century defined not by conflict, but by cooperation. Not by its perils, but by its promise.
In the Asia-Pacific region, being Archimedes means strengthening the US-Japan security alliance -- as we are doing with our ongoing negotiations to orient it to the challenges of the 21st century -- ensuring that it continues be a calming force for peace and stability throughout the region.
It means maintaining a strong alliance with the Republic of Korea, ready for any contingency in the near term, and ready to promote our shared interests in the long term, even after the division of the Peninsula ends.
It means enhancing our relationships with friends and allies in Southeast Asia, which will soon overtake Europe as our second largest overseas export market and is of growing importance to American security.
Being Archimedes in the Asia-Pacific also means following a strategy of engagement with China: working with China where we can, disagreeing where we must, and doing what we can to ensure a future where China contributes to the tides of economic dynamism, cooperation and trust that are filling the Pacific Basin.
On the other side of the globe, across the Atlantic in Europe, playing the role of Archimedes means that America must team up with our NATO allies to complete the dream first spoken by George Marshall when he strode to the podium at Harvard 50 years ago.
In June of 1947, as a Europe shattered by war struggled to rise to its feet, Marshall dared to imagine Europe as a new continent -- healed, whole, and free -- at peace with itself and with the world, and linked to America across a bridge of help, hope, and heritage.
Marshall's vision became the Marshall Plan. Half of Europe embraced the Marshall Plan and built strong democracies, strong economies and a strong alliance called NATO. But half of Europe was denied the Marshall Plan when Joseph Stalin slammed the Iron Curtain down upon the fingers of America's helping hand.
Two weeks ago in Madrid, America and our European allies took historic steps towards completing Marshall's vision.
First, NATO reaffirmed its commitment to develop genuine cooperation with both Russia and Ukraine. The Founding Act with Russia, signed in May, and the NATO-Ukraine Charter, signed in Madrid, will set NATO on a future course of consultation and cooperation with these two great European nations, giving Moscow a voice -- but not a veto or a vote -- in Brussels, and allowing NATO to forge closer ties with a Ukraine that is rapidly becoming a model nation in promoting pan-European cooperation. Together, the two documents soundly refute the argument that NATO enlargement is creating "new dividing lines" in Europe.
I saw this with my own eyes when I traveled to Lviv right after the Madrid summit to attend a Partnership for Peace exercise involving forces from the United States, Ukraine, and nine other former Warsaw Pact nations, all gathered together on what used to be the largest Soviet military training ground in Europe.
- The American forces, you should know, were from the California National Guard, which has established a sister relationship with Ukraine's armed forces. It
- was a truly inspiring sight. On soil that once suffered the footfalls of troops from one half of Europe training for war with the other half, forces from all over Europe came to train for peace.
But, of course, the largest step NATO took in Madrid towards completing Marshall's vision of a new Europe was to invite three new democracies -- Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic -- to enter into accession negotiations leading to full NATO membership.
In choosing these three nations, NATO recognized the enormous progress they have made in building their new democracies, opening up their economies, and modernizing their military forces. But NATO also made very clear in Madrid that the first new members shall not be the last. The door to NATO membership must, and will, remain open to all those able to share the responsibilities of membership.
And as President Clinton, Secretary Albright and I fanned out across the continent in the days following the Madrid summit, the message we carried, both to those nations selected for membership and to those who still have a ways to go, is that the responsibilities of membership are very great indeed.
Enlargement means extending the most solemn guarantees a nation can make a commitment to the security of another. So in Warsaw, Prague and Budapest, the three of us underscored that being a NATO member means becoming contributors not merely consumers of security. And so we emphasized the need for them to continue to modernize their armed forces and make them interoperable with NATO forces. I can assure you that I have no doubt that by the time these three nations join the Alliance in 1999, the addition of their armed forces will indeed make NATO not simply larger, but stronger.
The benefits of a larger, stronger NATO are enormous, both for Europe and for America.
One need look no further than the history books to understand that when Europe is safe, America is more secure. And when peace in Europe is threatened, so too is America. As President Clinton said last May, "Europe's fate and America's future" are inextricably linked.
Twice before in this century, thousands of Americans have fought and died defending freedom in Europe. Yet in the last 50 years, American blood has not been shed fighting a war in Europe. The reason for that is NATO. As Secretary Albright said, "We have learned that alliances make the threat of force more credible, and therefore the use of force less likely that by promising to fight if necessary, we can make it less necessary to fight."
No one doubts that America has important security interests at stake in central and eastern Europe. NATO enlargement will help deter threats to those interests from arising. It embodies the wisdom that liberty enlarged is liberty ensured. And it will replace the artificial lines that divided the continent with a wider circle of security that will make the alliance stronger and better able to
protect peace and prevent future war.
The second reason to enlarge NATO is to defend Europe's gains towards democracy and prosperity. An enlarged NATO can do for all Europe what NATO has already done for Western Europe, providing the security and stability for new democracies to flourish, just as it once did for German, Italy and Spain.
This same security and stability are also key ingredients to furthering prosperity both in the United States and in Europe. The stability that NATO provides to Europe does not simply help us avoid the costs of future wars, it is also the basis for investment, trade and economic growth that benefit Americans and Europeans alike, from Berkeley to Budapest and beyond.
A third reason to enlarge NATO is to help create a climate of peace throughout the continent, prevent local rivalries, diminish the incentives for competing arms buildups, and foster a realm of trust and cooperation where members can resolve their differences through negotiation rather than confrontation.
Just the prospect of enlargement has been a powerful force for peace these past few years, causing countries to dramatically improve their relations with their neighbors and restructure their militaries under democratic civilian control. This dynamic has melted away old disputes between Poland and Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine, Hungary and Romania, Italy and Slovenia, Germany and the Czech Republic.
These are the same types of disputes that caused World War I, the same disputes that Hitler played upon to start World War II, and the same disputes that led to the worst killing in Europe since World War II, in the former Yugoslavia. Today, the enlargement process is causing nations to fix these disputes, instead of allowing them fester, or to be fanned by narrow-minded nationalists.
Finally, NATO enlargement will right the wrongs of the past, offering security and stability to nations that suffered greatly from five decades of Soviet oppression. Failing to enlarge would amount to validating the line Joseph Stalin drew in 1945 and which two generations of Americans and Europeans fought to overcome. It would -- again, in the words of Secretary Albright -- "mock half a century of sacrifices on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and would create a permanent source of tension in the heart of Europe."
Some have maintained that despite these benefits of an enlarged NATO, the cost to America will simply be too high both in treasure and in potential blood. This is simply false. The Defense Department's best estimate is that the direct incremental costs to the United States will be on the order 100 to 200 million
dollars a year for a period of 10 years. These numbers could change as we develop a better understanding of what is needed to make new members better able to operate with NATO forces and better able to host NATO forces in the event of a crisis. In fact, some of our technical experts believe we have overestimated the likely cost.
But I can tell you with confidence that while an adequate defense is always expensive, alliances make it cheaper -- both because costs are shared, and because when forces are interoperable they are more effective and efficient. And I can tell you with certainty that the costs of NATO enlargement are truly a pittance when weighed against the blood and treasure we would spend fighting another war in Europe -- a war caused by instability that we failed to prevent when we failed to enlarge.
The essence of the challenge facing America, both across the Atlantic and across the Pacific, was well put in another speech given across the Bay in Berkeley. In this speech, the speaker noted that in "Europe . . . in the Middle East, in Indonesia, in China . . . in Japan and Korea the character and strength of [America's] leadership may well be decisive in the present situation. Evad[ing] the issue by inaction . . . would vacate our dominant position of leadership and thereby revert [us] to a secondary role a role which inevitably would deprive each of us of those American principles of freedom and justice we have always upheld by every means available." And, I would add, [it would] deprive us of the fruits of economic growth.
This speech was given at the 1948 UC Berkeley Charter Day celebration by George Marshall as he was barnstorming the country to garner support for his plan. Today, Marshall's prescient words echo down to us across the decades, underscoring the importance of holding up the lamplight of history so that we do not stumble on the footpath to the future.
In closing, let me share a thought uttered by Winston Churchill at a dinner he hosted many years ago for the journalist Stuart Alsop. After dinner, having indulged in some champagne and a touch of brandy, Churchill said, "America. America. A great and powerful country. Like some strong horse, pulling the rest of the world out behind it out of the Slough of Despond towards peace and prosperity." Then he fixed his cold blue eyes on Alsop accusingly, and asked: "But will America stay the course?" Nearly 50 years later, we can answer his question. America has stayed the course because that is our responsibility. We will stay the course, because that is our destiny.