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Wider Europe and the Transatlantic Link

Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs,
Center for Strategic and International Studies Washington, DC
October 25, 2005

I gather the topic of the day is a wider Europe, or wider Europe and the transatlantic link. Now to have, and to speak of, an effective transatlantic approach to wider Europe, we must start as a presumption, with an effective transatlantic link. And of course, the past three years, since the brittle and emotional debate over the Iraq war, that has not been a condition which everyone took for granted, but it is happily a condition which is rapidly re-emerging as the essential pre-condition for transatlantic efforts in the wider Europe.

President Bush made strengthening and deepening the transatlantic strategic concensus a signature goal of this, his second term. And as our Russian colleagues used to say, it was no accident that President Bush's first trip, first overseas trip of his second term was to Brussels, where he met not only with NATO, but he also met with the European Council, in an extended and very useful session.

In his second Inaugural Address, President Bush gave us in his administration our marching orders, and it was an elaboration of what has become known as the Freedom Agenda. He put it in a sentence, "the best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world." This is very much the orientation of this administration. It is also the orientation of many people with whom I worked in the Clinton administration. It is a policy which is as bipartisan in its potential as it is bold. Now, Europe is the key partner in this strategy of advancing freedom and addressing common challenges.

We are working together, and we must work together to make the world a better and a safer place. Again, quoting my president, all that we seek to achieve in the world requires that America and Europe remain close partners. America and Europe form a single civilization. I do not, by the way, believe or even intend to waste much time dismissing the views of a civilizational divorce between Europe and America. Our common civilization is anchored in the values of freedom, democracy, free markets, the rule of law, and respect for human rights and human dignity.

As a single democratic civilization, we face common challenges, which we can manage and overcome only as we face them together. When the United States and Europe are divided, not only is our ability to act much less, but we create an intellectual and moral fog over our actions and those of our adversaries. When we are united, we clarify who are the friends of freedom and the enemies of freedom, and we give inspiration to the friends of freedom even in the most repressed societies around the world.

In the last decade, we have seen a shift in the focus of the U.S.-European relationship. For forty-five years after 1945, the U.S.-European relationship was principally, not exclusively but principally, about Europe itself. Now it is no longer about Europe itself, but about what the United States and a Europe whole, free, and at peace, can do together in the world.

As I said, during the Cold War, our focus was Europe. In the 1990's, the immediate Cold War period, we had two principal agendas. One, defining what Europe whole, free and at peace meant, defining how far the institutions of Europe should extend, and dealing with the conflict in the Balkans. It is really quite astonishing for me to think back at the debates about NATO enlargement which consumed so many of us ten years ago. It seems now so natural to have Poland, Lithuania, Romania, and other new NATO members at the NATO table that I can scarcely believe there was a time when they weren't sitting there, much less a time when most of official Washington thought it was a dangerous, radical idea to have them invited at all. Which tells us something about the nature of Washington debates, I'm not quite sure what.

It is also amazing to think that we wasted -- that we devoted a lot of time, debating out of area for NATO, in the days when NATO action in the Balkans seemed rather exotic. Now, I'm getting daily reports on NATO relief flights bringing humanitarian supplies to Pakistan. I'm talking with the Hungarian government about their contributions in Afghanistan. We talk about the arrangements for the NATO training mission in Iraq. And we think we've had a good week's work when we straighten out NATO and EU arrangements for supporting the African Union in Darfur.

You know where you are by what problems you're dealing with, and we have come a very long way in ten years. The European-American agenda together is no longer about Europe, it is about how Europe and America work together to face common challenges. It is what we should be doing. Now, the focus is not simply on U.S. and Europe in the wider world, the focus today is on wider Europe, and it's this that I want to discuss in a little more detail.

Our priority, that is the United States and Europe working through NATO, working in the U.S.-European Union relationship, is to advance the frontiers of freedom in Europe, to Europe's periphery and beyond; that is, to continue the process that began in 1989 and has continued so successfully through the present.

I was recently in Tbilisi, last week, and I was struck by the comments of a senior Georgian official. There was a time, he said -- and I'm paraphrasing rather than quoting -- there was a time when democracy was considered to be right and appropriate for Poland and the Czech Republic, and we Georgians weren't even in the picture at all. The Baltics were barely in the picture. Then the thought of democracy in Georgia and Ukraine became a thought, but now, our democracy is accepted, and countries like Kazakhstan are in the picture. Again, that's a paraphrase, but I think I've got it right, and I think he has it right. The South Caucasus, Central Asia, are the Eurasian frontiers of freedom, and part of what the United States and Europe need to do together is help consolidate the new democracies on Europe's periphery, and help support the forces of reform in the South Caucasus and Central Asia.

Now as I say this, I am aware that there are some who consider this to be a provocative policy, there are some in Russia who consider it to be an anti-Russian policy. I consider it to be neither. I don't believe in zero-sum calculations with our Russian friends. It is surely in Russia's interest that its neighbors be democracies, rather than dysfunctional dictatorships. Now during my trips to Central Asia, and especially the South Caucasus, I did observe a disconnect which I'd like to share with you. Journalists and think-tankers in Washington, in the United States, often take us, the administration, to task, suggesting we are giving countries a pass on democracy because we're interested in basing or oil or something else. In the region, however, we are often taken to task, we the American administration, are often taken to task for supposedly being too aggressive in supporting democracy, in supporting orange or colored revolutions. In fact, neither accusation is true, and of course both cannot be true at the same time.

We have an obligation to stand for our ideals of freedom and democracy. We do not believe in the export of revolution, for God sakes. The Bush administration has been accused of many things, but neo-Trotskyism I hope will not be one of them. To quote President Bush, "We want to support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." Yes, that does have a visionary ring to it, but of course, twenty years ago, if one spoke of the fall of the Berlin wall, of democracy in Poland, one was accused of not being serious.

We are committed and determined to work with Europe to advance this democratic agenda. We are not going to impose our values or our system, but we will work with reformers in their own countries in support of democratic change. Every country has its own path to freedom, but there are elements in common in every country's democracy. Now having said that, we also need to be realistic about how we operationalize this goal. We have to bold, we have to ambitious, in what we seek to do, and we have to be realistic about what we can achieve in any given day, in any given election, and in any given year.

I was in Kazakhstan three and a half weeks ago; I was in Azerbaijan last week. Both countries have elections coming up. We must speak clearly about the need for both countries to have free elections, and we must help these countries find their way forward. We must work with them, work with reform, work for reform, and work with reformers wherever we can, and be quick to take advantage of the opportunities to advance reform, and careful about what we can achieve in every day. Free and fair parliamentary elections this fall are possible in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Both countries must take steps to realize this potential, and it is our belief, and we have said so, including to the rulers of these countries, that through democratic elections comes lasting stability.

And I hope, whatever the election results, and however imperfect they may be, we will be in a position to stand for freedom, and move forward step by step as fast as we can, as far as we can.

Now let's step back a little bit, and talk about what wider Europe means. In the last decade, the expansion of NATO, and the expansion of the European Union, was the great incentive that our Euro-Atlantic community had to offer states in transition. It prompted countries to carry out difficult internal reforms, reconcile with their neighbors, and secure the freedom, democracy and prosperity that they started to win in 1989.

Now I don't want to dwell on EU enlargement. That's an issue to be decided by Europeans, although my country has occasionally spoken out about this, and has been accused of speaking out about this, but I do wish to applaud the efforts that the European Union have undertaken, and applaud also the results of enlargement which have been highly laudatory. I know that the European Union is now debating the timing of the accession of Romania and Bulgaria, and it is true for all the work that still needs to be done in these countries, they are much farther, and their prospects are much brighter, for the opportunity that the European Union has given them, and I think they will be as good members of the European Union as they have been good members of NATO.

We do believe the NATO enlargement should continue. We do believe that the current group of aspirants to NATO in the Balkans and beyond, need to know that their efforts are taken seriously, and that the deal that NATO offered the then-East Europeans, the Poles, Czechs, Hungarians, ten years ago, is available to them if they do the work. The heavy lifting is theirs to do, but the open door is ours to maintain. We don't think the aspirants are ready for NATO membership today, but neither were the first group of new members ready for membership ten years ago.

If they do their part we should do ours, and if they have not met NATO standards, we won't compromise. Enlargement of the NATO alliance remains performance-based. I won't speak of the future of European Union enlargement except to say that I think that some of the same principles hold. The standards should be maintained, and the door should be open to those who meet the standards. Timing, countries -- these are all things for Europeans to debate, hopefully when the climate is better to have this kind of debate.

Now a final thought, and then if it's proper I'd be happy to take questions. The topic of this seminar is a testament to our success. Twenty years ago, the concept of a wider Europe did not exist. The agenda of advancing freedom, democracy, prosperity, stability in wider Europe would have not been on the agenda, and here we are, talking about the details. As I said, you know where you are by the problems you're dealing with every day, the ones that cross your desk. I'd rather have the problems that cross my desk today than the problems that crossed the desk of my predecessors twenty years ago. It makes for a better workday and a lot happier time when you think back on your time in government, so, thank you very much.

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Updated: December 2005