"America and Europe – Defending Freedom Together"

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Global Leadership Awards dinner of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs

  • 26 Jun. 2014 -
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  • Last updated: 27 Jun. 2014 06:26

Thank you very much for that Ivo and thank you to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. I am deeply honoured by this award. I will treasure it. And I will also treat it as a source of inspiration. Because there is still a lot of work to do, by all of us, to defend, and to nurture, the most precious thing that we have - our freedom.

In that respect let me commend the Chicago Council on Global Affairs for all that you do. This Council did an outstanding job in the preparation of and during the NATO Summit in Chicago in 2012. The Chicago Council is an important global voice in the midst of the American Heartland. I thank you for that. It is always a great pleasure to be here.

Tonight I want to talk about why the defence of freedom is not only about defence. It must be part of a shared endeavor to strengthen all the different strands of the relationship between our continents and our nations.

Earlier this month, we celebrated the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. The soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy and who parachuted into the fields of northern France were upholding a fundamental truth: that you can’t have security on one side of the Atlantic without security on the other. Our continents can only be safe together. Or we will be insecure apart.

In the wake of World War Two, NATO became the embodiment of this fundamental truth. Our transatlantic alliance was formed to defend our freedom. Personal freedom. Political freedom. And economic freedom.

Of course these are not just our values. They were enshrined in the United Nations Charter well before NATO’s creation. They were the inspiration for an international order based on democratic institutions, open economies and the rule of law. This rules-based order has brought all our nations, and others across the world, peace and prosperity for over half a century.

This is what is at stake today. Because after the end of the Cold War, Russia took part in creating this world order. It benefitted from it. But its aggressive and illegal actions in Ukraine pose a serious challenge to what we have built together with such efforts. Russia is using military, political and economic means to intimidate and influence its neighbours. And across the globe, we face the prospect of other rising, autocratic regimes using similar methods to pursue their interests, and project their power.

The world is watching to see how we respond.

So seventy years after D-Day, and a quarter of a century after the end of the Cold War, we need to remind ourselves of the real value of our transatlantic relationship. We must remain confident in asserting our values. We must stand up for them. We must protect them. Because they are the foundation of our security. Our prosperity. And our way of life.

There are three things I believe we must do to strengthen the bond between North America and Europe and re-energise our relationship.

First, we must expand the personal and cultural ties that bind us. Any real relationship is about people. And the transatlantic relationship is no different. The nations of Europe and North America are more than friends or partners. More than Allies. They are family. Many people in America can trace at least some of their roots to Europe. And the ‘idea’ of America – of a land free and prosperous – has been an inspiration to generations of Europeans – including me.

Thirty years ago, as a young member of the Danish parliament, I had the privilege to travel to the United States as a guest of the International Visitor Leadership Programme. I also visited this great city for the first time. I became acquainted with the beautiful Chicago Lakefront Trail. And since then, I have never missed a chance to take a run and enjoy the beautiful coast of Lake Michigan. I met many wonderful American families. And I have stayed in touch with many people and institutions I was introduced to then.

Today, my bond with America remains strong and personal. My son, Henrik, lives in Springfield with this wife, Kristina. And I am blessed to have three lovely American grandchildren.

More people should have the opportunity that I had thirty years ago. I firmly believe we must increase our transatlantic student scholarships and academic exchange programmes. We should increase our scientific and cultural cooperation. And we should think creatively about other ways that we could reinforce our personal ties. Above all, we must invest in our people. And in what our people know and appreciate about each other.

Earlier this year I asked young leaders, parliamentarians and think-tankers to come up with some new new ideas for strengthening our bond in all its aspects. One suggestion was to appoint honorary ambassadors who could speak to their communities about the importance of the transatlantic bond and of NATO. You, Ivo, are an excellent example. First, you were an outstanding US ambassador to NATO. And now you are a great honorary NATO ambassador in Chicago and beyond! I would like to see more like you bringing NATO home.

Second, we must strengthen the economic ties across the Atlantic. More than any other measure, the creation of a transatlantic common market would strengthen the relationship between our continents for generations to come. Talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnerships have proceeded slowly. As a former Prime Minister, I know from experience that negotiating big trade deals is tough. It takes time, patience, and the will to compromise. But I urge everyone to resolve our differences. Make progress. And move forward.

The Ukraine crisis has shown that we must also make energy diversification an urgent strategic priority. By opening our markets. And reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and gas.

It may sound strange that a NATO Secretary General talks about trade and energy. But Article 2 of our founding treaty explicitly states that the Allies ‘will seek to eliminate conflict in their economic policies and will encourage economic collaboration between any or all of them.’

So NATO’s founders understood very well how economic ties and security cooperation are two sides of the same coin. They are both vital. They are connected. And they must be built together.

Finally, we must enhance our security. Russia’s recent aggression has reminded us that we cannot take it for granted. So we must continue to invest in our defence. And in our security cooperation through NATO.

In this effort, all Allies must shoulder a fair share of the burden. The imbalance between this country’s security contribution and that of its European Allies is both unfair and unsustainable.

In the wake of Ukraine crisis, the US has once again demonstrated its commitment to transatlantic security. All 28 Allies are contributing to our measures to strengthen collective defence – with planes in the air, ships at sea, and exercises on the ground.

But of course, credible defence requires credible resources. And I am encouraged that we are seeing more European nations stepping up. Estonia is already investing 2 % of Gross Domestic Product on defence. And Poland, Romania, Latvia and Lithuania have now pledged to return to 2 %.

At our next NATO Summit in Wales in September, we need to make clear our commitment to stop the cuts and reverse the decline in defence spending as our economies start to recover.

I expect that Allies will make a solid commitment to our shared transatlantic security. To spend more. To spend better. And to keep NATO strong and united.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The world we live in is not only more connected than ever before. It is also more competitive and in many ways more chaotic than ever before.

As NATO Allies, we believe in freedom and democracy. In open economies and the rule of law. But autocratic regimes across the globe think they don’t need to be free to be prosperous and powerful. And it’s not written in stone that freedom will ultimately prevail.

What we need is a truly “Integrated Transatlantic Community”. An “Integrated Transatlantic Community” would help us strengthen the different strands of our relationship: our personal ties, our economic links and our security cooperation. It would help us protect and promote our common values: Individual liberty, democracy and the rule of law.

The soldiers who stormed the beaches of Normandy seventy years ago put their life on the line for our freedom. We too must pass the test today. To stand up for freedom. To safeguard our security. And to uphold the rules-based international order.

Together, America and Europe are the world’s most powerful force for good. We have preserved freedom. We have prevented oppression. And we have promoted progress and prosperity. We must keep our bond strong so that we can remain a force for good.

Thank you.