Bruce P. Jackson: "The positions which Germany has chosen are quite controversial"
- Exclusive WSN Interview with Bruce P. Jackson, founder and president of the Project on Transitional Democracies, conducted by Nathalie Vogel, WSN Editor Eastern Europe -
Bruce P. Jackson: The Nightmare OF Every Dictator
If you are a dictator, you know that the end of your ruling is near the moment you hear that a man named Bruce Pitcairn Jackson is taking a closer look at your case. If you are smart, you are well advised to quickly pack your luggage, and make sure to catch the next plane out to any country granting you asylum. And even there, you are not sure that Bruce Jackson will not have arranged a special kind of reception committee, just for you.
Bruce Jackson has been to Central and Eastern European countries what Charlie Wilson was in the past to Afghanistan. Except that, unlike Charlie Wilson, he made sure that the work was completed properly by supporting and escorting the newborn democracies in Central and Eastern Europe into NATO and EU integration. A former military intelligence officer and a true Atlanticist, he always viewed NATO as “the” answer to avoiding wars and the emergence of failed states. Much of his work was about convincing the elites in Washington that the integration of these states into NATO was the best tool to stabilizing Europe, and that this also was in the best interest of the United States. Given the number of US lives sacrificed to keep Europe free of totalitarian dictatorships and wars in the last century, one could even agree that his convictions are correct. Yet, they were not always as clear to others as they were to him. Balancing between the isolationist-conservatives who could not tell the difference between Slovakia and Slovenia, and the interventionist idealists who were always ready to put all US resources at the service of world peace and stability, has always been the exercise in which this “transition facilitator” excelled. But in recent years, he perhaps fought his hardest battle against two fronts simultaneously; the US “where is Belarus located exactly?” and the European “who cares about Belarus, anyway?” attitude. Well, he cared, and he made sure that the right people in Washington DC and Brussels knew exactly where Belarus was and what was going on there.
One won friend equals one less enemy
Sometimes, the “Jacksonian” narratives are surprisingly pro-European. He regularly makes wake-up calls, and shakes up the debate on defense integration. In the past ten years, Bruce Jackson has been the best advocate of European identity in Washington. You will encounter him speaking of consolidating, defending Europe’s political integrity and making sure Europe’s voice is always heard. And by Europe, he means all of Europe. This is very far away from Chirac’s theory that there are Europeans who are entitled to speak up while others should remain silent.
His crusade is also about defending human rights, spreading freedom, establishing the rule of law and guaranteeing a future of prosperity for the allies of the United States. He will not quit until this job is done, no matter how long the monitoring will take or how many miles he will have to fly to convince decision makers around the globe.
As one who is not afraid of frontal clashes with the Bush administration when he feels that they are dangerously reprioritizing their foreign policy agenda, he serves as an early warning system to many foreign policy and defense analysts. The following was Bruce Jackson’s comment on the 2005 visit of G. W. Bush to Moscow: "President Bush promised to put democracy at the center of the agenda with Russia. It's on the agenda, but it's still on the periphery." In 2006, as he felt that the Russian policy of the US administration was divorcing from reality, he raised his voice again. In a piece called “Russia and the West square off,” he warned: "Despite statements at the time by President Putin and Minister of Defense Sergei Ivanov that the government intended to recover the great power status of which Russia had been unfairly deprived by the regrettable collapse of the Soviet Union, both Washington and European capitals refused to see any geopolitical calculation in the methodical suppression of political and press freedoms and the takeover of the economy by FSB officers and Kremlin cronies"
Bruce Jackson is the man behind much work on matters of NATO enlargement in various capitals of Central and Eastern Europe, even at times when Western Europeans themselves were reluctant to take a firm stand in favor of these emerging nations. He worked tirelessly to prepare the new candidates to meet the challenges by advising them in various reforms. At the same time, he lobbied in Washington to raise the profiles of countries many would not have been able to find on the map ten years ago. Nowadays, he wants all allies to aknowledge that this was and still is the right thing to do—after all, he angrily noted at a conference of the German Marshall Fund prior to the NATO Summit in Bucharest that “have we ever regretted to have included these new members? We have to admit that the enlargement is a success story!” Thus, he has little understanding for those senior NATO members that are less inclined to welcome new members: “Germany, for instance, has been the first beneficiary of a policy of generosity, if there had not been such a policy, Mrs. Merkel would not be Chancellor today, why deny to others what you have been generously granted yourself?”
Bruce Jackson’s critics often underline that, despite his impressive record of achievements in Eastern Europe, one can easily be confused as to where the ‘Jackson-the political activist’ ends and where the ‘Jackson-the businessman’ begins. In this respect, his close ties to the US defense industry made him one of the most exposed targets of criticism during the Bush administration. The other point of criticism is related to Mr. Jackson’s involvement as Chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (2002-2003). As early as 2002, many analysts wondered why someone who dedicated his life to democratization in Eastern Europe would suddenly focus on Iraq. The same analysts also insinuate nowadays that the answer came no later than in 2003, when the United States invaded Iraq.
In 2008, Bruce Jackson is more than ever on board of John McCain’s campaign where he serves as a foreign policy advisor. As such, he defends his candidate’s agenda with overwhelming enthusiasm and energy. At the same time, he still remains one of the few people in Washington practicing the open door policy for political groups in search of an advocate for the cause of freedom.
So, if you are an oppositional activist living under a dictatorship in the most remote corner of this planet, you know that the beginning of your liberation might be near the day you hear that a man whose job it is essentially to be Bruce Jackson is taking a closer look at your case.
WSN: You have found clear words to qualify the attitude of the current German government towards the MAP aspirations of both Ukraine and Georgia. In your opinion, what is the motivation behind such refusal to support them?
Bruce Jackson: The German Government seems most concerned about the timing of things and this was the argument they deployed against Ukraine and Georgia during the Bucharest Summit. Most other countries had difficulty understanding why delaying a decision which we know needs to be made will end up making the decision itself easier for Germany. Nevertheless, the Germans preferred to agree that Georgia and Ukraine would be full members of NATO in return for delaying the MAP until at least December and possibly longer. So both countries received a European perspective for the first time but not the roadmap to Europe. It doesn’t make much sense.
WSN: It seems that for the US administration, even the French are better Atlanticists than the Germans nowadays, why is it so?
Bruce Jackson: President Sarkozy is immensely popular in Washington and seems to us to say all the right things. I suspect that the perceived difference in French and German foreign policies lies in what they have chosen as priorities. Sarkozy emphasizes his commitment to make the EU more efficient by implementing the Lisbon Treaty, making Europe stronger by building up ESDP, and by reaching out to North Africa in a Mediterranean Union. These initiatives are non-controversial and modestly popular here. Conversely, Berlin sees itself as the business partner of Moscow and the explainer of Kremlin anxieties to the West. And, on occasion, Chancellor Merkel sees herself as the “schoolmarm” of Europe who restrains the excessive enthusiasm of the new democracies in Europe’s East by saying “Not so fast, boys.” The positions which Germany has chosen for itself are quite controversial and have encountered significant criticism.
WSN: You have been very involved in supporting the activities of the opposition to A. Lukashenko in Belarus, yet, we do not see any concrete results, what is this opposition doing wrong?
Bruce Jackson: The authoritarian trends in Russia have encouraged Lukashenko to strengthen the hold of his dictatorship on Belarus society. During the demonstration in Minsk on March 25th more the 100 people were arrested and many were severely beaten. I think that Belarus is entering a period of nearly complete isolation wherein the primary agent for change will be the economic sanctions imposed by the US and Europe in response to serial human rights violations.
WSN: You are a foreign policy advisor to J. McCain, is his foreign policy agenda very different from the one of the Bush administration? Should we expect big changes? and if so, where?
Bruce Jackson: I cannot speak for the McCain campaign, but throughout Senator McCain’s career in the US Senate, there have been a number of significant differences with the Bush Administration. Senator McCain has different views on climate change, immigration, campaign finance reform, the use of torture, and the treatment of prisoners to name but a few. I think the most immediate policy impact of a McCain Presidency would be felt in the relationship between the United States and Europe. Senator McCain is a lifelong Europeanist and a serious student of European politics and history. He travels every February to the Munich Conference and has met with countless European leaders and human rights activists over the years. He takes the views of his European friends and our allies seriously and it would be hard to imagine a President McCain making a major decision without ensuring that the views of Europe were considered and reflected in that decision.
WSN: Looking back at your involvement as "transition facilitator" in Central and Eastern Europe, what would you do differently?
Bruce Jackson: I think there are three areas where we all made mistakes. First, we have a tendency to slow down when we should be accelerating. Bucharest confirmed that slowing the pace of integration is both a moral and strategic mistake. Second, I should have come out earlier against the prolonged isolation of the Slavic states running from Skopje and Belgrade up to Minsk and Kyiv after the Revolution of1989. We really did not get around to engaging with them until 2003 and 2004 and are still not really engaged with Serbia today. And, third, we simply have to do a better job of reading the history and literature of an aspirant country before we try to help. For almost ten years, we assumed that Ukraine was pretty much an Eastern version of Poland with a slight political learning disability. This hardly reflected an understanding of Ukrainian history. It seems that our mistakes can be explained by senseless delay, the isolation of peoples we don’t understand, and a certain intellectual laziness.
WSN: Where do you see yourself after the election of the new President of the US?
Bruce Jackson: We are so far behind in our work in any number of countries that I expect to spend the next Administration stuck at the desk of the Project on Transitional Democracies trying to reverse many of the decisions made at the Bucharest Summit, beginning with the truly appalling veto of the Republic of Macedonia by Greece.
Bruce P. Jackson is the founder and president of the Project on Transitional Democracies, an endeavor aimed at accelerating reform in democracies that have emerged since 1989 and promoting the integration of those states into European and transatlantic institutions. In 2004, Mr. Jackson became a member of the International Commission on the Balkans. From 1995 until 2003, he was the president of the U.S. Committee on NATO, a nonprofit corporation formed to promote NATO expansion and stronger ties between the United States and Europe. From 1993 to 2002, Mr. Jackson was vice president for strategy and planning at Lockheed Martin Corporation. Before that, Mr. Jackson was a strategist in the proprietary trading operations of Lehman Brothers. From 1986 to 1990, he worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in a variety of policy positions related to nuclear forces and arms control. From 1979 to 1990, Mr. Jackson served in the U.S. Army as a military intelligence officer.