|Updated: 12-Mar-2001||NATO Speeches|
9 October 1989
Address given at the 35th Annual Session of the North Atlantic Assembly
Speech by Secretary General, Manfred WörnerThe French writer, Albert Camus, once lamented that "man eventually becomes accustomed to everything". I have always believed that this is an unjustly pessimistic view of our human condition; and in recent weeks I have seen enough to convince me that Camus, on this point at least, was wrong:
Others have responded with repression, merely postponing the day of reckon-ing by loading their problems on to the future. In the meantime, their citizens fleed draining their economies of the precious skills and resources they will need most when ultimately they face up to the needs of tomorrow.
It is obvious: the division of Europe has become politically untenable: not because of Western "revanchism" to which Mr. Shevardnadze referred: not because of our interference in their domestic affairs. No. Simply for two reasons. First, because communism has failed as much in ideological as in economic and social terms. It is not able to solve the problems of modern industrialised societies in the age of global communication. And even more important: second, because you cannot suppress freedom forever. The natural aspiration of men to live and work freely is the driving force behind the historical process of change which we are witnessing. And no dictator or system - not even by using force - will be able to stop or prevent this dynamic change in the long-term. Of course, the Atlantic Alliance has played an historic role in creating the conditions for change:
Communist values in Eastern Europe have been upheld only through the deliberate policy and military control of the Soviet Union. Western values, on the other hand, have triumphed in Eastern Europe through force of example. We have not needed to promote them; democracy, human dignity, openness, market forces, self-determination: these are the ideas that spread their influence from the inside. The East is turning to the West.
East and West will not be reconciled, as some once believed, by converging in the middle. The debate takes place wholly on our terms. Our values and systems hold the key to the political and economic future of the Soviet Union and its allies. This is the reality with which Communist leaders must deal. Before building new political and economic structures, they must find a safe method of dismantling the old. Finding one's way out of a labyrinth has always proved more difficult than becoming lost in one. It is a predicament well summarized by Soviet academician, Oleg Bogomolov: "It is easy to turn an aquarium into fish soup, but how do you turn fish soup back into an aquarium?".
The challenge of a long-term programme of fundamental economic and societal reform would be daunting in itself; but it is severely compounded by the immediate economic crisis in which most of Eastern Europe now finds itself. The report of your own Political Committee on Soviet foreign policy under Gorbachev is eloquent on this topic. It notes, for instance, that Soviet economic growth is dwindling at 1.5%, the announced budget deficit is some $160 billion, or 9% of GNP. The Soviet share of world trade is only 4%, and for 1989 total hard currency income is estimated at only $24 billion, of which $18 billion is allocated to servicing the $43 billion foreign debt. The supply situation is now chaotic. Of the 1,200 items in the Soviet housewife's official shopping basket, only 200 are widely available. There is no lack of money. Indeed, as your report also points out, about $500 billion worth of rubles is being hoarded because there is nothing to buy. Such shortages are largely responsible for the current unrest amongst Soviet workers.
Indeed the experts now take a sombre view of the success of perestro'ika. One of our NATO studies, for instance, looks at the future prospects for the Soviet economy. It assumes three models: that Gorbachev's reforms will succeed; that they will partially succeed, or that they will fail. What is interesting is that the actual outcome would seem to make very little difference. The best scenario gives a growth rate of only 2.6% and the worst 1.6%. And these small rates of projected growth do not allow for the likely increase in the Soviet population which would make them even more modest. So even the most optimistic assumption does not provide sufficient growth to make a significant qualitative difference to either the Soviet economy or Soviet society.
Political reform is thus coupled with economic necessity - that much is clear. The same can also be said in the case of the two other Warsaw Pact reformers - Poland and Hungary. Both are crippled by foreign debt repayments; there is a glaring lack of managers and administrators skilled in Western industrial and business techniques; both are experiencing considerable problems in converting their industries to Western competitive standards. The Institute for Economic and Market Research in Budapest, for instance, has said that only one in three Hungarian companies would survive in free trade with the West. In Poland the economic situation borders on the catastrophic: this past summer, while 24 Western nations were discussing food aid for Poland in Brussels, a grocer's shop in Katowice became the sole source of supply for 120,000 people. Poland is not a Third World country even if its per capita GNP now approximates that of Indonesia. These nations are caught up in a race against time: will political reform be fast enough to head off the mounting economic difficulties? Or will these economic difficulties be so severe as to undermine political reform?
Behind the rhetoric of Mr. Gorbachev's Common European Home lies the reality of a widening gap between East and West; and the knowledge that the East does not possess the resources to avert by itself a major tragedy in the short term, and begin to narrow this gap in the long term. The NATO Summit Declaration has given the West the overall conceptual architecture that it must have in its approach to the East. For NATO deals with East-West relations in a global sense; the Alliance integrates the economic factors with the other features of these relations: military security, political change, respect for human rights and basic freedoms. Helping the East to reform is not just an economic task; it is first and foremost a political challenge. We cannot divide our strategy into separate tracks - economic, political, military - and allow them to evolve in isolation. How much financial assistance, for example, should we give to a nation that still spends 15-17% of its GNP on weapons that are largely fielded against us? How can we persuade a Western banker to put his money into Hungary when he can invest in a country, like Czechoslovakia or the GDR, that has a far worse human rights record but a much better international credit rating?
The judgements that have to be made are highly political. Even if the Alliance does not have responsibility for specific aid programmes, only NATO can harmonise and co-ordinate the efforts of the member nations as a whole on these herculean tasks; only NATO brings the combined resources of North America and Western Europe to bear on them.
Our Alliance strategy is an integrated one. We offer the East co-operation; indeed following our NATO Summit, Alliance governments have already started on the practical implementation of such co-operation:
It is clear that the success of this Western programme depends on a total
reshaping of East-West relations. That is our goal. NATO has thus issued
the East a number of reasonable challenges:
It is clear the Alliance is on the political offensive. Yet a political strategy must have a secure foundation. That does not mean that our defences have to be at the same level as today. We have pushed hard for the CFE talks in Vienna and we have done, and continue to do, revolutionary conceptual work to initiate the more reassuring defence postures of the future. The Soviet response in Vienna has been extremely encouraging; and following the meeting in Wyoming between the US and Soviet Foreign Ministers, we may be on the verge of major breakthroughs in the Geneva START talks and the negotiations for a worldwide ban of chemical weapons. Our timetable of one year to reach a CFE agreement is ambitious but realistic. Yet let us not forget two things:
Thus, as parliamentarians, there are two things that you can do to ensure the success of NATO in the great political tasks it faces. First, present the case convincingly against structural disarmament on ours, the weaker side. This is the enemy of true arms control for it will undermine our position in Vienna at the very moment when we have never had a more golden opportunity. Second, use your influence to contribute to greater East-West contact and exchanges and to make the Western reform programme a bold, imaginative one. The North Atlantic Assembly has always had two crucial roles: bringing together Alliance parliamentarians to discuss matters of common concern, and to inform the public better about NATO's role and objectives. From your recent visits to Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and the Soviet Union, you have added a third: building a parliamentary tradition in Eastern Europe. It is a noble cause. I support you, and count on you.