Frederic Kempe is President and CEO of the Atlantic Council. He is an author of several books including, BERLIN 1961: Kennedy, Khrushchev and the Most Dangerous Place on Earth.
What made Libya a success story and could it be a template in the future?
It’s a success in the following fashion: it was approved by the United Nations, you had a regional origination in the Arab League, and it was a relatively easy battle field, flat, easy to reach on the coast line, an easy division between the warring parties. The problem with it is that those conditions will never repeat themselves. And so those who talk about it as a model for the future, it’s only a model in so far as NATO can become an enforcing arm, peace making arm along with the United Nations in conjunction with a regional organization.
What we see in Syria, a position that’s of far greater strategic importance to us, NATO can’t play a role there because you don’t have the regional origination agreeing, and you don’t have the UN sanction. So it was a success, but then you have to say “really?” Let’s look in five years and see where Libya is, so even if you can be successful militarily what the lesions of Afghanistan and Iraq say to us are, “but what can you do afterwards to ensure that your success sticks?”
Is there a role for NATO there?
There is certainly a role for NATO countries, and we can’t forget that NATO is a group of countries. In terms of the military and the military alliance itself I’d say a lot about training the military, training the military about how to interact with society, that sort of thing I think there is a role to be played with Libya but I think it’s going to be more of the countries with their development and their devolvement arms.
Is Afghanistan a place where NATO has shown how to do nation-building?
No, I’d say Afghanistan is a place we’ve shown how hard it is to do nation building, with an alliance that’s primarily military and security in nature. And that we’ve got to get better at when we go into situations like that and take the whole of government, all the elements of government in with you so that you’re not really getting ahead of yourself but you’re also bringing in governance, you’re also bringing in education, we’ve done that to a certain extent, but I don’t think nearly enough. The other mistake I think we’ve made with Afghanistan is that we’ve looked too much at the Afghan battle field and at the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The real problem is the region. It is the most dangerous region in the world, and what we really need to look at as NATO countries and as the west is how do we do what we did at the end of WWII in Europe, how do we enlarge this problem, make peace, wage peace between India and Pakistan, which is the real problem in the region with these two nuclear weapons capable states, bring China into the mix, and come up with some sort of lasting regional solution. And only within a lasting regional solution can you solve the problems of Afghanistan. If you don’t have that Afghanistan will be a place where neighboring countries continue to play out their animosities.
How can the United States act proactively to prevent conflict from arising?
Yea, it’s my view that if at one point we had a Cold War, we had WWII, we had the post Cold War, it’s my view that we are now in an area of global competition, where great powers are not going to war with each other, in some cases they’ll be partners in some cases they will be rivals. But in this era of global competition it’s going to be how completive is your society, how good is your education? how innovative are you, how big are your debts, how strong is your trade? So we actually have to measure the metrics as something different from the capability of drones in hitting our enemies and extremists, it’s going to be a much larger canvas that one has to measure security, and you can’t separate security from prosperity. So one of the ideas I’m quite taken with is the notion of an economic NATO, or a NATO that at least looks at more economic elements because if there is a Eurozone crisis, it’s a NATO crisis, if there is a debt crisis it’s doing to affect our security, and it’s going to affect things like the future of the Balkans, where if the Balkans default as a result of a debt crisis, you’ll have a security crisis that NATO is going to be influenced by. So I think that you just have to look at the challenges coming at us much more through an economic and a security prism.
Can you give us more background on the Eurozone Crisis?
The Eurozone crisis is not an economic crisis, it is a political crisis, and because of that, I think that the US has to take a greater interest in this turning out all right. So far the focus has been if there is an economic downturn, if there is a Euro crisis, it could lead to a recession in the United States that could cost President Obama the election.
But the real issue is that we have a strategic stake in Europe, at a time when economics and politics is shifting, in fact there has been a bigger shift in political and economic power, it’s the biggest one since the 18th century- it could also be a shift against our values, so we have a strategic stake in Europe.
The European Union, and how Europe turned out at the end of WWII is one of the greatest accomplishments in American foreign policy history. We have a strategic stake it turning out ok in the future. And this Eurozone crisis isn’t just about whether Europe keeps the Euro, it’s really about whether Europe keeps its confidence and can be an actor on the world stage with the United States and about our values. So we have to enlarge this issue, realize that we still have a huge strategic stake in Europe, and instead of pivoting to Asia, we need to pivot with Europe and with our allies towards Asia, and not forget that the basis of our strength in the world is this community of values and this alliance.
What is your assessment on how the U.S. and the West should approach Russia?
Our Special Envoy in dealing with the state department and Russia and negotiating arms control agreements with Russia, Ellen Tauscher talks about moving from mutually assured destruction to mutually assured stability. We have to engage Russia in an ongoing deeper, more philosophical way, so that we can get beyond some of the animosities that have grown up and the divisions that have grown up, our ultimate goal has to be “a Europe whole and free” that was George H. W. Bush’s goal, we had unification, it has to be our ultimate goal. It can’t be done against Russia, so the question becomes how do you do it with Russia? It’s a long term game, the nice thing is, and the positive thing is the long term arising Russian middle class, all the Russian connection to western business encourage me that medium and long term things will go much better with Russia; the problem is the short term. And in the short term we’ve got a world of difficulties and issues ranging from missile defense to Ukraine and Belarus and the near abroad Russia issues, but I see how we guide our relations with Russia as being one of the most critical elements as to whether or not we can get our act together with Europe and project our values on the world stage.
Is there a specific role for the Baltic countries there?
I mean, the Baltic countries first of all are a litmus test, can they exist easily as free countries, NATO members, European Union members beside Russia, or will they be infected by revanchist instincts of Russia? On the other hand they also can be economic partners that bring; they have the biggest stake possible in economic growth and working with Russia and then bringing Russia closer to the European space, and not letting it drift away or not letting it get into a more confrontational situation. So I think the stronger we make the Batiks, the more the Batiks will be confident in their dealings with Russia, the more they act with confidence in their dealings with Russia, the more we can work together to bring Russia closer to the west.