On May 3, 2012, the Berlin Office of The German Marshall Fund hosted U.S. Assistant Secretary Philip Gordon for an on-the-record breakfast discussion titled Transatlantic Security in a Changing World: A Count-Down to the Chicago NATO Summit.
After a welcome by GMFs Senior Director for Europe, Heike MacKerron, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs gave his opening remarks. He reaffirmed the United States’ choice for Europe as its “partner of first resort” corresponding to a need for strong partners that share its values and interests, a philosophy which expressed itself in transatlantic cooperation efforts regarding Iran, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, the Arab Spring and increasingly Asia. These efforts are the result of a “deliberate and conscious effort” to strengthen the transatlantic partnership. He added that, while working together on global issues is not free of challenges, interests of transatlantic partners are today “more strategically aligned than ever.”
For instance, the fact that the European Union and the United States have almost identical financial sanctions and an oil embargo in place on Iran would have been simply implausible a couple of years ago. And he cited Libya as a positive story of transatlantic cooperation and reminded the audience that this decision did not come “by accident or coincidence or alignment of interests,” but rather through “deliberate choice.”
Regarding Russia, Assistant Secretary Gordon insisted that the more recent U.S. policy geared at improving relations with Russia, expressed through efforts such as the renegotiation of the START Treaty, cooperation concerning Iran within the ‘three plus three’ group and the WTO agreement currently awaiting its ratification by the Duma, was also in line with objectives shared by European partners. Asked later in the discussion about ongoing talks with Russia on missile defense, he spoke of the limited progress related to the fact that the Russians “cannot seem to get over their concern that our missile defense would undermine their deterrent,” and insisted that NATO missile defense capabilities “cannot threaten the Russian deterrent.” He hoped that Russia would return to the negotiating table, but also that NATO’s missile defense plan will move ahead in Chicago in any case.
For the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago, Assistant Secretary Gordon emphasized three priorities the United States will address: (1) Afghanistan; (2) Smart Defense; (3) Global partnerships. In anticipation of NATO troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014, the security situation in the country should remain a key focus of NATO members who should demonstrate continued support and financial commitment to ensure Afghan security forces will remain properly funded. It would be “penny-wise and pound foolish” not to follow through with this objective and make sure Afghans can provide for their own security, he remarked.
In light of the economic climate and decreasing defense spending trends, particularly in Europe, a smart defense strategy to make NATO a more efficient alliance remains crucial and he cited Baltic air policing as one such positive example. Without such a commitment to a smart defense strategy by all NATO allies the future “might be pretty grim.” Finally, global partnerships not only with Russia and Georgia, but also other global partnerships initiatives, should be a key future goal of the alliance.
The discussion also touched upon the situation in Syria, nuclear deterrence, Pakistan, the possibility of a post-conflict role for NATO and European concerns of a disengaged United States.
Read Philip Gordon’s full remarks on the U.S. Department of State’s website.