Magazine article DISAM Journal

Fifty Years of Formal United States and European Union Relations and European Union Accession

Magazine article DISAM Journal

Fifty Years of Formal United States and European Union Relations and European Union Accession

Article excerpt

[The following remarks were presented at the reception in honor of fifty years of formal United States and European Union (E.U.) relation and accession, May 1, 2004.]

I often remark to my audiences and my colleagues that I never thought as Secretary of State that I would be working this closely with the European Union. I am a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) guy. I started my military career as a young second lieutenant in infantry in Germany along the Fulda Gap, and twenty-eight years later I went back to the Fulda Gap as a corps commander, and so I commanded forty troops at the Fulda Gap and I commanded 80,000 troops at the Fulda Gap.

And it was, you know, pretty consistent over that time. When I went to Germany in 1958 as a second lieutenant, they drove me up to the Fulda Gap and they said, "Lieutenant, you ever hear about the strategy of containment?" "Uh-huh, uh-huh." "Well, this is where it starts." "And you see that tree over there?" "Uh-huh." "You see that tree over there?" "Yeah, uh-huh." "Well, that's your zone, lieutenant." "And when the Russian army comes, stop it." "Do you understand?" "Uhhuh, uh-huh." I can handle that.

And twenty-eight years later when I went back, there was a tree that was a little farther to the left and farther to the right, but it was the same strategy over a twenty-eight-year period of time, even though I had not gone Vietnam for a couple years; I served in Korea. Everything was quite familiar when I got back to Germany and to the Fulda Gap. And now I have discovered that the Fulda Gap is really now a store that sells Levi's and other kinds of impedimenta. It is a tourist attraction.

And I was privileged to be part of that Administration, the Reagan Administration, and then, of course, the Bush 41 Administration. When we saw Gorbachev come along with glasnost and perestroika and we watched the end of the Soviet Union. And at that time my Russian colleagues I am now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would come and visit me and say, "Well, you know, the Soviet Union is over, the Warsaw Pact's gone, and therefore NATO has no further purpose, so why don't you get rid of NATO? We got rid of the Warsaw Pact, and we'll start all over with something new."

And I said, "You know, it is a great idea, I would love to do it. The only trouble is, people keep trying to join NATO and it is hard to shut down a club when people are trying to get in." So, amazing--I mean, think of it. This grand alliance that was created at the end of the 1940s to fight Soviet imperialism, Soviet attempts at hegemony over all of Europe, when it finally got into the late 1990s, it was not getting smaller in the absence of this reason for being in the first place, it was getting bigger. And who was joining? Those we had been fighting or getting ready to fight all those years.

And I have great fun with my Eastern European colleagues. The first time I ever got them all together Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic all together, the Baltics, the Balkans, everybody was there, and they were in a big room in a big circle and we were all talking. And I gave my stock speech and then I listened to all these nations talk about freedom and democracy and, you know, I stared at them. And when it came back to me again I asked for the floor again and I said, "I cannot tell you how moved I am by your presentations, because just nine years ago you were all on my target list." And here we are. And amazingly this grand alliance continues to grow. Why does it grow? Because it is connected to North America. Not only is there a European component to the expansion of NATO, but it is connected to North America. It is connected to Canada and the United States, and they want to be part of transatlantic community.

Now, what I have discovered over the last three years is that my horizon had to expand because it is not just the twenty-six nation NATO alliance that is so important, but just as important is the European Union. …

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