Remarks at the Munich Security Conference Plenary Session
Secretary of State
MODERATOR: The Secretary of State of the United States of America Hillary Clinton, welcome. You were here in the earlier capacity as a United States Senator, but this is actually the first time, according to what I know about the 47 seven years of this conference, that we’ve had the pleasure of welcoming the Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton. (Applause.)
And to conclude the round of premiers is the fact that also this year for the first time do we have the pleasure of welcoming the President of the European Council, a position which was created with the Treaty of Lisbon. It is a great event today to have you, Herman von Rompuy, be with us and speak to us after the Secretary. (Applause.)
I would like to, before we get started, to remind you all that we will have at – around 6:00 this afternoon a special hour on the events in the Arab world in Egypt, et cetera, and will be tacked onto the program, and you will have terrific versions of the program heading out over the next hour or more. So without further ado, it’s my great pleasure to offer the floor to you, Mrs. Secretary. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good morning, and it’s very good to back in Munich. Thank you, Wolfgang, for your continuing leadership, and it was wonderful to see Chancellor Merkel earlier today, and I’m here with so many of my colleagues, and, of course, Foreign Minister Westerwelle and all who are working on behalf of our common objectives.
I’m also delighted to be sharing this session with the President. I’m looking forward to our discussion and will be meeting later with Lady Ashton who has become an indispensible partner on so many issues during the last 14 months.
I want to make remarks on two important subjects briefly. First, America’s enduring commitment to Europe and European security and then how we view the recent upheaval in the Arab world. The events unfolding on Europe’s doorstep remind us that in today’s interconnected world, rapid change is the new norm. The past several years have been difficult on both sides of the Atlantic. The United States face down the most serious financial crisis since the 1930s. We have broken the back of the recession, but we are still challenged by high unemployment in debt.
In Europe, the financial crisis has caused deep pain and anxiety about the health of the Euro-zone. And I know that from time to time, on your side of the Atlantic, critics worry that America is preoccupied with its domestic problems or distracted by Afghanistan and other global issues.
On our side, critics fear Europe’s fiscal difficulties and political constraints will prevent it from remaining a robust partner in promoting global security. But the contents of my inbox tell a very different story. They show a strategic partnership between Europe and the United States that has never been stronger.
On the economic front, the ties between us run deep. The transatlantic economy accounts for more than half of world trade, and when it comes to investment, the numbers are higher still. Now, these figures will change over time. And emerging markets are, indeed, promising. But our partnership is proven, and it must endure if we are to promote sound market-driven economic policies in countries around the world, level playing fields, and fight protectionist forces in an increasingly globalized economy.
This is crucial work because strong economies are the ultimate foundation for our security and leadership. We are also working together to fight poverty, disease, and hunger. The United States and Europe together are responsible for nearly 80 percent of all international development aid. And this, too, is an essential component of common security. We have seen over and over again that healthy prosperous societies are more likely to be good partners, and of course, we work together to secure peace.
In Afghanistan, nearly 40,000 Europeans serve alongside U.S. troops and those of 47 other nations in the International Security and Assistance Force. Together we are striving to build a durable peace by training Afghanistan’s police and army, and it is a strategy that is beginning to bear fruit. And we are stretching beyond traditional military solutions. In so many aspects of our partnership in Afghanistan, we see a difference.
On Iran, Europe and the United States joined together to give Tehran a clear choice: Meet your international commitments to demonstrate that your nuclear program is peaceful, or face increasing pressure and isolation. And last year, Russia joined us in voting for tough Security Council sanctions, an important precedent that we intend to build on.
In many other regions, we are also cooperating – preventing violence during the referendum on Southern Sudan, curbing piracy off the Horn of Africa, taking a unified stance on Belarus to support free and fair elections, defending civil society where it is under pressure, imposing sanctions on those responsible for human rights violations, promoting economic growth and democratic governance in the Western Balkans, and working to integrate the region more deeply with the EU and NATO remains a shared goal. In all of these ways and many more, our relationship with Europe is, as President Obama put it, the cornerstone of our engagement with the world and a catalyst for global cooperation.
But we are not standing pat. Our relationship continues to evolve. We’ve been working together to modernize and enhance the European security architecture, an effort that culminated with the approval of NATO’s new strategic concept in Lisbon last year. As Secretary Gates has noted, now that the strategic concept has been approved, we are reviewing its implications for the U.S. force structure in Europe. Ultimately, our decision will be guided by a fundamental principle: We will maintain the necessary balance of forces and capabilities to meet our enduring commitment to Article Five. And we will maintain our ability to protect ourselves and our allies, not just against traditional threats, but also new ones such as cyber attacks, terrorism, and weapons of mass destruction.
Perhaps none of these threats is more pressing today than the proliferation of ballistic missiles. President Obama has outlined a new approach to European missile defense which was endorsed by allied leaders in Lisbon. The European phased-adaptive approach will protect us against the current generation of missiles. And it will evolve over time as the threat evolves. This year we will be taking missile defense off the drawing board and putting it into action starting with the deployment of radar systems on land and Aegis ships in the Mediterranean.
We have made it absolutely clear we will not accept any constraints on our missile defenses. The U.S. Government will do what is necessary to protect America, our forces, our allies and friends from attacks, from countries outside of Europe. In Lisbon, allied leaders also reaffirmed our desire to cooperate with Russia on missile defense and President Medvedev embraced that idea. We seek a genuinely cooperative approach to this common challenge; one that strengthens cooperation with Russia and increases our common security while maintaining strategic stability. We have already started that conversation with Moscow about how this can be accomplished in practice, and we are eager to begin a joint analysis, joint exercises, and sharing of early warning data that could form the basis for a cooperative missile defense system. We will work together to ensure that our missile defense systems are mutually reinforcing.
The New START Treaty between the United States and Russia is another example of the kind of clear-eyed cooperation that is in everyone’s interests. I am delighted that Minister Lavrov and I will be exchanging instruments of ratification of the New START Treaty later today. We will also discuss further arms control issues including nonstrategic and non-deployed nuclear weapons and our ongoing work to revive, strengthen, and modernize the regime on conventional forces.
The work we are doing together today is part of a journey we have been taking for more than 60 years. Since the end of World War II, we have worked shoulder to shoulder to advance security and freedom throughout Europe to create a Europe that is whole, secure, and free. We have seen many nations make democratic transitions and begin contributing to growing stability and security across the continent and across the Atlantic. This project is not yet complete, and it has not always been easy, but we see its benefits again and again as more free nations share in the progress of the Euro-Atlantic community.
In the Middle East, we have not yet seen security and democratic development converge in the same way. Let me offer a few observations about where we’ve come from and where we need to go. We have built strong security partnerships with countries across the region to promote peace between Israel and her neighbors, to curb Iran’s dangerous nuclear ambitions, to support economic development, to stop the spread of terrorism, and we will continue to advance these goals, these goals we believe are essential to American and European security as well as the security of the people in the region.
For decades, though, most of these same governments have not pursued the kind of political and economic reforms that would make them more democratic, responsible, and accountable. In Doha last month, I urged the leaders of the region to address the needs and aspirations of their people and offer a positive vision for the future for their sake and for ours because the region is being battered by a perfect storm of powerful trends. A growing majority of its people are under the age of 30. Many of these young people, even the most educated among them, cannot find work.
At the same time, however, they are more connected with each other and with events occurring around them because of technology. And this generation is rightly demanding that their governments become more effective, more responsive, and more open. All of this is taking place against a backdrop of depleting resources. Water tables are dropping, and oil reserves are running out.
Leaders in the region may be able to hold back the tide for a little while, but not for long. That has been the story of the last weeks. It is what has driven demonstrators into the streets of Tunis, Cairo, and cities throughout the area. The status quo is simply not sustainable. So for all our friends, for all the friends in the region including governments and people, the challenge is to help our partners take systematic steps to usher in a better future where people’s voices are heard, their rights respected, and their aspirations met.
This is not simply a matter of idealism. It is a strategic necessity. Without genuine progress toward open and accountable political systems, the gap between people and their governments will only grow, and instability will only deepen. Across the region, there must be clear and real progress toward open, transparent, fair, and accountable systems. Now, in some countries, this transition is happening quickly; in others it will take more time. Different countries face different circumstances.
And of course, there are risks. There are risks with the transition to democracy. It can be chaotic. It can cause short-term instability. Even worse – and we have seen it before – the transition can backslide into just another authoritarian regime. Revolutions have overthrown dictators in the name of democracy only to see the political process hijacked by new autocrats who use violence, deception, and rigged elections to stay in power or to advance an agenda of extremism.
So the transition to democracy will only work if it is deliberate, inclusive, and transparent. Those who want to participate in the political system must commit to basic principles such as renouncing violence as a tool of political coercion, respecting the rights of minorities – ethnic and religious minorities, participating in a spirit of tolerance and compromise. Those who refuse to make those commitments do not deserve a seat at the table. We will continue to champion free and fair elections as an essential part of building and maintaining a democracy.
But we know elections alone are not sufficient. They’re not even sufficient to secure lasting change. So we also must work together to support the institutions of good governance, the rule of law and an independent judiciary, transparency and a free press, strong political parties, protection for the rights of minorities and more, because those, indeed, are the building blocks of a true democracy.
The transition to democracy is more likely to be peaceful and permanent when it involves both the government in power and a broad cross-section of the citizenry. So in addition to supporting institutions and free and fair elections, we are committed to supporting strong civil societies, the activists, organizations, congregations, intellectuals, reporters who work through peaceful means to fight corruption and keep governments honest. Their work enriches the soil in which democracy grows.
So the United States urges the leaders of the region to work with civil society, to see it as a partner rather than a threat, and making the political, economic, and social reforms that are being called for. And just as America engages leaders in the region, we will continue to engage the people through civil society, through dialogue like the town halls that I have enjoyed doing on my travels.
Now, some leaders may honestly believe that their country is an exception, that their people will not demand greater political or economic opportunities, or that they can be placated with half measures. Again, in the short-term that may be true, but in the long-term it is untenable. And in today’s world where people are communicating every second of every day, it is unbelievable. Other leaders raise fears that allowing too much freedom will jeopardize security, that giving a voice to the people, especially certain elements within their countries, will lead to chaos and calamity. But if the events of the last weeks prove anything, it is that governments who consistently deny their people freedom and opportunity are the ones who will, in the end, open the door to instability.
So when we make this case to our friends in the region, we do so in the fundamental belief that their countries will emerge stronger and more prosperous if their societies are more open and responsive. Democracies with vibrant and truly representative institutions resolve differences not in the streets, but in city halls and parliament buildings. That is what leads to real stability and security. That is what leads to prosperity. That is what makes countries even stronger allies.
And we have our own experience to look to. This alliance of the Euro-Atlantic community has stood the test of time. And America has always, even when Europe was not wholly free, stood for the principle that free people govern themselves best. I look out at this audience. I see presidents and prime ministers and foreign ministers from countries that were neither free nor truly secure not so long ago and who today are, and whose examples are inspirations to so many seeking that same kind of future. We believe that that is the best foundation to build on for a more peaceful and prosperous world. Thank you very much. (Applause.)