Prepared Remarks by Victoria Nuland on a Transatlantic Renaissance

Prepared remarks by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, delivered on November 12, 2013 at the Atlantic Council.

Thank you, Damon, for the warm introduction. I’m so pleased to be here in the brand new offices of the Atlantic Council. Under Fred Kempe’s leadership and thanks to the creative energy of two of my favorite Wilsons — Damon and Ross — both collaborators and friends for many years — the Atlantic Council has had its own renaissance as a vital center of TransAtlantic conversation about all the key global issues: from economics and energy, to the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. You’re making it cool again to be a Europeanist. For that, I thank you.

It is no accident that I wanted to give my first speech as Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia at the Atlantic Council because today I want to talk about doubling down on the Transatlantic relationship.

I know, I know. Once every four years — or perhaps every four days — someone in a position like mine shows up here to talk about why Europe still matters, and how important we are to each other, even as the headlines are all about the Middle East or other troubled regions of the world. Or worse — they come here to preach Atlanticism just as the news is full of gloom and doom about the fraying of trust between us – whether the issue of the day is Iraq or the financial crisis or now the NSA disclosures.

But none of these bouts of turbulence changes the fundamentals: America needs a strong Europe, and Europe needs a strong America. The greater the Transatlantic and global challenges, the more important it is that the United States and Europe address them together. No other nations will step up if we don’t; yet other nations will and do join us when we, as a Transatlantic community, lead the way and give collective action our shared seal of approval and our involvement. The world needs a community of free nations with the will and the means to take on the toughest challenges, and to work for peace, security and freedom when they are threatened.

But today, as a Transatlantic community, we are standing at another vital inflection point in our ability to play that essential role, both at home and abroad. As our economies begin to emerge from five years of recession, recovery is not enough. What is required is a “Transatlantic Renaissance” – a new burst of energy, confidence, innovation, and generosity, rooted in our democratic values and ideals. When so much of the world around us is turbulent and unmoored, we are once again called to be a beacon of security, freedom and prosperity for countries everywhere. That will require both confidence and investments at home, and commitment and unity abroad. Together, we must lead or we will see the things we value and our global influence recede.

Today, I want to talk about the key elements of a Transatlantic Renaissance, and what we have to do together to make it a reality. At home, our most urgent economic task is to strengthen the foundations of our democratic, free-market way of life. That means working together for an ambitious Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that sets the global gold standard for openness and growth. TTIP can be for our economic health what NATO has been to our shared security for 65 years: a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. When we eliminate tariffs and non-tarriff barriers to trade across the Atlantic, we’ll support hundreds of thousands of new and better-paying jobs. We will also strengthen our hand in the global conversation to advance the kind of open, rules-based public commons in which our nations thrive. TTIP is so much more than a trade agreement. It is a political and strategic bet we are placing on each other and our shared future. We need to go all in, and I commend the leading role that the Atlantic Council plays to build public support for TTIP.

Together, we are also in the midst of a major advance in energy diversification and independence. If just five years ago, many of us worried almost as much about energy security as our physical security, today the landscape has changed utterly. The EU has made wise decisions to de-monopolize and diversify its market. Member states are investing in renewables, LNG terminals, new pipelines and interconnectors, shale gas and nuclear power, and the U.S. is a major investor in many of these projects. The United States has increased its own oil production by 35 percent and gas production by 25 percent. Today, America is the top natural gas producer in the world. But there is more to do. To complete the map of energy security in the Transatlantic and Eurasian space, now is the time to be innovative and generous with each other. We have to spend the money to build the regional interconnectors, buy each other’s technology, share access to critical infrastructure, export to each other, and continue to help neighbors resist monopoly practices or political intimidation.

The energy renaissance could, in turn, unlock new opportunities in our 25 year project to build a Europe whole, free and at peace. With the discovery of significant gas resources off Cyprus, Cypriot Foreign Minister Kasoulides has publicly predicted that gas could play as important a role in healing the island’s divisions as the coal and steel industry played in 1949 between France and Germany. The United States is impressed by the commitment of the two Cypriot sides led by President Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Eroglu over recent months to work together for a truly bizonal, bicommunal federation on the island. We also appreciate the support of Turkey and Greece for a mutually acceptable settlement between the parties. Today, both the leadership and shared interest are in place for a comprehensive settlement; this moment must not be squandered. A settlement will have benefits far beyond the island. It will also have a profoundly positive effect across the Eastern Med and on NATO-EU relations.

Two weeks before the EU’s summit in Vilnius, it is also a historic moment for Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia. All three countries have made advances in rule of law, democracy and market openness in order to meet the EU’s strict conditions for Association Agreements and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. The United States welcomes these nations’ European choice and wants to see all three knitted into the European family with the kinds of trade benefits and visa free travel the EU offers. Ukraine, in particular, has three last steps to take to meet the EU’s conditions – passage of judicial and electoral reform legislation, and the release of former Prime Minister Tymoshenko from prison for medical treatment. We join the EU in urging Ukraine’s leaders to make the right historic choice for their 45 million citizens — to choose their children’s future over the grievances of the past.

We are also encouraged by the commitments Serbia and Kosovo have made toward long-term reconciliation, under the patient mentorship of EU High Representative Cathy Ashton and with the full U.S. backing. This process needs our continued support so that both countries achieve their goal of integrating fully into European structures. In another positive development, President Aliyev of Azerbaijan and President Sargsian of Armenia will meet later this month for the first time in almost two years. They have it in their power to launch comprehensive settlement talks, and we urge them to be bold and creative. And in Bosnia-Herzogovina, it is well past time for leaders to demonstrate courage and vision – to move past petty power interests to build a modern, unified nation worthy of the talents and aspirations of all three communities. But if these leaders continue to block the country’s path to EU and NATO membership, Bosnia’s international partners, including the United States, should reevaluate our approach.

As we work to overcome old hatreds and grievances and finish the democratic map of Europe, we must neutralize another poison that threatens too many of Europe and Eurasia’s young democracies: corruption. Popular confidence in elected government is dropping across Europe’s center and east because voters believe their leaders feed their own interests first and the people’s second. Corruption is a pernicious killer of democratic dreams. Our stability and renewal will depend on more effective joint measures to battle this deadly threat.

And just as the original European Renaissance ushered in an age of greater humanism, intellectual openness and citizens’ rights, so must our work today for a Transatlantic Renaissance include defending and advancing the universal values that bind us as free nations. The quality of democracy and rule of law in Europe and Eurasia is deeply uneven today, and in too many places the trends are moving in the wrong direction. Too many citizens do not feel safe running for office, criticizing their governments, or promoting civil society. In too many places, press freedom is stifled, courts are rigged and governments put their thumbs on the scales of justice. If, as a Transatlantic community, we aspire to support and mentor other nations who want to live in justice, peace and freedom, we must stand with those in our own space who are fighting for democratic progress and individual liberties. Our democratic values are just as vital a pillar of our strength and global leadership as our militaries and our economies.

Hard security matters too, of course. As a former Ambassador to NATO, I am amazed how far our Alliance has come. In the past 20 years, we’ve gone from a ‘deployment-free zone’ to operations on three continents with almost 50 global partners that protect hundreds of millions of people – from Kosovo to Afghanistan to Libya to securing the Med and counter-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean. With our ability to plug-and-play with so many partners, NATO has become the TransAtlantic core of the international security community.

But I’m also dismayed that Allies expect to sleep safely at night on the cheap and ever cheaper. Just five years ago, average defense spending by our Allies stood at around 1.7 percent of GDP. By 2012, it had dropped to below 1.4 percent. So, as we bring our combat troops home from Afghanistan and look toward a NATO Summit in the United Kingdom next fall, we need a renaissance in the way we think about collective defense and security. That means spending smarter by spending more together on the most vital 21st century capabilities – from joint intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, to deployable headquarters, to integrated strike capability. It means staying sharp and deployable through an aggressive exercise schedule that keeps North Americans, Europeans and our global partners interoperable. And it means consolidating all we’ve learned in the last two decades about training and support for third-country militaries into a permanent, standing training capability. If NATO, in conjunction with the EU, can train others more, we can fight less. But training alone won’t be enough. When people ask me what NATO is for after we stop fighting in Afghanistan, I invariably hear the Ghost Busters theme song in my head: “Who ya gonna call?” The question for us is: will we be ready and willing to answer that call, whenever and wherever it comes next?

More broadly, the world counts on our Transatlantic community to bring creative solutions to the world’s most urgent problems, from climate change to countering terrorism to addressing poverty and hunger. As the President has said so many times, Europe is our global partner of first resort. Today, there is no place where our experience, our ideals and our resources are more needed than on Europe’s own periphery — an area that is also of vital national interest to the United States – across the Mediterranean, in the struggling nations of North Africa and the Middle East. It matters to all of us how the Arab Spring turns out – will the preponderance of people there eventually live in freedom, prosperity and peace, or will tyrants and terrorists prevail?

The investment that the Transatlantic community and other nations make now will have an impact on the outcome. From Libya to Tunisia to Egypt to Lebanon to Iran to Syria to our work to support Middle East Peace, the United States and Europe are strongest when we share the risk, the responsibility and yes, the financial burden of promoting positive change. But this too requires leadership, including making the case to our own people that our fates and those of our neighbors are intertwined. In today’s interconnected world, strength at home and strength abroad are a package deal.

And I firmly believe that when we can find common purpose with Russia, the whole world benefits. When we take nuclear and chemical weapons out of service together, we’re all better off. We can’t stop working to find areas where we can bring Russia to the table. We should, for example, focus intensively in coming years on increasing two-way trade and investment between the United States and Russia by reducing tariffs and other barriers wherever possible, and by connecting our people and businesses at the regional level. We should also focus on spurring educational exchange, innovation and entrepreneurship so that the next generation of Russians and Americans grow up as partners and friends, and lose the zero-sum glasses of their parents. But, even as we seek to build ballast and mutual benefit into our relationship, Americans will never sugar coat it when we disagree with the Russian Government’s treatment of its political opposition, free media, NGOs, and members of the LGBT community, not to mention some of its foreign policies. Nor can we fall victim to a false choice between our interests and our values. For us, they are also a package deal.

Some of you no doubt are now thinking again about the wave of disclosures and allegations about the NSA so let me return to that for a moment. We understand the difficulties the current situation has caused for our Allies and friends. The President is determined to get the balance right between our citizens’ security and their privacy. He has ordered intelligence reviews, and we are having intensive consultations with Allies on this topic. But make no mistake: the intelligence work we do — much of it jointly with Allies and partners — has foiled terrorist plots on both sides of the Atlantic and kept us all safer. So as we work together to restore trust and balance, let’s also stand together to protect the gains we have made since September 11th, 2001, including the Terrorism Finance Tracking Program, the Passenger Name Record program and the Safe Harbor arrangement. As Americans and Europeans know better than anyone, there can be no liberty without security, just as there can be no security without liberty. If we continue to work together, we can and will strengthen both.

In closing, let me go back to where I began: it should not be enough for us to simply recover as a Transatlantic community. We can and must make the kinds of investments in each other now — and in our way of life — to continue to play the leadership role that the world needs and expects of us in these complex times. America and Europe have each tried going it alone at various moments, and the results are rarely good. We need each other to be our best. And, we are at an inflection point. Those who want to live in peace and freedom around the world are looking to us for a “Transatlantic Renaissance.” I believe that is within our grasp. For almost seventy years the Transatlantic community has been the rock on which the world order rests. Our challenge, on both sides of the Atlantic, is to ensure that remains the case. Thank you.