Former NATO Secretary-General Stresses the Need for Stronger Transatlantic Partnership and U.S. Leadership

Mar. 07, 2015

Former Prime Minister of Denmark and former Secretary-General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, delivered an address titled “America and Europe: Quo Vadis?” in March for the Future of Diplomacy Project's annual Europe Week. Prime Minister Rsamussen led a discussion with students, fellows, and faculty on the need for a stronger transatlantic alliance and American leadership to build a “global alliance of liberal democracies” in the 21st century. Prime Minister Rasmussen examined topical issues ranging from unrest in regional hotspots in the Middle East and Ukraine, to threats to liberal democracy, to challenges to U.S. supremacy.

Lessons from the Arab Spring

Former NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen began his speech by reflecting on NATO’s role in the Middle East during the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Recounting his own trip to Tripoli with the NATO Libya operation in October 2011, Rasmussen spoke fondly about the “victory, joy, and optimism amongst freedom fighters” with whom he sat down and discussed “the future of Libya and their desire for freedom.” Rasmussen was critical, however, of the ensuing chaos in the Middle East, lamenting that “what started as a so-called Arab Spring has now turned into a ‘winter’ with a new military regime in Egypt, repression and a civil war in Syria, and the rise of the terrorist organization, ISIL, in Syria and Iraq with branches elsewhere, including in Libya.”

“The Diminution of Liberal Democracy”

Citing Francis Fukuyama’s seminal book, The End Of History and the Last Man, Rasmussen expressed continued conviction in the triumph of liberal capitalist democracy despite the recent “diminution of liberal democracy" apparent in the Arab Spring and the resurgence of an “autocratic, oppressive [Russian] regime.” Rasmussen pushed back against Robert Kagan’s claims that “autocracy is coming back" and that the world is witnessing "the return of History and the end of dreams." Instead, he posited that "it may well be that we are witnessing the return of history but I refuse to put an end to dreams; I insist on keeping alive the dream that the liberal democracy will prevail over autocracy and oppression."

Challenges to liberal “dreams”

Rasmussen remained realistic, however, about the contemporary challenges to such liberal “dreams.” The toppling of Arab dictators such as Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak opened a “pandora's box of religious, ethnic and political strife and these nations plunged into chaos and extremism,” according to Rasmussen who also criticized advocates of non-interference and retrenchment in regions such as Ukraine and the Middle East. Rasmussen strongly refuted the narrative that Russian aggression was justified and that "it was a mistake that NATO and the EU provoked Russia by enlargement towards the East."

The clash between different ‘world orders:’

Due to the rise of transnational forces, global public goods and spaces, and the information revolution, Rasmussen argued that the status quo balance-of-power system of the 17th and 19th centuries no longer proved relevant or sustainable. Rasmussen advocated for strong international and American leadership in sustaining the contemporary system of globalized liberal world order. He concluded that that, “instead of power balance in a multipolar world, we need leadership by one liberal democratic power assisted by a network of like-minded allies and partners; that's a balance that doesn't favour status quo but favours freedom by supremacy of a global liberal democratic community."

U.S. Supremacy

Rasmussen urged the U.S., in particular, “to take leadership to promote and protect the basic values upon which we have built our free societies.” Despite the challenges that the U.S. faces - overstretch, retrenchment, the rise of violent non-state actors - Rasmussen was confident in its continued hegemony, stating that “the United States is destined to leave because of size and [the U.S.] can run but you can't hide; you are destined to leave whether you like it or not.” “But the U.S. should not be alone; allies and partners are needed to ensure a global liberal democratic supremacy,” added Rasmussen.

“A stronger transatlantic bond”

Identifying 3 areas where the transatlantic partnership could be strengthened, Rasmussen stated firstly that the US should increase its security commitment in Europe and that the Europeans should increase their defense budgets. Secondly, Rasmussen argued for the finalization of TTIP and the promotion of European entrepreneurship. Thirdly, he pushed for increased European investment in education to reach U.S. levels, reforms in integration policies, as well as greater cultural exchange across the Atlantic. Rasmussen concluded his speech by underlining the need for “smart American leadership” and self-confident European backing as well as shared transatlantic confidence in liberal democratic values. Citing Thomas Jefferson, Rasmussen emphasized that “ the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” "I will continue dreaming of the predominance of liberal values; but history has taught us that we cannot be complacent.”

For more information on this publication: Please contact Future of Diplomacy Project
For Academic Citation:Former NATO Secretary-General Stresses the Need for Stronger Transatlantic Partnership and U.S. Leadership.” News, , March 7, 2015.