and Europe: Advancing the Freedom Agenda Together
It’s a pleasure to be here tonight with you and a pleasure actually to get out of Washington this evening, maybe any evening, but it is especially good to be here with you at the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs. Thank you for turning out. There are too many of us to cram into one of H.L. Mencken’s Mount Vernon hideouts, or it might be worth it to get his take on Washington. Or we can meet in Fells Point for a good local ale. Come to think of it, maybe Edgar Allan Poe could better describe Washington.
It is an honor to be in your company. It’s an honor to be here, knowing John Lewis Gaddis will be here; he’s a good man and a friend. It’s good to have an opportunity to discuss with you America’s strategy in the world and our alliance with Europe in pursuing it. We must look beyond the media cycle and beyond the political cycle. The hardest part of strategic foreign policy thinking is to understand the difference between the headlines and what counts, between the urgent task of the day and what it is you’re really trying to do. As my boss Condoleezza Rice has said, strategy consists of understanding where history is going, and then getting behind it and giving it a push.
In my view, and the theme of my remarks this evening, is that history is moving in the direction of freedom, and that the role of the United States is to get behind freedom and, yes, give it a push. American support for freedom is the foundation of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy. From fledgling democracies along Europe’s Frontiers of Freedom to the reformers in China, from the liberated peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq to the people of Iran who deserve freedom, support for freedom is a task for America and the international community. I said that support for freedom was a centerpiece of the Bush Administration foreign policies, and so it is, but I also believe that support for freedom has been a persistent theme of American foreign policy since America’s rise to power at the turn of the 20th century. Support for freedom is not just a tactic or tool in an America’s national security strategy – it is THE core concept of our national grand strategy and, I believe, has been so for over a century.
That is one point. My second point this evening is America cannot advance freedom alone. Nor are we alone. Europe and the United States are essentially united in this great task. Together, we are putting the political, economic and security assets of the transatlantic community to work outside Europe in support of freedom-seekers around the world.
The Concerted Effort of Free Nations
Many of you at this point maybe wonder at my assertion of Transatlantic comity, especially since so much has been and is being written about the so call crisis of the Transatlantic alliance.
But Secretary Rice and our boss, President Bush, believe in that alliance. In his Second Inaugural address, the President said it very clearly: "All the allies of the United States can know we honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel and we depend on your help. The concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies' defeat." Let me repeat that: "The concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies' defeat."
Since the President's Second Inaugural, which set out the freedom agenda, we have made significant progress in putting this "concerted effort of free nations" to work on an agenda of worldwide action.
Just last week you saw German Chancellor Merkel at the White House alongside President Bush stating her commitment to Transatlantic unity in confronting the challenge of Iran, and solidarity in advancing freedom throughout the world.
The day before Chancellor Merkel arrived in Washington, I was in Austria, meeting with my counterparts from the 25 nations of the European Union, discussing how we could advance freedom in Belarus, consolidate it in Ukraine, and support forces of freedom in other countries.
Last November, European foreign ministers met with Secretary Rice and counterparts from the Broader Middle East at the "Forum for the Future" in Bahrain to pledge support for democratic reform and reformers in that region. And in December, NATO Foreign Ministers met in Brussels to approve the way ahead for NATO’s expanding mission to increase security in Afghanistan.
That is the reality of transatlantic cooperation today; Chancellor Merkel’s language of common purpose is what we hear from European governments, so that a strong Europe can act in partnership with the United States. What we no longer hear are the voices calling for a strong Europe as a counterweight to the United States – a check on U.S. economic, political and military power. Despite the debate in 2003 and 2004 over Iraq, there exists, I contend, a developing transatlantic consensus that our shared interests cannot be separated from our shared values, that democratic governance has a greater legitimacy than other forms of government, and that this is true everywhere in the world. More, there exists a growing consensus that the purpose of U.S.-European cooperation is not to simply manage problems, or serve as a regulator of value-free competition, but to support common action in the pursuit of freedom.
Now, I am aware, painfully, of the skepticism with which European publics regard the United States, and, frankly, regard this Administration. Skeptics, by nature, make news. And the media has long given more-than-ample attention to occasional lurid poll results that show divisions, divides, gaps, and mutual skepticism between Americans and Europeans. But most have overlooked other, more hopeful signs. According to the German Marshall Fund poll released last September, an enormous majority of European public opinion – 74 percent – supports joint European-American action to advance democracy in the world. While the same poll reflected a desire for Europe to take on "superpower status," the Europeans look for their "superpower" to join the United States in support of the number one U.S. foreign policy objective – the advancement of freedom.
Actions to Advance Freedom
Now, talk can be cheap. And theory can be cheap. Theory is useful to the degree that it produces useful actions, and the time has come to put theory to work in the service of freedom. That is our objective for 2006.
Let me report to you the actions the United States and Europe have been taking to advance freedom. And let me outline what we hope to achieve together this year.
In the Balkans, rather than wait to be overtaken by the next disaster, the so called Contact Group, which bring together the United States, Russia, and key European countries, has launched an effort to resolve the last major open question in that region, which is Kosovo's final status. As part of this effort, we are advancing prospects for a European future for Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania, and Serbia and Montenegro as well, if they meet the conditions. Having set the stage over the past few months, in 2006, we – the United States and Europe – will have to show united strength to bring the Balkans from post-war to pre-Europe.
In Eastern Europe and Eurasia, the United States and Europe have acted to support and now to consolidate democracy in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan; to help the Belarusian people achieve democracy; and to encourage countries such as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan to move more decisively and consistently in the direction of democracy.
In 2006, we must be prepared to stand by our friends, like Presidents Saakashvili of Georgia and Yushchenko of Ukraine, when they are under pressure, as they sometimes are, and to push our friends to maintain their reforms, even in the face of difficulties.
Just over the past couple of weeks, we have seen how real these pressures are. On New Year’s Day, the Russians turned off the flow of natural gas to Ukraine in what appeared to be political pressure. This raised new questions about Russia’s intentions toward its neighbors, and Russia’s willingness to assume its responsibilities as a major, reliable energy supplier. The clear and swift reaction from Europe and the United States alleviated this crisis for the moment and pointed both Russia and Ukraine towards steps each needed to take. But the United States and Europe will have to work together in 2006, and with willing partners in the region, hopefully Russia and certainly the gas producers of Central Asia, to bring transparency, genuine market principles, and openness to the European and Eurasian energy market.
In Eurasia, we will have to demonstrate clarity about our goals – democracy, and, through democracy, stability and strengthened sovereignty – while being realistic about what we can achieve in any given year and in any given election.
We will have to be prepared in 2006 to stand up for freedom in the face of dictators.
In Uzbekistan, the United States faced a choice last summer. We could have kept our military base in Karshi-Khanabad had we turned a blind eye to President Karimov's attempt to grab 450 refugees who had fled after the crackdown at Andijon. We could have saved an important facility used to support our operations in Afghanistan had we soft-pedaled our reaction to the human rights abuses. We could have, but we didn't. We chose to save lives rather than wink at dictatorship. And the pressure on Tashkent came not just from Washington, but also from capitals across Europe. When it came time to get the Uzbek refugees out of harm’s way, the government of Romania opened its doors. So Americans and Europeans, again, showed commitment to the same goals.
In Belarus, we stand together with the European Union in our call for free and fair elections this March. As the nations along the Frontiers of Freedom open their societies and reconnect with the world, the Belarusian government knows that it is doomed to isolation if it continues to stifle voices of freedom. There is no space between Europeans and Americans on Belarus.
Transatlantic cooperation has also focused on the Middle East. We have advanced Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking further than almost anyone in Europe thought possible. Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza and the opening of the Rafah crossing – with the European Union, by the way, taking on a major security responsibility – has given the Palestinian people a chance to start building their future state in reality, not just in rhetoric. Now we stand ready to help the Palestinians develop effective instruments of governance, as they must if they are to achieve the statehood they seek and deserve.
NATO at the Core of the Global Democratic Security Community
NATO stands at the center of our global democratic security community. And NATO is a place where transatlantic power – and I mean power in the broadest sense, including also political, economic and moral power – is translated into action. We have outlined the way ahead to strengthen NATO and to give it the tools it needs to secure and advance freedom. NATO continues to change radically from its Cold War identity. As the Wall came down, NATO was wonderfully prepared to fight one big war in Europe, but had never fired a shot in anger. There was constant commentary about NATO going out of business. And there was vigorous debate about whether NATO should ever act "out of area," meaning outside Europe.
Today, NATO is an alliance in action, with operations across the globe – from Afghanistan, to Iraq, the Mediterranean and the Balkans – in support of transatlantic security. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, mission in Afghanistan showcases the capabilities that the alliance has developed – supporting President Karzai’s government’s efforts to build freedom and security for a nation even as the U.S. and other Coalition partners root out the remnants of the Taliban and their terrorist allies.
This November at NATO's summit in Riga, we need to give NATO the tools it needs to do its job.
"Go Forward All Together" in Iraq
Let me now turn to three additional issues that will occupy much transatlantic attention in the coming year.
In Iraq, political debate and jockeying for power is taking place in the aftermath of that country’s December elections. We tend to get stuck looking at the news of the day, but if you take a step back and look at the past year, it’s clear that Iraq has undergone a remarkable political transformation.
The American debate on Iraq has escalated in a way that I see as understandable – I’m glad that I live in a country where issues of war and peace are debated – but the debate often seems disconnected from progress on the ground. In the meantime, however the European debate has moved forward in an interesting and frankly welcome direction. I’m hearing more and more voices like that of Chancellor Merkel, who reminded Americans and Europeans alike that a democratic Iraq is in everyone's interest. Even French officials like French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin now say the international community must "go forward all together" to achieve success.
Given the history of the debate between the Americans and the Europeans on Iraq, with the Germans and French sounding like this, clearly, some corner has been turned.
Whatever our disagreements with Europe about the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Europeans have come to realize that democracy's failure in Iraq would be a grave blow to our common security and to the prospects for reform and stability throughout the Middle East. In contrast, success in Iraq would set the stage for the advancement of the freedom agenda throughout that region.
But words are not enough. It is important that Europeans act on that realization. As the new Iraqi government takes shape, it will be the most democratic government in the region, a government elected by the people, for the people of that long-suffering nation. This new government deserves our support, and it deserves the support of democratic allies around the world. This will give Europeans the chance to support fully the Iraqi people and their elected government. That support can take many forms – military, capacity-building, political support – but it needs to be unstinting.
Agenda of Hope in Iran
In recent weeks, U.S., European, and indeed international patience with Iran has ended. Over the past year, we worked closely with the EU-3 – France, Germany, Britain – to curtail Iran's nuclear weapons program and find a way forward. We’re on the same page with the Europeans, but the Iranian regime is off in its own world.
Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is alarming. But the problem is broader. Not only is the regime in Tehran determined to develop nuclear weapons; it also supports terrorism. Not only does it support terrorism, but the regime is hostile to democracy in principle. Ahmadi-Nejad’s bizarre remarks about destroying Israel remind one of another era. In some ways, this is just another dictatorship desperately trying to legitimize its rule by externalizing an imagined threat. In other ways, this is a dictatorship seeking to misuse Islam – a religion that the United States holds in the greatest respect – as an excuse for justifying threats and violence. But in any case, in its current anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying form, this raving is as familiar as it is ugly.
This ugliness runs contrary to the honor and respect that we have for the Iranian people. As Secretary Rice said last week, "This about the Iranian regime and it is the Iranian regime that is isolating Iran." As she noted, "The Iranian people, frankly, deserve better."
We do, indeed, need to draw a distinction. Have the Iranian people chosen the path of increasing international isolation? Do they support the regime and its hate-filled language? We should not assume so. Iran is home to a great civilization, a people with a glorious past and, one would hope, equally glorious future.
To draw a parallel, we did not wage the Cold War against the peoples of captive nations. We knew that the communist regimes and their peoples were distinct. We should not now accept that theocracy and isolation are the fate or desire of the Iranian people. International pressure on the regime may increase in 2006. It should, but the world's democracies should at the same time reach out to the Iranian people. In addition to our efforts to deal with the nuclear challenge, in 2006 the United States and Europe should offer an agenda of hope for Iran.
Not so far from Tehran, across the border to the west, Iraq's Shia and other communities are realizing their aspirations through democracy. The changes taking place there, the hope for a brighter tomorrow, are being noted by the Iranian people.
Reform in the Broader Middle East
This brings me to the third and final major item on the U.S.-European agenda: our combined efforts to advance reform in the broader Middle East. You may recall – I certainly recall – the skepticism and, frankly, the derision with which this initiative was greeted when the administration launched it two years ago. But as with the case of European attitudes toward Iraq, that skepticism has changed.
Just before Thanksgiving, I traveled with Secretary Rice to Bahrain for a meeting of senior officials and civil society pioneers from Europe and the region.
What I heard from civil society leaders such as Egypt’s Saad Ibrahim was remarkable. While many Europeans approach discussions of reform in the Broader Middle East cautiously, fearing high expectations for democracy, we heard the boldest words, the most ambitious hopes coming from the people of the region.
Now, do the governments of the region embrace these democratic dreams with the same enthusiasm? Perhaps not yet. But reformers are there, in and out of government. And the United States and Europe, the two great centers of democratic legitimacy in the world, are standing with them. And our faith in democracy – our faith in the natural right and longing of every man, woman and child to be able to guide their future – should not be less than those of the reformers in the region.
In 2006, let us reach out, assist and empower reforms and reformers in the Broader Middle East. We should work with them as Secretary Rice has said, to transform volatile status quos that have no future and perhaps and certainly no purpose. We must not be impatient, but we have started and we must keep faith with our values and with those in the region who share them.
We in government frequently overestimate what can be accomplished in the short run. But we often underestimate what we can accomplish in the long run. Those of us who lived through the dramatic changes that swept across Eastern Europe in a very short period of history know that the status quo does not last forever. In the broader Middle East, too, we have made a start and we must continue.
What does Europe Bring to the Table?
I’d like to make one final point before hearing from you.
Why Europe? What does Europe bring to the table? What can we do with Europe that we can’t do alone?
Let me acknowledge, at the risk of igniting the debate from the recent past, that unilateral American action is always an option. But you know and I know, that it is not the best option. We and our friends and Allies throughout the world, starting with Europe, can and must do better.
Together, America and Europe constitute a single democratic civilization with common values. Together, America and Europe constitute a quorum of democratic legitimacy. That is not a legal observation so much as a political one, but I believe it to be accurate. When divided, we create a moral fog over events and their significance. When united, we are clear. The friends of freedom want the United States and Europe to be united. The enemies of freedom would rather we stayed in the fog.
Do we differ with Europe on tactics? At times. And they with us. During the Cold War, we differed nearly every day. But our united strategy, rooted in common values, led to victory. And in this present battle for freedom, in the face of this latest iteration of totalitarian ideology, our current strategy, rooted in those values, with America and Europe together, will also result in victory.
you, and I look forward hearing from you.
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Updated: April 2006