On Monday, June 16, GMF launched its Transatlantic Talks series in Washington, DC by hosting Ambassador Victoria Nuland, U.S. assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, to speak on the current state of Euroatlanticism. GMF President Dr. Karen Donfried welcomed participants and introduced the vision for GMF’s new convening series, Transatlantic Talks, which pairs senior governmental officials from one side of the Atlantic with senior journalists from the other to discuss the most relevant issues in the transatlantic partnership. The conversation was moderated by Edward Luce, Washington Correspondent for the Financial Times.
The discussion began by examining trends in transatlantic relations over the past six months since Ambassador Nuland was confirmed as assistant secretary of state. At this point, transatlantic economies were recovering and seemed poised to launch their relationship into the 21st century. The mechanism to propel the relationship will be the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Beyond this, both sides of the Atlantic hoped to address strategic matters and move the long-standing goal of a Europe whole and at peace forward. But according to Ambassador Nuland, events in Eastern Europe quickly prompted “the greatest challenge to European security that we have seen at least since the Balkan wars,” and demonstrated the need to promote policies of energy diversity and investment in hard security.
As the conversation shifted from broad challenges presented by the crisis in eastern Ukraine to current engagement and geopolitical events, Luce inquired about Russian president Vladimir Putin’s attendance and participation at the recent D-Day commemoration ceremonies in Normandy and how to reconcile the problems experienced between western leaders and the current Russian administration. While acknowledging Russia’s deficiencies, Ambassador Nuland underscored the contribution of the Russian people during World War II. Furthermore, Putin’s attendance at Normandy facilitated a bilateral meeting between then President-elect Poroshenko and Putin, which signaled Russian’s de facto acceptance of the current Ukrainian government. Moving beyond the D-Day ceremonies, Ambassador Nuland outlined a commitment to the U.S. response vis-à-vis a four pillar approach: to help the Ukrainian people prosper both economically and democratically; to make it costly for Russia to destabilize countries; to provide an opportunity for Russia to change course towards stabilization; and to make it clear that “NATO space is inviolable.”
Given the G7 summit in Brussels and diminishing support for Russian leadership in various European countries, including Germany, the costs for Russian aggression in its periphery are becoming increasingly clear. Nevertheless, Ambassador Nuland described a mixed picture in regards to Russian actions. Moscow is negotiating with Kyiv, but is simultaneously providing material and financial support to the separatists. However, a unified voice from Atlantic partners provides great potential, leading Nuland to say “when the U.S. and Germany agree […] we can influence the conversation across Europe very powerfully.” Joint action raises the cost for Russia, whose economy is already on the verge of recession.
The conversation highlighted a number of other pressing items on the agenda for the United States and Europe. These included commitments to NATO spending, policy priorities of the Wales NATO summit, the NSA revelations, and the U.S. commitment to civil society development; while ranging from transatlantic economic policies, to the U.S.-Turkey relationship, and current U.S. strategies in a failing Iraq. To conclude GMF’s first Transatlantic Talk, Ambassador Nuland returned to the earlier topic of Ukraine and Europe’s East and reassured the audience that the Transatlantic community will “encourage a more integrated, open, European and democratic Russia.”
The discussion included a robust question and answer session with the wide audience of roughly 100 representatives from the private sector, government, academia, embassies, think tanks, and media. A second installment in the Transatlantic Talks series is expected to take place during the run-up to the NATO summit at Wales this September.