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A Trans-Atlantic Agenda for the Year Ahead

Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs,
Chatham House, London, April 6, 2005



As Prepared for Delivery

Let me thank Professor Victor Bulmer-Thomas for his gracious invitation to be with you this evening. I am delighted to have this opportunity to speak at Chatham House – my first foreign policy speech as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. This Royal Institute for International Affairs, and this building, Chatham House, have a long history of making significant intellectual contributions to the major foreign policy issues of the day, and the Future of Trans-Atlantic Relations certainly falls into that category. While I will set out my views to start off our conversation, I am far more interested in listening to your comments and thoughts afterward. I have no doubt that I will learn just as much from you as you may from me.

I have just completed eight years in Europe as U.S. Ambassador to Greece and then NATO, and have returned to a new position in Washington as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs with responsibility for U.S. policy in all regions of the world. It is a vast agenda – reflecting U.S. national interests and our responsibility for security, stability and peace in every part of the globe.

As a career diplomat, I am convinced that our ability to succeed on this daunting agenda is directly related to our ability to work closely and productively with Europe. That is why it is fitting to start my tenure here in Europe -- our indispensable partner -- and specifically, in the United Kingdom, our most trusted and indispensable ally.

I am in London for meetings of the G-8 countries, and for an important Contact Group meeting on the future of Kosovo. My European colleagues and I are also taking time to explore new ways of using our Trans-Atlantic partnership to address the many challenges that face us around the world today.

I certainly believe that 2005 will be a better year – more productive and more unified – for the U.S.-Europe partnership. We are slowly but surely overcoming the tensions, disagreements and divisions caused by the Iraq war. We are no longer debating the rationale for that war but are addressing a more pertinent question that must be answered this year – how can we join together to support a newly-elected Iraqi government.

At the highest levels, the U.S. and Europe have established an ambitious strategic agenda for peace in Iraq and Afghanistan, progress on Bosnia and Kosovo, improved relations with Russia and Ukraine, greater individual freedom in the vast Middle East, stability in South Asia, and a wise, concerted U.S.-European policy in East Asia. Together we are following through on our joint commitment to address poverty, AIDs, civil war and injustice in Africa and the Americas.

The visits of President Bush and Secretary Rice to Europe in February, their first international travel in the President's second term, cemented this agenda. Their successful visits also set a new tone for the Trans-Atlantic relationship, and have given us new and challenging work for 2005 and beyond.

We Americans understand that the odds of success are far greater if we proceed in partnership with Europe. We will thus continue our priority effort to prepare NATO – our most important Trans-Atlantic bridge – for new challenges, including counter-terrorism, weapons proliferation, and difficult peace-keeping missions far from NATO’s home in Europe. We are also determined to do more with the European Union. To take one example, just recently the United States made the decision to support the EU-3 negotiating effort to convince Iran to provide objective guarantees that it is not pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

At the United Nations, the U.S. is working closely with Europe to address the humanitarian disaster in Sudan. During the last two weeks, the United States sponsored successful resolutions to establish a peacekeeping operation to stem further bloodshed in Sudan as well as a sanctions regime. The United States also made a tough decision at the United Nations Security Council last Thursday to abstain on the French resolution to permit the International Criminal Court to be the court of jurisdiction. We did so to enable the international community to speak with one voice on a compelling and urgent humanitarian issue.

In the G-8, the United States is eager to cooperate with the U.K. and other members to aggressively take on the challenges of poverty, AIDS, and development in Africa and elsewhere.

New Spirit of Compromise

All of these are examples of a renewed spirit of purpose, compromise, and unity in Trans-Atlantic relations. I know it has been fashionable on both sides of the Atlantic to argue that differences over the Iraq war, or the Kyoto Treaty, or the International Criminal Court will lead our long Trans-Atlantic marriage to end in separation or even divorce. Frankly, I just don’t believe it. We share too much history, too many common values, too many core economic, political and security interests to go our separate ways. As President Bush said in Brussels on February 21, for the U.S. and Europe, "our strong friendship is essential to peace and prosperity across the globe -- and no temporary debate, no passing disagreement of governments, no power on earth will ever divide us."

We have certainly had our share of disagreements in recent years. In fact, it seems to me we’ve averaged one truly serious Trans-Atlantic row per decade. Think of Suez in 1956, Vietnam in the 60s and 70s, arguments over Pershing missiles and Soviet pipelines in the 1980s, and bitter disputes over Bosnia in the early 1990s. During each of these crises, we argued passionately, often in public, and sometimes said things to each other we wished we hadn’t. We survived all of these tempests. While our Alliance sometimes bent, it never broke. In fact, I believe each dispute made us stronger and reinforced the permanent bonds that hold us together. And so it will be, I predict, with Iraq.

Global Diplomatic Agenda 2005

What is surely right is that we cannot look backwards but must have a forward-looking agenda that Europe and America can agree and pursue in partnership. Our diplomatic agenda for 2005 is critical to the core interests of both Europe and the United States. I would like to mention briefly eight of the challenges among the many we will face together this year.

1. At the top of our list is the need to Form a More Effective Daily Working Partnership between Europe and the United States.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the need for a better channel for trans-atlantic communication. For the United States, NATO will continue to be that core channel. As President Bush said in Brussels, "NATO is the most successful alliance in the history of the world…" and "...because of NATO, Europe is whole, united and at peace." The U.S. wants to use NATO more, and more effectively, as the principal Trans-Atlantic forum for strategic discussions on the most vital issues of the day. As a demonstration of this, President Bush and Secretary Rice visited NATO headquarters as a centerpiece of their visit to Brussels in February. And, just two days ago, Deputy Secretary Bob Zoellick was there to meet with the North Atlantic Council, as well.

Our commitment to NATO complements the importance we place on a strengthened dialogue with the European Union, building on the first-ever meeting between a U.S. President and the European Commission. At the suggestion of Javier Solana, we have decided to upgrade our strategic connection to the EU. Next week, I will assume the role as co-chair of the U.S.-EU Senior Level Dialogue. We hope to use this forum to have a regular high-level policy dialogue on the full range of political and strategic issues that concern us. We look forward to working closely with the United Kingdom as it assumes the EU presidency in July.

2. Working Together to Reform the United Nations

A second challenge is UN reform. The United States and Europe see clearly the need for fundamental reform of the United Nations. At no time has the world been more in need of an effective United Nations. Secretary General Kofi Annan has presented a serious analysis of the challenges for the UN and those who wish to see it succeed. As with any study as comprehensive as his, the U.S. finds some things it agrees with and some it cannot support. Let me take up two issues: the proposed Peace-building Commission, and UN Security Council reform.

We see broad support for a Peace-building Commission aimed at improving the UN’s post-conflict peace-building capabilities. We want to work together with Europe to make this a centerpiece of the UN’s mission. The United States sees the need for these kinds of reconstruction and stabilization capabilities and is developing a complementary initiative at the State Department in consultation with the UN.

UN Security Council reform is a particularly difficult challenge. We are evaluating the various proposals and will support the one that best meets our key benchmark of enhancing the effectiveness of the Council. As we move forward, we should be mindful not to exacerbate divisions among member states. The point of these reform measures is to strengthen the UN, not weaken it.

3. Lasting Peace and Stability in the Balkans

During the coming year, America and Europe must also begin the final phase of our joint campaign to support lasting peace, stability and democracy for the people of Bosnia and Kosovo, and to ensure that all of the nations of South East Europe have the prospect of a future in association with NATO and the European Union.

The European Union has met the challenge of assuming NATO’s peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. With the support of the international community, Bosnia-Herzegovina has discarded its bloody past and is poised to complete the long process for peace begun a decade ago at the Dayton Peace Talks.

For Kosovo, 2005 is a year of decision. Today, I joined my colleagues in the Contact Group to emphasize the importance of Kosovo meeting the Standards and our hope that this will lead to a Final Status process later this year. We believe that all Kosovars – including Albanians and Serbs – must have a dialogue and work toward a democratic, multi-ethnic Kosovo where the rights and security of all are respected.

We see the future of South East Europe as part of a Europe whole, free and at peace. But before this can happen, notorious war criminals like Ratko Mladic, Radovan Kardjic, and Ante Gotovina must be captured, extradited, and tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). We will soon mark the 10-year anniversary of the Srebrenica massacres, Europe’s worst since the Holocaust. We must not forget the thousands of victims from this and other atrocities. There must be justice for all the peoples of the Balkans.

4. Trans-Atlantic Engagement with Russia and Ukraine

We also know that we cannot reach the great strategic goal of a “Europe whole free and at peace” without a successful U.S. and European engagement with Russia and Ukraine, and with the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia. Building a closer, strategic relationship with Ukraine and Russia is among the most important objectives for NATO in the coming year. The U.S. will support a continuation of NATO’s work with Russia on counter-terrorism, counter-proliferation, and protecting our populations from chemical and biological attack. We want the NATO-Russia relationship to advance. At the same time, the U.S. will not hesitate to speak in support of democratic freedoms in Russia and for the withdrawal of Russian military forces from Georgia and Moldova.

On Ukraine, the United States is convinced of the need to extend support to President Yuschenko and to elevate Ukraine’s relationship with NATO far beyond what we had with his predecessor, Leonid Kuchma. Standing beside President Yuschenko in Washington on Monday, President Bush said he is “a supporter of the idea of Ukraine becoming a member of NATO.” The President noted that there are things the Ukrainian government must do to satisfy the requirements, and we want to help Ukraine get on that path as quickly as possible. We hope that all of our European Allies will come to share our view that Ukraine’s future should be one firmly embedded in association with both NATO and the EU.

5. Peace and Long-Term Transformation in the Middle East

Helping the people of the Middle East to achieve peace, freedom and prosperity is our most pressing challenge in 2005. We have today the best opportunity we have had in years and perhaps the best opportunity we will have in years, to end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, a conflict many see as being at the heart of instability in the region. America and Europe both support a two-state solution: an independent and democratic Palestine living side by side in peace with Israel. We have supported a road map to get to this goal, a roadmap that will require considerable effort by both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The historic elections on January 9 have given impetus to the process of reform in the Palestinian Authority, a process we have dedicated ourselves to support, most notably at the conference hosted here in London by Prime Minister Blair on March 1. Both parties have responsibilities that they must meet – including ending terrorist attacks, working together to build a thriving economy, and freezing settlement activity. And both are taking important steps along this path, including Prime Minister Sharon’s efforts to dismantle the settlements in Gaza. And we, America and Europe, will work together to support their efforts.

U.S., French, British and other European officials are in daily contact to discuss how we will support the upcoming elections in Lebanon. The U.S. supports the EU's role in observing those elections. We worked particularly closely with France and the UK to adopt UN Resolution 1559, to ensure that Syrian troops and intelligence agents leave Lebanon before the elections and allow the Lebanese people to have a free voice and to create their own future.

Through the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative (BMENA), adopted by the G-8 at the Sea Island Summit in 2004, we also seek to promote over the long term successful and peaceful democratic and economic reform in the Middle East. As President Bush said in Europe in February, “Our challenge is to encourage this progress by taking up the duties of great democracies. We must be on the side of democratic reformers, we must encourage democratic movements, and support democratic transitions in practical ways." We look to the great democracies of Europe to help the people of the Middle East as they work to build a democratic foundation in their countries.

The United States and the European Union are working more closely together to ensure that our efforts in the Middle East -- the EU’s Barcelona process and Neighborhood Policy and our own “Middle East Partner Initiative” -- complement, and supplement, one another. NATO, the organization where the United States and Europe literally work as one, is contributing by launching security partnerships with Kuwait and Qatar, Bahrain and Israel, Morocco and Algeria, through the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. Under the leadership of Secretary Rice and Deputy Secretary Zoellick, the U.S. plans to make – as a permanent feature of U.S. policy in the region – a broad and substantial program to help the peoples of the Middle East reach a more secure and democratic future.

Iraq remains at the center of our concerns. The United Kingdom and many other European nations joined the effort to liberate Iraq, but differences within Europe over this issue were a major source of Trans-Atlantic tension over the past two years. But whatever those disagreements may have been, the truly courageous actions of the Iraqi people, as they went to the polls in January, have helped underscore that all nations now have an interest, and indeed an imperative, to ensure that the Iraqi people have the democratic government they deserve, and the stability and prosperity they yearn for.

Isn’t it time for those European states who opted out of the military operation in 2003 – to opt in to help the Iraqi government now, by contributing troops and funds to keep the peace in Iraq. One way for European Allies to help is to contribute a far greater number of officers to support the NATO training mission in Baghdad.

The people of Iraq appreciate deeply the sacrifices our men and women have made over the last two years. And they appreciate the financial and other support we have offered, including the hundreds of millions of dollars the European Union and its member states have pledged to promote Iraq’s reconstruction. As one very tangible sign of our joint support, Prime Minister Juncker announced during his February 22 press conference with President Bush that the European Union and the United States stand ready to co-host a conference to galvanize international support for the new Iraqi Transitional Government, should they request it. We are hopeful that this step, as well as the Amman conference of major donors for Iraq’s reconstruction that will follow it, will set the stage for bringing true security, stability and prosperity to that country.

We are also engaged in a concerted long-term Trans-Atlantic effort to reverse Iran's nuclear ambitions. I noted earlier that the U.S. had decided to support the EU-3 negotiating effort with Iran to ensure this happens. We cannot be satisfied with a suspension of Iran’s nuclear activities. We and the EU-3 agree that the only acceptable guarantee that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon is the full cessation and dismantling of all of Iran’s sensitive nuclear fuel cycle efforts. We have an imperative to see that Iran abolishes those programs that would lead to a nuclear weapons capability in the future. But our concerns about Iran are broader. Europe also needs to speak up regarding Iran's support for terrorism, particularly by Hizbollah, and its many restrictions on the freedom of its own citizens.

6. Success in Afghanistan

The Middle East is, of course, not the only area of conflict and instability in the world. Over the past four years NATO, the United States, the European Union and our other partners have made substantial contributions to peace in Afghanistan, symbolized most poignantly when eight million people defied Taliban threats and braved bad weather last October to vote for a new government. We obviously have more to do to continue to spur economic growth as we also combat the insidious drug trade that has re-emerged in much of the country. We appreciate the UK’s lead on this urgent priority. President Bush has requested $773 million this fiscal year to fight all aspects of the narcotics problem.

Trans-Atlantic support has been critical to the Afghan government as it establishes its democratic institutions. NATO has played an important role by taking command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission. It is now time for European Allies to expand their troop contributions to NATO as it extends its operations in the West and South of the country. The U.S. is also advocating that we look ahead to the unification of ISAF with Operation Enduring Freedom – putting both under a single NATO command.

7. A More Concerted U.S.-European Focus on Asia

Asia is a region of two rising powers, India and China, the world's two most populous countries. The U.S. has renewed its focus on South Asia, which explains Secretary Rice’s aim to remake relations with India and Pakistan. We will need Europe’s support for this effort.

The U.S. also seeks to maintain our historic role as the principal guarantor of peace and stability in the Asia/Pacific region. We seek a peaceful and constructive relationship with China. We are China’s partner in the Six-Party talks. We have improved our relationship with China. But we have been dismayed by the buildup of China’s military forces, especially its ballistic missile forces across from Taiwan. We do not welcome any efforts to alter the military balance in the Straits area. The President was clear in Europe: due to human rights and regional security concerns, ending the EU arms embargo is a bad idea. We will not support the EU’s efforts to do so. It would have an impact, as Deputy Secretary Zoellick said recently, on our Trans-Atlantic partnership, particularly if the U.S. Congress were to enact legislation limiting the sale of important U.S. technology to EU countries. Clearly, it is now time for the United States and the European Union to engage in a serious strategic dialogue about our mutual interests in Asia and the Pacific.

8. Focus on Africa

Finally, we applaud the United Kingdom for making Africa a priority of its G-8 presidency, and we seek ways to ensure that the 2002 G-8 Africa Action Plan continues to be implemented.

Supporting Africa's development efforts is a high priority for the United States. U.S. aid to Africa has quadrupled over the last four years. Eight of 17 countries eligible for Millennium Challenge Account support around the world are in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa is also a major beneficiary of President Bush's $15 billion/five year Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the $660 million Global Peace Support Operations Initiative – to help build other nations’ capacity to contribute to international peacekeeping.

We welcome EU engagement in Africa, particularly its peacekeeping efforts in the Great Lakes region. The United States initiated a Tripartite process last year through a series of meetings, the most recent in February in Washington. There, we brought together the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, together with EU observers, to find solutions to the problems facing the Great Lakes region. We will continue to work closely with our EU colleagues to realize our common goals.

Secretary Rice has devoted considerable time to Sudan because of the dire situation there: first in helping to solidify the North-South peace agreement of January 9th; and second, and very importantly, to work with the rest of the international community to address the horrific human rights violations in Darfur. The United Nations and the international community need to address these problems on an urgent basis. We will make a substantial contribution to support peace in Sudan at next week’s donor conference in Oslo.

Let me conclude my presentation by reflecting for a moment on the great success that is Europe. During the Second World War, most of Europe was governed or occupied by dictators and only a handful of countries were free. Today, every European country is free in one way or another but Belarus. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the prospect of membership in NATO and the European Union has led to an era of dramatic reform in Central and Eastern Europe, transforming nations and bringing us much closer to our long-time strategic goal of a single Europe, whole, free and at peace. Very recently we’ve seen a Rose Revolution in Georgia and an Orange Revolution in Ukraine. Now we have the very real prospect of democratic change in Kyrgyzstan.

Having achieved so much at home, shouldn’t Europe and the United States join together in a strategy of expanding freedom beyond the Euro-Atlantic area? My country believes we should. We can begin by focusing less on what divides us and more on what unites us – our values, our interests and our love of freedom. Because when we work together in common cause, the United States and Europe are a formidable force for good. This is the best reason, I believe, for us to re-dedicate ourselves to the primacy of NATO and a more active relationship between America and the European Union focused on the great challenges of the day. A Trans-Atlantic partnership growing stronger by the day will serve us -- and the world -- well for years to come.

Thank you.

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Updated: April 2005