Secretary of Defense William J. Perry
Remarks to the National Press Club
Wednesday, February 28, 1996
Behind my desk at the Pentagon hangs a portrait of the great soldier and
statesman, George C. Marshall. Marshall, who was our third Secretary of
Defense, had a compelling vision for Europe. A Europe united in peace,
freedom, and democracy, from the Atlantic to the Urals. And bound to the
United States by a strong trans-Atlantic partnership, sustained by bipartisan
political support. That was Marshall's vision. Marshall was not just a
visionary, however. He also had a plan to make his vision a reality. And in
an historic speech at Harvard University, in 1947, he outlined what would come
to be called the "Marshall Plan."
Joining Marshall on the dais at that Harvard speech was the great poet, T.S.
Elliot, who just 10 years earlier had written, "Footfalls echo in the memory.
Down the passage we did not take. Towards the door we never opened."
These words by Elliot, foreshadowed the fate of Marshall's plan in Eastern and
Central Europe, because on that day, 50 years ago, as the footfalls of Word War
II still echoed across the shattered continent, the Marshall Plan offered
Europe a new passage to reconstruction and renewal. Half of Europe took this
passage and opened the door to prosperity and freedom. Half of Europe was
denied this passage when Joseph Stalin slammed the door on Marshall's offer.
And so, 50 years, the footfalls of what might have been echoed in our
Today, the Cold War is becoming an echo in our memory and we have a second
chance to make Marshall's vision a reality, to go down the passage we did not
take 50 years ago, towards the door we never opened. Behind that door lies
George Marshall's Europe. To open this door, we do not need a second Marshall
Plan, but we do need to draw on George Marshall's vision, because Marshall
recognized that peace, democracy, and prosperity were ultimately inseparable.
And Marshall understood that if you identified what people desire most, and
provide them with a path to reach it, they would do the hard work necessary to
achieve that goal.
In the late 1940s, what Western Europe countries desired most was to rebuild
their societies and their economies. And the Marshall Plan provided a path for
achieving this goal. By taking this passage, the nations of Western Europe
built an economic powerhouse. And along the way, they built strong democracies
and a strong security institution called NATO.
Today, countries in the other half of Europe are struggling to rebuild their
societies and their economies. And the one thing they all desire is greater
security. NATO's challenge is to provide these Europeans a path towards
achieving that security goal. And as they move down that path, we want them
also to develop strong democracies and strong economies.
This other half of Europe includes the nations of Central and Eastern Europe.
It includes Russia and the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union.
And it includes the nations of the former Yugoslavia. Today, NATO is reaching
out to all three areas, to provide a path to George Marshall's Europe.
The path NATO has provided is called the Partnership for Peace. The
Partnership is bringing the newly free nations of Europe and the former Soviet
Union into the security architecture of Europe as a whole. Our nations are
working and training together in joint military exercises, but the Partnership
for Peace is much more than military exercises. Just as the Marshall Plan had
impact well beyond the economies of Western Europe, the Partnership is having
an impact well beyond the security realm of Central and Eastern Europe and is
echoing in the political and economic realms as well.
The Marshall Plan used economic revival as a catalyst for political
stabilization and, ultimately, the development of a modern Europe. The
Partnership uses security cooperation as a catalyst for political and economic
reform. Throughout Europe and into Central Asia, Partners are working to
uphold democracy, tolerate diversity, and respect freedom of expression. They
are working to build market economies. They are working to develop democratic
control of the military forces and working to make them compatible with NATO.
And they are working to be good neighbors, respecting sovereign rights outside
For those Partner countries that are embracing the Partnership for Peace as a
passage to NATO membership, these actions are key to opening that door. For
many of these nations' aspiration to NATO membership has become the rock on
which all major political parties base their platforms. It is providing the
same overlapping consensus that NATO membership engenders in NATO countries,
making compromise and reconciliation possible. In Hungary, for example, all
six major political parties in the parliament united to pass a resolution in
support of IFOR -- the Bosnia peace Implementation Force -- by a vote of 300 to
1. In Poland, the new president, a former member of the former Communist
Party, reaffirmed Poland's NATO aspirations. In Slovakia, Hungary and Romania,
governments are quietly resolving border disputes and putting into place
protection for ethnic minorities.
For these countries, the Partnership for Peace is becoming a passage to
democracy and market reform as well as a passage to security cooperation with
the West. But, even those countries that do not aspire to NATO membership are
realizing many of the same political and social gains from active participation
in the Partnership. And they are getting the tools and the opportunities to
develop closer ties to NATO, even as they choose to remain outside the
alliance. And Partnership of Peace is building bonds among the Partner nations
even outside the framework for cooperation with NATO.
That is why many defense ministers, from many Partner nations, have told me
that they would want to sustain their active participation in the Partnership
for Peace, even if they become NATO members. In short, by creating the
Partnership for Peace, NATO has done much more than just build a basis for
enlargement. It has, in fact, created a new zone of security and stability in
And that is why I believe that the creation of the Partnership for Peace has
been one of the most significant events of the post Cold War era. By forging
networks of people and institutions working together to preserve freedom,
promote democracy, and build free markets, the Partnership for Peace, today, is
a catalyst for transforming Central and Eastern Europe.
Much as the Marshall Plan transformed Western Europe in the `40s and the `50s,
it is the passage that this half of Europe did not take in 1947, it is the door
that we never opened at that time. To lock in these gains of reform, NATO must
ensure that the ties that is creating the Partnership continue to deepen. And
that NATO proceeds with the gradual and deliberate process of outreach and
enlargement to the East. NATO enlargement is inevitable. And if NATO
enlargement is a carrot, encouraging reforms, then NATO cannot keep that carrot
out of reach forever. And even if some countries join NATO, it will be
important to keep the door open for others down the road.
NATO must make sure that the Partnership for Peace continues to provide a
place for all in the security architecture of Europe, so that we keep the door
open to Marshall's Europe even for those nations that do not aspire to become
NATO members. For Marshall's vision to be truly fulfilled, one of the nations
that must walk through this door is Russia.
Russia has been a key player in Europe's security for over 300 years. It will
remain a key player for better or for worse. Our job is to make it for better.
Unlike with the Marshall Plan 50 years ago, Russia, today, has chosen to
participate in the Partnership for Peace. And in the spirit of Marshall, we
welcome Russia's participation and hope that over time it will take on a
leading role in the Partnership commensurate with its importance as a great
But, for Russia to join as a full and active Partner in completing Marshall's
vision, NATO and Russia need to build on common ground, even when we don't
agree with each other's conclusions. It is fair to say that most members of
Russia's political establishment do not welcome, or even accept, NATO's plans
When I was in Russia, last summer, I had a number of conversations with Russia
government leaders and Duma members about the future of European security. I
offered them a series of postulates about the future. I told them that if I
were in Russia's shoes, I would want the future security picture in Europe to
have the following characteristics: first, I said, if I were a Russian leader,
I would want the United States to be involved in the security of Europe.
Interestingly, all of them that I talked with agreed with that postulate;
secondly, I said, if I were a Russian leader I would want to see Germany as an
integrated part of the European security structure, and they all agreed with
that postulate; and, thirdly, I said, if I were a Russian leader, I would want
Russia to be in the security architecture of Europe, not isolated outside of
it. They also agreed with this postulate.
So, finally, I asked them, rhetorically, How could a Russian leader best
achieve these goals? And then, I answered my own question by asserting that
they could only be achieved through a healthy and vibrant NATO. That is, NATO,
far from being a threat to Russia, actually contributes to the security of
Russia, as well as to the security of its own members. Well, when I reached
that conclusion, most of my Russian interlocutors fell off the cliff -- they
agreed with each of my postulates, but they did not agree with my conclusion.
But, in the absence of NATO and its Partnership arrangements, I do not see any
way of achieving those goals. Goals that we share with Russia and goals that
contribute to a safe and peaceful Europe. But, I have to tell you that I did
not persuade my Russian colleagues with my argument. But, I do believe that if
Russia deepens its involvement with NATO, it will come to believe in the truth
of my conclusion, as well as my postulates.
Russia is already developing a cooperative relationship with NATO and is
beginning to play a leading role in the Partnership for Peace. And through
that real world exposure, Russia will come to understand that NATO enlargement
means enlarging a zone of security and stability that is very much in Russia's
interest, not a threat to Russia.
But, the way for this new understanding to occur is for NATO to continue to
reach out to Russia, not only from the top down -- from NATO Headquarters down
-- but from the bottom up, from NATO countries up to Russia.
One year ago, I proposed to our European allies that NATO and Russia should
develop a special security relationship in addition to the Partnership for
Peace. Since then, we have agreed on this proposal in principle, but we have
not yet put it into practice. We cannot let this agreement over the theology
of building NATO-Russia relations get in the way of the here and now
opportunities to work together where our interests clearly overlap. Instead of
letting theology dictate our practice, we should let our practice shape our
One example, where the United States is already doing this, is with our
program of bilateral training exercises with Russia. We have held four such
exercises in the last year. Each very successful and each conducted in a
spirit of trust and goodwill. This summer, the United States and Russia will
move beyond the bilateral and jointly participate in the major regional
Partnership for Peace exercise with forces from Ukraine, Russia, the United
States, and other regional powers. And through the Gore-Chernomyrdin
Commission, our bilateral activities extend to the fields of science and
technology, space, defense conversion, and business development. I have urged
all NATO nations to build on this model. These contacts provide important
exchanges of information. They help break down years of distrust and
suspicion. They weave the Russians into the kind of personal and professional
networks that have long characterized relations among all of our allies. And
these are the kind of activities that will build trust between Russia and NATO
and keep Russia on the passage toward integration with Europe.
Ironically, the place where a distinct NATO-Russia relationship is actually
occurring is in Bosnia. Today, as we speak, a Russian brigade is serving in
the American multi-national division of IFOR. It took an enormous amount of
work to make this happen. Mr. Grachev and I met four times over a two-month
period -- in Geneva, in Kansas, in Washington, and Brussels -- to iron out the
details. Generals Joulwan and Nash work closely, everyday, with their
counterparts, General Shevtsov and Colonel Lentsov.
As a result, NATO and Russia do have a special relationship, today, in Bosnia,
and Russia is demonstrating its commitment to participating in the future
security architecture of Europe. I have been asked, by some of my colleagues,
why I have vested so much time and effort into developing this relationship
and, in particular, developing the Bosnia connection.
The reason why both General Joulwan and I work so hard to make this
relationship successful is not just because of the additional troops that
Russia brings to Bosnia, but because Russia's participation in Bosnia casts a
very long shadow that will have an impact on the security of Europe for
decades. We are dealing with the most important security problem that Europe
has faced since the Cold War ended. And we want to have Russia inside the
circle working with us, not outside the circle throwing rocks at us.
We need to build on our success in Bosnia, to construct a standing mechanism
through which NATO and Russia can consult on a regular basis on the full
spectrum of political and security issues. Just as the NATO-Russia
relationship is being forged in Bosnia, so too is the future of NATO itself. I
was in Bosnia, last month, and I was struck my dedication and professionalism
of every unit from every country that is participating. I was also struck by
the stark contrast between the devastation and the suffering that I saw in
Sarajevo and the rebirth and the renewal that I have seen in the other capitals
of Central and Eastern Europe.
Bosnia is what happens when newly independent nations descend to old hatreds,
instead of rising to meet new challenges. Four years ago, people in the former
Yugoslavia chose not to join Marshall's Europe and the death and the bloodshed
that resulted will long echo in our memory. But, today, the door to Marshall's
Europe is open again for them. And holding that door open are NATO, Russia,
and the newly free peoples of Central and Eastern Europe.
The success or failure of IFOR will determine whether or not we can complete
Marshall's vision. It is in Bosnia where we are sending the message that NATO
is the bedrock on which the future security and stability of Europe will be
built. It is in Bosnia where NATO is first reaping the benefits of joint
peacekeeping training with our new Partners. It is in Bosnia where future NATO
members are showing themselves ready and able to shoulder the burdens of
membership. And it is in Bosnia where we are showing that we can work as
partners with Russian forces. Bosnia is not a peacekeeping exercise. It is
the real thing.
In 1947, Marshall told America that it must face up to the responsibility
which history has placed upon our country. Today, it is not only America, but
also Russia. It is not only NATO nations, but all of Europe. All of us must
face up to the responsibility which history has placed upon us -- that includes
the United States Congress. There is little dispute on Capitol Hill that
Marshall's vision is the right vision for Europe today, that America has a
tremendous stake in this vision. And that as a world power and the leader of
NATO and a model for new democracies in Europe, American leadership is critical
to realizing Marshall's vision.
But, Congress could close the door on Marshall's vision if they do not provide
the tools for realizing this vision. For example, the security assistance
programs in the foreign affairs budget underwrite many key parts of the
Partnership for Peace, including the Warsaw initiative, which helps Partner
nations participate in joint training exercises. And the International
Military Educational and Training program, which brings officers from Partner
nations to U.S. military schools to learn firsthand how a military functions in
a democratic society. And in the defense budget we have the Nunn-Lugar
program, which helps Russia and its nuclear neighbors dismantle and safeguard
Cold War nuclear arsenals.
To this date, Nunn-Lugar has helped dismantle 4,000 warheads and 700 bombers
and missile launchers. Just last month, I joined the Ukrainian defense
minister and the Russian defense minister in blowing up an ICBM silo at the
Pervomaisk missile field in Ukraine. Just one year ago, this silo was one of
80 at Pervomaisk, which, in aggregate, contains 700 nuclear warheads -- all of
them aimed at targets in the United States. By this June, just four months
from now, the last of these warheads will be gone. And this missile field will
have been converted into a wheat field.
U.S.-Russian cooperation on nuclear dismantlement is a corner stone of our
policy of partnership with Russia. And it is critical to fulfilling Marshall's
vision of peaceful, stable Europe. If we continue to pursue our current policy
in Europe, then next year, when we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the
Marshall, we will be able to say that we made Marshall's vision our own: that
the Partnership for Peace is a strong, permanent pillar of Europe's security
architecture; that NATO and Russia have a relationship where trust,
understanding, and cooperation are givens, not goals; that Ukraine, Belarus,
and Kazakhstan have become non-nuclear nations; that the United States and
Russia continue on an accelerated program to dramatically reduce their fearsome
nuclear arsenals; that the democracies of Central and Eastern Europe know,
beyond a doubt, that they have a place with the West and its institutions; that
all of the nations of the former Yugoslavia are adding, not detracting from
Europe's security; and, that we will have taken the passage to a new Europe and
open the door to a new era of peace, freedom, and democracy.