Europe and Eurasia: The Obama Administration's European Agenda

By Gordon, Philip H. | Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Europe and Eurasia: The Obama Administration's European Agenda


Gordon, Philip H., Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly


Assistant Secretary, State Department Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Philip H. Gordon's Remarks at the Atlantic Council, in Washington DC, 17 November 2010, on the eve of the Lisbon NATO Summit I am delighted to be here at the Atlantic Council today, just before the President travels to Lisbon for an important series of European summits.

In Lisbon, the President will meet with heads of state and government from all 28 NATO member nations; he will convene a summit of the 49 nations contributing troops to Afghanistan through ISAF as well as major economic assistance donors; he will join with his Allied counterparts and the President of Russia for a NATO-Russia Council Summit; and finally he will join the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council at the U.S.-EU Summit. This will be followed up with a trip by the Secretary of State to attend the OSCE Summit in Astana, Kazakhstan. This is, by any standard, an intense schedule of diplomatic engagement. And the intensity of our upcoming interaction with Europe reveals how central the U.S.-European partnership is to addressing global challenges.

When the Obama administration came into office, we made re- engaging with our European allies one of our top priorities. President Obama did so because he recognized that there is no better partner for the United States than Europe, where we work with democratic, prosperous, militarily-capable allies who share our values and share our interests. We face a daunting international agenda that cannot be handled by any one nation alone, and that is why we so often turn to Europe as our partner of first and best resort.

So, as we approach the two-year mark of this administration, it is useful and important to take a step back and take a look at where we stand. To that end, I'd like to do three things today. First, I'll describe the strategic objectives which drive our approach toward Europe. Then, I'd like to offer you an assessment of our record over the past two years on these objectives. Finally, I'll outline what we see to be the next steps to be in our engagement with Europe, with a particular emphasis on the four major summits the United States will participate in starting this week.

When I think about this administration's priorities in Europe, there are three basic objectives that stand out in our engagement with the continent:

1) First, we work with Europe as a partner in meeting global challenges. On every issue of global importance, Europe's contributions are crucial to solving major international challenges. No matter what the issue is from the war in Afghanistan, to the Iranian nuclear challenge, to the ongoing global economic troubles Europe is indispensable. We are vastly stronger in terms of legitimacy, resources, and ideas when we join forces with Europe on the global agenda.

2) Second, we are still working with Europe on Europe, that is to say working to complete the historic project of helping to extend stability, security, prosperity and democracy to the entire continent. The extraordinary success that the United States and Europe have had together in promoting European integration, in consolidating and supporting the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe and integrating them into Euro-Atlantic institutions demonstrates the promise of this enterprise. But our work is not done. And so the effort continues in the Balkans and further to Europe's east and in the Caucasus.

3) Finally, we have sought to set relations with Russia on a more constructive course. President Obama recognized that he had inherited a relationship that was in a difficult place and that this situation did not serve the interests of the United States or its allies. Therefore, our goal has been to cooperate with Russia where we have common interests but not at the expense of our principles or our friends.

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