Unity in Challenging Times: Building on Transatlantic Resolve
Thanks, Fiona, for that introduction and thanks to Brookings for the warm welcome. My congratulations to all of you for being ranked number one think tank for the eighth year in a row. I am not at all surprised that the Brookings streak corresponds almost directly with the tenure of Strobe Talbott as President. It has been one of the great joys and honors of my life to call one of America’s best foreign policy minds my mentor and dear friend. Thank you, Strobe, for your intellectual courage, for your huge heart, and for showing three generations of us how to anchor our ideas and our life’s work in the best of America’s values – freedom, civil and global responsibility, truth, justice, and opportunity for all.
The rest of Brookings isn’t bad either. Uncle Sam has been enriched by poaching and borrowing some of your best over the years – you, Fiona. Susan Rice. Martin Indyk. Derek Chollet, and my predecessor, Phil Gordon, to name just a few.
A little over a year ago, I got in a bit of hot water myself with Brookings for giving my first speech as Assistant Secretary at another of my favorite tanks in town, the Atlantic Council. Some found those remarks wildly ambitious because I called for a Transatlantic Renaissance – “a new burst of energy, confidence, innovation and generosity, rooted in our democratic values and ideals.”
Of course, none of us could have predicted how the Transatlantic bond and our twenty-five years of work together for a Europe, Whole, Free and at Peace would be tested by Russian aggression in Ukraine. Or that ISIL and its affiliates would bring unspeakable violence, carnage and terror to Europe’s periphery and even to its cities. And with those challenges, everything we stand for – democratic choice, individual liberty, collective security, peace, tolerance, and prosperity from Vancouver to Vladivostok – would be put at risk.
Today, however, I want to make the case that far from shredding our Transatlantic unity, the trials we’ve been through over the past year have left us stronger, more resolved, and better equipped to defend and expand the community of values that defines us.
Here are just a few examples:
Today, NATO nations are better defended, and the Alliance is faster on its feet than a year ago. Allied forces are deployed on land, sea, and air in the three Baltic states, Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania. And we’re increasing defense budgets and upgrading our rapid reinforcement capability all along NATO’s eastern edge.
In the area of energy security, we’re not just talking the talk; now we’re walking the walk. Last year, the U.S. and EU helped Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia provide reverse flow gas to Ukraine. Moldova got a new gas interconnector with Romania, and LNG terminals were opened or contracted throughout the Baltics, greatly reducing those countries’ dependence on a single source.
Today, the U.S. economy is growing at more than five percent, and European governments have embraced pro-growth policies, capital investment, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, T-TIP, as paths to shared prosperity. Both sides of the Atlantic will benefit in 2015 from the unexpected stimulus of lower oil prices.
Together, our nations form the core of the global coalition against ISIL, and we are working against its efforts to pervert a great religion, and terrorize and divide our multicultural societies. As a Transatlantic community, we’ve been creative and generous in our support for Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, and deft in the sanctions we have levied on Russia to impose a cost for its aggression, even as we have worked tirelessly for de-escalation through diplomacy and implementation of the Minsk peace agreements.
And together we are working to neutralize two other poisons that, if left unchecked, will corrode our resolve from the inside: the scourge of corruption in our societies and our economies, and a new and vile foreign-financed propaganda campaign on our airwaves and in our public spaces.
So today, I would argue that what we have forged together over the past year is the start of a Transatlantic Renaissance – ad hoc and of necessity at first, fragile, and under- invested in many ways – but nonetheless, a renewal of our vows to each other to defend our security, our prosperity, and our values together, drawing on our unique strengths: our belief in indivisible and collective security; an open trading system that rewards innovation, entrepreneurship, and clean, transparent governance; and our commitment to tolerance, free speech, and the choice of each individual and each nation to chart its own path. And in the process, all efforts to split us, to scare us, or to bankrupt us have failed.
While this is an important start, I’m also here to say that an ad-hoc, shallow Transatlantic Renaissance is not good enough. In 2015, we must forge forward with more focus, more investment, and a more conscious understanding of how the security, economic, and values-based elements of our strategy reinforce each other, and are mutually dependent.
So as Lenin said: Shto delat’. What is to be done?
First, we have to keep our security commitments to each other. All NATO Allies must continue to contribute to the land, sea, and air reassurance mission all along NATO’s eastern front line. All must contribute to NATO’s new Spearhead Force which will allow us to speed forces to trouble spots, and we must install command and control centers in all six frontline states as soon as possible. NATO is a defensive alliance: our goal is deterrence of aggression; but if that fails, we must be ready. The United States has committed more than $1 billion to this effort, and to security support for our eastern partners. All Allies must contribute as much as they can, and all must keep their Wales defense spending pledge – some governments are already slinking backward.
Our fight against ISIL and its affiliates also requires military power, and generous security assistance to our partners. Forty European Allies and partners are contributing now. We must also put national laws in place that harden the Transatlantic space against foreign fighter recruitment and financing. Just as important is the fight to close the space for recruitment in our schools and our jails, and to dry up the terrorist breeding ground of intolerance, economic hopelessness, and exclusion in our societies. Each of our nations must tackle these challenges individually, but we must support each other and share best practices, which is the goal of the President’s summit on February 18.
Second, we have to accelerate the investments we are making in our shared prosperity. That includes accelerating and deepening T-TIP negotiations this year, being transparent with our publics about those talks, and fighting myths and fear-mongering with true stories of the barriers to trade that T-TIP will break down – especially for small and medium business.
We must also protect clean business and honest politicians by busting those who seek to pervert the system with dirty money and monopolistic intent. Note how quickly Marine LePen renounced foreign funding when it was exposed, and how fast South Stream collapsed when the EU stood firm in demanding honest, non-monopolistic contracting.
Corruption is not only a democracy killer. It opens space for malign foreign influence over our politics and our economies. So all across Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans, you will see us redouble efforts with our Allies and partners this year to strengthen independent judiciaries, and to fight corruption, and promote open government through e-governance and transparent public procurement systems and other best practices.
And we must also double down with the EU to bring investment and focus to the next tranche of energy security projects that will do the most to liberate dependent states. These include building a Bulgaria-Greece interconnector, strengthening the Southern Corridor, and working with Croatia, Hungary, and other states to unlock the potential of the Krk Island gas terminal to create more energy options for Central Europe and the Balkans.
Finally, we must keep faith with our partners in the east, whose only desire is to live as we do. In 2015, we must work together to deepen democracy, good governance, and rule of law in Moldova and Georgia, and to strengthen opportunities for growth and investment as those countries implement their Association Agreements with Europe.
We must keep our doors open to Armenia, support reformers in Belarus, and keep working for an Azerbaijan that is as strong in defense of universal rights as it is in promoting economic growth and regional security.
Twenty-fifteen can and should also be a year for progress in the Cyprus talks, and in our twenty-year effort to bring peace, reconciliation, reform, and good governance in the Balkans.
But, ultimately, we all know that today, a Europe, Whole Free and at Peace rises or falls with Ukraine. Ukraine’s frontline for freedom is ours as well. Over the past year we have all rejoiced in Ukraine’s democratic successes – the hundreds of thousands of citizens who stood on the frigid Maidan and across the country for change; two rounds of free, fair elections, parliamentary passage of a strong budget and reform plan; and the prospect of peace signed at Minsk in September.
And with our Ukrainian friends, we have mourned their losses: Crimea; 5,200 dead senselessly in the Donbas; and just this weekend 30 innocents killed and nearly 100 wounded in Mariupol when separatists fired Grad rockets 25 kilometers over the ceasefire lines, as their leader, Zakharchenko, bragged to the world about the carnage.
And yet, Ukrainians remain resolute and courageous in demanding a better future, and so must we. Our first task is to give them the economic breathing space to implement the reforms they have promised. The United States will commit a $1 billion new loan guarantee to help stabilize Ukraine along with a new IMF program and we’ll consider $1 billion more later this year if Ukraine stays on the reform path. Europe has committed over $2.1 billion, and we encourage discussion of more. And we’re working with the IMF and World Bank on new financing, tied to reform.
We must also help Ukraine staunch the bleeding. That means continuing to support Ukraine with defensive security support. The United States committed $118 million in 2014 in security assistance for Ukraine, with $120 million more in additional training and equipment on the way in 2015.
It also means holding the Minsk agreement signatories – the separatists and Russia – to account when they refuse Ukraine control of its own border, when deadly Russian weapons and fighters continue to flow across it by the hundreds, and when state-owned Russian media spews lies about who is responsible for the violence.
Just a few weeks ago, around tables in Washington and across Europe, we were talking about how sanctions could be rolled back if and when the Minsk agreement was fully implemented. Now, after the past week of flagrant violations of Minsk, on both sides of the Atlantic we are talking about the need to increase the costs to Russia.
The costs on Russia are already rising, including on average Russians. They can be measured in the sons from Pskov to Kazan who mysteriously never return from their military service. Their mothers and wives are told not to ask questions if they want to receive full death benefits.
They can be measured in the 10-15 percent inflation felt at cash registers and kitchen tables across Russia, in the $150 billion in capital flight from the country just last year, and in the $130 billion that has disappeared from Russia’s foreign currency reserves in the past year – money spent propping up the ruble. Just yesterday, S&P downgraded Russia’s credit rating to junk status. And lay-offs have begun in the state sector, including a 20 percent reported cut in the TASS news agency. As oil prices drop, the vulnerability in the current leadership’s economic model is exposed. And at those same kitchen tables across Russia, citizens are once again asking why their government prioritizes foreign adventures over the well-being and quality of life of its own citizens, just as they have at other sad moments in Russia’s long history.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Most of the Russia specialists in this room, myself included, spent much of our adult lives opening doors to Russia’s greater integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. We reject the narrative of grievance that is popular in Moscow today that we wanted a weak Russia – nothing could be further from the truth. What we wanted, what we still want, is a strong, democratic Russia that respects the rule of law at home and abroad, and its neighbors’ sovereignty; a Russia that works with us and with Europe to build peace and security in the region and globally.
The United States alone has spent more than $20 billion dollars since 1992 to help Russia strengthen and open its economy; prepare for the WTO; and promote good health in Russia, clean and more open governance and elections, non-proliferation, and closer ties between Russia and NATO, including joint operations and exercises. But that kind of cooperation can’t continue when Russia tramples on the rules of the international system from which it seeks to benefit – when it bites off pieces of its neighbors’ territory and tries to bully them into economic and political submission.
But the off ramp for Russia – the route back to better ties with all of us – is very simple: the minute Russia allows Ukraine to control its side of the international border and stops fueling the conflict, the situation will improve. The weapons and fighters will stop flowing. Hostages will come home. Sanctions can start to roll back. And the fight that Moscow calls an intra-Ukrainian problem will become just that. Ukrainians, with our support, will have the opportunity to work through the legitimate grievances of those in the east; to rebuild the political, economic, and cultural structures and ties that should bind a democratic Ukraine; and to give the children, mothers, families, workers, and pensioners of the Donbas a chance to decide their own future peacefully, lawfully, and constitutionally – the very thing Moscow always says it wants.
I first took my children to Russia when they were seven and nine. Like me, they fell in love with the art, the culture, the great deep Russian soul, even some of the food. Today, as teenagers, they watch the news and ask me what happened. I tell them, let’s hope it is temporary. Let’s work for a wiser, safer time when Russia will work with us for a Europe, Whole Free and at Peace, when it will see its strength again in its people, its ideas, its ability to innovate rather than in its weapons and its ability to intimidate.
In the meantime, all of us must keep working on that Transatlantic Renaissance and broadening the pool of countries that benefit. We do that for ourselves and our children, but we also do it for the wider world that depends on us to live our values, and to set the global gold standard for defense of international law, peace and security, free commerce, and universal human rights. I thank Brookings and all those gathered here for being our partners in that.