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Foreign Policy as Psychoanalytic Social Engineering : NATO: If the Administration's Partnership for Peace is designed to propitiate Russia, how can it also serve as a way station into the Atlantic alliance?

January 23, 1994|Henry A. Kissinger | Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger frequently writes for The Times

NEW YORK — Perhaps the most significant aspect of President Bill Clinton's progression across Europe was obscured by the atmospherics surrounding it. In ef fect, the President's statements elevated the radical critique of Cold War policies into the operational premises of U.S. foreign policy.

For nearly 50 years, that critique had maintained that Soviet policies were as much caused by U.S. policies as by communist ideology; that the Soviet government was divided between hawks and doves; that it was the task of U.S. diplomacy to ease Soviet fears, and that an attitude of genuine cooperation would overcome Soviet bellicosity.

The essence of these themes was repeated by Clinton on many occasions during his European trip. For example, to explain why he did not favor the admission of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, he argued that such a step might be provocative.

The assumptions undergirding this statement challenges the intellectual foundations of NATO. Whether the former victims of Soviet imperialism should join the Atlantic alliance is a complicated question. But the key issue is not the timing of NATO expansion. In putting forward the Partnership for Peace, the Administration did not just delay Eastern European participation, it also emphatically rejected the principle, despite many misleading statements to the contrary. The partnership invites all the successor states of the Soviet Union and all Moscow's former Eastern European satellites to participate with NATO in a vague, multilateral entity specializing in missions having next to nothing to do with realistic military tasks.

If this Partnership for Peace is designed to propitiate Russia, it cannot also serve as a way station into NATO, especially as the Administration has embraced the proposition rejected by all its predecessors--that NATO is a potential threat to Russia.

It is instructive to compare Clinton's approach with that of Dean Acheson when NATO was founded. Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the secretary of state was asked whether the Soviet Union had reason to fear NATO. His reply was: "Any nation which claims that this treaty is directed against it should be reminded of the biblical admonition that 'the guilty flee where no man pursueth.' "

What does the current U.S. theory mean for NATO? What is to be NATO's role? If a security guarantee along the Polish-Russian border creates an unacceptable dividing line, why is the current eastern border of NATO any more pacifying? If Russia can veto NATO membership now when it is in need of economic support, what will it veto when it has been strengthened through reform and U.S. economic assistance?

It is high time to take another look at our Russian policy, which stakes everything on a kind of psychoanalytic social engineering. The world evoked by Clinton's reference to "democracy everywhere . . . people cooperating everywhere" is decades away. In today's environment of ethnic conflict and internecine struggle in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, how is security and progress to be organized until that utopian world is reached? Can it be wise to create two categories of frontier--those that NATO protects and others that are refused protection--when both frontiers face in the same direction?

A realistic approach to Russian policy would recognize that integrating Russia into the international system has two components that must be kept in balance: influencing Russian attitudes and affecting Russian calculations. The Administration deserves support in extending generous economic assistance to Russian reform. And Russia should be made welcome in institutions that foster economic, cultural and political cooperation with the West. But the Administration's tendency to treat Russian leaders as if they were fragile novices easily flustered by exposure to the realities of international politics is an invitation to disillusionment and misunderstanding.

Russia is bound to have a special security interest in what it calls the "near abroad"--the republics of the former Soviet Union. The test is whether the rest of the world treats this relationship as an international problem subject to accepted rules of foreign policy or as an outgrowth of unilateral Russian decision-making to be influenced, if at all, by appeals to Russian goodwill.

Perhaps the most serious misapprehension of the Partnership for Peace proposal is that a reformist Russian government would automatically abandon traditional foreign-policy goals.

For the incentives of the most well-meaning Russian government are quite different. Nationalism is on the rise; there is a great temptation to ease the pain of transition to market economics for the Russian population by appealing to this basic instinct.

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