The Enlarged European Union, the New Democracies of Central and Eastern Europe: Can They Strengthen the UN?
The Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), Kofi Annan, addressed the closing session of the Millennium Summit in New York. He expressed appreciation to the 160 chiefs of state and heads of government for the Declaration they adopted defining the goals to be achieved by 2015. Their Declaration said that it is intolerable that millions of innocent people, especially women and children, should still fall victim to brutal conflict. It reaffirmed the vital importance of international law; it called for a comprehensive reform of the Security Council and for action and results to make the United Nations more effective.
Kofi Annan then spoke these crucial words to the assembled member states, words which are basic to any hope or possibility of making the UN more relevant and effective: “…You are yourselves the United Nations. It lies in your power, and therefore it is your responsibility, to reach the goals you have defined. Only you can determine whether the United Nations rises to the challenge….”The Secretary-General has wisely welcomed and promoted growing links with international business and with nongovernmental organizations that give hope of a constituency of support that the UN desperately needs. But it is the 191 member states that are in fact the United Nations; their governments must determine if the UN will be an important instrument of international governance. The great power and energy of the United States (US) has had an ambiguous role in supporting this historic mission. In the Gulf War of 1991, the United States brilliantly led the coalition of member states in support of a new international order following the end of the Cold War. The success of that effort was a reaffirmation of the need of collective action to prevent aggression. The Charter of the United Nations had stood an historic test. George H. W. Bush, our 41st President, in his Memoir, A World Transformed (published in 1998), wrote of his reasons for not going to Baghdad in that war as follows:
We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq…there was no viable “exit strategy” we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations’ mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.
The events of September 11 and the clash of many nations with terrorist forces makes it even more necessary to set a pattern of handling aggression with UN mandate and involvement.
In this paper, I will discuss the future of the UN in the context of the United States and the European Union (EU). I believe that the European Union has an opportunity—an opportunity to bring the economic and military power of its 25 member states together for a universal purpose and in so doing give form and substance to the new Europe—an opportunity for the European Union to offer the leadership that is desperately needed in creating a viable international structure of governance. The strategic and diplomatic decisions are complicated and require intense effort and commitment by the European Union to be formulated and executed. If the EU accepts the challenge and carries it out successfully, it will give the 21st century an incomparable prospect of peace, purpose and historic progress in achieving social justice.
Let me begin by discussing the American relationship to the United Nations. It is important to understand some fundamentals as to how our government works. The US is not a parliamentary democracy where the executive power is an extension of the legislative power. We are a constitutional republic, founded by men whom experience and learning had taught to be distrustful of power, especially the concentration of power. The result is a commitment to the concept of balance of power with three branches of government—the executive, legislative and judicial, given express and implied powers, which 210 years of experience as a nation have defined, enlarged, and distilled. It is a remarkable system and it works for our country, now the oldest constitutional democracy in the world. Protected and isolated by two oceans, America has lived its history free of the destructive violence of foreign enemies that has diminished and destroyed other nations. Now, for more than 60 years, America has been the dominant military, economic and political force in the world. It reluctantly accepted the responsibility of international leadership. It has certainly been as generous and benign as any predecessor nation in world history which has had its opportunity of power and leadership. Self-interest, national interest, sometimes arrogant self-confidence have all been a part of its decisions affecting other nations but it has responded greatly to the challenges to humanity and democracy in the 20th century.
The relationship of the US to the UN since its founding has been creative, intense, often supportive, frequently insulting, sometimes disruptive, often undiplomatic and increasingly destructive. The Americans who participated in the creation of the United Nations were tough, pragmatic politicians who, having witnessed the collapse of the League of Nations, were determined to avoid its weaknesses, yet build upon its ideals. The terrible cost to humanity—in life, in wealth, in spiritual values—of the Second World War and the advent of the nuclear age made age-old ideals of international governance into pragmatic necessities. The Holocaust showed us the depth of human evil. The Second World War cost more than 60 million lives, an overwhelming percentage of them innocent civilian lives. The great cities and countryside of Europe and Asia lay in the ashes of horrific destruction. The nuclear age provided the curtain to this awful episode of history. For the first time, mankind had a capacity to destroy itself and to make the world uninhabitable. The world was blessed to have an extraordinary generation of men and women who had the vision to create the United Nations as well as the ideals and pragmatic experience that gave it the hope of success.
The United Nations was the last great achievement of the President whom most agree was the greatest American leader of the 20th century. Franklin Delano Roosevelt understood the history of American isolationism and the powerful forces that would resist US participation in international organizations. He was determined to avoid the political mistakes of Woodrow Wilson, creating a universal organization which would bring all nations together but where the most powerful nations, designated as permanent members of the Security Council, had a special responsibility for collective security and the obligations of the UN Charter. The Charter was not done by decrees from heaven. It was carefully crafted, with national interests and attitudes often in conflict. There was endless negotiation of the various proposals even as the war continued. Idealism and cynicism confronted each other but in the end, an intelligent, pragmatic, imperfect agreement was negotiated. In the midst of hope and with the echo of every political argument that still has resonance today, the UN Charter was adopted. The founders understood that a civil society needs to be built on law and order—that civilization needs a policeman. Since no single nation—and certainly not the United States—wanted to be that policeman, the Security Council was organized to carry out an important part of that responsibility through collective action. The Charter became an instrument by which the principle of self-determination could be realized. It insisted on respect for human rights, and encouraged economic, social, cultural and humanitarian cooperation among all nations. And every nation was signatory to that Charter—51 in 1945, 191 today. The founders knew—and we know—the gross imperfections of the world but they knew—and we know—what had to be done to make it better.America made its commitment in 1945. President Harry Truman expressed it in his address to the delegates in San Francisco who adopted the Charter of the United Nations:
If we fail to use the Charter and the organization that we have created with it, we shall betray all of those who have died in order that we might meet here in freedom and in safety to create it. If we seek to use it selfishly for the advantage of one nation or small group of nations, we shall be equally guilty of that betrayal, but what a great day in history this can be. This Charter is no more perfect than our own Constitution, but like the Constitution it must be made to live. The powerful nations must accept the responsibility for leadership toward a world of peace.
Sitting at President Truman’s right hand was Arthur Vandenberg, the most powerful Republican member of the Senate of the United States. This was not the commitment of a party or of a person. This was a commitment of a nation, proposed by its President and ratified by the Senate in the solemn manner ordained by our Constitution. Only two members of the Senate voted in opposition. The United States understood that it had to lead in organizing the community of nations if the United Nations was to succeed.
The depth and continuance of that commitment is a decision that each generation must make anew. Is the United Nations an instrument of international governance that serves American interests? Germany’s interests? Europe’s interests? The interests of the Atlantic community? Not to mention the countries separated from us by ideology and poverty and systemic failure? The question presupposes that we know what those interests are. Is the international control of nuclear proliferation in our interest? Were the interests of a peaceful world served by de-colonization, a process that took place, for the most part, peacefully because the United Nations served as the bridge that old Empires could cross so that new nations would emerge? Is it in the world’s interest to advance the rule of law, to encourage respect for human rights, to ameliorate humanitarian crises so that the millions of refugees wandering the Earth, devastated by famine and despair, have at least the option of surviving and resettling in their own countries and regions?
And what does UN peacekeeping and peacemaking mean to the world? Let us consider only some of the interventions since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Consider Cambodia, where in the 1970s the world witnessed the killing fields where two million innocent people were murdered and did nothing to stop the slaughter. Because of United Nations intervention, because of the end of the Cold War, because of the leadership of Australia and Japan, because of the support of the European Union and the United States, the violence has ended in Cambodia and there is hope for democracy. A United Nations force did not liberate South Africa, but its condemnation of apartheid and its sanctions helped force the release of Nelson Mandela, a transforming event in the history of South Africa.
Americans especially should remember what peace in El Salvador means, having spent billions of dollars taking sides in a civil war that cost the lives of 80,000 people— 80,000 dead in one decade in one small Central American country in our own hemisphere. Was it in our interest to have the diplomatic intervention of the Secretary-General of the United Nations that brought an end to that struggle?
Iraq’s aggression against Kuwait in 1990 was repulsed and the principle of collective security sustained with a Security Council mandate which allowed both Arab nations and Israel to support the liberation of Kuwait—and which made its $100 billion cost a shared responsibility. In 1992, American forces, under the flag of the UN, brought a quick end to the suffering in Somalia where 400,000 people a year were dying of starvation. The mismanagement of the subsequent military role by both the UN and the US in Somalia, instead of being a painful lesson in future preparations and restraints, became a political liability that President Clinton was unwilling to accept, permitting the UN to become the scapegoat of defeat.
When the crisis exploded in Bosnia, none of our countries wanted to face the costs of peace. We have seen the Serbs and the Croats and the Muslims kill each other with heartrending results six different times since 1878. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been murdered. In 1992, no country wanted to send their ground troops to be involved in another civil war among the Balkan nations. The United Nations was given an impossible mission. The Security Council sent unarmed peacekeepers into a shooting war with a mandate to be neutral in the face of criminal violence. Nevertheless, their very presence stopped the wholesale slaughter, which before their arrival had taken 250,000 lives. The Dayton Accords, brilliantly negotiated by Richard Holbrooke, brought an end to the fighting. But peace is a process, not an event. The Balkan cauldron, a part of Europe, seethes with 600 years of hatred. The United Nations can have a critical role in reconciling ancient enemies and building the framework of a civil society. But this is the work of a generation and undoubtedly longer—and the very possibility of success depends on dedicated leadership and a willingness of Europe and America to make the necessary resources available.
The Republican Party gained control of the Congress in 1994 and chose Senator Helms to be Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. He quickly made clear his attitude toward the UN in an article in Foreign Affairs. He allowed that the UN might be tolerated as a convenient diplomatic forum for the nations of the world but otherwise it had little other function. Its “bloated, ineffective bureaucracy” was a waste of money. Its basic purposes represented a continuing threat to American sovereignty. The UN was certainly vulnerable. There were legitimate concerns regarding its administration, efficiency and effectiveness. To these legitimate questions, the United Nations responded constructively. Congress continued to impose new conditions on the American obligation to pay its dues. Every time the United Nations met an American demand, new demands were made, and the good faith of the UN effort was frustrated by the destructive purpose of the Congressional assault.
The problems of American participation in the United Nations are not related to money. The assessed share of the United States for the $1.3 billion annual UN budget amounts to $325 million. The United States has a $2.3 trillion national budget. Its economy produces a gross national product of over $8 trillion. In that context certainly, an appropriation of $325 million to fulfill a significant international treaty obligation is not an onerous burden. It is a far lesser sum than the budget of the Sanitation Department of New York City, not to mention the daily costs of the war in Iraq. The assault on the UN is not to save money. The objective was to undermine the United Nations that its Founders envisioned, to diminish it as an obstacle to American hegemony in international affairs, to make it marginal and irrelevant to the exercise of American power.
The stunning Republican victory in the 1994 Congressional elections brought the Republican ideological right wing to positions of power it had not had for more than 60 years. It brought a large new group of Congressmen and Senators who were remarkably inexperienced and uninterested in international affairs—and who became the loudspeakers for a xenophobic, often irrational, eccentric group, which made the UN the target of unrelenting abuse. In the background was the Heritage Foundation, brilliantly administered and heavily funded, which gave intellectual veneer to anti-UN attitudes and which had no counterpart among those majority forces that saw the UN as an important component in international governance.
Senator Helms, a brilliant parliamentarian, intimidated the foreign policy establishment, controlling, among other things, the confirmation process of policymaking and ambassadorial appointments. With a White House unwilling to fight, Senator Helms took control of the US relationship to the United Nations. The UN agenda became dominated by the non-payment, the partial payment, the conditional payment of America’s assessed dues. One could think of this process as a cynical way to marginalize the UN—the thousands of hours spent in endless discussions, the abject trips to Washington by pleaders of the UN cause, the depressing impact on the morale of UN personnel, the growing, almost tangible sense of frustration and anger among diplomats who profoundly admire America but feel that great possibilities are being trivialized by Congressional intransigence and presidential disinterest. With no authority for external borrowing, the UN struggled on a day-to-day basis, strangled by the cash flow crunch that the American indebtedness had deliberately created. The United States’ example of indebtedness invited replication by 80 other member states.
Senator Helms in his address before the Security Council in January 2000 singled out a statement made by the Secretary-General to the General Assembly on the question of sovereignty where Kofi Annan said: “The last right of states cannot and must not be the right to enslave, persecute or torture their own citizens,” clearly stating that the UN must be quicker to react to large-scale violations of human rights, even if that means intervening in a nation’s internal affairs. Citing a long list of US interventions for which it neither asked for nor received the approval of the United Nations to legitimize its actions, Senator Helms stated: “The United Nations, my friends, has no power to grant or decline legitimacy to such actions.” Using the oldest of rhetorical devices, he set up a straw man and beat it to death, saying that “a United Nations that seeks to impose its presumed authority on the American people, without their consent, begs for confrontation—and eventual US withdrawal.” Of course, such an action by the UN has never happened and could never happen because of the US veto on the Security Council. When the hostile forces which dominate these issues in the Congress talk about sovereignty, they are echoing the attitudes of those in American history who have argued States’ rights to forestall every progressive advance from the recognition of labor’s rights to a system of social security to the constitutional protection of civil rights and desegregation.
What a mischance of history that American policy toward the UN should be in thrall to those whose hostility toward international organizations is so profound that they can talk of American withdrawal from the UN as a plausible option in the conduct of our foreign policy.
The mischance of history is to have such hostile attitudes in control of American policy at a time when we have the most effective, charismatic, purposeful Secretary-General since Dag Hammarskjold leading the United Nations. A profile of Kofi Annan in Time magazine ascribed to him the five virtues of a great moral leader: dignity, confidence, courage, compassion and faith.
Kofi Annan is the best hope we have ever had to transform our vision of the UN into reality. The Security Council has confidence in him as does the developing world. With his personal knowledge and experience of the UN’s limitations, he can help guide the nations of the world as they take the long, unending journey, small step by small step, to a better world, a world safer for our children than it was for us, a world more abundant in well-being for their children than it is for them.
The European Union and its individual members have the power and the possibility to profoundly influence the future of the United Nations for the next generation. The creation and successful development of the European Union is one of the decisive events of the last century. Its creation has brought an end to the civil wars of Europe, which twice in the 20th century threatened the very existence of civilization. By population and economic and nuclear and potential military power, the EU is a superpower, a force that with political and diplomatic skill, can fill the vacuum of American negativism toward the UN. France’s former Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine, may have been right when he said that the United States is so powerful that it cannot accept real partners. Meanwhile, as long as Europe remains divided, American attitudes of unilateralism are easier to carry out.
Europe’s leadership at the UN is also an opportunity to strengthen the Atlantic Alliance because the EU’s success will be dependent on working closely with Canada and with the governmental and private forces in the United States who share a commitment to making the UN more effective and relevant. There are many Americans in policymaking positions who believe that the United Nations is indispensable to the purposes of American foreign policy, Republican leaders like Colin Powell and Richard Lugar. In a country as deeply divided as the United States on basic issues of foreign policy, Europe must keep close contact with the internationalist forces in both parties. Certainly the Democratic leadership that may come to power will strongly support the multilateral policies and institutions that the United States has had the dominant role in developing for the last 60 years.
Leadership at the UN offers extraordinary opportunities to the European Union. It offers the opportunity to forge a more significant bond as Europeans, to act with the power, authority and influence that their Community represents if it can speak with a unified voice. The EU has sustained and encouraged democracy and democratic values and has shown the will and capacity to embrace the lands of Central and Eastern Europe, giving those countries, including Russia, the hope for a revival in the 21st century that will bring them peace and prosperity. All this has been accomplished with the member states and ethnic groups keeping intact their proud identity—with a sense of generosity to the rest of the world that sets a standard for all of us. Jean Monnet would be well pleased.
In the context of the United Nations, the European Union is a superpower—and the only one that can be presently mobilized to give the UN credibility and a capacity to participate in the dynamic events ahead of us. The costs of such a presence are minimal compared to what unified leadership can do to make the Union truly European, and what EU leadership could do for the UN, for peace, for development, for the environment, for human rights.
I would urge the EU to begin a new era by accepting, as America’s best friend, the reality of American political gridlock.
The EU has already accepted the reduction of the assessed obligation of the US from 25 percent to 22 percent, and in peacekeeping from 31 percent to 25 percent. On the dues question, the reduction means $40 million, an embarrassing sum to be a policy focus for the richest nation on earth, but let us hope that this discussion has been quieted.
The EU should be a leader in remaking the structure of the UN so that it is responsive to the world’s needs. Of course Germany and Japan and India should be permanent members—and Africa and Latin America should have permanent representation. But as we have seen, these conclusions are easier said than done. The politics of the reorganization are intense and complicated. I would make only two suggestions in the context of this discussion: enlarging the Security Council will not make it more effective—the whole history of the UN gives evidence of that, so we should try to keep the number of members to 20 or less; and remember that two of the five permanent members with the power of veto are already part of the European Union. In the course of the next generation, perhaps the EU itself can be represented as a permanent member. As Italy has effectively argued, it too is a major financial and creative contributor to the United Nations. What an extraordinary breakthrough for the recognition of the European Union as a superpower if Great Britain and France were to find a way to lead the reform of the Security Council by having all of the member states of the EU involved through the representation granted to them by the Charter. Jean Monnet once said that when this happens, Europe will truly be Europe. The European states have been brilliantly creative in building a governmental infrastructure for the new Europe. Let that same imagination take hold of this problem.
Another area for EU leadership relates to the disintegrating states and how the UN can help them. Europeans have historic links to the developing world which, for the most part, have continued in constructive ways. The problem of failed states is a threat to international stability and to a well-ordered world. Nation building, or nation rebuilding as some put it, is a crucial priority for those who are seeking a world order of peace and justice. The first requisite for nation building is security. The United Nations affords a forum through which security forces could be provided that would enable the process of nation building to begin. Some have suggested that the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations, whose original mission has been essentially completed, could be reorganized for this purpose. The United Nations then, with the assistance of the members of the Security Council and other member states, could centralize the resources and the personnel needed for this process. The UN would have the responsibility for the training and availability of civil administrators, of development experts, of teachers, police, firemen and security experts to assist nations that are disintegrating because of civil strife and to help them in negotiating and enforcing a social contract that would give the possibility of peace and stability.
Nation building is a responsibility that the UN is uniquely organized to fulfill and that the EU is uniquely capable of implementing. The security responsibility is fundamental to success. The Security Council has to confront this issue and determine how best to carry it out. Nation building is a long-term process. As we have witnessed in the negotiation of a Constitution for Afghanistan, the obtaining of the requisite social contract is a formidable problem. Further, the resources for nation building in the context of development, civilian personnel, a police force and civil administrators is not without cost. As the problem is confronted and a process is organized to meet the challenge, the member states of the United Nations will have to understand that they will have to make the resources available. Ultimately, of course, the cost of nation building is far less than the cost of national disintegration and the resulting violence and war. There is also a humanitarian obligation to cause an international organization such as the UN to take and discharge this responsibility. But crucial leadership is needed from the European Union if the possibilities and responsibilities of nation building are to be fulfilled.
The Secretary-General has invited the reform of the United Nations. A reform that would permit a real capacity for nation building would cause the UN not only to be relevant, but indispensable to the restructuring of the world. I know there are a thousand complications but I also know that it is worth the effort and that it can be done and that it could make a significant difference for millions of people. The United States will not oppose the concept, only the cost, but if every possibility of change can be vetoed by the US because of possible costs, then no one should waste their time trying to make the UN more effective. Progress is a step at a time. With the EU leading the way, the concept can be agreed upon; then one nation becomes the first project—and much will be learned in the process, including the costs and the means of financing. We are talking about what can be done within a decade, a generation—who would have predicted Maastricht when the signatories of the Treaty of Rome convened in 1957? Let Europe give the global community hope that the UN can be a substantive force in governance and extraordinary things may happen.
The decisive test of its relevance is whether the UN can be a major force in peacekeeping and peacemaking. Can it help stop the insanity of war? Or at least limit the violence of our times? Can it intervene helpfully in the humanitarian crises that destroy the possibility of civil society? The miracle is that UN intervention has been as effective as it has been. With meager resources, with limited staff personnel, with no effective military command center, with no inventory of basic supplies, with no standby force available for urgent interventions, the UN is left to confront each crisis as though none has preceded it, often made to look hapless and incapable by a Security Council that gives assignments of enormous responsibility but grants only minimal resources to carry them out. Report after report has been written that brilliantly define the shortcomings, correctly analyze the deficiencies, and make over and over again the recommendations that could quickly and significantly improve the situation. An excellent report was prepared by a panel of international experts appointed by the Secretary-General and chaired by Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Foreign Minister of Algeria. “There are many tasks which the UN peacekeeping forces should not be asked to undertake and many places they should not go,” the report said. Its suggestions called for speeding up response time so that a simple peacekeeping operation could be launched in 30 days rather than after several months. It described UN peacekeeping as understaffed, not sufficiently professional, a department with an ad hoc atmosphere about it, whose every move is micro-managed by the 191 member General Assembly.
The leadership of Europe can be decisive in forcing the implementation of these recommendations. The essential wisdom for the UN is to take on only those assignments for which the UN is equipped—and the EU is in a position to either insist that the reorganization be carried out and financed—or else it should block the Security Council when it orders missions for which it refuses to provide the resources. Prime Minister Blair stated the problem when at the Millennium Summit he said: “…We need UN forces composed of units appropriate for peacekeeping that can be inserted quickly, rather than whatever the Secretary-General’s staff has been able to gather from reluctant member states. This means a new contract between the UN and its members. We must be prepared to commit our forces to UN operations. The UN must alter radically its planning, intelligence and analysis, and develop a far more substantial professional military staff. When the moment comes, the field headquarters must be ready to move, with an operational communications system up and running, and running immediately rather than weeks into the deployment. The Brahimi Report is right. We should implement it, and do so within a twelve month timescale….”
Nothing more important was said at the Millennial Summit, but essentially nothing has been done.
An ability to intervene effectively through a rapid deployment force is an indispensable component for any serious UN capacity for peacekeeping. Recent events in Sierra Leone show its meaning. Badly trained UN peacekeepers bravely tried to protect innocent civilians from massacre and mutilation by gangster insurgents. Five hundred UN personnel were taken hostage and the media were quick to report another humiliating failure by the UN. And so it would have been except for Great Britain which dispatched 1,000 superbly trained soldiers to the scene and transformed the situation. Britain’s decisive intervention illuminated a dark path and showed what could be done if there is political will.
The UN needs this rapid deployment capacity—professionally led, professionally trained military forces—not a UN army but rather national forces—perhaps in this decade a European force—available to the Security Council and the Secretary-General as decisions relating to peace and security are made.
On May 1, the European Union was enlarged and enriched by the admission of ten new member states, eight of which had survived decades of Fascist and Communist oppression. Before this decade is over, other nations, certainly Romania, will be admitted. These countries will bring new energy and purpose to the EU. With all the differences among the old and new members, there is one consistent, unifying commitment—and that is a confidence that the United Nations can be, should be, must be an effective instrument of international governance. The process of creating a union of states is a frustrating, arduous, time-consuming challenge—no one knows that better than Americans who, after 215 years of constitutional government, must constantly confront ethnic, racial, religious, regional differences. Perhaps the member states of the European Union are too close to events to appreciate how far they have come in their handiwork. It is an extraordinary achievement—and to Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman and Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle, we will be forever indebted. We wait expectantly for the new generations of Europeans to carry forward their work toward new milestones of progress. And we pray that their agenda will give priority to making the United Nations what its Founders intended and what the people of the world desperately need.
When written in Chinese, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters. One represents danger, and the other represents opportunity. That is what leadership is about. The EU and the United States must be steadfast allies. Nothing I have said diminishes that crucial relationship—but that relationship will be stronger if truth speaks to power. And if the UN is made truly effective because the new Europe responded to its need, we may be able to welcome this 21st century with greater confidence that civilization and humanity— endangered by the wars of the 20th century—have now advanced to a new plateau of hope and possibility.