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Remarks to the American-European Friendship Club
Ambassador William R. Timken, Jr.
Heidelberg, September 28, 2007



As prepared for delivery.

Dr. Lamers, thank you for the invitation to speak with the members of the American-European Friendship Club. When you asked me whether I would be interested in attending one of your meetings, I immediately said yes. Since my arrival in Germany two years ago, I have been very impressed by the network of clubs and organizations that are dedicated to the transatlantic partnership. Allow me to take this opportunity to thank you all for the ongoing, active role you play in shaping our partnership. My experience both as Ambassador and in my former business career has taught me that international relations are not just about governments talking to each other. They are also about people.

That is very obvious here in Heidelberg. For over 60 years, Heidelberg has touched the lives of the Americans posted here on military assignments. Over the years, the citizens of your city have been very gracious to many, many Americans. We thank you for being such good neighbors to USAREUR service members and their families. We also thank you for your hospitality to the hundreds of thousands of American students and tourists who have studied and visited in Heidelberg. Mark Twain came for an afternoon and ended up staying for three months as he struggled to learn what he called “that awful German language.” Heidelberg has been a crossroad of cultures since 1386 when the University was established here. Over the centuries, advances in communication, technology, and transportation have linked Heidelberg to people and institutions around the world in many different ways.

Heidelberg also hosts a very active and dynamic German-American Institute. It was established as an Amerika Haus over 60 years ago, just weeks after Secretary of State James Byrnes delivered what is known as the “Speech of Hope” in Stuttgart. Byrnes’ words to the people of Germany, broadcast live over radio with a simultaneous German translation, promised that Germany would be rebuilt and that Germans would be allowed to govern themselves democratically. Byrnes also pledged that U.S. troops would remain in Germany as long as necessary. “We have learned,” Secretary Byrnes said, “that we live in one world.”

That was the founding idea behind the Amerika Haus. The goal was to spark the rebirth of Germany’s traditional civic culture and to highlight the common values and principles for which the transatlantic partners stood – liberty and opportunity, human dignity and human rights. Today, sixty years later, the vibrancy of the Heidelberg D.A.I., but also clubs such as the American-European Friendship Club, is proof of the strength and vitality of a transatlantic civic culture.

That leads me to one point that I personally find very frustrating. We share so much. Economically, millions of German families depend on a strong bilateral relationship.

The government of Germany, under the Chancellor’s leadership, has declared German-American friendship as strong, vibrant and a fundamentally essential part of Germany’s future. Germany depends on America for security. Yet the polls continue to show a very unfavorable view of America. This doesn’t make sense. It seems terribly inconsistent. We need to do a better job of emphasizing the mutual dependency of our relationship – and the incredible benefits that have accrued to both countries as a result of this close friendship. I ask for your assistance in doing that.

During Germany's recent Presidency of the European Union, Chancellor Merkel laid out a bold vision to President Bush to harness the energies of our respective business communities. Recognizing the vitality of our commerce, the Chancellor proposed a partnership between the U.S. and Europe that would work towards the reduction of regulatory barriers. Known as the Transatlantic Economic Council, this new initiative is just getting underway. Al Hubbard, the President's Economic Advisor, and I met with the Chancellor personally last June to kick off the work of the Council. Hubbard and his team are working closely with EU Commissioner Verheugen. The potential rewards are enormous. The BDI estimates that by reducing regulatory barriers on both sides of the Atlantic, we could gain up to three percent growth in GDP.

The U.S. and the EU are the world’s two largest economies. As such we have a responsibility. U.S.-EU cooperation is a driving force behind efforts to liberalize world trade on a multilateral basis. Free trade is at the center of our shared vision of a world of expanding economic opportunity, prosperity, and freedom. Both President Bush and Chancellor Merkel agree that it is essential to bring the Doha Round to closure successfully. They both believe strongly that the United States, Germany, and Europe have to work together on the difficult problems that the world faces.

This is the underlying theme of the conversations between President Bush and Chancellor Merkel – and I have been privileged to attend all of their meetings. America needs Europe. We're both stronger if we work together. Together, we are addressing the vital global issues that affect regional stability and international security through operational and political engagement. We are addressing global financial imbalances, fighting global poverty; safeguarding the environment; opening world trade. We are rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan. We are addressing nonproliferation in Iran and North Korea. We are stabilizing Lebanon and moving toward solutions in the Middle East and Sudan. Cooperation on law enforcement and counter-terrorism has taken on important dimensions in our interaction. We both seek to combat radicalization and recruitment into terrorism, without sacrificing shared values.

Another important issue is climate change. President Bush’s plan to bring together the world’s 15 largest economies and greenhouse gas emitters to develop a post-Kyoto framework was endorsed by all the G8 leaders. The first meeting is taking place in Washington, as we speak. It will complement and contribute to the ongoing UN process. It is the beginning of a process by which we hope to work with the major economies to achieve a post-2012 framework convention on climate change by the end of 2009.

We look to Germany for support and leadership on all these issues. I would like to mention just one more issue that is at the top of our agenda, and then move to discussion.

In October, the German Bundestag will decide on renewal of the mandate for the Bundeswehr’s participation in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and for its provision of Tornado reconnaissance aircraft to that mission. Then in November, the Bundestag will vote on whether the Bundeswehr should continue to make troop contributions to Operation Enduring Freedom.

As a result of the upcoming votes, both the German government and the German parliament have been engaged in serious discussion with their American counterparts about the shared mission in Afghanistan. From our point of view, transparency is the overriding objective of these discussions. Let me emphasize how much we value all that Germany is doing in Afghanistan. Germany is an important ally not just because of the size of its contributions but also because of its across-the-board involvement in the mission – in the military operations, in training, and in civil reconstruction. German soldiers have served bravely in Afghanistan to help that emerging society develop after more than 20 years of war. German aid workers are helping the Afghan people to build a new, stronger society.

Some paint a pessimistic picture of the current situation in Afghanistan. They say that Afghanistan is a lost cause; that the Taliban is winning; and that this is an American war that doesn't matter to Europe. This is grossly unfair to the German and American and other soldiers and civilians on the ground, and indeed to the Afghan people themselves. It is also inaccurate. We are producing solid results in Afghanistan and, ultimately, we can and will succeed. This is not an effort in vain, but a good investment in Afghanistan, in our own societies, and in the world.

The progress we have made cuts across all fields. Afghan police officers are now enforcing laws made by a freely elected parliament. New roads, new hospitals, and new jobs are giving fresh hope to a nation eager to prosper. Not so long ago, it was a “crime” in Afghanistan to educate women. Now over 6 million children are back in school; two million of them young girls. Today there is a functioning Central Bank with more than 30 regional branches and a single, internationally traded currency. Afghan economic growth hovers between 12 and 14 percent per year, outstripping even India. By providing Afghans with an increased opportunity to make a living and support their families, we are also providing them with hope.

Their hopes for a long-term, stable, secure, more prosperous future depend on the assistance we can give them. Afghanistan has the potential to become a factor for regional stability and integration – or become a victim of larger neighbors and a touchstone for wider instability and conflict.

We have seen what can happen when ungoverned spaces are left to their own devices. Afghanistan under the Taliban was an open door for al Qaeda. Although we have made substantial progress in eliminating places al Qaeda can call home, the simple truth is that this terrorist network, as well as other dangerous groups, is still out there – as recent discoveries by German security services about potential plots right here in this country made very clear. I think we have to assume that these plots will be ongoing as long as there is a place to hatch them, train for them, and plan them. Working together, our law enforcement agencies have demonstrated that al Qaeda operatives are using the Afghan-Pakistani border area for training. Al Qaeda is still dangerous to people of good will, whether in Afghanistan, the wider region, Europe, or America.

Last year, at the NATO summit in Riga, leaders underscored the need for a comprehensive approach combining both military and civilian initiatives throughout Afghanistan. As a former commander of Coalition forces in Afghanistan said earlier this year, “If you gave me the choice between having one more battalion or one more road, I would take the road,” – because that is how we open up access and extend the power of the government. When the military sweeps the Taliban from a district, the police have to be right behind them to keep the Taliban from infiltrating back in. So while German and EU police training efforts have been very welcome, we need to devote even more resources to these initiatives. We need far more police trainers – literally thousands of them – in order to cover Afghanistan’s almost 400 districts and provide the Afghan National Police the kind of mentoring that we now give to the Afghan National Army. By the same token, reconstruction work has to start as soon as the firing has stopped. You can’t bring generators to a dam unless you have a safe area and safe roads to move them across. Security and development go hand-in-hand. Pursuing these activities in a separate and disjointed fashion just doesn’t work.

What NATO’s comprehensive approach really boils down to is using all our instruments of national power – not only our military power, but also our economic power and our knowledge base – to help the Afghan government stand on its own two feet and provide what everyone expects from their government -- security, justice, economic opportunity, health, education for our children. As Chancellor Merkel has said, security and development are inextricably linked. Afghanistan must not be allowed to fall into the hands of the radical Islamic Taliban again.

It is in Afghanistan that the Alliance and its 11 ISAF Partners face the greatest challenge of the moment. Our Alliance is being tested in ways that its founders – and most of us here today – would have found almost unbelievable even just a few years ago. We should not forget that we saw what seemed impossible happen in Germany. When President George H. W. Bush visited Germany in May 1989, as the Cold War structures were beginning to crumble, he described the German-American relationship as a partnership in leadership. As the President said at the time, and I quote, “Leadership has a constant companion: responsibility. Our responsibility is to look ahead and grasp the promise of the future." Together Americans and Europeans are working together to do just that. Our goal is to make the world more just, more free, more prosperous, and more peaceful. That is the vital challenge for our times.

Thank you.

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Updated: June 2008