09 May 1991 - 11 May 1991

A Re-Definition of American Foreign Policy Priorities, with Special Reference to Europe

Chair: Mr Cyrus F Freidheim Jr

A joint conference with the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations at Wingspread, Racine, Wisconsin

For this conference the Ditchley party was the guest of the Johnson Foundation, at Wingspread, and of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. The Ditchley pattern was followed but the meeting was compressed into one-and-a- half days, so that there were only two sessions in the working groups; and the rapporteurs’ reports were made orally. Nonetheless the conference covered the ground. In an often-lively debate of high quality some strongly-held, and strongly-contested, views were expressed. It was necessary from time to time to be reminded that we were attempting to re-define American foreign policy priorities and not discussing the problems of the world in general.

For convenience the area covered in the discussions may be divided into political and security issues, and economic and trade issues.

Political and security issues

It was common ground that the end of the cold war - the end of the ideological conflict between the communist economic and social system and the liberal, free market systems of the West - had destroyed the premises on which US foreign policy had been based since the war, and that all governments, including the US, were having difficulty in adjusting to the new risks and opportunities that presented themselves. One strongly argued view was that we would regret the passing of these accustomed certainties and that Europe in particular would revert to type and dissolve into catastrophic internecine strife from which the US would be well advised to hold aloof. This, however, found little support, the general consensus being that the new situation must be welcomed, that Europe had learnt its lesson, and, in particular, that Germany so far from being a threat to stability was the driving force behind European integration, an example of a successful social system and the linchpin of a security system which in one way or another must embrace the states of Central Europe. All agreed that these states were candidates for association with, and ultimately integration into, the European Community, or in a looser structure, but differing views were expressed about modalities. Indeed, the definition of Europe itself was raised and the nature of the European Community with which the US and the rest of the world would have to deal in the next decade. As for the latter, the consensus seemed to be that the Community would achieve the progress planned for 1992, including the single market and free movement of goods and people, but that monetary union and political union would come more slowly and with a considerable degree of “variable geometry’ ’ - feeding à la carte -, not all members opting to engage in all areas. Such a Community could cope with a widening membership, including the countries of Central Europe at such time as they were ready to accept the obligations. The antithesis between deepening and widening in the Community arose in this context, the Americans perhaps under-rating the difficulties with which the Community is already grappling in its attempt to advance integration. Moreover, the American argument that a widened Community should ultimately embrace also the Soviet Union “as far as the Urals and beyond”, found little support among the Europeans, on grounds among others of practical politics, but also, I suspect, because Western Europeans do not see Russian accession as natural but rather as de-stabilising. Nevertheless, the Europeans readily agreed that the Soviet Union, or Russia as it might become, would be a continuing geo-political force possessed of great military capability and 15,000 nuclear war-heads, and must be brought into the world community in some way, e.g. via a developed CSCE, so as to reduce tensions and remove any risk of war. There, and in Central Europe, the success of the free market must be assured and great efforts, not excluding money, must be devoted to that end.

European security remained crucial to the US and NATO, it was generally felt, should survive more or less in its present form, as a forum for consultation between the West Europeans and the North Americans, but without the accession of the Central Europeans which could be seen as provocative. Generally, it was agreed that there would be a continuing need for an American military presence in Europe, as insurance against any revived Russian threat and as useful forward bases for American deployments elsewhere, though the level and nature was debatable - bases for rapid reinforcement might suffice. This was seen by most as serving American as well as European interests, and though there would be domestic and financial pressures to reduce or remove such forces, it seemed to be accepted that these could and should be resisted.

This led into a discussion of burden-sharing, though some felt that with a reduction in the burden, there might be less pressure on this front. The Europeans pressed, and the Americans seemed to accept, that burden-sharing involved also decision-sharing.

In general, there were strong arguments for putting more effort into regional security in areas outside Europe, including confidence-building measures of the kind which had proved so successful in Europe, for attempting to bring about a self-denying ordinance among arms suppliers; and for a more active and professional diplomacy to identify and de-fuse tensions before they erupted. Strong US support was indicated for international institutions which could help in these areas, e.g. the United Nations, especially in its peace-keeping role. While there was a strong case for giving permanent Security Council seats to some deserving states, e.g. Germany and Japan, the practical difficulty of revising the UN Charter was noted; and some questioned whether the US would welcome a more powerful, independently-minded UN or Secretary-General, preferring to see the UN as an instrument and cover for US-inspired action.

Economic and trade issues

In these areas the US, it was noted, while not the dominant power that it had been, was still the major force, and while more reluctant to exercise leadership, must accept that role in the absence of any alternative. This was especially important in the endeavour to bring the former communist economies into the world financial and trading system, and in tackling the poverty of the developing world which would otherwise lead to tension, mass migration and conflict It would be necessary to re-think aid policies to ensure that it was not wasted through mal-administration and corruption; and in trade policies, there would be a need to allow the developing countries derogations from the “level playing field” which the developed were trying to establish among themselves (including, some urged, micro-economic convergence in areas extending into social policies): the grant of credit to developing countries without access for their produce was hypocritical. Birth control as part of development aid policy and the environment were mentioned as areas for US attention.

The world economy needed a strong and sound US, and a sound dollar. The internal health of the American economy and American society were vital and could only be addressed by Americans themselves. As for international institutions, the GATT was generally seen as having the right terms of reference but needing strengthening to make it more effective, and the G7, which some, with others doubting, thought might be institutionalised, needed an expanded remit so as to become capable of exercising clear and effective leadership, not only in the narrow field of exchange rates and fiscal policy, but, for example, in calling for a real effort to conclude successfully the Uruguay Round.

This Note reflects the Director's personal impressions of the conference. No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.

Chairman: Mr Cyrus F Freidheim Jr
Vice Chairman, Booz, Allen & Hamilton, Inc


Dr Christopher Coker
Lecturer in International Relations, London School of Economics; Editor, European Security Analyst; Member, Defence Panel, Centre for Policy Studies

Mr Nicholas Colchester
Deputy Editor, The Economist, London

Professor Stephen Gill
Associate Professor of Political Science, York University, Toronto

Sir John Graham Bt GCMG
Director, The Ditchley Foundation

Professor Sir Michael Howard CBE MC
Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History, Yale University; President and Co-Founder, International Institute for Strategic Studies

Mr Bryan Magee
Writer and Radio and TV Broadcaster; Hon. Senior Research Fellow in the History of Ideas, King’s College, London

Mr Jurek Martin
Foreign Editor, Financial Times

Mr Ray Mingay
Mr George Robertson MP
Member of Parliament (Labour), for Hamilton; Opposition Spokesman on Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Deputy Spokesman and principal Spokesman on Europe; Vice-Chairman of the Board, British Council; Member of Council, Royal Institute of International Affairs; member, Advisory Board of the Know-How Funds for Eastern Europe
Dr William Wallace
Hallstein Fellow, St Antony’s College, Oxford

Mrs Heather Weeks
Deputy Director, The Ditchley Foundation

Mr Michael Kergin
Minister (Political Division), Canadian Embassy, Washington DC

M Eric Lebédel
Counsellor (East-West relations, Europe and CSCE), French Embassy, Washington DC

Herr Gebhardt von Moltke
Head, US Section, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bonn

Dr Kennette Benedict
Deputy Director, Program on Peace and International Cooperation, John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation

Dr Michael Brown
Research Fellow in US Security Policy, International Institute for Strategic Studies, London

Mr John Callaway
Senior Correspondent and Host, “Chicago Tonight With John Callaway,” WTTW/TV Channel 11 (Public Broadcasting System)

General Neal Creighton
President and Chief Executive Officer, Robert R McCormick Trusts and Foundations

Mr Arthur Cyr
Vice President and Program Director, the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations

Mr Steve Del Rosso
Program Officer, the Pew Trusts

Mr David Hale           
Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, the Kemper Financial Companies

Dean Mike Janeway
Dean and Professor, Medill School of Journalism, North western University

Professor Edward Kolodziej
Research Professor of Political Science, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Director, Project on European Arms Control and Security

Mr Frank Kruesi
Chief Policy Officer, Office of the Mayor, City of Chicago

Mr William McCarter
President and General Manager, WTTW/Chicago

Professor John Mearsheimer
Professor, Chairman, Department of Political Science, University of Chicago

Mr Mark J Miller
Editor, Crain's Chicago Business

Mr John E Rielly
President, the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations

Mr David Rosso
Partner, Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue