European Affairs

The Transatlantic partnership has been the anchor of that success. Have we accomplished everything? No. Are there great challenges ahead? Yes. Has the partnership been perfect? No. Is it flawed? Yes. But so too is every other institution. Our challenge is to strengthen that partnership in ways that will make it more relevant and more important than at any time since the great leaders of the 20th century formed the Atlantic relationship after World War II.

The following is an extract from an op-ed article on Marshall's visit to Oslo by General Andrew Goodpaster, a former U.S. Supreme Commander in Europe, recently published in the New York Times:

"Military strength was essential to winning World War II, Marshall knew that, and in keeping order afterward. But he also knew that it alone could not bring peace. 'The maintenance of peace in the present hazardous world situation does depend in very large measure on military power, together with allied cohesion,' he said in Oslo. 'But the maintenance of large armies for an indefinite period is not a practical or a promising basis for [a] policy. [In fact it is not a policy.] We must stand together strongly for these present years . . . but we must, I repeat, [we] must find another solution.'

"Marshall's proposed solution, of course, was the Marshall Plan, outlined in another famous speech five-and-a-half years earlier, when Marshall was Secretary of State. Surveying the European landscape of privation, need and unrest, he saw that a viable foreign policy for the United States required coordinated collective action. Peace and security, economic prosperity and stable democracy were interdependent. In this situation, the recovery of Europe was of vital importance. It was for this vision of collective action toward a common goal and shared purpose that he received the Nobel Prize.

'Tyranny,' Marshall said, 'inevitably must retire before the tremendous moral strength of the gospel of freedom and self-respect for the individual. But we have to recognize that these democratic principles do not flourish on empty stomachs and that people turn to false promises of dictators because they are hopeless and anything promises something better than the miserable existence that they endure.'"

Marshall's words are as relevant and important today as they were 50 years ago. It is the common challenge of the Transatlantic alliance to do exactly what Marshall said we must do, and the great emerging leaders of Europe at the time also understood that.

This has been a difficult year for the Transatlantic alliance. But, we have experienced other difficult times: the Suez crisis, the Vietnam War, the arguments over the deployment of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe during the Reagan Administration and other challenges that have confronted the partnership. And the strength of common purpose, common objectives, common interests and common challenges has always kept the alliance together. That will also be so with the challenges that face the world today.

If we are to succeed in confronting the new challenges of the 21st century - terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and endemic health and poverty problems - then we shall require a seamless network of relationships. Those relationships must cover intelligence sharing and gathering, economic development, jobs, trade, social and humanitarian relationships, as well as the kind of strong military force structures that NATO has maintained over the last fifty years. But NATO always has been, and still is, subject to civilian governmental control and to the geopolitical and foreign policy interests of its member nations, as it should be.

What I suspect has frightened some American policy makers over the last three to five years is a development that I believe has been positive. The European Union has become stronger. Javier Solana's relatively new position in the European Union as High Representative for foreign and security policies has developed and is still developing. Some say it could be a challenge to NATO, to the Transatlantic relationship. But I prefer not to see it that way.

The strength of Europe is woven into the fabric of the strength of America. The Europeans are very much dependent on the strength of America, as we are on the Europeans. This is not, in a term that has become popular in recent years, a "zero-sum game." The great, wise leaders of the post-World War II era understood that. When the Europeans win, the Americans win.

Yes there is competition, and, yes, there are differences between the two sides of the Atlantic. There will always be, and there should be. There certainly are differences within the European Union. Sovereign nations are sovereign nations. Nations respond in their own interests. But their own interests are ultimately very much the same as the common interests of the alliance - stability, security and prosperity in the world.

These great threats that we face today will not be met by, or overcome by one nation; and probably not by one partnership. If there is one overwhelming goal for the United States over these next few years it is working with our Transatlantic partners to redefine a relevant alliance based on the challenges that we face, the common interests that we have and the common solutions that we will together bring forward.

What is as dangerous as anything on either side is the concept of "Old Europe" versus "New Europe," the idea that a new, emerging, dynamic Europe is competing with a sagging, old, tired Europe. Some Americans might think that such a division inside Europe is in America's interest. It is not. It is not in Europe's interest, and it is not in America's interest for such talk to continue.

Europe and the United States can ill afford any kind of split in Europe. That is why the European Union is so important. That is why NATO is so important. That is why the Transatlantic relationship is so important, because if our partnership stays steady, strong and focused, then we shall succeed in confronting these great challenges that face mankind. And I don't believe I overstate it when I say "mankind."

There is very little margin of error left in the world today. Many who have served in World War II, in Korea or in Vietnam know something about war. They also know an awful lot about foreign policy, and geopolitical and intelligence interests, and they understand the stakes are immense. They understand how different the world looked fifty years ago, in the technology of weaponry and in the speed of telecommunications and transportation.

Today, everything is instantaneous. Six and a half billion people are interconnected, woven into the same fabric. We cannot disconnect, even if we wanted to. If we crack the very base of the one vital partnership that has done so much for this world, we will crack mankind. I believe it is that important. Because if you crack the Transatlantic partnership, what do you replace it with?

Now, for the United States it is critically important that we get our relationships with China and Russia right over the next few years. That is a challenge for the Europeans, but it is a critical challenge for the United States. But those new relationships will not be born out of an independent, parochial, agenda in Washington that is separate from the Transatlantic partnership.

As for our common challenges in the Middle East, we know that this is a very complicated, unpredictable, dangerous part of the world. As President George W. Bush and the leaders of Europe have said, this is a long term effort. It will require a commitment from all of us to deal with these challenges, like few commitments we have ever had to make, certainly since World War II. Our strategies will be imperfect and fraught with risk. There are no good options. We shall continue to make mistakes. But I believe that we shall succeed if we learn from past experiences, our own and those of other nations.

We must focus on the underlying causes of radicalism and fundamentalism, and turn our attention to the desperate and the hopeless of the world, just as George Marshall pointed out in 1953. That does not mean adopting policies at the expense of, or at the exclusion of our military might and our security and our force structure. But if we are not able to put far more effort into addressing the underlying causes of fundamentalism and radicalism, then we will not be successful. And my two young children will inherit a far more dangerous world than I inherited and every previous generation of Americans inherited.

The fabric of our nations, our people, our culture, bound together in this great journey, is strong enough to respond to the challenge with the wisdom and the vision, and the commitment and the leadership, that will be required. It will not be easy. Occasionally we may reach too far. But that is all part of this magnificent opportunity to do more good for more people than any nation, any partnership in the history of man. That opportunity is within our grasp.

I believe that we will respond in the same way as our great leaders who came together after World War II and understood some basic fundamentals. They understood that we would have to do something new and different and creative if we were to prevent the second half of the 20th century from being like its terrible first half. And that was how our magnificent Transatlantic partnership was born.

The United Nations would not have been born without the European-United States partnership. Bretton Woods produced the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which we now know as the World Trade Organization, and dozens of multilateral coalitions of common interests, all for the same aim - not for a single nation, but for a single purpose. That was the great wisdom, and leadership that came out of the ruins of World War II. We now embark on a similar time in history. It is our turn. And we cannot fail the world.

We are living through one of the most defining, historical times in the history of man. And we have the great privilege of being part of it. We all participate in our own ways, and hopefully contribute to making a better world. But, we should never forget, or become so consumed with the immediacy of the challenge, that we do not step back and understand the immensity of the dynamic of opportunity. We live in a time which rarely comes to generations - to essentially recreate and redefine the world to make it better.

Chuck Hagel is the Senior Senator from Nebraska. In his second term of office, he is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee; the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee; and the Select Committee on Intelligence. He is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations International Economic Policy, Export and Trade Promotion Subcommittee and the Senate Banking International Trade and Finance Subcommittee. He also serves as the Co-chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. This article is based on remarks made by Senator Hagel upon receiving The European Institute's Transatlantic Leadership Award on December 16, 2003.


This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number V, Issue number I in the Winter of 2004.