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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Releases > Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Remarks > 2001 > December

Transatlantic Approaches to the Global Challenges of September 11

Charles P. Ries, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
Remarks at National Defense University
Washington, DC
December 4, 2001

Thank you. I am pleased to be here today to talk with you today about the impact of September 11 on the evolving U.S. relationship with the countries of Europe and Eurasia. In the wake of the terror attacks we have been moving at near warp-speed to seize the initiative, moving together with the world in a firm response against international terrorism. This may be a good point for stock-taking. Clearly the results to date have been positive.

The impact of September 11 cannot be overestimated. September 11 galvanized our country and imbued our foreign policy with a sense of urgency and resolve. The terrorist attacks transformed America’s diplomatic relations with the world. All of our foreign affairs agencies were issued an urgent new challenge to undertake in defense of our nation.

The U.S. relationship with Europe and Eurasia has been steadily evolving during the past few years, so when the terrorist attacks of September 11 took place, we were well positioned to seize the initiative and take the necessary action. As I will describe, our actions have been able to make the most of our relationships both with traditional allies and trading partners and have given momentum to new relationships between the United States and Russia, as well as between the U.S. and the emerging nations of the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is now on the first full day of a trip to Europe and Eurasia. His itinerary reflects the new priorities of the post-September 11 world. There will be multilateral meetings with the OSCE Ministerial in Bucharest, where he is today and with our NATO allies and partners in Brussels later this week. The Secretary will also be pursuing our complex and important agendas with the nations in Turkey, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.

During the Secretary’s trip, he will be coordinating with our traditional allies and partners and continuing to promote a flexible series of relationships and partnerships to achieve major U.S. objectives – just as envisioned by President Bush during his first trip to Europe last summer. As with most changes, however, this new spirit of cooperation would not have been possible without the groundwork laid by years of diplomatic spadework.

Reconstituting the "Transatlantic Relationship"

President Bush’s first official trip to Europe last June was the unveiling of this newly reinvigorated approach to U.S.- European relations:

-- In Madrid the President underscored our growing bilateral relationship with Spain and the continued relevance of our bilateral relationships, generally.

-- Meeting with NATO Heads of State in Brussels, underscoring NATO’s role as the cornerstone of transatlantic security, agreeing to take the next step toward enlarging the alliance next year in Prague.

-- At the U.S.- EU Summit in Goteborg, Sweden, where he issued with the EU a statement that pledged to strengthen economic ties; work to more quickly resolve trade disputes; and expand Europe’s zone of security. The Swedes also hosted an historic dinner for the President with all 15 EU member-state leaders, consistent with our goal of also meeting more often with member states in an EU context.

-- In Warsaw, the President gave a major foreign policy address in which he laid out his administration’s strategic vision of Europe. Significantly, he signaled that NATO enlargement should not be "as little we can get away with, but as large as we can arrange."

-- Finally, in Slovenia, President Bush met for the first time with President Putin and began in earnest our important ongoing consultations on a new strategic framework with Russia.

September 11 and Its Immediate Aftermath

This process of reinvigorating and recalibrating our relations with the countries of Europe and Eurasia took on a whole new significance after September 11. The attacks prompted an immediate and forceful response from our Allies and partners in Europe, reminding all Americans of the enduring ties and common values that define our relationships.

The American people were deeply touched by the immediate expressions of support and generous offers of assistance from Europe’s leaders after the attack. We were comforted by the popular expressions of support and concern expressed by individuals and organizations representing all spectrums of European opinion. September 11 was more than just an attack on America. Citizens of some 80 nations -- including many, many Europeans – are among the individuals who perished or are missing. This was a global tragedy, made worse by the refusal of the Taliban rulers in Afghanistan to help bring the perpetrators to justice.

Traditional Friends/Allies and Aspirants

Out of the ashes of the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, a stronger and more energized working relationship has emerged between Europe and the United States.

Europeans leaders rightly recognized September 11 as a call to action. On September 12, our NATO allies immediately agreed to invoke NATO’s Article V -- the "collective defense" clause in the NATO Treaty. The fact that our NATO allies pledged military support for the United States while fires still burned at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center made, I believe, an enduring impression of solidarity on the American people.

Many of our NATO allies offered military personnel and shared intelligence assets of all kinds to aid our effort. British forces are already on the ground in Afghanistan, working with American special operations forces and Northern Alliance soldiers. Here at home, NATO AWACS radar defense planes, flown by the crews of our NATO allies, are patrolling U.S. skies, freeing up U.S. AWACS planes for military action.

The NATO aspirant countries all fully pledged their support for the coalition against terror. Their willingness to embrace this major Alliance agenda shows they recognize the responsibilities of collective action as expressed in the Washington Treaty.

The European Union’s response was breathtaking in its speed and ambition. Even before the series of meetings in which European leaders affirmed their solidarity with the U.S. in the fight against terrorism, the E.U. went to work.

On September 12, the Belgian Presidency called together the foreign ministers of the 15 member nations to issue a statement of full solidarity with the U.S. and -- more importantly -- called together the Justice and Home Affairs and Transport Councils the following week in an action designed to push through new legislation and initiatives to improve the EU’s ability to join in the fight against terrorism.

The EU has been fast-tracking legislation to provide for a common EU arrest warrant, to establish intelligence-sharing police and prosecutors’ centers in Brussels, and to allow the EU to freeze financial assets related to terrorism (in the meantime, most EU countries froze assets on a national level, including nearly $100 million belonging to the Taliban regime).

On terrorist financing, the U.N. also stepped up with its own resolutions of support. On September 28, the Security Council took aggressive action, agreeing unanimously to impose binding obligations on U.N. members to limit the ability of terrorists to operate. Security Council Resolution 1373 is a landmark decision that requires worldwide legal and banking system reforms to prevent movement, funding, training and supply of international terrorists.

The U.S. and EU are also close to signing an historic agreement that would allow U.S. and EUROPOL law enforcement officials to share information and intelligence so that terrorists can no longer slip across our borders unnoticed. European transport officials are working with us to improve aviation security worldwide, including improved cockpit doors and airport safety measures.

There remains much to be done to build the anti-terrorism coalition and solidify its U.S.-European core. But there is little doubt that the tenor and effectiveness of U.S.-EU cooperation against terrorism has been fundamentally changed.

Bringing the "Spirit of September 12" to the Rest of the Agenda

I mentioned at the outset the "spadework" we had done over the past year to improve the productivity and focus of our European relationships. We are applying many of the lessons we learned to the current crisis. But beyond the counter-terrorism dossier, we have much to do in cooperation with our European partners, and much to resolve in the way of ongoing differences. Our challenge, therefore, is to bring the "Spirit of September 12th" to the rest of the agenda.

So, even though the fight against terrorism will be in the headlines in the months ahead, there are many other issues on which we will need to cooperate just as effectively. On trade, for example, US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick has been working well with Pascal Lamy, his European Commission counterpart. Together they have found a negotiated solution to the long-running and bitter dispute over the discriminatory aspects of the EU banana regime, and our WTO-authorized trade sanctions have ended as a result. Moreover, US and EU cooperation made it possible for the WTO ministerial to take place last month as planned to launch a new Round of trade negotiations - - an important and timely boost to the sagging world economy.

We also need to bring a new focus to resolving other U.S.-EU trade disputes and avoiding new ones. The U.S. is concerned, for example, about continuing European superstitions regarding new biotech derived crop varieties. Under public pressure, the EU has refused to approve any new biotech varieties since 1998, despite the fact that research elsewhere in the world has demonstrated that such techniques can produce crops that are naturally resistant to pests, take less fertilizer and water to grow, and are more nutritious. We think the time has come for the EU to resume scientific review of biotech products and approve those for which there are no human health or environmental drawbacks.

On the foreign policy agenda, September 11 has reinforced other lessons. One is that the existence of instability and especially of "failed states" anywhere in the world can have a serious impact on our common security. U.S.-European cooperation was at the heart of the international effort to prevent ethnic hatred and warfare from permanently endangering security in the Balkans. Our principal task now is to nurture the reconciliation process to ensure long-term stability and the region's integration with the rest of Europe and the broader global community. We must also persevere in the bringing to justice of war criminals through the tribunal in The Hague. Otherwise unresolved issues of justice from the last conflict will be the seeds of the next one.

Another inescapable lesson from September 11 is that the security of the transatlantic community is fundamentally indivisible. We therefore need to bring the "spirit of September 12" to the task of crafting a permanent relationship between the European Security and Defense Identity (now known as ESDP) and the North Atlantic Alliance. The President stated clearly on his European trip and before that the US supports an ESDP that is firmly rooted in NATO.

After September 11, the theological arguments that prevented pragmatic solutions to the various issues facing the Alliance as a whole and how it would interact with an EU Rapid Reaction Force seem less important than the need for enhanced European defense capabilities. It is our hope therefore that issues can be worked out soon, before any "daylight" develops between NATO and ESDP in addressing the urgent security challenges of our time.

Environmental issues unfortunately became a point of U.S.-EU disagreement last spring. European environmentalists characterized the President’s principled objections to the Kyoto Protocol’s provisions as hostility to the very idea of confronting the challenge of climate change. They did not hear, or did not believe, the Administration’s commitment to addressing climate change in an international framework and to doing so in an effective, global way. At the Goteborg US - EU Summit, and later at the G-8 in Genoa, we began at last to begin a dialogue on these issues. The President has found a receptive European response to his initiative on climate change research. We now hope to begin a constructive dialogue on solutions directly with the EU, as was foreseen at Goteborg. When you have a problem that may take a century to solve, it is important to get the groundwork right.

I have dwelt in detail on the U.S. relationship with our traditional friends and partners, but this in no measure diminishes the important changes in U.S. foreign policy that September 11 has brought to our other major European and Eurasian relationships.

The New Relationship with Russia

Russia is a prime example of how the fight against terror has recast our relationships with the world. President Putin was an immediate supporter of the broad coalition against terror. Russia offered to share intelligence information, granted overflight permissions, and promised joint search and rescue operations.

There has been an unprecedented sharing of intelligence and information on both sides of this new, fast-changing relationship. For example, in Brussels we briefed Russia on the case against Usama bin Laden and al-Qaida - sharing the same information that we had delivered to our NATO allies.

President Bush and President Putin have had fruitful meetings in Shanghai and, most recently, at the Washington-Crawford summit, discussing the war against terrorism and continuing the process of developing a new strategic relationship between the U.S. and Russia. As we move forward, it is becoming increasingly clear that our cooperation in the battle against terror has begun to set a pattern of cooperation and partnerships that will reshape our entire relationship with Russia.

We may, for example, have an opportunity to make progress on the painful issue of Chechnya. While the U.S. remains convinced that only a political dialogue can bring an end to the fighting, we have called upon the Chechen nationalist leadership to make a decision to separate its political and social agenda from that of international terrorist groups, to disassociate itself from those groups with ties to al-Qaida, and to renounce terror. We have encouraged both sides to continue to build upon the dialogue begun last month between the Kremlin and Chechnya's separatist leadership. At the same time, the President and the Secretary of State have called on Russia to protect the rights of the civilian population.

This spirit of cooperation has extended to NATO, which is offering new ideas to a receptive Kremlin on how to improve and expand NATO-Russia cooperation on specific issues, beginning with our joint efforts to combat terrorism.

Beyond the war on terrorism, it is clear that Presidents Bush and Putin also share a genuine sense of partnership which both are using to expand our partnership, replacing our outdated Cold War competition with a new cooperation. We will continue our discussions on other ways to make the world a safer place. The unilateral nuclear weapons cuts that President Bush and Putin promised the world last month in Washington will be a major confidence-builder for the entire world and contribute to our other nonproliferation goals. We will continue to work with Russia on a new strategic framework to permit deployment of national missile defenses.

The New Europeans and Eurasia

Our friends in Europe needed to look more closely at what should be done in terms of the Caucasus and Central Asian countries. As front-line states, these countries have a pivotal role in our campaign against terrorism. Many of them have fought their own long battles with terrorism on their own soil. They will be strong and reliable allies in this new fight, but will require all of us in NATO, the EU and the OSCE to look for ways to support and encourage them to make the tough decisions ahead.

We are already looking at ways to improve their security and counter-terrorism capabilities - not to do it for them but to help them develop their local resources. Moreover, we are actively exploring ways to strengthen Central Asian and Caucasus economies and promote the kinds of political reforms that will ultimately give them long-term stability and security. In fact, just last week, a high-level delegation from Uzbekistan was in Washington for intensive discussions with the U.S. government.

America and Europe cannot forget the friends who contribute in this time of crisis. Those who stand with us now can count on us standing with them in the future.

The Living Agenda

Our response to September 11 has created a series of flexible bilateral and multilateral relationships. Beyond the effort to destroy the network that brought about the attacks on September 11, the international community now has a substantial agenda designed to protect the civilized world from further terror attacks. We will continue to pursue this agenda vigorously.

The sheer volume and complexity of America’s relationship with Europe requires us to press forward on the many other items on our agenda.

It does not detract from our close relations that Europe and the United States will periodically have differences on various matters. We often refer to them as "issues." But these differences or issues amount to background noise in the context of our strong, shared values. This is a reflection of the mature U.S. - European relationship.

So, in sum, there is much to do, both in the war against terrorism, and drawing strength from it, on the broader agenda. There may be disappointments and setbacks in both areas. The President has said the struggle against international terrorist networks will be long. I think we also need to guard especially against the consequences of our current successes – with a subsequent letdown in our vigilance out of a yearning for business as it used to be. Moreover, some of the changes underway as a result of this period of strenuous diplomacy may prove felicitous.

We are particularly interested in assuring that our U.S.–European relationships remain flexible, efficient and focused on real priority issues.

I am confident that the days ahead will bring out the best in each of us and provide new demonstrations of our friendship and partnership, even as we are called to deal with a variety of complex issues and differences. It is a partnership that emerged from the ashes of a previous war and one that is destined only to grow stronger as we face today’s war against terror, a war we shall certainly win.

Thank you very much.

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