Chaired By: Rep. Robert Wexler
Witness: Philip Gordon, Assistant Secretary Of State For European And Eurasian Affairs
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MR. GORDON: (In progress) -- and then we can come back, if that's all right with you, to any of the details in the written statement.
There are three main categories for our priorities. First, is how we engage with Europe on global challenges; second, is how we work towards a Europe that is more whole, free, democratic and at peace; and then, finally, how we work to have a renewed relationship with Russia. And I'll just offer a couple of words about each of those, if I might.
On the question of engaging with Europe on global challenges, it is a reality that many of our European partners are among the most prosperous, democratic and military-capable countries in the world. Therefore, our European allies -- working with our European allies, both multilaterally and bilaterally, will remain critical to our success in tackling the many serious global challenges that we face together.
The United States cooperates with Europe on literally all of the most important challenges. Just naming a few: restoring growth and confidence in the world financial system; fighting poverty and pandemic disease; supporting operations -- on-going operations in Afghanistan and Iraq; countering terrorism and nuclear proliferation; promoting energy security; combating climate change; advancing peace in the Middle East; promoting human rights; combating trafficking in persons. The list is long, and I could name others.
The point, however, is that there is not a single one of those issues on which we're not better off when we're working closely with our European friends. And I would be happy, during the hearing, to talk about the ways in which we're working to enhance that cooperation to strengthen our own interests.
The second category of issue I would mention is how we promote a Europe that is more democratic, more whole, more free, and more peaceful and stable -- which is another important administration priority, extending stability, security, and prosperity and democracy to all of Europe and Eurasia. This has been an objective of all U.S. presidents since World War II, both Democratic and Republican, which is to say, working with Europe to realize this joint vision.
We've made great progress in the past 20 years, since the end of the Cold War, but clearly more remains to be done. One of the ways we are seeking to do this is through our critical alliances and partnerships in Europe, including NATO, the EU and the OSCE. We believe that the openness of Western institutions, like the EU and NATO, to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe has been, simply put, the most successful democratization strategy in history, and it has brought peace, stability and prosperity to millions, and the administration strongly believes that this process must continue.
In promoting such a Europe, and while working with the EU, NATO and the OSCE, we will strongly support the sovereignty and independence of all European states, including those that emerged out of the former Soviet Union, such as Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. With Congress' continued support, we will continue foreign assistance programs in Europe and Eurasia that nurture democratic and economic progress in the still-fragile reformers, and to promote their integration in Euro-Atlantic institutions.
Looking to the Southeast, I would like to say -- as you did in your opening statement, Mr. Chairman, that we support Turkey's aspirations for membership in the European Union. As Turkey advances reforms it will make it an even stronger partner and a better neighbor. We are engaged energetically to support efforts by Turkey and Armenia to normalize relations; and efforts by Armenia and Azerbaijan to settle the conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh.
As you may know, I just myself returned from a trip to the region, just a few weeks after being confirmed. I felt it was important to go to region to signal our support for those countries and to do what we can to promote the historic processes that are going on.
We also support the negotiations toward the settlement in Cyprus, and vigorously promote diversification of European energy supplies.
We will continue to develop our relationship with the Central Europeans, who are now core members of NATO and the EU, and increasingly important global partners.
We will show renewed leadership in the Balkans where, more than a decade after Western interventions, the forces of democracy, openness and modernity still struggle against backward-looking ethnic nationalism and intolerance.
And let me add finally, in this category that we will engage the countries of Europe to help the still-living survivors of the Holocaust to achieve some belated justice. The upcoming conference on Holocaust-era assets in Prague, I know, is a subject that this subcommittee will be looking at on Thursday this week, and that will offer us the opportunity to do so.
Let me finally mention the third broad category of how we're trying to work more successfully with Europe, which is our renewed relationship with Russia. The president has made clear the Obama administration is committed to reinvigorate our relations with Russia and looks forward to building a relationship based on respect and mutual cooperation.
When President Obama and President Medvedev met in London in April they agreed to work together on a variety of issues, including reducing strategic nuclear weapons, and enhancing nuclear security, and cooperating on issues such as counterterrorism, Afghanistan, counternarcotics, Iran, North Korea, the environment, and many others.
We look forward to upcoming talks with Russians in a number of different fora -- there is the OSCE ministerial in Corfu; the NATO- Russia Council, which we have revived, and will also meet in Corfu; and, of course, the summit where the presidents will meet in July.
We look forward to those discussions, but I also -- and to the opportunity of strengthening relations with Russia, but I also want to make clear that at the same time that we reinvigorate our relations with Russia we will not abandon our principles or ignore concerns about democracy and human rights. While we look forward to a more cooperative partnership with Russia, we have no illusions that this will be easy or that we will not continue to have differences.
Russia's decision yesterday at the U.N. to block extension of the U.N. observer mission in Georgia is a clear example of such differences. The United States will not recognize the Russian sphere of influence. The United States will also continue to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia's neighbors.
In conclusion then, Mr. Chairman, the United States and Europe share the important responsibility of leading the international effort to address our most pressing global challenges. We all share core values, which is a strong foundation as we work together on our global agenda of advancing these core values, as well as security, prosperity and stability through the entire European Continent and the world.
Mr. Chairman, and all of the members of the committee, I'm very grateful for the opportunity to be with you today, and I look forward to your questions. Thank you very much.
REP. WEXLER: Thank you very much.
Mr. Assistant Secretary, you are the -- you must be the equivalent of a rock star up here, because I don't remember six or seven members of the House coming to a Europe subcommittee in a very long time. So, you're a big draw. (Off mike consultation.) Oh, oh, okay. Yeah.
Before we go to questions, I would call upon my colleagues, if they have any comments to make.
Mr. Sires, from New Jersey? (No audible response.)
Mr. Delahunt? (No audible response.)
Mr. McMahon? (No audible response.) Okay.
REP. DAVID SCOTT (D-GA): Well, Mr. Chairman, I would like to make just a brief opening statement. I think the presence of all of us here, it certainly shows the importance of Europe to our future.
And our European partners have proven to be some of our more lasting and committed allies stretching back to the birth of our nation -- of our own battle for independence, to the Barbary Coast, from the World Wars, to the Cold War. We have cooperated with European nations to meet the challenges we face domestically and around the world.
And now as we are in the midst of global crisis, and reaching to face the new challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Never before have we needed European cooperation combating global warming, the dwindling of energy supplies, and also in improving and enhancing all of our partnerships in European and neighboring countries, particularly with Russia, as Mr. Gordon mentioned, and certainly with China and emerging economies of India.
And, Mr. Chairman, given the scope of this hearing, the width and the breadth of our interactions with the whole of Europe, I doubt that we will have the time to delve into many of the challenges that lay before us. But, I look forward to dealing in a few specific ones, (especially ?) interested in your thoughts and concerning how we can develop a more workable, meaningful relationship with Russia.
I think Russia holds the key, not just to Europe but for so many things that we need -- to enhance peace and security around the globe; global warming; cooperation, in terms of nuclear non-proliferation, so many critical issues. And I think that Russia certainly plays a very important role in that. As well as enhancing our cooperation with our NATO Allies as we grapple with the many issues.
So, I look forward to the hearing, Mr. Chairman.
REP. WEXLER: Okay.
REP. JOHN TANNER (D-TN): Thank you.
REP. WEXLER: Mr. Inglis, if you have any comments you'd care to make.
REP. BOB INGLIS (R-SC): Yes, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
This is -- it's a great opportunity for me to mention something better than cap and trade. And I hope that we get to -- because, you know, it seems to me that Europe is finding out that there are some real challenges with cap and trade. And we in America, I think, are about to find out that it sure is hard to pass something like that, especially a massive tax increase in the midst of a recession, a Wall Street trading scheme that would make Wall Street traders blush, I think, after what we've been through, and that punishes American manufacturing.
But there's something better. There's an opportunity here, when that falls apart, to pursue something different, which is basically a revenue-neutral tax swap. It involves reducing taxes on payroll and then an equal amount imposing a tax on carbon dioxide, so that it's not a tax increase of any sort; it's simply a tax swap, revenue neutral. So you move from taxing wages and income and industry in the payroll tax, you take that tax away, and you put a tax on carbon dioxide.
And what it does is change the economics of alternative technologies, and, also of importance to our friends in other countries, would be border-adjustable, so that this bill we've got pending could be removed -- the tax could be removed on export and imposed on import.
It may be something -- from what we hear from our European friends, may actually be very similar to a VAT in that way, something that they have a great deal of experience with. And we think that it's WTO-compliant, unlike the current cap-and-trade bill, which, as I understand it, is a per se violation of WTO to give away free allocations, 85 percent having been given away for free.
You've got to wonder whether our trading partners are going to sit still and say, "You think that's a WTO violation?" And so, if they do, we've got the alternative, and it's something that I think that we can work together with our European friends especially to bring about real change in our economies and address the challenge ahead of us.
So thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to speak about that.
REP. WEXLER: Thank you.
I will begin, then, maybe focusing on two principal areas, Russia and Azerbaijan. And you have ably outlined the parameters of the new administration's approach to Russia. I was wondering, with maybe a bit of specificity, if you could talk about the areas that are of potential contention between the United States and Russia, as well as the areas that are of potential strategic cooperation. And what role will the administration seek with our European allies as we engage Russia in that regard?
And with respect to Azerbaijan, in the context of the engagement between Turkey and Armenia, there are obviously certain sensitivities with respect to Azerbaijan. I think the secretary very ably, when the Azerbaijan foreign minister visited Washington, talked about the strategic importance of Azerbaijan.
I'd like to ask you what steps the administration is taking to bolster the American relationship with Azerbaijan. What steps are we taking to navigate the course of the engagement between Turkey and Armenia so that Azerbaijan comes out a winner as well? And very specifically, you may be aware, I introduced legislation with Congressman Shuster that would lift Jackson-Vanik trade restrictions for Azerbaijan and would ask if you're prepared to comment at all in that regard.
MR. GORDON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Both of those are very important topics, and I appreciate the opportunity to address them.
Let me begin with Russia, because it is indeed central to our European policy. The president came into office and very early on made clear that we wanted to put the difficulties and recriminations we have recently had with Russia behind us to the extent possible. The previous years had seen a serious deterioration in our relationship with Russia, and the president's view was that this was unfortunate, because we really do share a number of common interests. And we're better off if we can work constructively with Russia.
And you asked about some of the areas. We're better off when we get Russian cooperation on Afghanistan, Iran, nuclear nonproliferation, the world economy, climate change, European security and so on.
So he proposed that we try -- and the word is maybe overused now, but try to reset the relationship with Russia and see if we could change the tone and the substance of the relationship. And that's what we're trying to do. We had very constructive discussions with Russian President Medvedev in London in April, and he looks forward to resuming those in July.
But there's a second part of the way the administration thinks about the issue that I want to make equally clear, that even as we seek to have a more constructive relationship with Russia, for all the reasons I just said, we will not do that at the price of our principles and interests and friends. And that is to say, as the vice president made very clear early on at the Munich security conference, that there are certain principles that go along with this.
We don't recognize any privileged sphere of influence for Russia in Europe. Democratic European countries have the right to join the alliances that they want to join, without any third country having a veto. And specifically, we will not recognize the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
And I think, just to make clear, that just this week we demonstrated that we will not pay any price in order to have a more constructive relationship with Russia over the issue of Georgia. We stood firmly behind our principles at the U.N. during the discussions of a follow-on mission, follow-on U.N. mission in Abkhazia, part of Georgia. And we're not simply prepared to concede that principle to the Russians in the name of a better relationship. And I could give you other examples of how, whether it's NATO enlargement or others, we will stand by our friends and by our principles.
That said, I think there still is an opportunity for a more constructive relationship with Russia.
And finally, Mr. Chairman, you asked which areas are in the issue of possible cooperation and which possible confrontation. The reality is both. In each of the areas I gave, we can go one way or another. And what we're trying to do is make sure that we cooperate on all of those rather than the opposite.
If I might address the question of Azerbaijan, which is also very important. And as I said, only a couple of weeks into my own tenure in office, I decided to go to Armenia and Azerbaijan and Georgia, because it seemed to me that of all the many challenges we face in this vast region, there are some serious opportunities there. And you talked about what they are.
You have two parallel but separate tracks going on, a Turkey- Armenia normalization reconciliation process that we do think is quite potentially historic, where the two countries have agreed on a framework for normalizing their relations. That would include opening the border, which has been closed for far too long, which would establish diplomatic relations and would provide commissions in key areas, including history. And we encourage that process and we support it.
We have said that it is an independent process and believe that it should move forward, regardless of whatever else is happening in Europe or anywhere else, because both countries would benefit.
That said, it is nonetheless the case that, at the same time, negotiations on Nagorno-Karabakh are going on between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and that is part of the context in which the region moves forward. And we're encouraging that process as well.
So, again, our view is that these are separate tracks. They're moving forward at different speeds. But we are engaged vigorously on both, because if both were to succeed, it really would be an historic opportunity for the region, from which all three of those countries would benefit.
REP. WEXLER: Thank you very much.
REP. ALBIO SIRES (D-NJ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Dr. Gordon, the U.S. policy has been to support a Cyprus settlement based on a bicommunal, bizonal federation, with a single sovereignty and international personality. Given that current direct talks are taking place under the U.N. framework, what is the U.S. government doing to encourage the Turkish government to embrace this framework for final resolution?
MR. GORDON: You have indeed well-described the administration's approach and the administration's aspired outcome. At present the two sides on the island have been talking directly to each other since last September, which is a good thing. And they've been doing so under U.N. auspices. And we have said from the start that we are prepared to be helpful as we can.
At present it looks like the direct talks are going on regularly, and the U.N. is being helpful. And we will support that process. If a more direct role would ultimately be useful, we would be prepared to consider that. And we have directly engaged with both sides, including the Turkish government, to make clear that that is our view, as you described it. The outcome should be a bizonal, bicommunal federation with a single sovereignty, and we make that clear to our Turkish counterparts consistently when we talk about the issue.
A Cyprus settlement -- just as I described regarding Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, a Cyprus settlement would also be win-win. Both sides would significantly benefit from a political settlement. And we'll be actively engaged to achieve it.
REP. SIRES: Getting back to Russia and the visit by the president in July, are you concerned at all the expectations may be too high, meeting with Russia, in terms of what we can accomplish?
MR. GORDON: Expectations should indeed be realistic. We're not going to go from a very contentious relationship with Russia, where the United States and Russia have had significant disagreements about European security, about missile defense, about NATO enlargement, about other regional issues, to one in which we agree on all of those things.
So I appreciate the spirit of your question. Expectations should be kept in check, particularly because, as I said, we're not prepared to pay any price for a successful summit or a better relationship with Russia. We'll stand by our principles and our interests. But I do think there are opportunities for not just a successful summit but for concrete results from that successful summit. And we're looking at areas in which we can do that.
We welcome the Russian government's offer of providing transit for assistance, including lethal assistance to Afghanistan. That is an example of the thing that's in our common interest. A stable Afghanistan is in Russia's interest. It's in our interest. If they're prepared to help us with that, that's a good thing and we welcome it.
We welcome Russia's cooperation on the issue of containing nuclear proliferation to Iran.
We are talking seriously about strategic nuclear arms reductions and a follow-on to the START agreement and believe that that is also in our mutual interest and that we can move that ball forward at the summit in July. We're talking about economic relations between the two countries and possibly Russia's eventual WTO membership. So while keeping expectations in check, I would also want to underscore that there are some real prospects for progress and we'll do all we can to achieve them.
REP. SIRES: Thank you very much.
REP. WEXLER: Mr. Delahunt?
REP. WILLIAM DELAHUNT (D-MA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I applaud you for your statement about standing on principle. I'm not quite sure about standing with friends if they do something rashly. And I would suggest that in terms of the conflict between Georgia and Russia Mr. Saakashvili did not respond to concerns expressed by your predecessor. Dan Fried actually testified in front of this committee that he was in communication with the Georgian officials the night before the invasion and asked them to move cautiously and do not launch a military offensive. They ignored him.
I don't know if I really want to stand by that friend. I dare say if we had -- if they had (acceded ?) to NATO there would have been certain treaty obligations that could have been not just embarrassing but might very well have implicated the United States in terms of some sort of military engagement. So while I appreciate standing on principles -- and I think we should do that worldwide, by the way, whether it's the Mid East, whether it's Asia, whether it's -- it implicates China, whether it implicates the principles that we're known for in human rights and due process. We ought to consider those very, very seriously whether it implicates those who are our friends as well as those with whom we have a contentious relationship. Care to comment?
MR. GORDON: Sure. I appreciate your thoughts on that. We have said that whatever the origins of the war in Georgia last summer and whatever the actions of the Georgian government, they didn't justify the Russian invasion of Georgia, -- (inaudible) -- dismembership of Georgia, use of -- degree of -- use of -- a disproportionate use of force, and occupation of the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, nor would those actions have justified or (do those ?) actions justify the subsequent violations of the cease-fire agreement that Russia reached with the European Union under the French presidency.
REP. DELAHUNT: Mr. Secretary, with all due respect, do you think that the Georgians have any culpability or responsibility in terms of what occurred in August of last year?
MR. GORDON: Well, as I said, the origins of the war can and have been and should be debated and -- (inaudible) --
REP. DELAHUNT: Well, what's your opinion about the origins of the war?
MR. GORDON: My opinion about the origins of the war is that President Saakashvili may well have fallen into a trap that he shouldn't have. The international community was -- the United States and the international community was unsuccessful in persuading him not to fall into that trap -- (inaudible) --
REP. DELAHUNT: So what you're suggesting is that it was a trap that was intentionally laid by --
MR. GORDON: Oh, I certainly think there were provocations that Georgia's use of force in going into Tskhinvali certainly didn't occur in a vacuum and just out of the blue in the desire to use force. There were provocations on both sides. There were certainly provocations coming from the South Ossetian side. And let me be clear -- I would have strongly or I would have done everything I could to avoid seeing the Georgian government, as I've put it, fall into this trap and the war that followed it. Nonetheless, I would repeat that whatever your --
REP. DELAHUNT: Mr. Secretary, again, with all due respect, I'm going to suggest to you that if they fall into a trap and it implicates American national security interests that we should be very leery of whom we chum around with in that particular region, and it would appear listening to your testimony that -- at least in your opening statements that there appears to be no responsibility and no culpability on the part of a Saakashvili regime, a regime that has a rather speckled human rights record, and I'm sure that you've reviewed that.
It causes me a great concern that there appears to be within Georgia a growing tendency towards authoritarianism. You know what happened in terms of closing of the media outlets, protests. Peaceful protestors were assaulted by security forces. What I suggest is a more balanced view without your simply ignoring the responsibility of the Saakashvili government.
MR. GORDON: I appreciate that. If I -- I'll just -- if I might address both of those points. On the first, again, I would say that whatever the origins of the conflict last summer, they didn't justify Russia's disproportionate use of force nor the recognition of the two breakaway regions -- a recognition that has simply not been supported in the international community. I think only Nicaragua has joined Russia in recognizing those two breakaway regions and the rest of the world has stood firmly behind the principle of territorial integrity, which is the principle I said that the United States also stands firmly behind. There's not a military solution to those breakaway regions -- that's clear.
But it is also inappropriate for Russia unilaterally to have recognized them and also to fail to implement the cease-fire agreements which require Russia to bring these forces back to the positions that they were prior to the outbreak of conflict, something that Russia signed up to do and has not yet done nor has it allowed the full humanitarian assistance to go in.
On your second point about democracy in Georgia, I also went to Georgia to play close attention to that issue. There have been massive protests throughout the country in recent months. I think on the whole the Georgian government has shown significant and appropriate restraint in dealing with those protests. We have encouraged them to do that. We welcome the fact that they have, but we have also encouraged them to move forward with the democratic reforms that are necessary to see Georgia remain on the path to Europe.
REP. WEXLER: The time has expired. Mr. Bilirakis?
REP. GUS BILIRAKIS (R-FL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Dr. Gordon, thank you for your public service and your testimony here today. I have two questions. First, since the 1974 Turkish invasion, over 36 percent of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus has been occupied by approximately 43,000 Turkish troops. Can you comment on how the U.S. can use its close relationship with Turkey to convince it to remove the disproportionate and unnecessary number of troops from Cyprus, thereby removing a major hurdle on its path of accession to the EU? And secondly, I'm convinced that the government of Turkey continues to prosecute journalists and academics under Article 301 for writing about the Armenian genocide.
Most recently, the persecution of Turkey's first literature Nobel Laureate, Orhan Pamuk, was upheld by Istanbul's highest appeals court. His trial is expected to resume this year for his remarks about the Armenian genocide. In light of Turkey's continued prosecution of intellectuals who express themselves, what steps will you outline with the Turkish government to ensure greater freedom of press and expression in Turkey? Thank you.
MR. GORDON: Thank you for both of those questions. On the first, as described earlier we have a very clear type of Cyprus settlement in mind that would be advised under a -- (inaudible) -- federation single sovereignty (in any ?) it's for the parties to decide exactly how that comes out in terms of territory and refugee return and troops and demilitarization, but in any imaginable Cyprus plan that I've seen and that the parties are discussing it would also involve a significant reduction in outside forces on the island including Turkish forces.
So, again, the path to the outcome that you describe, which is a reduction of the Turkish military presence in Cyprus, is a Cyprus settlement and that's why we're so engaged and so keen to have one. It would bring about the outcome that you referred to and it would benefit both sides in so many ways.
As for freedom of expression in Turkey in Article 301, I can say the United States -- everywhere is a strong -- and the Obama administration is a strong proponent of freedom of expression, freedom of the media, freedom of the press, free societies. Turkey took some steps last year to revise Article 301 of its penal code that made it more difficult to have political prosecutions. That was an important step forward.
It would do well to continue down that path and allow for more freedom of expression and we have a constant dialogue with the Turkish government about these issues and we'll continue to make that view clear.
REP. WEXLER: Thank you.
REP. BILIRAKIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. WEXLER: Thank you.
REP. MCMAHON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for convening this very important and interesting subcommittee meeting. And thank you, Dr. Gordon, for being with us today.
I jut want to add my voice to those who are very concerned about the situation in Cyprus and see it as very important to the people of Cyprus that it gets resolved, but also for those of us who want to see Turkey become a full partner in Europe and part of the EU. Certainly I see it as a major stumbling block because as long as there are all those troops in Cyprus, as long as there is not a recognition there that there should be a one federation and not -- no reference to a Republic of Northern Cyprus, which we've heard too often, even sometimes from the American government, I think, will we be able to get that done.
So when I hear you say that -- you kind of have the -- an attitude that we want to see the -- get this done, but I don't quite hear that America sees that as the imperative that it needs to be so that we can then say with one voice, yes, Turkey should go into the EU but it can't until this situation gets resolved. So I guess my question is what does -- is the administration doing to -- and you're right, that Cyprus has to solve itself, but I'm sure Ankara should hear from our government that this is a step for us then to say get Turkey into the EU.
MR. GORDON: Absolutely. And let me say it quite clearly. This administration is strongly engaged towards just that goal. The Secretary has had this discussion with her counterparts, with the Cypriot Foreign Minister, with her Turkish counterparts. She and the president, of course, have both traveled to Turkey, and they have made clear that we see real opportunities in Cyprus this year with the parties talking directly to each other, and that it's a strong United States interest to get a deal on Cyprus done as soon as possible.
You mention it as an obstacle to Turkey's accession to the EU and we agree with that. A Cyprus settlement would be a major step forward in opening up the door -- the EU door to Turkey. That's a further reason that we support it. That's why the Greek government supports it. It would be good for Turkey, good for Cyprus and good for the EU.
So we will be very closely engaged, and as I say, the Secretary is personally very interested in this. And it's been too long. It shouldn't wait any longer. This year would be a good time to have a Cyprus settlement.
REP. MCMAHON: And I think you said it, but it's clear, I think, that the administration and the Secretary see this as a very important issue and one that they will press in the immediate future.
MR. GORDON: Absolutely.
REP. MCMAHON: And then, Doctor, assume that were to happen and there were to be a withdrawal of troops and an agreement on Cyprus, what other impediments do you see in terms of Turkey allowing -- having admittance into the EU? It seemed that when the president, to his credit, visited Turkey that -- I wouldn't want to say displeasure, but there seemed that our great allies in France and Germany, Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy, were not thrilled by it.
How do you see -- assuming -- and only assuming in my opinion and obviously from my colleagues that the Cyprus issue is resolved favorably, what other impediments do you see and how can America help to remove those impediments?
MR. GORDON: It's an important question. Thank you. I'll be frank. It's a real challenge. I think as a general proposition it's fair to say there is enlargement fatigue in the European Union, not just towards Turkey, but especially in the context of an economic crisis. Countries populations are not terribly enthusiastic about bringing in new members.
That's unfortunate, but I think it is a reality. It's a particular challenge towards Turkey which is a country of some 70 million, geographically further away, a majority Muslim country that faces some skepticism among European populations. But we continue to make the case that the incentive of European Union membership for Turkey has been an enormous incentive towards the type of Turkey that Europe would like to have as a neighbor and ultimately as a member -- a more Democratic Turkey, a freer Turkey, a more stable Turkey and one that could contribute strategically, economically, culturally in so many ways to the European Union.
That's a discussion we've had for years. We'll continue to have it. And as the president has said, we know we're not members of the EU; this is not up to us, but as friends of Europeans we are able to talk about these strategic issues and common interests and will continue to make the case as to why that would benefit Europe.
REP. MCMAHON: Thank you for your forthrightness and being with us today.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield the remainder of my time.
REP. WEXLER: Thank you. At this time I want to recognize the former Chairman and now the ranking member of this subcommittee, Mr. Gallegly.
REP. ELTON GALLEGLY (R-CA): Well, I thank the former ranking member and now the chairman of this committee for yielding to me and I apologize to all of you for being a little tardy. Unfortunately, one of the things we can't make more around here is more time and I appreciate you giving me the opportunity, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for holding this oversight hearing today on the Transatlantic relationship.
I'd also like to welcome Dr. Gordon, the recent appointed Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasian Affairs at the State Department. Thank you for being here.
There are many areas I'd like to focus on regarding U.S.-European relations. However, in the limited amount of time today I'd like to focus just on a couple of areas.
First, I'm very concerned about the situation in Bosnia. We are now 14 years after the Dayton Accords. Instead of improvements in the political situation; we're seeing little progress in creating a more unified, multi-ethnic society.
Second, in Kosovo I see very little evidence that the Serbian enclave in the north is willing to cede authority to the central government. In fact, every briefing I've received indicates that the Serbs who are living in Kosovo conduct their day-to-day lives as if they were being governed from Belgrade instead of Pristina.
I'd also like to hear Dr. Gordon's analysis on the situation in both Bosnia and Kosovo and the strategy of our government in conjunction with the Europeans to build a more stable future in these two countries. If we do not make progress in Bosnia or Kosovo I believe there's a real danger of renewed violence in that entire region.
In addition, I'd like to touch upon the situation in Cyprus. I know that there was some reference as I was walking in, but having been a member to travel to Cyprus it's one of those areas that's less traveled than some of the other places in the world, and I visited that country less than two years ago and strongly support negotiations between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders as they work to reach a settlement regarding the future of the island.
I was pleased to see that in his written statement Dr. Gordon reiterated the administration's support for the negotiations. However there have been questions raised as to whether Turkey is helping to facilitate an agreement or is actually constraining Mr. Tallot's (ph) ability to reach common ground on specific issues with the Greek Cypriot counterpart.
I hope we can explore this in future during the question and answer period, which obviously has already started.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Former Ranking Member, and I look forward to the testimony of our witness.
Thank you very much, and I yield back.
REP. WEXLER: Mr. Scott.
REP. SCOTT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'd like to ask you, Dr. Gordon, about Russia. It would be very helpful to me. I'll be going to Russia in the next week, and I want to try to prepare myself to engage in those areas where I believe we can have a partnership with Russia. I think it's critical that we find areas of common interest that we can work together on and I want to get your comments on each one of them.
I believe nuclear nonproliferation is an area that we can work on, and most paramount with that is the situation in Iran and the situation in North Korea. Now, in many respects, Russia has as much to win or lose from this situation as we do.
So how can we engage in that? What is administration's position on that? What must we be prepared -- what kinds of questions do we need to get answers for in terms of Russia and Iran, Russia and North Korea, and how can we get Russia to play a more definitive and positive role in helping us? Those are the two most critical areas of nuclear nonproliferation, to stop North Korea and stop Iran. That's the first part of my question. Iran and North Korea and Russia and what -- and what degree can the two of us work together to disarm these two nations from their nuclear weapons capacity.
MR. GORDON: Okay. If I may, I'll answer that right now, and maybe we'll have a chance to come back to Mr. Gallegly's questions --
REP. SCOTT: Oh.
MR. GORDON: -- about the Balkans. Nuclear nonproliferation cooperation with Russia is a priority for this administration.
One of the reasons that we're trying to create a broader and more trusting general relationship with Russia is so that we can work together on issues like the one you mentioned. The fact is -- and it's regrettable -- in many ways in recent years, Russia has appeared to view relations with us as a zero-sum game. If it's good for us, they must be against it, and if it's good for them, it won't be good for us. And we see things differently. And you've given an example how this should be good for both of us.
A nuclear-armed North Korea means potential for proliferation and weapons of mass destruction getting in the hands of people who could harm us and people who could harm Russia. That's even more true of Iran. Iran is a lot closer to Russia than it is to us, and Russia would be equally threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran. And I think Russia's leaders know that.
So the question is, how do we maximize cooperation? As I said, one is just to have a better overall relationship with Russia so they don't see a gain for us as a loss for them. But more specifically, we have been prepared to talk seriously with the Russians about how they could be involved in containing nuclear proliferation in Iran.
REP. SCOTT: Let me ask you this, because my time is coming and I want to get my last part of this question in. In an effort to get Russia to deal more positively and more meaningfully with us on these two very critical issues, North Korea and Iran, what role could the missile defense system possibilities that we have on the table in our plan of placing them in the Czech Republic play into this?
What is the administration's thought on this? Is that an area of no touchability? Are we being -- held -- strongly and succinct in our positions there? And how do we play the missile defense shield situation here? We've got one going in Alaska and California to take care of North Korean missiles. This was there for Iran's. Is that in place?
MR. GORDON: Thank you for raising that important issue, which comes up a lot. On the missile defense plan, let me say this. The administration is reviewing the plans that existed to put interceptors in Poland and the radar in the Czech Republic, and the president has said there's a ballistic missile threat; there is a nuclear threat.
And if missile defenses will make us and our allies safer, we'll deploy them, but he wants to take a serious look at whether the system works, whether it's cost-effective, and whether it's the best way to protect ourselves and our allies. In terms -- and that review is ongoing, and we'll see where it comes out.
In terms of the link with Iran, there is one, but in the opposite direction, I would say. That is to say, the president has said if we can prevent -- the greater success we have in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, the less there is a need for a missile defense system in Europe. It's just sort of a logical conclusion.
The point of the missile defense system is to protect against an Iran nuclear and ballistic missile threat. If that threat goes away, then the need for the system also goes away. And he has said that to the Russians to underscore that if they can help us deal with the threat, then there will be less of a cause to have the missile system that they oppose.
REP. SCOTT: Thank you, Dr. Gordon.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. WEXLER: Thank you.
Mr. Gallegly has graciously suggested, Mr. Tanner, that we go to you.
REP. TANNER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
I have a very brief question or comment about NATO. It has some challenges, no question about it. Any consensus organization does, as the financial challenge and so forth, but it also has an institutional challenge with respect to prosecuting the effort in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And that is, not only the member nations of NATO and what they bring to the table, but the cooperation, hopefully, with the European Union to help on the civilian side on some of the things that are maybe a little bit outside of NATO's mission.
I'd be anxious to hear what you all are doing in that regard to convince or to urge the European Union to do more with respect to the building of the civilian part of the equation that must take place in that part of the world.
Secondly, we just got back from a NATO trip where we went to Sweden. Sweden is becoming president, as you know, in July. And we were in Finland and Norway, Oslo, at the NATO PA conference. But we went to the other countries to discuss the high north issue. And I wonder what the administration was doing with respect to the issues that are going to be developing in the areas called the high north.
MR. GORDON: Thank you very much. On the first part, we are indeed actively encouraging the Europeans to do more on the civilian side in Afghanistan and Pakistan, just as we are. At the NATO summit, our allies stepped forward with modest military contributions, including some 3,000 troops to help get through the election. But there were not significant added military contributions, which, you know as well as I do, are very difficult to get from Europeans. And therefore, all the more we are encouraging them to do what they can on the civilian side, because we know that there's not ultimately a military solution in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The EU is -- and this is a special priority of Special Representative Holbrooke, who's working on the Afghanistan-Pakistan issue. Europeans -- there's a Pakistan pledging conference this week, and we have been strongly encouraging our European allies to get more engaged there and do what they can, because we have also reached the conclusion that you can't solve Afghanistan unless you solve Pakistan, and that requires a lot of assistance. And we have said to them, "We understand there are constraints on what you can do on the military side, but it's in our common interest that you do more on the civil side." And we hope that they will.
The high north -- you're right to draw attention to it. It has been overlooked, but it's something I think we are going to have to start paying more attention to. NATO, as you know, has had a couple of recent conferences on this subject. The new secretary general comes from a northern country with a long history of involvement. And we agree with you that we're going to have to pay attention to that emerging issue. It's not just a security issue, but it's an energy issue. And because it's an energy issue, it's a security issue.
REP. WEXLER: Thank you.
REP. GALLEGLY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Gordon, or Dr. Gordon, I'm sensitive to the fact that you've been sitting there for two hours, and I appreciate that. And I'm going to keep my questions very brief in view of that.
But I would like to get back to that issue of Kosovo and Bosnia and the strategy that you see that we're going to try to implement in order to try to preclude further problems.
MR. GORDON: Thank you, Mr. Gallegly. I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about Bosnia. We're not -- (inaudible) -- with the situation in Bosnia, 14 years after Dayton. I think an honest assessment would conclude that Bosnia is not just not moving forward in the way that we would like, but has actually taken some steps backward.
The vice president recently took a trip to Bosnia because we wanted to show that we're engaged and we're paying attention. But he was very clear with his Bosnian counterparts on all sides that they need to get beyond this ethnic nationalism that is dividing the country and bring serious risk to stability throughout the region.
We stand by the Dayton agreement, with the agreement of the parties. It can be tweaked and you can make constitutional and political progress, but there needs to remain a single Bosnia. And we just won't recognize any attempts to break away from that single Bosnia. But at the same time, there are entities that the constitution recognized, and those need to remain.
It is a serious challenge, but we are trying to bolster the high representative -- (inaudible) -- from the Dayton peace accords. I think that, over time -- I talked about EU enlargement fatigue. There was a bit of international Bosnia fatigue as well. People felt, "Well, the war is over. We don't have to pay much attention anymore."
And I think the high representative didn't get the political backing that he needed to keep Bosnia on the right track. And we're going to try to bolster that and stand firm behind the Dayton constitution and work with our European allies. After all, they're -- at least they're more engaged than we are in Bosnia to put Bosnia back on track and make sure that this sort of ethnic nationalism doesn't pay.
You also highlighted the challenges in Kosovo. They're there, and I wouldn't deny them for a minute. But I would say, you know, if we pause a year, I think, yesterday, after the adoption of Kosovo's constitution, for a first year, that country has done pretty well. It's now been recognized by some 60 countries around the world, including most of the Europeans. It was voted in to IMF membership a couple of weeks ago. The World Bank recently voted as well.
It's gradually acquiring its place in the international community, and we stand by it. The vice president went there as well to underscore that. You're right that in the north of the country, ethnic Serbs still seem reluctant to buy into Kosovo as an independent state. But let me be clear that we cannot accept the idea of partition. We think that's a route that, if you started to travel down in the north of Kosovo, it would just never stop in the Balkans.
So we are doing everything that we can to support Kosovo and hope that, over time, its citizens in the north will realize that their home is in Kosovo and Kosovo is going to be a place where people of any ethnicity can have their rights respected, their religious rights preserved and respected, and they can find a stable home there.
REP. GALLEGLY: Very briefly, can we jump back to the issue in Cyprus, and give us an assessment of how you see the role that Turkey is playing in trying to facilitate or otherwise --
How would you assess Turkey's role in this process right now, as it exists today?
MR. GORDON: I think that Turkey has an interest in a Cyprus settlement, and the Turkish government realizes that it has interest in a Cyprus settlement. All of the parties in the Cyprus dispute are tough negotiators, and Turkey, while not a direct party, is included in that category.
They, like everyone, will have to make some compromises if there is going to be a settlement. And as I said before, we have this discussion with them on a regular basis. And I will continue to have it and to make clear that all sides are going to have to compromise for there to be a settlement, but if there is a settlement, all sides would benefit, including in the case of Turkey, where a big obstacle to Turkey's E.U. aspirations would be removed.
REP. GALLEGLY: Thank you, Dr. Gordon.
Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
REP. WEXLER: Thank you.
REP. JIM COSTA (D-CA): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
A number of questions, first beginning with Russia. Earlier this year, with some fanfare, the administration talked about the reset button -- although I think we got the translation wrong.
But what -- you enumerated what you thought the areas in which we could move forward on with this new approach. What do you think we should be looking for, in terms of the next six months or 12 months, to determine Russia's sincerity in terms of making this reset effort successful?
MR. GORDON: It's a good question. Obviously, we would -- we'll welcome cooperation wherever we can find it.
But priorities for this administration in foreign policy include the Iranian nuclear issue, and that would have to be near the top of the list. To see Russia cooperating with us on such a critical issue, where they can play such a critical role, is something that we'll be very much looking for.
Without cooperation on that issue, that's clearly going to be a significant blow to the cooperative relationship we'd like to see.
Afghanistan/Pakistan is another. It's a place where Russia can make a positive contribution and it's a priority for the administration.
Strategic arms control is another, because we have a real prospect to do something in our mutual interests. Are they going to be working with us constructively in that area? That'll be another test case.
But I think I could go on for some time of examples where -- that'll be indicators of whether they're also interested in a better relationship with us.
REP. COSTA: In your sense of the meetings that have taken place, both with the president and the secretary of State so far in their visits to Europe -- I know we're not calling it a war on terrorism anymore, but what -- to what degree do you think the Europeans -- you talk about Bosnia fatigue; you talk about fatigue with regards to Afghanistan -- that they continue to sense that the threat, the bombings in Spain and London, is continuing to be a source of concern among European countries?
MR. GORDON: Something that we all have to be very conscious of and cautious about: losing sight of the degree of threat that's out there. And when weeks and months go by without a terrorist attack, it's easy for populations to lose sight of it. And I'm sure that applies to Europe as well.
But you gave the best possible reasons why that shouldn't happen. And we have a good dialogue with Europeans on terrorism. I think we're on the same page.
REP. COSTA: But do you gauge they sense the same sense of threat, the European countries?
MR. GORDON: Well, I think since 9/11 there has been a gap in the degree of threat felt by populations. It depends on the country. Europe is -- (there's ?) a diverse range of views.
REP. COSTA: No, I understand.
On NATO responsibility -- and we talk about Afghanistan, and we look at the problems that concern the problems with poppy production and eradication -- that's an area that directly goes into Europe.
What -- where do you think NATO could play a greater role in that effort?
MR. GORDON: NATO is gradually --
In the beginning of Afghanistan, NATO and all outside forces were highly reluctant to get involved in -- on the drug issue. It's dangerous. It's hard to have success, because you end up often displacing it, rather than eradicating it.
But over time, I think we and our NATO allies in Afghanistan have realized that it's too central a part of the challenge we face to ignore.
And gradually NATO has gotten more aggressive in targeting the labs that make the drugs --
REP. COSTA: So you think it's gone beyond reluctance at this point?
MR. GORDON: No, I -- need to be honest. They're still reluctant. There's reluctance to --
REP. COSTA: Let me move over. We talked -- I'm kind of going full circle here, back to Russia and the sanctions we're trying to deal with Iran.
It's my understanding that France's oil enterprise, Total, hesitated regarding its investment in Iran. But the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation took Total's (spot ?) of about a $4.7 billion contract.
In addition to that, we're told that Royal Dutch Shell, of Dutch and British origins, and Repsol (pronounces "Respol") of Spain have offered new proposals for (initiative ?) of Iran's major gas production in the Gulf, and with the Iranian government.
How do we make sanctions work if our allies are not on the same page?
MR. GORDON: You have underscored exactly the reason why this is a global challenge where we need all of our partners, and not just some.
That's what we hear all the time from oil companies in certain countries, that if we pull out, someone else will go in. And that's why it's not --
I would actually say that we and the Europeans are pretty unified in terms of the financial investment consequences that Iran should pay for failing to cooperate on the nuclear weapons issue.
But if we don't get China and Russia to cooperate as well, that's only going to have a limited impact.
REP. COSTA: Final question, if I might, Mr. Chairman. And -- I just want to cover all the continents here.
We were in Sudan over a year ago, and obviously the E.U.'s been trying to play a role, or an effort there. (U.S.A. AID's ?) been a big part of that.
But providing the monetary support for the African support for the military forces to try to protect those folks has been limited. Do you think we're going to get the kind of support we need in Sudan from our European allies?
MR. GORDON: I can't make a prediction on that. I can only tell you it's a priority, it's -- and I began this by talking about how we need Europe to be a global partner, and that's a -- it's a good area where they could show global responsibility alongside us.
REP. COSTA: All right.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I've exceeded my time.
REP. WEXLER: Thank you.
Mr. Secretary, I'd like to follow part of Mr. Costa's questioning with respect to Iran, in the context of the dynamic of Europe.
Obviously, the Iranian election is too fresh, too new to know fully all the ramifications, although I suspect they may in fact be far greater than any of us realize, as we sit here now.
Mr. Costa rightfully points out what would seem to be some of the divisions, notwithstanding all of the efforts that the E.U. -3 have provided in terms of negotiating with Iran and the degree of commitment that is, in fact, shared between the United States and Europe in terms of thwarting Iran's nuclear ambitions.
There is a division when it comes, at times, to contractual relationships.
And in the context of the president very ably, at least at this early stage, navigating between his commitment to a policy of engagement -- which many of us and I certainly do support very strongly -- and at the same item, of course, pointing out the need for a legitimate election and a review and standing up for people's voting rights and their human rights and the like -- there's almost complete, unanimous support in Europe for the president's engagement policy.
But what worries me is once we get beyond engagement, should it not result in the type of Iranian behavior that we would wish, what kind of commitment do you foresee at this point, in terms of the next steps, should they be required?
Are our European allies, in your view, considering the next level of options that may -- hopefully not, but may -- be required, is the E.U. in a position to seriously contemplate autonomous sanctions against Iran outside of the U.N., if the ability to develop that framework within the U.N. does not exist?
And what impact do you think the election in Iran is having in Europe?
And just totally aside from that, if you could maybe just point out or make a comment with respect to the agreement, I understand, that was made this Monday between the European Union and the United States with respect to Guantánamo and the detainees.
If you wish to comment on that, which I think is a very important development, I'd like to give you the time to do that.
MR. GORDON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Those are challenging and important questions. I'll comment on both.
On Iran, I think we've made enormous progress over the years in coming together towards a more unified U.S. and European view.
I think that by taking the lead in some ways on the talks with Iran about the nuclear program -- the E-3 process that you mentioned, Europeans have developed a sense of responsibility on the issue and, I think, increasingly got on the same page as us in making clear to the Iranians that, on one hand, we are open to a better relationship and to bringing Iran into the international community.
But, on the other, if they refuse to give up their nuclear weapons programs, then there would be consequences. And I think we have seen a significant cutting back, not just in terms of the U.N. resolutions and U.N. sanctions, but a significant cutting back in financing from European countries for Iran, and in terms of European investment in the Iranian energy sector.
You asked the challenging question, "Will they be prepared to take the next step if we don't have success in this?" And I can only say, Mr. Chairman, that that is what we are working constantly on. I think the answer is, yes. I think Europeans understand that if we allow -- we, collectively, the international community -- allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, then whatever is left of the international nonproliferation regime is dead, that other countries would follow suit.
And, when they think it through, they understand that proliferation throughout the Middle East and the Gulf is not in their interest. And they understand -- and I think they are following the leadership of the Obama administration on this score, to make clear to Iran we're ready for talks; we'll talk about anything; we'll hold out the prospect of bringing Iran back into the international community, but there has to be a serious price to pay. I do think we and the Europeans are significantly on the same page on that issue. I said already that getting Russia, and China, and India, and others on-board will be critical as well.
You're right to draw attention to the importance of the EU-U.S. agreement on- the EU statement on Guantanamo. That was a prerequisite, in many ways, for getting the Europeans to help with the closure of the prison on Guantanamo. They've been calling for it for a long time. The Obama administration said it would do so.
And, clearly, a path to being able to close the prison would be for Europe to take some of the detainees. EU countries would only do that when there was a framework among them, which understandable, so that -- given open borders in Europe, it was understandable that some countries wouldn't want to accept, wouldn't want their neighbors to accept detainees with open borders.
So, that agreement is an important step. But, I think we also have to recognize the reality that the Europeans have said that their willingness to accept detainees will be influenced, in part, by our own. And they have made clear that it's hard for them to explain to their populations why they should take detainees, even if they want to help with closure of the base, if the Americans aren't prepared to do so as well.
REP. WEXLER: Well, it seems like a fair position.
MR. GORDON: I'll let you characterize it.
REP. WEXLER: You have been very generous with your time.
REP. DELAHUNT: Yeah, if I can, Mr. Chairman.
This morning we had a hearing in front of the committee that I chair, which is the committee on Oversight of American foreign policy. And I understand that there are guests from France here, aad I wish to acknowledge their presence.
The hearing this morning was on the issue of detainees. We're doing a series of hearings on them. We extended our gratitude to the government and the people of Bermuda, as well as to the government and the people of Palau.
We welcome the expression of support from the European Union. We understand the difficulty dealing with publics. We all are elected members of this body, but we do respectfully seek your help. You can be assured of our gratitude if you're able to assist us in this very problematic issue.
And now that I have a few minutes, you know, I believe that there is overwhelming sentiment to support the rescission of Jackson-Vanik in Congress. Under the leadership of yourself and others, Mr. Chairman -- if we're successful in passing that resolution, what would your recommendation to the president be, Mr. Secretary, if it ends up on the president's desk?
MR. GORDON: I believe the president has said that he sees Jackson-Vanik as anachronistic; no longer really applying to the issues of the day,and I think he would welcome that development.
If I might, I'd also like to thank you for your comments about those countries who've been helping with detainees. I would also like to express my appreciation to those who have done so, and simply to add that the Italian prime minister, Berlusconi, was here yesterday (and) announced that Italy would also take three. France had previously taken one, and said it would consider others.
We appreciate those efforts because this is a common endeavor, so that we can work together to close the prison.
REP. DELAHUNT: Thank you. And I'm sure that that expression coming from the White House is joined by all members of your committee and the full committee.
With that, I yield back.
REP. WEXLER: Thank you.
Let's give the other members another opportunity, if they wish.
REP. SCOTT: I certainly will take advantage of Dr. Gordon's wisdom here.
I want to go back to, if I may, to Russia a bit here. What is your understanding of Russia and the closure of the base in Mano (sic)? How did you view that? I mean, we're getting mixed signals on it. What is the real deal on Russia's role in closing that very critical military base that supplies our troops in Afghanistan with their supplies?
I mean, can you explain their role, and how the administration views it? And if the United States had some strategy for dealing with that situation? Because if that base is closed, where do we go? How do we feed our troops? How do we get the supplies to them?
MR. GORDON: Again, good questions.
I don't have any independent, confirmable information about what went on with the back-and-forth over the Manas air base. We would have like to continue to use it for the reasons that you say.
The Kyrgyz government explained that it wanted to close it. That did coincide with a Russian foreign assistance package, but nobody has ever stated a linkage between the two things. And we're left to deal with the reality of the situation, which is that the Kyrgyz government denied access to the base.
It is useful, but not absolutely indispensable. Our military has other means of getting what it needs to Afghanistan. But, obviously, we would have preferred to be able to continue to use the base.
REP. SCOTT: Why do you think they did that? What was their point? What point were they trying to make by putting pressure on them to close that base?
MR. GORDON: Well, again, I don't want to speculate about that because I just don't know. And, you know, we -- don't even want to say explicitly that this is a Russian decision. The Kyrgyz government told us we couldn't use the base anymore and we have to respect that.
REP. SCOTT: Okay.
Now, let me ask you about Europe and the almost, nearly virtual monopoly that Russia now is beginning to have on energy -- supplying energy, particularly gas into European countries. And, apparently, there seems to be a split decision here. And I'm wondering how the United States deals with that, or do you agree the there's some countries in Europe who view a more tolerant role of dealing with Russia vis-à-vis their energy situation?
And then there are others who say, this is bad stuff here -- particularly, like, Lithuania, Estonia, some of the more closer ones in. And what really intrigues me about this is, here's Russia with probably the largest natural gas reserves of any place else on the planet, with a staggering weak economy. But, it seems to me that (if) they use their energy surplus and their energy significance in a more constructive way, it could boost and help get their economy going another way. But, instead -- correct me if I'm wrong, it seems to me that they tend to use their energy prowess as a political tool.
Is that a fair assessment? And how do we respond to that? And what is the feeling in Europe, go forward?
MR. GORDON: I think it is a fair assessment.
And I think our response needs to be focused on enhancing diversification of energy supplies across Europe. It's not a healthy situation for countries to be dependent on other countries for energy because that risks making them politically dependent as well, and you alluded to that.
And there is a correlation between a country's political dependence and views toward Russia, and their energy dependence. This is, of course, particularly true for gas, where you need pipelines, and you can't diversify simply by having ships come in from somewhere else. So, we are very keen to promote energy diversification in Europe.
I think the Europeans have been sometimes slow in coming to the conclusion that this necessary. The secretary appointed Dick Morningstar to be special coordinator for Eurasian energy because this is such a priority for us. In the Clinton administration he was very successful in promoting energy diversification then, and he is very much focused on helping do so now, so that we're not in the position that you just described.
REP. SCOTT: May I just -- (inaudible) -- one quick question, Mr. Chairman?
In my last question -- but, it do want to get a clear understanding -- (inaudible) --
I asked you about Iran and North Korea, vis-a-vis Russia, and we kind of dealt with Iran but I didn't get your response to North Korea. In your assessment, what is your assessment of Russia's feeling that North Korea presents a threat to them? Because a threat is a threat, but it really doesn't really become a threat until it threatens you.
And so, does Russia see North Korea's getting nuclear weapons a threat to Russia?
MR. GORDON: I think they do. They voted along with us and other members of the Security Council on a significant U.N. resolution that imposed further sanctions on North Korea, a ban on arms sales, and provided for inspections to prevent proliferation. Russia went along. I'm pleased to say that they did.
They didn't hesitate to cooperate with us on an issue where we have a common interest. And that's a good example of the places that we can cooperate in our common interests.
REP. SCOTT: Great. Thank you, doctor. I appreciate it.
Thank the Chair.
REP. WEXLER: Thank you.
If I could conclude the hearing just on one issue, if I may, the Visa Waiver Program. I believe last year we welcomed seven new European countries into the Visa Waiver Program, which I think gained us a good strength of proper goodwill with those countries, and we benefit mutually on both sides of the Atlantic -- understanding that it is not just the State Department but also Homeland Security and others that play a very significant role in this process.
I just want to put in a special plug for Greece, which has gone through an arduous process; and we would serve Greek-American relations quite well if we can figure out a way to allow Greece into this program quickly. And, in a broader sense, my understanding is at the end of the month the (waiver ?) provision that is provided in the bill expires, which would make it more difficult for countries such as Poland, and Bulgaria, Romania and Croatia to ultimately take advantage of the Visa Waiver Program.
And I'm wondering if the administration has any plans on asking for an extension of that waiver so that the expansion of the program might go forth in a more successful fashion in the future?
MR. GORDON: I'm not sure I have the answer to your second question. I think that group of countries that you mentioned is not yet on the verge of meeting the criteria necessary.
I would want to say, on the first, though, the importance of getting Greece in the program. We share your view, Greece has gone through an arduous process, and we appreciate that, and it has made progress, and I think we're getting close.
We now have the agreements necessary in place. They still have to be ratified in Greece. An American review team has to go out there. But, I think that we're coming near the end of this arduous process and we would very much welcome that. It would be good for Greece and Greek-American business ties and cultural ties. And we will celebrate the day when Greece has finished this process and can join.
REP. WEXLER: Well, hopefully, we can celebrate in Athens.
MR. GORDON: That would be nice.
REP. WEXLER: Dr. Gordon, thank you very much for your time. Your testimony, I think, is greatly appreciated by all the members, and we very much look forward to months and years of working with you.
MR. GORDON: Thank you very much.