The United States and Europe: An Agenda for Engagement

Philip H. Gordon
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Remarks at the Center for Transatlantic Relations, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
Washington, DC
October 18, 2010

As prepared

Thank you, I am delighted to be back at SAIS – I spent many years here, as a master’s student, a doctoral student, a research assistant, as a visiting professor, and as an adjunct professor. SAIS has been a critical part of my intellectual development and I’ve drawn often on my time here in my work in and out of government. I am sure your time here will be just as valuable to you and I look forward to talking with you today.

Standing here makes me reflect on how much, in some respects, U.S.-European relations have changed in the last twenty-five years and also how much they have remained the same. When I was in your shoes as a SAIS graduate student, the major preoccupation in the transatlantic relationship was the defense of Europe against the Soviet threat and, when we dared to dream, possibly the defeat of the Soviet Union itself and the end of the Cold War. Today, Europe is unified and we work together on an extraordinarily wide range of issues, from Afghanistan to Iran to climate change to the fixing the global economy. But there is one constant throughout: U.S.-European cooperation has been essential to achieving our strategic objectives. It was true during the Cold War and is arguably more true now than it has ever been.

When the Obama administration came into office, we made re-engaging with our European allies one of our top priorities. President Obama did so because he recognized that we faced such a daunting international agenda that we could not possibly deal with it alone. And we recognized that in meeting these challenges, there could be no better partner than Europe, where we work with democratic, prosperous, militarily-capable allies who share our values and share our interests.

So, as we approach the two-year mark of this administration, it is useful and important to take a step back and take a look at where we stand. To that end, I’d like to do three things today. First, I’ll describe the strategic objectives which drive our approach toward Europe. Then, I’d like to offer you an assessment of our record over the past two years on these objectives. Finally, I’ll outline what we see to be the next steps to be in our engagement with Europe, with a particular emphasis on the three major summits the United States will participate in this fall: the NATO Summit in Lisbon, the U.S.-EU Summit also in Lisbon, and the OSCE Summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.

When I think about this administration’s priorities in Europe, there are three basic objectives that stand out in our engagement with the continent:

  1. First, we seek to work with Europe as a partner in meeting global challenges. On every issue of global importance, Europe’s contributions are crucial to solving major international challenges. No matter what the issue is – from the war in Afghanistan, to the Iranian nuclear challenge, to the ongoing global economic troubles – Europe is indispensable. We are vastly stronger – in terms of legitimacy, resources, and ideas – when we join forces with Europe on the global agenda.
  2. Second, we are still working with Europe on Europe, that is to say working to complete the historic project of helping to extend stability, security, prosperity and democracy to the entire continent. The extraordinary success that the United States and Europe have had together in promoting European integration, in consolidating and supporting the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe and integrating them into Euro-Atlantic institutions demonstrates the promise of this enterprise. But our work is not done. And so the effort continues in the Balkans and further to Europe’s east and in the Caucasus.
  3. Finally, we have sought to set relations with Russia on a more constructive course. President Obama recognized that he had inherited a relationship that was in a difficult place and that this situation did not serve the interests of the United States. Therefore, our goal has been to cooperate with Russia where we have common interests but not at the expense of our principles or our friends.

Looking back on the past two years of the Obama administration, we have significant progress we can point to in each area:

First, on working with Europe on global challenges, we have worked together as never before with our European partners on Afghanistan, on Iran, on missile defense, and on global economic recovery. Specifically:

  • In Afghanistan, in the wake of the President’s speech in November 2009, Europe contributed about 7000 additional troops, over 100 training teams for the Afghan army and police, and nearly $300 million for the Afghan National Army trust fund. European nations now have almost 40,000 troops in Afghanistan and the total European contribution to Afghanistan since 2001 comes to $14 billion.

  • On Iran, we maintained unity in our efforts to engage and have at the same time seen the strongest-ever set of sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council and even more robust set of follow-on sanctions adopted by the European Union. These additional measures taken by the EU cover a variety of areas critical to the regime including trade, finance, banking and insurance, transport, and the gas and oil sectors, in addition to new visa bans and asset freezes. These steps have raised the price of Iran’s failure to meet its obligations and we hope will serve to bring them back to the negotiating table.

  • On missile defense, we gained broad support for our Phased Adaptive Approach which seeks to counter the real and current missile threats Europe faces from Iran and we are moving forward with plans to identify various basing locations. We hope defining Missile Defense as a NATO mission will be a major achievement of the NATO Summit in Lisbon.

  • On the global economy, the United States has worked with Europe every step of the way. G-20 leaders agreed in Toronto this past July to maintain stimulus until the recovery is assured, while charting a common path to fiscal sustainability. They committed to halve deficits by 2013. And they committed to at least stabilize government debt-to-GDP ratios by 2016. We believe these are achievable goals, and we are committed to their success.

In the second area, extending the European zone of peace, prosperity, and democracy we have had some important successes but equally important challenges remain. As I said at the outset, the work of “completing” Europe is not finished. What I think is most notable about efforts now under the Obama Administration is how closely – as part of a deliberate strategy – we are working together with Europe to achieve this goal.

  • Take, for instance, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. These are the countries of the EU’s Eastern Partnership, an initiative that the United States strongly supports and works with to extend democracy, stability, and security to this part of the world. We share the same strategy because we share the same goals.

  • The same can be said of the Balkans: the U.S. and European view is that Europe will not be complete until all of the countries of the Western Balkans are full EU members. I was with Secretary of State Clinton last week on her trip to the Balkans and I can tell you that our policy toward the region is very closely coordinated with the European Union. On the dialog between Serbia and Kosovo, on the future of Bosnia, on Croatia’s path to the EU, we have consulted closely with Europe. We also welcomed Albania and Croatia into NATO, extended Membership Action Plans to Bosnia and Montenegro, and Macedonia will join once the dispute over its name is resolved. This degree of accord on the Balkans is a real change: it was once an issue that divided the United States and Europe but now we work together every step of the way. The intensive joint diplomacy of recent months has shown how closely our visions are aligned, something which is essential for progress in the region.

Finally, what has arguably been the most controversial part of our European agenda – our reset with Russia – has started to pay significant dividends. We have made enormous progress in setting our bilateral relationship on a path of pragmatic cooperation. We can now say that effective diplomacy with Russia can help with U.S. global priorities. This diplomacy has already had some tangible benefits:

  • Most significantly, we have concluded a New START Treaty. The agreement is the most comprehensive arms control agreement in nearly two decades and significantly reduces the number of nuclear weapons and launchers deployed by the United States and Russia while also putting in place a strong verification regime.
  • We have concluded a lethal transit agreement for ferrying supplies to Afghanistan across Russia that is now an important logistics route for our efforts in Afghanistan and has completed more than 500 flights.
  • We have secured cooperation with Russia on Iran, both in terms of a strong UN Security Council resolution and additional steps by Russia to ban the sale of S-300 missiles to Iran.
  • We have done all of this without compromising our principles – in particular our steadfast commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all of the nations of Europe.

As you can see, it’s been a full two years. But we have significantly more to do. And I think the best way to convey that is for me to describe the three upcoming summits we have with Europe this fall: a NATO Summit, a U.S.-EU Summit, and an OSCE Summit. These institutions are the three pillars of peace and prosperity in Europe and Eurasia. Our agenda for these summits illustrates very well how engaged we are with Europe and how we intend to advance our strategic objectives in and with Europe.

NATO: NATO is the essential mechanism for U.S. security engagement in Europe and for U.S.-European security cooperation throughout the world. We see it at work every day, most prominently in Afghanistan, but its missions in fact start with the defense of Europe and span the globe. The end of the Cold War has made our world safer but it has also made it more complex. Issues such as proliferation, cyber attack, terrorism and piracy are challenges to which NATO is adapting, and for which NATO is developing more comprehensive capabilities.

At the summit, we intend to continue our efforts to revitalize the Alliance to meet 21st century security challenges, through:

  1. A forward-leaning vision for the Alliance in a new Strategic Concept document;
  2. 21st century capabilities such as territorial missile defense and cyber early warning systems;
  3. Organizational reform to make NATO more efficient; and
  4. New partnerships and deeper existing partnerships.

Our vision is of a more effective, more efficient Alliance, focused on the threats we face in world today.

On Afghanistan, the Lisbon summit will afford us an opportunity to pay tribute to our citizens who made the ultimate sacrifice and to reaffirm NATO’s deep and enduring commitment to Afghanistan’s future through a NATO-Afghanistan Partnership Declaration. NATO supports a transition strategy that will gradually turn over lead security responsibility to Afghan National Security Forces. Transition is not a single event and it will not be a rush for the exit. It will be a process that unfolds according to assessments of conditions on the ground carried out by Afghan and international experts.

NATO’s relationship with Russia has been transformed in the last 20 years from adversary to partner. We want to now take the relationship to a higher level, with cooperation in areas of shared interest such as counternarcotics, counterterrorism, and counter-piracy. We want to show Allied and Russian publics that we are keeping our promises to make the world a safer place with joint exercises on theater missile defense and increased transparency about our military plans and posture.

EU: The European Union has become a global actor and a critical U.S. partner. The United States strongly supported the Lisbon Treaty because we want the EU to play an increasing role on all of the most important economic and security issues on the transatlantic agenda and beyond. The treaty marked a milestone for Europe and its role in the world and we hope it will guide the further evolution of the European Union toward a more consistent, coherent, and effective foreign policy. The EU represents the collective potential of its 27 member states: among the most prosperous and militarily-capable democracies on the planet. That is why it is an essential partner and why this upcoming summit will be a valuable opportunity for our leaders to meet and to advance our common agenda.

This U.S.-EU summit will be the first post-Lisbon U.S.-EU Summit and, while the agenda is not yet finalized, we hope to pursue expanded partnership by:

  1. Promoting the recovery and growth of our economies through addressing regulatory barriers to trade;
  2. Coordinating U.S. and EU resources to meet the development needs of poorer countries, as well as those emerging from crises and disaster;
  3. Identifying ways to enhance our efforts on counter-terrorism and security;
  4. Working together on critical foreign policy issues such as Iran, the Middle East Peace Process, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

OSCE: At the OSCE Summit, we will mark the 35th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act, which was a watershed moment in the Cold War, and we will emphasize that the commitments and principles in the Helsinki Final Act still apply equally to each participating state today. The OSCE has matured from its Cold War roots to become a global forum meant to prevent crises, promote human rights, and enhance good governance. But thirty-five years later, the Helsinki principles are still not universally implemented. We have witnessed in recent months instances of continuing violence against journalists, steps to undermine the work of human rights activists and NGOs, and actions that call into question the basic rights of ethnic minorities. There is more to be done.

At the Astana Summit, we will seek to revitalize the OSCE across its three dimensions: political-military; economic and environmental; and human:

  1. In the human dimension, we will emphasize the important role civil society plays, on issues such as the protection of journalists and the freedom of expression.
  2. In the economic/environmental dimension, we want to see new steps to enhance energy security and promote transparency and good governance.
  3. Military transparency continues to be an important plank of OSCE’s platform, and we intend to strengthen this through work to update core elements of Europe’s arms control framework. We are also working to develop an OSCE crisis response capability, to enable the international community to respond more effectively to tension between states.

As you can see, it’s going to be a busy fall for us. But it is appropriately so – we have an extremely full U.S.-Europe agenda because we have so many pressing challenges in the world today, and close transatlantic cooperation is the indispensable starting point in addressing all of them.

With that, I’m happy to take your questions.