March 12, 2009

Czech Ambassador Discusses NATO Expansion

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“[The] United States will be ready for a Declaration of Interdependence,” read Martin Palouš, Czech Ambassador to the United Nations.
“We will be prepared to discuss with a united Europe the ways and means of forming a concrete Atlantic partnership, ” he continued.
These words, taken from a speech by president John F. Kennedy, still embody the philosophy of U.S. foreign policy today, according to Palouš.
Palouš positions himself somewhere between a diplomat and an academic. A diplomat, according to Palouš, is someone who participates in the political process, whereas an academic is an observer who can turn to philosophy and theory in search of insight.
According to Palouš, a very significant element of U.S. foreign policy is “continuity”. From Jimmy Carter to George W. Bush, every president who took office since the start of the Cold War had to deal with similar issues regarding European relations and the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), said Palouš.
NATO is a collaborative defense organization that formed after World War II on April 4, 1949. Member states agree to mutual defense action in response to attacks by any external party.
The expansion of NATO has been a hot topic since fall 1993, according to Palouš. The fall of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union once again put the terrain between Germany and Russia into question; as a major global player, the U.S.’s involvement was and remains inevitable,
said Palouš.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled earlier this month to the European Council hoping to construct peaceful relationships between the European Union and the new administration. President Barack Obama is set to attend several key summits regarding Euro-area politics, such as the G-20 conference in London on April 2 and the NATO sixtieth anniversary, according to Palouš.
“Bluntly put, NATO had to change, or else it would be doomed [and] become irrelevant,” Palouš said in firm support of NATO expansion.
The expansion of NATO is highly controversial, Palouš said. Many conservative politicians do not agree that NATO should be allowed to include new members. Georgia, Ukraine and several other eastern European states’ aim to join NATO induces “direct threat” to Russia’s security, Prime Minister Vladmir Putin said in a CNN interview last year. Many also link the issues in Kosovo to NATO expansion, according to The New York Times.
However, Palouš believes that even though the expansion of NATO is controversial by traditional values, people’s perspectives are changing, and accommodations must be made.
“The collapse of communism in 1989 was thought to be the end of history and the beginning of something new, but this perception was rectified many times. New, unexpected parameters came with September 11, and the basic structure of politics and government was altered,” Palouš said.
The Czech Republic, which split from the former communist Czechoslovakia in 1989, became a member of NATO in 1999 and a member of the European Union in 2004. The E.U. council presidents are currently Karel Schwarzenberg and Alexander Vondra, both from the Czech republic.
Palouš instead proposes an “open doors” policy for NATO, where certain criteria should be set for the entry of a new country, and every country that satisfies these criteria, regardless of their history, should be considered for admission.
“Countries [that comprise NATO] should have common ground, such as their attitude towards human rights, crimes against humanity, economic policies, among others,” Palouš said.
“There is no clear recipe for world borders; it’s important to honor Article 10 of the Washington Treaty. All candidates [for admission] should be scrutinized, and [they should] go through all stages of the [admissions] process,” he added.
Article 10 of the Washington Treaty, the treaty that founded NATO, states that “The Parties may, by unanimous agreement, invite any other European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic area to accede to this Treaty,” according to the official NATO website.
“Things are changing; Eastern partnership eventually can be brought in,” Palouš said.
Palouš added that he could not give a specific date, but believes that countries like Georgia and Ukraine will join NATO in the future.
Members of the audience agree with Palouš’s flexible take on the NATO issue.
“I thought his views were a typical Czech perspective that embodies both pragmatism and idealism,” said Josef Montag, a visiting economics graduate student.
“Traditional values are important, but the reality is much more complicated,” Montag added.
Regarding issues of localized, anti-expansion conflicts in Russia and Kosovo, Palouš simply recalled Neville Chamberlain’s decision to allow Germany annex Sudetenland in 1938.
“If we sacrifice local interest for interest of the bigger beast, the result is war,” Palouš warned.