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Creating New Opportunities in Transatlantic Relations

Creating New Opportunities in Transatlantic Relations.
Speech at the American Chamber of Commerce in Leipzig
Ambassador John C. Kornblum
May 8, 1998

This week we are celebrating three anniversaries which represent the cornerstones of our world.

-Fifty-three years ago today, the second World War came to an end in Europe. Leipzig was liberated by American forces.

-On May 12, 1949, the blockade of Berlin was ended. The city and democracy in Germany were rescued.

-And nine years ago yesterday the first democratic elections were held in Leipzig since 1933.

These events tell the story of European post-War history. They also define the American role in Europe and the German-American partnership.
Understanding this history puts us in a better position to master the future.
We can also appreciate more the important work of the American Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber's contribution to peace extends far beyond trade and industrial production. This 95th meeting shows your long history.

Your engagement in Germany and the essential role of trade and industry is a component in this history -- as well as an essential element of peace in Europe. I have in mind the impressive number of American investors in Germany's new federal states. I also have in mind the many activities of the Chamber in Germany:

be it your support of the New Traditions conference or the Neue Länder Investment Conferences;
be it your engagement for deregulation in Germany;
be it your regular discussions which you organize all over Germany.

For German-American cooperation and especially for the new states, you are ever-present.
Now we better understand why is it that the United States is placing such emphasis of this part of Germany. One reason is clear: because it makes good business sense.

But there is a larger reason why the United States is putting so much emphasis on the new states: It is because German unification symbolizes our goals for all of Europe. Just as the United States played a decisive role in making German unification a reality, President Clinton has defined the integration of all of Europe to be one of America's basic goals.

Konrad Adenauer once said that "German unification and European integration are two sides of the same coin." And it is clear that the process of building strong and prosperous new German states is one image within a larger picture. And the larger picture is the completion of Europe.

President Clinton emphasized this theme during his first trip to Europe as president in January 1994. He said: "This period may decide whether the states of the former Soviet bloc are woven into the fabric of transatlantic prosperity and security, or are simply left hanging in isolation as they face the same daunting changes gripping so many others in Europe." And the President laid out some markers for us to check our progress today. He stressed cooperation in three areas: in strengthening security cooperation, in building prosperous market economies and in constructing vital democracies. Our progress has been solid:

Last week the U.S. Senate voted to ratify the decision to invite Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to become NATO's newest members. In doing so, the Senate took an historic step in the process of adapting the Alliance. This was an essential step, capping an already strong record of cooperation between the Alliance and these new democracies to defend stability and democracy in Europe and the world.

Germany and the United States -- both government and business -- have made the new democracies here in the heart of Europe a priority for investment and development. And the European Union is pushing forward with its own enlargement to ensure that these countries can participate in Europe. Our joint message is simple: Vibrant and open market economies are the engines that have given us the greatest prosperity in human history.

In the third area -- building democracy -- we have made great strides. There has not been social breakdown as a result of the massive economic transformation which has taken place in these places. On the contrary, democracies are thriving. Nor has "Europamüdigkeit" ("Europe-weariness") set in as predicted: The countries of Central Europe are more interested in participating in European institutions than they were when the Wall came down nearly ten years ago.

When President Clinton visits next week, he will see first hand the progress that has been made here in the new states. He will see the efforts made by Germans and Americans to ensure that this part of Germany is a pillar of openness and democracy in Europe.

Where exactly do we find ourselves as we approach the end of the 20th century? It is not as easy a question to answer as it first may seem. We are entering a new historical era, but the outlines of the future are still unclear. A look at the history of our relationship can perhaps help us see into the future.

For Germany and America, the question of history is especially important. During much of the past two centuries, Germany and America defined each other and themselves through dramatic events. Our contacts, our picture of each other and even the very fabric of our two societies was influenced heavily by great waves of history.

This year we are commemorating the 150th anniversary of the revolutions of 1848. The United States was the only country formally to recognize the sovereignty of the Frankfurt Parliament. Waves of immigration which followed 1848 put a strong German stamp on American culture which endures until this day.

Rebuilding from two wars also brought us together. The only redeeming feature of the two calamities that befell Western civilization in the first half of this century is that now both America and Europe realize that their fates are inextricably linked.

But it is no exaggeration to say that for most of the past century, the behavior of Germany and the situation in and around Germany have been the barometer for world peace and the measure of American engagement in the world. So much so that when the Cold War ended, many persons on both sides of the Atlantic declared an end to the need for American engagement in Europe and indeed even an end to the Atlantic relationship as we know it.

Finding an answer to the question "where are we in history" is an essential first step in defining our common future. What are we dealing with? Was the 20th century nothing more than an unfortunate interruption of Europe's history? If so, which part of that history will return? Does the end of the Cold War mean that Europe again will return to its separate and central role in the world? Or does the return of history mean the return of national and ethnic conflict? Was the Atlantic tie simply a function of East-West confrontation? Or have we built something new -- a new historic, cultural and even geographic synthesis which has replaced the pre-1914 balance.

The world wars weakened Europe's ability to maintain by itself the complex balance among its intricate histories and cultures. Many revolutionary changes -- the rise of nationalism, the decline of monarchies and the great leap in the technology of war -- broke apart the spirit of European civilization as we had known it. Europe's traditional strength -- one gained by looking outward beyond the cultural and national rivalries -- was embodied in a European vision. Since 1945 that vision has focused inward. Recovery from the disasters of two world wars dimmed the vision that had been Europe for the rest of the world. But the guiding principles of European culture remain the foundation for modern democratic society. The Euro-American synthesis which emerged from the travails of the 20th century form a framework for the dreams of the 21st century. Now that confrontation and division have been overcome, Europe can again turn its attention to a broader vision of the world.

Europe remains a complex mixture of some of the worlds richest and most important countries. Included as integral parts of this relationship are the United States, Russia, Turkey and several nations of North Africa and the Middle East. American interests are just as dependent on the functioning of this organism as are those of Europe.

Our first task for the future is to maintain the health and the strength of this Euro-Atlantic organism as the foundation for this vision of humanity -- one that holds the best hope of truly democratic peace the world has ever known.

The Euro-Atlantic organism has a backbone. It is formed out of the German-American relationship. This is not to denigrate the importance of others. But there is a reason for the repeated resort to German-American formulas for the future of the Atlantic world. There is the dramatic history. There is also the long record of success in working together to find solutions to the major problems of our time. Germans and Americans know how to get things done. Perhaps most importantly, without either the United States or Germany, the Atlantic relationship as we know it could not exist. It=s as simple as that.

But little else is simple. If we are the backbone, what else are we attached to? Germany is the largest, strongest, most productive and economically most influential country in Europe. It also straddles the old East-West dividing line. It borders on more countries than anyone else. Germany will, in other words, play a central role in defining the future of Europe. A confident, outward looking Germany will help ensure that Europe again projects a vision to the rest of the world. An uncertain Germany will result in an uncertain Europe. It could hardly be otherwise.

Germany has a double calling. It is both an anchor of the Euro-Atlantic world and a key element in the definition of Europes internal relationships and its sense of itself as part of this transatlantic synthesis -- a difficult task which has so far been mastered skillfully. This week's summit confirming EMU shows once again the perspective which Germany brings to its role.

Europe and America are now part of a joint world. Europes and Germanys job is not to build a competing center of power. We have proven that we can deal successfully with the strains of change we experience from time to time. In fact, the great surprise of the past ten years has been how few strains there have been.

The United States is frequently called upon to assume difficult tasks. Often we are given the privilege of bearing the burden and then being criticized for doing so. Such criticism seems to grow with the influence we wield. At the moment, our influence is especially great. So too is the criticism.

While we can handle the criticism, what we cannot handle is being left alone with a task. Common threats should be met with mutual efforts. American public opinion and the American Congress will not tolerate a relationship in which European allies define themselves as the more skillful diplomats who prefer the positive roles of dialogue and mediation and leave the police action to the United States. Our second agenda point flows from this discussion. We hope that Germany will increasingly help define a sense of responsibility within Europe which goes beyond the rhetoric of European unity. America is not aiming for hegemony; nor is it particularly insensitive to the concerns of others. But Europe should not allow the twin challenges of American strength and building European unity to sap its determination to deal now with the business at hand. . Neither America nor Europe will tolerate purely American strategies.

I am not saying that finding a new synthesis is easy. It is not. Part of the difficulty is the very nature of American power. The end of the Cold War has unleashed a new American dynamism and creativity. America has always been more than a big power. Since the beginning of the age of exploration, the New World has both fascinated and repelled Europeans. Even before European settlers landed, European writers were imagining the most fantastical visions of the newly discovered continents. The very idea of America has for nearly four hundred years been a measuring stick for Europeans seeking better to deal with their own societies.

The 20th century has accelerated this trend. It is the prospect of democratic peace which has liberated the creative forces of a new sort of society emerging from North and increasingly South America. Harvard professor Joseph Nye has used the phrase "soft power" to describe the true strength of the United States. As our country emerged from a deep crisis of confidence and society in the 1970's and 1980's, we found that it was the soft power contained in our openness and flexibility which had prepared us for the challenges ahead.

And so as we emerge from systemic confrontation into a new millennium, the United States will play at least three central roles in the world:

It will continue to be the world's most powerful nation state. Its economic and military power will bring both advantages and burdens. The United States will be central to any international project. But, as I argued earlier, without confident and responsible partners, it risks feeling overloaded by the many responsibilities this role entails.

It will continue to embody one vision of the Western ideal. This vision builds on the message of Europe which shaped nearly four hundred years of world history.

And increasingly, America has become a laboratory and innovator for the world. Our open society allows talent from around the globe to find fertile ground. We provide resources and encouragement, without expecting those we receive to accept our society or even to become Americans. Many German corporations have profited from this climate by establishing their research divisions in the United States. America is producing ideas and processes which can be used by everyone regardless of the role of government.

No one quite understands this new dynamic. We can also be led astray by the term globalization.It suggests a sort of centralization of power which I believe is exactly the opposite of what is happening. We are still searching for the right vocabulary and those who perceive America primarily as a traditional big power are missing the point. Most interesting is the fact that as American society increasingly provides the fertile ground for such innovation, political, economic and social influences are becoming more pronounced. Todays technology allows for diversity unheard of even ten years ago. With relatively few resources, an individual, a corporation or even a national state can draw upon the achievements of an entire world, and at the same time maintain personal or national identity and independence.

Look at the situation in Europe. At a time when we all are seeking to build structures for devolving sovereignty to alliances or political unions, the number of independent states is larger than at any time in the past 150 years. Many of these new countries are very small. Several are also very successful. They do not need to compete on a global basis to be satisfied and prosperous societies.

Here in Saxony, you know the power of innovation and creativity. But the evidence isn't just your many centers of higher learning and the traditions of scholarly excellence which go back centuries. It is also in business: American companies show their recognition of the talent here and in the other federal states by establishing not only manufacturing facilities but research positions.
As we look to the new era, we must find a truly new definition for our Euroatlantic synthesis. It is no longer sufficient to speak of two pillars. Identities grow increasingly out of personal or professional interests. Dividing lines only rarely run through the Atlantic.

Our goal should be to empower ourselves and our nations to build upon the Euro-Atlantic partnership and thereby define this new synthesis. First, to complete the construction of a democratic Europe. Second to ensure that our efforts do not stop there. And, third, to look beyond our geographic borders and to rekindle the true meaning of Europe and the Euro-Atlantic world. Only then can we fulfill the vision of humankind which transcends ourselves and our nations.

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