Out of the rubble of the Second World War, a determined generation on both sides of the Atlantic built an international system of institutions and norms dedicated to peace, progress, and democratic governance.
In an address in Warsaw, Poland, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that this great transatlantic project -- first formed to prevent a return to war between great powers and to create a stable environment where countries could develop to the benefit of all their citizens -- expanded later to support the peaceful transition to democracy of the newly free nations of Central Europe. This legacy, he said, provided “a foundation of democracy and stability that has underwritten an unparalleled period of peace and prosperity for Europe, the United States, and much of the world.”
Now, Deputy Secretary Blinken said, there are challenges confronting Europe and the transatlantic community from a variety of directions. They include the threat of violent extremism and a campaign of terror that has scarred communities from Paris to Lahore, from Ankara to Brussels. The epicenter of this campaign, he observed, thrives in the shadows of the Syrian civil war, which has sent hundreds of thousands of Syrians fleeing into Europe.
Another challenge has emerged in the form of Russian aggression, said Deputy Secretary Blinken, which has “violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of an independent, democratic nation and imperiled the vision of a Europe, whole, free and at peace.” Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine threaten to undermine basic international principles; among them, that borders cannot be changed by force; that it is the right of citizens in a democracy to determine their country’s future; that all members of the international community are bound by common rules and should face costs if they violate their solemn commitments.
“Our unity is essential in deterring our adversaries, who…try to exploit our disagreements,” said Deputy Secretary Blinken. “But like the dictators of the mid-20th century, they…misjudge open debates as division…And they misunderstand the singular and universal lesson of history that democracy, liberty, and the rule of law are not sources of vulnerability and insecurity…[but] constitute our greatest reservoir of strength and stability.”
“United in purpose and principle, our alliance has stood the test of time and the trials of crisis, and it has always emerged stronger,” said Deputy Secretary Blinken. “I am confident the same will long continue, as we rise to meet our generation’s challenges.”