Transcript

PrintPrint EmailEmail ShareShare CiteCite
Style:MLAAPAChicagoClose

loading...

The U.S.-Europe Partnership

Speaker: Philip H. Gordon, Assistant Secretary Of State For European and Eurasian Affairs
Presider: Karen E. Donfried, Executive Vice President, German Marshall Fund Of The United States
December 9, 2009
Council on Foreign Relations

Media

Share

KAREN E. DONFRIED: Good evening. Welcome to the Council on Foreign Relations event with the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Gordon.

I'm Karen Donfried with the German Marshall fund, and I'm delighted to be able to preside at this session tonight, which will focus on trans-Atlantic relations.

You have Assistant Secretary Gordon's bio, and I know he's known to many people in the room. So his bio compellingly shows why he is so well-positioned to be in the position he is currently in. I'll just give you the most recent highlights.

Assistant Secretary Gordon went to the State Department after having been a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and he went to Brookings after having served on the National Security Council under President Clinton.

At a moment of particular promise in trans-Atlantic relations, I think we're very lucky to have Assistant Secretary Gordon in this important position.

The format for this evening is that the assistant secretary will deliver brief, prepared remarks, and then I'll have the opportunity to engage him in a conversation. And then at about 7:00 we'll open it up to engage all of you in a discussion of trans-Atlantic relations.

Now I have to ask you to do a couple of things. I need you to completely turn off your cell phones, BlackBerrys, whatever wireless device you have on you. We need you to turn it off because otherwise it will interfere with the sound system.

And just so all of you are aware, this session is on the record.

And with those tips -- oh, I hear that. (Laughter.) That was not set up. (Off mike commentary.) Beautiful. Now that we're all clear on the ground rules, I am going to turn the podium over to Assistant Secretary Gordon.

PHILIP H. GORDON: Karen, thank you very much for that. I'm delighted to be here. I'm particularly delighted to be here with you, with Karen Donfried, an old friend and colleague, and also to see so many old friends in the room.

I was asked to talk about U.S.-Europe partnership under the Obama administration, which is, of course, coming towards the end of our first year in office and a good time to reflect and look back.

I guess I would say it's hard -- you know, when you think about how vast that cooperation is, on this topic, to know where to start and where to finish. So I think what I'd like to do is start with Afghanistan, not out of any deference to the alphabet, but because it is both timely and particularly illustrative of the type of partnership we have and we want to have with Europe.

Think about it. Afghanistan is a challenge, whose effects are felt across national borders, that no single country can resolve on its own, and where U.S.-European cooperation is an essential foundation for progress. In that sense, our approach there reflects, I think, a central insight into President Obama's foreign policy and his view of the world, which is that no single country, no matter how large or powerful, can confront the challenges of the 21st century alone.

And in confronting these challenges, nowhere do we find better or more serious or more valuable partners than in Europe, where we engage with prosperous, democratic, militarily capable democracies, who care about the same thing that we do.

In that sense, I'd like to say, we were encouraged, even delighted with the response of our European allies to the president's articulation of our approach in Afghanistan last week, in which he described our efforts to defeat al Qaeda and deny them safe haven in Afghanistan and to reverse the Taliban's momentum.

The strategy the president outlined relies on robust cooperation from our European partners, both in terms of military assistance and civilian assistance. And this deep U.S.-European commitment is born of a recognition that a safe haven for al Qaeda in Afghanistan is as much of a threat to Europe as it is to the United States. And we think Europeans understand that well.

Right after the president's announcement, ISAF partners stepped up with both political and military support. I was with Secretary Clinton in Brussels last week at the NATO ministerial where we learned that 25 different countries in the Alliance have pledged new contributions amounting to significant new economic resources, training efforts and some 7,000 new troops for Afghanistan, with more to come. And we take this as a demonstration that this is not an American strategy or an American war, but a truly international coalition. And that is essential to our success.

Indeed, one of the reasons for the sustained engagement with the Europeans that we've had over the past weeks and months is to ensure that this not be and not be seen as an American war. And we think that the more it is seen as and is a truly international coalition, the more legitimate and sustainable that it will be.

I began with Afghanistan, as I said, because I think it's emblematic of how the United States and Europe can and do cooperate on the most important global challenges of the day. And I would like to build on that point to underscore two fundamental points that I really hope to get across this evening.

The first is that the United States looks forward to working with a strong, cohesive Europe as a partner in meeting the security and economic challenges of the 21st century.

And second, we have already seen in this first year of the Obama administration an extraordinarily high, I would even suggest unprecedented, level of unity and common purpose as the United States and Europe have stood shoulder to shoulder to face gathering global threats.

I have been working on these issues for quite some time, as I know many in this room have, because I've known you and done it together with you over these past years and decades. And my sense is that there hasn't been a time in my professional career where our global strategies with Europeans are as in sync as they are today. And I'll have more to say about this, and we can talk about it in the discussion.

By no means is that to say we don't have differences, nor is it to say that we are together solving all the world's problems. It is to say that on the big issues of the day we're working very well together.

Now, I know some have suggested that the centrality of this relationship between the United States and Europe is diminished as a result of these many daunting global challenges that the United States faces today and the rise of new power, the logic seemingly being that because the United States is so preoccupied, and appropriately preoccupied, with Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and others, that we need Europe less or pay less attention to Europe.

Not only do I think that view is mistaken, I actually think the opposite is true. It is precisely because we are faced with such a daunting global agenda that we need the cooperation of our European allies to the extent that we do. And I think that that is the way the president thinks about it and I think largely that's the way the American people think about it.

Some of the concerns that have been voiced about the state of trans-Atlantic relations stem from the fact that President Obama's election was greeted with such high expectations around the world. Compared with those often unrealistically high expectations, maybe cooperation with Europe today is not all that impressive. Yes, differences still exist. And yes, I hate to say to the most fervent Obama supporters, we have failed to solve every global problem in working with the Europeans over the course of the past nine months.

But I think in any realistic assessment reveals that the United States and Europe are working extraordinarily well together, even on problems that so deeply divided us in the past, from Iran, Iraq, climate change, Guantanamo, Middle East, you name it.

And it is precisely because we know we need a strong European partner -- and this is the other point that I wanted really to stress -- that we welcome the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty last week. The treaty marks a milestone for Europe and its role in the world. It creates new institutions, such as the European Council Presidency, a high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, the European External Action Service that will guide the future of the European Union towards a more coherent and consistent and, we hope, effective foreign policy.

And we look forward to the development of these institutions and engaging with their new leaders, incoming President Van Rompuy and High Representative Catherine Ashton, on the whole host of issues on the agenda before us.

I mentioned Afghanistan as a core example of the type of problem that we're dealing with together. But there's a very long list, and I certainly don't have time to go into great detail on every element of that list. So what I'd like to do is mention some of the key areas where I think this cooperation is working in the way that we want it to do and some of the key challenges before us, and by so doing provoke a discussion with all of you.

Briefly, economic partnership -- I think everybody in the room knows that the trans-Atlantic economy is the largest in the world. Fourteen million jobs tied to trans-Atlantic trade, 3.75 trillion (dollars) in mutual investments. This interdependence makes it essential that we work together to coordinate trade and financial policy.

We think that with Europeans and others, the setting up of the G20 this year was a crucial factor in stabilizing the world economy.

In the security area, one of the major concerns for both the United States and Europe is the Iranian nuclear program. We remain committed to a peaceful, diplomatic solution to this issue, and we are, again, working very closely with our EU partners, as well Russia and China, to achieve this objective.

The EU3+3 process has been the crucial channel through which we engage Iran. We expect to see results. We believe, and we believe the Europeans share this view, that there must be consequences if Iran fails to fulfill its obligations.

Another good example of the type of cooperation I'm talking about is missile defense. The president earlier this year came forward with our new phased adaptive approach to missile defense. There was initially some controversy and questions about that approach. I think as we have taken the time to explain why we took this new course, the emphasis on the intelligence telling us that the medium and short-range ballistic missile threat, from Iran in particular, was growing and growing more quickly than the long-range threat, and the advances in the technology of missiles we intend to use in this approach, to us appeared simply to be a better approach to protecting European allies, our forward-deployed forces and the United States.

And as we've explained our thinking behind that, we think Europeans have come around to that same view. We've had extensive discussions with the Poles, the Czechs and others who were going to be involved in the previous program. They're satisfied with where we're going. And just last week at the NATO ministerial, all allies stepped forward to endorse and embrace the approach.

Climate change is another major area where we've had differences in the past, but are working very well with our European partners today. You saw the announcement last week that President Obama will travel to Copenhagen now, not just in the early phases of the process, but in the late phases with the hopes of reaching a political agreement. And you've seen that the president came forward earlier this year with what we think is a significant proposal about cutting U.S. emissions so we can join global action to fight this challenge.

I've been talking about how we work with Europeans on the global stage, and that is indeed a core part of what we do. But I don't want to give the impression that's all that we do with the Europeans, that somehow the European situation itself is taken care of, and all we do with Europeans is deal with the rest of the world.

We do deal significantly with the rest of the world. But there's still an agenda in Europe as well. And we have far from forgotten or neglected that agenda. One of the major triumphs of U.S. foreign policy over the past several decades, supported by Republican and Democratic administrations alike, was the effort to spread stability, democracy and prosperity eastward.

And since the end of the Cold War, we celebrated just a couple of weeks ago in Berlin the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which reminded us of this. We've made very significant progress in Central Europe, Northern Europe and increasingly towards the east, but we have a lot of work left to do. And we and the Europeans share that agenda.

And that means working together on the Balkans. And you've seen how we and the EU in the past month alone, Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg and Swedish Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the EU Carl Bildt have traveled three times to Sarajevo in an effort to put Bosnia on the path towards Euro-Atlantic integration. We're doing it together in the Balkans. We're doing it in the Caucasus, the Minsk Group and Nagorno-Karabakh. We're doing it Ukraine, Belarus and elsewhere, because our project remains, and we think this is a joint project. We can't do it without the EU, but we think the EU needs us as well to continue this trend towards the rest of Europe's east and south.

And let me finally mention Russia as another example, which is a country we work on with the Europeans and with which we work directly.

And early in the administration, President Obama articulated our views on an approach to Russia, famously known as the reset. Call it what you like, but it's based on thinking that we do have common interests with Russia -- proliferation, terrorism, regional stability and many more. And where we have those common interests, we should pursue them and reach concrete agreements. And where we have differences, we shouldn't shy away from saying what they are.

And we think that that is what we have been doing in the Obama administration from the beginning, that we've made significant progress. We hope to be in the final stages of the START follow-on treaty. We've reached an agreement on lethal transit to Afghanistan, which saves the United States money and diversifies our supply routes to Afghanistan. Several flights have already taken place.

And we have worked with the Russians and the U.N. Security Council to tighten sanctions on North Korea. And we hope to put pressure on Iran over the nuclear program.

None of this cooperation has come at the expense of our principles or our friends in Europe. And we, together with our European partners, expect to continue together this approach to Russia.

I could go on, but I don't want to take anymore time. I hope that by giving your this sort of -- (inaudible) -- of the issues in which we're working with Europe, stressing how we want to work with the new post-Lisbon institutions, and stressing how we think we have common strategies with the Europeans and why we need them so much, that I've given you a sense of how we think about the problem.

All of the issues I've mentioned are issues we think we can only solve together with our European partners. And I'm confident that we will continue to do so.

Thank you very much. And I look forward to your questions, if I get through Karen's questions that will precede them.

DONFRIED: Great. Well, thanks so much.

(Applause.)

You gave us a wonderful menu of topics to talk about, and maybe I'll pick them up a bit in the order you talked about them.

I think all of us were impressed by the announcement that was made at NATO on Friday, that there will be 7,000 additional European troops joining the mission in Afghanistan. And it's such a critical foreign policy issue to the Obama administration, to the United States, and to have it follow his speech on Tuesday was ideal.

That said, it was striking that two of the countries that did not make additional commitments were close allies -- (inaudible).

GORDON: I think the French and the Germans.

DONFRIED: The French and the Germans -- (inaudible). (Laughter.)

GORDON: (Inaudible.)

DONFRIED: And I just wanted to get a sense from you of, you know, was that a bit of a fly in the champagne? And also, the reason they gave was that they want to wait for the international conference on Afghanistan that will take place at the end of January. How does that conference fit into U.S. plans for getting greater support for Afghanistan?

GORDON: We've said from the start that the president was going to announce our approach, and we would look forward to further contributions from as many allies as were willing. And we never put a deadline. It would not have been right for us to have the president announce an approach to the American people and the world on December 1st and expect all of our allies who were going to do anything to do it by December 3rd at the ministerial.

So we said, and we communicated this to them in advance, we will welcome your contributions. We hope you can do as much as possible, and we might even have some specific ideas about what you might do. And we hope you can do it as soon as possible, because we want to demonstrate to the world and frankly to the people in Afghanistan no both sides that the international community is determined to succeed.

So we said, those of you who can show up in Brussels next week and make pledges, terrific, please do. Those of you who will have to wait until the force generation conference earlier this week, do that. Some of you have said you want to wait until the U.N. gets involved, and we have a conference in London in January, that's okay, too, because, you know, we're going to be there for some time. And while obviously we'd like to see as much as possible, as early as possible, it was never our intention and we certainly didn't say, the NATO ministerial is the last chance.

So the countries that you referred to have said they want more time to think about it. They want to have the London conference and make further progress on the civilian approach, on the U.N. role and whatever else, and that's okay. And we hope that their questions gets answered and that they, too, will step up with further contributions.

DONFRIED: And how much of a challenge is it to keep this really a NATO mission, given that the U.S. now this year has agreed to send 50,000 additional troops, there will be around 100,000. And even with these new European commitments, there will be just over 40,000. Does this essentially become a U.S. military operation to which our European allies are contributing? Or is it in its heart still a NATO mission?

GORDON: Well, this, again, is one of the reasons I say, we wanted to ensure that it not be or be perceived to be an American operation. It's not only that we need more resources on the ground. We do. And with, you know, soon-to-be 50,000 non-U.S. troops in Afghanistan, that's pretty significant and covering a significant amount of ground and doing a lot of significant things.

But I think that significance goes beyond what those troops will actually do to what I mentioned as the legitimacy of the operation and the sustainability of the operation. If it were seen as and was just an American operation, I think frankly the Taliban would think that they would have a better shot, you know, we'd be alone out there, no one's supporting us politically or materially, and they'd have a better shot of winning.

By so many allies coming together to demonstrate that it's not just an American mission, we think we have a much better chance of success.

So yes, it is in balance. The United States is going to play a greater role. And I mean, to tie this to my points about the Lisbon treaty and our desire to see a strong Europe, we would like to see a more balanced trans-Atlantic relationship develop over time.

But the reality is, the United States is going to do most of the effort, but it's going to do it alongside its close allies in an Alliance, and we think that's a very important thing.

DONFRIED: Let's pick up on your comments about the post-Lisbon institutions. And I think there is a real moment of opportunity in the trans-Atlantic relationship if we see an EU that is more effective, more efficient.

And I think everyone in this room who covers the EU was delighted to have this chapter be over, this period of treaty revision, and certainly that is to be celebrated.

Now, the interesting piece is when those institutions get married up with individuals. And much of the press coverage of the choices of Van Rompuy as president and Lady Ashton as high representative, whether appropriately or not, have been quite critical.

And I'm wondering how you see these two figures playing in the way the U.S. will engage Europe on foreign policy, specifically.

GORDON: It's a great question, because it's such an open question. You know, you used the expression, you know, now that this is finally over after 10 years. Of course, it's not over, it's actually just beginning, because the institutions, in a legal sense, it's over. We now know what treaty exists. But institutions, including our own, develop over time, they can be used in one way or another.

And you know, I hate to see it, but there remains some ambiguity over exactly how this is going to work.

What I want to say is -- and that's not in our hands. I mean, these are -- the Europeans will have to define how these institutions are going to work, and that's going to take some time. All we can do is show that we're ready to work with them and do so. And my point is that that's what we intend to do.

And we intend to do that for the reasons I gave, that we need a stronger Europe and a stronger European role. And if the Lisbon institutions can enable Europeans -- it's not going to be a cosmic leap from a divided Europe to a united Europe. But if it can be one more incremental step towards a Europe able to act together more efficiently and to have more of a global sense of its role in the world, that's a good thing.

And let's also say on the individuals, they weren't well-known to Americans or even American foreign policy experts when they were announced. But we see they seem to be extraordinarily capable people. And the fact that they weren't well-known doesn't mean that they won't quickly take advantage of these institutions and play a major role.

So it is an open question, but it's one that we think we can help be answered in a way that's going to help us and Europe.

DONFRIED: Do you have thoughts on whether there are concrete things the Obama administration can do to try to encourage the Europeans to play a larger role? You know, might we be able to encourage the EU to announce a civilian surge on Afghanistan? Or might President Obama visit Brussels and shake hands with the various pieces of the EU construction? I mean, do you have any specific thoughts on how we could be helpful?

GORDON: Yes, I think we can. I mean, I would say, historically, people often attribute too much to the Americans in terms of how the EU developed. We've all heard lots of Europeans blame the United States in one way or another for the lack of development. You know, every time we build bilaterally with close allies, we're not working with the EU, and it's our fault that the EU isn't more cohesive. And I've always believed that, to the degree that the EU comes together and it's a real partner, we deal with it, because that's what countries do. They deal with power, certainly in the area of trade, where the EU has been united for some time.

The entire world deals with the (commissioner in the EU ?) because they have power. And I think when Europeans are determined to do this that they'll do it and we'll work with it.

But let me say, it's our job to take away and pretext that it's the Americans who aren't supporting this. We are ready to do so. And we will work with these new institutions, because we want a strong, coherent partner. And I do think that the American engagement with Europe, it's not going to be the central factor in determining how much they come together, but if we can help that process along by engaging with it, we will.

And that's not to say, you know, there is not going to be an end to American bilateral ties with European countries. They're going to still have their differences, and they'll have their different types of relationships with us. But that doesn't need to be mutually inconsistent.

And we think there is only something to be gained and really nothing or very little to be lost in working more with the new EU institutions.

DONFRIED: I do want to come to the audience, but let me just ask you one more question which flows from our relationship with the EU. As you mentioned in your remarks, one area where we've worked very well together has been on Iran and trying to create an incentive structure to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

One of Iran's neighbors is a country that you know very well. It's not in the EU, it's knocking on the EU's door, and that is Turkey. And we've just had a visit from the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, and reportedly a key topic that he discussed with President Obama was indeed Iran.

And while Erdogan is saying he wants to be helpful on Iran, he's, of course, also on the record as having said he sees the Iranian nuclear program as being peaceful.

I wonder how you see a role for Turkey in helping on that issue. And also, how does Turkey's engagement on Iran speak to the debate we have about whether Turkey's turning to the East or turning to the West? And is that even the right way to think about Turkey? Or does Turkey want to be a bridge between those two?

GORDON: A good question that has been debated vigorously this week.

On the question of Iran and the nuclear program, we have a difference with Turkey on certain aspects of that. I don't think we have a core difference, because we are convinced that Turkey does not want to see Iran develop nuclear weapons, and we don't either. And so we have an exactly common interest in reaching that goal. And the Turks make it clear to us that they don't want to see Iran develop nuclear weapons.

You have noticed that the Turkey and the IAEA both last week abstained, whereas we and all of our P5 partners voted for a very critical IAEA resolution against Iran. And we have told Turkey we were disappointed with that result. We wanted to see more international cohesion in making clear that the international community is disappointed and frustrated with Iran's unwillingness to respond to our offers.

Turkey, I think, wants to play a mediating role. They believe that they have particular links and contacts with Iran that we don't have, and that it's important for them to be able to play that role. And if they had voted against Iran, maybe they couldn't play that mediating role anymore.

And what we have said is we welcome that type of role. If Turkey can talk to both sides, I think the Turks see themselves that way in the region. They've long had good ties with the Israel, but also the Arab world, and they can talk to both sides, and they've played a constructive role in that area.

We have said, that's fine, and please do help, but Iran needs to understand the message of the international community that there are consequences for not responding to what we think are generous offers of engagement.

So we do have a maybe it's a tactical difference with Turkey on that issue. And we've expressed it clearly to our Turkish friends, and we'll continue to work on the problem.

DONFRIED: Great. Thanks so much, Phil.

And I would like to now open it up. So please, the gentleman in the back. And what I'd like to ask you all to do is stand, tell us your name, your affiliation, and be as concise as you can so we can get in as many questions as possible. And the mike is coming.

QUESTIONER: Hi, Phil. I'm Barry Posen. I teach at MIT most of the time.

I'm interested in what kind of conversations the United States had with the Europeans as the president was developing this new strategy in Afghanistan. And in particular, since the standards for success in Afghanistan seem to be a little bit ambiguous, do we and the Europeans have the same understanding of how Afghanistan is meant to look 18 or 20 months for now, what we'll judge to be a success and what we'll judge to be less successful?

GORDON: On the type of engagement, it was significant. I mean, the Europeans knew that we were undergoing an Afghanistan review. And last March, the president announced a new strategy. That is actually the strategy that we're pursuing. But because there were elections coming up in Afghanistan, the president wanted to review what we were doing. That review was going to tee off in a way from the electoral results and help us move forward.

It was delayed by the election outcome. The intention was not to take as long as we did ultimately in conducting that review. The election came out in a way that we didn't expect, and it took some weeks to resolve exactly what it was going to be.

And we said all along to our European friends, we want to hear from you, you're involved as we are, so let's be talking about this. We sent a delegation out to NATO.

But we were internally reviewing the situation through the election and afterwards, knowing that we want international support, but also knowing that ultimately the United States, as Karen suggested earlier, was bearing the greatest burdens in Afghanistan and would continue to do so.

Once the president made his decision on the way forward -- and we signaled to Europeans very early on that this review was not a discussion of whether we should stay in Afghanistan or not. That was clear, but there were a lot of other details that had to be fleshed out.

We talked to the Europeans throughout. Once the president made his decision, we then went back to the Europeans before he announced it to the world, to share this with our closest allies, knowing that they would be deeply involved, and asking for their support moving forward.

And as I said, I'm delighted to say that pretty much unanimously we got it. They welcomed the approach and, in many cases, came forward with further resources, contributions to it.

Look, there were some critics who were saying the president was taking too long and should have gone to the world with a result of the review sooner. Our view and his view, and I think it has paid off, is that this was an important enough problem and a difficult enough problem that it was worth taking as much time as necessary to hear from everybody in order to come up with a way forward.

And now that it's there, I don't think anyone regrets the care that was put into figuring out how to move forward. Better to get the decision right than to have a quick decision.

Sorry to be so long, but you also asked about the standards for success. You know, that's a debate I think the American people are having as well. And I do think that, you know, we've had that conversation with the Europeans. We heard, I think, some American definitions of the standard of success in the testimony all week.

Nobody expects Afghanistan in 18 months or two years to be a flourishing democracy that doesn't need any international support. But the Europeans do agree that allowing it to revert to what it was before under Taliban leadership with a haven for al Qaeda is not an outcome that they're willing to accept, nor are we.

DONFRIED: Joe Annuck (ph) here in the third row. Joe, do you want to just -- and I've got six of you on my list, so I am -- as hands go up, I am trying to keep track.

GORDON: And I'll try to be short.

DONFRIED: Okay.

QUESTIONER: Thank you so much -- (inaudible).

You mentioned about differences with Russia. And Obama's administration mentioned before that one of these differences is Georgia. And the situation across the administratiive border becomes tougher and tougher, that's why I'm asking -- (inaudible) -- kidnapping by Russian soldiers for Georgian teenagers. How do you evaluate the situation across the administrative border of Georgia -- (inaudible) -- between U.S.-Russian relationship? Thank you so much.

GORDON: Thank you. You're right that we have a difference with the Russian government over Georgia. And that's a good example of how we can try to work constructively with Russia in areas we have common interests, but not hesitate to tell them and the world where we have or differences. And we tell them we have clear differences on Georgia.

They have recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia. We've made clear that we not only haven't done that, but we'll never do that, and we will expend significant efforts to make sure others don't do it either, even as Russia expends significant efforts in persuading others to do so.

And so far, Russia has not had success in doing that. And the vast majority of countries around the world, with only two exceptions, have not recognized and I think will not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries.

And we continue to push the Russians to allow humanitarian access into both regions and more of an NGO presence. We regret that the OSCE presence in South Ossetia was unable to stay, even though just about every member of the OSCE, except Russia, wanted it to stay.

We regret that UNOMIG wasn't able to stay in Abkhazia, because Russia insisted, having accepted Security Council resolutions that were status neutral, then decided that it could only accept a U.N. presence in Abkhazia if it implied recognition for Abkhazia, something that neither we nor the Georgian government were prepared to do.

So we have real differences over Georgia. We'll continue to raise them. We use the Geneva talks with the parties and the Russians as a forum for airing our concerns and trying to develop mechanisms to actually help the situation on the ground in those regions.

We also work closely with the Georgian government to help them understand our views that it is not going to be short-term or a military solution to this problem. The only way really to address it in the long run is for Georgia to continue to develop as a stable country, a more prosperous country and a more attractive country so that the people who live in South Ossetia and Abkhazia want to be part of Georgia. And we want to help the Georgian government do that.

DONFRIED: And I had tried Joe -- (inaudible). I know Joe has a Georgia connection, though, in the United States, not in Europe.

QUESTIONER: Joe Annuck (ph), congressional staff.

Is it possible to get the European nations to take a significant number of Guantanamo detainees, particularly since the United States is adamantly refusing to take any?

GORDON: Define "significant number." (Laughter.) A number of European countries have come forward to help. They asked the United States for some time to close Guantanamo, they criticized Guantanamo. President Obama came in, and on his first day in office said he intended to do so. And we asked for help in doing so.

And a number of European countries have stepped up, and more and more do with each passing week. My predecessor, Dan Fried, is doing great work and expending his considerable energies working on this subject. And again, with each passing, you know, week or two we get another country to step up.

It's difficult. They want to see the dossiers, they want to examine them. It's not easy for them either, but we're pleased that a number of them want to do it. And we think that this is part of the cooperation we're talking about, that, you know, that's what friends and allies do for each other. When there's a common problem that we have, you do what you can to help the other. And we're pleased that so many countries have agreed to do so.

You made a reference to what we are doing. Look, we know and we acknowledge that it's harder for us when we're not taking any ourselves. It's hard for Dan Fried to show up in Europe and say, please help us do this, but, by the way, we're not prepared to do so. The administration is working with Congress on that so that maybe it's a little bit easier to persuade others to do it. But we're nonetheless pleased that so many are doing so, even under difficult circumstances.

DONFRIED: If I can just quickly follow up. So is it worth the political capital it takes? I mean, how we define significant number, most of these detainees are not going to end up in Europe. And the Hungarian prime minister was here last week, and in a conversation was asked, what was the hardest decision you've had to make? It was taking one Guantanamo detainee.

Is this the most important ask for us of our European allies?

GORDON: You know, that's a good question, Karen. You know, is this the most important? If it really displaced other asks, then maybe not. I mean, you wouldn't want to subordinate all other areas of cooperation to place a detainee somewhere.

That said, you know, if each member of the European Union took three or four detainees, which is not hard in countries over 30 (million), 40 (million) or 50 million people -- if they each took three or four, we'd have 100 detainees placed, and we would deal with a significant chunk of the problem.

So we don't think it's necessarily that difficult if the burden is shared. That's precisely what this discussion is about, you can spread the burden. I mean, I don't know what the overall EU population is, but in a population of several hundred million, to place, you know, couple of dozen detainees shouldn't be impossible.

DONFRIED: We had a question right here in the front row with Cory Shockey (ph).

QUESTIONER: Cory Shockey (ph) from the Hoover Institution.

So I wonder where the new German government's commitment to tactical nuclear weapons elimination in Europe comes on your priority list of things NATO ought to handle in the next several years.

GORDON: Cory (ph) is referring to the position of the new German foreign minister, who has long publicly argued that Germany should be free of any tactical nuclear weapon.

All I have to say about that is, any NATO nuclear discussion should take place in NATO and collectively, and that this is really not the type of issue that lends itself to national or unilateral decisions.

So if any of our allies want to raise such subjects with us, we hope that they do that in the NATO context.

DONFRIED: Great. There was a gentleman here -- yes, I see your hand.

QUESTIONER: Thanks. My name is Ralston Deffenbaugh.

I'm curious about how you respond when the Europeans raise human rights issues with us, whether it be Guantanamo or the death penalty or detention of asylum seekers or other things.

GORDON: Well, I guess my first response would be that has not been at the top of their list of issues to raise with us. That is not something we're used to where they come in and are lobbying on that subject. And that may be a reflection of the fact that we think we're doing pretty well on that score. As I said, the president coming in and pledging to close Guantanamo, making clear that we don't torture, making clear that we don't have any secret prisons. Maybe because of this approach that President Obama has taken, it is not, you know, a major agenda item for the Europeans who come to see us.

DONFRIED: And Avis, did I see your hand? I saw a hand coming from that corner. (Laughs.)

QUESTIONER: Avis Bolan (ph) Hi, Phil. I wanted to ask a little bit further about Afghanistan. You said in your remarks that we share, the Europeans share our assessment of what is at stake in Afghanistan. Maybe those weren't your exact words, but that was certainly the sense of it.

And I have to say, it would be very easy to get another impression from reading the press and so on. And of course, 7,000 is an impressive number, but some of those are already in Afghanistan, if I'm not mistaken. And I think the most telling indication is that the French and the Germans would say that they would want to wait until January to decide the number is one thing, but they didn't come out saying, yes, we're going to be there, you can count on us.

And are we really looking at something where the Europeans and ourselves see eye to eye? Or is it something, they don't want us to fail, they don't want Obama to fail, a familiar scenario of us going to NATO to persuade them to do something they're not really very keen to do?

GORDON: That's a fair question, and I should be careful in distinguishing, in part, between governments and populations when I talk about Europeans sharing our view and understanding that they're as much at threat from terrorism coming out of Afghanistan as us.

I do think that's an accurate statement where European governments are concerned. I think you're right that it is less globally true where European publics are concerned. Just look at public opinion polls, and there are a lot of skeptical Europeans about whether they need to be there and whether we need to be there.

I do think it's an objective fact that they are as much at threat from terrorism emanating from Afghanistan as we are. I mean, look at, you know, London and Madrid. And I do think the European governments we deal with recognize that. So their pledges, their support, their commitment stems, in part, as you suggest, from their desire to help the Obama administration and be close to the Americans. No doubt, that's a part of the motivation.

And also, a significant part is their concurrence that they have a stake there. You know, thinking about it and going back to Barry's question and the issue of making this decision, because we were talking to Europeans as the process was going on, and they had every opportunity to weigh in. Never did they come to us in private and say, you know what, we hope the president pulls out, because we just don't have a stake in this, you know. We'll do this if you do it, but we just don't see why we should be there.

They didn't do that, and I genuinely think they didn't believe that. They were, in some ways, motivated, reassured that the president said, you know, he's looked at it, he's studied it, he's decided that we have to succeed. And the only way to do that was more resources, and they've come forward with those resources.

Just to clarify on the numbers, because you raised it. Most of the 7,000 are new commitments. But yes, some of it are troops that went in for election support, were supposed to leave, and then their governments agreed that they could stay. So they are troops that otherwise wouldn't have been there next year that will be there next year.

DONFRIED: And I know you in the blue sweater here had a question.

QUESTIONER: (Name and affiliation inaudible.)

You also asked, your government also asked Turkey to provide combat troops in Afghanistan. And as you know very well, the prime minister was here a couple of days ago. What was his response, and are you satisfied with it?

GORDON: Well, I won't talk about specific questions that were asked of different governments to do, but I will say that Turkey is already playing a significant role in Afghanistan. Turkey is, again, taking over the command role in Kabul, which is something that Turkey did at the very beginning of ISAF when we needed another lead nation to command. We are very grateful for that support from Turkey.

Beyond the question of troops, which we all focus on too much, Turkey and the United States, I think it's fair to say, have a sort of special cooperative relationship in Afghanistan. It's something special representative Holbrooke cares deeply about and initiated.

And a few months ago, a major Turkish delegation came to Washington to meet with our Afghan experts, to talk about and think through ways to better help in Afghanistan. And that visit was reciprocated by an American delegation that was in Ankara as Secretary Clinton was in Brussels last week, to further develop this. Turkey has a long historical and cultural interest in Afghanistan and significant expertise. And the cooperation between the United States and Turkey on Afghanistan is excellent.

DONFRIED: And I had the two gentlemen here on the end, the first row.

QUESTIONER: Bob Lieber, Georgetown.

Hi, Phil.

GORDON: Hi, Bob.

QUESTIONER: On Iran, the logic of the administration's position has been to reach out to Tehran with an open hand, if it's rebuffed, in other words, there's no progress on what is clearly Iran's deliberate intention to develop a military nuclear capacity, then to move perhaps by the end of the year for much tougher sanctions.

My question is whether the key European players will go along with a really significant change, that is, far tough sanctions, which would mean, for example, for Germany, differences about trade policy. What sort of cooperation do you see in the works from the European side?

GORDON: You know, we'll see. I've been working on this issue for a long time, as I know you have. And I think there is a different tone and tenor to the debate than there used to be. Depending on how many years back you want to go, it really used to be the Americans saying, we might have to get tough on Iran. Not just saying it, but passing Iran-Libya Sanctions Act and so on, and Europeans and, yes, Germans saying, well, you know, sanctions don't work, we have trade interests and really need to think that through.

The debate is not like that anymore. There are still questions about sanctions, and there's still some economic interest, although rapidly diminishing. Governmental loan guarantees and big energy companies investing in Iran is really diminishing as is European cooperation with Iranian banks. So it's diminishing, and the conversation is very different.

And I do think you'll see, if we get to the point where we need to move to further sanctions -- and as you suggested, President Obama said, if we don't see movement by the end of the year, it looks like it's going to be time to look at such measures and consequences -- I do think we'll see significant European support for that.

The European Foreign Affairs Council did a statement on Iran yesterday that was pretty clear on the subject. The Europeans voted, as we did, at the IAEA on Thanksgiving. And you'll see the General Affairs Council tomorrow as well, the statement on Iran. And I have a feeling they'll make quite clear that, like us, they expect to see Iran taking up the offers of engagement. And if Iran fails to do so, there will be consequences for that.

QUESTIONER: David Kramer with German Marshall Fund.

Phil, I wanted to actually piggyback on the question just asked. Do you think Russia will be onboard if we need to go to sanctions? They did vote for the IAEA resolution, but then the minister of Energy days later went to Iran to engage in what seemed to be business as usual.

If I could, though, that question prompted that follow up, but I wanted to ask you also about Medvedev's proposal on European security treaty unveiled on November 29th. What is the U.S. reaction to that? Are you engaging with the European allies on how to respond? Are you taking it seriously, or is this viewed as a gambit by Russia to try to split the Alliance? Thanks.

GORDON: Sure. On the first, you know, it's harder to be categorical about what the Russians might do. Their statements are different from most of the EU statements. Their relations with Iran are different.

But we are encouraged by what the Russians have been saying lately on Iran, what President Medvedev has said at certain points. And as you say, their vote at the IAEA was a signal that they, too, are -- how to put it -- frustrated with Iran's behavior. And I am convinced that they don't want to see Iran get a nuclear weapon either.

So on that, I would also say that the tone of the discussion has changed, but I don't want to get into the business of predicting, you know, whether Russia will support this or that. But I do think it is accurate to say that Russia is also disappointed with Iran's behavior. And I think we have a real shot at working together with them on the approach going forward.

The idea of a European security treaty, the Russians having brought it up over a year ago, finally produced that treaty and gave it to us last week. And we had an opportunity to address it at the (OSCE ?) ministerial, because they sent it to us just before the (OSCE ?) ministerial -- (inaudible) -- and we said that we are and we'll always remain open to ideas about European security. Goodness knows, it's imperfect, and if they have ideas, we're happy to discuss them.

We do have this core -- (inaudible) -- process within the OSCE which is the place we want to talk about European security, including institutions. We think there are already some good institutions, including the OSCE and NATO. We think there are already some pretty good principles for European security, including those enshrined in the Helsinki final act, and we're not sure that we need new principles. What we need to do is implement the ones we have, like non-use of force and respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, peaceful relations among countries.

So we said we're prepared to study the Russian ideas, but we think that the discussion needs to remain in the OSCE and that we should respect the institutions and principles that are already there.

And we will continue to do that, I think, in terms of our discussion with allies. We're also talking to allies about this. And it's fair to say that there wasn't a huge amount of enthusiasm at the OSCE for the idea of developing a new treaty on European security.

DONFRIED: John, here in the second row.

QUESTIONER: John Negroponte.

Hi, Phil.

My question sort of segues into what you just talked about. Would you care to share with us your reflections on NATO expansion at this juncture?

GORDON: Sure. We think, you know, looking backwards, that NATO expansion has contributed to the more stable, prosperous Europe that I alluded to and said was a great achievement for U.S. foreign policy and something that administrations for years had pursued, and we believe that to be the case.

And therefore, we believe the doors should remain open, and that process should continue when countries are ready.

Again, looking back, I think, you know, the fall-of-the-Berlin-Wall ceremonies were a good chance to do that. And you look at today, Poland and Hungary and the Czech Republic and Slovakia and the Baltic States, and you see them as NATO members, and you see how stable they are, you know, I think if you ask yourself, what if we had not enlarged NATO and they were still not allies, it just wouldn't make any sense. They are allies, they're good allies, they help us in Afghanistan and elsewhere. And I think it was the right thing to do. And so the door should remain open.

At the NATO ministerial, allies agreed to give a membership action plan to Montenegro, because it was ready, and because it's a sign further that when you're ready you can have a membership action plan. And when you do the right things, that ultimately you can become a NATO member.

With Bosnia, our allies said that when Bosnia has made the requisite political reforms, it should also get a membership action plan.

And we had meetings of the NATO-Ukraine and the NATO-Georgia commissions, because allies weren't ready to give them membership action plans, but they did set up commissions as their mechanisms for engaging with the Alliance.

So I think that process is healthy. It's under way. And with years of practice, we've gotten to the point that, you know, we know what we're doing. And it should be an incentive for those countries in the Western Balkans and elsewhere, Eastern Europe, to continue with their reforms so that they can stay on this towards Euro-Atlantic institutions.

And I just think that that has been a bipartisan consensus in U.S. foreign policy over the past 20 years or so, and we're going to continue to pursue it.

DONFRIED: We have time for one last question. I have about seven of you on my life. And this is just the way I happened to see people. But the last question goes to the woman here in the third row.

And I'll just remind everyone, this is on the record.

I know, you feel very flattered. (Laughs.) And I really apologize. There are close friends who are among these seven people on the list, so I am sorry. But please, go ahead.

QUESTIONER: Hi. My name is Reba Caruz (ph).

I just wanted to close with, once again, a good thank you to both of you for an excellent program. I'm just curious about what the future holds for trans-Atlantic policy and (normative ?) cooperation in the multilateral system.

President Barroso has stated that human rights, global financial market regulation and climate change are three priority areas for strengthening capacity building and policy regulatory and national policy harmonization and industry standards. And I was just curious where you see trans-Atlantic cooperation in terms of regulatory cooperation, industry standards and strengthening the multilateral system going. Thank you.

GORDON: Well, thank you. Your question allows me to end where I began, which is the notion that we know -- not just we, the administration -- but I think we Americans know that we can't deal with these things alone. And we need to cooperate multilaterally, both institutions and directly with countries, on all the problems I've been talking about and the challenges that you were talking about.

And that doesn't mean that we give up, you know, American national interests or American decision-making, but it does mean that we need institutions and partners as we try to tackle what is really a daunting international agenda.

DONFRIED: Well, when you misspoke and said shackle instead of tackle, I thought this was probably indicative of how you feel your days are, which makes us all the more grateful that you took time this evening to be with us and share your thoughts and help us understand the administration's policy on Europe. We really appreciate it.

And I would like to ask all of you to join me in thanking Phil. (Applause.)

(C) COPYRIGHT 2009, FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC., 1000 VERMONT AVE.

NW; 5TH FLOOR; WASHINGTON, DC - 20005, USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. ANY REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.

UNAUTHORIZED REPRODUCTION, REDISTRIBUTION OR RETRANSMISSION CONSTITUTES A MISAPPROPRIATION UNDER APPLICABLE UNFAIR COMPETITION LAW, AND FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. RESERVES THE RIGHT TO PURSUE ALL REMEDIES AVAILABLE TO IT IN RESPECT TO SUCH MISAPPROPRIATION.

FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, INC. IS A PRIVATE FIRM AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. NO COPYRIGHT IS CLAIMED AS TO ANY PART OF THE ORIGINAL WORK PREPARED BY A UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE AS PART OF THAT PERSON'S OFFICIAL DUTIES.

FOR INFORMATION ON SUBSCRIBING TO FNS, PLEASE CALL CARINA NYBERG AT 202-347-1400.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.

-------------------------

More on This Topic