|Meeting NATO's Five Challenges |
Meeting NATO's Five Challenges
"The Transatlantic Relationship at the Crossroads? Meeting NATO's Five Challenges." Remarks by Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, U.S. Permanent Representative on the North Atlantic Council on Transatlantic Relationship at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations 'Clingendael', March 23, 2001. NATO faces challenges, but the Bush administration believes that the transatlantic link is vital and must be preserved because it is the best guarantee of security for all, said Ambassador Alexander Vershbow at the Clingendael Institute. Source: Washington File, March 28, 2001 (EUR306). U.S. Department of State.
Vershbow, the U.S. Permanent Representative on the North Atlantic Council, identified the following five key challenges for NATO:
- The Balkans: "We have won a fragile peace. We must now sustain and strengthen that peace," he said. The Alliance must show that it can "draw down its peacekeeping missions as successfully as it ramped them up," modify the number of troops "to reflect new realities on the ground," and transfer "responsibility from our military forces to international civilian agencies and, ultimately, to local governments that are becoming too comfortable as international protectorates."
Vershbow assured his audience that "the U.S. has no plans whatsoever to 'cut and run' from the Balkans. Secretary Powell assured Allies of this in February and I want to reassure you. We went in together, and we'll come out together."
Regarding the situation in southern Serbia, Vershbow said: "NATO is doing an impressive job to quell Albanian extremists: cutting off supply routes, cracking down on those who support violence and lending NATO's reputation and expertise to facilitate a peaceful solution." He also reiterated U.S. support for the efforts of the democratic government in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to preserve the country's stability and multi-ethnic civil society.
- ESDI/ESDP and Capabilities: U.S. support for NATO's European Security and Defense Identity (ESDI) and the European Union's European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) is "conditioned on ESDI or ESDP being done right," Vershbow said.
ESDP could be good for the Alliance and the transatlantic relationship, "but done poorly, this new venture could divide the transatlantic Alliance, diminish European capacity to manage crises, and possibly weaken the U.S. commitment to European security."
He stressed the need for increased European defense capabilities; coordination of NATO and EU defense planning; strengthened NATO-EU cooperation and consultation; guaranteed EU access to NATO operational planning; the sharing of NATO assets and capabilities; and the regular involvement of non-EU Allies.
- NATO Enlargement: The key challenge in NATO enlargement is "to maintain the Alliance's vital role in unifying Europe through the admission of additional members, while preserving NATO's military effectiveness and political cohesion," Vershbow said.
All of the aspirants need to do "much more" on defense reform and other areas, he said. Each aspirant should be assessed "by the progress it makes in fulfilling its MAP [Membership Action Plan] goals and its prospects for becoming responsible members of this great Alliance, and not on the basis of political favoritism."
- Russia: "The Bush administration wants to engage with Russia, but we must avoid the overly optimistic expectations of the last decade," Vershbow said. "Russia must decide whether or not it wants to be a constructive partner with the West. For our part, we will continue to search for opportunities for constructive engagement where it can benefit both sides. If Russia does the same, we have an ambitious and challenging agenda before us."
- Missile Defense: "President Bush has been unequivocal; America must and will build effective missile defenses, based on the best available options, at the earliest possible date," Vershbow said. But he included an assurance "we are committed to consulting closely with our Allies on this project... We are committed to hearing your views, explaining our approach, and inviting your participation."
The United States wants "to work within NATO to develop a coordinated approach to missile defense, without drawing artificial distinctions between 'national' and 'theater' missile defense."
He added that the United States "is committed to working with Moscow on this issue, both bilaterally and through the NATO-Russia relationship." Vershbow said he believes the United States and Russia will further converge in their approaches to missile defense "once we convince Moscow that it cannot drive a wedge between the U.S. and its Allies on this question."
"We see missile defense as an opportunity for dialogue and giving Moscow a real stake in its relationship with NATO," he said. Following is the text of his speech: (begin text)
Netherlands Institute of International Relations, Clingendael, Netherlands, March 23, 2001, Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, U.S. Permanent Representative on the North Atlantic Council.
The Transatlantic Relationship at the Crossroads? Meeting NATO's Five Challenges
When I was thinking about today's topic, it occurred to me that we -- Americans, Canadians and Europeans -- have been facing crossroads since NATO's beginning. Although increasingly more our parents' and grandparents' memories than our own personal recollections, our shared World War II experience still resonates deeply, perhaps particularly for the Dutch. I don't have to remind you about what we went through together -- the liberation of Dutch cities in the south by our famous "Old Hickory" unit in 1944; the risks shared side-by-side by our U.S. G.I.s and Dutch resistance fighters; shared dangers, shared secrets, shared chocolates and cigarettes. We honor the courage of the World War II generation -- and we remember the carnage. When the war was finally over, together we sought ways to prevent such devastation from ever again engulfing Europe. Fifty-two years ago, together we created NATO -- the transatlantic Alliance -- as the primary guarantor of our security, and as the foundation for a new kind of Europe.
NATO's founders -- like the founders of what today is the European Union -- had not only bloody memories but a breathtaking vision. NATO was never just about defending against an external threat. NATO was also conceived as a way of moving erstwhile adversaries from the battlefield to the boardroom, from conflict to cooperation. To so intertwine the security and economic interests of the member nations that war in Europe would become all but unthinkable. With the launch of the euro imminent and enlargement just over the horizon, the EU has made incredible strides to fulfill its economic and political vision and to begin to extend that vision eastward. And although we must contend with still-unfinished business in the Balkans, the security vision embedded in the North Atlantic Treaty has also been largely realized. Simply put, NATO is the most successful security Alliance in the history of the world. Why? Because each time it has been faced with new challenges, each time it has reached a crossroads, NATO Allies have collectively adapted and chosen the right path.
Let me give you a few examples. In the early days, we adapted to meet the Soviet threat -- and later, when there was no more Soviet Union, we created the Partnership for Peace to link former adversaries in security cooperation. We adapted to the fall of the Berlin Wall and expanded NATO to welcome former Warsaw Pact nations as members. Rather than letting NATO enlargement isolate Russia, we signed the Founding Act and established the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council. We developed the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and the Membership Action Plan to help all the nations of Europe -- including former Communist states and the former neutrals -- to deepen their security, prepare for future NATO membership, or just play their part in forming a Europe whole, free and secure. When conflict in the Balkans threatened our interests and our values, NATO took decisive action and established itself as crisis manager and peacekeeper alongside its traditional role as defender of Allies' territory.
These adaptations have been neither simple nor pain-free. But they have been necessary, and they have been successful. Each time we adapted, our Alliance has emerged stronger. Our task now is to make sure we keep making the right choices to strengthen our Alliance.
And our Alliance does face some tough challenges. For example, we simply cannot take NATO's continued effectiveness and cohesion for granted. Some in the United States believe that Europe takes the U.S. commitment to Europe for granted, while focusing its political capital on the fortunes of the EU -- perhaps at NATO's expense. Some view the U.S. as a sort of "911" (in your country "112") emergency service -- a dependable back-up security source if and when needed, but given little thought from day to day. Happily, I believe -- and more importantly, the Bush administration believes -- that the transatlantic link is vital and must be preserved, and that our continued close association through NATO is the best guarantee of security for us all.
Strengthening NATO is at the top of President Bush's foreign policy priorities. As he said at SACLANT headquarters in Norfolk on February 13, "Our challenges have changed, and NATO is changing and growing to meet them. But the purpose of NATO remains permanent...Nothing must ever divide us." Secretary Powell reinforced this message at the North Atlantic Council last month: "Our commitment to NATO is full, total and unrestricted." To maintain our common purpose, the President and Secretary recognize that we must choose the right road -- and even build some new ones. I'd like to talk about the five key challenges facing the Alliance, where I believe we are choosing and building new roads right now -- the Balkans; the European Security and Defense Policy; continued NATO enlargement; relations with Russia; and missile defense. Let me speak to the Balkans first.
NATO ended the bloodbath in Bosnia, reversed ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, and jump-started democratic reform and political and economic reconstruction in the region. The Balkans are a NATO success story, but not NATO's story alone. Transatlantic teamwork, critical reinforcement by the EU through its arms embargo, flight ban, financial sanctions, and diplomacy defeated the Milosevic regime.
The challenge now before NATO is to show that the Alliance can draw down its peacekeeping missions as successfully as it ramped them up. Before I start to hear any panic in the room, I want to be quite clear that the U.S. has no plans whatsoever to "cut and run" from the Balkans. Secretary Powell assured Allies of this in February and I want to reassure you. We went in together, and we'll come out together. This doesn't mean that numbers of troops won't change to reflect new realities on the ground. But we will work with Allies over time to make sure that our military commitments in the Balkans match the need. And, more importantly, we must work together to transfer responsibility from our military forces to international civilian agencies and, ultimately, to local governments that are becoming too comfortable as international protectorates.
In Bosnia, undeniable progress has been made: refugee returns are increasing steadily, moderates have made stunning political gains, and parliaments are beginning to function. While we should not dismiss these achievements, we need also to bear in mind that major changes have most often been the result of decisions imposed by the International Community, not ones taken by Bosnian leaders themselves. It is now necessary to help Bosnia stand on its own two feet. In a little-noticed breakthrough last month, we now have the first-ever non-nationalist Bosnian government in place -- the three hardline parties who fought the war are out of power. Therefore, our chances are better than ever to break the dependency cycle and root Bosnia in a European and transatlantic context.
In Kosovo as in Bosnia, peace and stability will depend on establishing multi-ethnic self-government, return of displaced persons, and economic opportunity. We must help fulfill the expectations of the people of Kosovo that they will be granted the right of self-governance along the path to meaningful autonomy. Active Kosovar involvement in the nuts and bolts of self-government will empower moderates and marginalize extremists whose considerable energies are all too often directed at extracting revenge for a decade of Serbian repression. As we make progress, we will be able to reduce our forces as we have done in Bosnia -- although we must be prepared that it may take some years to significantly change the tasks that our military forces must implement.
The dramatic political developments since last October in Belgrade have changed the Balkan equation, making the prospects for Bosnia and Kosovo much brighter. We no longer face Milosevic's aggressive, bloody brand of nationalism. Our interlocutors in Belgrade are by no means perfect, but they have displayed real willingness to come to terms with their own past and with today's Europe. We shall need to hold them to the principle of "deeds, not words."
Unfortunately, a different, and potentially as virulent, nationalism has sprung up in southern Serbia. NATO is doing an impressive job to quell Albanian extremists: cutting off supply routes, cracking down on those who support violence and lending NATO's reputation and expertise to facilitate a peaceful solution. Here I'd like to applaud the efforts of your countryman, Pieter Feith, the NATO Secretary General's Representative, who has convinced both Albanians and Serbs to sit at the table and negotiate their differences. NATO is also reestablishing FRY responsibility for the rule of law in the 5-kilometer buffer zone. This may seem like a technical achievement, but I assure you, it has political significance. FRY forces, once seen as killers, are now responsible for law and order. FRY forces, once NATO's opponent, are now working with the Alliance. NATO is not alone in this endeavor -- the EU is working alongside NATO to build confidence between the Albanians and FRY officials. Such cooperation proves that while NATO-EU ties are complex in theory, we are there together when it counts in practice.
You are no doubt deeply concerned about the brewing crisis in northern Macedonia, where Albanian extremists threaten to destabilize the one state to emerge from ex-Yugoslavia without bloodshed. Here, too, NATO is working to tamp down violence and to help the Macedonian authorities isolate extremists from the general population and from support from inside Kosovo. We will continue to support the efforts of the democratic government of Macedonia to preserve the country's stability and multi-ethnic civil society.
The bottom line in the Balkans is that we have won a fragile peace. We must now sustain and strengthen that peace. The Balkans story isn't over yet -- one unfinished chapter deals with the effects of NATO's Balkans experience on the next challenge I would like to address, the European Security and Defense Identity (ESDI) -- or the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP) as it is called in the EU.
ESDI/ESDP and Capabilities
Ironically, while the Kosovo campaign bolstered NATO unity and demonstrated its continued indispensability, it starkly illustrated the gaps between European ambitions and capabilities. During the air campaign, many of our Allies wanted to play a more prominent role, but simply lacked the forces or capabilities to do so. The Dutch and Canadians were the only Allies, along with the U.S., who were able to fly hard-target strikes during Operation Allied Force. The Dutch also refueled literally hundreds of Allied aircraft during the air campaign. But these were the exceptions. Not only did U.S. pilots fly the great majority of strike sorties, the U.S. provided almost all of the combat support, electronic warfare, air-ground surveillance and other missions essential to high-intensity combat. This imbalance is unsustainable in the long run, and the European Allies have recognized that. ESDP, with its Headline Goal, is a vehicle the EU created to begin to redress the imbalance.
President Bush, in a joint statement with UK Prime Minister Blair, has made clear that "the United States welcomes the European Union's European Security and Defense Policy, intended to make Europe a stronger, more capable partner in deterring and managing crises affecting the security of the Transatlantic community." Secretary Powell was equally emphatic: "The United States, President Bush, Secretary Powell, and all the members of the new administration support ESDI."
But that support is conditioned on ESDI or ESDP being done right. Done right, the EU's creation of a military crisis management capability -- for situations where NATO as a whole chooses not to engage -- could be good for the Alliance and the transatlantic relationship. Done right, ESDP could expand our pool of forces and rectify some of Europe's capability gaps. It could help rationalize and redirect resources, result in more balanced burden-sharing, and lead to a genuine strategic partnership between two premier organizations. Done right, ESDP can do all these things. But done poorly, this new venture could divide the transatlantic Alliance, diminish European capacity to manage crises, and possibly weaken the U.S. commitment to European security. ESDP cannot be viewed primarily as a political exercise in European institution-building. Rather, it should be seen as an opportunity to harness NATO and EU comparative advantages to solve security problems. Otherwise, ESDP will fail in its essential purpose. And if that happens, we will all suffer the consequences.
So how do we get ESDP right? First, ESDP must result in increased capabilities. And that means Europeans must spend more on defense. Kosovo showed us that Europeans need to acquire more sophisticated combat capabilities -- things like precision-guided munitions, electronic warfare, and unmanned reconnaissance vehicles. It would be unwise -- even unhealthy for NATO -- to develop a de facto division of labor where Europeans were equipped for light peacekeeping missions, with the U.S. left holding the bag on high-intensity warfare. The U.S. Congress and public would not support such a two-tiered Alliance over the long run. One way to help prevent that is to chip away at the barriers on both sides of the Atlantic to increased cooperation between U.S. and European defense industries -- so that we can jointly produce the best technology at the lowest cost.
The bottom line on capabilities is exactly that -- the bottom line. I applaud the Netherlands for leading the way in halting the slide in national defense spending and actually increasing -- if modestly -- its defense budget. If more nations don't follow your lead, however, we risk increasing European dependence on U.S. resources, while reducing the EU's Headline Goal to a footnote on page 33. I also applaud Dutch creativity. The Netherlands is coordinating a joint effort with Germany as part of NATO's Defense Capabilities Initiative (DCI) to find innovative ways to increase European air-to-air refueling capabilities. You have also committed 100 million guilders into a Dutch-German project to build airlift capacity. These kinds of effort to pool national resources are another promising way to maximize scarce resources and address capability shortfalls.
We can also maximize scarce resources by coordinating NATO and EU defense planning to avoid wasteful, unnecessary duplication. A collaborative review process in which all 23 NATO and EU nations participate would ensure that NATO and EU goals are compatible and that nations don't fulfill promises to the EU at the expense of their broader commitments to NATO. Doing defense planning together would recognize that, at the end of the day, there is only one pool of forces to draw from. This can be done in a way that respects EU autonomy and which works around our French Allies' absence from NATO defense planning.
To get ESDP right, we also need to strengthen the nascent structures for NATO-EU cooperation and consultation. We've made a good start, after decades during which NATO and the EU had no institutional contact despite having their headquarters in the same city. The NAC has met with the EU's Political and Security Committee twice this year and spoken productively about Balkan strategy. At working levels, NATO and EU counterparts -- including military experts -- have met to discuss capabilities and future political links. It is a good start, but we need to go further. We need to embed the habits of collegial consultation and collaboration so deeply in our separate systems in routine times that they become automatic in times of crisis. In a crisis, it's important that we be able to work from a common assessment of the situation and a common analysis of the options, so that there is maximum solidarity no matter which organization ultimately takes the lead. This will also be achieved by guaranteeing EU access to NATO operational planning rather than creating a "mini-SHAPE" for the EU that could lead our security perspectives to drift apart. We also need to work out arrangements for sharing of NATO assets and capabilities when NATO agrees to release them. In short, we need to show that the EU can rely on NATO. But the EU also has to show that NATO -- all 19 Allies -- can rely on it.
To ensure that there is a reciprocal benefit -- and indeed, to move the ESDP process forward at all -- we must resolve the participation issue. By that I mean ensuring the regular involvement of non-EU Allies in shaping the strategy and in doing the military planning for EU-led operations and exercises affecting their security. The EU's Nice conclusions were a generous start, but they have not settled the issue. Non-EU European Allies have pledged significant assets and capabilities to the EU's Headline Goal. They have an Article 5 security obligation that could be triggered if EU-led operations should escalate. They have proven their worth as stalwart partners in actual European crises -- and continue to do so. That is why they deserve participation rights -- not decision-making or a veto, but participation -- commensurate with their shared interests and obligations, and the respect due to them, as Allies.
Next, I'd like to talk about future NATO enlargement -- an issue that will gain prominence in the run-up to the 2002 Prague Summit, when Alliance leaders are likely to take decisions on the next round of enlargement. The fact that the issue is so prominent is testament to NATO's continuing vitality and relevance to meeting the security challenges of the 21st century -- otherwise why would so many nations be so eager to join?
Enlargement is not so much a challenge as an opportunity. I think most everyone here will agree that the prospect of NATO membership has been an extraordinarily effective incentive for former Warsaw Pact nations to endure the pain of political, economic and defense reform -- and thus a powerful engine for encouraging construction of a Europe whole, free and secure. So it only makes sense to maintain that momentum by continuing the enlargement process. As Secretary Powell has emphasized, the U.S. is committed to keeping NATO's door open to all European democracies able and willing to meet the responsibilities of membership.
And there are responsibilities. New members must add to the Alliance, not just take from it. Our Alliance must be stronger because they are a part of it. NATO has responsibilities to the aspirants as well. We must be frank when assessing their progress in becoming credible candidates. NATO's Membership Action Plan (MAP) has provided the nine aspirants with clear guidelines on how to do so. We must continue to work closely with these aspirants to help them become the strongest candidates possible. It is too soon to debate precisely what decisions will be taken at the Prague Summit. At this stage, all of the aspirants need to do more -- much more -- on defense reform and in other areas in order to pass muster. But we should assess each aspirant by the progress it makes in fulfilling its MAP goals and its prospects for becoming responsible members of this great Alliance, and not on the basis of political favoritism.
If there is a challenge in NATO enlargement, it is to maintain the Alliance's vital role in unifying Europe through the admission of additional members, while preserving NATO's military effectiveness and political cohesion. This is a difficult balancing act, because enlargement decisions will impact on other NATO spheres. One of these is NATO's relations with Russia.
Russia continues to oppose NATO enlargement, yet Russia has yet to articulate clearly or convincingly how enlargement actually damages its security, as Russian leaders maintain. Moscow has not yet accepted an objective fact: that admitting Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary to NATO has added to stability in Central Europe and the entire transatlantic region -- which has also benefited Moscow. Russian leaders have thus far been unable to shed out-of-date suspicions that NATO enlargement is directed against Russia, and that NATO still views Moscow as the enemy. Russia needs to move beyond this outmoded thinking. NATO enlargement threatens no one, including Russia, and its continuation will further consolidate stability and security in Central and Eastern Europe. That is why Russia will have no veto over future NATO enlargement decisions. NATO will work actively with Russia to address its legitimate concerns; but Russia also needs to update its understanding of NATO and take greater advantage of the opportunities for partnership that NATO offers.
While the NATO-Russia relationship remains far from the cooperative partnership based on shared security interests envisioned in the 1997 Founding Act, we have the vehicles in place to make this relationship open and productive. And there already has been tangible progress. In February, Secretary General Robertson opened a NATO Information Office in Moscow. This will enable us to address the Russian public directly and engage with the next generation of Russian leaders, who may be less zero-sum-oriented in their views of the outside world than older generations. We have a dialogue underway to establish a Military Liaison Mission to enhance our military-to-military cooperation, getting more and more Russians working directly with their NATO counterparts. Maritime search and rescue cooperation, intensified in the sobering aftermath of the Kursk tragedy, has begun. Our smooth side-by-side cooperation in the Balkans proves that we can work together.
The strength in this relationship is that we have a forum, the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council or PJC, in which to conduct a dialogue -- to cooperate where we can, and to manage our differences where we cannot. Indeed, we must be realistic about our relations with Russia. We continue to have serious differences on many fronts. NATO Allies are all concerned that Russia is using excessive force in Chechnya. My government has particular concerns about Russia's military cooperation with Iran and its support for Iran's nuclear program. We are also troubled about the restrictive direction President Putin seems to be taking in curbing the free press, and the increased pressure he is putting on Russia's neighbors.
The Bush administration wants to engage with Russia, but we must avoid the overly optimistic expectations of the last decade. Russia must decide whether or not it wants to be a constructive partner with the West. For our part, we will continue to search for opportunities for constructive engagement where it can benefi
t both sides. If Russia does the same, we have an ambitious and challenging agenda before us.
While it may surprise you, missile defense could be one of the most promising areas for NATO-Russia partnership in meeting common threats to our security over the coming years. Despite Russian objections to U.S. plans for missile defense of U.S. territory, Russia faces many of the same threats from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction -- and recognizes this fact. We can use this common interest to deepen Moscow's stake in its relationship with NATO and create lasting security benefits for both sides. So let me talk a bit now about Missile Defense, the last of the five security challenges facing the transatlantic relationship.
Over the years, NATO has had to adapt to different threats. From tanks, to the Soviet SS-20 missile, to biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction, the need for new thinking is just as urgent now. We need a new strategy to deal with the new threats posed by the spread of long-range ballistic missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction against our forces and our cities. President Bush has been unequivocal; America must and will build effective missile defenses, based on the best available options, at the earliest possible date. But America does not forget its friends and Allies. As the President said, "The dangers ahead confront us all. The defenses we build must protect us all."
We are not naive about the implications for our own or our Allies' arms control and non-proliferation efforts. We also recognize that our decision has made some -- those who would threaten us with these weapons and our Allies as well -- uneasy. But the need is critical. We must deny rogue states armed with WMD the ability to coerce or blackmail us in a crisis. We will be a better Ally when we have options other than massive retaliation. And we must have an answer in the case of accidental or unauthorized launch of such weapons. As the President has asked -- how could he explain to the American people before -- or even worse, after -- a tragedy, that there had been a way to have protected ourselves against a rogue missile attack, and we hadn't built it.
Let me assure you that we are committed to consulting closely with our Allies on this project, even as the new Administration reviews the options. We are committed to hearing your views, explaining our approach, and inviting your participation. Threats to Europe and to Allied forces are actually more immediate, since short- and medium-range missiles that can reach Europe are already coming into the hands of rogue states. We want to work within NATO to develop a coordinated approach to missile defense, without drawing artificial distinctions between "national" and "theater" missile defense. The U.S. is greatly appreciative of the lead role the Netherlands has taken in launching a serious, long-term effort to develop the means for missile defense in Europe, including our collaboration on the Patriot PAC-3 system . We must continue to work together to educate Allies and others about the threats that make MD necessary as we work to meet this new challenge.
As I said earlier, the U.S. is committed to working with Moscow on this issue, both bilaterally and through the NATO-Russia relationship. And Russian officials have made statements recently suggesting that their minds are opening a bit. President Putin has recognized that Europe faces a threat from WMD and their delivery systems, and wants to consult with NATO on this important matter. Moscow's proposed "Pan-European Non-Strategic Missile Defense" indicates that the Russians accept defensive weapons as a legitimate response to this threat.
Admittedly, Russia has thus far focused exclusively on short-range, tactical missile defense, andhas shown little inclination to acknowledge the need to realign the ABM Treaty with new strategic realities. But I believe that further convergence in our approaches will be possible once we convince Moscow that it cannot drive a wedge between the U.S. and its Allies on this question. As I said earlier, we see missile defense as an opportunity for dialogue and giving Moscow a real stake in its relationship with NATO.
So, in closing, is the transatlantic relationship at a crossroads? Yes. Of course. Any relationship as dynamic as our transatlantic relationship will always be at a crossroads. Each time we shift to meet new and different challenges, each time we grow to embrace new geo-political realities, we stand at a crossroads. But whenever we have faced new challenges to our security, we have always managed to overcome our differences and forge a common approach that has recemented the bonds forged in World War II and the Cold War. I think this spirit of rising above every challenge that has characterized NATO for its 52 years should guide us in resolving the, often thornier, disputes in the transatlantic relationship over trade, food safety and cultural relations.
I've read a wonderful novel by Ian McEwan called, fittingly enough, "Amsterdam." He starts his book with a quote from a W.H. Auden piece which, by some strange coincidence, is entitled "Crossroads." It says, "The friends who met here and embraced are gone/Each to his own mistake." I am confident that with courage, determination, and common sense, the United States and its European Allies will continue to make the right choices, and that we will be more fortunate than Auden's characters. Whenever we return to the crossroads, we will find our Allies there.