We have written this letter because we, as intellectuals and former policymakers in Central and Eastern Europe, is deeply concerned for the future of the transatlantic relationship and the quality of future relations between the United States and the countries of our region. We advocate on their own behalf as friends and allies of the United States, as well as adherents of Europe.
Our nation is infinitely obliged to the United States. Many of us know from personal experience how important was your support for our freedom and independence in the dark years of the Cold War. Interaction with the United States and to support the steel key to the success of our democracy after twenty years ago, dropped the Iron Curtain. If it were not for the vision and leadership of Washington, it is unlikely we would now be in NATO or the EU.
We have done our best to reciprocate and make this relationship sided. We are the voices of 'Atlanticism' in NATO and the EU. Our nation fought side by side with the United States in the Balkans, Iraq, and now in Afghanistan. Although at times our contribution may seem modest compared to yours, it is significant when measured as a percentage of our population and GDP. In the past, you have helped us in supporting democracy and liberal values, and now we are one of your most dedicated supporters when it comes to promoting democracy and human rights around the world.
However, twenty years after the end of the Cold War, we can see that the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are no longer at the heart of American foreign policy. While the new Obama Administration sets the foreign policy priorities, our region becomes a part of the world, of which Americans are not worried. And in fact, sometimes we have the impression is that many U.S. officials came to the conclusion that the problems of the region have been resolved once and for all, and now you can 'tick' and move on to address other, more pressing strategic issues. Recent years, the relationship was so close that many on both sides assume that the region's transatlantic orientation, as well as its stability and prosperity will last forever.
This point of view is premature. All is not well either in our region or in the transatlantic relationship. Central and Eastern Europe is at a political crossroads and today in the region there is an increasing nervousness. The global economic crisis has affected our region and, as elsewhere, there is a risk that our societies are closed on itself and become less interact with the world. At the same time, the foreign policy horizon, storm clouds gather. Like you, we look forward to the results of the investigation by the European Commission, dedicated to the root causes of the Russian-Georgian war. But the political impact of the war is already being felt in the region. Many countries are deeply concerned that the Atlantic Alliance remains sidelined, while Russia has violated the fundamental principles of the Helsinki Accords, the Charter of Paris, and the territorial integrity of a country that is a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace 'and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council — all in the name protection sphere of influence on its borders.
Despite the efforts and significant contribution of the new members, NATO today seems weaker than when we joined. In many of our countries' alliance is perceived as less and less important — and we feel it. Although we are full members of the alliance, people wonder about is whether NATO is ready to stand on our defense in the event of a possible future crisis. European dependence on Russian energy also raises concerns about the cohesion of the alliance. President Obama's recent remark that he had made at the last NATO summit, when he noted the need to establish reliable plans for the defense of all members of the alliance, was welcome, but it is not enough to alleviate concerns about the alliance's readiness for defense. Our ability to not lose public support for our joint alliance with missions abroad depends on if we can show that the fears of our own security find their answer in the work of NATO and close cooperation with the United States.
We also need to recognize that America's popularity and influence have fallen in many of our countries. Opinion polls, including a study of the Marshall Fund, entitled 'Transatlantic Trends', show that our region has also been subject to a wave of criticism and anti-Americanism that has covered Europe in recent years and has led to the disappearance of sympathy for the United States during the Bush years. Some regional leaders paid a political price for their support for the unpopular war in Iraq. In the future, they are likely to be more cautious in taking on the political risks to support the United States. We believe that the beginning of the new administration provides a new opportunity to reverse this trend, but it will take time and effort on both sides to make up our losses.
In many ways the EU has become a major factor in the organization and in our lives. For many ties with the EU today seem more relevant and important than relations with the United States. In some ways it is a logical outcome of the integration of Central and Eastern Europe into the EU. Our leaders and officials spend much more time on the European meetings than in consultations with Washington, where they often have to try my best to draw attention to our voices. Of course, the region's integration with the EU is welcome, and it does not necessarily lead to a weakening of the transatlantic relationship. We hope that the integration of Central and Eastern Europe into the EU will actually strengthen the strategic cooperation between Europe and America.
However, there is a danger that, instead of being Atlanticist voice in the EU, support for a more global partnership with Washington in the region gradually come to an end. In our region there is no tradition of taking on a more global role. Some issues on the transatlantic agenda, such as global warming, do not find the population of Central and Eastern Europe the same response that in Western Europe.
In Central and Eastern Europe is also a change of leadership. At the helm are fewer and fewer leaders who emerged from the revolutions of 1989 and had a taste of the key role played by Washington in the process of securing our democratic transition and the inclusion of our countries in NATO and the EU. On the scene a new generation of leaders who do not have those memories, and who spend more 'realistic' policy. At the same time, the former communist elite, whose persistent attempts to control the political and economic power significantly contributed to the crisis in many countries of the region, gradually taper from the political scene. The current political and economic turmoil and the effects of the global economic crisis provide additional opportunities forces of nationalism, extremism, populism and anti-Semitism across the continent, including some of our countries.
This means that the United States could lose many of its traditional interlocutors in the region. The new elites coming in to replace them, may not share their idealism (or have the same relationship with the United States) as the generation that stood at the helm of democratic reforms. They can be more calculated approach to supporting the U.S. and be more parochial in their vision of the world. In Washington, there are similar changes in that time, as many of the leaders and personalities with whom we have worked and which are expected to walk away from politics.
And of course, the question remains of how to deal with Russia. Our hopes that relations with Russia would improve and that Moscow finally fully recognize our sovereignty and independence after we join NATO and the EU have not been fulfilled. Instead, Russia is returning to the role of the state seeking to change the status quo, and is trying to pursue the agenda of the 19th century with the tactics and techniques of the 21st century. At the global level, on most issues, Russia acts as a power, supports the status quo. But at the regional level and in relation to our nations, it increasingly seeks to change this status quo. It challenges our claims about our own historical experience. She claims that he was in a privileged position that allows it to determine our decisions related to security. It uses overt and covert tools of economic warfare, ranging from energy blockades and politically motivated investments to bribery and media manipulation in order to advance its interests and to challenge the transatlantic orientation of Central and Eastern Europe.
We welcome the "reset" of US-Russian relations. Being countries located closest to Russia, we, of course, more than others interested in the development of democracy in Russia and better relations between Moscow and the West. But in our capitals There is nervousness. We want to take the necessary measures to ensure that too narrow an interpretation of Western interests does not lead to the wrong concessions to Russia. Today, we worry that the United States and the major European states may adopt a plan for Medvedev offering to replace the existing structure of the security of the continent, based on values, a kind of 'Treaty powers'. The danger is that creeping intimidation and lobbying on the part of Russia will lead eventually to the actual neutralization of the region. In our region, there are different points of view regarding the new policy of Moscow, but there is a general consensus that we need a deep engagement with the United States.
Many in the region look with hope to the Obama administration, anticipating that it will restore the Atlantic relationship as a moral compass for their domestic and foreign policies. A strong commitment to common liberal democratic values is a key factor for our countries. From their own historical experience, we know the difference between when the United States came to the defense of their liberal-democratic values, and that when they do not. Our region suffered when the United States gave way to the concept of "realism" at Yalta, and benefited when the United States used its power to fight for their principles. It was critically important during the Cold War and after it, when we had to open the door to NATO. If at the beginning of the 1990s, was won by 'realistic' views, today we would not be in NATO, but the idea is whole, free and at peace would have been no more than a distant dream.
We understand that your administration and foreign policy of the United States are facing serious demands. We do not want to add to the existing list of problems. Instead, we want to help by being strong Atlanticist allies in the US-European partnership that is a powerful force in support of good in the world. But we're not sure what will be our region in five or ten years, given the uncertainty of domestic and foreign policy, standing in front of us. Today we need to make a number of correct steps to ensure the strong relationship between the United States and Central and Eastern Europe, which continued past twenty years, will stand the test of time.
We believe that the time has come, and the United States and Europe need to reinvest in the transatlantic relationship. We also believe that the time has come for the United States and Central and Eastern Europe must re-unite around a new and forward-looking agenda. Aware of all that we have achieved in the twenty years since the fall of the Iron Curtain, it is time to define a new agenda for close transatlantic cooperation for the next twenty years.
Therefore, we propose the following steps:
First, we believe that Europe needs America and the United States needs Europe as much as in the past. The United States should reaffirm its vocation to play a major role in Europe and clearly demonstrate that they are going to continue to work closely with the continent, despite the current problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Middle East and Asia. For our part, we have to work within our countries and across Europe, to convince our leaders and our society to take a more global position and be ready for more responsibility in partnership with the United States.
Secondly, there is need revival of NATO, which is the most important part of security between the United States and Europe. This is the only credible security guarantee, which we have. NATO has confirmed its core function of collective defense even while we adapt to the new threats of the 21st century. A key factor in our ability to participate in NATO missions overseas is the belief that we are safe at home. So we have to heal some of the wounds inflicted intentionally past. It was a mistake not to proceed with the establishment of adequate defense plans for the new members, when there was the expansion of NATO. Alliance should do its commitment to the protection of its members and strategically plausible to reassure all members. It is a variant of the planning, pre-positioning of troops, weapons and supplies for reinforcement in our region in case of crisis, originally provided for in the Founding Act, NATO-Russia.
We also need to review the work of the NATO-Russia Council and return to the practice where NATO member countries are in dialogue with Moscow, while on an agreed position. When it comes to Russia, our experience suggests that a more determined and principled policy toward Moscow will not only strengthen the West's security but, in the end, will force Moscow to take a more accommodating stance. Furthermore, the more secure we feel in the framework of NATO, the easier it will be for our countries to reach out and interact with Moscow on issues of common interest. This is — two-pronged approach, which we need, and that should be reflected in the new strategic concept of NATO.
Thirdly, the most sensitive issue is the planned deployment of America's missile defense shield. On this issue, in the region there are different points of view, and our populations often takes the opposite position. Regardless of military advantages of this scheme and the final solutions Washington this question nonetheless become (at least in certain countries) symbol reliability of America and its adherence region. The way this issue will be resolved, can have a significant impact on the future transatlantic orientation of these countries. A small number of missiles intended for placement can not threaten Russia's strategic capabilities, and the Kremlin knows this. We have to decide the future of the program as allies, based on the strategic advantages and disadvantages of different technical and political configurations. The Alliance should not allow unjustified anti-Russian become the factor that decides the fate of the missile shield. Complete failure of the program or the inclusion of Russia in the process without consulting Poland or the Czech Republic can weaken the credibility of the United States throughout the region.
Fourth, we know that one of NATO is not enough. We also want and need for a greater involvement of Europe and better and more strategic relationship between the U.S. and the EU. Our foreign policy is increasingly carried out through the European Union — and we support that. We also want to have a common European foreign and defense policy that is open to close cooperation with the United States. We defend this view in the EU. But we want the United States to reconsider its attitude to the European Union, and began to take it more seriously as a strategic partner. We need to bring NATO and the EU together so that they work in tandem. We need common NATO and EU strategies not only toward Russia but on a number of other new strategic challenges.
Fifth, we need to resolve the issue of energy security. The threat to energy supplies can exert an immediate influence on the political sovereignty of our nations, including allies like taking common decisions in NATO. Therefore, this issue should become a transatlantic priority. Although the EU is a large part of the responsibility for energy security, the United States also has a role in this process. Without American support, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline would never have been built. Energy security must become an integral part of the US-EU strategic cooperation. The countries of Central and Eastern Europe should lobby harder (and with more unity) inside Europe for the benefit of diversification of energy sources, suppliers and transit routes. We also need to lobby in favor of a rigid due diligence Russian abuses its monopoly position and cartel authorities in the European market. But American political support for these processes will play a key role. Similarly, the United States can play an important role in further strengthening its support for the Nabucco pipeline, particularly with regard to the use of their relationship with the main transit country Turkey. In addition, the United States can support the energy bond between the North-South cooperation in Central Europe and LNG terminals in our region.
Sixth, we should not neglect the human factor. Our next generations need to get to know each other. We should cherish and protect the multitude of educational, professional, and other networks and friendships that underpin our friendship and alliance. In this regard, the U.S. visa regime remains an obstacle. The fact that Poland and Romania, which may be called the two biggest and most pro-American countries in Central and Eastern Europe that actively promote the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan are still not included in the visa-free regime is absurd. It is inconceivable that such a critic of the United States, as the French antiglobalist Jose Bove (Jose Bove), does not need a visa to enter the United States, and a former activist of the Solidarity movement and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize Lech Walesa forced to receive it. This issue will be resolved only if the President of the United States will make it a priority.
The steps taken by us together since 1989, can not be considered small or unimportant to the story. Our mutual success is the right foundation for the transatlantic renaissance that we need today. Therefore, we believe that we should also reflect on the creation of the Association Heritage (Legacy Fellowship) for young leaders. Since the revolution in 1989 it was twenty years old. This is — a whole generation. We need a new generation to renew the transatlantic partnership. It should develop a program that will determine those young leaders on both sides of the Atlantic, which can move forward transatlantic project on the construction of which we have spent the last twenty years.
In conclusion, the rise to power of the new U.S. administration's instilled in our country great hopes for the resumption of transatlantic relations. This is — an opportunity not to be missed. We, the authors of this letter, know firsthand how important the relationship with the United States. In 90 years, under the understanding of Europe is largely understood as an understanding of Central and Eastern Europe. U.S. participation was critical to the consolidation of peace and stability across the continent, from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Today's goal is to preserve the Central and Eastern Europe as a stable, active and Atlanticist part of our broader community.
This is the key to our success in reviving the alliance that the Obama administration wants to achieve, and which we support. This process will require both sides to a new commitment and investment in the relationship. But if we do it right, the rewards can be very real. By making the right steps now, we can put our relations on a new and solid footing for the future.
Valdas Adamkus (Valdas Adamkus), former President of Lithuania
Butora Martin (Martin Butora), former Ambassador of Slovakia to the United States
Emil Constantinescu (Emil Constantinescu), former President of Romania
Pavol Demes (Pavol Demes), former Minister of International Relations and Advisor to the President of Slovakia
Lubos Dobrowski (Lubos Dobrovsky), former defense minister Czech Republic
Matyas Eörsi (Matyas Eorsi), former Secretary of State of Hungary
Istvan Gyarmati (Istvan Gyarmati), Ambassador, President of the International Center for Democratic Reforms in Budapest
Vaclav Havel (Vaclav Havel), former President of the Czech Republic
Rastislav Kacher (Rastislav Kacer), a former U.S. ambassador to Slovakia
Sandra Kalniete (Sandra Kalniete), former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia
Karel Schwarzenberg (Karel Schwarzenberg), former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic
Michal Kovac (Michal Kovac), former president of the Slovak Republic
Ivan Krastev (Ivan Krastev), head of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Bulgaria
Aleksander Kwasniewski (Alexander Kwasniewski), former President of Poland
Mart Laar (Mart Laar), former Prime Minister of Estonia
Leek Kadri (Kadri Liik), director of the International Centre for Defence Studies in Tallinn, Estonia
Janos Martonyi (Janos Martonyi), former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary
Janusz Onyszkiewicz (Janusz Onyszkiewicz), former Vice-President of the European Parliament, former Minister of Defence of Poland
Adam Rotfeld (Adam Rotfeld), former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland
Alexandr Vondra (Alexandr Vondra), a former foreign minister and deputy prime minister Czech Republic
Vaira Vike-Freiberga (Vaira Vike-Freiberga), former President of Latvia
Lech Walesa (Lech Walensa), former President of Poland