Renewing our commitment to our values and to the Transatlantic relationship
/ By Maureen Cormack, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, United States Department of State
This article was originally published as part of the 2021 edition of Bled Strategic Times, the official gazette of the Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) international conference. You can access the full version of this and other BSF publications by visiting our official website.
As nations around the world mourn the tragic loss of life and continue to cope with the devastating personal, societal, and economic effects of Covid-19, it is important to take this moment to reflect on our recent history, assess who we are, and determine our future. As a leading platform for global strategic dialogue, the Bled Strategic Forum offers us the opportunity to discuss these and other defining issues of our time.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the dissolution of the USSR, which followed two years after the citizens of Central and Eastern Europe in 1989 peacefully escaped Soviet oppression. An historic and celebratory era followed, as these countries and their citizens embraced their independence with newfound hope and renewed appreciation for the importance of democratic governance, the protection of human rights, civic action, and fundamental freedoms. However, decades of stifling communist tyranny and deprivation created obstacles to reform and progress for newly sovereign nations as they navigated their paths out from behind the Iron Curtain. The United States stood shoulder to shoulder with these countries, expanding and strengthening the Transatlantic Alliance through aid, investment, security cooperation, and people-to-people ties. Perseverance and partnerships led to tremendous democratic, economic, and security progress. The benefits of democracy and the Transatlantic partnership are undeniable, and the United States continues to work to strengthen our relations with Allies and partners in Europe.
Yet, Russia seeks to undermine the progress all have made. It spreads disinformation in order to rewrite this historical success story, obscuring the Soviet regime’s crimes and despotism, denying the sacrifices of many in the struggle for freedom, and denigrating the benefits of the Western alliances. Russia has flouted international agreements and acted with impunity as it has denied its actions and intentions on many fronts including its attempted annexation of Crimea and aggression in Eastern Ukraine.
The benefits of democracy and the Transatlantic partnership are undeniable, and the United States continues to work to strengthen our relations with Allies and partners in Europe.
In addition, we see a strategic competition in ideology. Disinformation campaigns and election interference efforts by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Russia are attempts to undermine democratic institutions. Our way of life is under threat.
Against this backdrop, it is imperative that we renew our commitment to our values and to the Transatlantic relationship. At the heart of our relationship are our shared democratic values to protect human rights, strengthen the rule of law, secure free and fair elections, support freedom of the press, root out corruption, protect a robust civil society, and ensure our governments are responsive to the will and needs of our peoples. This is who we are.
The United States is rising to this critical challenge. Throughout June, President Biden met with European leaders to actively renew ties with our Allies and partners. President Biden’s engagements underscore the US commitment to revitalize and raise the level of ambition in our relationships with Europe. During the NATO summit, Allies agreed on an ambitious NATO 2030 agenda to adapt the Alliance to the threats of today and tomorrow, and to increase funding, as needed. Active security and defense cooperation will contribute to the recovery of our connected economies.
And at the US-EU summit, Presidents Biden, von der Leyen, and Michel underscored a commitment to rejuvenate and expand the US-EU relationship. The establishment of a Trade and Technology Council (TTC) kickstarts a positive US-EU economic agenda that will further grow our trade and investment relationship and shape the future of the world economy.
We believe the TTC can demonstrate how democratic approaches to trade, technology, and innovation can improve the lives of our citizens and counter authoritarian influence in the digital realm. The Summit reaffirmed our commitment to the USEU Energy Council, created a High-Level Action Group on the climate crisis, and set the stage for a Transatlantic Green Technology Alliance that will foster cooperation on the development and deployment of green technologies, as well as promote markets to scale such technologies. The G7, NATO, and US-EU summits highlighted the concern among the world’s democracies about the PRC.
The G7 communiqué explicitly mentions the PRC regarding Covid-19 origins, protection of human rights, and a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Member states agreed to revise NATO’s Strategic Concept to include analysis on the PRC. In the US-EU Summit joint statement, the United States and the EU espoused a “multifaceted” approach to the PRC, which includes elements of “cooperation, competition, and systemic rivalry,” explicitly mentioning human rights issues in Hong Kong and Xinjiang and peace in the Taiwan Strait. These actions demonstrate our commitment to imposing additional costs on the PRC for engaging in cruel and inhumane forced labor practices and ensuring that Beijing plays by the rules of fair trade as part of the rules-based international order.
We do this because we believe — and history has shown — that when democracies work together they can tackle the toughest challenges and secure our future; the United States is committed to leading with strength, defending our values, and delivering for our people.
But we all recognize that we stand at an “inflection point” where democracies and the values that underpin them are under pressure in Europe and in other parts of the world.
We are deeply concerned about recent developments that have eroded space for the media and civil society, curtailed the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms of LGBTQI+ persons, hindered restitution efforts, and undermined judicial independence. We must not backtrack on the progress we have made over the past 30 years. We urge governments to demonstrate, both in words and actions, their commitment to these values that have delivered so much for our peoples.
But most urgently, we are working to protect our peoples and secure a global economic recovery.
The United States has already donated and shipped more than 110 million Covid-19 vaccine doses that are saving lives in more than 60 countries around the world. This is in addition to the personal protective equipment, diagnostics, therapeutics and oxygen, cold-chain support, and other aid we have provided to support the international response. And this is just the beginning of our efforts to provide vaccines to the world. In addition to making doses available from the US domestic supply President Biden announced in June that the United States will provide 500 million Pfizer doses to Gavi for distribution via COVAX to 92 low- and middle-income economies and eight additional African Union countries. Further, the United States, through the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), continues to invest in efforts to expand production capacity for safe and effective vaccines in regions across the globe, including in Africa, and through the Quad partnership. We are working with our partners and Allies to improve pandemic surveillance and detection, and to support vaccine readiness within countries. We believe these measures will not only bring this pandemic to a quicker end, but advance global health security to prevent future pandemics. We are taking these actions with the singular objective of saving lives and bringing an end to the acute suffering this pandemic has caused.
We believe the TTC can demonstrate how democratic approaches to trade, technology, and innovation can improve the lives of our citizens and counter authoritarian influence in the digital realm.
As we look toward the future, President Biden has sent a clear message to the world: the United States seeks to revitalize and raise the level of ambition in our relationships with our Allies and partners to meet the challenges of our time. Raising the level of ambition means broadening and strengthening our cooperation on shared concerns and challenges, especially with our European partners, knowing this is the time to think big. What we do in the next year, what we do now, will set the course for our next 30 years, so it is imperative we seize the moment. As we emerge from the pandemic, we must take the opportunity to “build back better.” At the G7 Leaders’ Summit held June 11–13 in Cornwall, UK, President Biden and other leaders launched the “Build Back Better World”, or B3W, initiative. B3W will generate hundreds of billions of dollars of public and private infrastructure investments in sustainable projects driven by good governance, transparency, and strong standards that are aligned with moving toward a net-zero economy by 2050 and working to limit any increase in temperature to 1.5°C.
The Three Seas Initiative, or 3SI, will also contribute to economic growth and recovery. As President Biden stated, the Three Seas Initiative offers “incredible potential for increasing cooperation and connectivity … that will enhance the security and prosperity of this region and quite frankly benefit the world. The United States will be your unfailing partner at every step.” This European-led initiative illustrates the power of regional neighbors seeking connectivity to strengthen themselves and build resilience through development of the energy, digital and transportation infrastructures, and enhancement of anti-corruption measures.
Multilateralism can produce results for workers and businesses, as momentum in the recent international tax negotiations demonstrates. 133 countries on all continents and of varying sizes, representing over 90 percent of global GDP, have recognized that the current global minimum tax rate functionally set to zero has undermined their ability to raise the revenue needed to make critical investments and combat crises like the global pandemic. We look forward to working with our partners to level the playing field in the coming months for businesses and improve fairness for the middle class around the world.
While growing our economies, we must also defend our democracies. President Biden announced on August 11 that in December he will bring together leaders from a diverse group of the world’s established and emerging democracies to a virtual Summit for Democracy, to be followed in roughly a year’s time by a second, in-person Summit. The virtual Summit to take place this December will galvanize commitments and initiatives across three principal themes: defending against authoritarianism; fighting corruption; and promoting respect for human rights both at home and abroad.
The United States will continue rallying the world in promoting democracy and prevailing over the global pandemic to accelerate a global economic recovery. By remembering our history and how far we have come and by defining our values, we can set a course to a more healthy, secure, and prosperous future.