Dr. Henry Kissinger delivered the Atlantic Council’s third annual Christopher J. Makins Lecture on transatlantic relations tonight. The event was hosted by the UK Ambassador, H.E. Sir Nigel Sheinwald, KCMG.

Kissinger’s comments addressed the challenges and opportunities facing the strategic Atlantic alliance during the Obama administration and beyond.  He first spoke about the emergence of transnational sovereignty pooling as traditional nation-states realize they are no longer capable of conducting global foreign policy.  The nation-states of Europe, he said, are in the process of ceding much of their sovereignty to the EU, but this process of transition is still ongoing and is sometimes unintentionally trumped by national interests.  Kissinger noted that transnational trends also have also emerged in the Middle East, but since the nation-state concept never established itself in the region, the unifying element became a universalist Islamist philosophy.

Because of the continuing financial crisis, Kissinger urged governments to bring their political and economic policies much closer together in the future.  A realignment of priorities is required to reform the international economic system.  Without arriving at compatible priorities, countries will be acting as individuals rather than collectively at a time when no country really believes that it alone can solve either its own or the world’s economic woes.  A new international economic system that respects the 21st-century global realities of interdependence needs to be established.

The three largest challenges for the Atlantic community going forward, Kissinger stated, will be relations with Russia, Iran, and Afghanistan.  While the U.S. should never abandon its belief in the importance of democracy, it must set realistic time frames for democracy promotion that span many years.  He stressed that it is in the interests of Tehran and Moscow to engage in dialogue with the U.S. and was optimistic about the prospects for such action in the coming years.

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More about the Christopher J. Makins Lecture Series:

Quickly becoming recognized as the preeminent annual analysis of transatlantic relations, the Makins Lecture series focuses on the state of the strategic Atlantic partnership, its future direction, and the prospects for the furtherance of common European and U.S. interests.  It is directed at policy makers and political leaders around the world and provides a platform for the importance of the Alliance and the need for continued transatlantic cooperation.  The Atlantic Council intends the series to be a reference tool for policy makers, legislators, the think tank community, academic scholars, and the media on both sides of the Atlantic.

The lecture series honors the life of Christopher J. Makins, president of the Atlantic Council from 1999 to 2005, who passed before his time in January 2006.  After more than a decade in the British Diplomatic Service, he chose to settle in Washington and tackled defense, arms control, and other security issues in the nonprofit community.

The Makins Lecture series complements the Atlantic Council’s ongoing mission to promote constructive U.S. leadership and engagement in international affairs, based on the central role of the Atlantic community in meeting the international challenges of the 21st century.

Atlantic Council photos by Daniel Rosenbaum.