Hagel’s Remarks at the the Munich Security Conference

Editor’s Note: As delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at the Munich Security Conference, Saturday, February 01, 2014

John, thank you.  Thank you very much.  And to Ambassador Ischinger, thank you for once again hosting this conference, an important conference.

It’s good to be back in Munich.  As you noted, I have been here many times.  And I especially appreciate being here with my friend and former colleague and now cabinet partner, John Kerry.

I want to also recognize our United States congressional delegation, which I have been part of a number of times, led by an unfamiliar face here, John McCain.  John, nice to see you.  Thank you.  Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator, thank you for your leadership.  And many of the delegation are individuals who have led on this issue for many years, and you are all quite familiar with most of the U.S. congressional delegation.  So, thank you for your continued leadership and involvement.

I also want to recognize our American ambassador to Germany, John Emerson, who is here somewhere, for his work and his efforts.  And it is not easy, as we all know, for an ambassador in any country at any time, but Ambassador Emerson has done a tremendous job.  And we very much appreciate his good work and his leadership, as well.

In preparing for these remarks, I was looking through the memoirs of Henry Stimson, who over a long and distinguished career held both my job – actually, he held my job when it was Secretary of War, and he held it twice.  He also held John Kerry’s job, Secretary of State.  The book I thumbed through contained a handwritten letter from McGeorge Bundy.

Many of you know – knew George Bundy, worked with McGeorge Bundy, and certainly everyone knows who he was.  He helped in this particular case Henry Stimson write his memoirs, and that book was published in 1952.  In Bundy’s letter to an admirer, Bundy described Stimson’s recollections of life as “a picture of history worth going on with, whatever the ups and downs.”

I recall these words here in Munich this morning because this conference is itself a picture of history, the history of the transatlantic partnership.  And that history is very much worth going on with.  That’s why we’re celebrating this gathering’s 50th anniversary.

The transatlantic partnership has been successful because of the judicious use of diplomacy and defense.  Over the last year, John and I have both worked to restore balance, balance to the relationship between American defense and diplomacy.

With the United States moving off a 13-year war footing, it’s clear to us – it’s very clear to President Obama – that our future requires a renewed and enhanced era of partnership with our friends and allies, especially here in Europe. As this panel acknowledges, we need what John just described and as Ambassador Ischinger has noted, a transatlantic renaissance.

The foundation of our collective security relationship with Europe has always been cooperation against common threats.  Throughout most of the 20th century, these common threats were concentrated in and around Europe.  But today, the most persistent and pressing security challenges to Europe and the United States are global.  They emanate from political instability and violent extremism in the Middle East and North Africa, dangerous non-state actors, rogue nations, such as North Korea, cyber warfare, demographic changes, economic disparity, poverty and hunger.

And as we confront these threats, nations such as China and Russia are rapidly modernizing their militaries and global defense industries, challenging our technological edge in defense partnerships around the world.  The world will continue to grow more complicated, interconnected, and in many cases, more combustible.  The challenges and choices before us will demand leadership that reaches into the future without stumbling over the present.

Meeting this challenge of change will not be easy.  But we must do so and we must do so together.  As our strategy and defense investments will make clear, the U.S. sees Europe as its indispensable partner in addressing these threats and challenges, as well as addressing new opportunities.  The centerpiece of our transatlantic defense partnership will continue to be NATO, the military alliance that has been called the greatest peace movement in history.

In Afghanistan, NATO-led forces are doing extraordinary work to help the Afghan people by strengthening the Afghan army and police so that they can assume responsibility for their nation’s security.  European nations have maintained remarkable cohesion and commitment in the face of sacrifice, uncertainty, and challenges in Afghanistan.

As we bring our combat mission to a conclusion after 13 years, we should all be very proud of what our alliance has accomplished.  Members of the International Security Assistance Force, especially smaller nations, have greatly benefited from the experience of training and working alongside other partners in Afghanistan.  We must continue to hone the capabilities we fielded and sustained these deep and effective defense relationships.  And NATO must continue to develop innovative ways to maintain alliance readiness, as we apply our hard-earned skills to new security challenges.

In reviewing U.S. defense priorities, tempered by our fiscal realities, it’s clear that our military must place an even greater strategic emphasis on working with our allies and partners around the world.  That will be a key theme of the Department of Defense’s upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review, which will articulate our defense strategy in a changing security and fiscal environment.

The United States will engage European allies to collaborate more closely, especially in helping build the capabilities of other global partners.  We’re developing strategies to address global threats as we build more joint capacity, joint capacity with European militaries.  In the face of budget constraints here on this continent, as well as in the United States, we must all invest more strategically to protect military capability and readiness.

The question is not just how much we spend, but how we spend together.  It’s not just burdens we share, but opportunities, as well.

The Department of Defense will work closely with our allies’ different and individual strengths and capabilities from the training of indigenous forces to more advanced combat missions.

We’re looking at promising new initiatives, including Germany’s framework nations concept, which could help NATO plan and invest more efficiently and more effectively.  In Africa, the U.S. military and our European allies are already partners in combating violent extremism and working alongside our diplomats to avert humanitarian catastrophes.

In Mali, in the Central African Republic, the U.S. and European partners are providing specialized enablers, such as air transport and refueling.  We’re there to support a leading operational role for French forces.  The U.S. has supported France’s leadership and efforts, and we also welcome the German Defense Minister von der Leyen’s recent proposal to increase German participation in both countries.

All of us must work closely together with African nations in helping them build their security forces and institutions.  A more collaborative approach to global security challenges will require more defense establishments to cooperate not just on the operational level, but on the strategic level, as well.  We are working with two allies, the U.S., U.K., and Australia, building, the three of us, closer collaboration between our militaries across a broad range of areas, from force development to force posture.

For example, the United States is helping the U.K. regenerate its aircraft carrier capability, which will enable more integrated operation of our advanced F-35 fighters and, more broadly, enhance our shared ability to project power.  And last year, an Australian army officer became the deputy commanding general of U.S. Army forces in the Pacific.  This is helping connect our forces more strategically with our allies and partners in the regions.

We believe this collaboration offers a model, a model for closer integration with other allies and partners, including NATO as a whole.  And it’ll influence U.S. strategic planning and future investments.  Sustaining and enhancing these cooperative efforts will require shared commitment and shared investment on both sides of the Atlantic.  That includes the United States’ commitments to a strong military posture in Europe.

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has continuously adjusted its defense posture to new strategic realities around the world.  As our force structure draws down following the end of our longest war, there will be – there must be – adjustments in our posture to meet new challenges.  For example, to respond to elevated threats to our diplomatic facilities in North Africa and the Middle East, we have partnered with Spain to position U.S. Marines at Moron, and we have put other forces throughout the region on heightened alert status.

These forces not only enable us to respond to crises or support ongoing operations, but they also expand our diplomatic options.  Amid the recent violence in South Sudan, the rapid availability of nearby forces allowed American diplomats to remain on the ground and help broker a cease-fire.

An important posture enhancement is European missile defense in response to ballistic missile threats from Iran.  Over the last two days, I’ve been in Poland, where I reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to deploying missile defense architecture there.  As you all know, that’s part of phase three of our European phased, adaptive approach.

Yesterday afternoon, the USS Donald Cook departed the United States for Rota, Spain, where over the next two years she will be joined by three additional missile defense-capable destroyers.  Despite fiscal constraints, the budget that we will release next month fully protects our investment in European missile defense.

Our commitment to Europe is unwavering.  Our values and our interests remain aligned.  Both principle and pragmatism secure our transatlantic bonds.

In 1947, a time of widespread doubt about the continued value of the transatlantic partnership, Henry Stimson argued that America could, in his words, no sooner “stand apart” from Europe than “desert every principle by which we claim to live.”  He helped persuade Americans that, in his words, our policy toward the world, in that policy, that “there is no place for grudging or limited participation. … Foreign affairs are now our most intimate domestic concern.”

Americans know well the wisdom in Stimson’s warning.  We also know well the responsibilities we shoulder – in partnership with all of you.  As President Obama told the American people in his State of the Union address this week, “our alliance with Europe remains the strongest the world has ever known.”

I have every confidence that our successors will be there 50 years hence to again celebrate the most successful and effective collective security alliance in history.  But as we all know, it will require continued, strong and visionary leadership, attention, resources, and strong commitment.  In 2064, there will still be a Wehrkunde, and there will still be a strong and enduring transatlantic alliance.

Thank you.

Source: Department of Defense

Image: DOD photo by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Aaron Hostutle