Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Marshall PlanR. Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Speech Given at the Automobile Club of France
June 12, 2007
Jim, thank you very much for that nice introduction. Christian, merci bien pour votre présence aujourd’hui et pour vos amitiés.
Ladies and gentleman, it’s a great pleasure to be with you this afternoon. I’ve just come in from Greece. I’m here to join Ambassador Stapleton as we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Plan, which I think most of us Americans feel was one of the great achievements of the Post-War era, and frankly one of the great achievements of American foreign policy over the last 231 years, so I’m very pleased to be with my friend Ambassador Stapleton. We have a very special bond. We are both fans of the greatest baseball team in the States, the Boston Red Sox. We are opponents of the evil empire, the New York Yankees. So, it’s a pleasure to be here with someone who I think is a really great representative of our country, Ambassador Craig Stapleton, who I think has done so much to soothe and calm the waters in US-French relations and to establish the excellent relationship that we enjoy now with the French government and, I hope, the French people. And let me just say that I’ve been a long time admirer of Ambassador Connie Morella, former Congresswoman Connie Morella, who represented her district with great distinction when she was a member of Congress for so many years, and now we’ve been so fortunate to have her as yet another American ambassador in this city at the OECD. So, Connie thank you very much for coming today and taking time from your busy schedule. I’m looking forward to a conversation with you, and I know Craig is as well.
I’ve been asked to say a few words on how the United States views our relations with France, and I’m happy to do that because, as Jim has said, I’m a great admirer of France. I spent a lot of my teenage years here in this city. I have a lot of friends in France. And I’m very grateful for the history of our relationship.
I do think that history is important. Sometimes Europeans tell me, “You Americans forget your history, or you never learned it, or you don’t appreciate it.” Well, I think there are a lot of Americans who do appreciate history. And I know there are a lot of Europeans who believe that any relationship between countries has to be grounded in the history of what we have done together. I think it’s important the French hear from Americans how grateful we are to you. And I mean that quite sincerely. As we look back at the expansive American history and go back to our roots, we can say that we would not have won our war of liberation from a colonial empire, against Britain, were it not for you, were it not for France. The decisive battle was at Yorktown, and France was the decisive ally of the United States.
We also have, very importantly, common intellectual and philosophical foundations that united us then, and more importantly continue to unite us. Your greatest thinkers influenced our greatest statesmen. Voltaire and Rousseau influenced our Founding Fathers, and your greatest patriots, people like Lafayette, indeed carried out acts of fidelity and of alliance with people like our greatest leader, George Washington. De Gaulle was a great leader of France at a time when the United States needed that type of courageous leadership after the Second World War, and particularly, after 1958 when De
Gaulle came to recreate France in a modern way and, therefore, to continue to bind it in alliance with the United States. I think this history is very important. And I think both of us need to remember it in good times, this is a good time, and we also need to remember it when times are tough. So I wanted to say that today.
I also wanted to say that I do not believe that France is a charter member of what some call “Old Europe.” I believe that France is the most modern country on the continent. I believe that France has the most global perspective of any government on the continent of Europe. In the way that France is engaged in the world politically, through the extension of your foreign policy, and in the way the private sector in France -- the business community, the academic community -- engages outside of France and has a vision that extends well beyond Europe. I’ve never thought that France is part of “Old Europe.”
I think the French military is the most agile, and flexible, and skillful military on the continent of Europe as a member of the NATO alliance. I saw that as Ambassador to NATO, when I saw what France was capable of doing, and what France did, in the Middle East, as French troops are serving now in UNIFIL and southern Lebanon. I saw that in Africa, where France has played an unsung but very important role for stability in West and Central Africa, which is important for the United States. And in my current job, where I’m participating on a global basis in trying to figure out how we create stability in places like Iran, and Lebanon, and Darfur, and in the fight against terrorism. On those four issues, we have no better ally than France. And I want to say specifically, we had a great ally in President Chirac over the last several years. France was our
greatest ally in Lebanon since the tragic assassination of Rafik Harari on February 14, 2005. France has been our most stalwart compatriot in trying to figure out how to stop President Ahmadinejad in Iran from making his country a nuclear weapons power. And now you see Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and President Sarkozy suggest that France ought to be in the forefront of the fight for justice in Darfur. In fact, France will host a major international conference to that effect. So I’m someone who never thought that France was old, who never fought that France was somehow behind the United States.
I see France with us, which leads me into my last point about this relationship, the bilateral relationship. I think what happened in 2002 and 2003, and I was in Brussels in those years, in Bruxelles, at NATO, living with my French colleague, Ambassador d’Abbotville. We met eight times a day at NATO. That’s how we worked there. I think what happened between the capitals and what happened between leaders outside the governments in our societies is that we allowed our disagreement over Iraq, which was an honest disagreement, to become too public and too emotional. I think that both of us were unwise to allow that to happen, and may we never allow that to happen again. It was certainly justifiable for France to have its own position, just as it was justifiable for the United States to believe that we were doing the right thing by invading Iraq and overthrowing the despotic government of Saddam Hussein. But I never understood it when some French politicians tried to take that argument about Iraq and generalize about the entire relationship with the United States. I thought that was a mistake. I also never understood those Americans who poured good French wine down the drain in symbolic
acts of protest or renamed French fries in the Congressional cafeteria. So I would hope that the next time we have a disagreement, and there’ll be many because we are different countries with different histories, that we don’t allow it to become emotional, we don’t allow it to become bigger than it really is, and we remember this great history and, frankly, the interests and values that do unite our two countries.
That gets me to the final point that I wanted to make before we have a discussion. As we look ahead over the horizon into the rest of the 21st century, into the next generation and beyond, there’s no question that globalization is and will continue to be the defining issue of our time. And there’s no question in my mind that the strategic interests of France and the United States are intersecting and will continue to be woven together as we look out upon the globe. I think there’s been a great change occurring in U.S.-European relations that underlies that sentiment and that statement that I’ve just made. And that is, we have now a profound change in the way that Americans and Europeans interact.
Our relationship is, for the most part, no longer about Europe. It’s about the rest of the world. This evening, Ambassador Stapleton and I will be the guests of my colleague, my French colleague Gérard Araud, who is the political director of the Quai d’Orsay, at a dinner. And I can tell you what the agenda will be. It will -- with the exception, the big exception these days, of the Balkans -- that dinner will be about Iran, and Iraq, and the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and Lebanon, and Darfur, and India, and China, and the AIDS crisis in Africa, and the malaria crisis in Africa, and the struggle for social justice in Latin America. That’s what the agenda is going to be.
Ten years ago, in 1997, if our predecessors, French and American, had gotten together for a dinner at the Quai d’Orsay, the entire agenda would have been about Europe. And 20, and 30, and 40, and 50, and 60 years ago, it would have been about Europe. Happily, Europe has arrived at a station in its history of unprecedented stability, and prosperity, and peace, and freedom from internal conflicts with the major exception of the Balkans. Think of it this way: when Woodrow Wilson stood up before the United States Congress on April 2, 1917 and said we must join France and Britain in the Great War, and when he then sent one million Americans to this country and to Belgium to assist France and the Allied Powers, from that day until the day eight years ago when Bill Clinton sent 50,000 American troops to Kosovo, American policy from 1917 to 1999 was all about Europe. It was the most important aspect of American foreign policy. Our global policy was a function of our European policy.
And now we see that because of these historic and positive changes in Europe with the end of the Cold War, with the extraordinary success of the European Union and of NATO, our European policy is all about the rest of the world. Because the truly difficult and great challenges before both of our countries are well beyond Europe and well beyond North America. I think that’s a great, great change.
Now I did say that the major exception was the Balkans. If you will, the Balkans is the the last part of Europe that remains to be, in the words of President George H.W. Bush, “whole, free, and in peace.” That’s what President George H.W. Bush said when he was
a colleague of President Mitterrand, and Chancellor Kohl, and Prime Minister Thatcher -- the four great leaders who helped to bring down the Berlin Wall and see the disintegration of the Soviet Union peacefully, and to see the liberation of 300 million Central Europeans into democratic states. These were four great leaders. And I would say that our President summed it up: “whole, free, and in peace.” That was the dream that Europeans and Americans had about Europe during the First World War, during the rise of fascism in the ‘30s, during the Second World War, and during the Cold War. And if you will, if the Balkans in the next ten years can become peaceful and secure and democratic, that can happen. If that can happen to Serbia, and Kosovo, and Bosnia, and Croatia, and Albania, and Macedonia, and Montenegro, if those states can become candidate members for the European Union and for NATO, then Europe will truly be “whole, free, and in peace,” and it will be, I think, for Europeans, the greatest achievement of Europe in its modern history. And we Americans will be able to say we assisted. We helped. We were with Europe for 70 years in trying to accomplish this.
And so that’s why what’s happening in Kosovo today, from an American perspective, is so important. It’s so important that Kosovo, having been placed under an effective form of UN trusteeship in June 1999 at the end of that savage war that Milosevic unleashed upon the Kosovo Albanians, that they have their chance for independence. As President Bush said the other day when he was in Tirana, the Albanian capital, “we do not want to wait long before we see Kosovo independent.” That will be on our agenda, obviously, for our talks here in Paris. We want to see Bosnia-Herzegovina modernized in its constitutional framework, so that it can go well beyond Dayton and become a modern
European state and a member of the European Union and NATO. And we want to see Serbia liberate itself from this tragic past, where in 16 years there have been four wars because of Milosevic’s failed policies. And we want to see people like Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Kostunica welcomed as democrats in Europe and in NATO. So that is our vision for the European relationship with the United States, and I think France is at its center, and I don’t see any strategic differences between France and the United States on European issues.
I will say that the great majority of our future will be tied up well beyond Europe – for example, in the four crises in the Middle East that now have effectively become the objects of central attention that your country and ours used to focus on here in Europe. They include the lack of a peace between Israel and the Palestinians and our fervent desire that there be an independent Palestinian state created, one that’s willing to live alongside by Israel in peace. The fact that Lebanon and the democratic government of Prime Minister Siniora is under siege by Hezbollah, by Syria, and by Iran. The fact that Iran is a great country, but a country that’s now standing in opposition to all the powers of the world in seeking a nuclear weapons capability and in remaining the central banker of Middle East terrorists. And the fact that, in Iraq, the United States faces an enormous challenge, but one from which we cannot shrink if we wish to see stability not only in that country but in the general area of the Middle East.
Those four challenges are the epicenter of the United States foreign policy and also our relationship with Europe. And as we look ahead, we need to meet those challenges
squarely. And I believe that we have the greatest support in nearly all of them from France compared to that of any European country. I have been the American representative on the negotiations pertaining to Iran for the last two years, and we have had no better partner than President Chirac and now President Sarkozy in trying to communicate to the Iranians that we want peace. We want a diplomatic solution. We want negotiations, but we are prepared to use sanctions under the United Nations as a tool to increase the pressure on them to negotiate should they turn those negotiations down as they have done so unwisely over the past year. And on Lebanon, our two countries are completely united in what has to happen. So I do see an identity of interests.
If I think of the challenges beyond the Middle East, I would start with Afghanistan, and I would say that there NATO has done well. We’ve done well to organize ourselves to go in, to position ourselves in the south and east as a blocking force to the Taliban and Al-Qaida, but NATO needs reinforcements. NATO needs more troops. NATO needs more helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. NATO needs more trainers to help the Afghan national army to stand up and defend Afghanistan itself. And this has to be a joint enterprise of France and the United States. We are the two most significant militaries, along with the United Kingdom, in the NATO alliance. We have to put our people in the field and, sometimes, in harm’s way in the south in Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan provinces, and in the east along the border with Pakistan which is where the great threat is in that high mountainous area. And we would hope to work with France to strengthen both the American and the French commitment to see Afghanistan through to peace and to stability.I think beyond the Middle East that’s our greatest challenge.
I also think that in addition to those challenges, we have to show a common French-American commitment to be active in Africa in support of United Nations peacekeeping. Now, France has done perhaps more than any country to be present as a factor of stability in Africa, but it remains, of course, a great task for us to have a UN peacekeeping force to go into Darfur. I believe that France and America will push that together, as Foreign Minister Kouchner has been trying to do on his own very skillfully over the last few days. We need to see the United Nations go into Somalia, a country whose governing structure has literally disintegrated over the past six months since the Ethiopian incursions of December and January at the turn of this year. We need to see a commitment to Congo, and to Côte d’Ivoire, and to Liberia, and to Sierra Leone, where the United Nations has been present but needs reinforcement. And we have a humanitarian imperative to be present in the battle against HIV-AIDS, which is a pandemic in Sub-Saharan Africa, and in the fight against malaria. And I’m proud to say that President Bush has been the global leader on those two issues, HIV-AIDS and malaria, and we intend to work closely with our European partners in moving forward in a considerable effort to help the Africans with these terrible afflictions.
Beyond that, I would say there’s one more challenge. And I would just make this my final point before beginning a discussion. If we live in an era of globalization, and we do, if borders have shrunk, and if globalization has narrowed distance and time, and if technology has done that, then we can’t think about statecraft in conventional terms. And I for one as a professional diplomat, a career diplomat, believe that the future for America
and for our European allies will be to assert more commonly multilateral solutions to global problems. If the greatest challenges that France faces, that we face, in the future will be global climate change, and trafficking of woman and children, and international drug cartels, international criminal cartels, international terrorist groups, and the proliferation of nuclear and biological and chemical technology -- if those are among the greatest challenges that human beings will face for the next 50-60 years, then there are no unilateral solutions to them. France cannot face these problems alone, and the United States of America cannot face these problems alone, because these problems are not just going through our borders -- they’re going under them and over them. Even in a great country like ours, we have this unfortunate isolationist tendency over the last two centuries in our country because Americans assumed for most our history that the Atlantic and the Pacific would protect us. I think 9/11 taught us in a very dramatic way that even individuals, not just states, can reach across oceans to afflict extraordinary damage on our societies. And so while there may be times that countries need to act alone to express their view, or very rarely to even act alone in the world militarily or politically, more often than not, we’re going to have to see multilateral solutions to problems. That would argue for rebuilding the United Nations. It argues for the European Union to be much more active beyond Europe in the developing world. It argues for us to seek regional alliances with the African Union, and with the Organization of American States, and with ASEAN, and in other ways in the various parts of the world in which we are engaged. And it argues for us to think about a much more global, integrated approach to combatting global problems.
I’m very proud of what our President said ten days age on global climate change, when he said that it is a global problem that needs attention. He said that we ought to have a global discussion that takes us beyond Kyoto because Kyoto is going to expire, and he challenged all the great powers of the world, including China and India, to come to the table for a global solution. That, in our view, is a step forward towards defining a truly global solution to the problem of climate change which no one is denying. And you’re seeing in the United States, I think I can say as a citizen, the greening of America. You’re seeing the President step out with his global climate change proposal. You’re seeing our governors -- Deval Patrick in my home state of Massachusetts, and Governor Schwarzenegger in California -- say that not just the federal government but the state governments need to be involved in combatting global climate change, reflecting I think the interests of people in seeing a solution to this problem. And so, I think that if we do live in this era of globalization, if our interests are intersecting, if we see that our common fate has to be handled together, I think we are entering a different age where diplomacy will be practiced differently, and where we will be looking for common solutions.
If you take it from that perspective, what two countries in the world have a more common global interest than our two countries? We’re very different, but on a global basis, our interests -- not just our values, but our interests -- are intersecting. I don’t believe that will change for the rest of our working lifetimes. So, count me as an optimist about the U.S.-French relationship and America’s relations with Europe. I was in Brussels at the epicenter of the transatlantic wars in 2002-03, and I’ve not forgotten them, but I think
that’s the distant past now, and may we never go back to that type of argument. May we always look forward together to try to resolve these global problems. Thank you, Jim, and thank you, Christian, for the invitation. Thank you for listening. I look forward to a good discussion about all these great issues facing France and facing the United States.