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"Defending Freedom and Common Values in the 21st Century"

NATO - North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

10 May. 2011

Speech by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas

Mr. Updegrove
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for that warm Texas welcome. It is aways a pleasure to visit the United States and it is great to be in Austin. I am particularly pleased to be able to speak here at the Library dedicated to Lyndon Baines Johnson, who did so much to strengthen liberty, democracy and justice in this great nation.

When he extended the right to vote to millions of Americans, LBJ followed in the tradition of many great Americans who had gone before him.

From the founding fathers, who pioneered the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights; To Woodrow Wilson, with his vision for a peaceful international order;
And from Franklin Roosevelt, who understood that the liberty of the few at the expense of the many was never a solid basis for a nation to prosper; To Martin Luther King, who fought for the freedom of all Americans – regardless of their race.

It’s a great honour for me not only to be here, but to be able to talk to you. I would like to focus my remarks on three things:

First – the fundamental desire to be free.

Second – NATO’s role in safeguarding our freedom.

And Third – why the United States and Europe must work together to carry forward the flame of freedom.

So let me first talk about freedom.

Just over a week ago, President Obama informed the American people about the successful operation against Osama bin Laden. The evil vision of Bin Laden was diametrically opposed to the values of the United States and its NATO Allies. An evil vision whose bankruptcy is becoming increasingly clear.

Two days ago, I had the great honour to take part in the commemoration of Victory in Europe Day at the National World War II Memorial in Washington. It was a moving ceremony which brought home that we have encountered evil visions before, not that long ago. Evil visions which, ultimately, did not withstand the flame of freedom.

In the Second World War, the flame of freedom prevailed over fascism and tyranny. And soon after the conflict, we were successful in turning former adversaries into responsible democracies -- with the help of organisations like the United Nations, the European Union and NATO.

NATO was successful again in standing up to communist dictatorships. The Alliance first prevented the Cold War from getting hot. It then extended the hand of partnership and cooperation to its former Cold War rivals. And many of those countries are now not only thriving democracies, but also members of NATO, making their contribution to our common security.

In the past few months, we have also seen people across North Africa and the Middle East defeat fear and embrace freedom. It has been a powerful reminder that the fundamental desire to be free resides in all of us.

Freedom is not just a western value – it is a universal value. It’s not a commodity for the few – but one that is valuable only if shared by the many. And there is no choice between security or freedom – the only possibility is to embrace both.

And this brings me to my second point – NATO’s role in safeguarding our freedom.

In our NATO Alliance, nearly a billion people share not only the same values of freedom, democracy and humanity – they also share the capabilities to safeguard those values. And that is important, because values without real commitment can quickly become hot air. And capability without shared values will lack vision and purpose.

Our engagement in Afghanistan clearly demonstrates NATO’s determination and ability to safeguard our values.

Under a clear United Nations mandate, we are protecting our security by helping the Afghans to take responsibility for theirs. The United States plays a key role, but the United States is not alone. Over 40,000 troops from Allied and partner nations are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with American forces.

Over the course of the past year, we have taken the fight to the Taliban. We are training and educating ever more Afghan soldiers and policemen. And the Afghan Security Forces are playing an increasingly important role in combat operations and in solidifying the security gains.

The Taliban attack in Kandahar a few days ago was planned as a spectacular assault -- but it wound up being a spectacular failure. Not least because of the contribution of the Afghan forces, which are becoming increasingly capable to provide security for their own country.

We have now entered a new and significant phase in our Afghanistan mission, as we gradually transition lead security responsibility to the Afghans themselves. The transition process is on track. Together with our Afghan partners, we aim to complete it by 2014. But we remain committed to supporting Afghanistan well beyond, through an enduring partnership.

Our engagement in Afghanistan demonstrates the importance of Europeans, Canadians and Americans working together for success. We are all well aware that a secure and stable Afghanistan means a safer world for all of us. We will continue our mission to ensure that Afghanistan does not return to being a sanctuary for terrorists and extremists. We have the right strategy, the right resources, and we have the resolve to see this through.

Finally – my third point – why America and Europe must continue to work together to carry forward the flame of freedom.

Brave people throughout the Arab world have cried out for the freedom that America and Europe have enjoyed for many decades – thanks to NATO.

Change is taking hold in many places in North Africa and the Middle East. But Libya is an exception. Colonel Qadhafi and his regime are brutally repressing their people who have expressed the desire for freedom.

In March, NATO Allies took command of all military operations in Libya to protect civilians against Colonel Qadhafi’s relentless attacks - acting with the authority of an historic UN Security Council Resolution,.

Qadhafi may remain defiant, but for his regime, time is up. We are flying 1,000 sorties per week and steadily degrading his war machine. His strategy to retake the country by force has failed. And his international isolation is growing by the day.

Just like Afghanistan, Libya is a strong demonstration of NATO’s resolve. But it is also another demonstration that solidarity in NATO is a real two-way street.

Over 7,000 troops, more than 200 aircraft and 20 ships are engaged in our Operation Unified Protector. All those 20 ships are contributed by Canada and European allies. And a majority of the aircraft come from Allies and NATO partners, including from the region.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In 2012, President Obama will host the next NATO Summit here in the United States. It will be a great opportunity for all 28 NATO Allies to reaffirm their commitment to protecting each other’s security and common values.

President Kennedy once remarked that “the cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it.’

NATO Allies owe a great debt of gratitude to America for being prepared to pay this cost. I hope today I have reassured you that we neither want, nor expect, the United States to walk this path alone.

There is a strong understanding, throughout the NATO Alliance, of the fundamental need to share this burden with the United States. And we all know that the cost of freedom is worth paying.

Thank you

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