Kissinger's World View. He sees massive shifts, with Europe back on center stage
These comments were compiled from a recent dialogue between the Monitor's editorial board and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. I BELIEVE that the '90s, whatever we do, will be a period of tremendous structural change in international relations and it is a mistake to ascribe it all to Gorbachev or even primarily to Gorbachev - in fact it is selling the situation short to ascribe it to Gorbachev because that implies that it is an idiosyncratic change.
And if you look at Soviet history, every general secretary has disavowed his predecessor and therefore it isn't even in our interests to say that Gorbachev is the only solution to our problem since he's mortal and will leave sooner or later. In fact the term of office of the president, if he sticks to it, is only 10 years - so by the late '90s he would be out of office. And much better for us to think in terms of structural changes that any sensible Soviet leader would want to follow. Even if he has a less dynamic personality than Gorbachev's.
Now, I think that the dominance of the two superpowers will erode in the '90s. You will have various powers. You will have the US, Soviet Union, China, India, Europe. All of which will be simultaneously economic, political, and military powers, and a little later I wouldn't exclude that Brazil and Mexico could be at least at the second rank of such a world.
This requires that we look at the world in a different way than we did in the post-war period. The Soviet Union will still be a major country; it will still have a major influence in world affairs. But we are very close to the goal of containment as it was defined in the 1940s.
Economic reform for the Soviet Union is not a favor they do to us. It's not something for which we should pay a huge price; it is something that they almost have to do. An aggressive Soviet policy would unite all of these powers on their borders against it and therefore they have reasons quite beyond Gorbachev to move into a period of conciliation.
So our task is to do something that Americans have not ever done before: namely, to think of a world of equilibrium. Not of a world in which we like to think of foreign policy as conversion - that Gorbachev comes along and he ends 70 years of communist history. He'd really have to end 400 years of Russian history.
How should he come to that view? What is it in his experience that would lead him there? There's no Jefferson in his past. There's no American tradition. But there is the compulsion of circumstance.
If we want to disengage ourselves from the front line of every confrontation, we have to learn to think of the structural balances that exist in the world and to decide whether we want to back whom we back.
It's sort of a balance of power concept, which in a modern global world is much more complicated. In that context, I think we can negotiate with the Soviets much more reliably than by being so obsessed about whether the President and the Soviet leader get along. And incidentally, I would also think that it also means that the emphasis on pure arms control gets us off the subject.
I'm not opposed to arms control as one of the many negotiations to conduct, but take Europe for example. In many ways Gorbachev is conducting a traditional Russian policy. He's trying to separate Europe from the US. And he has had major success in Germany in getting this German romantic feeling that they've got to have some sentimental attachment to somebody focused on the Soviets. That's a short-term victory if the world is bipolar.
In the process, however, Eastern Europe is becoming fluid and what we may see is a simultaneous disintegration of Western and Eastern Europe, with Eastern Europe disintegrating faster and in which even the seeming victories of Gorbachev are double-edged. Because to the extent that he gets the Germans more active in foreign policy, the place they have something to gain is in the East not in the West, and so he may be resurrecting the contest between the Teutons and the Slavs.
Now, that's what we've got to get beyond. And it's sensible that negotiation with the Soviets would be unavoidable in the next administration, and, in my view, the big issue will be Eastern Europe. Because whatever perestroika does in the USSR, it is undermining the communist regimes in Eastern Europe. So long as the Soviets identify their security with the maintenance of unpopular regimes, therein is a trap of their own making. If they go into one of these countries they will undermine everything that they have achieved with their policy of apparent moderation. And if they don't go in they start a process which may spill over into the Soviet Union.
THEREFORE, I believe an important subject of negotiation with them on a quiet basis, is whether it is possible to create a political framework in Eastern Europe which separates the security issues from the political issues, in which we can be very far-sighted and generous. You know, something like Finland in which the peoples of Eastern Europe are free to choose their own government and there are clearly defined limitations on military capabilities.
In such a framework, then, one could approach conventional arms control, which in my view is totally insoluble in the Warsaw Pact-NATO context. Well, totally insoluble is exaggerated, but incredibly complicated. It will turn into a numbers game that will feed on itself.
I think the fundamental negotiation with the Soviets should be: what kind of a world do we visualize? How can we avoid sliding into a war which neither of us want and which we can't settle by just technical rearrangement of arms? For the first time now since the war there is a real danger that some explosion could occur in Eastern Europe like prior to World War I. We are so focused on Hitler, and we forget that Sarajavo produced a world war.
I don't think the Soviets will ever march into Western Europe to occupy it as Hitler marched into neighboring countries. But what could happen instead, as an act of desperation we could face a Berlin crisis. The one way they could demonstrate the fact that they're the one who runs Eastern Europe is to make us knuckle under on something in Berlin. And you notice that even as they are courting the Germans they will not agree to have West Berlin a German state, which would be the easiest way to settle it. They insist on treating it, as close as they can get away with it, as a free city.
I'm writing a book on how national cultural patterns and values affect the perception of foreign policy. And you really find in many countries a very consistent pattern. But Germany didn't become a nation until 1871, then for 19 years they had a foreign minister - a genius who juggled all the competing forces in Europe in such a complicated way that it couldn't be continued.
We Americans got to know the Germans after the war. And so we thought that the pro-Western orientation of Germany was a natural thing. The fact is if you look at German history, Germany has never had alliances in the West - all its alliances have been in the East, when they had any alliances. So the Adenauer-tradition, pro-American group has been demoralized as a result of many factors - including some of the recent negotiations with the Soviets.
And so you now have a kind of restless activism, almost for its own sake. The West Germans give a billion marks to Hungary in order to ease the fate of the Hungarians, but what they are also doing is to increase the freedom of maneuver of the Hungarians vis-`a-vis the Soviets, and there is a limit to this. So German romanticism and sentimentalism without any evil intention could be a very real problem. It sort of triggers everybody else.
The French are running to Moscow now because they don't want the Germans to be there alone. The French are quite cynical in their conduct of foreign policy. And in Gorbachev's perestroika and in all the Soviet public statements - nobody pays much attention to this in this country - they keep talking about the European house that goes from the Urals to the Atlantic.
On the face of it, it is already an absurdity, because what happens to the Soviet Union on the other side of the Urals? Will that be cut off?
NOW, a Europe from Moscow to the Atlantic will lead to one of two things: either the Soviet Union will be the permanent drain on its resources if its economy doesn't improve or the Soviet Union will become so strong that all of Europe will become Finlandized and America will be gradually separated from Europe.
The logical dividing line is on the Soviet-Polish border, with Moscow and Washington having equal status legally in Europe. In such a context you could think of arms control agreements. But nobody is picking the Soviets up on this. And once this gets established in people's minds that Moscow is part of Europe but Washington is not, the '90s could get very uncomfortable.