William Kristol

Testimony Before
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee

April 8, 2003

Mr. Chairman, it is a pleasure to testify once again before this august committee, on such an important and timely subject: the future of NATO. The Project for the New American Century, which I chair, has always supported an American foreign policy that is grounded on strong alliance ties. Indeed, in the Project's founding "Statement of Principles," we argued that strengthening those ties was one of four essential tasks before us if we were to correct the drift we perceived as existing in American foreign policy.

More concretely, we supported the first post-Cold War enlargement of NATO. And we support the pending one. I am pleased that we are so close to seeing that bipartisan vision become reality. And just recently, the Project helped organize two bipartisan statements proposing a key role for NATO in post-Saddam Iraq.

In general, we continue to believe that the goal of maintaining peace and prosperity in the world is best accomplished by working with our democratic allies both to protect existing democracies and, where necessary or possible, to expand liberty's reach to other nations.

But what of the future of NATO and, more generally, of the trans-Atlantic relationship? Obviously, there are questions about the health of the alliance. The first thing I would say is that it is too late to paper over these questions and pretend all is well. We need, as my colleague and Project co-founder Robert Kagan has argued (see his Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order), to be honest about the differences in world view between some in Europe-especially in France and Germany-and many in the United States. Within the U.S., we need to avoid cheap partisanship that casts blame unfairly either on the last administration or the present one. Undoubtedly, both administrations have made diplomatic mistakes. What administration hasn't? But the problems with the alliance go beyond European preferences for the charm of President Clinton over the directness of President Bush-and beyond the American preference for the policies of Chancellor Kohl over those of Chancellor Schroeder.

In general, I would argue that the Bush Administration has been quite responsible with respect to the trans-Atlantic alliance. When President Bush came into office, common wisdom held that, if NATO did expand again, the expansion would be quite limited in scope and number. But it was the president's vision of a "Europe, whole and free" that has led NATO to this day. Moreover, this past summer, at Prague, the administration put forward a number of constructive proposals for reforming and re-energizing NATO. And, finally, and principally at the behest of our European allies, President Bush went to the United Nations in September 2002 and secured U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. The Bush Administration is not responsible for the current crisis in the alliance.

Who, or what, is? The answer to "who" is France-and secondarily, Germany. The answer to "what" is the new post-9/11 world to which the U.S. has reacted in one way, and France and Germany in another.

This is not the place for France-bashing. But it is the place to tell the truth. At best, the government of France is uninterested in the trans-Atlantic alliance. At worst, it wants to weaken it. France's priority lies with the European Union and/or the UN-not NATO. And there is no question that many in Paris desire to see a France-led European Union as a counterweight to U.S. power. Germany, a troubled nation with economic and demographic difficulties, and an understandable aversion to the exercise of military and nation-state power, has followed France's lead. The European Union as a whole has embraced a view of the world that is post-nationalist, post-historical, and extremely reluctant to use military force even in a just cause.

The United States is different. The "distinctly American internationalism" the president has articulated in speeches and in the White House's National Security Strategy-and with which I am in basic agreement-is quite far removed from the "European" view of the world in both the nature of the threats we face and certainly what strategies to employ to deal with them. How do we bridge the gap?

We won't entirely. Washington and the capitals of Europe cannot help but have some differences of perspective on interests and threats for the simple reason that the U.S.'s role in the world is far different from theirs. America has global responsibilities no other nation has, or will have, and that is bound to create differences in strategic outlook. That said, we cannot abandon our basic convictions because they make some Europeans uneasy. We cannot fail to confront the threats we face, and we cannot fail to carry out our historic purposes in defending and expanding freedom, because some Europeans balk. We can agree to disagree where we must, and agree to work tougher where we can. There are many such occasions-the reconstruction of postwar Iraq being one conspicuous one.

We should seek new or improved institutional arrangements through which to work together. Coalitions of the willing are fine, and sometimes necessary. But, where possible, longer-lasting organizational arrangements would be preferable. Does this mean re-vitalizing NATO? I hope so. Does it means reforming NATO? I think so- perhaps, for example, by moving to a super-majority vote to authorize action, binding of course only on those who choose to contribute, but still under the NATO umbrella. In a sense, this would institutionalize the coalition of the willing. It would also increase Washington's interest in using and working with NATO. And, finally, it would give our allies a healthier say in these decisions.

We also might want to explore new institutional arrangements that allow us to work in particular ways with our new allies in Central and Eastern Europe, and our friends elsewhere in Europe, as well. We can't confine ourselves to Cold War structures. Institutional creativity is needed for a new world. There may also be ways to institutionalize our friendship, and common interests, with democracies like Turkey, Israel, and India, in conjunction with NATO or outside of NATO.

No one thinks it a good thing for the U.S. to go it alone-though, at times, we may have to act with fewer friends than one might wish. Nor, I trust, do we want to hand over U.S. interests or decision-making to the United Nations-an organization that seeks to speak for the "international community" but actually reflects the particular state interests of its Security Council members. At its best, NATO represents a healthy multilateralism, a multilateralism that rests on shared democratic principles and a shared history of meeting the challenge posed by Soviet communism. The challenge in the days ahead will be to see whether NATO, as presently constituted, is up to meeting the new threats we face. Some positive steps have been taken: NATO's intervention in Kosovo was an important precedent. The contribution made by our allies and soon-to-be allies to the military effort in Afghanistan and Iraq are also significant. The question we have to ask is whether such efforts will be the exception rather than the rule in the future.

I think the Bush Administration is off to a good start in moving NATO in the right direction. The world is a dangerous place and we need help in dealing with these dangers. Accordingly, we need to do as good a job as we can in creating an alliance that has the military and institutional capabilities to confront these dangers effectively. But, at the end of the day, our priority has to be dealing with these dangers, not placating allies who are more concerned with the exercise of American power than the threats we face.