OPENING KEYNOTE REMARKS AS DELIVERED AT THE TRANSATLANTIC LEADERSHIP FORUM, LEJONDALS CASTLE, NOVEMBER 1, 2019
Strengthening the Transatlantic Bond to Confront Today’s Challenges
Thank you for inviting me here today. I know Ambassador Howery very much wanted to accept the invitation to deliver remarks to you all. Unfortunately, he hasn’t delivered his credentials to the King yet so protocol frowns upon that kind of presumptuousness. I am not bound by such protocol, so I have the pleasure of being with you this afternoon and the opportunity to share U.S. policy to such a distinguished group.
The Embassy has partnered with the Stockholm Free World Forum on various projects over the years, and we really appreciated the collaboration and the opportunity to exchange ideas on areas of mutual interest.
In fact, since I arrived in Stockholm in April, I have been really impressed with the quality of research, the publications, and the projects that the Free World has put together. It’s clear that the organization influences the thinking on a lot of really complex global issues that affect all of us.
So, it’s an honor for me today to offer the U.S. perspective on some of these challenges and their implications for Sweden, the transatlantic relationship, and the world.
In the thirty years since the Berlin Wall fell, the world has shifted from a binary nature of the Cold War to a world that is exceptionally more complex – and connected – with competing agendas and divergent interests.
After the Cold War, some of you may be old enough to remember there was a bit of a debate about whether NATO was still needed, absent the communist regime in the Soviet Union, testing European borders and resolve. That debate ended on September 11, 2001, after which European architectures and relationships were retooled to confront non-state threats as well as foster democracy and rule of law in the Middle East and South Asia, from where those threats emanated.
We believed, perhaps naively, if I can speak frankly, that our ideas alone were enough to prevail. That the opening up of China and Russia to democracy and free market principles would take root organically, and those countries, and the fledgling democracies of the Middle East, would embrace our values and play by the rules that had governed the West’s unmatched prosperity since WW2.
Unfortunately, that did not happen.
The U.S. National Security Strategy, published in December 2017, highlights the need for the West to adapt to a new era of great power competition, focusing specifically on the threats posed to our way of life by non-democratic regimes, especially Russia and China.
Our strategy encourages our partners to recognize that China and Russia want to shape a world antithetical to the values and interests the United States and Europe have espoused over the last two centuries.
The U.S. strategy makes clear the U.S. intent to preserve peace through strength. And the strongest, most effective way to confront these threats to our values is through transatlantic cooperation.
So, while the West was distracted after 2001 by counterterrorism operations in the Middle East and South Asia, Vladimir Putin was seeking to regain the glory of the Soviet Empire.
With the invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the attempted annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russia made clear its disdain for the Helsinki Accords and its disregard for the inviolability of European borders.
Subsequent actions – such as the Skripal chemical attacks in the UK, election interference, cyberattacks – all confirm Russia’s ambition to export violence and chaos that undermines liberal democracies.
These hybrid, malign activities also weaken, and in some cases directly contravene, international agreements like the Chemical Weapons Convention. These international treaties and institutions are only effective if all parties abide by them. And Putin has proven time and time again that he can ignore them with impunity.
In addition, Russia’s large-scale military exercises have been designed to showcase its new military capabilities and its ability to mobilize its forces quickly. Russia has ignored its obligation, enshrined in the Vienna Conventions, to invite other states to observe its large exercises. This lack of transparency increases uncertainty and raises tensions.
Although the United States attempted to engage Russia after the Cold War, even creating a new NATO format to bring it closer to the West – that is the NATO Russia Council – Putin’s provocations have compelled NATO Allies to increase presence in the Eastern Flank and to protect that region.
We have also conducted significant military exercises, including with Sweden and Finland. We are implementing a comprehensive sanctions regime targeting Russian entities that engage in malign military, cyber, economic, and anti-human rights activities.
We are extremely grateful for Sweden’s clear voice in the EU and elsewhere calling out Russian aggression in Ukraine and advocating for continued EU sanctions to demonstrate to Mr. Putin the unacceptability of undermining the world order we worked so hard to achieve since WW2.
We also seek close cooperation with Sweden and other Arctic states to guard against Russia’s militarization of the high north and against China’s increasing activity in that region.
Of course, the United States and Russia are both nuclear powers, so we must cooperate with Russia, despite its problematic policies, to minimize the danger of nuclear catastrophe. So, I want to take a moment to talk about the issue of nuclear weapons. Perhaps the most prominent issue in this space is Russia’s violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, or the INF, which seriously threatens European security.
Russia has carried out non-compliant missile tests since at least 2007 and is currently deploying ground-launched missiles with a range longer than the agreed-upon 500km. This flagrant violation is what ultimately led to the demise of the INF.
The United States raised the issue of Russian INF treaty violations in more than 30 high-level meetings over the last ten years.
The Russians first denied the existence of the system, when that didn’t work,
they denied we had raised the issue with them, and when that didn’t work,
they finally admitted the missile system existed but denied that it violated the treaty.
So, in 2017, the United States delivered an ultimatum to Russia, if Russia continued with non-compliance with the Treaty, the United States would have no choice but to withdraw from the agreement. An agreement in which only one party upholds its obligations, is no real agreement.
Russia immediately went into disinformation mode, but in this instance failed to convince its audience. NATO made a clear statement that Russia’s violation of the Treaty is what led to its demise. And of course, we welcomed Sweden’s statements that Russian non-compliance was the final nail in the INF’s proverbial coffin.
Despite the problems with the INF Treaty there are more positive trends. And despite Russia’s malign activities in Europe, Syria, and Afghanistan, we have succeeded in meeting our joint obligations under the New START Treaty, ultimately reaching agreed upon weapons limits.
President Trump has made very clear that we take nuclear arms control as a solemn responsibility very seriously by the United States.
However, the President also stated that bilateral nuclear arms control agreements are not sufficient in an era in which China has cloaked its nuclear arsenal in secrecy and embarked upon worrisome upgrades.
At the same time, Russia is developing weapons that would not be included in START limits. For these reasons, the United States is holding off on negotiating a START extension, in an effort to secure a more comprehensive and meaningful agreement.
We share Sweden’s desire for progress on nuclear disarmament. It is clear, though, that the current security environment does not allow for that. A fundamental flaw of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, beyond its disregard for the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the verification regimes enshrined in the Additional Protocols, is that it does not take into account the global security reality.
Yet the situation is not hopeless. The United States is leading an initiative called the Creating the Environment for Nuclear Disarmament (“send” – CEND), which is designed to increase transparency and build confidence among nuclear weapon and non-nuclear weapons states, and to make sure we are ready to act when the conditions for disarmament exist. Sweden is an important partner in that process.
We welcome Sweden’s strong contributions to the disarmament agenda – particularly the Stockholm Initiative or the “Stepping Stones.” Like us, the government recognizes the current security environment makes disarmament difficult.
But, in the meantime, the MFA is leading an effort among non-nuclear weapon states to promote risk reduction and enable verification mechanisms. We welcome the dialogue this will foster, as well as the pressure on the nuclear weapons states to take meaningful steps.
So, Russia is a well-known rival, even if its brazen disregard for international norms is on the rise. But where does China fit in? For decades, U.S. policy was rooted in the belief that support for China’s rise and its integration into the post-war international order would liberalize China. But contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others.
We welcome the Swedish government’s new China Communication just released a couple of weeks ago, as a starting point for a comprehensive response to the threats China poses to Sweden and Europe.
The strategy acknowledges that China suppresses political dissent, manipulates and exploits the global trade architectures, commits horrific human rights abuses, engages in predatory financing behavior through its Belt and Road Initiative, and spies on Sweden’s military, industry, and residents. It also blurs the line between Chinese “private” and defense sectors.
The Communication sets forth a perspective from which public, private, and academic sectors in Sweden should assess their interactions with China. The United States will work with Sweden on jointly implementing the sound recommendations in the Communication.
We are also very pleased to see the EU’s coordinated risk report on 5G that came out October 9th.
It recognizes that 5G networks must be protected because they are susceptible to cyberattack due to the expanded role of software and the increased ability of service providers and software vendors to influence the network.
It notes the need to protect the confidentiality of communications from espionage and the availability and integrity of data, which is important, because 5G networks will underpin all sorts of future critical infrastructure related to healthcare, transportation, as well as the supply of electricity and water.
The EU report notes that major threats from state actors or state-based actors to influence 5G vendors or service providers exist. It recommends countries consider the link between the potential supplier and the government, that country’s legislation, and whether there are democratic checks and balances in place. It recommends countries further consider the ability of the third country to exercise any form of pressure.
So, maybe that sounds as convoluted to you as it does to me. So, what does it actually mean?
Well, the EU report is trying to avoid naming names, so let me give you the most obvious example. It’s clear that the relationship between the Communist Party of China and 5G provider Huawei makes any network running on Huawei technology vulnerable to Chinese government influence.
Therefore, we welcome Swedish proposed legislation that requires a security review of 5G providers.
We also welcome Sweden’s ongoing work to evaluate how to screen foreign direct investment for security vulnerabilities. We look forward to the government proposing legislation that will give it the ability to protect Sweden from so-called commercial entities that offer preposterously low bids to get a foot in the door.
One area of particular concern for the United States is the defense industry supply chain. It is critically important that the entire supply chain for Sweden’s defense industry be protected from the influence of those who cannot be trusted to use it appropriately or might even use it against us.
The recent agreement between Saab and Boeing to provide the next generation U.S. Air Force training aircraft means that Swedish technology will be in U.S. planes, and that technology must be secure.
In short, doing business with China is not business as usual, and any potential short-term economic gain countries may see as a result of Chinese investment may ultimately be negated by the long-term implications of those countries’ sovereignty and national security.
So, how do we confront these challenges posed by non-democratic states who play by different rules than we do, whether it’s traditional military ways, hybrid warfare, or malign trade practices.
Well, much has been said about the U.S. commitment to NATO these days, and I see that the next panel will discuss whether Europe is alone, or America is alone. So, spoiler alert: the answer is no to both.
I should point out that U.S. pressure on Europe to increase defense spending long predates this administration, and the Obama administration before it. United States seeks to ensure Europe is a partner in confronting these threats, not a protectorate.
As a result of this pressure, we see a clear, positive trend in NATO. This is the fifth consecutive year European Allies and Canada will increase their defense spending. By the end of next year, those Allies will have added a total of 100 billion dollars in support of this unparalleled mutual defense alliance.
And outside of NATO, European partners are alert to the challenges posed by tyrannical regimes. The United States welcomed the decision earlier this year by the Swedish government, the Center Party, and the Liberals to increase defense spending by 50 percent over the next five years.
That investment will strengthen the security and defense cooperation between our two countries and enable us to do much more together in research and development, international missions, and joint exercises.
But the malign activity of Russia, China and others is hybrid, diffuse, and unpredictable, so NATO and EU must work together.
In fact, NATO-EU cooperation has grown significantly following the signing of the Joint NATO-EU Declarations in 2016 and 2018, which have resulted in 74 proposals to increase cooperation between those two organizations.
The United States has six major priorities when it comes to NATO-EU cooperation, most of which these 74 proposals address, at least partially. I will try and list them as briefly as possible.
One of our top priorities is military mobility. The Military Mobility effort will ensure we have infrastructure to move our troops and equipment, and the bureaucratic mechanisms to do it quickly when threats emerge.
Secondly, countering China’s growing influence in the international arena by recognizing the long-term implications of unfettered Chinese direct investment in key sectors.
Third, the United States views cooperation between NATO and the EU as the best way to counter threats posed by China’s predatory investments in critical technology, its violation of international rules and norms, and its aggressive cyber activity, through regulatory actions that are the competency of the EU.
The United States urges the EU and NATO to work together to leverage their relative strengths and build partner capacity in North Africa and the Middle East to counter terrorism, especially on Europe’s southern border.
NATO and the EU have a mutual interest in diversifying energy resources, types, and transit routes to address energy security challenges, such as Russia’s efforts to extend its energy dominance, Chinese investment in energy infrastructure, and instability in North Africa.
The EU and NATO must also align and continually update their respective cyber crisis response strategies.
And the final priority I want to highlight is counter-hybrid threats. EU expert coordination with NATO’s counter-hybrid support teams has already helped improve our countries’ resilience. Activities like these are key to coordinating and improving our respective responses to these very serious threats.
So, in addition to those six priorities for NATO-EU cooperation, the United States is also focused on ensuring that our combined capabilities are the best quality available. To achieve that, we have been urging the EU to adopt guidelines for the European Defense Fund (EDF) and the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) that will allow participation by like-minded partners, like the U.S.
The current guidelines make it impossible for the U.S. to participate in many PESCO projects or for U.S. industry to participate in projects funded even partially by EDF. This industrial protectionism will result in redundancy, sub-optimal equipment, ultimately harming Europe’s security and raising costs in these capabilities.
As you can see, our agenda for broader and deeper cooperation with Europe is robust. It is an agenda based on shared goals and values, mutual respect, and high expectations.
So, while the United States is engaging our friends and allies to implement our national security strategy and counter non-democratic great powers, I must point out that our relationship with Sweden is one of our most longstanding. In fact, Sweden and the United States are cooperating more on defense and security than at any other time in our respective histories.
U.S. and Swedish soldiers have operated side by side in critical international missions like Resolute Support in Afghanistan and Inherent Resolve – fighting ISIS in Iraq.
Sweden’s participation in U.S. and NATO-led exercises has improved our interoperability and ensured we can work together on mutual defense if necessary. Our participation in Swedish exercises, such as Aurora 17, sends an important signal of solidarity to our adversaries.
We must continue efforts to deepen our partnership as we collectively reconfigure and adapt our defenses to this great power challenge.
Of course, while all the defense cooperation is growing at an unprecedented rate, cooperation in ALL areas is essential to countering the diverse challenges that threaten our way of life. Thousands of students from the U.S. and Sweden study in each other’s countries every year. Trade, the traditional lifeblood of the U.S.-Swedish relationship continues to flourish and provides hundreds of thousands of jobs to Americans and Swedes.
We also work together at the OSCE to find peace for Ukraine, we work together in Africa to curtail disease and save lives and in Latin America to foster democracy in Venezuela and Cuba. In fact, it’s hard to imagine an area in which we are not working together, even if our approach to such challenges sometimes differs.
To summarize, in the 30 years since the end of the Cold War, the global security situation has changed drastically. The rise of newly emboldened countries willing and able to act in unpredictable ways, the increased speed of communication, the changes in global business practices, in manufacturing, and in the global economy all play roles in this evolving security landscape. Clearly, the mechanisms that have been in place since the end of the Second World War must adapt to this new reality. It is equally clear that we need to adapt these mechanisms in concert with our Allies and friends around the globe, something the United States is determined to do.
Together, with engaged and active countries, like Sweden as well as other transatlantic partners, I am confident we can meet the new challenges of our time and improve the security and prosperity of the wider world.
Thank you for your time.