JOANNE MYERS: I am Joanne Myers, director of Public Affairs Programs, and on behalf of the Carnegie Council I would like to thank you for joining us.
Today we have the pleasure to welcome back one of the most perceptive political writers of our time, Timothy Garton Ash. In his recent book, Facts Are Subversive, Professor Garton Ash brings together dispatches from a troubled world. In doing so, he sheds light on many of the defining issues of our era. His aim is to chronicle the history of what he calls "the nameless decade." For him it is a period that began with the terrorist attacks on America in September 2001 and ends with the election of Barack Obama in 2008.
Although this timeframe is not quite a full ten years, the essays are diverse in their subject matter and show just how difficult it is to define this decade with an overarching theme.
For example, among the many topics covered are those dealing with the upheaval in post-communist countries, authoritarian regimes in Burma and Iran, the challenge to liberalism raised by Islam, the future of Europe, and the corrosive culmination of the Bush Administration's bungled foreign policy as seen by the U.S. decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
Combining the scholarship of a historian with a journalist's acute observation and attention to detail, Professor Garton Ash believes that it is just as important to tell the story as it is to have his work be anchored in authority, creating a "literature of fact."
But what does this mean? He tells us that literature of fact is a type of writing that invokes verifiable truths about the world and presents them in a style of unflinching honesty that he calls veracity. He write that "facts are like mosaics, fitting together to compose pictures of the past and the present from which political and historical analysis can flow."
For any historian, but especially for one who is revered as much as our speaker, the importance of gathering hard facts to record history is what matters. It is both a political and a moral imperative to find them.
Accordingly, it is not surprising that one of the themes running through this book of essays about this period of the 20th century raises such questions as: When is it legitimate to cross that heavily mined frontier between fact and fiction?
How do we know what people thought they knew when they had to make a particular decision?
We live in a time when the sources of fact finding and fact maneuvering have become so intertwined that the line of reality in reporting events often becomes blurred. Even so, sometimes there is someone who believes that the vagaries of the present discourse should not stand in the way of recognizing the facts instead of the fiction.
Please join me in giving a very warm welcome to that someone who understands the complexities of the international situation and the need for veracity in reporting, a most remarkable journalist and historian, Timothy Garton Ash.
TIMOTHY GARTON ASH: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you for this lovely introduction, which actually was a beautifully judged précis of the book.
Let me start with the title, which is Facts Are Subversive, which some of you may recognize as a quotation from the radical journalist I.F. Stone. When I decided to use this as the title for the book, I thought, "Well, I had better just double-check my source for this quotation," because it wouldn't be a very good start if you called your book Facts Are Subversive and it started with a misattribution.
So, as one does, I Googled it. I came up with an impeccable source. Unfortunately, the source was me [laughter], saying in some lecture, "as I.F. Stone said." Yes, a fine source, but not quite good enough.
I then contacted two of his biographers, his anthologist, Peter Osnos, and I.F. Stone's daughter. None of them could find it. So for now Facts Are Subversive is me and not I.F. Stone.
But I do believe that this is indeed the case. That is my article of faith. If you want a couple of examples, you will find them in the book.
I start with an obvious one, which is the facts about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. If the facts about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—or that is to say the facts about no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq—had been known, it is unlikely that Britain, at least, would have gone to war in Iraq. Blairwould not have won that vote in the House of Commons. The United States, you can judge better than me.
There are also the facts over which great men and women stumble.
I have an essay in the book on the great German novelist Günter Grass, who quite recently stumbled mightily over the fact that he had in fact served in the Waffen-SS in the Second World War. This made a mockery of his great lecture to Ronald Reagan and Helmut Kohl about the awfulness of their going to a cemetery to honor the war dead that included very young men who had actually been drafted into the Waffen-SS as well as Günter Grass. That fact was pretty subversive of his moral lecturing to Ronald Reagan and Helmut Kohl.
And I could go on.
The subtitle of the book is Political Writing from a Decade Without a Name. It's actually the third book I have done of essays collected from a decade. I did a book from the 1980s. I did a book from the 1990s. I refuse to call this decade "the naughties." I simply point-blank refuse. It is too cringe-making and toe-curling. As I say, it's like putting frilly underwear on a bull.
I also call this decade "a decade without a name" because the character of the decade is quite difficult to pin down. It is not clear to me, when the historians come to write the history of this period in 20 or 30 years' time, what the chapter title will be.
Many of us after 9/11 would have said it's going to be the great struggle—or, as some put it, war—against terror. It's not so clear to me now that that is actually the deeper, bigger story of this decade. We could perhaps talk about that.
This is a collection of essays. It covers, as Joanne said, a wide range of themes. I'm just going to pick up a few and try to tie them together for discussion.
I've spent much of my life chronicling what we have come to call velvet revolutions: the peaceful revolution starting in Poland in 1980-1981, the great revolutions of 1989.
In this book, I have an eye-witness account of the fall of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia. It is a remarkable fact that the greatest war criminal of our times in Europe was toppled by his own people in an almost entirely peaceful revolution and ended his days in The Hague.
I also have an account of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine.
Then came the attempt to make a velvet revolution in Belarus, which failed. Then came the movement of the monks in Burma, which was crushed. Then came the Green Movement in Iran which attempted to make a peaceful revolution, and was very brutally crushed.
The story of velvet revolution as we go into the next decade is becoming a whole lot more complicated. We could perhaps talk in discussion about why that is. Let me just mention briefly a couple of reasons.
One is because it is not only dissidents and human rights activists who can learn from past successes. So can Mr. Putin and Mr. Ahmadinejad and Mr. Lukashenko. That is partly what has happened. It is simply that the dictators have learned too how to combat these kinds of movements much more effectively.
It is also the case that as we go beyond the wider West, beyond countries like East Germany, Poland or the Czech Republic, which are clearly part of the historic West, to places like Ukraine and then to Iran or Burma, it becomes much more difficult. Partly it becomes much more difficult because if your neighbors are not the European Union but China and, sad to say, India, as was the case with Burma, you are not going to get as much support as you did if you were Poland or Ukraine. That's one part of the story.
A large part of the book is devoted to the story of the European Union, which has a couple of remarkable changes to report.
One is the great enlargement of 2004, in which most of the post-communist countries of central and eastern Europe, now more or less liberal democracies, were brought into the European Union. The reunification of our continent is an extraordinary success story.
There has never been a time in European history where most of the countries of the European continent have been more or less liberal democracies in one and the same political, economic, and security community. We should never forget what an achievement that is. I like to say to my British-Euro skeptic friends that this is the worst possible Europe apart from all the other Europes we've tried from time to time.
And we have—major reservations here—the story of the euro. It is also unprecedented, now in very choppy waters—but nonetheless a remarkable achievement of the decade.
Our three great challenges in my view in Europe are:
- Firstly is the economy. There is a need to create meaningful work in very difficult circumstances. I'm not an economist. I'm not going to talk about that much.
- Secondly, something which I spend a lot of time on, is we need to get our act together in foreign policy. We spent most of the decade failing to do that. Even what we've done now is not terribly impressive. In a world of giants, both established giants like the United States and emerging giants like China, Brazil, India, South Africa, it makes no sense just to be France or Britain or Germany. Even the largest country in Europe is too small for this world of giants.
If you have no sentimental attachment to the European project at all, as many in Britain's current government do not, the sheer Palmerstonian realism, the pure logic, of the argument must lead you to believe that Europe should get its act together in foreign policy and should wherever possible try to speak with one voice. This should start with Russia. If we have no Russian policy, there will be no European foreign policy.
- The third great challenge is something that I want to spend a few minutes on because I think it will be of interest to you. It is the integration of Muslims, of citizens and denizens and mere residents of Europe, of the Muslim faith. The reasons this is such a great challenge are pretty obvious, but let me just spell them out.
One is demography. Here your position in the United States is quite different from ours, because we have these rapidly aging native populations. Many of our populations are not reproducing themselves. There is our age structure and very expensive welfare state unfunded pension systems. Someone's got to support those welfare states and support those pension systems, even if they're reformed.
That means immigration. Where is our immigration going to come from? Overwhelmingly from the Muslim world, whose demography is the exact opposite. It's the demography of Europe turned on its head—that is to say 60 percent under 30, rather than going on 60 percent over 60.
We have, depending how you count, something between 15 and 30 million Muslims already in Europe. There will be many more because of the rates of reproduction and immigration.
They are not well integrated. They do not on the whole feel comfortable at home, painted with a broad brush. Particularly in the second and third generations—not the first-generation immigrants but their children or their children's children—there is an exceedingly alienated, radicalized minority from whom the terrorists come who attacked New York, London, and Madrid. The cutting edge of the challenge is how do we confront it?
Since my views on this subject have in some quarters been maliciously and mendaciously parodied and traduced by people like Paul Berman, let me tell you what my views actually are.
There are two big mistakes which we in Europe are now making, or risking making, seriatim—that is to say one after the other.
The first mistake was actually to bring in a great many immigrants from the Muslim world and then not properly integrate them into a liberal secular society—not to teach them the languages, the civics, the history; not to give them career paths and opportunities into our society. If you go to the banlieue of Paris, Bradford, or Kreuzberg, you will see that problem.
When we woke up to that problem, we turned around and said, "The way to deal with this is what we're going to call multiculturalism—multiculturalism meaning in practice that we say, 'Okay, you have your culture, we have ours. You give your daughters into forced marriage, you do genital mutilation, you don't believe in free speech. You go on doing it your way. What is more, we are going to empower and fund self-appointed leaders of the so-called Muslim community—something which very dubiously exists—to laud it over their own communities.'"
We actually empowered illiberal leaders in our own big cities and societies. This was a terrible mistake.
I'm glad to say in the last ten years we woke up to this mistake. Unfortunately, people have swung right across to the other extreme, and we are now in risk of making an almost equal and opposite mistake, as represented by someone like Geert Wilders, which is to say: "We are at war with Islam as a whole. The only good Muslim is an ex-Muslim. Not only must you speak our language, abide by our ways, don't even think about building a mosque, don't even think about erecting minarets"—you remember the Swiss voted to ban minarets—"The head scarf, tear it off."
You've had a little sample of this in New York recently. Perhaps we could come back to that in the discussion period. I regret to see that in some respects that you've been becoming a little European. I would urge you to remain truly American and true to the original founding principles of the United States in this respect.
This is the equal and opposite mistake, because if you say to your Muslim fellow citizens and simply residents, "The only way to become a European is, in effect, to cease to be a Muslim, to give up central tenets of your faith," then they will not become Europeans, they will not integrate into our societies, and the problem of radicalization will get much worse, and we will have more terrorists.
What should we do? We should walk the via media [middle road], not because it's in the middle. That's not in itself an argument for or against. Nye Bevan once said, "You know what happens to middle-of-the-road people? They get run down." [Laughter]
Not because it's in the middle, but because it is the right thing to do. Which is to say to our Muslim fellow citizens: "If you want to live here, you must abide by the laws of the land. You must abide by the central tenets of a free society. You cannot say, 'I am going to give my daughter into marriage without her consent.' You cannot oppress your own children in your own homes and communities. You cannot say to Ayaan Hirsi Ali or anyone else, 'If you say that, I will kill you.' You cannot say, 'If you publish a cartoon of Mohammed you will be killed.'" There are literally hundreds of people in Europe now living in fear of their lives.
Part two of the message: "If you do abide by those basic tenets of a free society, the laws and norms of a free society, then you are free to live as you choose, to practice your faith as you choose, to build the temples of your religion as we build ours, and to wear the hijab." By the way, many European women until very recently wore the head scarf, the nun's wimple.
That way, with luck and with some other forms of integration, including of course, very importantly, giving people career paths and economic opportunities, we will integrate the vast majority of the Muslim community. There are in all these communities young men and women, but particularly young men, who, rather like people on the far Left in Western Europe in the late 1960s and early 1970s, are undecided which way to go: "Shall I really join the hard guys, the true extremists, sign up to the campaign of jihad; or shall I get a degree, get a job, and integrate into the society?"
What we've succeeded in doing with the Baader-Meinhof gang and the Red Brigades and others in the 1970s, was the double act of catching and hammering and stopping the true men of violence, but at the same time wooing back that undecided, very significant margin of that generation. People who in 1970 were within a centimeter of joining Baader-Meinhof are now the pillars of German society—lawyers, politicians, and judges. That's what we've got to do with our Muslim population.
The last point I want to make on this is that to do this people must be free to make an offensive argument for their own convictions, including atheist convictions. That is to say, it is a scandal that people who make an offensive argument for atheism against Islam have to go in fear of their lives.
I don't think it is a realistic expectation that the majority of European Muslims are overnight, or even within a few months or years, going to take the really huge leap from somewhat conservative or radical virtues of Islam all the way to kind of 21st-century European-type atheism. Whether or not it's desirable, I don't think it's realistic.
What is absolutely crucial to the process I've described is to have figures in the Muslim community, including thinkers and clerics, who say, "You can at one and the same time be a good Muslim and a good citizen of a free society, be it the United States or European society." It's quite a stretch from the now traditional conservative interpretations, let alone radical interpretations of Islam, to go to abiding by the basic principles of a free society. But if anyone is going there, that's a good thing, and that is to be encouraged.
I see this in Britain's and other European Muslim communities. This is what many people in these communities are crying out for, particularly the younger generation. They want to be told, "You can do both. You can be a good Frenchman, a good German, and a good Muslim." If that involves a fair bit of fudge, so be it. Good for the fudge.
The Catholic Church put liberalism on the Syllabus of Errors in the 19th century. The Catholic Church fought liberalism tooth and nail for 100 years. Its reconciliation with liberalism, even today, is partial, but it works in practice, and it involved a little bit of good old fudge. And good for the fudge.
Since it's an even bigger stretch from Islam to reconciliation with liberalism, there is going to be more of that. So creative reinterpretations of Islam that make it compatible with a modern liberal society, that's fine by me. I'd be happy to talk about that further.
Let me just mention very briefly two other themes in the book and then throw it over to you for discussion.
First of all, there's a good deal in the book about the United States, where I spend three months every year at Stanford University every summer. It is a hardship posting, but I put up with it [Laughter] and from that rather privileged vantage point I've been observing the evolution of the United States over the last decade. Quite frankly I have been observing it with some concern, because while Europe has a lot of problems, it also has really some significant achievements to point to over the last decade.
At the end of this decade, both domestically and in foreign policy, to put it no more strongly, the United States has a good deal of ground to make up. I truly hope, that the United States does succeed in the necessary reform and revitalization of its own economic and political system, to be again a really strong and attractive power in the world, because we need it.
My final point comes from the penultimate section in the book, which is called "Beyond the West." It describes a trip to Iran, Burma, Hong Kong, China, and Brazil. It describes our difficult enemies, but it also describes these great emerging powers.
As the new decade begins, which I will call the 2010s, it seems to me that actually the larger challenge to free societies is probably not violent Islamism. Violent Islamism will continue to be a significant problem comprable to the problem we had in Northern Ireland for 30 years. In other words, from time to time bombs will go off or you'll have to stop bomb plots; there will be terrorists; there will this problem of radicalization I described.
My own guess, which can only be a historically informed guess, is that the greater challenge to us in Europe and of the United States is countries like China and their models of authoritarian capitalism, which, unlike Islam or Islamism, offer an alternative model of modernity. They say: You can be economically dynamic, exciting, modern, but not liberal and democratic.
I'm not going to say that will continue to work for the next ten or twenty years in China. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. At the moment there is no question that that is the larger, the more dynamic challenge for the world of liberal democracy.
In Europe's 20th century the great challenges to liberal democracy were two: communism and fascism. Both of them in their time were considered alternative models of modernity.
Someone famously went to the Soviet Union and said, "I have seen the future and it works." Now columnists in American newspapers are going to China, and saying, "I have seen the future and it works."
That for me is probably the larger challenge of the 2010s, and this is another reason why we, both in the United States and in Europe, really have got to get our skates on and get our own houses in order.
Thank you very much.
Questions and Answers
QUESTION: Charles Kegley, retired professor, author and a member of the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Council. I want to thank you for a very informed and informative presentation.
I've always pictured what you do as an act of deconstructionism, because you cover a wide range of discourses, like we've just heard, but you're really focusing in on definitional problems. When you picked this great title, Facts Are Subversive, you have identified to my mind an avenue, an opening, to talk about what are facts, how do we define what is real and what is not real.
Let me follow that. I was in your country when 9/11 occurred. I had come out of the monastery where Augustine had held forth thinking very deeply about his theories of just wars. That's when I saw on the screen what had happened. I ended up spending a delightful, if you can imagine that, six extra days there.
I came back. The phone was ringing. One of my publishers asked me to do a sequel to an earlier anthology I had done on international terrorism that came out in 1993, The New Global Terrorism: Characteristics, Causes, Controls.
On characteristics, I wanted to find someone who knew how to pick a catchy title and cut deep and explain the complexities. Who did I pick? Chapter 5, you're in this book. I really admire your capacity to invent titles. This was titled, "Is There a Good Terrorist?" It's a great essay.
A lot of time has passed since then. How would you answer the same question you posed today?
TIMOTHY GARTON ASH: That essay was about the leader of the Albanian minority's brief insurgency in Macedonia [Ali Ahmeti], which looked at that point as if it might be the next Kosovo. I had to drive up into the mountains, pass various roadblocks, and eventually found him in his safe house surrounded by rather sinister bodyguards.
He was supposedly a Muslim, but almost the first thing he did was to offer me a "very good" glass of whiskey. He was a somewhat liberal Muslim anyway at that time. It was from the Scottish island of Islay, which has some of the best whiskies. I said in the essay in the book, "Islay trumps Islam."
He was clearly weighing his options. They had used limited force. They had made this uprising. He did what Sinn Fein did, what the ANC did in South Africa, and what many ex-terrorists with specific national goals had done. They decided they'd get further through politics than war.
The answer to your question is the good terrorist is the ex-terrorist who has taken the path of integration and taken his community with him.
Unfortunately, the militant jihadi young men are unlikely to be of that kind, because their revolutionary goals, like restoring the Caliphate, are totally unrealizable in any acceptable political world. There is an important distinction between those who can in certain circumstances, like Sinn Fein or like the ANC, become ex-terrorists and those who simply have to be defeated.
QUESTION: I'm Barbara Crossette. I'm a Carnegie trustee and also a writer now for The Nation magazine.
If we could stay a little on southeastern Europe, what do you think about Bosnia-Herzegovina and what Europe can do or can't do, since this touches, it seems, on both the Muslim question and also on the ultimate unity of the European continent?
TIMOTHY GARTON ASH: Yes. It's a very good question. It's not going particularly well.
I haven't been there myself for several years, so I can't answer the question in detail. But I would say three things.
Number one, I agree with you it is an absolute test case for the European Union. We allowed war and genocide to return to the European continent in the 1990s. We allowed the mess to develop in the first place. If we cannot integrate these relatively small states in one corner of our own continent, what are we good for?
It's absurd that the United States—Hillary Clinton has just been in the Balkans herself—has to spend so much time on it. There should be a division of labor in which Europe clearly takes the lead on this.
Number two, Bosnia-Herzegovina is not a functioning state. It is basically divided into three entities. The problem with the European Union is that it is a union of states. You can do all sorts of things in the European Union, but the one thing you have to be is a functioning state. How we get Bosnia to the point of being the kind of functioning state that you can take into the European Union is a huge problem. I don't know the answer to it.
In an odd way, Serbia, for all its problems, is actually easier, because at the end of the day it is a well-defined state, and it will get in there.
Number three is the symbolic politics of the relationship with Islam. Turkey is going to take a long time and it isn't going well, it seems to me very important that we do take in one or two more Muslim countries, sooner rather than later.
QUESTION: Arlette Laurent. What would you say about the relative non-integration of Muslims in Europe? Would it be mainly a socioeconomic problem or a religious problem? When you think of the still difficulty today of integrating, shall I say, East Germany into the whole of Germany, one can perfectly well understand the difficulty of integrating Muslims from foreign countries. How would you answer that? Thank you.
TIMOTHY GARTON ASH: Unfortunately, if you ask about the problems of integration, the answer is sort of "all of the above." But it varies from place to place.
In France, they have done much better than us in Britain on a kind of cultural integration, because of the French republican tradition. An essay in this book starts by going to Seine Saint-Denis, the Eighth Arrondissement, where a lot of the Muslims are concentrated. I spoke to a man there called Abdelaziz Eljaouhari. He spoke perfect French.
I will never forget this; he looked at me and he said, "I have a message for Mr. Sarkozy. Moi, moi, je suis la France (I am France). This is a hypocritical country, because all we want France to do is deliver on the promise of the Republic, which is that everyone is a free and equal citizen who has an equal chance to get a job or be a president. That is not the case."
There is a famous story of someone who actually lived in Seine Saint-Denis. She wrote 50 job applications with her true name and the address Seine Saint-Denis. She didn't even get one interview. Then she wrote 50 applications to the same employers with Anne-Marie or something and an address in the 15th and got 15 interviews. There you are.
The particular problem in France is racism in the job market. Sarkozy would love to change it. He has been quite good on this, but it is there in the society.
In Britain, it's the other way round. If you come to Britain, the integration in the job market is pretty good. You're greeted at Heathrow by a passport officer wearing a hijab.
Our problem is that we neglected the sort of cultural civic integration. For example, the children of Muslim families in East Oxford often don't speak very good English. They have no idea about English or British history. They don't know how Parliament works. We've neglected that whole side of it, and that's what we have to get working on.
So it's "all of the above." The mix, as to what needs to be done, varies significantly from place to place.
QUESTION: Ron Berenbeim. You mentioned about the need for a common foreign policy to the extent that it's possible, and then you said, "No Russia, no foreign policy." I wonder how that might work, particularly with respect to Russia's obviously authoritarian behavior, its conduct in Chechnya, and its economic ties and political ties to some extent with Iran.
Can you tell us how Russia could be in some way accommodated in terms of its foreign policy views with the rest of Europe?
TIMOTHY GARTON ASH: Dean Acheson famously said of Britain in the early 1960s that Britain had lost an empire and not yet found a role. That is precisely the case of Russia today. I can tell you, coming from Britain, losing an empire is quite difficult to do. You get over it in the end, but it is a certain national trauma.
One has to start by saying that what Gorbachev did was extraordinary, to give up a nuclear-armed empire without a shot fired in anger. That was a remarkable thing for which most of his compatriots have never forgiven him.
Russia is still trying to work out what it means to be Russia, because for hundreds of years it has been an empire. It has never been a normal nation-state. It is going to take time. They've got to work it out themselves. We can't work it out for them. What we can do is to set the terms.
This is what Europe has so spectacularly failed to do, because we haven't got a European-Russian policy. We've got a German-Russian policy, which is extremely friendly to Russia and in return gets a lot of Russian gas; a French-Russian policy; and a British-Russian policy.
There's a nice joke about Cathy Ashton. If you remember Kissinger's old quip "You say Europe, but which number should I call?" Now there is this number. You ring it and you get a recorded message, which says, "For British foreign policy press 1, for German foreign policy press 2." [Laughter]
In the case of Russia it's still very true. Russia can divide and rule, and does quite successfully divide and rule. We need to get our act together and say, "Here are the terms on which you would have a long-term strategic partnership with the European Union and the West more broadly. Those terms include independence for Ukraine, a free trade agreement and a strong strategic partnership with Russia." Then stick to that position and give Russia the time that it will need to respond to it.
At the moment the incentives are simply not there for Putin to stop playing his games.
QUESTION: Howard Lentner. Would you comment on the relationship between the possible admission of Turkey to the European Union and the solution of the problem with integrating Muslims within the countries of the European Union? That is to say, if the European Union were to turn down Turkey's application, would that make it impossible or difficult to solve the integration problem within the remaining Europe, or is there no relationship between these things?
TIMOTHY GARTON ASH: There most certainly is. It's a crucial challenge for the European Union.
The message we would send to the Islamic world is, after more than 40 years of saying to Turkey, "If you do the right thing, you can become a member of what is now the European Union."—if you go back to the original agreement with Turkey in the early 1960s, that promise was made by Walter Hallstein. You can find it on the Web.
If after 40 years of repeating and reinforcing this message and encouraging them down that path, we now renege on it, that would send a disastrous message to the whole Muslim world. In particular, since a lot of Muslims, particularly in Germany, are from Turkey, it would also exacerbate the domestic problems as well. It is something we absolutely have to do.
It is still going to take some time. Turkey has a lot of work to do. There is a lot of stuff going on in Turkey which is actually going in the wrong direction. That is partly because they no longer believe the European promise of integration. We have to make that promise credible.
QUESTION: Could you indicate which European leaders you think are playing the best possible role in promoting Muslim integration? Specifically with regard to President Sarkozy and your remark a moment ago praising him on the one hand, he is of course opposed to Turkish admission to the European Union because it's not a Christian country. He said something like that publicly.
Also, his treatment of the Roma, which has of course raised a great deal of hue and cry in the European Union. I wonder if you could comment, not only on him, but on other European leaders and whether you see some that are really taking the lead in what you would like to see happen in terms of integration and which ones you think are very regressive or not doing what you want. Thank you.
TIMOTHY GARTON ASH: It's very funny, because I've obviously been talking about Europe on various platforms for a very long time. The question about leaders almost invariably comes up—pick the good leaders. It's often quite difficult to answer.
Sarkozy made, in my view, a very good start in this respect. What he said was: If you play by the rules, if you observe the laws and norms of the French Republic, you too could be president. That's exactly the right message. He had several Arab/Muslim members of his first cabinet.
Unfortunately, he hasn't stuck to that. What is happening now is his popularity ratings are down. The hostility towards Muslims is quite strong and he is tacking to the right. That's obvious. It's absolutely clear. His support on the ban on the burka is evidence of that. The ban outside certain specific contexts, like the classroom, where I think it's justified, is totally ridiculous. He started well but hasn't done so well of late.
If I had to name one leader, I do think that the British Conservative-Liberal coalition government is pretty good on this issue actually. I would suggest that you might like to look at what they have been saying on it. They have several Muslims, including Muslim women, in leading positions who are very eloquent spokesmen for integration.
What's interesting in this respect is that very often minorities historically have started on the Left and then moved Right. Because of the social conservatism of the Islamic communities, a lot of British Muslims are actually feeling more comfortable in the Conservative Party, with their social conservative message.
This is a very positive development in terms of integration. You have more liberal Muslims in Labour and more conservative Muslims with the Conservatives. That's an encouraging sign.
But then you know, it's a very undemanding thing to be British. You just have to be able to talk at great length about the weather or cricket, or now football, and that's about it. [Laughter]
QUESTION: Richard Valcourt, International Journal of Intelligence. Before 1989, most of Eastern Europe, then under the Soviet bloc, resisted for various reasons the immigration of Muslims. Since then, they have still pretty much kept up the barricades. For various reasons, as they look at what has happened in Western Europe, they are still saying, "We really don't want them here. We've got enough problems."
Can you see over a period of time, as Western Europe becomes more Muslimized, you might say, or Islamicized, that these countries will move a little bit back toward the Soviet Union, feeling that for self-protection the Russians have created themselves an image of being tough against the Chechyans. Then would you say, for demographic and perhaps even economic purposes, since Russia is becoming quite aggressive in that area, that we'll see a kind of re-creation of the division between West and East in Europe?
TIMOTHY GARTON ASH: I can answer that question quite shortly: No, I don't—with the exception of the Balkans, which we talked about. If you are talking about East Central Europe, of course their record on tolerance of minorities is not impeccable, both historically and in recent times. If you look at the way the Roma have been treated in many of these countries, that's a very good example of that.
They don't have this problem in the same degree because right next door, in the former Soviet Union, they have a vast reservoir of young, eager, relatively well-educated potential immigrants whose skin color is not dissimilar to theirs and who are mainly Christian. Germans have Polish nannies and Poles have Ukrainian nannies. It's just factually a very different position.
What they will be pressing for will not be reintegration of Russia; it will be the precise opposite, it will be the integration of Ukraine and Belarus into the larger European Union. In that respect they are relatively well off.
QUESTION: Ernest Rubinstein. As the Soviet Union was dissolving, President George H.W. Bush and his secretary of state gave explicit promises to Gorbachev that NATO would not be extended into Eastern Europe. In 1996, facing a possibly difficult reelection campaign, President Clinton violated that promise which was never documented; it was never reflected in a treaty, and it led the admission of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic into NATO.
To what extent do you think that broken promise is behind the rather uncooperative policy of Russia today toward U.S. interests?
TIMOTHY GARTON ASH: With respect, I question your premise. Whole libraries now exist on the question of whether a promise was made and by whom. The closest we seem to have come to it is probably Jim Baker, with a somewhat elusive lawyer's formulation, which the Russians certainly believed to have been a promise for no NATO enlargement, but a good lawyer might have interpreted otherwise.
Enlarging NATO was the right thing to do. The curse of modern European history has been that in the West you've had strong alliances and in the East you've had weak alliances and wars. To put everyone together in a strong alliance was the right thing to do.
I do not think that if we had not enlarged NATO, Russia today would be sweetness and light. Getting over the trauma of the loss of empire would have been difficult for Russia anyway. They would have wanted to claw back.
The other part of the promise we made at that time, which genuinely was made by Helmut Kohl, was the promise of far-reaching economic integration, economic cooperation, with then the Soviet Union, now Russia. Interestingly enough, Germany has to a significant extent delivered on that promise. There is now an economic special relationship between Germany and Russia, which is one of our problems in the European Union. But we did deliver on that one.
May I say in closing that it has been a great pleasure to be with you this morning. I don't think Russia is, in the larger picture, one of our bigger problems. It's a regional problem, not a global problem. The global problems have to do with the Islamic world and the emerging powers like China. In the longer term I'm quite optimistic about Russia, which is perhaps an unusual note to end on.
JOANNE MYERS: Thank you very much.