Panel discussion

“Redefining Inclusive Transatlantic Security in the COVID Era” at the Annual Transatlantic Conference with NATO Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoană

  • 02 Jul. 2020 -
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  • Last updated: 03 Jul. 2020 12:26

(As delivered)

NICHOLAS BURNS [Harvard Kennedy School]: We’re going to introduce former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright and the Deputy Secretary General of NATO, Mircea Geoană in just a moment. But Susana and I are both going to take just a couple of minutes to try to frame this conference. And I’ll be brief and I’ll turn it over to my . . . to the better person here and that’s Susana.

In a better world, in a pre-coronavirus world, we would have all been meeting in Madrid and Segovia, as we did two years ago. And what a great visit we had. Harvard University, where I teach and the IE School of Government and the Rafael del Pino Foundation are committed to keeping these meetings going because we’re convinced that Europeans and Americans need to come together to discuss these major issues.

I will just say, in terms of framing the issues for Secretary Albright and Mr Geoană, I’ll repeat what I said at the beginning. I think we’re facing a very serious rift in the transatlantic relationship, specifically between the United States government and the governments of the European Union and of . . . and of NATO. There is nothing like it in the lifetime of anyone on this call. And we both need to reflect about how to repair these divisions and how to rebuild for the future.

In the United States, I expressed before my strong sense, if you look at our public opinion polls, the great majority of Americans favour the NATO Alliance. 75 per cent of Americans say they do, in the latest Chicago Council on Global Affairs poll. The great majority of Republican and Democratic senators and representatives favour a partnership with the European Union and our alliance in NATO.

We have a stark difference between President Trump, who believes – and it’s his right to have his beliefs, obviously, he’s President – he believes that America, in essence, is stronger, going it alone. I would describe him as a unilateralist. Most of the people in his party in the Congress, and certainly members of the Democratic Party in the Congress, disagree strongly with that. And I’m in that group. I think America’s greatest strength is that we have allies and we have partners in the transatlantic region and in the Indo-Pacific, and they magnify our power and they are the power differential between the US and Russia – Russia has no allies – and the US and China – China has no allies.

I think you’ll see the United States reassert its interests in NATO in the coming years and reassert its partnership with the European Union. I do understand the frustration in Europe, but it’s no time to give up on the relationship. I say that because our election is just four months away. I also say it because the interests of Europe, in my view, but here Susana will have views, and the audience will have views as we get to the Q&A, the interests of Europe dictate a continuing relationship with the United States. Trade and investment: we’re the most important trade and investment partners to each other. And certainly in terms of defence, it’s still true – I know it’s sometimes hard for European audiences to hear this truth – but there is no strategic defence of the continent of Europe, of the democracies of Europe, without Canada and the United States, without the NATO Alliance. That is the strategic, nuclear and conventional defence. We have to stick together for reasons of self-interest. I say that because there are voices in Europe today, not many in government, but some, who are essentially asserting that Europe should take an independent posture from the United States. They use phrases like ‘strategic autonomy.’ I cannot imagine the United States and Europe being in different places strategically and Europe seeking an autonomous future from the United States. The words just don’t work to fit the reality.

And the reason, Susana, that I asked the Minister about China is because there are real differences between the United States and Europe. And here I . . . I said that I thought that President Trump has been right, his administration, I should say, Secretary Pompeo, to criticise the Chinese government on Hong Kong and on the treatment of the Uighurs and on India and on the South and East China Sea conflicts. We don’t hear such criticism from many senior European leaders. I certainly agree with the Trump administration and with many, many people, the Democratic Party, who believe that we have to be very careful of a Huawei-dominated 5G network for security reasons having to do with security in the NATO Alliance itself. And I do hear from a lot of Europeans the same complaints about China on intellectual property, on China’s failure to adhere to its World Trade Organization commitments, the same complaints as we have here in the United States.

Now, President Trump has not sought a close relationship with Europe on trade. He should. And I think he should realise that it would be a powerful combination for Europe, the European Union and the United States to be together on trade and perhaps even with Japan and Australia. That would be a weighty coalition of countries demanding that China play by the rules of the World Trade Organization.

And I would just finish by saying this: we’re going to hear a lot, I’ll bet from our next two speakers, Mircea Geoană, and certainly from my friend Madeleine Albright, about the need to support democracy and democratic values, because they’re being challenged by Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orbán and President Erdoğan and even some in the Polish government and by Xi Jinping. And if there’s a division in the world today, it’s between the authoritarian world that sees its system of government as the dominant system for the future, and the democratic world, and we disagree.

Now, unfortunately, right now, we don’t really have a spokesperson in the United States, in our government to stand up for democracy. But we have that person in Angela Merkel. We have that person in Emmanuel Macron. We have that person in Justin Trudeau. We have it in a lot of Republican and Democratic politicians in the United States, and I hope that we can be together. And just to warn Mircea, I’m certainly going to try to ask him: shouldn’t NATO do something to penalise Hungary and Turkey, especially, for their anti-democratic practices? We can’t . . . we cannot expel them from NATO, there’s no way to do that in terms of the constitutional parliamentary procedures of NATO, but there is a way to sideline them.

Finally, Susana. I’d say I remain hopeful. I think our trade and investment ties, our security ties will bring us together. There is in America, a big, strong majority of the American people and of the Congress, that believes that we will be back, that we will reassert our relationship in NATO and our partnership with the European Union. That’s going to be a powerful force for the 21st Century. And we will see that day come soon, I hope. Thank you, Susana.

SUSANA MALCORRA [Dean, IE School of Global and Public Affairs]: Nick, listening to you and listening to Minister Gonzalez Laya gives all of us hope and expectation. It is clear that these are not easy moments, that the fact that we had so many issues on the table that the Minister described so well, even prior to the pandemic. And now COVID-19 has brought everything to the forefront and has put incredible pressure on all governments to deliver and to make things better for their citizens.

I think the intentions are there to get things done. And the stakes are higher than ever. But there is hope and the time shows that the horizon looks like we have a chance to revert the situation and the dangers that we see in this very important partnership, transatlantic partnership.

It is clear that the values of liberal democracy, the values that are at the heart of the transatlantic partnership, at the heart of the United Nations, should prevail and should be the driving force to unite and to really make the case that, as you rightly pointed out, being united makes the difference.

The alternative is there. I have written recently a piece saying that we are . . . we face a fork in the road. A fork in the road that either builds on those values – and clearly, clearly this feels new, resets, because many of the things we have done need to be not repaired, need to be rethought.

But on the other side, we have an alternative, which is not without chance to prevail, of nationalism, protectionism, authoritarianism and the curtailment of all rights for all peoples.

So we have a very challenging fork in the road. And it’s clear that unless both sides of the Atlantic come together, discuss these matters and share perspectives, even with differences that there will be, the chances of the second side of the fork prevailing are much higher. So it is on us. It is a duty on all of us to discuss these, to talk about these, to really make the case and to hope that your view on what the future lays in the United States will materialise and will make it possible. So without any more time taken from our panel, let’s go back to you Nick and the introduction. Thank you.

NICHOLAS BURNS: Thank you so much, Susana. And there they are. Welcome Madam Secretary, Madeleine Albright. Welcome, Mircea Geoană. It’s so great to have you both with us. Thank you for taking the time. It’s my . . . it’s my job to introduce you both. And then we’ll get started with a discussion.

I want to say to this audience, one of the people I learnt from the most in government and admire most is Madeleine Albright. I had the great pleasure to work with her, for her, I should say, as her spokesperson, then as her ambassador to Greece. I interviewed Madeleine just a couple of nights ago for the Aspen Ideas Festival. And it was remarkable just to listen to her and to reflect on her life. A lot of you know her biography: her family were victims of both Hitler and Stalin. She remembers the Blitz in London, as she lived there with her mother and father and siblings during the Second World War. Like so many other great Americans, a refugee to our shores. And yet, she and her family made a great life. And she became one of the leading voices in our society for democracy and human rights. She served, as she will tell you, in the 1980s on a series of losing Democratic political campaigns. But then, because of her support for Bill Clinton and because of her brilliance as an American foreign policy strategist, became, I think, one of our most distinguished ambassadors to the United Nations. And then as Secretary of State, was the biggest voice in America at the end of the Cold War for a vision of a democratic, peaceful Europe.

And in her second act, as she describes it, and if you would like to read her book, Hell and Other Destinations, I would encourage you to, I just interviewed her on that book. She’s . . . she’s such a remarkable person. She’s built a major consulting firm. She has led, I don’t know, ten or fifteen important American and international efforts to try to think through the future of NATO, or the future of democracy in the world. She’s the author of many books, and she is a big voice for democracy and human rights in the world and in our society and a big believer in NATO.

So we welcome Secretary Madeleine Albright to the stage and we welcome her friend and fellow former Foreign Minister, Mircea Geoană. Mircea is someone that we’ve known for a long time and we’ve so much admired the way that Mircea led, as Foreign Minister of Romania, at a really difficult time. I remember 9/11 and Iraq and Afghanistan. A voice for reason. A voice for human rights. And again, like Madeleine, a protean person. He’s the founder of Aspen Romania. He’s the founder of the Harvard Club of Romania. Presidential candidate in Romania. And now serving as the Deputy Secretary General of NATO, which is the bedrock institution of the transatlantic alliance. And so welcome to both of you. We’re looking forward to a good discussion. Susana, would you like to ask the first question?

SUSANA MALCORRA: Well, I think the first question, and this, again, is critical, and we spoke about this with the Minister, will be: how can we rebuild trust, the trust that we have lost and repair broken US-Europe relationships? And maybe, Madeleine, this is for you to start.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT [Former US Secretary of State]: Well, first of all, thank you so much for the opportunity to be a part of this discussion with three very good friends and colleagues. And so . . . for a very important subject. I do . . . am concerned very much about the lack of trust at the moment that has been created by the relationships between the Euro-Atlantic partners. And I think that it’s not a surprise to anybody that I am obviously supporting Vice President Biden, who is somebody that has a great deal of experience in foreign affairs, having been a senator who chaired the Foreign Relations Committee for a long time - very, very interested in Europe, frankly - we did a lot of things together, and then as Vice President. So he is somebody that is dedicated to the idea of restoring trust. That is something that he has spoken about and the importance of the relationship.

But I think it’s going to take real action, which is to be able to have honest discussions about what the relationship really is and where it has to go. I think, as Nick described it, I obviously . . . I’m a European. I was born in Europe. And it’s just that I happened to have been raised in the United States, which always allows me to say what I think about the relationship. And it’s been, speaking as . . . as a mother, I have said, initially, after World War Two, the Europeans were sick and were willing to take any kind of medicine that is there, from us. Then the Europeans became teenagers and wanted to know, ‘Where’s our allowance?’ And the bottom line is now we have to develop an adult relationship, which we have not really done. And that requires honesty about what the issues really are. What is it that we disagree about? What will have us be able to renew that trust? And I think that means talking about what our domestic issues are, how they affect our foreign policy. And as Nick raised earlier, why do we see things so differently with China, for instance, or why do we actually see differences in the way that we’re looking at Russia? And it doesn’t take . . . we’re all diplomats, frankly, and we know how diplomatic conversations often go. But the bottom line, I used to say, ‘I have come a long way, so I must be frank.’ And I think we need to talk about what the trust issues really are. Do we really talk about what the trade issues mean? Do we talk about the importance of human rights? Do we talk about the importance of democracy? Do we talk about the rise of nationalism, which has undercut the concept of what the European Union was going to be? And so I do think trust can only be rebuilt if we really tell it like it is and have that kind of an adult relationship where we feel comfortable talking about what the problems are. And there are problems. About pipelines and about what’s happening in the Arctic and what are the weapons issues, how the EU relates to NATO, very complicated, since . . . and Turkey is the issue, in many ways. It’s a member of NATO, but not of the EU. And so there are any number of issues that make it complicated. And how we act out of area in terms of, you know, the Israel-Palestinian relationship. So we have to put a lot of issues on the table and talk about them honestly.

NICHOLAS BURNS: I’m happy to ask the second question to Mircea, and ask Madeleine to come in as well. Mircea, you’re so welcome here. We know you’re busy. I think a lot . . . all of us would benefit from your views on how do we, as Americans and Europeans, Canadians, combat anti-democratic populism of a type that we see in Hungary and in Poland? And how do we combat that, Madeleine and I were talking about this the other night in our interview. How do we combat that kind of authoritarian mentality, even in the United States? It’s a common problem. You have lived an extraordinary life yourself. You saw your country fundamentally transform itself. What’s the best way to do that Mircea? And should NATO be taking steps to penalise Hungary and Turkey for their anti-democratic behaviour as members of the Alliance? Welcome.

MIRCEA GEOANĂ [NATO Deputy Secretary General]: Thank you, Nick. Thank you, Susana. Madeleine, she’s our hero. I think 100 million citizens of Central and Eastern Europe looking up to her. She has done a tremendous work for bringing us back to freedom. And I vividly remember the moment when Madeline, together with Bronisław Geremek, I believe, you established the Community of Democracies some years ago. And I’m happy to see that my country, Romania, is currently holding the chair of this . . . of this already international organisation. I am also happy that, last week I think, we participated in different panels into the Alliance of Democracies Summit in Copenhagen. And I do believe that this is, the values part, is for me, and I think for us, is the fundamental issue, because if we are not getting out of this fantastic transformation that COVID only accelerated with a the common understanding of who we are and which is the foundation of our own societal model, it will be very difficult for us to be convincing the rest of the world that it’s worth following our path.

Also, a small award of appreciation for what Minister Gonzalez has just said. It was an impressive performance, a vision, very solid, very articulated. And we are looking forward as NATO to go and be together with our Spanish friends and Allies in 2022 when we’ll be celebrating together 40 years since Spain has joined this very Alliance. So I believe we are . . . we are in this, in this issue.

Before coming back to the specific question that Nick asked, let me say just one thing. During this pandemic, we, all of us, individual nations and organisations and citizens, individual people, we are all in the process of learning the lessons of this pandemic. And I’m exceptionally interested and convinced that the political West, the political West, us in democratic Europe, our friends in North America, our friends, democratic friends, in the Asia-Pacific, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, India, our democratic friends in Africa, in Latin America, will have the strength to draw the lessons from this pandemic and this transformation of old order and find new energy for coming, us, together and for having common solutions. Because my concern as a citizen of newly-liberated Europe, if you want, that we might arrive to divergent conclusions from this pandemic. And there is discussion about sovereignty, which is a normal conclusion to draw. But if this kind of interpretation of the lessons learned would be dividing us even further, then we might have a problem.

Today, as NATO countries, 30 Allies together, we still represent 50 per cent of global GDP. We are today still leading the commanding heights of technological innovation and prowess. We still have 28 out of the first 30 universities in the world in terms of leading academic research. And I would like to thank both your institutions, Nick and Susana, for hosting us. This is the brilliance of a democratic idea. And that’s why the Washington Treaty that both Madeleine and Nick, you know it so well. Madeleine has been leading for us the revision of the Strategic Concept a decade ago. Nick and also Doug Lute, you wrote a wonderful piece of advice to us at our 70th anniversary last year.

So I come back to this fundamental glue of ours, also the trust issue. This is about our values. And sometimes we don’t see eye-to-eye. We don’t have, like European Union has, some specific instruments to measure or to eventually correct some . . . some things. But I strongly believe that in the end we’ll come out of this together. And I think that the idea that either America or Europe, we can really be able to compete alone in this very complicated transformation time for the world, is just totally unrealistic. Together, we can continue to be strong. Together, we have to be part of this. And the transatlantic alliance, and the bond, is one of the pillars of global governance. There’s no way in which we can do things selectively if these two sides of the same coin, NATO, European Union and also the non-EU members of the European family. With the departure of the UK, 80 per cent of total defence spending in the Alliance is done by non-EU nations. So when we speak about keeping us together, it’s also a matter of realism and pragmatism.

But I’ll come back to the values issues, and this is something that really drives me in life. I lived half of my life in the dark, open jail of communism. And for me and for us, I think, staying true to our democratic values, building this alliance for the next decades and centuries, if we can, on the same shared values of liberal democracy, of rule of law, of respect for our citizens and fighting other models of organisation of societies that are based on dictatorship and authoritarian approaches, is something that will make us stronger. And I think this is the fundamental objective for us. And this will also be addressing this issue.

And last word, we had in London last December, after a very turbulent political moment, a moment when the leaders of the Alliance came together, and I think we did well. Burden-sharing is much better. And as we’re preparing for the next either summit, or leaders meeting, in 2021 – and this is up to the American people to decide whomever they want in the White House – it will be very important for us to prepare intellectually, to prepare politically, to prepare practically, which will be the agenda of the NATO leaders sometime next year? And how can we make sure that this indispensable transatlantic link, not only for our interests, but for the sake of the world, of the free world, will be strengthened and will be able to move forward for the next period of time.

NICHOLAS BURNS: Mircea, and how about Hungary and Turkey and Poland? What should NATO and what should the EU do about anti-democratic governments within democratic . . . within a democratic alliance like NATO?

MIRCEA GEOANĂ: Listen, we are not in the business of giving scores and marks to Allies. You know, this organisation, you served it here. It’s an organisation of equals. And sometimes there are issues that are of concern. Some issues are more political, others are more strategic. Others are . . . some, some issues that we . . . we all know about. But again, the difference between NATO and European Union, European Union has in its treaties, in its functioning mechanism, some instruments of correction, or some instruments of activation of instruments of correction, that were initiated for some of the countries that you have mentioned that are members of the EU. But, of course, I come back to the fundamental values. If there is something that will keep this Alliance together, and if we want to be strong, all of us, from Turkey and Poland all the way to North America, we have to stick to our values. There’s no other way than staying true to what we mean. And the Washington Treaty is our Constitution. And there it says, very clearly, which are the values we should all abide to. We’re not in the business of giving marks or punishing or correcting Allies. This is not the work we are doing. But I think all of us need to make the case of liberal democracies, of rule of law and respect the fundamental rights of our citizens. That’s the essence of who we are.

NICHOLAS BURNS: In the Harvard report that Ambassador Lute and I issued a year ago, we recommended that the Allied governments penalise Hungary, Poland and Turkey, suspend defence, common defence, infrastructure support, for the three countries and sideline them on certain discussions. That was our view. Susana . . .


SUSANA MALCORRA: Of course you may.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I just kind of wanted to add to some of the things Mircea said. I do think that we have to remember that NATO is an alliance of democracies. And, by the way, I think you’ve noticed I’m no longer a diplomat. And I was in Prague to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the accession of the Czechs, the Poles and the Hungarians. And I made very clear that democracy was one of the issues that they had to think about, that it wasn’t just a military alliance, but an alliance of democracies. And I would hope that NATO would do more in terms of, out of Brussels, thinking about how that particular job of NATO is fulfilled. You know, that it really is kept track of more than it has been.

So, and I’ve been saying the following thing, that institutions and people in their 70s need a little refurbishing, and that is true of NATO at 70th anniversary. And I would hope that you would really take . . . and we know each other very well, take advantage of the fact that certain things need to be fixed. And the Spanish Foreign Minister, I think, made clear a lot of things. And those of us from the outside would be happy to kibbitz on it.

I did do something for the 60th anniversary of NATO. And the thing that was interesting was that NATO had more partners than members. And that there are a lot of outside groups and people and countries that are prepared to be helpful.

MIRCEA GEOANĂ: Thank you, Madeleine. I will just, you know, like in . . . like in tennis, they can make a volley out of your remarks, that I fully share. We have also embarked on a process of seeing, which will be the future of this Alliance and both Secretary General Stoltenberg that had a very interesting . . . and I recommend that speech he had a few days ago on NATO 2030, when he basically says three things that I believe are the essential strands of work for us: how to remain strong militarily, because without being strong and being able to defend and deter, we’ll have a difficulty. Secondly, what you have said in these remarks and also in the Foreign Minister of Spain’s remarks, how can we become stronger politically, stronger politically? And thirdly, how can we go more global, not in terms of geography, but in terms of the topics that are part of the rule-based order. And I think NATO is a fundamental thing to do.

I’m also happy that we have this group, personalities, co-led by Wess Mitchell and Thomas de Maizière, the Reflection Process. It’s not identical to what Madeleine has led a decade ago on the Review of the Strategic Concept of NATO, but it’s part of what the Secretary General will present to the leaders meeting or to the summit of NATO sometime next year. So all the input, all the support, all the voices, all the energy, all the creativity that we can get from the ecosystem of our community of democracies is more than welcome. And we count on you, as always, in very important moments of transformation of . . . of the world and also the transformation of the political West. And we have to stick together.

SUSANA MALCORRA: Mircea, maybe I’ll come back to you now and ask you a question regarding Russia and Russia’s influence in Eastern Europe. And do you believe that NATO will remain together in its perspective of Russia and Russia’s influence in the East? Or there will be a possibility, given the actions taken by President Putin, of an opening there and a breakdown of the unity?

MIRCEA GEOANĂ: Thank you for the question, and we just had a meeting of the defence ministers of NATO. Just, I think, 10 days ago. And by the way, speaking of global engagement, we had, for the first time, the Defence Minister of Australia joining us. We had Josep Borrell, who, by the way, had a very strong statement on Hong Kong, Nick, yesterday, speaking of the top European Union leadership. Also, we had, like always, the defence ministers of Sweden and Finland, who are very close, non-NATO, European partners of ours.

And there was a big conversation on . . . on Russia’s military build-up. So, going beyond the illegal annexation of Crimea and the illegal occupation of eastern Ukraine and the usage of their military build-up to project power into the Mediterranean, Russia is building an arsenal of high-end military capabilities. That’s a reality. And this is not anything that NATO is not supposed to be doing. We are a defensive alliance and we are looking into this.

For the first time in one generation or more, NATO has decided to embark on a comprehensive 360 degrees analysis of our defence and deterrence that will be leading to real conclusions. We have to respond, not in a symmetrical way to the Russian threat. And by the way, this is not a threat only to the eastern flank of NATO. This is a threat to all of us, including to our Allies and partners outside of the Euro-Atlantic area. That’s a fact. And the fact that Russia prefers to use this kind of . . . of, let’s say, aggressive military build-up, instead of using what we have decided together in the NATO-Russia Act, this dual-track approach. We have been offering Russia to come back to the NATO-Russia Council for . . . I offered this, I think, I don’t know how many months ago. They prefer, with the illusion that if they don’t engage on the political conversation with NATO, they will eventually encourage some form of . . . of disunity inside the Alliance. My answer is a flat, no way. Because things are so obvious. And the way in which Russia has been behaving aggressively, not only against its neighbours, but also in terms of threats to our common security, make us very united.

If Allied nations, bilaterally, are engaging Russia on a specific topic, that’s fine. We heard, there was in Vienna just the other week a strategic dialogue between the US and Russia on nuclear cooperation and the future of the New START treaty.

I think the US is right. Nick was referring to some statements of this administration in the US, that also China has to be encouraged to join a conversation about architecture of arms control, because also China is also developing high-end missile and hypersonic instruments.

So to answer, Susana, your question, the Russians might be thinking that if they procrastinate in engaging constructively with us, they will seed some form of disunity, fertilisers inside the Alliance. The answer is, flat no.  We are seeing eye-to-eye on this one. We only hope that Russia will understand that we are not their enemy, that a constructive relationship with Europe and with NATO is in their interests. As long as they behave as they do, that’s a difficult proposition to make to . . . to this Alliance.

NICHOLAS BURNS: Thank you very much. Madeleine, I wanted to address a question to you, a subject you’re very familiar with, and that’s Vladimir Putin and Russia. The Russian people essentially voted for Putin to be President for life, at least well into his 80s, just this week. Are we in . . . are we going to be in containment mode, containing Russian power in Eastern Europe for the next 10 to 15 years? And then a second question for you, Madeleine, because we also talked about this the other night, how do you . . . how do you explain President Trump’s attitudes towards Putin? Never criticises them. Always lets him off the hook, never delivers a tough message. I don’t know anyone in the Congress who agrees with what the President’s doing. How do you understand that?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I don’t understand it. I think there’s an awful lot of speculation about it. It is a way that, it looks as though Trump is doing everything he possibly can to be supportive of Putin, and always thinking that he’s right versus our own intelligence community or whatever. And I do think he admires leaders that have authoritarian tendencies, that are willing to go above the law and be lifetime presidents. And he has found support within that kind of a construct.

I have no idea, frankly. I’m very troubled, because I think that, in so many ways, Trump is actually being very helpful to the Russians in undermining the Alliance, frankly, and in many ways trying to separate us from our Allies by the kinds of actions that he has supported and the way that he has questioned issues.

I actually was going to . . . this is probably something I shouldn’t say or do, but I really am concerned about what we have just been reading about what’s been happening in Afghanistan with the bounties. And that Putin has been involved somehow in paying some contractors to kill American forces. The operation in Afghanistan is, in many ways, a NATO operation. There are NATO troops there. What would happen if this was something that was discussed at NATO? There are questions now about how . . . what the reaction is going to be to what has been happening in Afghanistan. And I do think while the troops that were attacked were Americans, they’re not the only troops that are there. So I think that we are at a very difficult period with the Russians, as always.

And Mircea, when you’re saying that NATO could be helpful on the nuclear issues, I agree. Therefore, it might not be useful pragmatically to raise the Afghan thing. But I think what Putin is doing is undermining our democracies, whether it’s supporting Orbán, or supporting the kinds of things that are happening with authoritarian governments.

And NATO . . . I tried so hard to have a good US-Russian relationship with NATO. It was one of the major things that we worked on. The Founding Act, a number of different aspects. I spoke to Yeltsin. I spent time with Primakov. And they never understood it, I don’t think. I think Yeltsin might have, but it’s really been an issue, and they have put themselves out against . . . not only just against NATO, but using what are known in communist ideology as ‘useful idiots’ to help them achieve this kind of divisions.

MIRCEA GEOANĂ: If I can jump in just one second. And it’s clear what . . . what Russia is . . . is doing, including in disinformation and using COVID and the pandemic to basically try to disunite us and basically have these counter-narratives.

But let me say something which is practical and it’s evidence-based. We’ve never seen a more solid US military and . . . and engagement in Europe within NATO for many, many, many, many years. Also because of Russia’s very aggressive action. But this year, before the pandemic, the US had planned the most important military exercise led on European soil in one generation, Defender Europe 2020. It had to be scaled down because of the pandemic. But nonetheless, the fact that the US is leading the battlegroup in Poland, the fact that the US is present in my country of origin, Romania, the fact that the US is present in Spain with a maritime defensive operation, in Norway, in many places. So, of course, there is the political and the more strategic conversation. But in practical terms, we see a strong commitment from the US to European security. And this is something we cherish and this is something we want to do. And also, lastly, I say again, on . . . it’s always a little bit political, but in terms of burden-sharing, and this is something that all American presidents, I remember, since Bill Clinton. I was a young ambassador when President Clinton was in office, and then with President George W. Bush, and then President Obama, now with President Trump, and I’m convinced whoever wins will be the same, or next American President. The idea that Europeans are not always, if not matching, at least contributing more seriously to this common effort, is somehow being reversed. We only hope that this economic downturn will not affect that trend. But we have been spending, European Allies, more than 100 additional billion of US dollars in new things. And we hope this trend will continue.

So I will also put things a little bit in perspective between, let’s say, the more political and thorny issues that we all know are there, but also, in practical terms, there is such a culture of working together, an agility and adaptation in the DNA of this Alliance that I’m convinced will allow us to continue to stay very close together.

SUSANA MALCORRA: Madeleine, maybe I’ll go back to you now with a question very similar to the one I asked the Minister, you know, and this has to do with the architecture, the global architecture that has sustained the way we are, the way we think, the way we believe, since the Second World War. And we know that that is in crisis. So how do you see the rethinking of this global architecture? How do you see the role of Europe and the US in redesigning this global architecture? And how do you see the role of leaders doing that? And how . . . how do you see the American leader being able to do that, vis-à-vis what is coming in the new elections?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say, I know this is a cliché, but a crisis is also an opportunity. And I do think that there are so many things happening: the combination of the pandemic and climate change and the economy and hyper-nationalism, that we need to look at structures and how they can adapt to this.

There are new issues that are out there, that people hadn’t thought about were international issues. And and I . . . globalisation is not a bad word. I mean, it has now been seen to be something really evil. But basically, we are interconnected and we have to look at how that interconnection can be put into a way that organisations can understand what the rules are, how they work. And so I think that we need to look at what are the things that need to happen. And, for instance, we haven’t considered the effect of, what Mircea raises, the information aspects of all of this. Then we have to look at cyber.

One of the things, when I was doing the NATO 60th anniversary, there was the question as to whether a cyber-attack was an Article 5 attack. And people didn’t know . . . said no, because we didn’t know the genesis. Now we know an awful lot more. And cyber has all kinds of uses and things. And we need to think about what the new threats are, how these organisations fit together and how to divide, not to contradict each other, but the various institutions could support each other.

I have to say, most Americans have a really hard time understanding how the EU and NATO operate, in terms of their relationship to each other, much less how they relate to the United Nations and Chapter 8 of the, you know, the role of regional organisations and how various regional organisations relate to each other.

The other part I think we have to look at it is: what is the role of the private sector? Because all the things that are happening, whether it’s science, governments are not capable of doing all the innovations, and how the private sector can be more helpful and be at the table earlier, not to be kind of told at the last minute, you know, ‘We’ve just solved this problem and we need to have you invest in X.’

And so I do think it’s an opportunity to look at how various institutions work. And what about the ad hoc ones, that kind of just happen? I mean, the G20 and the G8 didn’t have anything. And then you, Susana, your creation of all the various groups of women that were all working together to kind of put our language out there and figure out how we can be helpful.

And so I do think the role of individuals is important. And I truly do think, not just because I’m sitting here with three friends, but I think personal relationships make a difference, because you’re able, actually, to have very hard discussions. Mircea and I have had . . . he was Ambassador and Foreign Minister, and we’ve done a lot of things together, the former foreign ministers, and we tell it like it is. And I think that it’s very useful. The individuals make a difference. And . . . and I think how individuals see information and how individuals have innovative ideas about how to restructure, we cannot be afraid of restructuring. And I do think, also, we need to bring young people into this and worry about education and how they see the interconnectedness, because it’s crazy to say we’re not connected. I mean, it’s a counter-intuitive in every way. The only way problems can be solved is by understanding each other. And the truth about a diplomat is it only works if you put yourself into the other country’s shoes. That’s what this is all about. And that’s what we have to do more of.

NICHOLAS BURNS: Thank you very much. I want to ask both of you about China, a variation of the same question that I asked the Minister. And Mircea first, and Madeleine. Mircea from a NATO perspective, I know you’re talking about China within NATO. We see China building up its presence in the eastern Mediterranean, in the Horn of Africa. It’s certainly a threat to Australia, Japan, the United States, India, the Quad countries in the Indo-Pacific. We’re not enemies with China, but we’re clearly competitors. Can NATO have a common position, say, on 5G, on not importing Huawei into NATO communications networks? Are you working on that kind of thing? And Madeleine, just your thoughts on how we handle the balance of competition versus cooperation with China?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, the truth is, Nick, I don’t know how many meetings you and I have been in where China has been the main subject, and it has been something very worrisome, some in terms of the technology. I know when we talked about Huawei and 5G and, you know, what did this mean for Taiwan and a number of . . . it’s a very large subject in so many ways.

I do think that China is the country, as the US has been absent in things, China has filled the vacuum. And that has been very worrisome in how . . . and we talked about the Belt and Road. I’ve been saying the Chinese must be getting very fat, because the Belt keeps getting larger and larger. And I think we are suspicious when Europeans are somehow, if I may put it this way, seduced by some of the ideas that the Chinese have in terms of buying ports and doing various intrusions into the European part.

I have to say, one of the things that was interesting, when President Obama decided to rebalance to Asia, I got a call from many of my European friends saying, ‘You’ve abandoned us, you don’t care about us anymore.’ And I said, ‘You know, you used to be the problem. Now you are part of the solution.’

And I do think that what was said before is we need to have a partnership with Europe in order to deal with China. And . . . and one of the acts of statecraft is that you’re supposed to be able to find areas where you can cooperate, i.e., on climate change, for instance, and areas where you have to compete. What the Chinese are doing in the South and East China Sea, I think is very dangerous. And I’m very concerned about accidents and various threats to our friends and Allies.

I do think we have to speak out about human rights. And the art of statecraft, frankly, is that you have to be able to do both: to find the areas to cooperate and where we must compete.

But I would like to restress that our partnership with Europe in dealing with China is very important. Whether it’s on trade issues, or on values, or just on the ways that we deal with the major new issues that are out there. And I do hope that that’s something that we can all concentrate on in the kinds of meetings that we’re having and thinking about, because that is an essential relationship.

MIRCEA GEOANĂ: No, thank you, Nick and Madeleine, for . . . for this issue. In NATO, in London, I mentioned the Leaders Meeting in London last December, and we decided to explicitly engage on the subject of the rise of China. We coined it both as a challenge and an opportunity. And we have been doing work on something that NATO has embarked five years ago, at the Warsaw Summit of NATO, on resilience.

And this topic, where NATO has tremendous expertise, our baseline requirements, including on telecom and 5G, which is produced by us, in NATO. They have been updated at just the defence ministerial meeting of 10 days ago. We are also witnessing a complementary effort done by the European Union, because we realise that resilience now has become the magic word and part of the lessons learned of this pandemic.

So we see, both in the US and in Europe, also in NATO, also European Union, a realisation that an over-dependence on supply chains being far too relaxed, about our critical infrastructures, about our science, technology and intellectual property. And allowing countries like China, or others, going on a buying spree of our most important ingredients for our own success and competitiveness and military power, is something that has to be changed.

So I’m also seeing a more synchronised understanding, both in NATO and European Union about China. European Union has been even a little bit more explicit in defining China as a systemic rival, which I think is a pretty strong proposition. And of course, in the last summit between the EU and China, I think of last . . . Monday before last, there was also, for the first time, a more robust conversation about level playing field. The Minister, Foreign Minister of Spain alluded to this thing.

So the art, the leadership, the statecraft that Madeleine is so well versed into, and she always encourages also the generations coming after us to embark on this statecraft and how to find the right balance between resisting the rise of China when they are dangerous to our interests – and in many ways, they are becoming quite assertive – while also keeping on some key common goods for our planet, some form of interaction, and also making sure that we also find some common ground on things we can agree upon.

We will be doing, in the fall, also structured NATO-EU conversations about China, about new technologies. And I think the requirements for resilience that NATO is so good at, being also complemented by EU work, could also represent – why not? – and with the help of our Australian friends, of our Japanese friends, of many countries in the Indo-Pacific, some form of toolbox that could be, let’s say, more homogeneously used by the like-minded democratic nations around the world. That’s at least the ambition we have here in NATO.

SUSANA MALCORRA: Mircea, you alluded to the burden-sharing question, which has been central to the relationship between Europe, European Union and . . . and the US. Do you see high risk of revisiting on the investment on defence, given the effects of the pandemic and given the effects, the economic and social effects of poverty in Europe?

MIRCEA GEOANĂ: We hope not. And we are not taking this question lightly, because for political leaders in such difficult moments, it’s always a complex thing. I was . . . I was in politics myself. I know how difficult it is to . . . and look at the case of Spain. And I’m already thinking of the young generations of Spain hit so badly one decade ago and, again, hit so, so cruelly by the pandemic. O of the youngsters in Italy or France, or the youngsters of America now, with so many difficulties in terms of jobs and unemployment and all these things.

So we have to be, you know, in a way, realistic about the pressures that leaders, political leaders will be faced with. At the same time, what we make the point, and I think it’s true and I think it makes sense, that the surge of the pandemic and the complications, cascading complications that are coming from this . . . this exceptional event, are not making the traditional security problems going away. They only magnify them. This is adding on top of the other things that we have been talking about for so many years: the rise of China, the rise of Russia, the problems that we have in terms of defending ourselves.

We are also encouraged by statements which were made by the leaders of the United Kingdom. They will stick to their defence pledge. I was speaking of the city that Madeline loves so much, Prague, in a Jagello conference, just a few . . . just the other day, that the Czech Defence Ministry and the Visegrád four Defence Ministries organised together. And the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic said that they are sticking to the 2024 target to . . . to getting to 2 per cent of GDP for defence for the Czech Republic. I’ve seen my country, Romania, reconfirming in our national security strategy, the target.

Of course, we are sensitive to . . . to this topic, but we also try to encourage the realisation of our political leaders, of our national parliaments and the public opinions, they’re so important, that security comes with a cost. And the world has become even more complicated during and after the pandemic than before. So I think investing wisely, not only the amount of defence spending, but the quality of defence spending. We have seen our military people, our medical doctors, our people in uniform, men and women in uniform, being in the frontline of fighting the pandemic. I do believe that there is a case to be made that security is the precondition of . . . of development and peace. And having strong security is a precondition for, also, for the rebound of our economies, speaking of defence investment and related issues.

So, we are optimistic that Allied nations will stay to the commitments taken in Wales some years ago. And a few of our Allies reconfirmed the national targets for sticking to that . . . to that goal that we all took together some years ago.

NICHOLAS BURNS: Susana, do we have a couple of more minutes?

SUSANA MALCORRA: I think we have exactly two minutes and then we start to wrap up.

NICHOLAS BURNS: Two minutes?


NICHOLAS BURNS: Then we should give Madeleine and Mircea then just the liberty to kind of give us your concluding thoughts about the question that Susana asked at the beginning: how do we rebuild trust, and an effective transatlantic relationship? Your thoughts, both of you, please. Madeleine.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT:  I think it’s the … [inaudible] thing that has to happen, because there are so many different issues to discuss. And I really obviously hope that there will be a new administration that understands this kind of relationship and that there will be the time to really have honest discussions that we are in a new era, there are new problems. And that we have to, obviously, have ambassadors to NATO that are dedicated to the concept. But also those that are part of the European Union that have an understanding of the situation and understand that it is very easy to lose trust and not very easy to regain it right away.

And I also hope that the United States approaches this issue with humility. I don’t think we need to go in there and say that we are the ones that know how to do everything, that we are perfect, that the world would not exist without us, or give the kinds of speeches that have been given recently. And I think that a combination of understanding the difficulty of regaining trust once lost, and the importance of having it, because the kinds of issues that we’ve talked about today are . . . part of them are essential and they’ve been problems before, and we have a whole bunch of new ones. And it’s going to be very important for us to be able to work together.

MIRCEA GEOANĂ: I fully concur with Madeleine. I will say one thing. We are in the process, as I mentioned before, of learning the lessons of this traumatic experience of the last few months. And God forbid, this might also continue for some time.

So, I think the reflex of the lessons learned process has to be something that will bring us even closer together. There’s no way to come out of this crisis, in security terms, in economic terms, in world governance terms, if the two sides of the Atlantic do not reconnect with intimacy, with frankness and also with a shared, renewed purpose of our common needs and common values.

I strongly believe that national leaders, not only us in the institutions, but national leaders, national parliaments, US Congress, US Senate, our businesses, our sub-national entities, our youngsters, our business people, our journalists, our civil society leaders, will be understanding that, in fact, this transatlantic thing is not only about NATO or EU – sometimes abstract constructions for the citizen in the street – but these are indispensable ingredients for us to be able to succeed in this very complicated world. And the world is becoming even more complex, not easier.

So my . . . my hope and my prayers go to this kind of lessons learned process that will show, without any doubt, that there is no way for us, US, Canada, Britain, Romania, Spain, none of us will be able to compete successfully in a world which is so complicated if we don’t get our synergies back together. And this is what the Alliance is all about. And I’m convinced that this is also the backbone for the global political West, the democracies that Madeleine Albright and Bronisław Geremek founded some . . . some years ago. This is what we are. And this is something that I’m convinced will . . . will come as a natural lesson learned for all of us in the political West.

SUSANA MALCORRA: Well, now we are hitting the end of our time together. So let me now take the opportunity to thank you both, Madeleine, Mircea, it has been an amazing conversation. I’m sure the audience has enjoyed it. And I think what is most important, it leaves us with hope, in times where hope is not prevailing, it leaves us with hope. With the hope that, yes, we have an opportunity. And you just said something, Mircea, that I believe is critical and . . . and is very important for us responsible people to convey that: we need to translate what these institutions represent to the common citizen. We need to find ways to explain in simple, simple terms what it means. We need to find ways to use our Twitter accounts to convey simple, simple messages on complex issues like these institutions’ … [inaudible]. And so thank you both for taking the time, for your generosity and for the candidness of your responses. Thanks a lot. And Nick.

NICHOLAS BURNS: I will just thank my friends, Madeleine and Mircea as well. Thank you for being with us. I think what you’re able to do is point us forward. We know that we can’t go back to a mythical past. We can’t reconstruct the world of 2012 or 2016, but we can build a future. And I think in both Mircea in your answers, and you’re in the job right now, and we appreciate everything you’re doing as Deputy Secretary General. And Madeleine in your answers, you’ve given us a lot to think about how we build that relationship forward. It’s going to be based on democratic values and the shared interests across the Atlantic Ocean. And we have a lot of confidence, at least here in the United States, that we can rebuild with a renewed American commitment in 2021, we hope, towards that future. So thank you both for being here. Susana, you have been a marvellous colleague with which to plan this conference. And thank you so much for your wisdom and experience. And I think we should thank our hosts and our supporters, The Rafael Del Pino Foundation, Maria Del Pino, Vicente Montes, very grateful to them, very grateful to … [inaudible] and Catherine, who organised the conference. They deserve a lot of credit. And thank you, Susana, personally.

SUSANA MALCORRA: Thank you. Thank you all. And the only thing I hope to see is you all next year here in Madrid. That’s . . . that’s . . .

MIRCEA GEOANĂ: It’s a deal.


SUSANA MALCORRA It’s a deal. And let’s . . . let’s make sure that we make good up out of the deal. Thanks, everybody. Thanks to the audience. And we look forward to having an event like this, for sure, next year in Madrid.

NICHOLAS BURNS: Thank you very much, thanks Madeleine, thank you all.