United States Diplomatic Mission to Germany: Ambassador Philip D. Murphy to "The Global Dimension of the German-American Partnership" -at "Politisches Forum Ruhr, Essen," January 24, 2011
Building Bridges in the 21st Century:
The Global Dimension of the German-American Partnership
Politisches Forum Ruhr, Essen, January 24, 2011
Ambassador Philip D. Murphy
The Global Dimension of the German-American Partnership
Politisches Forum Ruhr, Essen, January 24, 2011
Ambassador Philip D. Murphy
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for the invitation to speak with you here at the beautiful Philharmonie in Essen. I know that the Politische Forum Ruhr has established a reputation both here in the Ruhr area and beyond. You have have continued success in attracting outstanding figures from the areas of politics, the economy, and research and science to Essen. I am honored to be part of this wonderful tradition.
This is a wonderful way to start off the New Year -- with a discussion of the global role of the German-American partnership. I am overwhelmed but also extremely pleased by the large turnout – pleased because it shows that our partnership is important to you.
I would like to thank the Signum Quartett for ist wonderful performance of the Italian Serenade and variations on the theme of Cole Porter’s „Let’s Do It.“ The title is very appropriate because we face a range of important and urgent challenges that demand our attention. Our discusssion today of issues and strategies and solutions, then it is indeed a symbol that we are in the middle of „Let’s Do It.“
The issues we face are complex and of crucial importance both to the national interests of our two countries and the greater interests of the global community as a whole. From the dangers of weapons of mass destruction, from economic insecurity to climate change, from failed and failing states to the challenges of emergent and resurgent powers, there is no shortage of difficult and complex issues before us. In fact, it’s easy to think that no generation has ever faced greater challenges, but the fact is – and as any follower of contemporary history knows – every generation has had its share of intractable problems and dilemmas, its piece of dangerous foreign policy terrain to cover, and also its share of genuine opportunities. This era is no different. The issues have changed but one thing that has not changed is the value of effective partnerships between countries – such as, for example, the German-American relationship. Since I arrived in Germany some 18 months ago, I have spent a lot of time talking to German students about their perspectives on the past, the present and the future of our partnership.
I always hope that those twenty-year olds come away from the discussion as convinced as I am that the German-American relationship has never been more vital, or more needed. I say this often, but repetition does not weaken the essential truth: our partnership has grown over the past seventy years from adversaries, to occupiers, to rebuilders, to true partners "auf augenhöhe." This was made possible because of the hard work of several generations of Germans and Americans: students, artists, academics, diplomats, businesspeople and government leaders, all of whom believed in the enduring importance and unique quality of our friendship, a friendship based on shared basic values and principles. We do not always agree on the means to achieve an end, but we very rarely disagree on our final goals. We have also learned from each other over the years. And I know and you know that there have been times when my government has made decisions that some Germans didn’t agree with; but those who marched in the streets were still, first and foremost, friends of America.
By the same token, as the President has also very wisely pointed out, Democrats and Republicans are, first and foremost, Americans. It is no secret that the United States faces a range of domestic and international challenges; and that after the congressional midterm elections last November, many people – both in and outside of my country’s government, and in and outside of the United States – predicted a situation of gridlock; a situation that would make it very difficult for the Obama Administration to move forward on any of the pressing issues of the day. The debates running through the campaigns leading up to the elections – and the results themselves, which President Obama himself tellingly characterized as a “shellacking”– certainly drew attention to the range of opinion about possible solutions. But just as Germany has a vibrant and dynamic multi-party landscape, in the United States, the two parties exist for a reason. There are real philosophical differences – deeply held principles – which each party embraces. Rancorous moments in American politics are nothing new. Think back to the original Boston Tea Party back in 1773. In 1841, John Quincy Adams, the first U.S. Ambassador to Germany, the sixth President of the United States and a long-serving member of the U.S. Congress after he left the White House, spoke on the floor of the House about "the gigantic intellect, the envious temper, the ravenous ambition, and the rotten heart of Daniel Webster" – one of his political opponents. As a diplomat, he would never ever, of course, have made such a comment.
The tragic shootings in Arizona earlier this month have placed the discussion about partisanship and the necessity for civility and principled disagreements on a different level, but even before Tucson, there was a post-election level of responsibility that in fact augurs well for cooperation – and cooperation is essential in order to progress on the issues of the day. Because again, as President Obama pointed out, neither last November nor in November 2008 nor in elections in years gone by did the American people ever vote for gridlock or partisanship. They voted and will continue to vote for government leaders who focus not on their own jobs as President or Governor or member of Congress or any other elected position – but on the jobs of the American people. Responsible government leaders and politicians share a common responsibility for their constituents and the stewardship of their constituencies. That means finding common ground on the challenges facing our country.
It is my opinion that, since the November elections, President Obama has done just that. He has proved his ability to build bipartisan consensus. As he has said frequently over the past three months and the past two years, he is willing to work with anyone of either party who has a good idea and the commitment to see it through. And so, when you look at all the various comparisons that have been made to the mid-term status of previous presidential administrations, I think it’s fair to say that this has been the most productive post-midterm election period in decades. I would also dare to venture, given the enormous challenges that the United States faces, that these accomplishments come on the heels of one of the most productive first two years of a new government in decades.
The main issue concerning Americans right now is the economy. They want government to come together around strategies to accelerate the recovery and get people back to work. They also want government to confront the long-term deficits that cloud our future. And in the past few weeks, Democrats and Republicans have indeed come together across party lines to pass a package of tax and unemployment insurance revisions that will spur jobs, businesses and growth. There are still differences of opinion about the tax cuts. That debate has not gone away and it will continue in 2011. Many Democrats, the President included, do not believe that it makes sense to provide tax cuts to people above a certain income when the deficit is growing. Many Republicans have equally strong opinions about other provisions. Overall, however, the legislation that was passed is good for growth, good for jobs, good for working and middle class families, and good for businesses looking to invest and expand their workforce.
Other legislation passed in the so-called “lame duck” period included a 9/11 health bill to help cover the health care costs of police officers, firefighters, rescue workers, and residents who inhaled toxic air near the World Trade Center on that terrible morning and the days that followed. A food safety bill was passed – the biggest upgrade of America’s food safety laws since the Great Depression. And a 17-year-old law was overturned and a longstanding injustice was corrected by ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” legislation. Homosexuals have defended their country with honor and self-sacrifice for generations. It is only right that we respect those who have served and those who serve now.
These pieces of legislation show that the American federal government is not doomed to endless gridlock. There is still, however, much left to be done. One of the major issues on the President’s agenda will continue to be the economy. In the new Congress, expect serious debate about the budget and the increasingly urgent question about how to cut the programs that are not working while making the investments that are vitally necessary. I am talking about investments in education, research and development; or, in other words, all the things that create an innovative and competitive economy. And by the way, a competitive America is as important for the rest of the world as it is for the United States – especially for countries like Germany with whom we share such strong trade and investment ties.
We are past the crisis point in the economy – perhaps not as far down the road as Germany – but over the next two years, President Obama will not have to focus on rescuing the economy from potential disaster. He will have to make sure that no wrong turns are taken but his focus will be on jobs and growth. That means making sure that in every sector, from manufacturing to clean energy to high-tech to biotech, the government will need to make sure that it is a good partner – either as a facilitator or a catalyst – for the private sector. Because it is clear that the private sector has to be the driving force in the recovery.
The President and his team will challenge Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, to think about what works instead of falling back on some of the old dogmas. Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, need to find more ways to do business that help business. If regulations are in place that are impeding innovation and not really protecting consumers or workers or the environment, as originally planned, how can they be improved? How can the profits that companies have been making since the economy began to recover be shifted into productive investment and hiring at home? How can we best go about the process of re-industrializing, of creating jobs at home by making things that people want? How can we ensure that we can export and sell our products and services instead of just buying from abroad?
As President Obama has often said, America is not going to “play for second place.” I know Chancellor Merkel feels exactly the same way in regards to Germany. That means emphasizing the importance of trade and investment. Almost one year ago, the President announced what we call the National Export Initiative. It recognizes that, as a country, we have gone too far down the road of de-industrialization and must now re-industrialize. It sets the ambitious, but attainable, goal of doubling our exports within five years; we now have four to go. It is also a way to encourage international trade and underscore the importance of job creation to a recovering economy. In the United States, that means addressing imbalances in our trade and current accounts. It means focusing on policies that encourage foreign investment and make our country a welcoming place to visit, live and work in.
In many of these areas, Germany is either a model or a partner – or both. German companies that have invested in plants in the U.S. – companies such as BMW, Mercedes, or Thyssen-Krupp – are increasing U.S. exports and creating jobs along the way. The German Mittelstand is part of that, too; smaller companies, such as IMS in Heiligenhaus which I visited in November, have a US presence and are expanding. American companies also take good advantage of German trade fairs to promote American products – in areas where we excel, such as medical technology and the plastics industry; in new areas where we are just starting; and also in sectors where we are re-tooling and re-building our expertise.
As I mentioned earlier, American prosperity is important for Germany. German prosperity is also important for the United States. History has taught us in many different ways and at many different times, that national prosperity creates the parameters for global security. Over the past two years, the leaders of the world’s 20 major economies have come together to pull the global economy back from catastrophe as we weathered the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The global economy as a whole is growing again. Trade has risen. Jobs are being created. In some countries – and that includes the United States – the progress has not come nearly fast enough. Nor have we achieved balanced global growth. Many advanced economies are growing too slowly and not creating enough jobs. Some countries are running large surpluses, others large deficits. At all costs, we must not slip back into the old imbalances that contributed to the economic crisis in the first place – with a debt-fuelled U.S consumption binge as a central tenet. It was important therefore that the G-20 leaders focus on the way forward at the summit in Seoul last November. They agreed on a number of concrete actions to achieve and maintain sustained and balanced growth.
For we have learned that global security is dependent on a host of economic, but also political and social factors – at the local, national, and international levels. One decade into this new century and two decades after the end of the Cold War, we see that there are more moving pieces on the playing field; and that individual players and teams are incrementally stronger, faster, and able to carry the ball further than ever before. Germany is a prime example. It is no longer the focus of American foreign policy strategy; it is one of America’s most important strategic partners in moving forward common global foreign policy goals. I tell people all the time that the lion’s share of our relationship is now multilateral, as we work together to address problems around the globe. I said earlier that Americans want their government to focus on the economy. Americans also want their government to focus on their safety and security. In both respects, Germany, the centerpiece of the European Union, is an anchor of our global diplomatic engagement.
In the past three months, the United States and the European Union have met at five successive summits – each one a reflection of the importance of the relationship. The NATO summit, an ISAF summit with troop and other contributors to Afghanistan, a NATO-Russia Council summit, US-EU summit, and the OSCE summit is Askana were unprecedented opportunities for engagement with our partners in Europe and Eurasia.
The NATO summit in Lisbon was extremely productive, distinguished by the sense of common purpose shared by all the leaders. As many of us in this room know, at no time during the past six decades was the success of NATO guaranteed. In fact, there have been many times when skeptics predicted the end of the alliance. NATO always, however, rose to the occasion and adapted to meet the challenges of that time.
Today a NATO-led coalition, made up of 48 nations with over 40,000 troops from both allied and partner countries, stands united in Afghanistan. Two weeks ago, Vice President Biden spent a number of days in Afghanistan for a first-hand assessment of progress on the ground as NATO moves towards the goal of a stable, growing, and independent Afghanistan, able to provide for its own security.
Coincidentally, I was in Afghanistan at the same time, on a completely separate trip. A year ago, I visited Afghanistan as the guest of the German Ministry of Defense and the Bundeswehr. Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to return. And I too observed the important gains that have been made but, as the Vice President pointed out in his discussions with President Karzai, those gains are still fragile and reversible. To sustain that progress, the Afghans will have to assume the responsibility for security and governance. As part of the transition, we must continue to work with our Afghan partners to improve the provision of basic services, to promote transparency and accountability, and to strengthen civic institutions. Germany is making a substantial and important contribution to those efforts. As I saw myself, training is the ticket to the transition in Afghanistan.
I would also like to recognize the contribution toward these efforts of a significant American diplomat, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, who passed away unexpectedly last December. Dick Holbrooke served as President Obama’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Many of you probably knew Ambassador Holbrooke from his time here in Germany. It was at that time that I came to know him. Certainly his tenure as U.S. Ambassador here from 1993 to 1994 left a substantial legacy but his personal engagement with Germany was life-long. He was, by any measure, a towering figure both publicly and privately. He brought a unique blend of tenacity and passion to the challenges at hand. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the memorial service that was held in his honor, “There are few people in any time, but certainly in our time, who can say. I stopped a war. I made peace. I saved lives. I helped countries heal.” Richard Holbrooke did these things. He wanted to make a difference, and he did. He certainly secured his place in history.
Dick Holbrooke, like so many diplomats in the field and leaders at all levels and from many different countries, was convinced of the necessity of a new strategic concept for NATO recognizing the capabilities that the alliance needs to meet the challenges of the 21st century. He and people like Secretary General Rasmussen showed outstanding leadership in forging a vision that preserves the enduring strengths of the alliance while adapting it to meet the missions of the future. This includes strengthening partnerships beyond NATO to make the alliance a pillar of global security. In very concrete terms for the transatlantic relationship, that means enhancing NATO’s cooperation with the EU and also resuming cooperation between NATO and Russia.
President Obama and Russia’s President Dmitri Medvedev have worked hard to reset the relations between the United States and Russia. We see Russia as a partner, not an adversary. This has led to concrete benefits both in terms of Russian-American relations and the broader NATO-Russia relationship. That cooperation is essential in several critical areas: such as security in Afghanistan, sanctions in Iran, counter-narcotics, and missile defense.
I spoke earlier about some examples of how Democrats and Republicans have come together on domestic and economic issues in the past few months. There have also been some very important foreign policy successes. There is an old saying that politics stops at the water’s edge. It was coined by a Republican Senator, Arthur Vandenberg, who partnered with a Democratic President, Harry Truman, to pass landmark national security measures at the dawn of the Cold War.
Today, over sixty years later, we are threatened not only by nuclear weapons, but an array of other dangers. That principle, that tradition of bipartisan support for the role of the United States in the world, is one we must continue to uphold. A prime example of the bipartisan nature of congressional foreign policy negotiations beyond the water’s edge is the long-year participation of members of Congress from both sides of the aisle at the Munich Security Conference, alongside high-ranking members of the Administration. This year will be no exception. We are expecting Secretary Clinton, as well as Independent Senator Joe Lieberman and Republican Senators McCain, Graham and Coats. Former Ambassador Dan Coats, whom many of you probably also know from his time in Germany, was re-elected to the Senate in November and he will be in Munich. On the Democrats side, and here too I list but a few, we expect Senators Warner, Udall and Berman – in addition to many members of the broader American foreign policy community. The same foreign policy community that, by the way, was absolutely convinced of the necessity of ratifying the new START treaty. It is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades; and the ratification in December at the end of the last Congress was a signal that Republicans and Democrats indeed do stand together on behalf of our security. As with many of the achievements of the past two years, there were some who said it could not be done. But it was done; and it is part of a tradition of which all Americans can be very proud. It is also evidence that, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the demise of President Obama’s political agenda have been greatly exaggerated.
Americans can also be proud of the alliance that began 60 years ago and that has resulted in a Europe that is more unified, freer and more prosperous than ever before. There have also been times when pundits reported on the demise of the transatlantic relationship. In the post Cold War years, they talked about “the end of history.” In the years following 9/11, they talked about a “parting of the ways,” about a partnership of mere convenience on its way to outright rivalry. Well, Mars (or the United States) and Venus (Europe) have come back down to Planet Earth. Today, with a strong and committed Germany at its core, Europe is America’s strongest ally. American and European leaders recognize that cooperation and collaboration are absolutely critical to achieving the security objectives that we all share. As the series of recent summits show, we work together well – and we are getting better and better at it all the time, on both the micro and the macro issues. I have mentioned only a few of those shared security objectives this evening and none of them in great detail. Rest assured, however, that foreign policy will continue to be a cornerstone of President Obama’s agenda. His focus will not deviate from the tough issues around the world that we can only solve together. And as I’ve said since I arrived 18 months ago, we have no better partner than Germany.