In an op-ed in the Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemns the violent crackdown in Syria and calls for a transition to democracy. The full text of the Secretary’s op-ed follows.
As the violent crackdown in Syria continues, President Assad has shown that he is more interested in his own power than his people.
The world has joined Syrians in mourning the deaths of many innocent people, including a 13-year old boy who was brutally tortured and mutilated. Approximately thirteen hundred Syrians have been killed since protests began. Many thousands more have been jailed and abused. Syrian security forces have surrounded communities and cut off electricity, communications and the Internet. Economic activity has slowed, the country is increasingly isolated and its citizens are growing more frustrated every day.
In his May 19 speech, President Obama echoed demonstrators’ basic and legitimate demands: the Assad government must stop shooting demonstrators, allow peaceful protest, release political prisoners, stop unjust arrests, give access to human rights monitors, and start an inclusive dialogue to advance a democratic transition. President Assad, he said, could either lead that transition or get out of the way.
It is increasingly clear that President Assad has made his choice. But while continued brutality may allow him to delay the change that is underway in Syria, it will not reverse it.
As Syria’s neighbors and the international community respond to this crisis, we should be guided by the answers to several key questions: Why has it erupted? What does the crackdown reveal about President Assad and his regime? And where does Syria go from here?
First, there should be no doubt about the nature of the protests in Syria.
Like Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans and others across the Middle East and North Africa, the Syrian people are demanding their long-denied universal rights and rejecting a government that rules through fear, squanders their talents through corruption, and denies them the dignity of having a voice in their own future. They are organizing themselves, including the local coordinating committees, and they are refusing to back down even in the face of revolting violence.
If President Assad believes that the protests are the work of foreign instigators – as his government has claimed – he is wrong. It is true that some Syrian soldiers have been killed, and we regret the loss of those lives too. But the vast majority of casualties have been unarmed civilians. By continuing to ban foreign journalists and observers, the regime seeks to hide these facts.
Second, President Assad is showing his true colors by embracing the repressive tactics of his ally Iran and putting Syria onto the path of a pariah state.
By following Iran’s lead, President Assad is placing himself and his regime on the wrong side of history. He will learn that legitimacy flows from the consent of the people and cannot be forged through bullets and billyclubs.
President Assad’s violent crackdown has shattered his claims to be a reformer. For years, he has offered pledges and promises, but all that matters are his actions. A speech, no matter how dutifully applauded by regime apologists, will not change the reality that the Syrian people, despite being told they live in a republic, have never had the opportunity to freely elect their leaders. These citizens want to see a real transition to democracy and a government that honors their universal rights and aspirations.
If President Assad believes he can act with impunity because the international community hopes for his cooperation on other issues, he is wrong about this as well. He and his regime are certainly not indispensable.
A Syria that is unified, pluralistic, and democratic could play a positive and leading role in the region, but under President Assad the country is increasingly becoming a source of instability. The refugees streaming into Turkey and Lebanon, and the tensions being stoked on the Golan, should dispel the notion that the regime is a bulwark of regional stability that must be protected.
Finally, the answer to the most important question of all – what does this mean for Syria’s future? – is increasingly clear: There is no going back.
Syrians have recognized the violence as a sign of weakness from a regime that rules by coercion, not consent. They have overcome their fears and have shaken the foundations of this authoritarian system.
Syria is headed toward a new political order — and the Syrian people should be the ones to shape it. They should insist on accountability, but resist any temptation to exact revenge or reprisals that might split the country, and instead join together to build a democratic, peaceful and tolerant Syria.
Considering the answers to all these questions, the United States chooses to stand with the Syrian people and their universal rights. We condemn the Assad regime’s disregard for the will of its citizens and Iran’s insidious interference.
The United States has already imposed sanctions on senior Syrian officials, including President Assad. We are carefully targeting leaders of the crackdown, not the Syrian people. We welcomed the decisions by the European Union to impose its own sanctions and by the UN Human Rights Council to launch an investigation into abuses. The United States will continue coordinating closely with our partners in the region and around world to increase pressure on and further isolate the Assad regime.
The Syrian people will not cease their demands for dignity and a future free from intimidation and fear. They deserve a government that respects its people, works to build a more stable and prosperous country, and doesn’t have to rely on repression at home and antagonism abroad to maintain its grip on power. They deserve a nation that is unified, democratic and a force for stability and progress. That would be good for Syria, good for the region and good for the world.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you. Please, have a seat. Thank you very much. I want to begin by thanking Hillary Clinton, who has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark — one million frequent flyer miles. (Laughter.) I count on Hillary every single day, and I believe that she will go down as one of the finest Secretaries of State in our nation’s history.
The State Department is a fitting venue to mark a new chapter in American diplomacy. For six months, we have witnessed an extraordinary change taking place in the Middle East and North Africa. Square by square, town by town, country by country, the people have risen up to demand their basic human rights. Two leaders have stepped aside. More may follow. And though these countries may be a great distance from our shores, we know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security, by history and by faith.
Today, I want to talk about this change — the forces that are driving it and how we can respond in a way that advances our values and strengthens our security.
Now, already, we’ve done much to shift our foreign policy following a decade defined by two costly conflicts. After years of war in Iraq, we’ve removed 100,000 American troops and ended our combat mission there. In Afghanistan, we’ve broken the Taliban’s momentum, and this July we will begin to bring our troops home and continue a transition to Afghan lead. And after years of war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, we have dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader, Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden was no martyr. He was a mass murderer who offered a message of hate –- an insistence that Muslims had to take up arms against the West, and that violence against men, women and children was the only path to change. He rejected democracy and individual rights for Muslims in favor of violent extremism; his agenda focused on what he could destroy -– not what he could build.
Bin Laden and his murderous vision won some adherents. But even before his death, al Qaeda was losing its struggle for relevance, as the overwhelming majority of people saw that the slaughter of innocents did not answer their cries for a better life. By the time we found bin Laden, al Qaeda’s agenda had come to be seen by the vast majority of the region as a dead end, and the people of the Middle East and North Africa had taken their future into their own hands.
That story of self-determination began six months ago in Tunisia. On December 17th, a young vendor named Mohammed Bouazizi was devastated when a police officer confiscated his cart. This was not unique. It’s the same kind of humiliation that takes place every day in many parts of the world -– the relentless tyranny of governments that deny their citizens dignity. Only this time, something different happened. After local officials refused to hear his complaints, this young man, who had never been particularly active in politics, went to the headquarters of the provincial government, doused himself in fuel, and lit himself on fire.
There are times in the course of history when the actions of ordinary citizens spark movements for change because they speak to a longing for freedom that has been building up for years. In America, think of the defiance of those patriots in Boston who refused to pay taxes to a King, or the dignity of Rosa Parks as she sat courageously in her seat. So it was in Tunisia, as that vendor’s act of desperation tapped into the frustration felt throughout the country. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets, then thousands. And in the face of batons and sometimes bullets, they refused to go home –- day after day, week after week — until a dictator of more than two decades finally left power.
The story of this revolution, and the ones that followed, should not have come as a surprise. The nations of the Middle East and North Africa won their independence long ago, but in too many places their people did not. In too many countries, power has been concentrated in the hands of a few. In too many countries, a citizen like that young vendor had nowhere to turn -– no honest judiciary to hear his case; no independent media to give him voice; no credible political party to represent his views; no free and fair election where he could choose his leader.
And this lack of self-determination –- the chance to make your life what you will –- has applied to the region’s economy as well. Yes, some nations are blessed with wealth in oil and gas, and that has led to pockets of prosperity. But in a global economy based on knowledge, based on innovation, no development strategy can be based solely upon what comes out of the ground. Nor can people reach their potential when you cannot start a business without paying a bribe.
In the face of these challenges, too many leaders in the region tried to direct their people’s grievances elsewhere. The West was blamed as the source of all ills, a half-century after the end of colonialism. Antagonism toward Israel became the only acceptable outlet for political expression. Divisions of tribe, ethnicity and religious sect were manipulated as a means of holding on to power, or taking it away from somebody else.
But the events of the past six months show us that strategies of repression and strategies of diversion will not work anymore. Satellite television and the Internet provide a window into the wider world -– a world of astonishing progress in places like India and Indonesia and Brazil. Cell phones and social networks allow young people to connect and organize like never before. And so a new generation has emerged. And their voices tell us that change cannot be denied.
In Cairo, we heard the voice of the young mother who said, “It’s like I can finally breathe fresh air for the first time.”
In Sanaa, we heard the students who chanted, “The night must come to an end.”
In Benghazi, we heard the engineer who said, “Our words are free now. It’s a feeling you can’t explain.”
In Damascus, we heard the young man who said, “After the first yelling, the first shout, you feel dignity.”
Those shouts of human dignity are being heard across the region. And through the moral force of nonviolence, the people of the region have achieved more change in six months than terrorists have accomplished in decades.
Of course, change of this magnitude does not come easily. In our day and age -– a time of 24-hour news cycles and constant communication –- people expect the transformation of the region to be resolved in a matter of weeks. But it will be years before this story reaches its end. Along the way, there will be good days and there will bad days. In some places, change will be swift; in others, gradual. And as we’ve already seen, calls for change may give way, in some cases, to fierce contests for power.
The question before us is what role America will play as this story unfolds. For decades, the United States has pursued a set of core interests in the region: countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; securing the free flow of commerce and safe-guarding the security of the region; standing up for Israel’s security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.
We will continue to do these things, with the firm belief that America’s interests are not hostile to people’s hopes; they’re essential to them. We believe that no one benefits from a nuclear arms race in the region, or al Qaeda’s brutal attacks. We believe people everywhere would see their economies crippled by a cut-off in energy supplies. As we did in the Gulf War, we will not tolerate aggression across borders, and we will keep our commitments to friends and partners.
Yet we must acknowledge that a strategy based solely upon the narrow pursuit of these interests will not fill an empty stomach or allow someone to speak their mind. Moreover, failure to speak to the broader aspirations of ordinary people will only feed the suspicion that has festered for years that the United States pursues our interests at their expense. Given that this mistrust runs both ways –- as Americans have been seared by hostage-taking and violent rhetoric and terrorist attacks that have killed thousands of our citizens -– a failure to change our approach threatens a deepening spiral of division between the United States and the Arab world.
And that’s why, two years ago in Cairo, I began to broaden our engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. I believed then -– and I believe now -– that we have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self-determination of individuals. The status quo is not sustainable. Societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time, but they are built upon fault lines that will eventually tear asunder.
So we face a historic opportunity. We have the chance to show that America values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator. There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity. Yes, there will be perils that accompany this moment of promise. But after decades of accepting the world as it is in the region, we have a chance to pursue the world as it should be.
Of course, as we do, we must proceed with a sense of humility. It’s not America that put people into the streets of Tunis or Cairo -– it was the people themselves who launched these movements, and it’s the people themselves that must ultimately determine their outcome.
Not every country will follow our particular form of representative democracy, and there will be times when our short-term interests don’t align perfectly with our long-term vision for the region. But we can, and we will, speak out for a set of core principles –- principles that have guided our response to the events over the past six months:
The United States opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region. (Applause.)
The United States supports a set of universal rights. And these rights include free speech, the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom of religion, equality for men and women under the rule of law, and the right to choose your own leaders -– whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus, Sanaa or Tehran.
And we support political and economic reform in the Middle East and North Africa that can meet the legitimate aspirations of ordinary people throughout the region.
Our support for these principles is not a secondary interest. Today I want to make it clear that it is a top priority that must be translated into concrete actions, and supported by all of the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools at our disposal.
Let me be specific. First, it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy. That effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia, where the stakes are high -– as Tunisia was at the vanguard of this democratic wave, and Egypt is both a longstanding partner and the Arab world’s largest nation. Both nations can set a strong example through free and fair elections, a vibrant civil society, accountable and effective democratic institutions, and responsible regional leadership. But our support must also extend to nations where transitions have yet to take place.
Unfortunately, in too many countries, calls for change have thus far been answered by violence. The most extreme example is Libya, where Muammar Qaddafi launched a war against his own people, promising to hunt them down like rats. As I said when the United States joined an international coalition to intervene, we cannot prevent every injustice perpetrated by a regime against its people, and we have learned from our experience in Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to try to impose regime change by force -– no matter how well-intentioned it may be.
But in Libya, we saw the prospect of imminent massacre, we had a mandate for action, and heard the Libyan people’s call for help. Had we not acted along with our NATO allies and regional coalition partners, thousands would have been killed. The message would have been clear: Keep power by killing as many people as it takes. Now, time is working against Qaddafi. He does not have control over his country. The opposition has organized a legitimate and credible Interim Council. And when Qaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end, and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed.
While Libya has faced violence on the greatest scale, it’s not the only place where leaders have turned to repression to remain in power. Most recently, the Syrian regime has chosen the path of murder and the mass arrests of its citizens. The United States has condemned these actions, and working with the international community we have stepped up our sanctions on the Syrian regime –- including sanctions announced yesterday on President Assad and those around him.
The Syrian people have shown their courage in demanding a transition to democracy. President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition, or get out of the way. The Syrian government must stop shooting demonstrators and allow peaceful protests. It must release political prisoners and stop unjust arrests. It must allow human rights monitors to have access to cities like Dara’a; and start a serious dialogue to advance a democratic transition. Otherwise, President Assad and his regime will continue to be challenged from within and will continue to be isolated abroad.
So far, Syria has followed its Iranian ally, seeking assistance from Tehran in the tactics of suppression. And this speaks to the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, which says it stand for the rights of protesters abroad, yet represses its own people at home. Let’s remember that the first peaceful protests in the region were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalized women and men, and threw innocent people into jail. We still hear the chants echo from the rooftops of Tehran. The image of a young woman dying in the streets is still seared in our memory. And we will continue to insist that the Iranian people deserve their universal rights, and a government that does not smother their aspirations.
Now, our opposition to Iran’s intolerance and Iran’s repressive measures, as well as its illicit nuclear program and its support of terror, is well known. But if America is to be credible, we must acknowledge that at times our friends in the region have not all reacted to the demands for consistent change — with change that’s consistent with the principles that I’ve outlined today. That’s true in Yemen, where President Saleh needs to follow through on his commitment to transfer power. And that’s true today in Bahrain.
Bahrain is a longstanding partner, and we are committed to its security. We recognize that Iran has tried to take advantage of the turmoil there, and that the Bahraini government has a legitimate interest in the rule of law.
Nevertheless, we have insisted both publicly and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens, and we will — and such steps will not make legitimate calls for reform go away. The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail. (Applause.) The government must create the conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future for all Bahrainis.
Indeed, one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict. In Iraq, we see the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy. The Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence in favor of a democratic process, even as they’ve taken full responsibility for their own security. Of course, like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress. And as they do, we will be proud to stand with them as a steadfast partner.
So in the months ahead, America must use all our influence to encourage reform in the region. Even as we acknowledge that each country is different, we need to speak honestly about the principles that we believe in, with friend and foe alike. Our message is simple: If you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States.
We must also build on our efforts to broaden our engagement beyond elites, so that we reach the people who will shape the future -– particularly young people. We will continue to make good on the commitments that I made in Cairo -– to build networks of entrepreneurs and expand exchanges in education, to foster cooperation in science and technology, and combat disease. Across the region, we intend to provide assistance to civil society, including those that may not be officially sanctioned, and who speak uncomfortable truths. And we will use the technology to connect with -– and listen to –- the voices of the people.
For the fact is, real reform does not come at the ballot box alone. Through our efforts we must support those basic rights to speak your mind and access information. We will support open access to the Internet, and the right of journalists to be heard -– whether it’s a big news organization or a lone blogger. In the 21st century, information is power, the truth cannot be hidden, and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.
Such open discourse is important even if what is said does not square with our worldview. Let me be clear, America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard, even if we disagree with them. And sometimes we profoundly disagree with them.
We look forward to working with all who embrace genuine and inclusive democracy. What we will oppose is an attempt by any group to restrict the rights of others, and to hold power through coercion and not consent. Because democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and the respect for the rights of minorities.
Such tolerance is particularly important when it comes to religion. In Tahrir Square, we heard Egyptians from all walks of life chant, “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” America will work to see that this spirit prevails -– that all faiths are respected, and that bridges are built among them. In a region that was the birthplace of three world religions, intolerance can lead only to suffering and stagnation. And for this season of change to succeed, Coptic Christians must have the right to worship freely in Cairo, just as Shia must never have their mosques destroyed in Bahrain.
What is true for religious minorities is also true when it comes to the rights of women. History shows that countries are more prosperous and more peaceful when women are empowered. And that’s why we will continue to insist that universal rights apply to women as well as men -– by focusing assistance on child and maternal health; by helping women to teach, or start a business; by standing up for the right of women to have their voices heard, and to run for office. The region will never reach its full potential when more than half of its population is prevented from achieving their full potential. (Applause.)
Now, even as we promote political reform, even as we promote human rights in the region, our efforts can’t stop there. So the second way that we must support positive change in the region is through our efforts to advance economic development for nations that are transitioning to democracy.
After all, politics alone has not put protesters into the streets. The tipping point for so many people is the more constant concern of putting food on the table and providing for a family. Too many people in the region wake up with few expectations other than making it through the day, perhaps hoping that their luck will change. Throughout the region, many young people have a solid education, but closed economies leave them unable to find a job. Entrepreneurs are brimming with ideas, but corruption leaves them unable to profit from those ideas.
The greatest untapped resource in the Middle East and North Africa is the talent of its people. In the recent protests, we see that talent on display, as people harness technology to move the world. It’s no coincidence that one of the leaders of Tahrir Square was an executive for Google. That energy now needs to be channeled, in country after country, so that economic growth can solidify the accomplishments of the street. For just as democratic revolutions can be triggered by a lack of individual opportunity, successful democratic transitions depend upon an expansion of growth and broad-based prosperity.
So, drawing from what we’ve learned around the world, we think it’s important to focus on trade, not just aid; on investment, not just assistance. The goal must be a model in which protectionism gives way to openness, the reigns of commerce pass from the few to the many, and the economy generates jobs for the young. America’s support for democracy will therefore be based on ensuring financial stability, promoting reform, and integrating competitive markets with each other and the global economy. And we’re going to start with Tunisia and Egypt.
First, we’ve asked the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to present a plan at next week’s G8 summit for what needs to be done to stabilize and modernize the economies of Tunisia and Egypt. Together, we must help them recover from the disruptions of their democratic upheaval, and support the governments that will be elected later this year. And we are urging other countries to help Egypt and Tunisia meet its near-term financial needs.
Second, we do not want a democratic Egypt to be saddled by the debts of its past. So we will relieve a democratic Egypt of up to $1 billion in debt, and work with our Egyptian partners to invest these resources to foster growth and entrepreneurship. We will help Egypt regain access to markets by guaranteeing $1 billion in borrowing that is needed to finance infrastructure and job creation. And we will help newly democratic governments recover assets that were stolen.
Third, we’re working with Congress to create Enterprise Funds to invest in Tunisia and Egypt. And these will be modeled on funds that supported the transitions in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. OPIC will soon launch a $2 billion facility to support private investment across the region. And we will work with the allies to refocus the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development so that it provides the same support for democratic transitions and economic modernization in the Middle East and North Africa as it has in Europe.
Fourth, the United States will launch a comprehensive Trade and Investment Partnership Initiative in the Middle East and North Africa. If you take out oil exports, this entire region of over 400 million people exports roughly the same amount as Switzerland. So we will work with the EU to facilitate more trade within the region, build on existing agreements to promote integration with U.S. and European markets, and open the door for those countries who adopt high standards of reform and trade liberalization to construct a regional trade arrangement. And just as EU membership served as an incentive for reform in Europe, so should the vision of a modern and prosperous economy create a powerful force for reform in the Middle East and North Africa.
Prosperity also requires tearing down walls that stand in the way of progress -– the corruption of elites who steal from their people; the red tape that stops an idea from becoming a business; the patronage that distributes wealth based on tribe or sect. We will help governments meet international obligations, and invest efforts at anti-corruption — by working with parliamentarians who are developing reforms, and activists who use technology to increase transparency and hold government accountable. Politics and human rights; economic reform.
Let me conclude by talking about another cornerstone of our approach to the region, and that relates to the pursuit of peace.
For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could be blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them. For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own. Moreover, this conflict has come with a larger cost to the Middle East, as it impedes partnerships that could bring greater security and prosperity and empowerment to ordinary people.
For over two years, my administration has worked with the parties and the international community to end this conflict, building on decades of work by previous administrations. Yet expectations have gone unmet. Israeli settlement activity continues. Palestinians have walked away from talks. The world looks at a conflict that has grinded on and on and on, and sees nothing but stalemate. Indeed, there are those who argue that with all the change and uncertainty in the region, it is simply not possible to move forward now.
I disagree. At a time when the people of the Middle East and North Africa are casting off the burdens of the past, the drive for a lasting peace that ends the conflict and resolves all claims is more urgent than ever. That’s certainly true for the two parties involved.
For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.
As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums. But precisely because of our friendship, it’s important that we tell the truth: The status quo is unsustainable, and Israel too must act boldly to advance a lasting peace.
The fact is, a growing number of Palestinians live west of the Jordan River. Technology will make it harder for Israel to defend itself. A region undergoing profound change will lead to populism in which millions of people -– not just one or two leaders — must believe peace is possible. The international community is tired of an endless process that never produces an outcome. The dream of a Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation.
Now, ultimately, it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them — not by the United States; not by anybody else. But endless delay won’t make the problem go away. What America and the international community can do is to state frankly what everyone knows — a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.
So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their full potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.
As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself -– by itself -– against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated.
These principles provide a foundation for negotiations. Palestinians should know the territorial outlines of their state; Israelis should know that their basic security concerns will be met. I’m aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians.
Now, let me say this: Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table. In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel: How can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist? And in the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question. Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse.
I recognize how hard this will be. Suspicion and hostility has been passed on for generations, and at times it has hardened. But I’m convinced that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past. We see that spirit in the Israeli father whose son was killed by Hamas, who helped start an organization that brought together Israelis and Palestinians who had lost loved ones. That father said, “I gradually realized that the only hope for progress was to recognize the face of the conflict.” We see it in the actions of a Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza. “I have the right to feel angry,” he said. “So many people were expecting me to hate. My answer to them is I shall not hate. Let us hope,” he said, “for tomorrow.”
That is the choice that must be made -– not simply in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but across the entire region -– a choice between hate and hope; between the shackles of the past and the promise of the future. It’s a choice that must be made by leaders and by the people, and it’s a choice that will define the future of a region that served as the cradle of civilization and a crucible of strife.
For all the challenges that lie ahead, we see many reasons to be hopeful. In Egypt, we see it in the efforts of young people who led protests. In Syria, we see it in the courage of those who brave bullets while chanting, “peaceful, peaceful.” In Benghazi, a city threatened with destruction, we see it in the courthouse square where people gather to celebrate the freedoms that they had never known. Across the region, those rights that we take for granted are being claimed with joy by those who are prying loose the grip of an iron fist.
For the American people, the scenes of upheaval in the region may be unsettling, but the forces driving it are not unfamiliar. Our own nation was founded through a rebellion against an empire. Our people fought a painful Civil War that extended freedom and dignity to those who were enslaved. And I would not be standing here today unless past generations turned to the moral force of nonviolence as a way to perfect our union –- organizing, marching, protesting peacefully together to make real those words that declared our nation: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
Those words must guide our response to the change that is transforming the Middle East and North Africa -– words which tell us that repression will fail, and that tyrants will fall, and that every man and woman is endowed with certain inalienable rights.
It will not be easy. There’s no straight line to progress, and hardship always accompanies a season of hope. But the United States of America was founded on the belief that people should govern themselves. And now we cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights, knowing that their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more stable, and more just.
Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you.
Strengthening the Transatlantic Alliance: An Overview of the Obama Administration’s Policies in Europe
Chairman Wexler, Congressman Gallegly, members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about Administration policies and priorities in Europe and strategies to further strengthen the transatlantic relationship.
President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and I are committed to reinvigorating and deepening the traditional relationships of confidence and trust we share with Europe. Europe is eager to reciprocate and increase the breadth of our close relationship, one that is based on shared values, including an enduring commitment to democracy, transparency, accountability, respect for human rights, and the rule of law. Today, I will highlight some examples of what the United States and Europe have achieved and what our policy objectives are going forward. To do that, I will touch on three strategic priorities for the Administration in Europe: European engagement on global challenges; a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace; and a renewed relationship with Russia.
Many of our European partners are among the most prosperous, democratic, and militarily capable countries in the world. Working with our European allies both bilaterally and multilaterally will remain critical to success in tackling the many global challenges we face together. The United States cooperates with Europe on all of the most important global challenges, including restoring growth and confidence in the world financial system; fighting poverty and pandemic disease; countering terrorism and nuclear proliferation; advancing peace in the Middle East; promoting human rights; and combating trafficking in persons. Still, there are other areas where our cooperation with Europe needs to increase. We can and must do more to address challenges like ongoing operations in Afghanistan and Iraq; instability in Pakistan; Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons programs; energy security and climate change. As President Obama has said, “The United States is ready to lead, and we call upon our partners to join us with a sense of urgency and common purpose.”
One of the Administration’s most important priorities will be to continue the historic American project of helping to extend stability, security, prosperity, and democracy to all of Europe and Eurasia. The objective of all Presidents since World War II, both Democratic and Republican, has been to work with Europe to realize a joint vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace. One of the ways the United States seeks to further this goal is through our critical partnerships in Europe – which include the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union (EU), and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
In April, NATO, the most successful alliance in history, celebrated its 60th Anniversary. Allies initiated a discussion of the Alliance’s future and tasked the Secretary General to launch a review of NATO’s Strategic Concept to insure that NATO is both prepared and equipped to meet the new security challenges of the 21st Century, including extremism, terrorism, proliferation, insurgency, failed states, piracy, and cyber threats.
Also at the Summit, Allies welcomed Albania and Croatia as NATO’s newest members, reinforcing the message that NATO’s door remains open. The United States joined Allies in welcoming France’s return, after over 40 years, to the integrated NATO military command structure. France’s full participation in NATO is a symbol of a renewed European commitment to NATO. Finally, Allies selected former Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen as the next Secretary General of NATO, to lead the reform of the Alliance so that it retains the flexibility and resources required to meet the new challenges of our time.
The United States also remains unequivocally committed to our Article 5 commitment; we will not waiver from the enduring premise that an attack against one is an attack against all. As NATO Heads of State and Government reaffirmed at the Summit in Strasbourg-Kehl, “the strong collective defense of our populations, territory, and forces is the core purpose of the Alliance and remains our most important security task.” We will continue to support adequate planning, exercises, and training to ensure NATO has the capabilities to remain as relevant to the security of Allied populations in the 21st century as it was in the 20th century.
Some of the most pivotal outcomes of the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit dealt with Afghanistan. On March 27, the President announced a new strategy for ensuring vital U.S. national interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This strategy for the first time integrates our civilian and military efforts in both countries, with the goal of disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al-Qaeda and eliminating its safe-havens. The Alliance unanimously endorsed this new strategy in Strasbourg. While the Summit was not a pledging conference, Allies and partners committed to provide 3000 new forces for Afghan election security and over a thousand new trainers, troops and civilians to support this new strategy. These new contributions will support political growth and security transformation in Afghanistan and contribute to regional stability.
Despite all of these positive developments, I do not wish to understate the enormity of the challenges we face – or the consequences of failure. Although Allies and Partners currently contribute over 32,000 troops to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan (ISAF), we look forward to their additional contributions in the form of troops, civilian assistance or funds. The UK, Germany, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Turkey provide especially valuable support to the Afghanistan mission. Allied troops are deployed throughout Afghanistan, although some nations continue to impose “caveats” that restrict where their troops can go and what missions they can conduct. Our commanders in the field have asked for maximum flexibility in deploying Allied troops assigned to ISAF, and we continue to press Allies to eliminate caveats. The United States currently provides approximately 29,000 troops to ISAF. Most of our additional deployments will also come under ISAF.
We recognize that there is not a purely military solution to the conflict, and that we must complement the security NATO provides by increasing international civilian assistance to Afghanistan. In partnership with the NSC, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke is leading the overall effort for the Administration and has assembled an interagency team in Washington to coordinate with our military and to implement the President’s new strategy more effectively.
Another increasingly important partnership for the United States is with the European Union, which has become one of our most crucial partners in addressing regional and global challenges in Europe and around the world. Our priorities for U.S.-EU cooperation cover almost all major U.S. foreign policy concerns including: energy security, climate change, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and the Middle East. The President raised each of these issues with his European counterparts at the April 5 EU Summit in Prague. He also assured them that the United States will be a ready partner on all these issues.
We are listening to our European partners and consulting with them closely, but also calling on them to bear their fair share of responsibilities for defending and promoting our common interests. During the Swedish EU Presidency that will begin on July 1, we look forward to continued close, results-oriented U.S.-EU cooperation. In July, I will meet with counterparts from the 27 EU member states, the European Commission, and the Council Secretariat.
The United States and the EU have the largest economic relationship in the world. Together, we generate 60 percent of world GDP. We will continue to work with the EU to promote the growth of our own market and support free trade and open investment around the world through the Transatlantic Economic Council. We will also cooperate with the EU to mitigate the effects of climate change, an issue that is now front and center in our foreign policy. The Department’s Special Envoy for Climate Change, Todd Stern, will work with our partners in Europe and around the globe to craft environmentally sound, scientifically driven, and pragmatic solutions to the world’s toughest environmental challenges and to lay the foundation for a successful outcome at this December’s UN climate conference in Copenhagen.
The EU also shares our concerns on security issues, such as Iran, including its nuclear activities, support for terrorism, and the domestic human rights situation. The EU-3 (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) have worked closely with us in the P5+1 (the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany), while EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana has served as the representative of the P5+1 in direct negotiations with the Iranians on the nuclear issue. In addition to UN Security Council resolutions, the EU has also implemented additional autonomous sanctions intended to press the Iranians to come to the negotiating table.
The United States and the EU are coordinating closely on providing significant financial, political, and military support for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Among other priorities, we are working to alleviate the refugee situation in Pakistan, and to monitor upcoming elections and train police in Afghanistan.
The EU is also a crucial partner in our efforts to bring peace to the Middle East. As the largest donor to the Palestinian people, the EU worked closely with us earlier this year on the resolution of the conflict in Gaza, and it has consistently been a strong partner for us within the Quartet (the United States, Russia, the EU, and the UN). The EU has offered to reactivate and expand its dormant Gaza border monitoring mission while maintaining an ongoing police and rule of law training mission in the West Bank designed to complement our own efforts to improve the capabilities of the Palestinian security forces.
Energy is increasingly at the heart of U.S. and European security concerns. The mutual focus on energy independence and new energy technologies – combined with the ongoing Russia-Ukraine gas issues, energy price volatility, the financial crisis and ongoing climate negotiations – necessitates deeper transatlantic energy cooperation. We are committed to working with the EU to develop access to alternative sources of gas, such as the Southern Corridor, which could tap into Caspian and Middle Eastern supplies, delivering gas to many of Europe’s most vulnerable markets. European energy security is strengthened when prices for natural gas, a key strategic commodity, are determined by market rather than monopoly forces. Increasing such market efficiencies requires greater competition in European gas markets through increased diversified supplies of gas from the Caspian region and Iraq, as well as via liquefied natural gas; interconnections of European natural gas networks; and application of European competition policy to prevent manipulation of gas prices. The President appointed Ambassador Richard Morningstar to be Special Envoy for Eurasian Energy and has asked him to take the lead in coordinating our work with Europe to enhance and strengthen our cooperation to address European energy security.
The OSCE is an important regional organization for promoting security defending human rights, and supporting democratic development throughout Europe and Eurasia. Our challenge is to reinvigorate the OSCE as a key promoter of fundamental freedoms, human rights, and civil society as necessary components of security in the region. The Secretary will initiate a structured dialogue on priority security issues when she attends the informal OSCE ministerial in Corfu later this month.
We also continue to work closely with our European partners through the G-20. At the April G-20 London Summit, the United States and the EU committed to steps that will address the global financial crisis. We are now following through on those commitments, which include strengthening international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the Multilateral Development Banks, in preparation for the next meeting of G-20 leaders in Pittsburgh this September. Together with the other G-20 participants, we are resisting protectionism and promoting global trade and investment.
Europe: Whole, Free, and at Peace
Over two decades ago, the United States set out a vision for working with our European allies and partners on a Europe whole, free, and at peace, extending the zone of peace and prosperity throughout all of Europe. Many Central and Eastern European countries are now full members of NATO and the EU – this reality is one of Europe’s most significant post-Cold War accomplishments. Yet we still have unfinished business in extending that vision and prosperity to Europe’s south and east. Critical challenges remain, and only through collective action will we continue to make progress.
The global economic crisis has created additional pressures on our European friends and Allies and particular challenges for accomplishing our shared objectives in Europe and around the world. Europe’s stability and prosperity affect its strength as a global partner of the United States. Economic uncertainty may also aggravate Europe’s internal questions of identity, including those related to immigration, race, globalization, and trade. The economic crisis has hit certain parts of Europe especially hard, and we may very well see conditions get worse before they get better. Still, we must not allow this crisis to derail the critical work of pursuing a Europe whole, free, and at peace. Our collective security objectives will not be reached by decreasing capacities or turning increasingly inward. On the contrary, we must continue to make the case to our friends and Allies that, despite the devastating effects of the economic crisis, the many global and security challenges we face are too critical to ignore.
Turkey is crucial to success in many of our most important foreign policy priorities, including stability and prosperity in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, achieving a lasting peace in the Middle East, securing European energy diversity and resolving frozen conflicts and regional disputes. We support Turkey’s aspirations for eventual membership in the EU as Turkey advances reforms that will make it an even stronger partner. We encourage the EU to reach out to Turkey to demonstrate real prospects for membership. Doing so will serve as a catalyst for additional internal reforms. We are also encouraging Turkey to make additional needed reforms required to meet membership criteria, reforms that will strengthen Turkey’s democracy and economy. We encourage Turkey to take steps that will bolster its relations with its neighbors by re-opening the Halki Seminary and normalizing relations with Armenia, including a candid exploration of the two countries’ sometimes tragic history. We must also work to resolve outstanding disputes in the Aegean, to reduce prospects for heightened military tensions in a strategic area. Turkey is also at the center of U.S. and European Union efforts to diversify European gas supplies by expanding a “Southern Corridor” of energy infrastructure to transport Caspian (and eventually Iraqi) gas to Europe.
The United States seeks to help Armenia strengthen its security and prosperity by settling Armenia’s conflict with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh and by encouraging Turkey and Armenia to normalize their relations. We believe these two processes should proceed separately, but in parallel, and at different speeds. Armenia and Turkey announced in their April 22 joint statement they had “agreed on a comprehensive framework for the normalization of their bilateral relations.” This represents an historic opportunity as Turkey and Armenia are closer than ever before to normalizing relations and re-opening their border. Meanwhile, the United States has helped invigorate progress towards a Nagorno-Karabakh settlement through its mediation as a Co-chair of the OSCE’s Minsk Group. The meetings of Armenian President Sargsian and Azerbaijani President Aliyev on May 7 in Prague and June 4 in St. Petersburg cleared the way to accelerate efforts to finalize a framework agreement by the end of 2009. We also seek to advance democratic and market economic reform in Armenia, including through the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact with Armenia.
Azerbaijan is an important partner of the United States on regional security (especially counterterrorism) and on helping our European allies diversify their supplies of natural gas. Azerbaijan also exports nearly one million barrels of oil per day to global markets via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, free from geographic chokepoints (such as the Turkish Straits and the Straits of Hormuz) and from monopolistic pressures. As noted above, the United States has helped generate new progress toward a settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Our U.S. Co-chair of the OSCE’s Minsk Group, Deputy Assistant Secretary Matt Bryza, joined his Russian and French colleagues in facilitating five meetings between Presidents Sargsian and Aliyev over the past year. Secretary Clinton has been personally engaged in a series of discussions with Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders, including meetings with Foreign Ministers Mammadyarov and Nalbandian in Washington on May 5. I made my first trip to the Caucasus last week, where I visited Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to pursue our objectives in the region.
We will also continue to support the current negotiations in Cyprus – led by the two Cypriot communities under the auspices of the UN Good Offices Mission. Resolution of the Cyprus problem will have a tremendous impact on the region by strengthening peace, justice and prosperity on the island, advancing Turkey’s EU accession, improving NATO-EU cooperation and removing a source of friction between two NATO Allies, Greece and Turkey. As President Obama said, we are “willing to offer all the help sought by the parties as they work toward a just and lasting settlement that reunifies Cyprus into a bizonal and bicommunal federation.”
Greece is an important NATO Ally and the people-to-people ties between our countries run deep, sentiments the President reiterated to Prime Minister Karamanlis when they met in April. We look forward to working with Greece on a host of global challenges ranging from piracy to non proliferation. We also recognize the role Greece plays in important regional issues, including in the Balkans, the Aegean and Cyprus, and through its current chairmanship of the OSCE. We support Greece’s application for the Visa Waiver Program, and together, we are moving the process forward.
We are showing renewed leadership in the Balkans where more than a decade after Western interventions, the forces of democracy, openness, and modernity still struggle against backward-looking ethnic nationalism and intolerance. In concert with our European partners, we are intensifying our engagement with the region’s leaders and pressing for reforms that will advance their states toward the European mainstream. The Administration places great importance on completing the task of fully integrating the Balkan region into the Euro-Atlantic community. However, much work remains to secure a peaceful and prosperous future for the region.
Supporting Macedonia’s integration into NATO and the EU remains a vital element in our efforts to promote peace and stability in the Balkans. As Allies reaffirmed at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit, Macedonia will join NATO as soon the name issue is resolved. We would like to see this issue resolved soon. To that end, and in keeping with longstanding U.S. policy, we support a mutually acceptable solution to Macedonia’s name through the ongoing UN process led by Ambassador Nimetz. Deputy Secretary Steinberg delivered that message personally during his visits to Athens and Skopje in May.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
In his recent trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vice President Biden made clear our continuing commitment to help the country overcome its wartime legacy and transition to a modern state that can join NATO and the EU. To do so, Bosnia’s leaders must abandon divisive rhetoric and actions that threaten or violate the Dayton Peace Agreement, which remains the foundation for stability. Reforms that have been achieved must be protected, state-level institutions must be strengthened, and attempts to undermine them must stop.
Bosnia’s leaders must work across ethnic lines to reach compromises on governmental reforms that will enable the country to meet its Euro-Atlantic aspirations. Recently, while in Bosnia, Vice President Biden and EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana stressed that Bosnia’s future is in Europe, and it is natural that the EU will take on a greater role in guiding the reform process consistent with EU accession requirements. But before the Office of the High Representative can transition to an EU Special Representative, the so called “five plus two” reform agenda of outstanding Dayton implementation and state building objectives and conditions must be completed.
The Vice President also met with Serbian President Tadic, Prime Minister Cvetkovic, and Defense Minister Sutanovac to stress the Administration’s intent to reinvigorate the relationship. He made clear that, despite our differences over Kosovo, we have extensive common interests, and the United States stands ready to support Serbia as it moves towards full integration into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions. This includes strengthened ties and membership in the European Union and closer cooperation with NATO, including eventual membership when Serbia is ready. The Vice President stressed that Serbia must uphold its commitment to work with the international community on practical humanitarian matters in Kosovo that will help improve the lives of all of Kosovo’s citizens, including ethnic Serbs. Belgrade’s full cooperation with the EU rule of law mission remains a key element in this. Vice President Biden also emphasized that we expect Serbia to continue its efforts to capture and extradite to The Hague the remaining war crimes fugitives Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic.
Montenegro is a new democracy, strongly committed to integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions, including NATO and the EU. In his May trip to Montenegro, Deputy Secretary Steinberg reaffirmed our strong support for Montenegro’s NATO and EU aspirations and encouraged the government to continue to play a stabilizing role in the region. He also stressed the need to step up efforts to strengthen rule of law, as well as transparency and accountability in government.
Kosovo’s success as an independent state within its current borders remains a critically important factor for stability in the Balkans. Yesterday (June 15th), Kosovo celebrated the one-year anniversary of the establishment of its constitution, and it has made tremendous progress during the sixteen months since its independence. Kosovo’s independence is irreversible. To date, sixty countries from around the world have formally recognized Kosovo. The shareholders of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank also recently voted to admit Kosovo as a member. Membership in these international financial institutions will help Kosovo’s efforts to achieve economic stability and prosperity for the benefit of all its citizens.
Kosovo’s leadership is upholding its commitments to build a multiethnic democracy, with far-reaching protections for Kosovo Serb and other minority communities. The government has demonstrated Kosovo is willing and able to play a constructive role as a responsible member of the international community. Of course, much work remains as Kosovo’s leaders build for the future. The United States will support Kosovo as it re-doubles efforts to build governing capacity, develop a sound economy and environment for investment, and maintain momentum in creation of a robust, multi-ethnic democracy.
Furthermore, in promoting a peaceful, united, and democratic Europe and Eurasia, we must strongly support the sovereignty and independence of all European states, including those that emerged out of the former Soviet Union.
The United States strongly supports Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and its commitment to further democratic reform. We must work with our international partners, including the UN, OSCE and EU, to improve the security and humanitarian situation throughout Georgia and to increase international access to the separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. We will maintain solidarity with the international community in refusing to recognize the independence of these separatist regions of Georgia. We regret that Russia blocked the extension of the OSCE and UN missions in Georgia. EU monitors play a crucial role in defusing tension along the administrative border between South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia. On June 22, 2009, Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Vashadze will chair the inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership Council, based on the charter our two countries concluded in January 2009, which reaffirms our commitment to deepen cooperation with Georgia.
The United States is committed to insuring a prosperous, democratic, and independent Ukraine by helping consolidate its democratic institutions and continue reforms. It is important for Ukraine’s leaders to work together to address its serious economic crisis as well, including taking all necessary steps to implement the $16.4 billion IMF Standby Program.
The United States strongly supports the right of both Ukraine and Georgia to pursue their membership aspirations in NATO. To achieve NATO membership, both countries must complete rigorous reforms to meet NATO’s performance-based standards. Under the auspices of the NATO-Ukraine and NATO-Georgia Commissions, Allies, including the United States, are working with both countries to provide concrete advice, assistance, and practical support to help guide these efforts.
A country that has been a concern recently is Moldova, where repeat parliamentary elections will take place after the parliament failed to elect a president. We will urge the Government of Moldova to conduct the elections in a fair and transparent manner, seriously addressing concerns raised about the conduct of the previous parliamentary elections, including accurate voter lists and a free and independent media. This would increase confidence in Moldova’s democratic institutions and demonstrate that Moldova remains on a path of reform and democratic development. We will continue to work for a negotiated settlement of the separatist conflict in the Transnistria region that provides for a whole and democratic Moldova and the withdrawal of Russian forces.
In Belarus, we will encourage the regime to emerge from isolation and to respect the Belarusian people’s basic rights and democratic aspirations through undertaking genuine political and economic reform. Our assistance program in Belarus complements these goals.
As we work to promote security, prosperity and democracy across Eurasia, the Obama Administration is committed to reinvigorating our relations with Russia and looks forward to building a relationship based on respect and mutual cooperation. President Obama and President Medvedev met in London on April 1, where they reaffirmed that Washington and Moscow share common visions of many of the threats and opportunities in the world today. The two presidents’ joint declaration recognized that more unites us than divides us. The task is now to translate that sentiment into actual achievements as we look ahead to a July summit in Moscow.
We also share major common interests and will work together on these important areas. In this regard, Presidents Obama and Medvedev agreed to develop a robust agenda for bilateral cooperation, agreeing to work together on a variety of issues, including reducing strategic nuclear weapons and enhancing nuclear security, and to cooperate on such issues as counterterrorism, counternarcotics, Iran, North Korea, the environment, strengthening civil society, and the global economic crisis. We also appreciate the Russian decision to allow non-lethal transit through their territory to assist international efforts in Afghanistan, a mission that has clear security implications for Russia and an area that offers the United States and Russia more common ground on which to constructively work together in the future.
Another part of that agenda will be the negotiation of a follow-on agreement to the START treaty, which is set to expire on December 5, 2009. So far, there have been two rounds of productive meetings in May and June. The negotiators are charged with reporting their progress to the Presidents during their meeting in Moscow in July.
Russia and the United States bear a special responsibility for the future safety of the world. We are working very hard together to find practical solutions, including through the UN Conference on Disarmament, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, Cooperative Threat Reduction programs, and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.
One of the outstanding issues we face is the drift in relations between Russia and the NATO alliance, as well as the weakening of European security structures triggered by Russia’s suspension of its implementation of the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe. At the OSCE ministerial in Corfu, we will discuss ways to strengthen European security. We are pleased that the NATO-Russia Council will also meet at the ministerial level on the margins to resume dialogue and refocus on areas of shared interest. The Secretary spoke about an “all weather” forum for dialogue where areas of common interest and grave importance to our shared and global security can always be discussed. We welcome a dialogue with Russia in the OSCE about its ideas for a new European security architecture. We remain committed to working through and improving existing structures and mechanisms for joint cooperation on European security. The OSCE will serve as an important forum for such a discussion, as the sole multilateral organization in Europe that brings us all together on equal terms.
At the same time that we reinvigorate our relations with Russia, we will not abandon our principles or ignore concerns about democracy and human rights. While we look forward to forming a more cooperative partnership with Russia, we have no illusions that this will be easy or that we will not continue to have differences. The United States will not recognize a Russian sphere of influence. The United States will also continue to support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia’s neighbors. They have the right to make their own decisions and choose their own alliances. The United States and Russia can still work together where our interests coincide while seeking to narrow our differences in an open and mutually respectful way.
As we recognize the many challenges that we face in spreading security, prosperity, and democracy to South and Eastern Europe, it is also important that we recognize and continue to work with our traditional friends and allies in Europe’s West.
The United States enjoys some of its closest and most productive partnerships with the countries in this region. President Obama made two visits to reinforce these relationships in the first five months of his presidency. Our Allies throughout Europe share an enduring set of common interests and values with us and they also possess the ability to bring real assets to the table – diplomatic, financial, and military – for joint action to promote and defend those interests. The United States is grateful to all of these countries and our NATO partners in other regions such as Australia for their significant contributions to the joint mission in Afghanistan, and looks forward to continuing our close cooperation as we begin implementing the new strategy there. Sixty years ago, our nations came together to fight a common enemy that threatened the freedom of the citizens of Europe. Today, we continue to work together with these important Allies on many new and emerging threats.
Finally, let me address several specific issues, some old and others very new, which pose significant challenges to the United States and our transatlantic friends. As President Obama said on his first trip to Europe, “America can’t meet our global challenges alone; nor can Europe meet them without America.”
An integral part of working with our European partners on global issues is being a good partner ourselves. Specifically this involves making good on our foreign assistance commitments and maintaining them in the years to come. The job we started after the fall of the Berlin Wall – to help nurture democratic and economic reform among the states of the former Soviet Union — is far from over. Many countries in Central and Eastern Europe have been phased out of foreign assistance, primarily because of their membership in the EU or NATO. Countries that are still receiving our help in making the democratic transition arguably present an even tougher challenge today, especially during a global economic downturn. U.S. foreign assistance invests in American security by contributing to European security and helping build stable and full participants in the transatlantic community.
Our assistance is essential to bolstering the efforts of still-fragile reformers like Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova to integrate into Euro-Atlantic institutions. In the Balkans, our Fiscal Year 2010 request to Congress represents a re-balancing of aid levels to maintain robust funding for Kosovo, to increase aid to consolidate progress in Albania and Macedonia, to strengthen reforms in Serbia, and to ensure that Bosnia and Herzegovina gets back on the path to Euro-Atlantic integration. We are seeking additional resources to prevent or reverse further democratic backsliding in places like Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. In Russia, we focus on programs to promote democratic development and human rights to enhance cooperation with Moscow to counter nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and global health scourges.
Our military assistance to Europe and Eurasia, for which we seek to restore funding following sharp cuts in 2008 and 2009, pays us dividends by building new capabilities in countries that support our security operations abroad, including Afghanistan, and by improving the professionalism of European forces, and developing their interoperability with NATO.
One of the most important components of global cooperation in the 21st century is our Public Diplomacy strategy. That involves being able to effectively communicate with European governments and publics in a way that creates an understanding of our policy objectives, lays the groundwork for concerted action with European partners beyond Europe’s borders, and engages Europe’s young generation of “first time voters” to create a sense of common values and purpose with the United States. To do this, the Department is engaged in rapid and targeted delivery of policy messages to meet ever-shorter news cycles; developing innovative uses of new media to engage youth audiences; expanding programs that invite dialogue – listening as well as talking; and creating new exchange programs that allow us to engage Europe’s future leaders, and in expanding our use of our soft power tools, like culture and sports, to open doors and begin dialogue.
Engagement with Muslims in Europe
Another crucial aspect of our strategy is to engage constructively with Muslim populations in Europe. As President Obama said during his trip to Turkey in April and in his Cairo speech earlier this month, the United States seeks a new beginning with Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest, mutual respect, and the principles of justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings. The Department’s engagement efforts in Europe seek to capitalize on these interests by improving understanding of the United States, helping to build networks of European and American Muslims, facilitating improved inter-community relations, and supporting peaceful grassroots organizations, with a particular focus on youth outreach. Our approaches are tailored to the different contexts and the variety of Muslim communities in different countries, and include engagement with students and community groups, internships, mentoring, exchanges and many others.
Yet another aspect of our global cooperation involves engaging the countries of Europe to help those still-living survivors of one of the worst genocides in the history of the world, the Holocaust, achieve some belated justice. The upcoming Conference on Holocaust Era Assets offers us that opportunity. Former Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat will head the U.S. delegation to the Prague Conference which will address five main themes: immovable (real) property restitution and compensation, Nazi-confiscated art, Holocaust education and remembrance, recovery of Judaica, and social welfare needs of Holocaust survivors.
Another critically important area where the United States and Europe work increasingly well together is counterterrorism. Steps taken by European governments, often in concert with us, and ongoing counterterrorism relationships with European countries have had a direct and positive impact on the security of the continental United States and our interests overseas. We cooperate closely on law enforcement, cyber security, intelligence gathering and information exchange, as well as on international transport security and border control, and on dealing with the consequence of terrorist attacks. We also work closely with European governments to freeze assets and designate individuals and organizations with financial links to terrorists.
The United States and Europe share the important responsibility of leading the international effort to address our most pressing global challenges. We also share core values – human rights, democracy and the rule of law – a strong foundation as we work together on our global agenda of advancing these core values as well as security, prosperity, and stability to the entire European continent and around the world. We must continue to embrace this responsibility to lead and recognize that our results are best, and our partnership strongest, when we work together.
Mr. Chairman, Congressman Gallegly, members of the Committee, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak before you today, and I welcome the opportunity to respond to your questions.