The United States is taking a new approach to a host of emerging global challenges, but friends and allies such as Europe must shoulder their share of the burden, says President Obama, making the case for renewed trans-Atlantic ties.
“America is changing, but it cannot be America alone that changes,” Obama told thousands of students and local residents who packed the Rhenus Sports Arena in Strasbourg, France, for an April 3 town hall-style meeting. “Together, we must forge common solutions to our common problems.”
Speaking on the eve of NATO’s 60th Anniversary Summit, Obama hailed the alliance’s role in promoting peace and prosperity in today’s Europe.
“We ensured our shared security when 12 of our nations signed a treaty in Washington that spelled out a simple agreement: An attack on one would be viewed as an attack on all,” Obama said. “This alliance would prevent the Iron Curtain from descending on the free nations of Western Europe. It would lead eventually to the crumbling of a wall in Berlin and the end of the communist threat. Two decades later, with 28 member nations that stretch from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, NATO remains the strongest alliance that the world has ever known.”
Renewing ties between Europe and the United States must start by honestly addressing increasingly pessimistic attitudes on both sides of the Atlantic toward the relationship in recent years, Obama said.
“There have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive,” Obama said. “But in Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious. Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what’s bad.”
Renewed resolve is more essential than ever, Obama said, as the world faces an increasingly serious challenge in Afghanistan and the Pakistan border region, where terrorists have found safe haven to continue planning new attacks on the United States and Europe. The White House comes to the summit seeking support for its new strategy to help Afghans secure and rebuild their country, but it will take an increased civilian and military commitment from the entire alliance.
“It can’t just be a military strategy, and we will be partnering with Europe on the development side and on the diplomatic side,” Obama said. “But there will be a military component to it. And Europe should not simply expect the United States to shoulder that burden alone. We should not, because this is a joint problem, and it requires joint effort.”
In an increasingly interdependent world, security is more complex than military power, Obama said, and nations face complex new challenges, such as the current global financial crisis. Obama joined leaders from the world’s most powerful economies in London April 1–2. They collectively pledged $1.1 trillion to restore credit, economic growth and jobs in the world economy.
“We can’t give up on open markets, even as we work to ensure that trade is both free and fair,” Obama said. “We cannot forget how many millions that trade has lifted out of poverty and into the middle class.”
As the world approaches the road to recovery, Obama urged nations to join in efforts to implement new banking regulatory reforms, resist protectionism and take action to deliver aid and development support to help countries ease the negative impacts of globalization.
“It’s not just charity. It’s a matter of understanding that our fates are tied together, not just the fates of Europe and America, but the fate of the entire world,” Obama said.
Obama praised Europe’s leadership for addressing the threat of global climate change and pledged that his administration would step up its engagement on energy and environmental issues.
“Time is running out. And that means that America must do more. Europe must do more. China and India must do more,” Obama said.
Nuclear proliferation poses yet another shared threat, Obama said, highlighting his administration’s new arms control initiatives with Russia and previewing his April 5 speech in Prague, Czech Republic, in which he will set out his plan to move toward the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons.
“Without a doubt, there’s no corner of the globe that can wall itself off from the threats of the 21st century,” Obama said. “The only way forward is through a common and persistent effort to combat fear and want wherever they exist. That is the challenge of our time, and we cannot fail to meet it together.