Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Holds Hearing on NATO Enlargement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BIDEN:
Ian, which side is easier? I mean is it easier to be on the...

(LAUGHTER)
... you know, over there in the Defense Department, you know, doing it all or over here critiquing it? I mean, which do you like better?

(LAUGHTER)
OK, you don't have to answer that question. It may prejudice you somewhat.

It seems to me that NATO membership is going to serve as a powerful stimulus to an ongoing process of democratization and free market economic development in the seven aspirant countries. And it is precisely this process that I think is going to move the zone of stability to the east more than anything they add to the military prowess of NATO, although they will add I hope.

This committee, as some of you know, takes this advice and consent responsibility very seriously. And today's hearing is, to state the obvious, devoted exclusively to a detailed examination by all of you of the qualifications for NATO's membership—for NATO membership of each of these candidate countries. And there isn't any doubt the future of these countries, in my view, is in NATO.

Each country has effectively utilized the MAP process to move closer towards its goal of joining the alliance. But MAP however is not a universal checklist. It—nor is completion of the MAP process a guarantee of NATO membership. Ultimately, the current members of NATO have to consider whether the inclusion of these seven countries at Prague are quote, "Willing and able to assume the responsibilities and obligations of membership." This requires a fair review of the military and non-military qualifications, and there's a lot to cover.

To the extent possible in our limited time, I'd welcome your views on some or all of the following military issues: the level and priorities of each country's military spending; the extent of the civilian control over the military; the command structure and the sophistication of the defense planning process; the inner-operability of each country's forces with NATO as well as how these forces are being restructured to better address modern security challenges; the specialty or niche capabilities of these invited countries, to the extent they have one; the collective training regimes in place and the development of English language competencies; and, very importantly, the counter-intelligence capabilities and secure communications in each country and the overall ability to safeguard NATO's classified information.

There are also non-military concerns that have to be raised. I will not raise them now.

I'd ask unanimous consent that the entirety of my statement be placed in the record, Mr. Chairman, at this time.

ALLEN:
Without objection.

BIDEN:
And I'd like to move to a question I never thought I'd ask when we were talking about NATO enlargement. And, as Ian knows from working up here because we worked closely with Senator Roth, and we had the honor of sort of leading the effort to expand NATO last time, that I am a staunch supporter of expanding NATO.

But, I've been a senator for a fair amount of time now, since 1972 and—since '73 I should say—and I've attended I don't know—Lord knows how many conferences on wider (ph) NATO, but this is the first time in my career I think there is a real question, not about expanding about the relevancy of NATO period.

I will go into this next week, but I'm told and I don't have this for certain so I don't want to—that Belgium has called for a meeting in three or four weeks where they disinvited the Brits and the Americans to discuss what I—seemed to me to be a not ESDI but ESDI- at-Large, a totally separate, independent of NATO European entity. And Brody (ph) immediately thought that was a good idea, the European Commission.

We have the confluence, and I'm not making a judgment of—if there ever was oil and water, it is Cheney, Rumsfeld, Chirac and Schroeder, if I have ever seen it anywhere. And so my first question, and I'm not being facetious about this, particularly from the Defense Department position, how committed is the administration to NATO?

Because I have read all the neo-con stuff for the last 10 years about how NATO is a drain; how we are overextending the extent of our commitment to NATO exceeds its capacity; how the gap is so wide in capability that it's never going to be narrowed. Because clearly not now or not in your careers or in mine—I'll speak for myself. Most of you are much younger so you have a longer time.

Is it likely that France or Germany are going to step up to the ball and make the commitment that they need to make to reduce that gap in capability? And so I have a very—I have an urgent concern to expand NATO because I think it's the only thing that gives us any sort of footing to say that indirectly that we plan on remaining a European power in spite of all the rhetoric I hear coming out of primarily the Defense Department folks, not the uniformed military, civilian military.
And so, I'm not being a wise guy when I ask the question. If you'd rather not answer it, I understand. Because it, in a sense, a phrase that—you remember Ian, you were here, got me in trouble with a guy who came and testified during the Clinton era who was a UN inspector. What was that fella's name?

BRZEZINSKI:
Scott Ritter.

BIDEN:
Scott Ritter, and I said that his judgments were above his pay grade, and every right-winged guy in America attacked me. Where are they now with old Scott Ridder?

But at any rate, this is in a sense above my pay grade here, and it may be above—not above my pay grade frankly, maybe above your pay grade to answer the question. But really and truly, how vital is NATO in the eyes of this administration's defense establishment for real? That's not a—it's not a question that I—it's not a rhetorical question. I'm genuinely interested, if you can speak to that.

BRZEZINSKI:
Yes, sir. And I'll try and stay within my pay grade.
(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN:
I just don't want to get you in trouble.

BRZEZINSKI:
First, I think if you look at the Prague Summit agenda and you look how aggressive it is and how historic it is, it would erase any doubts you may have in the administration or the Department of Defense's commitment to NATO. What we're committed to is a fundamental rejuvenation of NATO. We're committed to a vision where NATO plays an even more important role taking on contemporary challenges and future challenges that we expect to fact.

At the Prague Summit, we not only extended our commitments and some security guarantees of seven new democracies. We also undertook, with a certain amount of controversy within the alliance itself, that is we were pushing an agenda, an agenda that featured the NATO response force, an ability to give NATO the capability to respond on short notice, on a day's notice, to any contingency anywhere in the globe with a force capable of conducting the full spectrum of high- end, high intensity military operations.

We initiated the profitabilities (ph) initiative, another effort to help the allies fill gaps and shortfalls so that the alliance continued—can continue to play a relevant role to our common security.

We have initiated a complex, politically difficult command structure reform. We're fundamentally redoing NATO's command structure. That is a thankless task. But we're doing it because we're committed to NATO and we envision NATO playing an important role in the future.

I'd add, after September 11 that should erase any doubt in anybody's mind about the relevance of NATO in the administration, out of the administration, in the United States and in Europe.

BIDEN:
Why?

BRZEZINSKI:
Why, because they responded effectively to an attack on the United States.

BIDEN:
But then we responded effectively to say Germany, keep your troops in Germany. Don't send them to Afghanistan. France, we don't need your help. Senator Lugar and I got in a—made a call to the White House and wanted to go down and see the president right away and say, For God's sake, accept the offer. You don't need them but accept the offer.

BRZEZINSKI:
Sir, we have a number of allies working with us including the Germans and Danes and the French.

BIDEN:
Where?

BRZEZINSKI:
In Afghanistan today through ISAF and under Air Force (ph) 180.

BIDEN:
All right.

BRZEZINSKI:
And we have NATO playing an important role in supporting the German-Dutch lead of ISAF.

BIDEN:
But that came after the fact. After we stiffed them on that vote of confidence, when we won by one vote.

BRZEZINSKI:
I don't know if we stiffed anybody.

BIDEN:
What would you call it?

BRZEZINSKI:
I'm not sure that NATO immediately after September 11 would have rushed into Afghanistan.

BIDEN:
Well, the Germans actually took a vote, didn't they, in their parliament? Took a vote, by one vote, to have troops out of the theater to participate...

BRZEZINSKI:
And they are. And they are standing by...

BIDEN:
But we said no. We—after the fact, we got ISAF in. OK, well you're—I hope you're right. I hope you're right because I think that—and I'll end with this, Mr. Chairman. I think the entirety of America's ability to conduct its foreign policy globally depends in larger part upon the stability of Europe and us remaining a European power at its base and our base as any other single undertaking we have in the world. And I think we are—I hope we can turn this expansion into something more than it was intended to do in the first place.

I hope we can not merely expand, I hope we can remedy. I hope we can heal. Because it is, as you know, all of you know, I doubt—I don't want to put words in your mouth. But I—let me put it this way. I would be surprised if any one of you in your trips to Europe in the last eight months have met with as much skepticism or hostility as you have been in your entire careers. It may be passing. But I'm worried that as we sort of engage in mutually, particularly the French and the Germans in this sort of name-calling, this, you know, the comments that we each make about one another. I think it's corrosive.

And I hope we can use the expansion of NATO as an opportunity in Prague to begin to heal what hopefully is a temporary, a temporary divide here in the alliance. Because I really believe the alliance's importance and consequence exceeds its military capability. But that's enough of my editorial comment and you all don't need that.

Mr. Chairman, I have about a dozen questions specifically directed to our witnesses that I'd like to submit to them rather than have them go through them now. So I'd like to submit to them now and ask if they would respond in writing. They're not going to make a lot of work. I mean, there are no—tombs (ph) are not required in response but they're direct questions. With your permission, may I do that, Mr. Chairman.

ALLEN:
Yes, you have my permission and I'm sure that all of our witnesses will work on answering those questions forthwith.

BIDEN:
And I want to thank you, the four of you, for your professionalism, for the seriousness with which you've undertaken this effort, for the—both the scholarship and the political acumen that you possess.

This is a difficult time in the alliance, and I think we all have an obligation to try to repair. It may not be broke, as old Ronald Regan used to say, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'. It may not be broke but it could use a little fixing. It could use a little fixing right now, and I'm glad you all are trying. Because I know you're devoted to it, and I appreciate it.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Skip to top
Back to top