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Remarks by Secretary Hagel at the Woodrow Wilson International Center Forum on NATO Expansion and European Security, Washington, D.C.

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel
May 02, 2014

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: Jane, thank you. I'm always overwhelmed in your company, but now you've outdone yourself with a special Nebraska Cornhusker scarf. And by the way, the Cornhuskers will have a better season this year. Thank you.

Thank you, Jane. And thanks to the Wilson Center for what you continue to do for our country and for world affairs. You bring thoughtful analysis and leadership to these tough issues. The world is complicated, as we all know. It's not getting any less complicated, nor is it getting any less dangerous. So your continued contributions and leadership, as well as this institution, are very valuable and important parts to all of our efforts - global efforts to find peaceful, wise resolutions to these difficult problems.

To my friends here who were on the panel, always good to see you. Thanks for your continued contributions, as well. And for those here who have been in this business of analysis and thinking and writing for many, many years, thank you, and now is no time to stop. We're going to need everybody more than maybe ever in our lifetimes.

As the world expands, opportunities expand, but threats, challenges expand. Technology, unprecedented change all over the world. But it is our time, and we must not fail the world.

As Jane noted, I have known Jane many years. We worked together in the Congress, traveled together, always admiring her judgment and ability and sharp analysis of issues. And in particular, I have always admired and respected and particularly appreciated her directness.
Those of you who know Jane well - and most of you do - know that she's very clear in what she believes and says it very plainly, and that isn't altogether bad. And I think if there was ever a time for plain talk in the world today - respectful, respectful of each other and sovereignty and our interests all over the world, but we have to be clear with each other. And Jane has done that, and I think we all appreciate that in our leader.

So, Jane, thank you, and thank you for giving me an opportunity to talk about this issue. And I know what your theme is this morning. And it's particularly timely, as well as valuable, so thank you.

The challenges facing NATO today remind us of the enduring need for this historic alliance and what we must do to strengthen it. Sixty-five years ago, after a long debate about America's role in the postwar world, eleven envoys gathered in the Oval Office at the White House to witness President Truman formally accepting and ratifying the North Atlantic Treaty.

Doing so, President Truman broke with prominent voices, as has been noted here this morning, including those prestigious voices [like] George Kennan[s]. Those voices called for America, in Kennan's words, to relieve “ourselves gradually of the basic responsibility for the security of Western Europe.”

Instead, General Eisenhower arrived in Paris in 1951 as the supreme allied commander Europe. By 1953, 11 U.S. Air Force wings, five Army Divisions, and 50 Navy warships had followed. Militaries of NATO nations began working together. They began working together to integrate North American and European strategy, plans and forces.

America did not make commitments abroad “in search of monsters to destroy.” Instead, President Truman joined the North Atlantic Treaty because he said he was convinced that NATO would serve as “a shield against aggression and the fear of aggression” and thereby let us get on with the “real business of government and society” at home. Truman joined the North Atlantic Treaty, because it was, as he put it, “a simple document” that, “if it had existed in 1914 and in 1939 would have prevented…two world wars.”

America was committed to NATO because NATO would help protect vital American interests by reinforcing the unity of transatlantic security. NATO would ultimately protect security and prosperity here at home…a truth that I believe endures to this day.

On the centennial of the start of World War I, and weeks before the 70th anniversary of allied landings at Normandy, Russia's recent action in Ukraine has reminded NATO of its founding purpose. It has presented a clarifying moment for the transatlantic alliance.

NATO members must demonstrate that they are as committed to this alliance as its founding members were who built it 65 years ago. They must reaffirm the security guarantees at the heart of the alliance. They must reinvigorate the unrivaled joint planning, exercises, and capabilities that are its lifeblood. And they must reaffirm, that from the Mediterranean to the Baltics, allies are allies. Our commitment to the security of every ally is resolute.

This moment comes as NATO ends its combat mission in Afghanistan later this year, the longest, most complex operation in its history, and one that has strengthened the capability and the cohesion of the alliance. It also comes as we prepare for a NATO summit this fall in Wales, which will be an opportunity to re-examine how NATO militaries are trained, equipped, and structured to meet new and enduring security challenges.

After more than a decade focused on counterinsurgency and stability operations, NATO must balance a new renewed emphasis on territorial defense with its unique expeditionary capabilities, because, as we have seen, threats to the alliance neither start nor stop at Europe's doorstep…emerging threats and technologies mean that fewer and fewer places are truly “out-of-area.”

Balancing a full range of missions will require NATO to have a full range of forces, from high-end systems for deterrence and power projection to special operations and rapid response capabilities.

Allied forces must also be ready, deployable, and capable of ensuring our collective security. I said at NATO's Defense Ministerial meeting earlier this year that we must focus not only on how much we spend, but also on how we spend, ensuring we invest in the right interoperable capabilities for all NATO missions. This will require the United States to continue prioritizing capabilities that can operate across the spectrum of conflict against the most sophisticated adversaries. And it will also require NATO nations - NATO nations - to prioritize similar investments in their own militaries.

Since the end of the Cold War, America's military spending has become increasingly disproportionate within the alliance. Today, America's GDP is smaller than the combined GDPs of our 27 NATO allies. But America's defense spending is three times our Allies' combined defense spending. Over time, this lopsided burden threatens NATO's integrity, cohesion, and capability, and ultimately both European and transatlantic security.

Many of NATO's smaller members have pledged to increase their defense investment, and earlier this week at the Pentagon, I thanked Estonia's Defense Minister for his nation's renewed commitment and investment in NATO. But the alliance cannot afford for Europe's larger economies and most militarily capable allies not to do the same, particularly as transatlantic economies grow stronger. We must see renewed financial commitments from all NATO members.

Russia's actions in Ukraine have made NATO's value abundantly clear, and I know from my frequent conversations with NATO defense ministers that they do not need any convincing on this point. Talking amongst ourselves is no longer good enough. Having participated in the NATO defense ministerials over the last year-and- a-half and having met with all of my NATO counterparts, I've come away recognizing that the challenge is building support -- the real challenge, real challenge is building support for defense investment across our governments, not just in our defense ministries. Defense investment must be discussed in the broader context of member nations' overall fiscal challenges and priorities. Today, I am therefore calling for the inclusion of finance ministers or senior budget officials at a NATO ministerial focused on defense investment. This would allow them to receive detailed briefings from alliance military leaders on the challenges we all face. Leaders across our governments must understand that the consequences of current trends in reduced defense spending and help will break up the fiscal impasse.

In meeting its global security commitments, the United States must have strong, committed, and capable allies. This year's Quadrennial Defense Review makes this very clear. Going forward, the Department of Defense will not only seek, but increasingly rely on closer integration and collaboration with our allies—and in ways that will influence U.S. strategic planning and future investments.

For decades, from the early days of the Cold War, American defense secretaries have called on European allies to ramp up their defense investment. And in recent years, one of the biggest obstacles to alliance investment has been a sense that the end of the Cold War ushered in the “end of history” – an end to insecurity, at least in Europe - an the end [of] aggression by nation-states. But Russia's action in Ukraine shatter that myth and usher in bracing new realities.
Even a united and deeply interconnected Europe still lives in a dangerous world. While we must continue to build a more peaceful and prosperous global order…there is no post-modern refuge immune to the threat of military force, and we cannot take for granted, even in Europe, that peace is underwritten by the credible deterrent of military power.

In the short term, the transatlantic alliance has responded to Russian actions with continued resolve. But over the long term, we should expect Russia to test our alliance's purpose, stamina, and commitment. Future generations will note whether at this moment - at this moment of challenge - we summoned the will to invest in our alliance. We must not squander this opportunity or shrink from this challenge. We will be judged harshly by history and by future generations if we do.

NATO should also find creative ways to [help] nations around the world - to help them adapt to collective security, to rapidly evolving global strategic landscapes. Collective security is not only the anchor of the transatlantic alliance; it is also a model for emerging security institutions around the world, from Africa to the Persian Gulf to Southeast Asia. I say this having just convened a forum of ASEAN defense ministers last month and having called for a Gulf Cooperation Council defense ministerial this year.

These institutions bring all of our peoples, all of our interests, all of our economies closer together - serving as anchors for stability, security, and prosperity. Strengthening these regional security institutions must be a centerpiece of America's defense policy as we continue investing in NATO. As these institutions develop their own unique security arrangements, they stand to benefit by learning from NATO's unmatched interoperability and command-and-control systems.
There can be no transatlantic prosperity absent security, but we must also keep in mind that investing in our alliance and our collective security means more than just investing in our militaries alone.

It means the United States and Europe must partner together over the long term to bolster Europe's energy security and blunt Russia's coercive energy policies. By the end of the decade, Europe is positioned to reduce its natural gas imports from Russia by more than 25 percent. And the U.S. Department of Energy has conditionally approved export permits for American Liquefied Natural Gas that add up to more than half of Europe's gas imports from Russia.

It means deepening our economic ties through new trade initiatives, like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

And it means continuing to exercise global leadership in defense of shared values, like human rights and the rule of law.

Let me conclude by reflecting on the historic decision 20 years ago to move toward NATO enlargement, which I know, as Jane has noted, is a focus of this Congress. Then, as now, some argued that NATO enlargement invited Russian aggression. Critics called it a “tragic mistake” and an “irresponsible bluff.” Some still do.

But the historical record now speaks clearly for itself, and it makes clear that NATO has sought partnership, not conflict, with Russia, and that enlargement has contributed to stability and security.

No one wanted to replace Europe's Cold War dividing line with a new one, so America and its allies made a good-faith effort to convince Russia that our security interests were converging. President Clinton urged that, in his words “the measure of Russia's greatness would be…whether Russia, the big neighbor, can be the good neighbor.” Despite the reservations of many aspiring new members, NATO established the Partnership for Peace and negotiated the NATO-Russia [Founding Act]. Some U.S. government officials went so far as to say that Russia might one day even join the alliance.

But even as we pursued cooperation with Russia, we were never blind to the risks. Strobe Talbott, former deputy secretary of state, warned in 1995 that, in his words, “among the contingencies for which NATO must be prepared is that Russia will abandon democracy and return to the threatening patterns of international behavior that have sometimes characterized its history, particularly during the Soviet period.” And today, NATO must stand ready to visit the basic principles underlying its relationship with Russia.

NATO enlargement did not - did not invite Russian aggression. Instead, it affirmed the independence and democratic identity of new members. It did not foment crisis then or now. Instead, it settled old disputes and advanced regional stability. It promoted freedom and free markets, and it advanced the cause of peace. That is why NATO still holds the door open for aspiring members and why it must maintain partnerships with nations around the world.

Consider the alternative: a world without NATO enlargement and the assurances of collective security it provided.

That world would have risked the enormous political and economic progress made within and between aspiring members. It would have risked a precarious European security environment in which today's central and eastern European allies would be torn between Europe and Russia. It would have risked insecurity reverberating deep into the heart of Western Europe. And, ultimately, it would have risked a Europe more fractured and less free.

Thanks to American leadership, and thanks to some of the distinguished leaders here today, that you'll hear from this morning - that is not the world we live in.

Yes, the world's dangerous. Yes, the world's imperfect. Yes, we have challenges.

But we must reflect on what we have done as we prepare and build platforms and institutions to take on these new threats of the early 21st century.

In 1997, I said on the Senate floor that “America, Europe, and Russia could all benefit if the nations of Central and Eastern Europe are anchored in the security NATO can offer.”
Today, the transatlantic alliance anchors global security. It offers a powerful antidote to the “aggression and fear of aggression” that President Truman warned against in 1949. It has spread the rule of law, freedom, stability, and prosperity. And it will endure well into [this] century and the next century, but only if nations on both sides of the Atlantic seize this clarifying moment.

Two years and 19 days after General Eisenhower arrived in Paris as the supreme allied commander Europe, he was inaugurated as the 34th President of the United States.

President Eisenhower was as war-weary as the American public and people all over the world. He had written to his wife, Mamie, in his words, that he “constantly wondered how ‘civilization’ can stand war at all.” He would lie awake at night, smoking cigarettes, and he acknowledged privately that there was “not one part of his body that did not pain him.” But in his first formal address as president, Ike insisted that America had to remain engaged in the world. He said “No nation's security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation, but only in effective cooperation with fellow nations.” And in 1957, President Eisenhower returned to Paris, where - in his address to the first NATO summit of heads of state - he connected America's transatlantic commitments to the “vitality of our factories and mills and shipping, of our trading centers, our farms, our little businesses,” and to our rights at home, our rights to “produce freely, trade freely, travel freely, think freely, and pray freely.”

Those who doubt the value of America's commitments abroad should recall that wisdom…because the unprecedented peace and prosperity we enjoy today was hard-won, and we must remember - it is always perishable. As Ike liked to say, “It takes a lot of hard work and sacrifice by a lot of people to bring about the inevitable.”

Without deep engagement in the world, America would face more conflict, not less - and on the terms of our adversaries, not on our own terms. That is why America's commitment to its allies - in Europe and around the world - is not a burden … it's not a luxury. But it is a necessity. And it must be unwavering.

Thank you.

JANE HARMAN: Thank you very much, Secretary Hagel, for remarks that would inspire the Cornhuskers and the entire world.

We'll now take a few questions from the audience. Please identify yourself, and I suggest that you stand up so we can -- we know where you are when you're speaking. Questions? Way in the back, yes.

Q: Hi, Meto Koloski, UMD. And I agree with Congresswoman Harman on your inspirational speech. I wanted to know, especially in light of enlargement in the Balkans, do you predict any sort of efforts being done to resolve those old disputes similar to the Macedonia-Greece dispute, which has prevented the country from joining NATO over the last six years? Thank you.

SEC. HAGEL: Well, as you all know, that's an area of the world that is working its way through difficult historical differences. You know -- I think everyone here -- much about those differences. I think the progress that is being made in those countries as they sort through those differences peacefully, imperfect, it's a challenge, it's a matter of continuing to make progress, build functioning, free democratic institutions, respect all their people, regardless of their religion or their ethnic backgrounds.

I think a lot of progress is being made. We've seen that, I think, in the definition of boundaries of new nation-states as they continue to work toward democracy and self-government in responsible ways. So I'm encouraged by that.

I do think that NATO, European Union, those alliances have helped that. I referenced generally, not specifically, to the Balkans, but generally what I think NATO has meant in my comments regarding -- we have fostered NATO alliance, European Union, we've fostered that coming together and building on common interests, not our differences, but build platforms of common interest. Where do we agree? Where can we both benefit?

We have changes, and we have differences. We've got that. But we'll never peacefully resolve differences without building institutions and platforms of common interests. That was the whole point behind the coalitions of common interest built after World War II, whether it was the United Nations or NATO, IMF, World Bank, what came out of Bretton Woods, general agreement on tariffs and trade. All of that was about common interests so that we didn't revert back into a third world war, that the third one would probably go a long way in destroying mankind, with the sophistication of weapons. So I am encouraged. More to do, but I am encouraged.

MS. HARMAN: More questions. Anyone up front? There are several in the back. How about in the very back? Let's see. I can't really see what you're wearing, so I can't describe you.

Q: My name is (inaudible), and I am retired Russian professor living here. And I have a question about some historical aspects of relationship between NATO and Russia. Sixty-nine years ago, in May of 1945, our countries together were celebrating victory, a great victory day against fascism. How that’s happened that now attitude of America changed to Russia's country enemy? What happened all these years, during all these years? Thank you.

SEC. HAGEL: Well, I think you might want to address that question to some others as to what happened. But I would answer your question this way. I said in my -- my speech that, during the process of NATO enlargement -- and many of the strong arguments that were made -- and I use this as just one example, to answer your large question, what happened -- all different views about NATO enlargement were presented.

I was in the Senate, as I noted, at the time. Jane was in the House. We spent a lot of time on this issue. And those of you who were all part of that debate at the time, whether it was in Congress or outside, know that there was a tremendous amount of focus and effort put on this, examining all points of view. What were the consequences of enlargement? Should we do it? Russia's response, as has already been noted here.

But, in my opinion, the right decisions were made to go forward with enlargement. Now, during that process, there was a reaching out from NATO members to Russia. I referenced a couple of the specific, Partnership for Peace, we have the Russian-NATO meetings, and that was done specifically to recognize that Russia would, I'm sure, think that somehow this was a threat to them, their security. And you need not go back in history too far to get all that.

And I was not at the center of every decision, but I was in the Senate at the time on the Foreign Relation Committee at the time, traveled a lot on this issue, and I know our government at the time and I think our allies at the time did reach out to the Russians to try to reassure them that this was about our common interests, not about our differences.

I think we've had, in the last 20 years especially, since the implosion of the Soviet Union, we've had ups and downs in the Russia-U.S. relationship, NATO-Russia relationship, but we've had periods of cooperation, as well. We do a lot of things with the Russians. And we have differences. Obviously, what's happened in Ukraine, as I made clear at least in my opinion, in my speech, that was not NATO aggression that brought those actions on.

And so we'll continue to do what civilized nations must do, protect their own interests, but also to find wise, diplomatic, smart resolutions to differences. But I think my remarks were pretty clear here on where I think the responsibility lies in this particular case.

MS. HARMAN: Last question, in front right here.

Q: Mr. Secretary, I am (inaudible). I am the Polish ambassador to Portugal on the other side of the Atlantic. I very much appreciated your comments and, as you may gather, being in positioned in Lisbon, we look at the Atlantic from a very strategic position.

Just yesterday, I had a conversation with one of your illustrious predecessors, with Frank Carlucci, and you would gather without much effort that we spoke about mostly the same that you did today. Since this was a private conversation, I'm not going to get into it, but it went slightly differently.

For Poland, the question, of course, is that NATO has one of our major diplomatic accomplishments, membership in NATO, and back 20 years, the former Polish prime minister, Mr. Marcinkiewicz, is present here, and we both remember how it went at that time. This was something unbelievable. This is something that created completely new opportunities for us. It was meant to be the guarantee of our security in the international dimension.

But it was also -- and until today, the public opinion polls in Poland indicate that about 60 percent of Poles believe that in case of any danger, this is NATO that is going to support and defend us.

However, I believe that what has changed is that the very concept in which NATO was operating has changed. For many years, I would say this was a concept of the prisoner's game dilemma, presuming that you have two people that are sort of locked in the same jail and they -- whether they will cooperate or not, they would have to resolve it.

Now I believe the question is that one of those entities is no longer in the same -- in the same jail and is acting in a different way logically. And I believe that this requires completely new strategic concept. My question is, how would you address it? Thank you.

SEC. HAGEL: Well, it's a very simple question. (Laughter.)

You deserve a simple answer. I noted in my remarks that we have a NATO summit of heads of state coming up in September. This obviously -- your question and everything that revolves around it -- will be much the centerpiece of that agenda, for obvious reasons.

I referenced on -- on a number of occasions in more general terms in my remarks, as you know, about strategic shifts and allies and commitments, and not only financial commitments, but -- but other strategic issues that -- and I mentioned specifically, relationship with Russia. All of this is going to have to be re-examined.

Institutions don't ever -- nor does life, nor do any of us in this room -- stay status quo. Yesterday's gone. We each get a day older, so on and so on. Institutions are the same way. Institutions must remain relevant to the challenge, and that's much of the theme of my point here today, as we all know, relevant to address the challenges that are before us and we anticipate will be in the future.

That's constantly reassessment of strategic interest assets, the strength of alliances, the strength of all of the nation's assets, not just their military, because you -- we all know, you can't separate security and stability from prosperity. You can't have one without the other.

And so, yes, we'll -- we are going through that process. But I think in a world that is so hair-triggered, as we are living in today, where there's very little margin of bad -- for bad decisions, margin of error -- not like it was 20 years ago, certainly 40, 50 years ago.

So, we have to be very wise, steady, firm, but wise in how we employ our tremendous powers, thinking not just about today, but about tomorrow. How does this all work out? Where do we want to end up before we commit anything to anything?

And that is going to require more and more alliance relationships. Every nation will respond in its own self-interest. We know that. That's predictable. And no nation should be held captive to an institution they belong to. Every nation must protect its own interests.

But those interests are now wide and varied, where they include mutual interests, which again I referenced our wise leaders on both sides of the Atlantic after World War II understood that. That's why we built these great institutions -- imperfect, flawed, can't solve every problem. We haven't, but let's -- let's examine the record here. I mean, if you expand this out about strategic thinking and where do we go from here, to your question.

We haven't done too badly in 65 years. There's not been a World War III, not been a nuclear exchange. I think on balance probably there are more nations with more possibilities for freedom and opportunities and trade. Still a lot to do, absolutely. But as imperfect and flawed and as many mistakes as we make, governments make, we all make, on balance, we shouldn't -- we shouldn't dismiss what's gone right and how we've built the right things.

But it's a constant evaluation of strategic interests. And we very much appreciate what your country is doing and continues to do, especially in the NATO relationship. Frank Carlucci is a very dear friend. I know -- I have often said, and Frank thinks that I exaggerate -- former senators never exaggerate, you know.

That if it hadn't been for Frank Carlucci, I'm not sure Portugal would have turned out in that immediate time the way it did in 1980 and 1979. Frank Carlucci is an amazing individual and one of the great public servants of our time.

Thank you.

MS. HARMAN: Please join me in thanking Secretary Hagel.

SEC. HAGEL: Thank you. Thank you very much.
 

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