Remarks at the NATO Strategic Concept Seminar
Secretary of State
But I particularly want to thank Madeleine for that introduction and for her extraordinary leadership of this process. I don’t think there is a human being with more credibility on these issues. She helped bring some of the countries represented here tonight into NATO in the late 1990s – an effort that many questioned at the time but which I believe has proven to be a major success. She played a central role in developing NATO’s last Strategic Concept eleven years ago. And she has a unique perspective on where the Alliance is coming from, where it is, and where it should be headed. Madeleine has always championed the truth that we are strongest when our nations are united by common purpose and common principles. And President Obama and I are very grateful to her and to all of you for the work you’re doing to advance that vision and develop NATO’s new Strategic Concept.
Those participating in this effort face an extraordinary challenge, but also an extraordinary opportunity, because we are building a common vision for the most successful alliance in history. A few weeks ago in Paris, I put forward the principles that will guide the United States' engagement in Europe as a whole. And today, I want to speak specifically about NATO. I want to outline some of the basic goals that I hope will define the new Strategic Concept, discuss some of the key questions we will need to answer as we formulate that document, and explore our vision for a revitalized Alliance for the 21st century.
Now, revisions to NATO’s Strategic Concept don’t happen often, thankfully. And the occasion merits some reflection on the path that has brought us here. This Alliance has endured because of the skill of our diplomats, the strength of our soldiers, and – most importantly – the power of its founding principles. At the time of NATO’s birth, Europe was still recovering from a long, brutal conflict. The post-war peace was under threat, and the leaders of the day did not know what the future would hold. But they built the Alliance around goals that could adapt to new challenges. First, NATO was charged with defending the nations of the Euro-Atlantic alliance. Second, it was designed to strengthen those transatlantic relations. And third, it helped facilitate further integration among the nations of Europe.
These goals channeled into our broader common efforts to establish a world order that was more peaceful and more principled. By taking a region that had been a source of global conflict and helping to transform it into a wellspring of stability and progress, the Alliance bolstered the security of people everywhere. And in an increasingly interconnected world, NATO’s positive influence extended far beyond the boundaries of its member states. In the decades after NATO’s birth, the Alliance faced a difficult struggle. There were real dangers from without and, at times, divisions within. Yet the nations of the Atlantic met that challenge. And today, we can survey the landscape from the Baltics to the Balkans and find a Europe that is more peaceful, democratic, united, and free than at any time in its history.
That transformation may be the defining political achievement of our time. It was neither easy nor certain. And we can take satisfaction in what we’ve accomplished together.
Yet notwithstanding that progress, today we confront challenges that have parallels to the problems that faced the Alliance at its inception. Once again, we face a new strategic landscape. New technologies, new adversaries, and new ideologies threaten our security. And once again, there is little certainty about the future. But I believe that the original tenets of NATO’s mission – defending our nations, strengthening transatlantic ties, and fostering European integration – still hold. So as we move forward with the process of drafting a new strategic concept, we should remember that the basic goals that defined this Alliance still bind us together today.
Amid that continuity of purpose, the ways in which we pursue our goals must change. As any good soldier knows, success in a protracted struggle is not simply a matter of having more troops or better equipment. It is also a function of how effectively you adapt to new circumstances. You don’t win by fighting the last war. And NATO cannot continue to succeed by looking in the rearview mirror.
NATO’s new Strategic Concept must consolidate the gains that we’ve made and reflect the new nature and origins of the threats we face today. Some of the new dynamics we’re dealing with were beginning to appear in 1999 when NATO last revised its Strategic Concept. For example, we faced the question of whether the Alliance would engage in out-of-area operations. Today, NATO ships are combating piracy off the Horn of Africa. NATO’s Training Mission in Iraq has provided instruction to more than 14,000 Iraqis. We have agreed to work together to counter the missile threat from the Middle East. And in the last two and a half months, Allies have answered President Obama’s call to support ISAF’s mission in Afghanistan and are scheduled to increase their contributions by nearly 10,000 troops. In an interconnected world, we cannot defend our people by crouching behind the geographic boundaries of the Alliance. Reality has redefined the area in which we operate.
Many threats we face have little or no respect for borders. Whether we’re battling piracy, or the menace of terrorism, or the prospect of weapons proliferation, we must be prepared to address new dangers regardless of where they originate.
Few of the dangers confronting us today are purely military or purely conventional. And in some cases, such as cyber attacks, their origins may be unclear. So meeting these challenges requires a comprehensive approach. Afghanistan is the perfect example of this phenomenon. There, as in the Balkans, we’ve seen NATO work together with other institutions such as the UN and the OSCE to deliver integrated solutions where each organization focuses on its comparative advantage.
But sometimes NATO still needs to act alone. This means that it may also have to provide civilian capabilities, especially in the early phases of a crisis when it is the only institution in the field. For too long, our Alliance has been hamstrung by those who argue that NATO is an exclusively military organization and oppose attempts to develop – or in some cases even to discuss – the Alliance’s capacity to take on civilian responsibilities. Our common experience in Afghanistan has shown that the Alliance cannot accomplish its missions using purely military tools. If we are going to succeed in counterinsurgency warfare, NATO must continue developing mechanisms to draw on the existing security-oriented civilian capacities of its member states. The decision to enhance the role of the NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan is a clear sign that we understand this need in practice. That realization should be codified in our new Strategic Concept. We have seen enough history since 1989 to know that complex emergencies and failed states will be features of the world we inhabit for decades to come. The Alliance needs access to tools that can help us deal with these continuing challenges.
We also need to think about threats to our networks and infrastructure such as cyber attacks and energy disruptions. Managing these problems requires close cooperation with the private sector, and NATO may not take the lead in these efforts but needs to be involved. Allies should work together to enhance our preparedness and our defenses. Now, the Alliance has taken preliminary steps such as agreeing to a cyber defense policy. But we must continue to keep pace with the evolution of these emerging dangers. Missile defense, we believe, will make this continent a safer place. And that safety could extend to Russia if Russia decides to cooperate with us. It provides an extraordinary opportunity for us to work together to build our mutual security in the 21st century. The spirit of collective defense must also include nontraditional threats. And we believe NATO’s new Strategic Concept must address these.
Energy security is a particularly pressing priority. Countries vulnerable to energy cutoff face not only economic consequences but strategic risks as well. And I welcome the recent establishment of the U.S.-EU Energy Council and we are determined to support Europe in its efforts to diversify its energy supplies.
Missile defense, we believe, will make us safer because, clearly, we see a threat. We see a threat that is emanating from the Middle East and we see a threat that can only be addressed in the spirit of collective defense. How we do that and how we recognize the importance of addressing it is something that the Strategic Concept needs to tackle with.We also need to assess NATO’s role in deterring and responding to terrorist attacks and nuclear proliferation. We know these are key problems to our security because, for example, a terrorist training camp in a lawless country can pose just as great a threat to our security as the conventional capabilities of an adversarial neighbor. Americans will always remember NATO’s decision to invoke Article 5 for the first time in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Thankfully, the prospect that we would have to face this again has not come to pass. But we have so many dangers, including the danger of a nuclear attack from a non-state actor. We know that non-state actors seeks nuclear capability. We see that, unfortunately, every day. And we know that nuclear proliferation and the development of more sophisticated missiles in countries such as North Korea and Iran are reviving the specter of an interstate nuclear attack. So how do we in NATO do our part to ensure that such weapons never are unleashed on the world?
Part of the answer lies in continued nuclear deterrence, and the United States has responded to our threats by not only maintaining our nuclear deterrence, but also developing a missile defense system that is designed to protect our territory, our population, and our forces throughout NATO. We believe NATO needs to develop its own missile defense architecture so that it can defend nations of Europe. And the Obama Administration’s new approach to missile defense – the phased, adaptive approach – will be our contribution to that new architecture. It isn’t just NATO that needs to respond to the new threat. We need to make Russia a partner in our efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation and in missile defense. We invite Russia to join NATO in developing a missile defense system that can protect all citizens of Europe and of Russia as well.
And this brings us to the broader issue of pursuing new partnerships beyond the strict confines of the Alliance. Given the global nature of the threats we face, NATO will need to strengthen its ties with such new partners. And the Strategic Concept should examine how to leverage this cooperation to make these relationships more productive.
Now, I know that in the past, the United States has been ambivalent about whether NATO should engage in security cooperation with the EU. Well, that time is over. We do not see the EU as a competitor of NATO, but we see a strong Europe as an essential partner with NATO and with the United States. We hope that the passage of the Lisbon treaty will help us advance this relationship. And we look forward to working together with the EU as it applies its Common Security and Defense Policy to determine how we can best support one another and the United Nations in addressing security challenges.
In many cases, as with the EU and others, NATO will seek out opportunities for collaboration with countries and institutions that share our principles and our priorities. But we may also pursue partnerships based on shared interests or geographic necessity.
I want to speak most clearly about our relationship with Russia and the NATO-Russia Council. Let me state unambiguously: While Russia faces challenges to its security, NATO is not among them. We want a cooperative NATO-Russia relationship that produces concrete results and draws NATO and Russia closer together.
The Russian Government has come forward with its proposals for a new European Security Treaty and a new NATO-Russia treaty. Now, we believe that some of Russia’s proposals contain constructive ideas and we welcome the opportunity to engage seriously with Russia on this important subject. But, as I made clear in my speech in Paris, the United States does not see the need for new treaties and we believe discussions of European security should take place within existing forums for European security such as the OSCE and the NATO-Russia Council.
We have real differences with Russia on several issues. And we intend to use the NATO-Russia Council as a forum for frank discussions about areas where we disagree. We will use it to press Russia to live up to its commitments on Georgia and to reiterate our commitment to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states. We will use it to challenge the assertion put forward in Russia’s new military doctrine that NATO’s enlargement and its global actions constitute a military danger to Russia. We will also use the Council to advocate on behalf of human rights and individual liberty – these are principles and values that Russia committed to uphold when it accepted the NATO-Russia Founding Act.
At the same time, we should use the Council to advance our common interests, including the indivisibility of our common security. Because Russia and NATO face common threats. We face it from extremists and drug traffickers coming out of Afghanistan and Pakistan along their border. As a result, we have agreed to cooperate in training counternarcotics officers from Afghanistan and Central Asia. And Russia is now allowing NATO to transit non-lethal goods across its territory in support of our ISAF operations. And we hope to extend that cooperation to other fields, again, most notably in the area of missile defense.
We believe we can build more mutual confidence through measures that increase transparency in Europe. And European security will benefit if NATO and Russia are more open about our armaments, our military facilities, and our exercises. NATO and Russia should have a regular exchange of information on posture, doctrine, and planned military exercises, as well as specific measures to permit observation of military exercises and to allow visits to new or significantly improved military installations. We look forward to working closely with all of our Allies, Russia, and our other partners in the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty during the coming months to reverse the erosion of this valuable regime. If we truly believe that our security is indivisible, we must do more to strengthen the sense of strategic reassurance across the Euro-Atlantic area. As we look ahead, our challenge with Russia is to build a relationship where the principles that both sides have agreed to on paper are consistently respected in practice.
As NATO takes on these challenges, we must remain true to the original principles on which the Alliance was founded. And I want to reaffirm as strongly as I can the United States' commitment to honor Article 5 of the NATO treaty. No Ally – or adversary – should ever question our determination on this point. It is the bedrock of the Alliance and an obligation that time will not erode. Our nation faces threats elsewhere in the world, but we view peace and stability in Europe as a prerequisite for addressing all of the other challenges. NATO has succeeded in its original goal of forging a bond between the United States and Europe. And our commitment to Europe transcends party and personality.
And I want to emphasize that we continue to see NATO as an important mechanism for promoting European integration. It is difficult to imagine today that when this alliance was founded in 1949, a key security concern for many Europeans remained the prospect of future German aggression. NATO’s success in providing a security foundation for Europe’s transformation is one of the great accomplishments not only of NATO but, as many of you also believe, of any political-military alliance in history. And it must remain a defining feature. The NATO membership process, which requires applicants to make reforms across their political, economic, and defense sectors, has helped create the stable, democratic Europe we see today. We were glad to see the Alliance welcome Albania and Croatia last year. And there can be no question that NATO will continue to keep its doors open to new members.
NATO must also forge deeper partnerships with leading democracies beyond the Euro-Atlantic community. We are already working with many of these nations in Afghanistan. And we must find ways to build on these efforts and encourage more regular cooperation. We have already determined the need for a NATO that can operate at strategic distance. We need to cultivate strategic relationships in support of that goal.
In order to achieve these goals and address these challenges, we’ll need to ensure that the evolution of NATO’s political capabilities keeps pace with its operational capabilities. NATO has never existed as a solely military alliance. It is also a political forum where democracies come together and act together to defend our values and our vision along with our peoples and our territory. The political side of NATO may receive comparatively little attention, but it is every bit as important. NATO’s military structures make it possible to implement policy, but it is the political structures that determine that policy. Now, I am not asking for more ministerial meetings, unless, in fact, there is a proven need for them. But I am asking that, in addition to honoring Article 5 of the NATO treaty, we reaffirm our commitment to Article 4, where allies pledge to consult together about political and security developments. These discussions are the lifeblood of NATO’s future.
And that leads me to a final critical point: the need for NATO reform. This topic has received considerable attention from NATO’s defense ministers. It hasn’t been as much of a focus for NATO foreign ministers, but it should be. NATO Headquarters is bulging with over three hundred committees, many with overlapping responsibilities. Too often, our budgets – military and civilian – are divorced from Alliance priorities, and the most important priorities have been under-resourced for years. Our secretary general has not been invested with the power he needs to truly manage the organization. This must change – and we must agree to that change in parallel with the new Strategic Concept. A new Concept with old structures will not be transformational. In fact, it may not change much of anything at all. Secretary Gates will address this issue further tomorrow, but I want to make it clear that we are united in our belief that in a time of limited resources for all of our nations, NATO must improve its efficiency if it is to successfully carry out its vital missions.
Let me conclude where I began: Those of us responsible for crafting a new Strategic Concept do face a great challenge and a great opportunity. The phrase “post-Cold War” says more about what our current era is not than about what it is or should be. All of us here today will help define what this new era will become.
NATO has always been the institutional means through which our democracies meet the security challenges of our day. And the issues we’re facing now are broader, and arguably more difficult, than before. I’m not coming to you today with a new catchphrase, but I know that if we are to succeed in our efforts, NATO must remain the cornerstone of Euro-Atlantic security, yet we also cannot shut our eyes or shut our doors to those challenges that transcend geography and the traditional definitions of security problems. Each and every one of the member nations is grappling with that on our own. NATO must be part of us helping to find the solutions. And as we do so, this Alliance will continue enhancing the peace and progress of an interconnected world.
The work ahead won’t be easy. But done right, it will allow future generations to enjoy advances in security and prosperity that equal the inheritance we received from NATO’s founders. I thank you for what you all are doing and I applaud your efforts. And President Obama and I look forward to seeing the results of your deliberation.
It is not an overstatement to say so much of what we now take for granted that we have seen develop since the beginning of NATO must be addressed and continued with the same passion and sense of mission that the founders of NATO felt. They took a big leap of faith. There was no guarantee at all that their hopes would ever be realized. But they believed that they had to move forward together. I believe very much the same. The world is in many crises right now, but one of the crises is a crisis of leadership, particularly in the democracies. And we have to demonstrate, individually in our own democratic nations, collectively through an organization such as NATO, that we can meet the challenge that is confronting leadership today. What will we do today that will stand the test of time as those who stood in hotel rooms and nations’ capitals 50 years ago have been able to produce? And those who helped to create NATO so many years ago understood what leadership meant, that it might not be quickly understood or rewarded, but that the obligations went far beyond the immediate.
That is, I think, the obligation we face now. And the Obama Administration and the United States stands ready to work with you so that 50 years from now people can look back and say we met the challenge of our time and that this Strategic Concept gave us a way forward that was desperately needed and that the leadership was there to fulfill it.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: Secretary Clinton has consented to take some questions. And first of all, I want to thank you for an enormously important but also, for the work that we’re doing, inspiring speech. But let me go straight to the audience and see what questions want to be raised. I was told that you’ve handled a great many town halls, so this group will probably be child’s play for you.
Please. Yes. And if you could identify yourself as well as you ask your question.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. Sebastian Gorka, National Defense University and the Strategic Advisors Group of the National Council. You’ve given an incredibly ambitious speech this evening and one of the corner points was Article 5, renewed commitment to Article 5. Given all the other challenges in the new environment, what is your expectation that Article 5 or what territorial defense actually means has to be somehow addressed or redefined in the new Strategic Concept to include the things you mentioned, such as cyber and energy?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you. I think that that’s a very good way of putting the question because we have a concept of what Article 5 collective defense means that I think has to be analyzed and considered in light of the new challenges that we confront. But I view Article 5 as at the core of the NATO promise, and therefore we have to be willing to get behind the new challenges that are posed to member states and be ready and willing and able to create not just a new strategic concept but the operational abilities to provide that collective defense. So I’m hoping that we can get some guidance from the Strategic Concept, but then – I’ll put in another plug for reform – we need to be marrying our capabilities and reforming our systems so that we are able to carry out these new Strategic Concept obligations.
MODERATOR: Please. And then after you’re done, if you’ll pass it back to Julie and identify yourself.
QUESTION: Yes. Madam Secretary, Dr. Katarzyna Pisarska, the director of the European Academy of Diplomacy in Warsaw and also visiting scholar here at SAIS in Washington. Thank you very much for your visionary speech. Thank you for acknowledging the role of Secretary Albright in the enlargement process in 1999, which I think, as you said, made NATO today what it is.
And my question also involves the enlargement factor. Maybe it’s more specific than what you said, that yes, we need to enlarge in order to develop and in order to move forward. How would you deal with the fierce resistance of Russia to allow NATO enlargement when it concerns to Ukraine or any other country, for example, in the Caucasus? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I start from a premise that no other country should have a veto on a sovereign country making decisions about what organizations it wishes to join. NATO has a set of requirements that have to be met. Not every country that raises its hand and says it wishes to be a NATO member will either quickly or ever be admitted, but that should be a process between the country applying and NATO itself, and not be influenced adversely by anyone on the outside.
And of course, individual countries have every right to decide they want to join or not, and so they make their own strategic calculus as to whether they wish to do so. But a country that wishes to join NATO has to have a very clear sense of what is required in order to meet the threshold of membership. And NATO, I think, has been successfully working with countries to try to move them to be eligible and then finally to attain membership.
So I recognize the very fierce concern that is often expressed by our Russian friends, and I think one of our tasks in the next years is to convince Russia that NATO enlargement is not a threat to Russia, not the 21st century Russia, not Russia which has a lot of other pressing needs and concerns, some of them being threats coming from other sources, certainly not from NATO.
But like anything else, you can’t snap your fingers and hope that it changes. But I think what President Obama did with his outreach to Russia on a new START agreement, which is being finally negotiated as we speak, and what the Obama Administration did with what we believe to be a smarter, more strategic missile defense approach, the phased adaptive approach – all of that we hope puts real meat on the bones of our argument that NATO is not a threat to Russia and NATO enlargement is not a threat to Russia. So let us hope that they will see that, but that should not affect any individual country’s either desire to or eventual membership if they meet the standards.
MODERATOR: Madam Secretary, let me throw in a quick follow-up question on that. Can you imagine a time in the future when Russia could be a member of NATO?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I can imagine it. I’m not sure the Russians can imagine it. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Julian Lindley-French, Netherlands Defense Academy and Strategic Advisors Group. The United States is very busy, Madam Secretary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Very what?
QUESTION: Busy at the moment.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Busy. Yes.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: And what’s different about this Strategic Concept is that for the first time NATO must necessarily consider its role globally – not a global NATO, but consider its role globally. What is it, given the very great responsibilities the United States has, that you critically want from your European allies over the next 10 years or so, which is the lifespan of a strategic concept?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t want to do injustice to the importance of that question by being too brief about it or saying something which then somebody will write and say, well, she didn’t say this so therefore we don’t want it, when, in fact, we want to use this debate over the Strategic Concept to have the kind of in-depth discussion that Madeleine and her colleagues on the – what’s it called – the expert group, which indeed are experts, have been engaged in by traveling throughout Europe and then coming here. So don’t read anything into what I might say other than as a few general comments.
You will hear from Secretary Gates tomorrow that we really believe that reform of NATO has to be fully embraced by both sides of the Atlantic and by all members, because we cannot operate in a world where threats are evolving as they are today with an institutional structure that can’t make decisions in a timely manner and which uses up a lot of the hard-earned tax dollars of the citizens of all of our countries for bureaucratic purposes that are unrelated to strategic priorities.
And you will also hear from Secretary Gates that we believe that despite the historical and totally understandable reasons why European countries have not committed on a per capita basis to a level of defense spending that we would perhaps like to see you reach – not where we are but higher than where many of you are – that this is an area that has to be honestly discussed. Because a lot of the infrastructure challenges that we’re going to face with these new threats – take energy security or cyber security – are going to require more investments by member nations so that we can network through NATO. It’s not going to be NATO doing it so much as coordinate and working with investments by member nations.
And finally, I guess the point we would make is that we still believe we live in a dangerous world. And thankfully, the integration, the peace, the prosperity, the common market, the advances in Europe are so incredibly impressive and welcome, certainly to us, and the opportunities for European leadership in the EU are, as I said, ones that we support. But this dangerous world still requires deterrence and we know there’s a debate going on in Europe and even among some of our leading member nations about, well, what does that mean. And we would hope that there is no precipitous move made that would undermine the deterrence capability. In fact, we want to build up our deterrence through missile defense.
I think making the case to publics about a lot of this is the art and responsibility of leadership. It is not easy. And in an environment in which World War II and the fall of the Berlin Wall all seemed very long ago to large segments of our populations on both sides of the Atlantic, making the case why we need to invest in deterrence, nuclear deterrence as well as missile defense, why we need to invest in protecting our energy supplies, or these new threats like violent extremism, and nonproliferation from non-state actors and potentially state actors – all of that is the responsibility of leadership. And we have to do our part of it, but so do all of our other member nations, and so does NATO as an institution.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Madam Secretary. I am told we have time for one last brief question. Please.
QUESTION: Elena Poptodorova, former ambassador of Bulgaria to the United States of America and currently director for security policies at the Bulgarian Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Madam Secretary, a great speech, as usual. My sense is, though, that it rests on the premise of solidarity within the Alliance and on the premise of internal coherence among the members. And yet we know that there is if not disagreement, at least differing views, on Article 5, on Russia, and a few other matters. What’s your sense about the level of solidarity and internal coherence? Are you comfortable with it? If not, how do you think we can achieve it? My country, as a young member of the Alliance, is vitally interested, also by way of support for itself in seeing this solidarity in full measure and in action. So I’m really looking forward to an optimistic reply from you. (Laughter.) Thank you, Madam Secretary.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that certainly gives me an opening. (Laughter.) But I am optimistic. I think that the debate that is understandable within NATO or within Europe or within the world today over the nature of the threats we face and the appropriate ways of addressing them is, in large part, because there’s been a recognition we are in a new era. For 20 years, we were in the post-Cold War era and it was brutally interrupted by attacks not just on New York but on countries from Spain to the United Kingdom, as well as elsewhere in the world. And now we’re seeing the impact of cyber attacks and we worry every day about the proliferation of nuclear weapons. So we are coming to grips with the new security environment in which we find ourselves, and so there’s no formula written. We’re not taking it down from the shelf and saying okay, well, here’s all we have to do to adjust to it. We need to have the debate engendered by the Strategic Concept.
And I think that you should take heart from the fact that you go back to different periods in NATO’s history. There were similar debates. And nobody can say they were 100 percent right or that somebody else was 100 percent wrong, but we came together based on fundamental principles and values, a commitment to democracy, a stand against an enemy that had divided Europe. And we’re not living in that world anymore. But the world in which we live in has multi-polar threats to us, and we’re now coming to grips with that.
So I am quite optimistic because I think that NATO itself is an adaptable organism. It is one that has, along with the European Union, demonstrated that Europe could move beyond a past that when one thinks about it is almost impossible to believe. I mean, I’m looking at representatives of countries that were locked in a brutal struggle during World War II. And millions and millions of Europeans from the Atlantic into and up to Moscow were victims of that war. And yet look at where Europe is today. And I would argue that it’s because of good leadership, adaptability, and organizations like NATO that help to define the debate. Many of you, like I, go to countries where they can’t get over conflicts 800 years ago. And you sit there and you think, look at Europe, look what Europe has done, look at people sitting down with one another, that memorable event in which I was privileged to participate in Berlin, walking through the Brandenburg Gate with the fall of the Berlin Wall.
And so what the Atlantic alliance has done is almost unprecedented in human history, and we should be very proud of that and it should make us optimistic. Now, that doesn't mean we’re going to agree on everything and it doesn't mean that once we agree we’re going to be able smoothly to operationalize it, but history is on our side if we stay true to our principles and our values. And we will bring more and more people to that side by exemplifying that.
So I am optimistic and it’s not just because you asked me a leading question. (Laughter.) It’s because I actually am. But it doesn't happen by mistake or by coincidence or accident. It happens because people like the ones in this room make it happen. And that’s why I will end where I ended with my speech: The leadership crisis in the world today, particularly in democracies – and by that I mean not just elected democratic political leaders – but leaders in every institution in society in both the public and the private sector need to be able and willing to accept the responsibilities of leadership now. And that means doing more to explain to publics what is at stake and why this is so important. And it really means looking to bring coalitions within countries and then across countries together.
But I believe that that is what we are called to do, and I am very, very confident that we can do it. It’s just we have to make up our minds to do it. I mean, in the United States we’re always quoting Winston Churchill’s comment about democracy is the worst kind of government ever invented, except for all the rest. Well, a democratic institution like NATO is not easy to run. Right, Secretary General? And yet what a tribute and triumph that it represents. So let’s be resolved that we’re going to build on it and come out with a Strategic Concept that does justice to all that came before and set the pace for what we need to be doing in the future. And the United States stands ready to be a partner in that. Thank you all. (Applause.)