- 10 Nov 2010 12:00 AM
I imagine that most of you are aware of Tuesday’s election results in the United States and are probably wondering what effect it will have on American foreign policy. If you have specific questions, I’ll be happy to answer those later, but in short, U. S. foreign policy will not substantially change as a result of the election. We are committed to Europe and place tremendous importance on our partnership with the EU and our NATO allies.
Having been in Hungary for almost a year now, I’m still amazed by the changes that have taken place over the last 21 years. For example, we are here in what used to be Karl Marx University and is now a renowned center for the study of democracy, rule of law, and market economics. For a generation of Hungarians and others in this region, the transition has not always been easy. But even in the beacons of democracy, government isn’t perfect.
As Winston Churchill said, “… democracy is the worst form of government except for all the other ones that have been tried.” So while progress in Hungary has been uneven and the process has not always been easy, the opportunities that are available to you – as students of Corvinus University, as young Hungarians, as a new generation of Hungarians – your opportunities are unlimited.
With Hungary’s upcoming European Union presidency, its continuing commitment to NATO operations in Afghanistan and the Balkans, and its leadership with the political and economic transformations of countries in the Balkans and in the Eastern Partnership, Hungary has asserted itself on the international stage. The United States welcomes and encourages this role.
We cannot underestimate the historic nature of Europe’s economic and security reintegration. You only have to recall what happened here 54 years ago, when Soviet troops invaded to crush the 1956 uprising, to realize how far the whole world has come. Hungary is now an EU member with a fully integrated economy. Hungary is a NATO member, with all the responsibilities and benefits associated with the alliance. How many of your parents would have dreamed twenty years ago that Hungary would be the president of Europe in 2011?
Stability in Europe allows us to focus increasingly on how we can work together to address global challenges from Afghanistan to Iran to economic recovery to climate change.
When President Obama entered office, he realized that with all the issues facing the United States, we could not do it alone, and what better partners could the United States have than our European allies? We share the same values and interests, and we are guided by the same principles. This is why the President turned to Europe to join us in addressing our common problems.
In April, 2009, on one of his first foreign trips, President Obama told an audience in Strasbourg: “The United States came here to listen, to learn, and to lead, because all of us have a responsibility to do our parts. America can't meet our global challenges alone; nor can Europe meet them without America.”
With that in mind, I’d like to look ahead to the future and in particular talk about the three summits coming up this fall: the NATO summit in Lisbon, the U.S.-EU summit also in Lisbon, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Astana, Kazakhstan.
These institutions, NATO, the EU, and the OSCE, have enabled peace and prosperity to reign in Europe, and they continue to provide the framework within which we can address security, human rights, rule of law and economic challenges.
Let me start by discussing NATO. Today NATO faces far different threats and challenges than it did during the Cold War, but it is no less essential. The end of the Cold War has made the world much safer, but also much more complex. NATO has had to adapt in order to address issues such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, and even piracy. At Lisbon, NATO will continue this process of adaptation by:
Adopting a new Strategic Concept with a forward-leaning vision; this is very important;
2. Developing 21st century capabilities such as territorial missile defense and cyber early warning systems;
3. Undertaking organizational reform to make NATO more efficient; and
4. Remaining open to new partnerships and deepening existing partnerships.
On Afghanistan, the Lisbon summit will reaffirm NATO’s commitment to Afghanistan’s future through a NATO-Afghanistan partnership declaration.
Afghanistan remains the United States’ top foreign policy priority and the support NATO is providing underscores the strength of our security alliance. Since President Obama announced his strategy for Afghanistan in December 2009, Europe has contributed 7000 additional troops, deployed over 100 training teams for the Afghan army and police and provided nearly $300 million for the Afghan National Army trust fund. Right now European nations have nearly 40,000 troops in Afghanistan. Along with the U.S., Hungary and 46 other countries, this is the largest coalition in the history of the world.
Hungary is an important contributor. The Hungarian-led Provincial Reconstruction and Development Team in Baghlan province is undertaking significant stabilization efforts to improve governance. A Hungarian contingent, commanded by a brigadier general, has just taken over responsibility for security for the Kabul International Airport. A Hungarian Operation Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT), in partnership with the Ohio National Guard, is doing tremendous work to improve the capabilities of the Afghan National Army, and an Air Mentor Team is doing the same with the Afghan National Air Force.
I want to say something more about the OMLT, because I had the opportunity to go out and visit them a few times while they trained here. Every six months a team from the United States, from Ohio, comes out and is co-located with the members of the Hungarian army. They train together over a few months and are co-deployed, deployed together to Afghanistan. This exercise has been incredibly successful. In many ways the early training and working bilingually has been very helpful for these soldiers before they go to Afghanistan, where working in a multi-cultural environment is so essential. So I have seen first-hand these Hungarian young men and women and they are very impressive.
Other Hungarian troops are serving in various capacities with the International Security Assistance Force. You should be proud of your soldiers who, despite suffering losses, carry on with bravery and determination.
The NATO strategy is focused on gradually, as circumstances permit, turning over security responsibility to Afghan Security Forces. This is a deliberate process based upon conditions on the ground, determined in close coordination by Afghan authorities and the International Security Assistance Force.
President Obama has set a target for this process to begin next summer. It will be done province by province, district by district as conditions allow. However, diplomatic efforts and development assistance must continue throughout this process and beyond.
Before moving on to the EU, I should mention that early in President Obama’s Administration, resetting relations with Russia was one of his first foreign policy initiatives. I think we all remember the red "Reset" button.
Our relationship with Russia was in a different place, a difficult place and not serving the interests of the United States or our allies. Now our goal is to cooperate with Russia in areas where we have common interests. But we will not compromise our principles – in particular our commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all of the nations in Europe. I think our approach has had some success:
We reached an agreement on a new arms reduction treaty, the New START Treaty. This agreement significantly reduces the number of nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles deployed by each side, with 30 percent fewer deployed warheads permitted than the levels agreed to in 2002. The new treaty also includes a robust verification regime. It is the most comprehensive arms reduction treaty in decades.
* We also concluded an agreement which allows supplies destined for Afghanistan to transit Russia, opening an important logistics route.
*And we have found common ground on Iran both in support of a strong Security Council resolution and in Russia’s decision not to sell S-300 missiles to Iran.
We now want to take the relationship to a higher level with increased cooperation in other areas of shared interest such as counternarcotics, counterterrorism, missile-defense and counter-piracy.
As I mentioned missile defense as an area for cooperation, I would also like to add that missile defense will be high on the agenda in Lisbon. There is wide support for our Phased Adaptive Approach which seeks to counter the real and current missile threat from Iran. We hope to define this program as a NATO mission in Lisbon which would be a major achievement in the summit and it is one that the governments of Central Europe will be watching closely.
U.S. – EU Summit
The U.S.-EU summit will directly follow the NATO meetings and will be the first U.S.-EU summit since the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty. We fully support the process to evolve the European Union towards having a more consistent, comprehensive and effective foreign policy, and the Lisbon treaty, that Hungary supported, was a major step in the process. We hope to see increased engagement by the EU in all of the most important economic and security issues on the transatlantic agenda.
At the U.S.-EU Summit we hope to discuss the following:
Promoting economic growth and recovery by addressing regulatory barriers to trade and by cooperating on innovation in such fields as green technology;
2. Coordinating the U.S. and EU resources to meet the development needs of poorer nations and for disaster response and assistance;
3. Identifying ways to enhance our common efforts on counter-terrorism and security;
4. Working together on key foreign policy issues such as Iran, the Middle East Peace Process, Pakistan and Afghanistan; and,
5. Reaffirming our commitment to ensure that human rights and the rule of law remain the fundamental building blocks of international stability.
We also look to Hungary’s upcoming EU Presidency as an opportunity to advance the transatlantic agenda, as well as work on issues, such as energy security and the Eastern Partnership, that can help make Europe stronger still.
Hungary has been a strong supporter for keeping EU membership open for states in the Western Balkans and is helping to advance Croatia’s accession. It is just as important to help Serbia on its path and, as Secretary Clinton said last month in Belgrade, no country has more to gain with EU membership than Serbia. It would transform the economy and anchor the entire region in Europe. In our view, Europe will not be complete until all the countries of the Western Balkans are EU members. Hungary is uniquely positioned and already leading this effort.
I also want to commend Hungary for its role in facilitating the EU’s Eastern Partnership program, whose members include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine. Hungary will host an Eastern Partnership summit next May in Budapest. We fully support this important initiative as we have a common goal in fostering democracy, stability and security throughout the Eastern Partnership region.
Making Europe stronger also means strengthening the bonds within the current EU membership. Hungary has an opportunity to further build upon the leadership it is providing in the Visegrad 4 group. This means increased regional cooperation on gas interconnectors for energy security and market development, environmental protection, and trade and commercial links. The conference Hungary chaired last year as the head of the V4 brought together leaders across the region to address energy issues. Now, Hungary is in a unique position with the upcoming EU presidency to build on this process.
Making Europe stronger also means strengthening Europe internally, and I’m very pleased that Hungary has identified Roma inclusion as high on its agenda for the presidency. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed U.S. support for inclusion on International Roma Day in April, stating that, “We believe governments do have a special responsibility to ensure that minority communities have the tools of opportunity that they need to succeed as productive and responsible members of society. So I urge governments throughout Europe to continue their efforts to address the plight of Roma, to end discrimination and ensure equality of opportunity in education and employment.”
I’d also like to just note that Secretary Clinton knows Hungary quite well because when she was First Lady she visited here on more than one occasion and was very interested in the way that Hungary is attempting to tackle the Roma issue.
Hungary has already shown commitment through its involvement in the Decade of Roma Inclusion, its national policies to promote integration and its willingness to speak out at the EU level in favor of a European strategy for improving the lives of Europe’s Roma. Hungary has knowledge to share with the rest of Europe in key areas of Roma integration and inclusion: Hungary is working to address poverty and unemployment through empowering Roma communities and creating jobs. Hungary has taken steps to desegregate schools and raise the quality of education for a new generation of Roma youth. Hungary deals and confronts everyday with the struggle for tolerance and the fight against discrimination. These are not minor achievements, but in order to truly impact the lives of Roma in Hungary and across Europe, these gains must be consolidated and expanded.
At this moment, with all of Europe engaged on this issue, Hungary has a unique opportunity to share its experience and push the EU to adopt a comprehensive approach that respects diversity, increases tolerance and provides opportunities to all of Europe’s people.
Finally, I would like to touch upon the OSCE summit that will take place in early December in Astana, Kazakhstan. Usually, the OSCE does not receive the same level of attention as NATO and the EU, but it is an integral and important part of the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security architecture. It is a global forum for advancing fundamental freedoms, good governance and military transparency.
The summit in Astana will be especially important for several reasons. This will be the first OSCE summit in central Asia and an opportunity to specifically address issues in that region, identify security challenges, and develop a common action plan.
We also seek to revitalize the OSCE across its three dimensions: political-military; economic and environmental; and human. We will emphasize the role of civil society, especially in protecting the freedom of expression. We will press for new steps that enhance energy security and support transparency and good governance, and we will seek to create an OSCE crisis response capability.
The Astana OSCE summit will mark the 35th anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act, a seminal diplomatic achievement at the height of the Cold War that elevated human rights and territorial integrity as inviolable principles. The OSCE forum will emphasize that the commitments and principles of the Act still equally apply to each of the 56 participating states.
As you can see, we are entering a busy period of engagement for the transatlantic community. Secretary of State Clinton noted earlier this year that "European security is far more than a strategic interest of our country. It is also an expression of our values. We stand with Europe today, as we have stood with Europe for decades, because enduring bonds connect our nations and our peoples. We are united by an understanding of the importance of liberty and freedom. We have fought and died for each other’s liberty and freedom. These are ties that cannot and should never be broken. And we seek both to venerate and reinforce them by helping to maintain peace and security in Europe, today and all the tomorrows to come."
This is our common vision; this is our common goal.
Thank you all here for your attention today and now I am happy to answer any questions."
Source: U.S. Embassy Budapest
Photo: Ambassador Kounalakis delivers her remarks (Embassy photo by Attila Németh)