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Honoring Women in an Age of Participation

Secretary of State Clinton has noted that “What we are learning around the world is that if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations will flourish.” These words have particular relevance as we celebrate International Women’s Day around the world and as we continue to make strides for women’s progress.

On December 10th, 2011, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to three extraordinary women who have led the fight for human rights and democracy in their home countries – President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen. Their achievement signifies recognition on the world stage of the essential role that women must play in the hard work of building peace and sustainable communities in the 21st century.

In December, President Obama released the first-ever U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security, charting a roadmap for how the United States will accelerate and institutionalize efforts across the government to advance women’s participation in preventing conflict and keeping peace. This initiative represents a fundamental change in how the U.S. will approach its diplomatic, military, and development-based support to women in areas of conflict, by ensuring that their perspectives and considerations of gender are woven into the fabric of how the United States approaches peace processes, conflict prevention, the protection of civilians, and humanitarian assistance.

This International Women’s Day, Secretary Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama will host the 6th annual International Women of Courage Awards, honoring 10 remarkable women from around the world. These women have shown exceptional bravery and leadership in advocating for women’s rights and empowerment, often at great personal risk. Their stories represent just a few of the emerging leaders found in every corner of the world.

Yet, as we rightfully honor achievements, we must also be reminded that International Women’s Day is an opportunity to renew the call for action, investment, and commitment to women’s equality. We are at a moment of historic opportunity. Secretary Clinton has referred to this era as “the Participation Age”. This is a time where every individual, regardless of gender or other characteristics, is poised to be a contributing and valued member of their society.

Around the world, we are witnessing examples of the Participation Age.  I have been privileged to meet a large number of Estonia’s remarkable women, women who led Estonia into freedom and women who spearhead this country’s political, diplomatic, business and artistic communities today.  Estonian women are no less than the very foundation of a society that has suffered much throughout history and has persevered and emerged victorious.  Estonian women rock!

Women are also a cornerstone of America’s foreign policy because the simple fact is that no country can hope to move ahead if it is leaving half of its people behind. Women and girls drive our economies. They build peace and prosperity.  Investing in them means investing in global economic progress, political stability, and greater prosperity for everyone – the world over.  As we honor them today, let us renew our resolve to work for the cause of equality each and every day of the year.

 

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Smart Power in Austere Times

There has never been a better time than right now to set in motion Smart Power as the new pardigm of American foreign policy than during current belt tightening by governments on both sides of the Atlantic.  I have always disliked what I would call the predecessor of Smart Power:  “Do more with less!”  Unless we are talking about nuclear breeder reactors, there really is no “more with less.”  In an organizational context  that term has always suggested to me that people should work more hours, achieve all the same goals with little or no prioritization, and with fewer resources and even less compensation for their efforts.  You can do this for a brief period to bridge a temporary crisis, but in the long term, any organization that demands more with less ends up only achieving less with less and demoralizing its workforce, robbing it of its  creative energies.

In contrast, Smart Power proposes to to do more and to do it better by combining the energies of more contributors to a common goal, even as program and human resources of individual organizational units are being reduced.  Take as an example Secretary of State Clinton’s “3 D’s ” of U.S. foreign policy:  diplomacy, defense, and development.  Through the combined efforts of the Department of State, the Pentagon and USAID, along with those of other U.S. government entities in support of the 3 D’s, U.S. foreign policy becomes smarter and more effective, even as the budget knife cuts into U.S. government outlays.

Such constructive interagency cooperation is far from routine in an environment famous for interagency disagreements and outright bureaucratic battles.  And while the leadership of President Obama and his relevant cabinet officers is a decisive factor in making Smart Power work, necessity also plays a key role.  The common enemy of deficits and economic downturn is no small motivating factor in turn bureaucratic warriors into Smart Power players.  In Washington and around the world, we have already made a strong start down the Smart Power road and the coming years will show whether we can sustain this new foreign policy paradigm even as our fiscal situation improves.

Our friends here in Estonia are also Smart Power players.  Estonia, since regaining its independence 20 years ago has been a Smart Power nation.  The rewards for the country and its people have been remarkable, making Estonia today one of the most economically and politically stable and future-oriented places in the world.  And here too, sustainability of Smart Power policies will be tested as things get better, as prosperity and popular demand for public services grows, and as government’s ability to do more with more becomes possible.

In the United States and in Estonia, we should look forward to that happy dilemma, but remain unalterably committed to Smart Power.

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A Europe that Matters

Last week a gave a talk to students, faculty and visitors at Estonia’s Tallinn Technical University expanding on my earlier blog on this subject.  The engagement with a full house of very bright and knowledgeable individuals was invigorating and challenging.  So much so that I decided to come back in the future and explore the issue of “An America that Matters.”  Meanwhile, I want to share my presentation of last week on this forum.  The provocative question I posed and sought to answer was:  In today’s global political, economic, strategic and moral environment, does Europe still matter?  And more specifically, does it still matter to the United States?

In the interest of full disclosure, let me be clear that I come at this issue with a certain bias.  As a U.S. diplomat, I have dedicated a large portion of my career to acting as a contributor to, and a steward of, the trans-Atlantic relationship.   As a result of my professional experiences, as well as my own personal story-I was born in Europe – I have always closely followed the relationship between our continents. It was with great interest that I read an op-ed by the president of the highly prestigious American Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, entitled “Why Europe No Longer Matters” in the June 18th edition of one of our country’s most important newspapers, the Washington Post.  Richard is a former colleague and a friend and I am grateful that his think piece gives me the opportunity to talk to you about his thesis and my own today.

Richard Haass is a brilliant international affairs expert, who, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, has joined other political scientists in seeking to define and characterize the emerging new world order – or disorder as some might call it.  An early consensus of sorts was formed among many who believed that as the U.S.S.R and the United States were the two major world powers before 1991, by virtue of winning the Cold War, the United States became the world’s sole superpower.  Some went further and characterized the United States as the only hyper-power of the world and a historically unique nation that could singularly exert is might across the entire globe.

However short-lived that last assessment, since 9/11, the wars in the Middle East and South Asia, and the U.S. and world economic and debt crisis, an equally large number of experts today conclude that the uni-polar world of U.S. dominance has rather rapidly transitioned into a multi-polar world of various powers exerting their influence — not unlike 18th Century Europe. It is against this backdrop that I would like to examine with you Richard’s arguments and conclusions and my response on Europe’s status today. For brevity’s sake, let’s call his conclusion “Europe No” and mine “Europe Yes.”

First, let’s put my own perspective of Europe on the table:  Europe does matter.  That is not to say I fully disagree with Mr. Haass’ arguments.  In fact, I actually concur with many of his views about Europe and the way it exercises its role in the world today.  That said, however, I arrive at a different conclusion about Europe’s ultimate standing and importance as an international player and as a partner to the United States.    

So now to the debate and first the strategic security dimension.  “Europe No” posits that if NATO didn’t exist today, no one would feel compelled to create it.  The “Europe No” argument cites inadequate European financial and physical commitment to Alliance action as a case in point.  It points to the Libya operation, despite the success of NATO support to the Libyan people, as only the most recent example of lack of organization, lack of participation, and lack of capacity.  So for “Europe No”, if NATO stands for U.S.-European strategic power, then only the U.S. and a very few number of Europeans actually matter.  I believe “Europe No” would concede that Estonia counts among the allies that do matter.  In that we would certainly agree, but also concur as I would that not all allies are pulling their weight equally.

“Europe No” looks at divergent attitudes between Americans and Europeans and cites the wars in Iraq, Libya, and Afghanistan as demonstrating this parting of ways, along with the emerging European cultural norm of not accepting any casualties in the prosecution of a war.  Europe No” looks at NATO as a relic of the past, and along with an Asia-centric shift in world power, economic might, and U.S. orientation, sees this as a clear indicator that old alliances and relationships are dead or on their death-bed:  “Europe and the United States have changed. The World has changed.”  No argument with that last comment:  We have all changed.  Asia is incredibly important to the United States and the world and our relations with this emerging international economic juggernaut will inform much of the next century.  Other players are also increasingly demanding attention and input in a global structure where their economic power and strategic influence are required to make the world go round.

Where “Europe Yes” parts from “Europe No” is in the conclusion that with the entry of other power players into the new international order, existing participants are by definition marginalized or worse, sidelined completely.  NATO, if it can muster the political will, still wields an extremely powerful punch, matched by no one.  As to trade, 40% of all world economic activity still takes place between Europe and the United States.  Hardly an insignificant amount that does matter!

“Europe No” also describes the decline of a common U.S. and European set of interests, in the past, based on historical patterns of American elites that traced their ancestry to Europe.  Today’s broader elite in the U.S., Europe No, would argue relates to African, Asian, and Latin American roots and does not share the emotional or intellectual ties to Europe that defined transatlantic relations in the 20th century.  The “Europe Yes” response:  agreed that American elites are much more diverse today than in the mid 1900’s.  But I contend, for instance, that a Chinese-American raised in San Francisco has far more in common with an individual from the town of Rakvere, Estonia or Manchester, England, than he does with a Chinese individual raised in Beijing.  The American and European belief in democracy individual freedom and open markets transcends ethnic heritage and will continue to bind American motivations and goals throughout the world with Europe.

Admittedly, Europe is not the singular center of America’s universe.  It never really was.  America, since its inception with powerful European roots, has steadily continued to develop its global vocation.  But our ties to Europe form a critically important partnership – and, by the way – one that has never been one characterized by full harmony or equality of strength on each side of the Atlantic.  France kicked out NATO headquarters in 1966 and did not return to the unified NATO military command until 2009.  In 1983 Germans threw Molotov cocktails at the U.S. Embassy in protest over introduction of U.S. medium range nuclear missiles in Europe – for the defense of Europe!  And yet NATO stands today, 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, and is fighting – and winning – in Afghanistan, and just helped successfully to turn the tide in Libya.  Pretty good for an irrelevant Alliance.

Does this mean that we Americans are always happy with the security posture of each one of our allies?  Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as recently as June of this year, stated that he had long harbored concerns about NATO becoming, “a two-tiered alliance that is split between those willing and able to pay the price and bear the burdens of alliance commitments, and those who enjoy the benefits of NATO membership but don’t want to share the risks and the costs.”   Doesn’t sound very happy to me.  And he was right.  Does that mean Europe is now or about to become irrelevant?  It does not.  Our very disagreements, sometimes loud and in public, bear testimony to the continuing strength of an Alliance not simply based on realpolitik or pure self-interest.  Ours is a value partnership, freely entered into by free peoples – a transatlantic bulwark that remains essential not despite an increasingly multi-polar world, but because of it.  And by the way, let’s not fall into the trap of characterizing certain opinions in Europe as “the European opinion.”  For instance, I would point to our broad agreement with our Estonian allies on the vast majority of issues.  Estonian opinion is no less the “European opinion” than is the opinion of any other ally or partner on this continent.

Implicit in “Europe No” is also the thought that Europe is somehow “solved.”  There are no more European problems, so why focus on a place that has no issues?  Fair enough, not even the most pessimistic among us believe that fighting may erupt anew in the Alsace.  But what about the 2008 Russian invasion of Georgia and the continuing tensions in parts of the Balkans?  What about the regime in Belarus?   What about energy security concerns?   What about the euro crisis and its effect on U.S. debt issues?  What about a drop in the NYSE in response to trouble on the DAX?  Just like the U.S., Europe will also never be “done.”  The challenge, the dynamism, and the capacity of seeking solutions on both sides of the Atlantic continue.  

And finally, beyond the security and economic dimensions, Europe plays a determined role alongside the United States on a vast range of global issues from human rights to the environment.  Despite occasional disagreements on tactics, the United States and Europe form a critically important policy community.  Our combined influence in world events weighs heavily on other countries and actors.  That is a powerful tool and a major responsibility we share.  Authoritarian regimes risk vital foreign investment and sanctions from Europe and the U.S.  Without our combined condemnation of Sudan over the genocide in Darfur and without our further engagement to encourage a referendum in South Sudan, would Khartoum have ever come to an agreement with the South?  Without sustained U.S. and European pressure, would the dissident Aung San Suu Kyi ever have been released from her house arrest imposed by the military junta of Burma?And together, Europe and the U.S. are central to cleaning up our environment, developing new forms of energy, and eliminating world hunger.  Wherever there is a need for action, we are present.

In contrast to vocal U.S. foreign policy and moral leadership, Europe does not always make the same headlines or dominate diplomatic discussions, but Europe’s voice counts, especially in unison with ours.  The example that the peaceful, democratic nations of Europe set for the rest of the world on the issues of democratization, human rights, the environment, conflict mediation, and civil action is unquestionably a major force for good in the world.  A force unmatched by emerging power centers in other parts of the globe.

So, the issue for me and for “Europe Yes” then is not whether Europe still matters, but how Europeans choose to exercise the significant power and influence they possess.  The American challenge as close allies and partners is to continue to insist that Europe must matter.  And that is one of the key lessons of the post-Cold War 21st century:  Abdication of global responsibility is no more an option for Europe today than it has ever been for the United States.

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American Staying Power is Staying

The last 10 years have been hard on the United States.  From the tragendy of 9/11 forward, good news has sometimes been in short supply.  Instead, we have seen an abundance of conflict, an economy stumbling, and often bitter political debates over the future of our society and our country as a whole.  At the same time, we have also rediscovered who our true friends are around the world, along with reminding ourselves of our innate strength and determination to help others in need, from Haiti to Japan and the African continent, as well as our fellow citizens from the Gulf oil spill to nature’s devastation in the South.

The elimination of a major threat to the lives and safety of peoples in all corners of the globe by removing Osama Bin Laden was more than a brilliant military operation by the bravest of Americans.  It was an affirmation of our nation’s persistent vision and enduring reality that we are an exceptional people, not without our faults, but ultimately good, compassionate, and fearless in standing up for our values, not matter how often we fall or are pushed down. 

Pundits at home and abroad have long speculated that the end of the American age has arrived; that the American dream has faded and that new world powers and a new world order are on the rise.  Many have predicted dire consequences for our nation’s future in the face of exploding budget deficits and a staggering debt burden.  Critics have asserted that we lack the discipline, the peseverance, and the maturity to overcome our most serious challenges.  And yet ……for ten years and longer we have pursued global terrorists, together with our allies and friends.  We never tired.  We never gave up. We just scored a major success.

I have never been prepared to write the United States off.  Since our 18th century fight for independence in the face of overwhelming odds, and through countless struggles since, including a bloody civil war, we have always prevaled.  “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” is after all an American saying.  Our country continues to carry the hopes and dreams of the world, not because Americans are a special people, but because special people are Americans.  From every corner of the globe, the American melting pot has created the most diverse nation on earth, united by the pride of making ourselves and calling ourselves Americans.  So as long as there is a place called earth there will be a special and important place on this planet called the United States of America.

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I Have Been Thinking

Breaking no doubt multiple rules of blogging, I have been quiet on this site for a bit.  In fact, you have not heard from me since last December.  Let’s just say that I have learned from my Estonian hosts that contrary to the American norm, not every silence has to be filled with sound.  Holiday observances have lasted well into January of this year.  Here in Estonia, the introduction of the euro at last year’s end, now the final weeks before Estonians elect a new parliament and thus a new government, and the celebration of Estonia’s 93rd independence year have now decisively opened the 2011 policy season.  In the U.S., the holiday lull (which is never as quiet as we hope it to be), has come to a dramatic halt with our intense debate over nothing less than the shape of our country’s future as we deal with our deficits and our public expenditures.  Dramatic events in North Africa and the Middle East are revolutionizing  societies with great hope for the better and with significant acompanying risks.  Afghanistan and other challenges around the globe continue to demand our action and attention.  

Already this year, I have signed an agreement between the U.S. and Estonia on oil shale research cooperation.  We commemorated together the historic legacy of the Reagan Presidency and its meaning for our alliances and other relationships in the 21st century.  For this spring, we are preparing the formal U.S. membership in Estonia’s NATO Cyber Center.  As a key asset to Estonia’s role in the international economic and political arena, I am pushing to secure the status of the International School of Estonia as the  international school in Tallinn.  My staff and I are working to expand the availability of U.S. digital entertainment content in Estonia, and we intend to see multiple U.S.-Estonia business deals consummated this year.  

So, I’ve been thinking……2011/2012 will be years for the history books.  Years when global, regional and national changes not only multiplied, but also accelerated.  President Obama recently affirmed the American vision for the future that dates back to the founding of our nation: “We do big things.”   Estonia’s President recently proclaimed “Estonia will never be finished.  It will grow better and stronger.”   We Americans look forward to doing big things together with our ever stronger Estonian — our European — allies as we embrace, rather than fight, change.

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Beyond Babel: English Belongs To The World

As a childhood immigrant to America who learned English as a “second language” and as an American Ambassador, I read with great interest a recent op-ed by Tallinn University Rector Rein Raud in Eesti Päevaleht.  Rector Raud argued for “some type of official status” for the English language in Estonia.  I think it already has such status.  Since my arrival in Estonia less than a year ago, I have been greatly impressed and deeply grateful for Estonians’ English language skills and their patience in using English with those of us who are guests in their country.  My sense is that my new Estonian friends like and use English not because they must, but because they want to.  That is how it should be.  Estonian is the beautiful and proud language of this country.  It has a unique place in the heart and soul of Estonia.  No other language can have a similar standing.  As fellow inhabitants of an ever smaller planet, we do each other the courtesy to learn at least a bit of each other’s languages as a sign of respect.  We have also been able to agree in increasing numbers to use English as a practical means of common global communication and as the default language for the globe.  English belongs to everyone. Inglise keel kuulub kõigile. Английский язык принадлежит каждому.

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Summer in Estonia: Starting to Feel at Home

Our first half year in Estonia is already behind us and my wife and I are starting to feel at home here in Tallinn.  We have had lots of practice in our career in settling in quickly and learning to adapt.  Summer has been busier than we expected.  That’s just fine.  We like to stay busy as much as we value some private time as well.  Together or separately, we have visited many, but not nearly all corners of this beautiful country.  From Tallinn to Tartu and from Viljandi to Narva;  to the islands of Saarema, Hiiumaa, and Abruka;  my picture of Estonia is becoming fuller.  We have sailed in the Baltic, enjoyed opera and classical concerts, and moved to the music of Buena Vista Social Club at the Nokia Center.  We shivered in a beautifully frigid winter and learned to visit Old Town Tallinn late in the afternoon during this tropical summer, after the cruise ships have again returned the city to its residents.

I am finding diplomatic activity here productive and professional, and U.S. and Estonian policy in great measure in “violent agreement.”  We have had a good first half of 2010 dealing much with Alliance and security issues.  I look forward to some added focus on global economic recovery, energy and cyber security, and other global issues in 2010/2011.  This first summer is beginning to draw to a close as my Embassy prepares for the new business season.  In July, I had to say farewell to my Deputy Chief of Mission, but I am now looking forward to the arrival of her successor, who will play a central role in helping me manage our Embassy and our partnership with Estonia.  Our staff is also growing overall, with the soon-to-be-announced arrival of another U.S. Government agency joining our diplomatic team in Tallinn.  Looking forward to an active time ahead.

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