Looking back at the busy and productive year we've had, I would say that the United States and Europe have never been more closely aligned, both in overall goals as well as tactics to achieve those goals. From the beginning of the Obama Administration we've made a deliberate and conscious effort to strengthen our ties with Europe and to work with our most important allies around the world on global issues. During 2012 the pace of our work continued with a multitude of high-level visits, ministerial meetings, summits, and international conferences. Not only did I travel widely for meetings with my counterparts, but 2012 also marked Secretary Clinton's 38th visit to Europe. This intense diplomatic engagement is driven by our profound belief that successful alliances require investment and that such investment pays real dividends.
As Secretary Clinton pointed out in her speech, "The U.S. and Europe: A Revitalized Global Partnership," we've developed a common transatlantic agenda that has resulted in close cooperation on a range of global issues including Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Mali, Libya, Egypt and so many other areas around the world.
In 2012 there were elections and political transitions in a large number of European countries. We built relationships with new governments, or solidified our contacts with re-elected leaders, in Albania, Finland, France, Georgia, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine.
We worked hard to advance democracy and human rights across the continent -- and we must continue advancing this work. The Secretary's strong intervention at the OSCE ministerial in Dublin was an expression of our determination to advance this agenda.
Our relationship with Russia has produced important achievements, but also presents its share of challenges. We continue to engage Russia, based on the conviction that we can cooperate on areas of mutual interest while speaking very plainly about areas of disagreement. Extending Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) -- a bipartisan goal for nearly 20 years -- was a big economic step forward, as was Russia joining the World Trade Organization. Our cooperation with Russia has also facilitated the transit of U.S. military personnel and equipment to and from Afghanistan. At the same time we have had a number of disagreements with Russia, from their increasingly restrictive actions against civil society, to their decision to end the activities of USAID, to their recent regrettable ban on adoptions to American parents.
Guided by the principal that Europe should one day be whole, free and at peace, our work on regional issues inside Europe remained a top priority. Secretary Clinton's October joint visit to the Balkans with EU High Representative Catherine Ashton demonstrated both our commitment to the region and our determination to work closely with the EU, particularly on Serbia-Kosovo normalization. In the Caucasus, we welcomed Georgia's elections and the first peaceful transition in that country's history, and continued to seek a fair and just settlement to the various unresolved conflicts.
The Eurozone financial situation was a topic on which we remained engaged at the highest levels, and the situation looks better at year's end then it did when the year began. We know that the Europeans have the capacity to deal with this challenge. Time and again, governments and voters have chosen to keep the Eurozone intact and to keep trying to resolve the situation. For our part, we will have to remain at least as engaged in 2013, when we hope to be able to expand even further the transatlantic trade and investment relationship, already the largest in the world.
Another highlight of 2012 was the NATO Summit hosted by President Obama in our own city of Chicago. With our NATO allies we reached an agreement on Afghanistan transition; made significant commitments on financing, supporting, and training Afghan security forces beyond 2014; announced an interim capability for missile defense; and advanced "smart defense" projects, an increasing imperative in tight budgetary times. We have had a recent chance to reinforce the value of NATO's collective defense with the current NATO mission deploying Patriot missiles to help protect Turkey.
As I've said, the current strategic alignment of the United States and Europe is not an accident or the temporary alignment of geopolitical tectonic plates. It is, instead, the result of a deliberate and conscious strategy to invest in a partnership with the world's most advanced, military-capable, and democratic peoples who share our values and ideals. We believe that this investment has already paid off and that it will continue to pay off for years to come.
For more information regarding U.S.-European Cooperation, please visit Europe.state.gov.