Many Europeans are waiting to see whether the second administration of George W. Bush will change its tune toward Europe - be it "old" or "new" - and toward Russia, which, after the recent events in Ukraine, has been much criticized in the West. A. Elizabeth Jones, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs and one of the State Department's leading experts on the Baltics, was in Tallinn last month, where she shared some of her thoughts on these issues. The following are excerpts from her roundtable discussion with Estonian journalists on Nov. 9.
The Estonian units in Iraq currently have a mandate until July 2005. Will you request an extension of this mandate?
In terms of the coalition itself, a lot of that depends on our bilateral discussions - how is it that we are going to address the particular situation. Of course, we are extremely grateful for Estonia's participation in the coalition. Now it is very important that Estonia participates through the entire period of the run-up to the Iraqi elections and then into the elections itself and then into the period right after that. Depending on the situation, I am sure we will have very detailed discussions between the United States and Estonia on the military level about what capabilities might be the most required in Iraq.
Do you expect a change in U.S. policy toward Russia in George Bush's second term?
No, I don't think policy will change. We have for quite some time been working very hard with our Russian counterparts to impress upon them the importance we attach to constructive engagement - to working on, in a constructive way, all of the issues that are of importance to all of us. For instance, it is very important to us that we engage constructively on counter-terrorism - particularly in the post-Beslan period for Russia.
It is very important that we work on the broad range of issues on the frozen conflicts; very important for Russia to engage constructively to resolve the issues involving South Ossetia and Abkhazia; very important for Russia to engage in the OSCE or whatever format - the most appropriate format - is to resolve the issues involving Transniestra and Moldova. It is very important for Russia to engage in the issues of Nagorno-Karabakh. There are a whole set of issues involved in Chechnya, involving free media, involving rule of law, involving democracy. All of these issues have to be part of the discussion that all of us, not just the United States, have with Russia.
How do you feel about the conflict in Chechnya, and do you feel that it can be resolved through military means?
We maintain very strongly, especially with Russia, that it cannot be solved by military means. The only way to resolve the issue in Chechnya is to address the political, economic, social issues that underlie the conflict.
What do you plan to discuss with Population Minister [Paul-Eerik] Rummo?
Well, I want to get his sense of what he sees as the situation here with the Russian minority-that is, are the programs working? One of the things that we are proud of, as members of NATO, is all of the work that was done in order to assure that these minority issues were addressed in the run-up to being invited to join NATO. It was one of the requirements on the table, actually, in terms of membership, to address minority issues in an appropriate way. I am interested in checking with him to see how that issue has progressed.
Is there a problem with the Russian-speaking national minority?
Our sense is that the issue is being addressed very well here, actually.
Do you foresee an improvement in the U.S.A.'s relations with Europe, especially with France, over the next four years?
One of the things that is very interesting to focus on is the extremely good work and good cooperation that have been underway between the EU institutions and the U.S. on counter-terrorism. This has particularly been the case since 9/11, obviously. The kinds of arrangements and agreements and exchanges that have been agreed between the home and justice affairs ministers of the European Union and the United States are really terrific. Intelligence exchange, law enforcement cooperation - all those things work extremely well.
We are in constant conversation with the European Union on issues involving border controls, issues involving Central Asia, the Caucasus and particularly on issues involving Ukraine and Belarus. We, the United States, find, that when we collaborate and cooperate with the European Union to work on free and fair elections in Ukraine, or to work on changing the situation in Belarus, or to work on best ways to assure stability and prosperity in Georgia, we do a much better job when we can do it together.
We find that our representations in Ukraine or in Uzbekistan or in Azerbaijan - or, wherever it is - work better when the United States and the European Union work together. It is received better when the message is the same. We have huge collaboration, and it is not hard to get to the point of what to do next in each of these countries in our conversations with the European Union.
The biggest issue that divided us was Iraq. We still have a disagreement with several European countries-certainly not all of them-about whether we should have gone to war in Iraq. Now, that question is over. We find that every single one of our European friends and allies, including France and Germany, say that we disagreed then, but it is now behind us. Now we must find a way to address all of the issues that remain.
While the human rights situation in Russia has been deteriorating, the U.S. has avoided criticizing Russia. Is there a reason for this?
Well, you are not reading or listening to many of the things that we have been saying. Let me just lay out for you a few of the things that underpin the public statements that we make. First, I would point you to the op-ed piece that Secretary [Colin] Powell put in [the Russian newspaper] Izvestia at the end of January. That was a very, very clear and very detailed statement about the importance to us of all of the issues on the agenda - along the lines I outlined at the beginning of our conversation this morning. We use those themes in a variety of ways.
That said, our goal is to get the kind of improvements that the international community seeks in Russia. The question then is how best to get those improvements. Is it better to have quiet conversations, or is it better to say things publicly? We try to find the balance with that so that in public we say some things and we have a much more extensive conversation in private in order to accomplish our goals. That's always the key. Are we trying to make statements or are we trying to get things done?