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VOA Interview with Rose Gottemoeller - 2002-11-21


David Borgida interviews Rose Gottemoeller, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

MR. BORGIDA: Now joining us to talk about the NATO meeting, Rose Gottemoeller, a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace here in Washington. Thanks so much for joining us.

MS. GOTTEMOELLER: My pleasure.

MR. BORGIDA: This is obviously a big summit. It is the first one in a former Soviet bloc country. Enlargement is at least officially on the agenda, but is it in danger of being overshadowed by the issues of the fight against terrorism and the possible war against Iraq?

MS. GOTTEMOELLER: I really don't think so. This summit is really about NATO and Europe remaining linked up with the United States. Now, clearly, the main United States concerns at this time are Iraq and the war on terrorism, but this summit is all about, in my view, how NATO and Europe become more engaged in that fight on terrorism and more engaged with the United States. Because the big concern has been that the United States would head off on its own and leave NATO in the dust. So, I think that is what the summit is all about.

MR. BORGIDA: Do you think there is any danger, perhaps, that some of these new members that are being considered will feel in any way diminished by the focus and concentration on some of the other issues?

MS. GOTTEMOELLER: I think they are so happy to be new members of NATO. And for many of them it has really helped to resolve some historical problems that have been very serious in the past, particularly the Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. They felt, of course, historically that they were so dominated by the Soviet Union and Russia, now they have the opportunity to join the NATO club and to really move closer both to Europe and the United States. And I think this is a decisive moment for them.

MR. BORGIDA: Russia has of course in the past felt somewhat threatened by NATO enlargement. Your assessment now of the Russian position on this.

MS. GOTTEMOELLER: Isn't that interesting. I've heard comments that there has been a deafening silence here in Washington, not very much debate about this expansion here in Washington.

I would say the same is true in Moscow. Somehow President Putin has moved this argument beyond center stage in Moscow, and I think it really has to do with the historic decision he made after September 11th, 2001 to throw his lot in with President Bush in the war on terrorism and really to link up U.S. and Russian interests, as well as Russian and NATO-Europe interests. So, there is a big change there and I think it has contributed to much more relaxation in Moscow on NATO enlargement.

MR. BORGIDA: Let's talk about that, because I guess, as the President of the United States arrived for this summit, he made it very clear that he was praising Vladimir Putin for his efforts to end the hostage siege at that Moscow theater where so many died of that gas. What do you make of that relationship, the Putin-Bush relationship, now that they each have a terrorist threat on their own to deal with?

MS. GOTTEMOELLER: Yes, George's good friend Vladimir. To tell you the truth, I think that is a bit of a problem. I think that President Bush, in his meetings with Putin in Petersburg in a couple days' time, they will have a really intense opportunity to talk I think. I really think he needs to make the case to Putin that, first of all, the Russian Army has to be brought to heel. They are raping and pillaging in Chechnya. Their mode of operations is really beyond the pale in terms of the laws of war. So, I think Bush ought to be making that case to Putin.

And I think he also ought to be urging on him some kind of diplomacy. It is difficult, of course, to see at the moment who the partners would be on the Chechnyan side, but I really think it is up to Bush to urge his friend Vladimir to also try to bring this to resolution beyond war.

MR. BORGIDA: This is a tightrope diplomatically, though, for the President of the United States, who does need Vladimir Putin to help him in the possible war against Iraq, isn't it? He needs to be careful diplomatically as he makes this relationship work.

MS. GOTTEMOELLER: I think that's true. But I already think that Bush and the United States have proven their bona fides, particularly, as you mentioned a moment ago, in the way they reacted to the Russian resolution of the hostage crisis in the Moscow theater. And they have done several other things, I think, to make it clear that they do support the war on terrorism as it's defined by Putin and the Russians, that they are trying to be supportive as they try to struggle with the situation on Russian territory and in the Caucuses. So, I think those bona fides are already proved.

You also have to remember that we've had some very good, I would say, cooperation bilaterally in the war on terrorism on its first front in Afghanistan. And the United States and Russia worked very successfully together there, 13 years after, really, the Russians were driven out of Afghanistan by a U.S.-inspired military activity there, involving some of these same al-Qaida kind of groups but in the historic past. So, really the United States and Russia have come a long, long way in their ability to work together in the war on terrorism. And I think that's very important.

MR. BORGIDA: Ms. Gottemoeller, how much weight and importance do you attach, we've talked about this sort of on the margins in this conversation, but how important is it to you that these two men click in a personal way, get along?

MS. GOTTEMOELLER: I think it has been enormously important. Because when the Bush administration first arrived in office about two years ago, they I think were tending to shove the U.S.-Russian relationship on to the back burner. It was too much trouble. The Russians had not been very cooperative. The Bush administration certainly didn't think that the Clinton folks had been very successful -- I would disagree with that myself. But there was, I think, a tendency to back-burner the Russian relationship.

But then, when Bush and Putin got together and Bush began to form a very strong personal bond with Putin, all of that began to change. So, I do think that it's kind of the key now to making a lot of things happen on the international stage, and I certainly hope it continues.

MR. BORGIDA: Rose Gottemoeller, thanks so much for your insight, and thank you for your time.

MS. GOTTEMOELLER: My pleasure.

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