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Diplomacy in Action

The Obama Administration's European Agenda


Remarks
Philip H. Gordon
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Remarks at the Atlantic Council
Washington, DC
November 17, 2010

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Date: 11/17/2010 Description: Assistant Secretary Gordon delivers remarks at the Atlantic Council. © Atlantic Council Image

Thank you Fred, I am delighted to be here at the Atlantic Council today, as part of your broader program of events this afternoon. Through activities like these, the council has been one of the leading forums for ensuring the continued vitality of the transatlantic relationship, and I am especially pleased to be speaking to you just before the President travels to Lisbon for an important series of European summits.

In Lisbon, the President will meet with heads of state and government from all 28 NATO member nations; he will convene a summit of the 49 nations contributing troops to Afghanistan through ISAF as well as major economic assistance donors; he will join with his Allied counterparts and the President of Russia for a NATO-Russia Council Summit; and finally he will join the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council at the U.S.-EU Summit. This will be followed up with a trip by the Secretary of State to attend the OSCE Summit in Astana, Kazakhstan. This is, by any standard, an intense schedule of diplomatic engagement. And the intensity of our upcoming interaction with Europe reveals how central the U.S.-European partnership is to addressing global challenges.

When the Obama administration came into office, we made re-engaging with our European allies one of our top priorities. President Obama did so because he recognized that there is no better partner for the United States than Europe, where we work with democratic, prosperous, militarily-capable allies who share our values and share our interests. We face a daunting international agenda that cannot be handled by any one nation alone, and that is why we so often turn to Europe as our partner of first and best resort.

So, as we approach the two-year mark of this administration, it is useful and important to take a step back and take a look at where we stand. To that end, I’d like to do three things today. First, I’ll describe the strategic objectives which drive our approach toward Europe. Then, I’d like to offer you an assessment of our record over the past two years on these objectives. Finally, I’ll outline what we see to be the next steps to be in our engagement with Europe, with a particular emphasis on the four major summits the United States will participate in starting this week.

When I think about this administration’s priorities in Europe, there are three basic objectives that stand out in our engagement with the continent:

1) First, we work with Europe as a partner in meeting global challenges. On every issue of global importance, Europe’s contributions are crucial to solving major international challenges. No matter what the issue is – from the war in Afghanistan, to the Iranian nuclear challenge, to the ongoing global economic troubles – Europe is indispensable. We are vastly stronger – in terms of legitimacy, resources, and ideas – when we join forces with Europe on the global agenda.

2) Second, we are still working with Europe on Europe, that is to say working to complete the historic project of helping to extend stability, security, prosperity and democracy to the entire continent. The extraordinary success that the United States and Europe have had together in promoting European integration, in consolidating and supporting the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe and integrating them into Euro-Atlantic institutions demonstrates the promise of this enterprise. But our work is not done. And so the effort continues in the Balkans and further to Europe’s east and in the Caucasus.

3) Finally, we have sought to set relations with Russia on a more constructive course. President Obama recognized that he had inherited a relationship that was in a difficult place and that this situation did not serve the interests of the United States or its allies. Therefore, our goal has been to cooperate with Russia where we have common interests but not at the expense of our principles or our friends.

Looking back on the past two years of the Obama administration, we have significant progress we can point to in each area:

First, on working with Europe on global challenges, we have worked together as never before with our European partners on the major security challenges we face in the world today. Specifically:

  • In Afghanistan, in the wake of the President’s speech in November 2009, Europe contributed about 7000 additional troops, over 100 training teams for the Afghan army and police, and nearly $300 million for the Afghan National Army trust fund. European nations now have almost 40,000 troops in Afghanistan and the total European contribution to Afghanistan since 2001 comes to $14 billion.

  • On Iran, we maintained unity in our efforts to engage and have at the same time seen the strongest-ever set of sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council and even more robust set of follow-on sanctions adopted by the European Union. These additional measures taken by the EU cover a variety of areas critical to the regime including trade, finance, banking and insurance, transport, and the gas and oil sectors, in addition to new visa bans and asset freezes. These steps have raised the price of Iran’s failure to meet its obligations and we hope will serve to bring them back to the negotiating table.

  • On missile defense, we gained broad support for our Phased Adaptive Approach which seeks to counter the real and current missile threats Europe faces and we are moving forward with plans to identify various basing locations. We expect, at the NATO Summit in Lisbon, that NATO leaders will adopt missile defense as a NATO capability.

In the second area, extending the European zone of peace, prosperity, and democracy we have also had some important successes but equally important challenges remain. As I said at the outset, the work of “completing” Europe is not finished. What I think is most notable about efforts now under the Obama Administration is how closely – as part of a deliberate strategy – we are working together with Europe to achieve this goal.

  • Take, for instance, the countries of the EU’S Eastern Partnership: Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. The United States strongly supports and works with this EU initiative to extend democracy, stability, and security to this part of the world. We share the same strategy because we share the same goals.

  • The same can be said of the Balkans: the U.S. and European view is that Europe will not be complete until all of the countries of the Western Balkans are full EU members. I was with Secretary Clinton last month on her trip to the Balkans and I can tell you that our policy toward the region is very closely coordinated with the European Union. On the dialog between Serbia and Kosovo, on the future of Bosnia, on Croatia’s path to the EU, we have consulted closely with Europe. We also welcomed Albania and Croatia into NATO, extended Membership Action Plans to Bosnia and Montenegro, and Macedonia will join once the dispute over its name is resolved. The intensive joint diplomacy of recent months has shown how closely our visions are aligned, something which is essential for progress in the region.

Finally, what has arguably been the most controversial part of our European agenda – our reset with Russia – has started to pay significant dividends. We have made enormous progress in setting our bilateral relationship on a path of pragmatic cooperation. We can now say that effective diplomacy with Russia can help with U.S. global priorities. This diplomacy has already had some tangible benefits:

  • First, we have concluded a New START Treaty. The agreement is the most comprehensive arms control agreement in nearly two decades and significantly reduces the number of nuclear weapons and launchers deployed by the United States and Russia while also putting in place a strong verification regime.

  • We have concluded a lethal transit agreement for ferrying supplies to Afghanistan across Russia that is now an important logistics route for our efforts in Afghanistan and has completed more than 500 flights.

  • We have secured cooperation with Russia on Iran, both in terms of a strong UN Security Council resolution and additional steps by Russia to ban the sale of S-300 missiles to Iran.

  • We have done all of this without compromising our principles – in particular our steadfast commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all of the nations of Europe and our commitment to human rights in Russia.

As you can see, it’s been a full two years. But we have more to do. And I think the best way to convey that is for me to describe the four upcoming summits we have with Europe: a NATO Summit, a NATO-Russia Council Summit, a U.S.-EU Summit, and an OSCE Summit. These institutions are the pillars of peace and prosperity in Europe and Eurasia. Our agenda for these summits illustrates very well how engaged we are with Europe and how we intend to advance our strategic objectives in and with Europe.

NATO

At the NATO Summit, we plan to unveil a new Strategic Concept, lay out the approach that we and our NATO allies are taking to transition in Afghanistan, and advance our relationship with Russia. The new Strategic Concept – the first in 11 years – will chart the future course of the alliance and prepare it to meet new threats. NATO Secretary General Rasmussen has done a superb job producing a document with vision, clarity and focus. It places Article 5—our collective defense commitment—rightly at the heart of why we are NATO Allies, while also recognizing that NATO is no longer just a regional military alliance. The Strategic Concept will also identify the capabilities we need – including territorial missile defense and cyber early warning systems – to meet new security challenges and better protect Allied populations. We look forward to a robust endorsement of it from allies at Lisbon.

We also intend to revamp the way NATO does business through organizational reforms that will allow NATO to implement these capabilities more effectively and more rapidly. We will examine how to strengthen existing partnerships and create new ones. Partnerships – with non-NATO members in Europe, with institutions like the UN, EU, and the OSCE, with strategic allies like Japan and Australia – are one of NATO’s most potent tools.

On Afghanistan, the President and his counterparts from ISAF will emphasize two mutually supportive themes. The first theme is an announcement of a responsible transition that will gradually turn over lead responsibility for Afghanistan’s security to Afghan National Security Forces. Transition is actually a process that began in President Karzai’s inaugural address over a year ago. The idea is that transition will unfold according to conditions on the ground, including progress in training Afghan forces, and assessments carried out by Afghan and international experts. Transition will not happen overnight. It is not a single event and it will not be a rush for the exit. The second theme is announcement by all NATO Allies that will reaffirm their deep and enduring commitment to Afghanistan's security and in particular to the development of its security forces.

NATO-Russia Council

NATO's relationship with Russia has been transformed in the last 20 years from adversary to partner. We are partners in dealing with a full range of security challenges. And the business of practical cooperation will enhance our collective security: Russia’s and that of every ally. This is the first NATO-Russia Council meeting since the Georgia conflict in 2008 and an opportunity to demonstrate that we can extend our bilateral reset with Russia into the NATO arena. We have already demonstrated that we can practically cooperate while standing by our principles. We have consistently maintained our commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia’s neighbors and stood up for human rights within Russia.

We now want to take this practical cooperation to a higher level, in areas of shared interest such as Afghanistan, missile defense, counternarcotics, counterterrorism, and counter-piracy. NATO and Russia expect to agree on the NATO-Russia Joint Review of 21st Century Security Challenges to demonstrate a shared understanding of these issues and other potential threats. Let me add, however, that these efforts at cooperation will in no way limit the United States’ or NATO’s capacity to deploy missile defense or other collective defense capabilities.

U.S.-EU Summit

This U.S.-EU summit will be the first since the EU strengthened itself via the Lisbon Treaty. Our participation represents another opportunity to demonstrate that we believe that a strong and united Europe is a stronger partner for the United States. This summit in particular will highlight our expanded and strategic partnership in three concrete and crucial areas, the economy, security, and global issues.

On economic cooperation, it is important to remember that the United States and Europe are each others’ largest trade and investment partners, accounting some $4 trillion in flows and generating approximately 1 in 10 jobs. The relationship is central to both our economic futures. We will follow-up on the G-20 meetings last week in Seoul to sustain the recovery and generate jobs for our economies, by consulting on best steps to address current imbalances in the global economy and by addressing bilateral barriers to trade. The leaders will task the Transatlantic Economic Council to coordinate our policies to promote innovation and to get regulators to pursue greater collaboration, especially in new and emerging technologies.

On security cooperation, we will identify ways to enhance our already significant common efforts on counter-terrorism and security, including through data exchange programs such as the Passenger Name Record agreement which protect both our privacy and our security, through cooperation on cybersecurity, and through sharing best practices to combat violent extremism. As the events of this summer demonstrated, both Europe and the United States face an ongoing threat and close transatlantic cooperation is crucial to addressing it.

Finally on global challenges, the leaders will address a number of critical foreign policy issues such as Iran, climate change, Middle East peace, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In particular, we will look to better coordinate development assistance. The United States and Europe together provide 80 percent of the world’s development assistance. We will work on ways to avoid duplication and get greater value from U.S. and EU resources, while better meeting the development needs of poorer countries, as well as those emerging from crises and disaster

OSCE

At the OSCE Summit, we will mark the 35th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act, which was a watershed moment in the Cold War, and we will emphasize that the commitments and principles in the Helsinki Final Act still apply equally to each participating state today. The OSCE has matured from its Cold War roots to become a global forum meant to prevent crises, promote human rights, and enhance good governance. But thirty-five years later, the Helsinki principles are still not universally implemented. We have witnessed in recent months instances of continuing violence against journalists, steps to undermine the work of human rights activists and NGOs, and actions that call into question the basic rights of ethnic minorities. There is more to be done.

At the Astana Summit, we will seek to revitalize the OSCE across all its dimensions, underscoring the importance of protections for journalists and the freedom of expression, seeking new steps to enhance energy security and promote transparency and good governance, and strengthening military transparency through work to update core elements of Europe’s arms control framework.

The vast agenda we will address through these four major summits reflects a single enduring truth. Global problems today are so complex and interrelated that they are beyond the scope of any one country to dictate solutions. In seeking partners to meet these new global challenges, the United States can have no closer friend than Europe. Together – and only by working together – we can build a world with more freedom, more opportunity, and more security for all our citizens.



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