Panel I of a Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee-NATO: Enlargement and Effectiveness
SEN. BIDEN: The hearing will come to order.
Assistant Secretary, welcome back -- only about a couple days since you've been here. It's good to have you back. And General Craddock, welcome, and thank you both for being here today.
Next month the 26 member states of NATO Alliance will gather in Bucharest, Romania, and central to their discussion will be the questions of the Ukraine and Georgia, bringing them closer to the alliance, and Croatia and FYROM and Albania -- or Macedonia, as our government refers to it -- into the alliance. In other major issues that are going to be right front and center -- the effectiveness of NATO in its first out-of-area military commitment in the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
And summits have a tendency to force events and a time for actual decisions on hard issues, so it's no surprise that in the run-up to this summit, disagreements among allies sometimes get the spotlight. Even so, I am deeply concerned that on the eve of this summit, the alliance is especially fractured and incoherent. And quite frankly, the senator -- the chairman and I have been here a long time. I don't know how many conferences I've attended about whether NATO -- will NATO survive? Will NATO -- so I don't -- I know we always have these discussions, but I think this is a particularly difficult moment.
First, there appears to be a total lack of clarity on how to respond to the applications of Ukraine and Georgia for membership action plans, or MAP. I believe -- speaking for myself only, obviously -- I believe we should encourage Ukraine and Georgia by granting their requests for MAP. Both countries have made substantial progress toward consolidating gains of the Orange and Rose revolutions, and they're already -- have made substantive contributions -- both of them -- to NATO operations. A membership action plan, as you both know better than anyone, is not an irrevocable step for either the applicant state or for the alliance. The decision is an invitation to join -- the decision on an invitation to join the alliance can take as long as NATO wants or the applicant state requires.
Second, there is no apparent consensus on the three countries who are candidates for actual membership. During the 1990s, NATO became a force for promotion of Europe whole and free in ways that its founders I don't think ever fully imagined. The prospect of membership encouraged Europe's newly liberated countries to settle longstanding disputes, to deep-root democracy and human rights, and of course to build competent militaries. I am proud, along with Senator Lugar and my deceased colleague Senator Roth and others, to have played a part and helped in the initial enlargement of NATO after the wall came down. And it remains my conviction that we should extend and offer a NATO membership to any country that applies and meets the criteria.
As a strategic matter, the admission of Croatia and Albania and Macedonia to NATO would bring the Balkans closer to Europe's future its people deserve and it would strengthen, in my view, regional security. But that doesn't mean these three candidates, in my view, must enter as a bloc. Each country should be judged against established criteria and on its own merits.
Of course, NATO's current members must still agree on the decision to invite new ones, period. I have strongly urged Greece and FYROM, or Macedonia, to find a reasonable compromise to the name dispute that stands as a bar to Macedonia's membership. If they're unable to do so in time for the summit, that failure should not, in my view, penalize the prospects of Croatia or Albania. I expect our witnesses to address the readiness of these three countries to join NATO, and our second panel includes two prominent experts who disagree on whether these countries are ready. And it's important I think to hear this debate here in the Foreign Relations Committee.
And finally, the other critical issue in this summit is Afghanistan, the forgotten war, in my view. I was there along with Senator Lugar and Senator Kerry just a few weeks ago. Each of us has spoken to our deep concern, and while Afghanistan remains winnable, we are not winning. In my view, we need a new strategy for success and a new NATO commitment in terms of the individual countries and their rules of engagement.
This should not be America's fight alone. Our allies joined this war from the very start. This was not a war of choice; this was a war of necessity, and they have as much at stake as we do, I respectfully suggest. Since 9/11, Europe has been repeatedly targeted for terror, and virtually every attack can be traced back to the Afghan-Pakistan border regions. The heroin Afghanistan produces winds up in the streets of Madrid and Berlin, not in New York. In fact, since 2001, far more Brits have lost their lives to Afghan drugs than to Taliban arms. And many of our NATO allies thought they were signing up for a peacekeeping mission, not a counterinsurgency operation, and many are fighting like it is a peacekeeping operation, not fighting. They're fighting -- others are fighting with incredible bravery, particularly in the south. But the so-called national caveats are making a mockery, in my view, of NATO and the notion of a unified mission. One ally can fight here but not another place. Another ally can do this but not that. In my view, you're either in this fight or you're not, and it's time for NATO to be fully in the fight. I believe that the future of NATO is at stake in Afghanistan as well as the future of Afghanistan.
The NATO summit must bring these issues to a head. We are right to expect more from our allies and from NATO, but they are also right to expect more from us. When I first went to Afghanistan right after the Taliban fell in January of 2002, I asked, General, the commander of British forces how long his people would allow him to stay in Afghanistan. I'll never forget what he told me. He said, "We Brits have an expression, Senator. As long as the big dog is in the pen, the small dogs will stay. When the big dog leaves, the small dogs will go home." Well, the small -- the big dog left, in my view, in 2002. The big dog left and we diverted so much of our attention and so many of our resources to Iraq, there wasn't a lot left for Afghanistan. Instead of finishing a war of necessity, we started a war of choice.
I'm not here to debate whether -- about that war of choice. I'm here just to make the point that we -- and it's interesting to me. I don't know whether my colleague from Nebraska found the same thing -- whether we were talking to diplomats, military personnel or NGOs, they all -- when we asked them about the situation in Afghanistan, they all say something to the effect of, "It is true: From 2002 to 2006, we didn't do much, but we began to change policy and may -- regained some ground in 2006 -- late 2006" -- an interesting admission that we heard uniformly across the board.
I commend Secretary Gates, who acknowledged last month that the Europeans tend to project the hostility they feel for the war in Iraq onto the fight in Afghanistan. I would also point out, I think that's happening here in the United States. The hostility toward the war in Iraq is being -- coloring the attitudes of Americans toward the war in Afghanistan. I think this represents a fundamental misreading of the facts. But we have done a poor job in distinguishing the case for one war from the other, and I'm glad Secretary Gates has dedicated himself to correcting the record.
We always say that the summit is critical, but I think this one really is. It's critical for the construction of Europe, for the war in Afghanistan, and I think the future of the alliance itself. So I look forward to hearing from all of our witnesses, particularly our colleagues sitting before us. And I would now yield to my colleague, Chairman Lugar.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you very much.
General, let me start where you left off -- the forces we need and the forces we have, as it relates to Afghanistan. How big is that gap?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Chairman, it is a moving gap, and it deals with assignment of forces against the minimum military requirement. NATO has a combined joint statement of requirements for every operation they do, and they have one for ISAF. In terms of numbers, I don't' know the numbers; we talk capabilities -- battalions, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, aircraft, things like that.
We have, over the past year, increased the number in Afghanistan, upwards of 12 (thousand) to 13,000, but not all of those forces have been assigned against this CJSOR. So they come in under national control, essentially working for the commander at ISAF -- some with, some without constraints, the caveats. So the shortfall right now is -- against the CJSOR, about three infantry battalions; it's some heavy life helicopters, medium-lift helicopters; and some significant numbers of enablers, such as intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance, streaming full-motion video, things like that.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, that's exactly what the ISAF commander told us when we were there a couple weeks ago. He said -- I'm not quoting him, but the way I read it, he needs 10,000 folks who can shoot straight, and kill people if they have to -- and are willing to shoot.
And which leads me to -- I have been a strong proponent, as the secretary knows and my colleagues know, along with those up here, of the expansion of NATO. There is no -- I don't think there's any argument about the political rationale for the expansion, it's overwhelming.
But if I can be devil's advocate for a moment, some have suggested that the political aspect of it -- or, to use your phrase, a slightly different way of saying it, that "we have more consumers than contributors;" that we may build this so big that it can't function. It becomes a jerry-rigged operation. As you expand it to 30, or heading toward 30, it becomes more cumbersome.
If you look at the GDP of most of our European -- I mean -- and I'm not talking about the aspirants, but the, quote, what most Americans think "the major powers in Europe" -- their allocation of resources, percent of their GDP to their defense budgets is embarrassing, in relative terms.
And so, how do you respond to the notion that bringing in three countries -- potentially three countries, who have a strong political rationale for it, how is that really going to -- is it going to enhance, or further drain NATO's resources in trying to integrate them and actually make up for some obvious shortcomings?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Thank you, Chairman.
I think if one looks at the aspirants today, and what they are contributing to -- let me use Afghanistan as an example, ISAF, if we look a those three nations in the context of the 14 non-NATO troop- contributing nations, in terms of the numbers of personnel they are providing, they rank number three, four and five of 14. If you look at the 26 NATO nations who are participating, they rank ahead of five.
We are -- we've looked at, through the MAP process over time, their security sector, processes, reforms, innovations, transformation, and all the aspirants have made progress to the standard that we believe is acceptable. Because they are contributing now, and we find them continuing to do so in a larger manner; we think that's a positive signal.
The downside for membership would be air defense. There is a requirement in NATO to provide for your own national air defense. We have assessed that they are not capable of doing that. One nation has some MIG-21s but they're not operationally ready.
So that would be a burden assumed to NATO. There is precedent for that. We are doing that now in the Baltic nations and Iceland. So we don't see that as a -- as an overwhelming burden, it's manageable for the future.
SEN. BIDEN: Mr. Secretary, first time around, the administration in '96 concluded that Romania wasn't ready for membership, and it held off the invitation at the Madrid Summit. Romania used that decision to redouble its efforts, to get prepared, and a few years later it got an invitation to join.
Did the Alliance make the right decision in '96 with Romania?
MR. FRIED: It certainly turned out well. That is, Romania has been a good NATO member, a contributing member. And we saw that both before the invitation in 2002, which was when they actually got it, and afterwards, they've continued their reforms.
In retrospect, could we have invited them in '97? Possibly. They made good time -- they did well over the next five years getting ready. Had we known then what we know now, we might have invited them.
But the honest truth is that we've seen NATO enlargement in practice, and we have the track record. And we now know with greater confidence that NATO enlargement does work -- both in theory and in practice, and that when nations are invited to join the Alliance, and do join, their reforms continue.
SEN. BIDEN: General, in 2007, the secretary general of NATO wrote about the need for better integration in the Alliance and more reform in NATO headquarters. In an article, he claimed that there are still too many vestiges of the Cold War in the way in which NATO's structure is organized.
I know that's probably -- actually, it's probably unfair to ask you that with only 20 seconds left in my time, but what kind of success have we had with NATO reform, and what's on the agenda for 2009?
GEN. CRADDOCK: Well, Mr. Chairman, I can't speak 2009 at this point. I think that's a work in progress. I absolutely agree with the secretary general, we are still (hide-downed ?) into the Cold War, planning and preparing for something that never happened, thank goodness.
And we must transition to a 21st Century fact of life, which is fast-paced operations; requirements for support of the soldiers, the commanders in the field; and break through this enormous number of committees and this bureaucracy that just beats us back all the time with a never-ending set of questions, at the end of the day, don't make any difference anyway.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, I wish you luck.
Let me, with the permission of my colleague, point out one thing to the secretary. In '98, in the context of giving us advice and consent, the Senate -- with regard to Poland and Hungary and the Czech Republic, the Senate required the president to submit (its ?) reports to the appropriate Congressional committees on states being considered for NATO membership, prior to an invitation to such states being -- to begin accession talks, and prior to the conclusion of any protocol providing for such succession.
To date, we've not received the required report for this proposed round of enlargement. Is it due to anything we don't understand -- because it's due prior to the invitations being extended in Bucharest? Are you -- you all planning on submitting that?
MR. FRIED: Yes, sir.
SEN. BIDEN: Oh, okay. Good. Thank you.
Some parts of the administration don't think they have to respond to us. It's nice to know you think you should.
MR. FRIED: We look forward to submitting it before Bucharest.
SEN. BIDEN: Thank you. Thank you very much.
I yield to my colleague.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
SEN. BIDEN: Can I have a point of clarification? The additional 6,500 troops you referred to from the various nations, do they have national caveats in their participation, those troops you referenced, Mr. Secretary?
MR. FRIED: Some do, some don't. The British -- the largest contributions, the U.K. 1,800 do not; the Poles do not. The Canadians are in the -- Australians are in the south where the fighting is.
Others do. I think the Italians do, in the west. But someone has to be in the west. Someone has to be in the north. There are over 3,000 German troops in the north. And while we would obviously like the caveats to be gone -- they are doing a good job -- nd if they weren't doing it, somebody else would have to be.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
SEN. BIDEN: General, that's exactly what he told us last week, and it's interesting -- it's interesting what the ISIs' take on it was when we met them.
But let me go back to one thing before -- and I'll ask my colleague. Dick, do you have any additional questions?
When Senator Dodd was going into some detail about, quote, "the tension between the E.U. and NATO" -- and it's real; it's been around since the E.U. emerged. But it seems to me that the really basic, basic problem we have here -- and I wonder if you would each be willing to tell me how your civilian and your military comrades in NATO talk about what I'm about to raise -- and that is a lack of political will among the European population to actually support their militaries.
I mean, when we cut through it all, my observation of all the years of working with NATO has been that you probably have less pushback from your military colleagues. (Chuckles.) I don't know many military -- I don't know many German military officers who don't want to fight if they're put in a position where there's a fight. I don't know many of our NATO allies who, when they sit around the table with you, aren't prepared to shed the caveats. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm missing something.
But when we go and have the meetings with the civilian representatives, as you all know, obviously, the ambassadors who represent the civilian side of NATO and their governments, they're not getting that signal from their parliaments. They're not getting the signal from their prime ministers or their presidents, because they're not getting it form their publics.
And I get the sense when I'm there that there is, Chris, that there is no distinction made between America's war in Iraq and America's war in Afghanistan. You know, it's all about terror, and Americans aren't fighting terror the right way. I mean, when you sit in the coffee shops or you walk the streets or you talk to people who you know or members of parliament who blow through. Am I missing something? Am I missing something here? Isn't all this much ado about nothing until there's the political will to actually pull the -- budget trigger -- (chuckles) -- in each of these parliaments to say we're actually going to support the military? I mean, isn't that the bottom-line problem?
MR. FRIED: There is, as you rightly point out, an issue in Europe of support for militaries in general and military operations specifically. Europeans have lived in -- for two generations in a Europe of general peace. The longest period of general peace in Europe since Roman times. And it's thanks to NATO, in large part. It's a great irony. Thanks to a military alliance and, under that alliance umbrella, the European Union formed. That's known, and that's part of the reality.
So you're not missing something. But it is true that, nevertheless, even given those politics, there are thousands of non- U.S. NATO troops in Afghanistan. Over half the forces are European. They are there in the south --
SEN. BIDEN: Mr. Secretary, if I could interrupt you, because I think the point you're making is valid. MORE
But let me ask you, do you get a sense when you talk to you colleagues, your civilian counterparts -- and you know Europe well, do you get a -- I don't get a sense that there are many citizens walking the streets of, you know, any capital in Europe who think they're threatened by what's going on in Afghanistan. I don't get a sense they connect any dots -- I don't get a sense they -- average people think that their well-being will be affected by success or failure in Afghanistan. I don't get that.
I mean, again -- and I don't want to belabor the point -- but it seems to me until you get to the point where you're able -- or a political leader -- there's strong enough political leadership to connect for your voters that what you're asking -- being asked to participate in and you're arguing you should participate in affects their well-being -- until that happens, it's kind of hard to get a lot of this done which raises the question about, has NATO become a political organization primarily -- or was it always just a political organization? I mean, the expansion of NATO, I mean, I wonder whether or not everybody wants to join NATO but when I talk about -- when I speak to -- in those countries they want to join NATO because it's sort of a ticket to membership to the West. It's not about, by the way, we're going to join NATO and I'm going to send my son to Afghanistan.
MR. FRIED: The countries that want -- that joined NATO after 1989 wanted to be in NATO for hard security reasons and for good ones. And those countries have contributed their forces, their soldiers to missions far afield.
You're obviously right that there are -- that European publics are much more ambivalent about military missions than the American public on average. But given that, it's interesting that parliaments in Europe regularly reauthorize their contingents in Afghanistan -- not as much as we'd like, we talked about the caveats which we think should be eliminated -- they're not as capable, they're not a numerous but they are nevertheless there. The Dutch are in Uruzgan. The Canadians are in Kandahar. So there are European NATO members in the hot fights. That doesn't mean the problem doesn't exist; it means that even given that some of the political challenges we face, NATO is in action.
After all, during the Cold War that we all look back on and say was the golden age of NATO, NATO actually didn't ever fire a shot in anger. Now it's engaged in operations all over the world.
SEN. BIDEN: Well, I thank you both. I think there's a -- I personally think there's a need for change in the political climate here that generates greater, quite frankly, confidence there -- (chuckles) -- not military -- not change in the military, change in civilian leadership in the sense that the Europeans think we know what we're about, overall, not -- I'm not referring to the military, General, per se.
Look, we could talk about this for a long while and we have a very talented panel that comes up behind you fellas. And I want to thank you both very, very much for being here and we look forward to continuing to work with you both. And hopefully this expansion can be rational and effective.
I thank you both very much.
MR. FRIED: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. BIDEN: Our next panel is a very distinguished panel -- every one of whom we're accustomed to having before us and we've listened to with great interest. Ron Asmus, Bruce Jackson, Phil Gordon and Jim Townsend, would you all -- when you get a shot, come to the witness table?
Gentlemen, thank you for being here. You're all very familiar with the committee. We're familiar with you and happy you're here.
I will submit for the record a little bit about each one of you but there have been many, many times you've been here. Let's start in the order that you were called up -- start with you, Ron, if you would. Welcome, and thank you for being here.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
SEN. BIDEN: Gentlemen, thank you very much. This has been a very good panel. Let me -- because you've answered succinctly a number of the questions each of us have had. I'm going to focus on two things, if I may.
One is -- let me ask a rhetorical question. If we don't grant MAP status to Ukraine and Georgia, what in the devil does that say? Here the Russians threaten to target Ukraine; we conclude not to offer the status? I mean, doesn't that -- it seems to me it's almost an overwhelming reason why you almost have to offer the status. Anyone disagree with that notion?
MR. ASMUS: You know, we -- I just want to add a dose of European reality to this conversation, since I live in Brussels. And I'm in favor of MAP for Ukraine and Georgia, but I would say the chance of it happening at NATO's request are about 10 percent today -- and they were 0 percent a couple of months ago and they've only become 10 percent because of the Russians' saying the things they have.
And when I listen to European colleagues, the first thing is many of them don't start with the question are Georgia and Ukraine part of Europe? And even someone like Vaclav Havel --
SEN. BIDEN: You said they do not start?
MR. ASMUS: They do start with the fundamental question, which is not fully answered in NATO
SEN. BIDEN: Got you.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
SEN. BIDEN: Bruce, do you disagree with the reality of, quote, Ron's "reality," as he said his European friends -- you know, he lives in Europe, a little reality here, that Ron says that no matter what we all say right now, unless somehow there's a transformative moment at the White House and the president wakes up tomorrow morning and decides to make this a priority, that there's a 10 percent -- or whatever you said, Ron -- a 10 percent chance that such an invitation will be made. Do you --
MR. JACKSON: I always get into awkward situations. But I think if you're making the case that the administration was late to the game and does is not yet fully engaged in the game, I think that's a fair criticism that accounts for --
SEN. BIDEN: (Inaudible.)
MR. JACKSON: That's --
SEN. BIDEN: I mean, short of the president deciding this is critical; this is important for Bucharest --
MR. JACKSON: (Inaudible.)
SEN. BIDEN: (Inaudible) -- making that clear.
Is there any --
MR. JACKSON: But both -- Paris and Berlin have said, we won't be the only one opposing it, you know, if the others agree. They're still hiding behind that, "if America really wants it, and the rest of the Europeans come, they will go along." They have said that.
Now the vote count today is somewhere -- we're short of that position, but there's three weeks to go. I should also point out that, you know, there is a security liability, basically, defining a security perimeter as Acheson -- that these -- we do not have a dialogue with these countries. That's devastating.
And also a point that's persuasive to President Sarkozy is, in the new administration here, and in 2009 under the Lisbon Treaty, there are things we need to talk about, such as energy security and the Russian relationship. The two countries we need to participate in that are Georgia and Ukraine. We will not be able to begin the dialogues on energy security without having a relationship with these countries.
SEN. BIDEN: Let me ask you -- my time's up, but let me ask you one other question. Am I misreading this, or is it likely that we're not going to get an agreement negotiated between -- Macedonia and Greece? Greece is going to veto; if that occurs, what about the other two? Is it all or none?
MR. JACKSON: Yes. Right now it doesn't look likely. They're going back again -- I guess negotiations are beginning again, but they are far apart and, frankly, I -- glad Senator Menendez isn't here. The Greeks have been hardening their position for the last, you know, three or four months, and they don't really want an agreement. And both governments -- both in Skopje and in Athens, are too weak to cut the Gordian knot. And both of them need this stand-off as a buttress --
SEN. BIDEN: What about the other two? They're in? You mean, you know -- there was -- some are making the argument "all or none." You know, the way to put pressure on the Greeks is to say, you know, if you veto, you know, Macedonia --
MR. JACKSON: You get into -- it seems to me you're probably going to find it's one or three. You could probably get away with Croatia if you wanted to do an entire round for -- what is it, 3 million people. But taking only Albanians, after Kosovo, and then leaving out the only multiethnic Slav community in the south, basically, it could break the (awkward ?) framework structure.
SEN. BIDEN: Anybody have a view of -- I like all your analyses.
MR. ASMUS: Senator, I think -- I think you said it in your opening remarks. You have to treat these countries as individual countries on their own merits, while then thinking about the regional context. We had this discussion, there was one point in the late '90s where we seriously considered doing two out of three Baltic countries -- because one was falling behind; it scared the bejesus out of the one that was falling behind; and it caught up again -- thank God it did -- and it was the threat of leaving it behind that scared it.
But this -- Macedonia is hostage to -- (background noise) -- a little bit above its head and its pay grade to being resolved here. I think, in theory, we should be willing to do A-2, but A-2 -- I mean, leave my skepticism aside for a second, if the goal here is to stabilize the region, the most fragile country is Macedonia -- of these three.
So if you leave the most fragile country outside and vulnerable, in terms of what you're accomplishing strategically, you know, I -- you know, I, because, you know, Macedonia's part of the Albanian- Kosovo, you know, set of issues. And if that's what -- if that's what this round of enlargement is supposed to be about strategically, then I think, you know, you've got to bring Macedonia in as part of solving that, or, you know, contributing to progress on that set of issues. And you --
SEN. BIDEN: But you can't bring Macedonia in if the Greeks say no. I mean -- I mean -- (chuckles) -- that seems pretty clear to me, in my meetings, that it's not likely, between now and Brussels, there's going to be an agreement.
MR. ASMUS: I think -- and I don't mean this as a -- you know, these are issues where if you want to get these issues right, this really requires some heavy lifting from our president. You know, this is -- he's our president --
SEN. BIDEN: Ron, I try. I tried. You know, I mean -- (laughter.)
MR. ASMUS: I mean, and your prodding and --
SEN. BIDEN: We both tried. You know what I mean?
MR. ASMUS: -- you're absolutely -- (inaudible) --
SEN. BIDEN: What the hell? (Laughter.)
MR. ASMUS: You know, I think this --
SEN. BIDEN: -- can't help you there.
MR. ASMUS: -- issue, like Madrid, that goes -- that it is unresolved going into Bucharest, into the meeting of the heads of state, and they have to resolve it at, you know, a closed meeting, just like we had to do that in Madrid.
SEN. BIDEN: I'm sorry, Mr. Townsend. You --
MR. TOWNSEND: Thank you, Senator, not a problem. I just wanted to say that while the issue on the name between Greece and Macedonia is a hard one, I will put in a little bit of optimism saying, I guess, kind of what Ron was saying, that I have certainly seen in the past very, very tough questions -- that seemingly look like they're not going to be resolved by two countries, that melt away as you get closer to a summit, particularly if one of those countries wants to become a NATO Ally.
So, I certainly expect there'll be lots of skirmishing, lots of hand-wringing in the days to come, but it could very well be, in the day or so -- or maybe even at the summit, as Ron suggested, the doors will close, and all of a sudden there will be a new name that pops out for what we call Macedonia.
And one more point, Senator, if I may, with Ron -- Ron, I also lived in Brussels and, in fact, worked at NATO where I had to exercise that leadership to move Allies that were very reluctant, in a lot of ways, to move in certain directions. And I think the example of the first round of enlargement is one of those, as we all worked on that. And we had a lot of heavy lifting to do in terms of leadership.
And I just want to go back as far as Georgia and Ukraine and MAP is concerned, it is about U.S. leadership. I think we do have a strategic window of opportunity here to go to just the Membership Action Plan. And I think we ought to not lose sight of what we're talking about there.
We always say that when you go into the MAP, obviously there is membership as an ultimate goal, but as far as MAP is concerned -- by itself, as a tool, it's a very strong one that nations can use to refine and to sharpen their ability to take on reform. And I think Ukraine and Georgia are there for that.
And it's, again, it's a strategic question here, and I think MAP is the right way to go, but we'll never get there unless we have strong leadership. We can -- we can turn those -- the same European nations that I dealt with, that you're dealing now with, Ron.
SEN. BIDEN: (Off mike.)
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT