Secretary of State John Kerry delivered remarks at the 52nd Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, on February 13. In his remarks, Secretary Kerry underscored the need for courage and resolve in defending liberty and pursuing peace, particularly as we work alongside our European partners to address a number of crises around the world. He made clear that the ties that bind the transatlantic partnership are not “fragile strings of momentary convenience” but “rugged, time-tested cords of democratic values -- of liberty, decency, justice, and the rule of law.”
After discussing the transatlantic partnership, Secretary Kerry addressed several issues of mutual concern.
Standing United for Ukraine
Secretary Kerry reaffirmed that the United States and Europe will continue to stand united for Ukraine -- both in sustaining sanctions for as long as they are necessary and providing needed assistance until the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine is protected through the full implementation of the Minsk agreement.
Upgrading Commitment to European Security
In addition to our joint focus on Ukraine, the United States has significantly upgraded our commitment to European security with a planned fourfold increase in our spending on the European Reassurance Initiative, rom just under $790 million to $3.4 billion.
Secretary Kerry said, "This will allow us to maintain a division’s worth of equipment in Europe and an additional combat brigade in Central and Eastern Europe, making our support -- and NATO's -- more visible and more tangible."
Strengthening Our Economic Partnership
Secretary Kerry said, "...We will continue to build on our unparalleled economic partnership. We will support new jobs and spur growth on both sides of the Atlantic. And concluding negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, my friends, this year will strengthen our economies, and let me be absolutely clear: Nothing in TTIP -- T-TIP -- nothing requires Europe to reduce or undo important regulations or weaken existing standards. That is false. On the contrary, the agreement will underscore our support for the inclusion of high environmental and labor standards in trade agreements, just as we have done in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which encompasses 40 percent of the planet's GDP. We have encompassed in that agreement, in the four corners of the agreement, the highest labor standards and the highest environment standards enforceable by law."
Countering Violent Extremism and Defeating Daesh
Ending the War in Syria: A Pivotal Moment
Secretary Kerry also addressed the larger conflict in Syria and spoke about how the humanitarian crisis is affecting the social fabric of Europe. The Secretary described it as an unprecedented challenge. He said, "In the United States, we recognize that, while this crisis is not as real on our shores on a daily basis, we have a moral obligation to stand with our partners and to do more to assist in the relief effort. And that is why I was able to announce in London that we will contribute an additional $925 million to the already $4.5 billion we have contributed to Syrian refugees, making us, I think, the largest donor specifically to this plight of Syrian refugees -- providing emergency care, education, and job help."
Secretary Kerry then underscored that the international community and Syrians themselves must seize the opportunity to achieve a political resolution to the conflict. The Secretary discussed the diplomatic efforts of the International Syria Support Group, whose members decided earlier this week in Munich that the sustained delivery of humanitarian aid will begin this weekend and agreed to implement a nationwide cessation of hostilities to begin in one week's time.
Secretary Kerry recognized that "there is a lot of work to do before this effective cessation can commence." However, he underscored that "...this is the moment. This is a hinge point. Decisions made in the coming days and weeks and few months could end the war in Syria – or it could define a very difficult set of choices for the future. Everyone here knows what we have to do to get this right. Putting an end to the violence and the bloodshed is essential, but also providing Syrians with the humanitarian aid they need is critical. And ultimately, the end of this conflict will come when the parties agree on a plan for a political transition that was accepted as the standard for this in 2012 in Geneva with the Geneva communique."
Taking the Lessons of History
In conclusion, Secretary Kerry said that this moment in history is "not as overwhelming as people think it is." He continued, "We know what needs to be done, and most importantly, we have the power to do it. The transatlantic community is not strong because we’ve somehow been exempt from tragedy or strife. We’re strong because we are resilient; because in a decade after decade we have stood together to defend our security, our prosperity, our values; and because we have resisted attempt after attempt to divide and make us turn on one another; and above all, we are strong because of the core beliefs that hold us together."
Secretary Kerry asked those assembled at the 52nd Munich Security Conference to "remember the values at the heart of our partnership" and to "take the lessons of history, of what we’ve been able to accomplish and what this incredible alliance means." The Secretary urged them to heed the advice of President John F. Kennedy on his trip to Berlin: "Lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today to the hopes of tomorrow."
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