European Security Roundtable
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GORDON: Thank you very much. I’m really delighted to be here. I’m delighted to be in Warsaw and I’m pleased to have the opportunity to engage with this diverse group about a lot of questions of common interest.
I’m here in Warsaw as part of the U.S.-Poland Strategic Dialogue, which is an opportunity we have between the two governments to exchange views on strategic matters, which in this case – this morning and over lunch – ranged from Afghanistan, NATO, to Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, energy questions, security, missile defense, and more. And I think this set of discussions reflects the breadth of the relationship that we have with Poland. Also it reflects, I think I can report, a real commonality of views between the United States and Poland on these questions, and I think what I will say about the United States and Poland this afternoon really applies broadly to the U.S.- European relationship in general, which is that we see things very much alike, and Poland and Europe are critical to the success of the United States in Europe and around the world.
I’d just like to offer a few thoughts about the U.S.-Poland relationship and about how it’s emblematic of the broader U.S. relationship with Europe as a whole, and maybe offer a couple of thoughts for you on the upcoming summits we have – obviously the NATO summit in Lisbon on November 19th and 20th, the U.S.-EU Summit in Lisbon, the NATO-Russia council Summit in Lisbon, and, finally, the OSCE Summit in Astana. That’s a very rich agenda for the United States, Poland, and its other partners in Europe.
I think it’s fitting to reflect on the relationship with Poland and Europe here in Warsaw. We can talk now about European global security in the capital of a prosperous Poland, a country that is a leader in the European Union and NATO, and that really exemplifies how much the United States and Europe have achieved together over the years. Poland played a central role in the transition leading from the end of the Cold War to the safe and prosperous Europe that we know today. The credit for that, first and foremost, belongs to the Polish patriots who stood up to the Soviet Union and built the democracy that now exists in Poland, and, I might add, the democracy that stood up to a very serious test in the tragedy of last April and demonstrated, in facing that tragedy, the strength of its democratic institutions, and the resilience of its people. The whole world took notice, and certainly, the United States took notice, of how Poland dealt with that devastating blow. The United States-Poland relationship stands on a foundation of shared values, a commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, and I think the people have clearly shown themselves to be strong defenders of these ideals.
I’ve already suggested that the relationship with Poland mirrors, in many ways, the relationship the United States has with Europe as a whole, and I’d like to talk a little bit about how we approach Europe as a whole and what I mean by suggesting that we now see Poland as a partner in dealing with challenges rather than a challenge itself. When we think about how we work with Europe, there are 3 different categories we work in. The first is together meeting global challenges, and I want to stress that on just about every issue of global importance around the world, European contributions are crucial to what the United States is trying to achieve. This is true whether we are talking about Afghanistan, Iran, climate change, or the world economy. We know we need strong partners in the world, and we look around the world for those strong partners. First and foremost, we find them in Europe. A Europe that has the same democratic values as us, that brings a lot of resources to the table, that brings a lot of energy ideas and legitimacy that we need to succeed in facing all these global challenges.
Second, we work with Europe on Europe, and I don’t want anyone to think that when I say that we work with Europe on global challenges, first and foremost, that we somehow walked away from a European agenda in general. Europe has made tremendous strides over the past decades, but the job of creating a Europe, whole, free, democratic, and at peace, is not yet complete. There are still parts of Europe that are not part of Euro-Atlantic institutions, and some of those are in Poland’s neighborhood. Ukraine, Belarus, the Balkans, and, going further afield, the Caucuses, are all parts of Europe that we still need to work on to bring them fully into Euro-Atlantic institutions. I know that is a commitment Poland shares and we talk about it how to do it together.
And finally, the United States has a big agenda in setting relations with Russia on a more constructive course. I think you all know that when President Obama came to office he focused very much – he believed the relationship with Russia was not where it should be; that we had common interests with Russia, we should find common projects to pursue together, even as we made clear we had differences on other areas. And that is exactly what we have done over the nearly two years President Obama has been in office. And we’ve done things together like the new START agreement, and the agreement on lethal transit across Afghanistan, and cooperation on Iran, but we’ve also made clear that we have differences with Russia on some aspects of European security, on the notion of spheres of influence, and certainly on Georgia, where we support sovereignty and territorial integrity, and have made it clear to Russia that we have real differences.
And our cooperation agenda with Poland tracks very closely along these channels of our cooperation with Europe. As a global partner, Poland plays a major role in the NATO mission in Afghanistan and we are enormously grateful to Poland for the commitment it has made. We know how difficult it is. Polish troops have been playing a key role in Afghanistan and have shown great determination and courage and we respect and value these contributions. Poland plays a special role in the completion of Europe, in creating this Europe whole, free, democratic, and at peace that I have talked about. Not only in setting an example, but in promoting stability through the European Union’s Eastern Partnership initiative that Poland was a major inspiration for.
And then finally on the third track, relations with Russia, I think most Poles agree, and most that I’ve spoken to agree, that a better U.S. relationship with Russia is in Europe’s interest and Poland’s interest as well. And we are encouraged to see Poland’s own rapprochement with Russia; obviously speaking today when the Russian Foreign Minister is in town as well, having what we hope are constructive talks with the Polish government. And when Poland has a sound and successful relationship with Russia, we are really taking a further step towards ending the divisions that used to plague Europe, and bringing the continent together in a way we need to.
As I said, maybe just a word about the upcoming summits, because it forges some of the areas in which we are cooperating. The NATO summit in Lisbon on 19 and 20 November will be an important venue for us to come together on a new Strategic Concept that we believe – that we hope and believe – will balance the traditional commitment of NATO to the Article 5 collective defense mission, while at the same time, recognizing new security challenges that we all face, including potential cyber attacks, the very real threat of terrorism, and the threat to energy security. And whereas Article 5 is a defense commitment regarding an armed attack on a member of NATO, Allies have always had the possibility of coming together to consult on these new security challenges, and as a political community with shared interests and values, we want NATO to be able and have the capacity to confront them. And we believe that the new Strategic Concept and some of the other decisions that the summit will make will leave it a better place to do so.
Afghanistan will also be on the agenda at the NATO summit. Every single NATO Ally is contributing in one way or another to the mission in Afghanistan. For all of the appropriate talk about concern about public opinion on Afghanistan, the reality is there are more European troops in Afghanistan than ever before. And we have seen and expect more contributions from Europeans of trainers in the run-up to the summit, because we profoundly believe that the future in Afghanistan is based on transition to Afghan lead for their own security and their political future. And by helping train the Afghan national security forces we can accomplish that. And that is going to be another key message of the NATO summit.
Just following the NATO summit, we will have a summit between the United States and the European Union, which reflects our commitment to working with the EU as it continues to develop in the aftermath of concluding the Lisbon treaty. I think promoting economic growth will be a key issue on the agenda for the U.S.-European Union summit. We will talk about how to better coordinate development assistance around the world. We will talk about the critical matter of improving counterterrorism cooperation. And we will look for ways to work together on the big strategic issues of the day, including Iran and the Middle East peace process, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
And then finally, and I’ve already referred to our common values and commitment to defending those values, in Astana there will be a summit of the OSCE, and the summit will take place on the 35th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act, which we believe provides the principles on which European security should still be based, including a commitment to territorial integrity, sovereignty, human rights, and democracy. This will be an opportunity to emphasize our desire to have indivisibility of European security all the way from Portugal to Russia.
So that is a very ambitious agenda, but as I said in the beginning, we believe that with strong European partners – and Poland is at the forefront of that category – we believe we can meet these challenges together.
Thank you all very much for your attention and I look forward to taking your questions.