Remarks at the Casa de America

Philip H. Gordon
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Madrid, Spain
May 7, 2012

Mr. Arino: We are happy to host Philip Gordon, and we’re happy for two reasons. One, to talk about NATO. There are a lot of Spaniards who do not realize how important for our security in the last decade NATO has been. So that is something that [inaudible]. Also because Casa de America wants to widen its scope to not only talk about Latin America but also to talk about the U.S. We know we can count on the American embassy and the Canadian embassy to do so. So I’ll leave you with Philip Gordon. Thank you.

Mr. Powell: [Through Interpreter]. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this event. First I’d like to thank Casa de America for hosting this this afternoon and of course the United States embassy without which it would have been impossible to have Assistant Secretary Philip Gordon.

To introduce Philip Gordon, he’s a very emblematic figure. He has long academic experience in different think tanks. He was a research fellow in the Brookings Institute and the ISS in London. And he’s also had long experience in official circles, two administrations. He was a member of the National Security Council under the Clinton administration, responsible for Europe; and currently under the Obama administration he is the Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs. It’s a true luxury to have him here with us this afternoon.

Also on this roundtable we have Jose Maria de Areilza. He’s been named the Secretary General of the Aspen Institute in Spain, that’s just recently been established in Spain, and we want to wish him the best in his new function.

We also have the experience of Ramon Perez-Maura, the Assistant Editor of ABC, and a specialist in international affairs.

We’ve asked Philip Gordon to give a brief presentation, about ten minutes, and then we will hear from the other two speakers, and they will discuss diverse issues, and then if we have time we will be able to have a discussion period, and we’ll try to be finished by about 6:15 because Philip Gordon has other obligations in Madrid.

Assistant Secretary Gordon: Charles, thank you so much for that introduction. Let me just start by saying how delighted I am to be back in Madrid to address this topic with some old friends and to be hosted again by the Real Instituto Elcano and the Casa de America. I appreciate both organizations’ support for this event which is for me an opportunity to talk a little bit about more broadly our approach to Europe and important partners like Spain, and more specifically, the NATO Alliance and the NATO Summit that President Obama will be hosting in his hometown of Chicago in just a couple of weeks.

I’ll focus most of my remarks on the Summit itself, given its proximity and importance, and my desire to make sure we leave enough time for the commentators and for your questions and comments, but I’d like to start a little bit more broadly with just a basic comment about how the Obama administration views our European allies and where they fit into our foreign policy in general, which is to say centrally.

It’s very easy to sum up the way we are approaching allies in this complicated and challenging world and it is simply that we in the United States know that we can’t deal with the tremendous global challenges, in some ways unprecedented, that we face today. To do so, we need strong democratic, like-minded partners who share our values and interests, and those allies are simply more than anywhere found in Europe, and Spain is certainly among them and we deeply value the contributions made by these allies to what is really a long list of global challenges.

Iran is one of the most important global challenges we face and we couldn’t be grappling with the Iranian nuclear challenge without the strong support of our European partners. We know very well that putting on an oil embargo and financial sanctions is costly. It’s difficult for a country like Spain that has in the past imported Iranian oil, but we believe that this solidarity among like-minded democracies has helped bring the Iranians back to the table and is a necessary precondition for dealing with a challenge like that.

The same goes for Afghanistan, about which I will say more in a minute in the context of the NATO Summit, but we have invested so much blood and treasure over the past decade to try to help stabilize Afghanistan as a common security interest, and could not have done so, could not do so now without the huge contributions of our European allies, some 40,000 troops at different times, and once again, Spain has been among them even in difficult economic circumstances with more than a thousand troops, and we very much appreciate that.

I could mention Libya as a recent conflict we fought together within NATO. I could mention global development challenges, what we’re doing together in the Balkans.

The bottom line is, we strongly value allies, in particular democratic allies, and there are no stronger, better ones than those we have in Europe including Spain.

As for the NATO Summit itself, and in some ways this is a culmination of the work we’ve done over the past three years in developing allies in this alliance which is critical, I think, to all of our security, let me just say a few words about what we have in mind for Chicago.

I think first and foremost I would have to mention Afghanistan. This is where we have our troops and we have invested so much there. Chicago is a place for this alliance to come together and agree on some essential elements of Afghanistan moving forward.

One is recommitting to the timetable we all agreed at the Lisbon NATO Summit which is to continue keeping our combat troops in Afghanistan as necessary through the end of the year 2014 so that when we leave, and we are determined to leave this combat role, we will not be leaving risk and chaos and the humanitarian crisis in our wake, but rather a self-sustaining stable country. That’s in our interest. We all committed to do so in 2014, and we will look in Chicago to recommit to that timetable.

Now along the way we want to agree on a milestone sometime next year at which we will start to shift, and not just start because we’ve already begun this shift, but primarily shift the main focus of our effort from combat to advise and assist. We’ll do that in the course of 2013. There may be some combat role after that if we’re realistic, but the target is so that by the end of 2014 we can have our combat troops out of Afghanistan.

We want to agree together on what role NATO might play in Afghanistan after 2014, because once again, we don’t want to leave the Afghans to their own devices. That has been tried before and is not in our interest.

And we want to commit to a plan for funding Afghan National Security Forces after our combat forces are out. We know that stability and security in Afghanistan will depend on capable Afghan National Security Forces once NATO and ISAF are no longer present. That will require financial contributions. Fortunately for us, those contributions will be much less than we’ve been paying for our own military forces for almost a decade. So actually there will be a peace and transition dividend. But to be honest, all of us have to step up and make sure that adequate financing is in place -- including the Afghans, by the way. We’re asking them to do their part but they can’t do it all. And we, not just as an alliance, not just as ISAF, but the international community as a whole needs to step up and make sure we’re supporting Afghanistan after we leave.

I think that will be at the top of the list of the Chicago Summit, and if we can do all of the things that we mentioned, I think we will have sent a very good message of continued solidarity on that question.

We also want to focus on the issue of capabilities in Chicago. By that I mean NATO remains a military alliance and the fact is, it’s a military alliance that is being forced to get by on less and less in terms of resources with each passing year. We know how difficult the economic situation is in Spain and elsewhere, including the United States. You know the significance of the budget cuts we’re making over the next ten years, like everybody. But we also have defense obligations, responsibilities, and we would find ourselves paying a steep price were we not to be able to continue to meet them.

So there are a number of steps we hope to take in the area of defense capabilities. Again, just to mention a few. One is missile defense. We believe that the alliance has made significant progress dealing with this issue. Our view of the issue, and President Obama determined this early on in the administration, is that there’s a growing threat from ballistic missile proliferation and potentially nuclear weapons proliferation. We need to be able to deal with that threat so that Europe in its territory and populations and forces is not vulnerable to that threat from outside Europe, and we came forward with a plan, we call it the European Phased Adaptive Approach to Missile Defense. The entire alliance agreed on it in Lisbon, which we welcomed.

Different countries have made material contributions [inaudible] participation, the bulk of the contribution will be an American asset. Our contribution of ships and intercepts for missile defense, but all of Europe has a role to play. In particular European countries are making particular contributions. Romania and Poland are offering sites for the deployment of advanced SM-3 interceptors. Turkey has already deployed a radar that will make missile defense possible. Spain has agreed to work with the United States and NATO allies in homeporting Aegis ships as part of this program as well. We, again, much appreciate that and believe it will together help protect the alliance against what is a real and growing threat.

I’ll just briefly mention the Russian piece of that because I want to say we continue to want to work with Russia cooperatively on missile defense. We’ve been clear and the alliance has been clear that we are going to proceed with missile defense because it’s in our interest and it’s necessary for our security. We would like to do it cooperatively with Russia. We’ve put forward some ideas on how to do that and I will acknowledge that those ideas have yet to reach a positive conclusion but we’re not giving up. Russian President Putin was inaugurated today. He’ll meet with President Obama in the near future on the eve of the G8 meetings in Washington, and we will continue to raise missile defense as something that’s not targeted at Russia, doesn’t threaten Russia, that we want to do together with Russia. So missile defense is a key deliverable, if you will, for Chicago.

There are others as well that fall into the category of what we call smart defense, doing defense more efficiently because there are fewer dollars and euros to go around and again, without too much detail here, although I’m happy to pursue it further in the question period, Allied Ground Surveillance, a common alliance program to deploy drones for intelligence purposes and infrastructure so that all allies can benefit from intelligence without all of them having to purchase expensive drones and infrastructure. Baltic Air Policing, a way for the countries that have advanced fighter planes to provide air defense for certain countries that don’t, and allow those countries to spend their money on our common security in other ways. And a long list of other smart defense projects that were decided in Lisbon that are coming to fruit in Chicago, we think is a real positive step forward for the alliance.

Finally, we in Chicago will highlight NATO’s partnerships because the reality is this alliance that once started as a solely Article 5 common defense project in Europe against the Soviet Union now does an awful lot more, and I’ve already mentioned Libya and Afghanistan as recent global operations with global partners that have included in different ways Sweden and Finland, and Gulf states like Qatar and United Arab Emirates, and Asians like Japan and Australia and New Zealand. We want to highlight this fact in reality and underscore that NATO is really in many ways a contributor to global security and not simply European security, even if Europeans remain at the heart of it.

So that very briefly, Charles, if you will, is a sense of how we’re thinking about the partnership with Europe in general, some of our specific ambitions for the NATO Summit in Chicago.

I will leave it at that for now, but very much look forward to what you have to say and what my Spanish colleagues on the panel have to say about these questions as well.

Thank you very much.