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The United States and Germany Face Common Challenges


U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Holbrooke's address to the
Foreign Policy Association at the Amerika Haus in Munich, Germany
March 10, 1994

The New Era I am pleased to be able to speak to you today about Germany and the United States. Your organization, much like the Council on Foreign Relations in the United States, with which I have been closely associated, performs a valuable service in stimulating debate about issues of foreign affairs.

A few months ago in Potsdam I discussed how the U.S.-German relationship fits into the larger global situation. Today I would like to focus on the bilateral relationship itself.

Our forty-year struggle to overcome the division of Germany and Europe has been successful. The Cold War has ended. Germany has been unified in peace and freedom.

One reason for our success was our shared determination to confront a common external threat. That threat has receded. After decades of sustained effort we can finally afford to reduce troop levels substantially all over Europe, including those of the United States in Germany.

Of course recent events show that we still live in a violent and uncertain world. 65,000 U.S. troops will remain in Germany -- the bulk of the 100,000 troops we will continue to station in Europe as a whole. The German-American security partnership within the NATO alliance remains essential, and is being redefined to meet Europe's pressing new security problems. The recent NATO Summit was an important step along this road.

But the military component of the strategic relationship no longer must cast so large a shadow over other important dimensions of our partnership. The end of the Cold War has liberated the German-American relationship from the need to focus narrowly on a common external threat. We are now free to move beyond the armed truce of the Cold War to build a more durable peace in Europe. We are now free to press more vigorously for other common objectives: advancing prosperity and social justice at home, human rights, freedom, and market reforms abroad.

"Our liberty is endangered if we rest on our achievements," President Kennedy reminded us at the Paulskirche in 1963, "For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past are certain to miss the future."

With the end of the Cold War, we must adjust German-American relations to new times and new circumstances. We have every right to be proud of our accomplishments, but if we merely dwell on past achievements we forfeit the opportunity to use our partnership to deal with new challenges.

This means not taking our relationship for granted. Viewed from today's perspective of a proven partnership it is easy to forget how difficult were its beginnings. After a bitter war, we built a new relationship. Each of us invested heavily in our partnership; each drew strength from the other. Distracted by new challenges, we must take care to avoid squandering our achievement.

Our partnership faces another dramatic watershed today, as it did 40 years ago. Then, as now, we are faced with radical changes in the European landscape. Then, as now, these changes cannot disguise the fact that bedrock U.S. interests in Europe endure. Then, as now, these interests require active American engagement with Germany and our other European partners.

But there is a difference. Whereas the Cold War forced us to join forces to face a common external threat, the post-Cold War world offers us the opportunity to base our partnership less on external threats than on the common challenges facing our societies.

While the security dimension of our partnership remains crucial, its diminishing weight offers both nations the opportunity to invest time and energy in developing the non-political/military components of our strategic relationship.

In fact, I would argue that our ability to sustain the military dimension of our partnership depends more than ever on our ability to strengthen its non-military dimensions.

Each of our societies provides a frame of reference for the other. Viewing the relationship in this way opens a variety of areas in which deeper German-American collaboration can be mutually beneficial. In our own way both of our countries face a range of similar challenges: creating jobs, training workers, reforming our health care systems, fighting drugs and organized crime, dealing with migration and coping with the possibilities and problems of ethnic and cultural diversity. Collaboration on a variety of common domestic challenges helps us avoid working at cross purposes or duplicating efforts. It allows us to make more efficient use of scarce political and economic resources. It provides the material for new transatlantic networks.

Culture and Commerce As the military presence -- long the glue that defined our presence in Germany -- declines, we will upgrade other aspects of the relationship. I would like to talk to you today about two important areas in which this will occur: culture and commerce. Both have been important pillars of relations between our societies over the course of centuries. Today, they have become even more crucial because of a development as radical in its implications as the end of the Cold War itself: the Information Revolution.

Information is now our most important and pervasive resource. We live in information-rich societies and work in information-based economies.

Faster and faster technological-scientific innovation is revolutionizing what we do and how we do it. Information workers compose more than half the U.S. work force, and comprise a growing percentage of the German labor force. The ability to capitalize on information has become decisive to competitiveness. In the Information Age commercial success may rest less on the ability to produce material goods than on the ability to produce immaterial goods -- ideas -- and then to translate those ideas into useful products and processes.

Ultimately, however, the pace and nature of scientific-technological-economic change depends on the ability and readiness of people to adapt, to alter comfortable habits of mind or thought, and to accept new risks that accompany change.

In essential ways the nature of change in the Information Age is a question of culture. It means that the competitiveness of advanced information-based economies such as Germany and the United States may rest as much on their cultural vitality as their capabilities in high technology.

Near the end of his life, Jean Monnet, the grand man behind the grand dream, now partially realized, to create a United States of Europe, said, "If I had the chance to begin again, I would start with culture." After a full life Monnet, the pragmatist par excellence who so masterfully understood how to harmonize different national interests with a broader common vision, realized that a functional-rational approach to common challenges was insufficient to anchor the European idea in the hearts and minds of the European people. Something more was needed.

What is true of Europe is true as well of the transatlantic partnership. Our common strategic interests make cooperation necessary. Our common political values make cooperation possible. But in the end both are insufficient. It is our complementarity, the fact that each of us brings something special to our relationship from which the other can learn and profit, which makes German-American cooperation so potentially rewarding.

But we can learn from and thus complement each other only if we can understand each other and how our societies are changing.

This opens possibilities for culture. The great violinist Isaac Stern was once asked why all professional musicians seemed to be able to play the same notes in the same order, yet some sounded wonderful and many did not. Stern scratched his head. "It isn't the notes that are important," he objected. "It's the intervals between the notes." A wise comment, not only about music but about how to deal with the Information Revolution. The facts that now engulf us on a daily basis are less important than our ability to arrange them in meaningful patterns. Culture gives us that ability. It provides the orientation, the perspective we need to make sense of the information flood.

Culture is a word that no one ever defines to the satisfaction of anyone else. When I speak of culture, I mean culture in its broadest sense, going beyond the cultivation of self to embrace the notion of civilization. When I speak of culture I mean the full range of the fine and applied arts. I mean popular and youth culture. And I mean sports, from the Olympics to the National Basketball Association to the World Cup soccer finals to be hosted this summer by the United States. And I mean political culture. Exploring these aspects opens new possibilities for the relationship based on a common transatlantic cultural identity.

This common transatlantic cultural identity rests on the freedom of culture to be and become what it wants. It recognizes that the political culture of a society is essential to its artistic vibrancy. When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated the Museum of Modern Art in New York in May l939, he made this essential link between freedom and cultural vitality. "The arts cannot thrive except where men are free to be themselves and to be in charge of the discipline of their own energies and ardors," he said. "The conditions for democracy and art are one."

Each of our countries derive their strength from constitutions that guarantee freedom of art and opinion, of scholarship and teaching. Whether in literature, the visual arts, museums and exhibitions, theater, music, the crafts, architecture, design, film and television, customs and festivals, or exchange programs, each society exhibits a great diversity of forms of expression. It is the very pluralistic nature of our democratic political cultures, the diversity of voices in our cultural democracies, that creates this vibrant transatlantic cultural community.

Exploring the possibilities offered by culture also allows us to tap into the rich tradition of cultural dialogue that has marked relations between our societies over the centuries. Examples abound.

In medicine and the universities Germany has served us as a model. The formation and development of modern architecture was shared equally between the United States and Europe. Here, as elsewhere, differing cultural backgrounds and attitudes provided useful counterpoints for interaction: Europe with its rich tradition of rigorous, intellectual thought; America with its intuitive, somewhat romantic but pragmatic sense and youthful optimism.

In the arts the Dusseldorf School attracted many American artists between 1848 and 1869, and Munich became the center of interest for the generation born in the l840s, who returned to introduce the "Munich Style" throughout the United States.

Successive waves of German immigrants enriched American life, usually at great expense to Germany. When the Frankfurt Parliament was dispersed by force in l848, thousands of "Forty-Eighters" fled to the United States. Americans felt particularly close to this democratic movement. The ideals of 1776 in the United States were the ideals of the German Forty Eighters, most of whom were young and idealistic. When they arrived in America, they were welcomed enthusiastically. And, in a curious way, the reverse happened, in a sense, with the "68ers," by which I mean 1968.

When Munich law professor Frederick Hecker arrived in 1848 in New York, for instance, he was cheered by more than 20,000 people, all waving black-red-gold flags. Should anyone here today be a Munich law professor, I regret that I cannot guarantee a similar reception should you come to New York; I can, however, recommend some things that may be more culturally uplifting than the sight of 20,000 flags.

German political exiles found refuge in the U.S. not only in the years after 1848, but also during the "thousand years" between 1933 and 1945. Over a million refugees fled Hitler's Germany even before the outbreak of war; approximately 200,000 fled to the U.S. They included such notables as painters Josef Albers, Max Ernst, and George Grosz; composers Hanns Eisler, Kurt Weill, Paul Hindemith and Arnold Schoenberg; conductors Otto Klemperer and Bruno Walter; film directors Fritz Lang and Billy Wilder; architects Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe; authors Stefan Zweig, Thomas Mann, Heinrich Mann, Erika and Klaus Mann, Carl Zuckmayer, Lion Feuchtwanger, and Berthold Brecht; and scholars such as Hannah Arendt, Hajo Holborn, Peter Drucker, Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Leo Strauss, Hans Morgenthau, Karl Deutsch and Ernst Fraenkel, who later returned to initiate the modern field of American Studies in Germany. By 1938 the columnist Dorothy Thompson already could write that "Practically everyone whom the world considers to be representative of German culture before 1933 is now a refugee."

While such celebrated individuals usually receive the most attention, hundreds of thousands of normal Germans also fled to America to escape persecution. America was immeasurably enriched, and Germany immeasurably impoverished, by their decision to flee. Yet these German-Americans were the human foundation upon which new networks were built.

This interaction continues today, for example, through the Goethe Institute and the America Houses, both of which have Bavarian roots. There were Americans in attendance at the Goethe Institute's very first post-war sessions of German courses, held in l953 in Bad Reichenhall. To this day tens of thousands of Americans have studied German through the Goethe Institute. And the earliest expression of what were to become the America Houses was the "American Library," which opened in Munich in January 1948.

Such encounters have been rich and productive. But the Information Revolution has given them a new quality, a new significance. In the Information Age a far more extensive cultural dialogue across the Atlantic has become essential to our own national interests. Based on this recognition, we are launching a series of new initiatives.

Plans are under way, for instance, to establish an American Academy in Berlin, backed by the U.S. Congress and the Smithsonian Institution and funded by private sources. The academy will support creative work by visiting scholars, artists, writers and others in the humanities. It is also slated to have a center for research on Eastern European history and culture. The academy would be part of the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art and as such be an important seedbed for German-European-American interaction in the arts.

The environment is another new horizon where German-American cultural interaction can be productive. The relationship between humankind and the environment is as much about culture as it is about science. In both of our countries legends and lore about nature satisfy a deep human need to understand the world around us. Moreover, Germany and the United States are two of the leading environmental powers in the world, both in terms of setting environmental standards and contributing to environmental degradation. The quality of the international community's response to global environmental challenges depends on the quality of American-German-European cooperation.

Interesting work is already being done. The America House in Munich, for example, has worked together with Texas Instruments to sponsor an innovative German-American encounter on environmental issues entitled "Future Works," that has been expanded to other cities in Germany.

Much more is possible in this area, and not by governments alone. The German Marshall Fund's Fachleiter program bringing German teachers of English and social studies to the United States for six-week study tours focusing on American studies is an example of private innovations that have had an east German focus.

While much can be done to convey appreciation for another culture, in the end there is no substitute for personal experience. This means strengthening our commitment to people-to-people exchanges. This is already a rich area, one that has been particularly successful because so many private organizations have taken the initiative.

This area also owes much to the energy and initiative of the German government and the personal commitment of Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl to German-American exchanges. President Clinton shares this commitment; he strongly supports the efforts of the many individuals who have devoted significant portions of their lives to improving human ties between Germany and the United States.

But more can and should be done. Particular emphasis should be given to east German-American exchanges. Sixteen million east Germans have known the United States only in a systematically distorted way for two generations. Relatively few have studied or speak English. Engaging them in a deeper understanding of American society, values and foreign policy is a vital challenge for the future.

As we shape the future of our relationship, let us heed Monnet's words. Let us begin again with culture, working particularly with the millions of young people in our countries for whom the notion of a transatlantic cultural community is a real attraction and welcome challenge.

Commerce The Information Revolution has also changed fundamentally the way we conduct our business.

More than ever, national security rests on economic strength. Global economic forces now impinge more directly and powerfully on the average American or German than do military security issues.

Our two nations are robust economic competitors. But economics is not a zero sum game. Neither Americans nor Germans lose when others become more prosperous. Greater prosperity elsewhere means new markets for American and German business and new jobs for American and German workers. Consumers in both countries can choose among a broader spectrum of both lower cost and higher quality goods. A complementary pattern of exchange has evolved between our countries that enables our companies to exploit different competitive advantages, particularly in high wage, high value-added sectors of the economy.

The U.S and Germany share important economic interests. Both countries are committed to free trade. Both are committed to open investment regimes, competition, and allowing the private sector to pursue its interests with a minimum of government regulation. Our economic relationship is well balanced and of great mutual benefit.

The United States is the single main source of foreign investment in Germany and the primary target of German foreign investment around the world. German direct investment in the United States accounts for about 30% of total German direct investments abroad; in Germany account for a solid 30% of all foreign direct investment in Germany.

When U.S. companies such as Coca-Cola and General Motors invest in the eastern Lander or German companies such as BMW and Siemens invest in the United States, they generate jobs and economic growth. Such investments do not take jobs away from domestic workers; they are capitalize on fresh opportunities to create new products for new markets.

Our economies are increasingly intertwined. Daimler-Benz has recently become the first German company to be admitted to the New York Stock Exchange, providing Daimler access to the world's largest capital market. We look forward to welcoming other German companies as well.

The U.S. government is committed to an even stronger economic relationship with Germany and has undertaken a series of recent initiatives:

-- We have launched an ambitious export promotion program in Germany -- the only such program in the entire OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) -- entitled "Showcase Germany," as part of the Clinton administration's new national export strategy.

-- The U.S. consular service in Germany has been restructured to make the U.S. government more responsive to American and German business needs.

-- The resources of the Foreign Commercial Service and USIS throughout Germany have been merged to establish Business Centers in the Amerika Houses.

-- The closed U.S. Consulate General in Dusseldorf will be reopened this summer, and we will challenge the Japanese in that headquarters for Japan's European business.

-- The Embassy and a variety of public and private partners are launching a variety of "New Traditions" initiatives that will sustain the U.S. commitment to Berlin and Germany after the Berlin Brigade departs the city in September.

-- Next week the United States will sponsor a conference on unemployment and jobs in Detroit, the first conference of the G-7 nations devoted exclusively to the economic well-being of average citizens. The conference will focus the attention of governments on the need to ensure that working people are the beneficiaries of the rapid economic changes wrought by the Information Revolution. It reflects President Clinton's strong belief that such changes are something to embrace, not fear. To do so we must prepare for the jobs of the 21st century.

Taken together, these efforts and others to come make three important statements.

First, Germany is one of our most significant economic and monetary partners in the entire world, not only in terms of direct bilateral commercial relations but because of Germany's key role within the European Union and the role of the Deutsche Mark as a global currency.

Second, economic growth is a precondition for social justice. It is easier to restructure labor markets, create jobs and tackle long-term unemployment under conditions of growth than of stagnation. In periods of sluggish growth, efforts at restructuring may simply mean shifting jobs around rather than creating new ones. We look forward to working with German leaders to improve prospects for growth through close coordination of our economic policies.

Third, these efforts demonstrate how unfounded is the concern expressed by some in Europe that the United States may be downgrading its strong transatlantic ties in favor of Pacific horizons. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

By any measure, Germany and its partners in the European Union rank among our premier economic partners. U.S. exports across the Pacific and Atlantic are fairly evenly balanced.

Moreover, single-minded attention to trade ignores investment flows, which in the new global economy may prove to be more consequential for jobs and productivity, and which is overwhelmingly a European-American affair. Europe invests more in the United States than in the rest of the world combined; the United States has invested more in Europe than in the rest of the world combined. EU member countries provide more jobs in the U.S. than do all other nations combined. Even in California, a state where Asian economic ties are highly visible, more investment comes from Europe than from Japan; 43% of the $77.5 billion invested in California from around the world is from Europe.

The real headline is not that Europe or Asia is more important to us economically, but that the economic health of each region has become absolutely critical to the economic health of the United States.

Because this is so, we cannot afford to be complacent about moving forward to opening markets and expanding trade. We will be vigilant in our efforts to press partners such as Japan to resolve trade disputes and eliminate major trade barriers.

Fortunately, this is a time of opportunity. Transatlantic economic relations are at a watershed. A recent series of milestone events, including the birth of the North Atlantic Free Trade Association (NAFTA), the creation of the European Economic Area, and efforts to strengthen Asian-Pacific economic cooperation on the basis of open markets -- mark a new global economic era. The successful conclusion of the Uruguay Round, with exemplary cooperation between the U.S. and Germany in the final stages, offers significant opportunities for closer German-American commercial ties. We look forward to working with Germany and its European partners to expand further our economic horizons.

Three hundred seventy million people live in the $6.5 trillion NAFTA market. While NAFTA is not as ambitious as the European Union and will not create a single market with uniform tariffs against other countries, it does create a free trade zone with significant potential for German companies.

The NAFTA agreement provides for the abolition of roughly 20,000 individual tariffs, one-half to be lifted now and the rest within a period up to 15 years. Almost all North American manufactured goods will then be duty free. Important non-tariff barriers will also be suspended. Companies will be able to supply the vast North American market from just one production site. The envisaged tariff reductions are likely to benefit third countries, especially strong export powers such as Germany. The anticipated economic boost from NAFTA will result in higher incomes and rising imports, particularly of higher-quality consumer goods and high-technology products, areas where Germany is competitive.

A New Role for Private Business and Regional Actors In short, culture and commerce are increasingly important pillars of our bilateral relationship. I have indicated a number of ways in which we are committed to deepening the relationship in these areas. But in this new era marked by a diminished security threat, tougher economic competition and information richness, such leadership need not and cannot come from federal governments alone. Other actors, whether the private sector or smaller government entities such as states and Lander, may be more relevant.

In this regard Jean Monnet again is particularly interesting. In middle life he made a deliberate choice to stay out of government so he could push the integration of western Europe. He showed how private actors can play an important role in relations between nations.

The active engagement of private individuals, businesses and philanthropic organizations, both German and American, will be essential if we are to strengthen the cultural and commercial pillars of the bilateral relationship and extend the benefits of this relationship eastward.

Moreover, both the United States and Germany are federal republics. A rich area to explore is the relationship between individual American states and the German Lander, not just because it offers another avenue to expand human ties, but because so much of the future agenda is concerned with how regions and localities deal with the consequences of global change.

Not only do international events more directly affect regions than ever before, regions are playing a more independent role in international affairs as well, seeking like-minded partners in other nations to meet common challenges. The new global economy offers new opportunities to regional leaders within each nation to form new and profitable coalitions with like-minded regional leaders in other nations to share experiences and address common issues. Previous experiences in developing German-American relations at the state level, including visits by American governors and the minister-presidents of the German Lander, have been productive. Bavaria has often been a leader in such efforts. But there is more to be done.

When our two nations work together, we can achieve much; when we are apart, both we and the wider world are less prosperous and secure.

Our efforts to strengthen bilateral relations are important in and for themselves; they enrich the lives of millions of people in both our countries, and after all, in the long run that is what we in government are supposed to do.

But we do these things not only for their value to individuals, but because they strengthen the ability of our two countries to work together for larger international goals -- the goals I discussed in my speech at Potsdam in December. We regard Germany as the essential keystone to a stable, prosperous, democratic, and peaceful Europe. The United States, which as President Clinton has said will remain engaged in Europe, can do it only in full partnership with Germany -- that is, with the people of Germany.

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U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Germany /Public Affairs/ Information Resource Centers 
Updated: October 2001