Remarks to the American Council on GermanyR. Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
As Prepared for Delivery
November 27, 2006
Good morning, and thank you Bill for that nice introduction. It’s good to be here among friends. It’s good to see you Ambassador Thomas Matussek, Germany’s Ambassador to the UN.
One of the Council’s founders was the legendary General Lucius Clay, who did so much to help the German people after World War Two. One of the Council’s first guests, barely a year after it was created, was Konrad Adenauer. Chancellors Keisinger, Brandt, Schmidt, Kohl, Schroder and Merkel have all spoken here. Yours is a great and sturdy bridge linking the people of Germany and America. Thank you for inviting me to be with you.
The Council was created to promote reconciliation between our two great societies after World War II. It is one of the pre-eminent institutions dedicated to this purpose.
Obviously you are doing something right. There have been no better friends than Germany and the United States for the past half century. Germany and America have overcome our differences on Iraq. We are close Allies once again. Chancellor Angela Merkel enjoys a close relationship with our President.
The Council was born in the Cold War, but like many other institutions that emerged in that era, remains very much central to the challenges we face today.
Of course, many things have changed. Germany was a front-line state when NATO was created in 1949. If the Cold War had a Ground Zero, it was Checkpoint Charlie. Germany was at the center of the existential issue of our time. From the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union, America’s foreign policy had one abiding goal: containment of Soviet expansionism and the liberation of the captive nations of Europe. We triumphed, and Germany’s unity remains one of the most astonishing and vital events of our lifetime.
Today, it is no secret, many things have changed. Back in 1991, President George H.W. Bush proclaimed Europe to be “whole, free and at peace.”
Fifteen years later, the world, and American and German interests, have changed. Adopting to these huge global changes is the greatest challenge for the U.S. and Germany. The largest change of all is this: both of us no longer focus on each other as the central pre-occupation of our policies. And that is good news indeed. From April 1917, when Woodrow Wilson brought us into the First World War, to World War Two, and the Cold War and the Balkans Wars of ten years ago, America’s central pre-occupation and challenge was to win the long war for stability, security, and peace in Europe.
Those wars are finished. We now face new challenges to peace and freedom in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and East Asia. So, the central challenge for Germany and America is to agree on the nature of these challenges and to agree how we can combat them together.
Let me be clear about what I’m saying—and also what I’m not saying. Though our geo-political focus may have shifted, our partnership with Europe remains at the center of U.S. diplomacy. Our diplomatic challenges and priorities are not coincidentally also Europe’s. So are our core values. The overlap in both is nearly perfect, in my judgment. Our policy toward Europe is now, in many ways, a function of our priority engagement in other parts of the world. For nearly a century, until our own decade, U.S. foreign policy was all about Europe because of the wars and divisions there. Now, our policy is all about what the U.S. and Europe must do together to bring stability and peace to other parts of the world.
The Cold War may have ended, but our alliance with Germany continues to be a cornerstone of our engagement with the world.
All of which makes it imperative for the United States and Europe to work in partnership as a trans-Atlantic community, and for NATO to continue developing into the security arm of this community. NATO is the essential forum for consultation on issues, and the forum for decision on policies, bearing on the security and defense of its members.
At the NATO Summit that starts in Riga Tuesday, President Bush, Chancellor Merkel, and Allied leaders will all focus on these fundamental changes, and the new strategies that are required. The Summit will showcase a NATO Alliance whose global responsibilities, capabilities, and partners reflect the global engagement we need to confront today’s most urgent security challenges.
The place where the summit will be held, Riga, is symbolic. Latvia is no longer a captive nation—it is now a member of NATO and also of the EU. The Alliance has expanded from 19 members to 26, including three Baltic states whose hopes for freedom could not be denied.
NATO won the earlier struggle against Soviet expansionism. But events, as you can see, have not allowed us to rest on our laurels.
During all the decades of the Cold War, NATO held the peace, but did not fire a single shot. That history changed in the 1990’s, when NATO’s successful peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo defeated ethnic cleansing when no one else could. NATO also acted as only a truly great Alliance could in the aftermath of September 11, when all other Allies declared those horrific attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania to be attacks on themselves as well. I had the privilege to be the American Ambassador at NATO on September 12, 2001, when all of our Allies declared the attack of the day before to have been an attack on all of them as well.
Once an organization concerned solely with Europe, NATO has evolved with the times and is now increasingly global in its operations and world view. Today the Alliance is again defending freedom and human rights, but this time in Afghanistan, 2,000 miles away from Europe’s outer edges. NATO in 2004 established a Training Mission in Iraq. NATO provides training, equipment and technical assistance to Iraqi forces now under the orders of a fully sovereign government in Baghdad.
The Alliance is also transporting and training African Union troops in Darfur. Earlier this year, NATO conducted relief missions in Pakistan. And last year, NATO aircraft and personnel delivered relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
But Afghanistan is our No. 1 job right now. It is the new Ground Zero of NATO.
It is the most difficult military mission NATO has ever undertaken, not just because it is our first major combat operation since 1949. The urgency and importance of the Afghanistan mission is also driving much of the transformational change we seek for NATO at Riga.
The Allies now understand first-hand why we must be able to deploy and sustain forces at strategic distance; develop a more open global approach to like-minded democracies that share our goals and values, so that they can train, exercise and deploy with us in defense of our interests; and create more effective civilian-military cooperation to deliver critical stability and reconstruction.
In Afghanistan, we are now operational in all provinces of the country. We have the remnants of the Taliban pinned in the south and east. While the Taliban has increased its attacks on Afghan and NATO forces dramatically in 2006, they are not winning. Far from it. In fact, NATO forces, led by Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, and the U.S. have hit back hard in the second half of this year.
NATO cannot help Afghans recover the years they lost in their almost three decades of warfare -- but we are helping them rebuild their country, reclaim their culture, and prepare for a better future. After September 11, we all learned that no nation is truly secure if a far away country like Afghanistan becomes hostage to extremists who make it a launching pad for terrorist activities around the world.
To succeed in its current missions, NATO will need contributions from each and every Ally. This emphasis on our alliance again makes Germany an indispensable nation. It is, after the United States, the largest member of the Alliance in terms of people and economic prowess.
It is not, alas, in terms of military spending. Germany spends roughly 1.45% of GDP on defense, which puts it near the bottom of the NATO pile. By comparison, the United States spends 3.7% of our GDP in defense.
We need our Allies, and especially key countries like Germany, to increase their investment in our common defense. So far, only seven NATO members spend above the critical level of 2% of GDP set as a target by Allies themselves.
Additional investment is necessary to stay mobile. Some Allies have the message. Already, 14 of them have agreed to spend over $675 million to purchase three and a half C-17s and give NATO much needed capability of strategic airlift to conduct expeditionary operations.
Another area where we want to see the Allies raise their game is by lifting the restrictions which many NATO governments put on their troops on the ground. This is a critical test for NATO.
NATO troops need more mobility in Afghanistan. Specifically, we need to remove the restrictions now in place that limit troops from being used where the threat is most prevalent.
These restrictions are called caveats. Some of our NATO partners have insisted on all sorts of these caveats, which limit how or where their soldiers may be used, geographically or operationally.
For example the German Bundestag has decreed that German forces in the north may not be deployed for combat purposes to the south and east, where the threat is by far the most serious and where Canadians, Americans, Dutch, and British forces are taking most of the risks and suffering the great majority of casualties.
Right now they are keeping us from being effective. Our commanders on the ground need to concentrate on the enemy, and not be sidetracked by a patchwork of rules that determine which platoon is able to do what.
The caveats mean that these commanders lack control of day-to-day operations, which is retained by the defense ministers. In an emergency, the commander on the ground needs to call his or her capital before acting, with consequences you may well imagine.
Our first wake up call on this issue came in 2004 in Kosovo, during some very violent rioting in the capital Pristina by some members of the Kosovar Albanian minority there. Some of the NATO commanders could not get the green light they needed to get their troops out of the barracks, and as a result ethnic Serbians were killed and their businesses or homes were destroyed.
We have made much progress since then in reducing these caveats in Kosovo. We agreed as Allies to remove the caveats in Kosovo. And we agreed as Allies never to let such restrictions endanger our mission capability to provide peace, security and freedom.
But we need to go much further, especially in Afghanistan. We will make our case about these caveats at Riga. We must see NATO succeed in Afghanistan. Success is a vital interest for the government and people of Afghanistan, the U.S., NATO Allies, and the entire international community.
The post-World War II order has changed. The collapse of the Soviet Union, the liberation of the eastern half of Europe and the rise of Islamic extremism as a threat to civilized societies call forth new strategies. Events have not just changed U.S. strategic needs and correspondingly its diplomatic priorities; they have also changed Europe’s needs and responsibilities.
Klaus Naumann, the former Chairman of NATO’s Military Committee, recently told a Council audience here in New York, that Germany’s troops on the ground in Afghanistan are eager to come to the help of their NATO Allies when they are needed. Watching each other’s back is part of the military code; it is the bind that holds units together.
Afghanistan has also demonstrated the need for a more global NATO. This also requires a more open approach to NATO’s partnerships. New NATO partnerships with our leading global allies will be another of the main issues that President Bush and Secretary Rice will suggest at Riga.
NATO has established a mosaic of partnerships since the Cold War’s end.
One of our first was the Partnership for Peace, which was launched in 1994 and enabled many of the former Warsaw Pact countries to start training with us and participating in our exercises. Some of the earliest members of the PfP, like Estonia and the Czech Republic, are now full-fledged members. Some current members of the PfP are on track for membership. For example, President Bush has already said he supports Croatia’s eventual accession to NATO in 2008.
NATO has other partnerships of significance, such as the Mediterranean Dialogue Countries and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative: forums that bring together NATO members with Middle East counterparts from North Africa, the Levant, and the Gulf.
Afghanistan has made clear that these partnerships make sense, and that we need a more global NATO. We hope the allies will decide at Riga to create a Global Partners program to include such partners as Japan, Australia, South Korea, Sweden, and Finland. All of these countries serve with us in Afghanistan, and yet lack access to NATO’s full range of training and programs. Even existing European NATO partners Sweden and Finland have lacked access to forums for political consultations.
Our goal is to ensure that partners who are willing to put their troops on the line—who commit their resources to a common purpose with us—have a formal operational relationship with us that permits seamless planning and execution.
This is not the same as saying that the Alliance has no borders, and that its self-defense provisions apply to all. The Alliance is anchored in the North Atlantic community, and so is its membership. Finland and Sweden can join, for example. Countries in Asia, on the other hand, are not likely to desire or be considered for membership in the future.
But we do need a more flexible approach that will ensure that countries that share our values and want to partner with us, as we undertake actions outside the Euro-Atlantic area, have the ability to do so. We will also make this case at Riga.
Riga builds on the achievements of many past NATO summits, at Prague, Istanbul and other capitals. Each summit has pushed the ball forward. This one will be no different.
Beyond NATO, I believe 2007 will be a critical year for the U.S.-German relationship. Germany will be President of the EU beginning in January and will chair the G-8 summit process. This gives the U.S. and Germany all the more reason to work together as closely as possible.
The U.S.-German agenda is already full. Both of us will need to address the following core issues:
-- To work together with the UK, France, China and Russia to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. We need to accelerate this week our efforts to sanction Iran in the U.N. Security Council.
-- Together, we must support the Siniora government in Lebanon to protect itself from Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah who seek to destabilize it.
-- We count on Germany to provide economic aid to Iraq and to assist our efforts to diminish the sectarian violence that threatens to rip the country apart.
-- We will work with Germany and the EU to help advance prospects for a step forward in the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.
-- Together with Germany and the EU, we need to help introduce an African Union peacekeeping force to enter Darfur with UN assistance to protect innocent civilians there.
-- We must work together to give help the Doha Round of the world trade talks to succeed.
-- Finally, Germany and the U.S. will find greater common ground if we can tackle together the great transnational threats that define the dark side of globalization – global climate change; trafficking in women and children; international crime and narcotics trafficking; and terrorism.
The American Council on Germany is one of the main institutions helping the ongoing dialogue between our two countries. You provide a forum for people on both sides to express themselves, and you facilitate people-to-people exchanges.
I thank you for being a wonderful audience. I will stop here. I understand that you have some questions.
Released on November 28, 2006