GMF Founder Reflects on the Marshall Plan 70 Years Later
Three Questions with Guido Goldman
Dr. Guido Goldman is founder and chairman emeritus of The German Marshall Fund of the United States. We asked him three questions following an event to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Marshall Plan in Berlin on June 21, 2017.
Q: Yesterday we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan with Chancellor Merkel and Henry Kissinger. This is also the anniversary of GMF, which you helped found 45 years ago, to carry on the spirit of the Marshall Plan. How do you feel GMF is carrying on the Marshall Plan's legacy?
Guido Goldman: I think it is making a real difference in transatlantic relations, bearing in mind how they themselves have changed. The fact that the Marshall Plan was an assistance program for Europe, representing 12 percent of GDP of the United States in 1948, and which led to the OECD, gives us a challenge to stay relevant and operate over a fairly broad spectrum. We have to be very selective in what we can afford to do.
In the very beginning we were a grantmaker, as well as a small operating foundation. Grantmaking was, in part, motivated by the fact that we were a gift to the German people to say thank you for Germany's inclusion in the Marshall Plan, which was really quite extraordinary given the fact that it was only two years after the end of the war and all the horrors were revealed. This gift was limited only by staying within a broad framework of promoting transatlantic relations and addressing issues that were common to industrial society.
That definition was particularly relevant in the period of the 1970s when we were a very small, young organization. We tried to stay away from controversial bilateral questions, many of them in the security area, and to make absolutely sure that no one thought we were somehow articulating positions on behalf of the German government. We never did that and we were never asked to do that. This was truly a gift. The second part of creating a grantmaking foundation was to give access to our limited resources to a much broader array of people, organizations, and topics. We did not have a narrow definition to say, "Sorry, we do not do what you are asking about."
Q: What are some of the ways you feel GMF has had the most impact?
Guido Goldman: Over time, as Eastern Europe became more accessible, we started to use our resources to be active in these countries to try to build civil society and to try to hire the best people to guide us in how we should spend our limited resources. GMF has offices in several countries and I know that the few others who have ever done this — especially a man who made such a big impact, George Soros — welcomed what we were doing and commended us.
Now we are not just a grantmaking entity. I think we have good programs and do a lot of good convening. Although one should not grade oneself, I would give GMF pretty good marks for having created something that was challenging and worthwhile. In the ceremony last week with Chancellor Merkel and Henry Kissinger I had a feeling that they really appreciated what we had done with the gift.
Q: You have given us a wonderful overview of the history of GMF. What are your hopes for the future? If you could speculate about the next 45 years for the organization, what would you like to see?
Guido Goldman: My view is that the world is getting more complicated, not less. That puzzles me, but unfortunately I think it is the correct observation. I think that there is more potential for misunderstanding and conflict in many corners of the world. If we do not manage the relationship with Europe well, we will not be able to get the full benefit of cooperation and partnership. I think it is greatly in the American interest, and I think in the European interest, to have that partnership and cooperation. Therefore, I know this maybe sounds a little banal, but I would hope that if the programs we have supported or created over 45 years are received well and perceived as making a difference, that we will be able to obtain additional resources so we can expand on them.
In terms of topics and themes, because our mandate is so broad, I do not really think I would be the best person approaching 80 years of age to say, "This is where we should go over the next 45 years." I would be 125 at that point. I think what we do want is to continue to re-examine what we are doing to be able to be creative, modern, and future-orientated.
On the other hand, I believe the structure we have is very conducive to innovation because of the interaction among our local offices — these are not offices where we send out Americans to plant the flag in one or another country. We try work with outstanding local figures who guide us to where we can make a difference.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.