TRANSCRIPT: Victoria Nuland Remarks at the Berlin Security Conference

File Photo of Victoria Nuland Testifying

(US Department of State – November 17, 2015)

Victoria Nuland
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Berlin, Germany

(As Prepared)

Thank you, Reimer for that introduction.

Thank you to: Mr. Uwe Proll; BSC Congress President, Ambassador Jiri Sedivy; Behorden Spiegel; and of course, Ambassador Emerson and the U.S. Embassy staff in Berlin for hosting us today. Ambassador Philippe Etienne, thank you for joining us today. Our deepest condolences go out to your country and your people. Our hearts are with all those who have lost loved ones in recent weeks: in France, in Turkey, in Lebanon, and over the Sinai en route home to Russia.

As others have said, our gathering here takes on increased meaning in the wake of the heinous terror attacks in Paris. When madmen with guns and suicide belts can kill at will in our restaurants, our concert halls, and our sports stadiums, our first thought is of course to withdraw, to hug our own loved ones close, to retreat behind the walls of our homes and fight for civilization only in our immediate environment.

In every generation, it now feels, our common humanity has been tested by those who seek to impose their will through fear, violence, and eradication of free choice — by those who resort to violence because they can’t succeed in open, tolerant, democratic societies. No one knows that better than the people of this city, who worked for decades to restore unity, dignity and democracy after the bloodiest of wars ripped Berlin in two.

So if our own hard fought Transatlantic unity is to mean anything — if we are to live the words of the North Atlantic Treaty, the Treaty of Rome, and the UN Charter — let the terror in Paris call us once again to unite in defense of our security, our freedom, our democratic values.

As our leaders underscored yesterday, we can neither hide from today’s threats nor face them alone.

We must stand together in defense of the same principles that have united us every time we have been called to defeat tyranny together: our right to live together in peace, in security, and in freedom, in open and tolerant societies. We must advance those principles in our own space and wherever victims of oppression and violence seek our help in defense of their own dignity and their right to live democratically.

To many, that aspiration will feel too broad. They’ll say “it is hard enough to protect ourselves.” But again, Berlin and Germany know better than most that building walls is not the answer. In a 21st century world, we cannot protect ourselves from mayhem by building our own exclusive fortress. It just won’t work. As we have seen, the viciousness of Da’esh, the suffering in Syria, the violence in Eastern Ukraine, the implications of climate change, the risk of infectious disease — sooner, rather than later, they can show up on our streets. So we must act, and we must do so together.

It is precisely in times like these when the challenges to our free, democratic world order come at us from every direction and threaten to overwhelm us – financially, militarily, even emotionally – that our unity is most vital, and our democratic values are our best guide. America’s approach to protecting our values and to advancing a Europe whole, free, and at peace will remain constant, as it has for 70 years: we will use our military when we must; diplomacy whenever we can; innovation and free-market economies to advance new solutions when we find them, and we will build communities of common action to add to our traditional Alliances whenever possible.

The fight against Da’esh requires all of this. An evil on this scale must be fought on the battlefield, where it seeks to dominate whole populations. And it must be eradicated from our own streets with law enforcement and intelligence collaboration. We need a holistic response, using all the tools at our disposal — from the work we are doing together to deny Da’esh territory and to support local forces in Iraq and moderate opposition groups in Syria, to stopping terrorists’ ability to profit from illicit oil sales or other forms of finance, to the delicate balance we must strike in law enforcement at home between security and privacy.

In this regard, the work NATO and EU nations are doing together in the Counter-ISIL Coalition, in the International Syria Support Group talks on a diplomatic solution, in New York and through our banks to cut off terrorist financing, and even in the US-EU data privacy and Safe Harbor discussions, should all be seen as aspects of the same fight. And as the victims of Da’esh terror make their way to Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Europe’s shores, we must remember our common humanity, and work together on safe, secure, affordable, and just ways to offer refuge, and to share that burden equitably among us.

In that regard, we applaud Germany’s and Chancellor Merkel’s leadership as you seek to live the values on which our Transatlantic community was forged. Rather than rebuilding walls in Europe, the EU is strongest when it implements a common policy of in-take and processing, and by supporting legitimate refugees with the same solidarity it has shown in addressing other crises – from the financial crisis to the Balkan wars. The U.S. stands ready to support the emerging EU policy, and to continue to assist the countries on your periphery that have sought our help.

America remains the single largest contributor to the humanitarian effort inside Syria with $4.5 billion devoted to the cause. And we are supporting Turkey’s efforts to care for its 2.2 million refugees, with $325 million to help operate over 100 schools and provide shelter, essential supplies, mobile registration centers, medical centers, and safe spaces for children to learn and play. The U.S. is also providing $26.6 million to UNHCR to assist in the care of refugees transiting Greece, Macedonia, and Serbia to the rest of Europe.

This crisis, like others we have weathered, reminds us that we are strongest as a Transatlantic community when we live our values, share the burden and expense of leadership, and balance our diplomatic, military, and economic tools.

That was true in the Balkans in the 1990’s, in Afghanistan after 9/11, in tackling Ebola, and now as we seek to support Ukraine and defend against Russian aggression to our East.

Even as we focus on ISIL, we must not forget that barely two years ago, almost one million Ukrainians stood for days and weeks in the snow on the Maidan to demand that their government give them what we have: human dignity, democracy, clean government, justice. When Yanukovich turned his back on Europe, Ukrainians would not be denied their choice. But that was unacceptable to both Yanukovich and to the Kremlin, which met the Ukrainian people’s demand with occupation, tanks, Buk missiles, support for the separatists, sabotage, and propaganda.

Today, 93 percent of Ukraine survives as a democratic state in association with Europe because Ukrainians fought and died for their rights, and our nations stood with the people of Ukraine. We have given political, economic, and security support; we imposed successively harsh rounds of sanctions to bring Russia to the negotiating table; and we supported a diplomatic resolution to the conflict via the Minsk agreements and the Normandy talks led by Germany and France.

Now we have to help Ukraine see it through. We must maintain pressure on Russia and its separatist proxies to complete the unfinished commitments of Minsk, including: the return of all hostages; full humanitarian access for UN agencies, NGOs, and government relief agencies; free, fair elections in Donbas under the Ukrainian constitution monitored by ODIHR; the removal of all foreign forces and weapons; and the return of the international border to Ukraine. Sanctions are an essential tool for holding Russia accountable: they must be rolled over until Minsk is fully implemented. And we must keep our Crimea-related sanctions in place until Russia returns the peninsula to Ukraine.

And, because the best antidote to Russian aggression and malign influence is Ukraine’s success as a democratic, prosperous, European state, the Ukrainian government must continue to live up to its promises to its own people and maintain the trust of the international community.

Much difficult work remains to clean up endemic corruption throughout government and society, at every level; to stabilize the economy; break the hold of corrupt state enterprises and oligarchs; and reform the justice system.

But, the will is there. Ukraine’s own people are demanding a faster pace of change. We help them most when we make clear that our own sustained support depends on Ukraine continuing to clean up its own house.

As NATO Allies, we are also supporting those countries on the Alliance’s Eastern edge that worry they could be the Kremlin’s next victims.

Our persistent military presence on land, sea, and air in Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and the Baltic states sends a powerful message of deterrence. We call on all Allies to continue to contribute generously to this mission – 28 for 28 -even as we call on Allies in the East to show solidarity with those countries facing security challenges from the South.

Unfortunately, none of this is cheap. The threats we face today demand that we meet the pledge we made to each other in Wales to reverse the slide in defense budgets, and build back to 2 percent of GDP. Almost 70 percent of Allies are keeping their word; the other 30 percent know who they are and need to dig deeper before our next summit in Warsaw in July.

The U.S. is doing its part through our $1 billion European Reassurance Initiative and Operation Atlantic Resolve, which help us maintain a persistent, rotational U.S. presence in the region. We are also assisting Turkey, which has been on the frontlines of our shared struggle for years, in protecting its own citizens and its space.

More broadly, all our joint efforts become un-affordable when our economies are flat or contracting. Europe’s unity — again led by Germany — in tackling the Eurozone crisis demanded solidarity, rigorous economic analysis and an honest, democratic debate to find the right balance between fiscal discipline and pro-growth strategies. Even as most European economies are growing again, the financial burdens on governments and budgets are growing too, notably as the refugee and migrant crisis brings intense new demands.

That is why the U.S. considers it a security issue, as much as an economic issue, that we conclude negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership in 2016. Not only will TTIP bring jobs and growth on both sides of the Atlantic, it will strengthen our open, free-market model, and our leadership position in setting the global gold standard in environmental protection, in labor protection, in protection of consumers and workers, and in trade agreements.

As Europe has recognized, energy policy is also a security issue. America’s own growing energy independence has liberated us from the whims of OPEC and other efforts by outside powers to use energy as a lever of influence. We applaud Europe’s own work to diversify its sources and types of energy supply, and to implement a common strategy.

The U.S. is closely coordinating with the EU to advance crucial energy projects that will turn Europe into the energy-rich powerhouse it deserves to be. These include investments in Krk Island LNG in Croatia, key interconnectors to Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, and Serbia, and offshore exploration all along the Adriatic.

As we redouble our efforts to bring more energy options to our neighborhood, we must also be vigilant defenders of our security. Any effort to drag Europe back into single source energy dependence undercuts our strength and our sovereignty. From Nord Stream to Turk Stream, the risks are the same.

Democratic values are no less important inside our own space as we make sure that our own governments are clean, transparent, and open. From the Balkans to Central and Eastern Europe, we must accelerate our fight against corruption and democratic backsliding.

And across the Transatlantic community we must resist the siren song of politicians who pit so-called traditional values against universal values, running on fear, exclusion and closed markets, rather than expanding the community of peace, security, free markets and tolerance. We can only beat today’s evils when people everywhere stand up and reject extremism, violence as a weapon of politics, and walls of any kind – physical walls, trade walls, racial or ethnic walls.

Whether we’re talking about Ukraine, strengthening NATO, improving global security, defeating terror, or strengthening our prosperity and our free market way of life, the United States, Canada, and Europe need each other more than ever. We — the Transatlantic community — are strongest, safest, and most prosperous when we stand together against today’s evils and challenges, and when we live our values at home, and support them globally.

Friday’s victims in Paris — the latest in our decades-long struggle together for human decency and dignity — deserve no less from us.

Thank you.

[featured image is file photo from other occasion]