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Completing the Marshall Plan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 1996 – The United States has an opportunity to finish the job it started in the 1940s: creating a united, stable, democratic Europe, Defense Secretary William J. Perry said here.

Speaking at a George Washington University symposium on the Marshall Plan, Perry said, "On its face, the Marshall Plan was a vehicle for rebuilding Europe's economy after World War II. But at its core, the Marshall Plan was really about building peaceful free-market democracies."

George Marshall served as the Army's chief of staff during World War II and was a five-star general of the army. After the war, he served as secretary of state and later as secretary of defense during the Truman administration. The United States gave more than $12 billion to the nations of Western Europe under the plan that bears his name.

Great Britain's wartime leader Winston S. Churchill called the Marshall Plan "the most unsordid act in history." The plan saved Western Europe and led directly to the European Common Market and ultimately to today's European Union.

But the Marshall Plan did not touch Eastern Europe. Dominated by the Soviet Union, those countries developed state-managed dictatorships. This changed with the fall of the Soviet Union five years ago and the dissolution of the Iron Curtain. President Clinton has vowed the Iron Curtain will not be replaced by a veil of indifference, Perry said. He pointed to the Partnership for Peace as an important vehicle for weaving Eastern Europe nations into the fabric of the continent.

The United States is a European power, Perry said. The end of the Cold War did not diminish that truth. "What's different now is the way we maintain that link [with Europe] and how we work to guarantee a new era of security for all of us," he said.

Perry said the partnership program has 43 member nations committed to its success. The ultimate goal of most of them is NATO membership. He pointed to the military exercises conducted under the program as examples of closer cooperation between NATO and its former enemies. He said these ties will increase and there will be hundreds of exercises and partnership activities in 1996.

Perry also cited the George Marshall Center in Garmisch, Germany, as another success in bridging the gulf with the East. The center run by U.S. European Command gives Central and Eastern European civilian and military leaders courses in civilian control of the military.

"As important as this work is ... the opportunity for the students to meet with visiting officials and to meet and talk with each other, to create personal ties and networks in an environment of cooperation and trust, is really the key benefit." Perry said. "The friendships and the networks being created at this school are an investment in the democratic future of Europe."

NATO members encourage Partnership for Peace nations to cooperate in forming defense policies and share defense information the same way alliance nations do. "The transparency that results from that is one of the benefits of [partnership] members," Perry said. "Some partners are now submitting their defense plans to their parliaments for approval for the first time in their histories, making possible legislative oversight of military planning."

Perry said the effects of partnership membership can be felt beyond the military sphere. "In my travels ... I can see that it is having important indirect benefits in the political and economic sphere as well," he said. "Indeed, in many nations, partnership participation and aspirations to NATO membership are helping to fuel the engines of political and economic reform."

This comes from the five tenets for NATO membership, Perry said. First, new members must uphold democracy, including tolerance of diversity and minorities. Second, new members must be making progress toward market economies. Third, their military forces must be under civilian control. Fourth, new members must be good neighbors and respect borders. Finally, new members must be working toward interoperability with NATO forces.

"Because so many partner nations are working so hard to meet these criteria, the Partnership for Peace is changing the political and economic base of Central and Eastern Europe," Perry said. "By seeking to meet these criteria, many partner nations are doing things that they otherwise might not have done or done with the same intensity."

Perry said democracy is thriving in nations that wish to join NATO, and these nations are moving rapidly toward free markets. "Countries with NATO aspirations are quietly resolving border disputes and putting into place protections for ethnic minorities that will prevent friction with their neighbors," he said.

Russia rejected the original Marshall Plan, but is participating in Partnership for Peace. "In the spirit of Marshall, we welcome Russia's participation, Perry said. "We also welcome Russia's willingness to become involved in a separate plan of activities with NATO outside of the Partnership for Peace. In so doing, Russia will understand that NATO is not a threat and that even the inevitable enlargement of NATO does not threaten Russia because Russia will be working with NATO as a partner."

Perry said it is ironic that this new vision of Europe is coming together in Bosnia. More than 12 partnership nations and Russia will join the NATO peacekeeping force in Bosnia. "Then we will begin to reap some of the benefits from the joint peacekeeping that our nations have come together under [the partnership] and in the spirit of [the partnership]," he said.

The nations contributing to the peacekeeping force in Bosnia are working toward peace in the Balkans, "but it is up to all of us to go even further and build a new Europe absent this brutish, inglorious, terrible waste of war," Perry said. " [Partnership for Peace] and all of the activities taken in the spirit of [the partnership] in government, politics and economics take us closer to this goal. They allow us to learn about and from each other. They allow us to see each other not through a Cold War prism, but as people and human beings. And they take us closer to completing Marshall's vision."

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