Speech at the inaugural meeting of the NATO Strategic Seminar
„The Future of NATO’s Enlargement”
Oslo, 13rd January 2010
I received with a great pleasure the invitation of H.E. Jonas Gahr Støre, the Foreign Minister of Norway, and I am looking forward for the strategic agenda of tomorrow’s seminar, which is looking very promising.
Please allow me to use the occasion provided by the kick-of remarks at the working dinner of this evening, to share with you some personal reflections.
The American journalist and historian Robert Kaplan told me some years ago that when General Marshall was asked to build a plan for a long term peace at the end of World War II he thought that the Greek philosophers and playwrights would have better understood the situation rather than the politicians of his time.
I remember when I was visiting professor at the Duke University in 1991/1992 that I had seen in the austere memorial houses of the founding fathers of the American Revolution from Williamsburg, Richmond that near the Bible there were the works of classic Greek, British and German writers. These books describe the tragic nature of human beings ready to abuse and to murder in order to obtain or retain power, but also able to sacrifice themselves for the ideals of freedom, justice and truth. I understood then why the U.S. Declaration of Independence and later the Bill of Rights is not a simply declaration of independence of the settlers from a far away continent, but a document inspiring for all mankind for more than two centuries.
As we were isolated by the Iron Curtain, we, the people from East, have understood that the Marshall Plan didn’t propose the humiliation of Germany but rather the reconstruction of its prestige as well as that of the entire Europe. We understood that NATO was not only a military alliance against the expansion of the Soviet communism but was also a strategic concept for some other world, different from that of the hot or cold war.
That is why the anti-communist intellectual elites of Eastern Europe that were under the Soviet domination in 1989 did not accept the concept of perestroika- economical reform, under the leadership of the Communist Party, nor the proposal of simultaneous dissolution of NATO and the Warsaw Pact.
Democratic intellectuals from Eastern Europe have strongly campaigned for a open market economy, Western-style democracy and integration into NATO and EU. This message was convincing for their people in such an extent that, in a very short period of time, under popular pressure, the Soviet empire, with a huge military and repression force, collapsed by implosion.
This message remained convincing in the post-communist period when the same people agreed to pay the social price of difficult reforms and to give up very old national and ethnic adversities, frozen only in the communist era, in order to integrate into NATO and EU.
I would like to explain why I wanted to tell you these things. Because I appreciated the manner in which NATO prepares The New Strategic Concept engaging the broader strategic community and policy makers in a dialogue on the challenges that the Alliance is facing.
This process that should be transparent and should engage for the first time a Group of Experts, that includes a broad spectrum of large and small NATO members, and offers a balanced combination of insiders and outsiders from the private sector think tanks and the academic community and all those who want to contribute and to offer their expertise. Moreover the process should engage Partners in the Euro Atlantic Partnership Council, the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.
I believe that NATO, with its 28 members, has understood some of the difficulties of the approval of an European Constitution for 27 members and, especially the fact that the citizens of Europe have sanctioned the bureaucratization of the EU. Only such a broad and honest dialogue can give the ethos of a great political project that, in order to attract and convince people, it has to be an intellectual project before being put into the strategic, economic and military coordinates.
In this context, I think that the first democratic presidents from Eastern Europe can find their place. Why?
Firstly, because they represent a new species of "former presidents", considering that almost for half a century the presidents in this area remained in office until death or until they were killed.
Secondly, because we are a ”rare endangered species" of persons from the academic environment, sustained by the civil society and with the experience of "people of state"; with a buffer role between the old communist leaders rejected by the people and the new Western-style politicians who do not exist yet.
Thirdly, because we were and still are a united family meeting around the ideals we continue to believe in and which we have never betrayed.
Fourthly and finally, because we can say uncomfortable things that the actual politicians cannot say relying on the "politically correct" rigid language.
I would like to draw your attention on some of these items, that are very sensitive to us, but that seem to be marginalized on the debate for the new strategic concept, as it is the case of the "populism" and of the "defense of the individual".
The populism is a threat associated with the global model of democracy coming in the context of the democratization process of the Eastern Europe, and that is separating from the initial model of liberal democracy. Populism can weak the power and the efficiency of the most key institutions of democracy, law independence, media’s and army’s independence. Once the people gain confidence in the populist leader, a decreasing confidence will result for the political elites that constitute an alternative for governing that state, assuring the democratic mechanisms, encountering problems in approaching external and security issues. Behind the actions in the community’s service, for community’s welfare, the state leader tries to lead without political consensus, but by his own opinions. So, judging by the deficiencies aroused in these new Eastern democracies, it will only lead to an instability caused by the possibility of a populist revolution.
The defense of the individual: It is a new concept that seems to draw NATO’s attention, once the re-evaluation of NATO’s threats is put under investigation and once a new strategic concept is designed. Balancing between a NATO as an universal box tool or an Alliance that must reach its objective for which it was created, it raises the question if NATO needs to change its point of view from the security of entire nations to the defense of the individuals, of the citizen.
Another sensitive issue for us is the relationship with Russia, where you must recognize that we have a long and tragic experience. Now please allow me to quote a few ideas from the “An Open Letter to the Obama Administration from Central and Eastern Europe” that I signed along with the former presidents of Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and with other Eastern leaders coming from the old anti-communist intellectuality.
“We welcome the “reset” of the American-Russian relations. As the countries living closest to Russia, obviously nobody has a greater interest in the development of the democracy in Russia and better relations between Moscow and the West than we do. But there is also nervousness in our capitals. Russia is back as a revisionist power pursuing a 19th-century agenda with 21st-century tactics and methods. At a global level, Russia has become, on most issues, a status-quo power. But at a regional level and vis-à-vis our nations, it increasingly acts as a revisionist one. It uses overt and covert means of economic warfare, ranging from energy blockades and politically motivated investments to bribery and media manipulation in order to advance its interests and to challenge the transatlantic orientation of Central and Eastern Europe. We want to ensure that too narrow an understanding of Western interests does not lead to the wrong concessions to Russia. Today the concern is, for example, that the United States and the major European powers might embrace the Medvedev plan for a “Concert of Powers” to replace the continent's existing, value-based security structure.”
In December 2009 we commemorated in Bucharest 20 years from the Romanian Revolution, which was paid with over a thousand people killed and more than three thousand people seriously injured and maimed in their struggle for freedom and democracy. We organized an international conference with direct participation or messages of Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, Arpad Goncz, Jelio Jelev, Jan Carnogurski, Dragoljub Micunovic, Arnold Ruutel and other former leaders of the revolutions of 1989.
I would like to conclude with a passage from the draft of a message that we are now preparing and that we want to address to the new generation of leaders from our Central and Eastern European countries: „We did our best in anchoring our countries as quick as possible to the values of freedom, democracy, and human rights, and in joining the international organizations which embodied these values in the last century, NATO and EU. You should share with our Western Allies the responsibilities which confront these two organizations now and in the near future. You should elaborate with our allies both the vision and the mission which will define these organizations in the future. You must participate eagerly in shaping the future of the world.
The relentless struggle for freedom and for democracy was the hardcore of our political and civic commitment, and is now our legacy to you, the next generation of leaders in our countries, as well as in NATO and in the EU. Be worthy of it.”