Putting Transatlantic Power to Work for FreedomDaniel Fried , Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
Address to the American Enterprise Institute
December 14, 2005
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Thank you for that, and it is a pleasure to be back at AEI. The last time I was in this building, it was during the Orange Revolution; and Radek Sikorski, before he became Defense Minister in Poland, had organized a conference, a breakfast in support of the Orange Revolution and freedom. A few days later, the Poles, the European Union, successfully negotiated a rerun of the elections. The forces of democracy prevailed and Ukraine crossed a line of freedom which had been crossed before by many countries in Europe and which will be crossed again by countries in the future. So coming back to this room, I recall some very good moments when transatlantic power was at work to support freedom.
So it is a pleasure to be at AEI. This is a place where ideas matter. And I'm here at a time when strategic thinking matters. I've just returned from Europe, where I spent last week with Secretary Rice. The detainee and rendition issue took up most of the media attention, as I'm sure you are aware. This issue then threatened and still, I suppose, threatens to drown out the principal theme in transatlantic relations of 2005, which is success in defining and advancing the freedom agenda as America's national security strategy, and, following from that, putting the political, economic and security assets of the transatlantic alliance to work to support it. This is my theme today.
But on detainees, as this seems to be unavoidable everywhere I go, let me say - let me acknowledge that the detainee issue is challenging, and, for many serious people in this country and in Europe, troubling. Secretary Rice eloquently acknowledged the complicated challenge of fighting the war on terror in a manner commensurate with our legal obligations and our values. And I have nothing to add to her remarks today.
But apart from its complex and difficult substance, the handling of the detainee issue by many in the European media is also disturbing. I'm concerned by the reluctance on the part of some to recognize that the problem is real, the threat is imminent and the consequences of failure to take seriously the menace of terrorism can be fatal. And there is, I am afraid, a certain eagerness with which some commentators seize on the opportunity to make again their case for a European divorce from the United States.
The Concerted Effort of Free Nations
Now, in this, some Europeans mirror some Americans who have periodically despaired on their part of the transatlantic alliance. But that is not the view of the Bush Administration. As President Bush has said, "All the allies of the United States can know we honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel and we depend on your help. The concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies' defeat." Let me repeat that: "The concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies' defeat."
It is my contention today that since the President's Second Inaugural, which set out the freedom agenda, we have made significant progress to develop just this "concerted effort of free nations" and we have put it to work on an agenda to advance freedom in the world.
Let me note some progress in this battle of ideas. Let me recall Chancellor Merkel's Bundestag speech of November 30th, of which a major theme was freedom - her word - and during which she spoke of support for NATO and common values with the United States.
Let me note our recent agreement with the European Union, the joint EU-U.S. promotion of democracy around the world, from Belarus to Burma, would be a priority for joint action.
Let me emphasize the growing support of European governments for the Broader Middle East Initiative, where countries such as Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Greece and Hungary have joined the effort to support democratic reform and reformers in that region.
Finally, let me postulate that as a result of these efforts to articulate a common transatlantic agenda, we've heard less of the counterweight theory of Europe; that is, the curious notion that the purpose of Europe - now that it is whole, free and at peace - is to check the United States, not to work with it.
I could go on, but you get the point. There exists, I contend, a developing transatlantic consensus that our interests cannot be separated from our values, that democratic governance has a greater legitimacy than other forms of government, and that this is true everywhere in the world, and that the purpose of the U.S.-European relationship is not to be a venue for value-free competition but to support common action to support freedom.
I am aware, painfully so, of the skepticism with which European publics still regard the United States in general, and, frankly, this Administration in particular. We have done much more over the past year to reach out and speak to skeptical as well as friendly Europeans.
But at the same time, so we don't wallow in occasional lurid poll results, an enormous majority of European public opinion - 74 percent according to the famous German Marshall Fund poll - supports U.S.-European joint action to advance democracy in the world. In other words, European publics support the number one American foreign policy objective and they support U.S.-European cooperation to advance that objective.
Thus, Secretary Rice's argument in her op-ed last weekend that support for democracy is a higher realism than that espoused by many self-proclaimed realists has a willing potential audience in Europe.
Time to Put Theory to Work in the Service of Freedom
Now, this is theory. Theory is useful to the degree that it produces joint actions. The time has come to move from converging theory to action and to put theory to work in the service of freedom. That is our objective for 2006.
Let me report to you the actions we and Europe have taken together to advance freedom's security, and security, and to report to you about our agenda for the coming year.
In the Balkans, rather than wait to be overtaken by the next disaster, the Contact Group, including the United States, Russia, EU and key Europeans, has launched a strategy to resolve the last major open question in that region, which is, of course, Kosovo's final status. As we do so, we are advancing prospects for a European future for Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Albania, and if it takes the steps needed to abandon the nationalist temptations that have done it so much damage in the past, Serbia and Montenegro as well. Having set the stage, in 2006, we - the United States and Europe - will have to show strength to bring the Balkans from post-war to pre-Europe.
In Eastern Europe and Eurasia, the United States and Europe have acted to promote and now to consolidate democracy in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan; to advance democracy in Europe's last dictatorship, Belarus; and to encourage countries such as Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan to move more decisively and consistently in the direction of democracy.
In 2006, we must be prepared to stand by our friends, like Saakashvili and Yushchenko of Georgia and Ukraine, when they are under pressure, as they may be, and to push our friends to maintain their reforms, even in the face of difficulties that surely lie ahead.
In this vast and complex region, we will have to demonstrate clarity about our goals - democracy, and, through democracy, stability and strengthened sovereignty - while being realistic about what we can achieve in any given year and in any given election.
We will have to be prepared in 2006 to stand up to and push back at dictators, whether in Belarus or Tashkent. In Uzbekistan, the United States faced a choice in this past year. We could have kept our base in Karshi-Khanabad had we turned a blind eye to Karimov's repression and allowed him to grab the 450 Uzbek refugees who had fled to neighboring Kyrgyzstan. We could have, but we didn't. We chose deliberately to save lives rather than wink at a dictator.
We have advanced Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking further than almost everyone in Europe thought possible. Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza and the opening of the Rafah crossing - with the European Union, by the way, taking on its first major security responsibility in the region - has given the Palestinian people a chance to start building their future state in reality, not just in rhetoric.
We have outlined the way ahead to strengthen NATO, the core of the global democratic security community, and to give it the tools it needs to secure and advance freedom. NATO is at the midpoint of a radical change from its Cold War identity. It was then a security organization, wonderfully prepared to fight a war, but not engaged in any operations at all. And now it is a military alliance in action with operations around the world, from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, to the Mediterranean and the Balkans.
In 2006, at NATO's November summit in Riga, we need to give NATO more of the tools and political will it needs to do its job.
Let me mention three additional issues that will occupy much transatlantic attention in the coming year. The American debate has escalated recently about Iraq in a way that many find frustratingly disconnected from progress on the ground. In the meantime, the European debate has moved forward in a welcome direction. It sounds counter-intuitive to say the least, but Dominique de Villepin has recently come out publicly in support of the United States maintaining its military presence in Iraq. I never thought I would cite Dominique de Villepin favorably on an Iraq issue, but there you are. Some sort of corner clearly has been turned.
Whatever our disagreements with some European governments - and, to be frank, it was mostly France and Germany - about the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, European governments are coming to realize that democracy's failure in Iraq would be a grave blow to our common security and to the prospects of reform and stability throughout the Middle East, while success in Iraq would set the stage for an advance of reform and stability throughout that region.
Time for Europe to Support Iraq's Democracy
But words are not enough. It is critical that Europeans act on that realization. The Iraqi elections this week - tomorrow, well, ongoing starting today - offer an opportunity to do so. The next Iraqi government will be fully democratic, elected on the basis of a constitution that itself was democratically adopted. This will give Europeans the chance to support fully, without brackets and asterisks, the Iraqi people and their elected government. That support can take many forms - military, capacity-building, political support - but it needs to be unstinting.
In 2006, the challenge posed by Iran's regime will intensify. In 2005, the United States worked closely with the EU-3 to curtail Iran's nuclear weapons program. We closed a major gap with Europe, but we have not solved the problem with Iran. The problem is larger than the nuclear weapons issue. Not only is the regime in Tehran seeking nuclear weapons, but it supports terrorism. Not only does it support terrorism, but the regime appears hostile to democracy in principle. When you hear Ahmadi-Nejad making bizarre remarks, for example, about Israel, what you are hearing is just another hostile dictatorship desperately trying to legitimize its rule by externalizing its enemy. In its current anti-Semitic, Holocaust-denying form, this technique is as familiar to you as it is ugly.
Notice that I speak only of the Iranian regime. Have the Iranian people chosen the path of increasing international isolation? Do they support the regime and its increasingly disconnected statements? We should not assume so. Iran has a great civilization with a glorious past and great potential.
An Agenda for Hope for Iran
To draw from another context, we did not win the Cold War by assuming, as did our adversaries, that communist regimes and their peoples were one. Thus, we should not accept that theocracy and isolation are fate for the Iranian people. International pressure on the regime may increase in 2006, as it should, but the world's democracies should also reach out to the Iranian people. In addition to our efforts to deal with the nuclear challenge, in 2006 the United States and Europe should assemble an agenda for hope for Iran. Hostile theocracy is not fate for Iran or for the region. Iraq's Shia community is realizing its aspirations through democracy, and I doubt that this lesson will be lost on either the Tehran regime or the Iranian people.
This brings me to a third major item of the U.S.-European agenda. Our combined efforts to advance reform in the world's region with the greatest democracy deficit: the broader Middle East. You recall - I certainly recall - the skepticism and, frankly, the derision with which this initiative was greeted when launched two years ago. Yet, at last month's ministerial meeting in Bahrain, the Forum for the Future, officials from Europe and the region and regional civil society leaders such as Said Ibrahim sat at one table, and one after another lauded reform and democracy as new norms that would govern public discourse and increasingly official policy.
Now, do the governments of the region embrace these norms with, let us say, consistent enthusiasm? Well, of course not. But now the United States and Europe, the two great centers of democratic legitimacy in the world, have put our strength and our principles behind the reformers of the region, whether in government or within civil society.
In 2006, let us reach out, assist and empower reforms in the region. Working with them, we should seek, as Secretary Rice has said, to transform volatile status quos that no longer serve our interests. We must not be impatient, but we have started and we must keep faith with our values and with those in the region who share them. Government officials frequently overestimate what can be accomplished in the short run, but we also underestimate what we can accomplish in the long run. We have made a start and we must continue.
One final point. Why Europe? What does Europe bring to the table? Let me acknowledge, at the risk of igniting a debate from the first term, that unilateral American action is, in theory, always an option, but it is not the best option. We must do better. Together, America and Europe constitute a single democratic civilization with common values. Together, America and Europe constitute a quorum of democratic legitimacy. That is not a legal observation so much as a political one, but I believe it to be accurate. When divided, we create a moral fog over events and their significance. When united, we clarify who are the friends of freedom.
Do we differ with Europe on tactics? Yes. Every day during the Cold War we differed with the Europeans on tactics. But our united strategy, rooted in our common values, led to victory. And in this present battle for freedom in the face of this latest iteration of totalitarian ideology, our current strategy, rooted in our values, with America and Europe together, will emerge successful.
Thank you very much.
Now I am told that the rules are that I am to call on people for questions, and without the aid of a filter, I will do my best.
MODERATOR: One small filter, though. Please identify yourself and also please make it a question, and hopefully somewhat brief.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. Fried, my name is Andrey Surzhanskiy. I'm correspondent with ITAR-TASS News Agency of Russia. First of all, on energy issue, I don't know if you're following the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine. Russia has threatened to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine if no compromise over pricing is reached by January, I guess. And obviously, that would be a major blow to Ukrainian economy. Is that a matter of concern for you?
And secondly, if I may, I never heard the reaction of the U.S. Administration on the Russian-Germany gas project which is about construction. The gas pipeline in Baltic Sea bypassing Poland and Baltic states. Do you have any position on that issue?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well ...
QUESTION: And do you share the view of the Russian officials that this project would enhance energy security in Europe? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Of course, the United States is following the issue of energy relations in Eurasia very closely. We've obviously aware of the discussions going on between Ukraine and Russia. We're also aware of Russian statements about tripling gas prices to Georgia, all of this occurring right at the beginning of the heating season.
These discussions are in progress and I think it would do little good for me to comment on the details. I will say as a general comment that it would seem to me to be in Russia's interests to have stable, reforming, successful countries on its borders rather than vulnerable, insecure countries suffering from economic crises and tensions. Russia can obviously speak to its own interests better than I can, but I hope whatever emerges will support the Ukrainian and Georgian efforts to advance economic reforms, to strengthen their sovereign and to be through democracy, through economic reform and through strengthened sovereignty better neighbors to Russia in the long term.
With respect to the gas pipeline, I have heard it said that this was not an economically efficient way of transporting energy from Russia to Europe but had a political purpose. I suppose you could ask former Chancellor Schroeder his opinion, though he seems to have rather a large interest in it now.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Yes, I gather he did. I gather he still supports it. It seems to me, again, that it would be in Russia's interest to have close relations of confidence rather than relations of fear with its immediate neighbors. We have always - the United States has always advocated the best possible relations between Russia and the Baltic countries, Russia and Poland, and it is our belief that relations that are transparent, open, without subtexts of political pressure, are apt to produce outcomes which are in everyone's interests.
QUESTION: Carol Giacomo with Reuters. Could you explain what you mean by an agenda of hope for Iran? And are you working on this with the Europeans now?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: We have, for some time, had discussions with the EU-3 and other Europeans about the Iran nuclear issue. But obviously, and without getting into the details of conversations which need to be confidential, I think there is a general understanding that the problem is wider than just a nuclear problem. The nuclear problem is in some sense a symptom of a wider problem.
By agenda of hope, I mean an agenda which is directed at support for the Iranian people and Iranian society in what we believe are universal aspirations - and therefore shared by the Iranian people and Iranian society - for freedom and democracy.
The Iranian people should not be assumed to share the rather exotic views being uttered now, every other day it seems, by Ahmadi-Nejad, and we need to reach out directly to them. Now, I think the United States and Europe have the capacity to do this, and I suspect we will talk more about it as time goes on.
QUESTION: Just to follow up, are you talking about support for civil society groups, for instance?
QUESTION: I'm Morris Amitay, a former Foreign Service Officer who worked with two of your predecessors many years ago. My question is about Great Britain. I think you would agree that the UK is our closest ally and most important ally in Europe, but I hear many complaints from my friends who come over the pond from the defense side who say that there are cumbersome regulations and that there's difficulty in getting defense industrial cooperation. Is there anything that will be done about that?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: That has been an issue that has frustrated me and others working in this Administration for some time. It's a tough issue and we're always looking at different ways in which we can improve our defense relationship with the UK. That relationship is obviously very good, but there are some bureaucratic restrictions and we would like to find ways to make it easier. It's not an easy issue.
QUESTION: Umit Enginsoy, NTV Turkey. What's the U.S. strategy and agenda on Turkey in 2006?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: We have had an intensive period of relations with Turkey, marked by a disagreement over Iraq and then more recently marked by a lot of collaboration with respect to Iraq, increasing cooperation with respect to the PKK.
Now, in general, I would say that we have enormous respect for Turkey's transformation over the past generation. And it's - and we have expressed and will continue to express our support for Turkey's European aspirations. We look at Turkey as a natural partner in the world, particularly in the broader Middle East, where Turkey is playing a leading role in supporting democracy and reaching out to civil society. We work with Turkey very closely to support reforms in Azerbaijan. To support Georgia, we look to Turkey as a friend and partner, you know, throughout the Middle East.
Our agenda with Turkey? Well, we want to see to the degree we can - and our ability to do so is rather modest - we want to help Turkey succeed in its EU aspirations. Again, this is between Turkey and the European Union. But if there are things we can do to help, we will. We want to work with Turkey in the broader Middle East. We want to work with Turkey and NATO, as NATO reaches out beyond its traditional area of responsibilities. It's a very rich agenda, and I look forward to working with my Turkish colleagues.
QUESTION: Thank you. This is Tulin Daloglu with Turkey's Star newspaper. Let me have a follow-up. You mentioned Georgia and Azerbaijan...
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Yes.
QUESTION: Turkey's helping the greater Middle East initiative, but you didn't mention anything about Turkey's relations with Iran and Syria, which is now, I guess, one of the most important issues now that the people here in Washington are dealing with. How do you see Turkey, or what would you like to, you know, have Turkey to deal with the Iranian issue specifically? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Well, I expect that as our policy on Iran develops, we will be consulting with Turkey as a country - as a NATO ally, a country that borders Iran, and a country which has and is having a very successful experience of democratic transformation.
Turkey is also a country with a party of strong Muslim roots becoming, as it were, a kind of Muslim version of a Christian Democratic Party. I mean, this is the AKP party in the way it describes itself. I don't believe in terms of model - I don't think in terms of models, but Turkey's democratic evolution has a lot to show the world generally.
With respect to Syria, well, the world has a problem with Syria's support for terrorism; and without pointing fingers ahead of the evidence, the latest murders in Lebanon have re-raised questions which are, let us say, outstanding and are very serious. And we look forward to working with Turkey also in this direction.
QUESTION: Thank you. I'm Vladimir Kara-Murza with RTVI Television, Russia. When you spoke about advancing democracy in the former Soviet region - Belarus, Kyrgyzstan - you didn't mention Russia. How does that - advancing democracy in Russia, is that an issue for the U.S. Administration, especially in terms of its relations with Putin?
And then just quickly, is the U.S. prepared to cooperate with the European Union investigation on the detainee issue?
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Well, we have to find a phrase other than former Soviet space. You know, the United States doesn't usually refer to itself as the former British Colonial space. (Laughter.) It's over, okay? It's over.
Russian democracy - the time is gone when nations could simply wall off the world and say non-interference in internal affairs is an absolute condition of state sovereignty. The United States has every - every country in the world is interested in the internal affairs of the United States.
AMBASSADOR FRIED: No, no. I get - we get charged with all manner of sins and I'm trying to address it.
We care very much about the course of Russian democracy. We have learned that our relations with a state are not independent of that state's relationship to its own society. That is not a comment directed at Russia, but a comment about our own foreign policy and a principle which this Administration certainly espouses. Whether it is the issue of the law and NGOs or the issue of freedom of the press or the issue of social freedom in Russia, these are all issues that concern us. We believe that a strong nation is strong because it has a strong society, not simply because it has a strong center of power. And our commitment to democracy in Russia is well established. It will continue. Our cooperation with the Russian Government on issues of mutual concern is also well established. And being the United States Government, we think we have the ability to do more than one thing at the same time. And that's our intention.
AMBASSADOR FRIED: Ah. Well, Secretary Rice was just in Europe last week and talked about detainees at length at every stop, including devoting a couple of hours of concentrated conversation with all of Europe's foreign - almost all of Europe's foreign ministers, both NATO and the EU, about this issue. She said a very great deal. We have talked to European Union officials. No doubt this dialogue will continue, but Secretary Rice was open, candid, serious, and the reaction of the European foreign ministers was, as you've seen, extremely positive. So that's a good beginning to a discussion which doubtless will continue but has now been framed up in a good way.
Someone back here. Sir.
QUESTION: Tomicah Tillemann with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I was hoping you could discuss the Administration's response to the failure by the OSCE to certify election results in Azerbaijan and what you think we need to do in order to get democracy back on track in that country.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, look at the OSCE statement carefully. It is true that the OSCE found that the elections in Azerbaijan did not meet the standard of free and fair. That's what they found. We think that's right. But they also noted that the elections had been in many aspects an improvement over previous ones. We were - we followed the - we, the U.S. Government, followed those elections very, very closely. We had exit poll results which gave us a good sense of the size, the magnitude of the problems. To put it rather crudely, these elections were not free and fair, but neither were they a complete joke. And there is a big difference between elections which are flawed and elections which are a total travesty.
The Azerbaijan - the Government of Azerbaijan has agreed to rerun elections in most, if not all, of the districts in which problems were so great that doubt was cast on the actual results. If these elections are rerun fairly, then the government will have gone a long way, though not all the way, in addressing some of the international community's concerns. Now, it's more than just how you count the ballots. There are a lot of elements of democracy. And in the case of Azerbaijan, we have to be - and in the case of other countries whose elections were not free and fair but not a travesty - perhaps Kazakhstan is in that category - we need to be very clear about what it is we want, which is democracy, and not just plebiscite dictatorship or authoritarianism but a culture of democracy.
But also we need to work with governments which are working themselves to improve things. If the Azerbaijan Government invites the OSCE in, if they give space for ODIHR to make its reports, we have to take that into account as well. There are other governments who have made it clear they have no intention of inviting ODIHR in, that they don't care about the opinion of the international community.
So this is a place where moral clarity needs to be maintained, but also tactical realism about what it is you want to accomplish this year and with this election and we have to be clear about both - relentless in our pursuit of our objectives, but also willing to work with governments that are moving, and as long as they are moving in roughly the right direction.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Voice of America. The Polish Foreign Minister is going to be in Washington next week. According to reports, the Poles are trying to obtain certain increased benefits from the American side in the area of military cooperation, but not only. Are relations with the new Polish Government more complicated than with the previous one?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: We have - we know the leaders of the incoming Polish Government, whether it's Prime Minister Marcinkiewicz or President Kaczynski, Foreign Minister Meller and, of course, you know, AEI's former employee, Radik Sikorski. These are good people. We know them well. We've worked with them. They know us. This is a relationship that's close, but Poland is an important ally. Poland is a serious country.
Of course, Poland wants to develop its military cooperation with the United States. This is perfectly natural. Our military cooperation, because of Poland's rather successful leadership in Iraq, has grown. This year, our assistance for Poland has reached $100 million. Frankly, would I like to see even more assistance? Well, it could be put to good use. The Poles know what they're doing in the military sphere.
What we will succeed in doing and how we sort this out, I couldn't say. But we look forward to good relations with the Polish Government and good cooperation. And it isn't, of course - the U.S.-Polish relationship is not a function of how many dollars come out of the U.S. budget to Poland. We are allies and not just in name. The United States and Poland see many critical issues, such as support for Ukrainian democracy and sovereignty as common - issues of common concern. I have no doubt that we will work successfully with the current Polish Government, as we have worked with every Polish Government since 1989.
QUESTION: Alberto (inaudible) with the Embassy of Italy. In your opinion, which role will be played by Belarus in the short- to mid-term in transatlantic relations and how this will affect the transatlantic relations? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: What role Belarus will play. Well, Belarus is, in fact, the last dictatorship in Europe. It is an issue of common concern. We want to see - we believe that the Belarusian people deserve better than a dictatorship, which is isolating them from their natural place, which is in Europe, a nation among nations. This is an issue of common concern. The United States and Europe, and then key countries in Europe, want to support the Belarusian people. I would think that Russia would also want to see Belarus begin to develop in a democratic direction. That seems to me to be something that would suit Russia's interest, but again, Russia has to speak for itself.
I believe the United States and Europe will intensify efforts to support the Belarusian people and Belarusian society in 2006 because this is when Lukashenko has proclaimed his intention to hold so-called elections.
MODERATOR: Excuse me, why don't we take two more questions, if Ambassador Fried has the time, and then we'll wrap it up. Thank you.
QUESTION: Harry Dunphy, AP. You mentioned Dominique de Villepin's statement as Europe having turned the corner on Iraq. Could you be more specific as to what you would like to see the Europeans do there after the elections? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, it depends on the country. There are some countries like Germany who have made it clear they cannot send their own forces to Iraq, and we're not asking the impossible. But every European country, whether it has troops in Iraq or not, should support the next government. There are various ways countries can do so - politically, through capacity-building, through more police training and through - the hardest method of support to describe is political support for the Iraqi people, to remove this lingering sense that Iraqi democracy is somehow suspect because of disagreements over the removal of Saddam Hussein.
It strikes me as strange, to say the least, that one of the most democratic constitutions in the Arab world and certainly the strongest democratic mandate in the region does not capture greater and more unambiguous support. It's really time to remove the brackets around Iraq and time for Europe to get behind the next Iraqi government, the one to come out of these elections.
QUESTION: Hasan Hazar, Turkiye Daily. Has the United States left the idea of "new Europe, old Europe" stated many times, and what do you think about that? Is the United States interested in full cooperation with full EU or just some countries within the EU? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: You haven't heard much about old Europe and new Europe. You have heard the President say that he wants to work with a strong Europe, with a strong European Union. He said so repeatedly and unambiguously two days after his reelection in November '04. You heard him say this unambiguously and repeatedly in his trip to Europe in February '04 - February of this year, '05 - and repeatedly since.
We want a strong Europe as a partner. That's without qualification, without buts, without footnotes. A strong Europe as a partner, not a counterweight. A partner. A partner to work with us in advancing freedom in the world. That is the purpose of our European foreign policy is to put this partnership to work in the world in the service of freedom.
Not a bad note to end on. Thank you.
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Released on December 16, 2005