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John Kruzel, Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs
WASHINGTON - 10.22.2009
Vice President Joe Biden speaking in Bucharest, Romania, today said the United States relies on its Central European allies to help confront 21st century challenges and praised the region for its post-Cold War progress.
Biden cited a litany of problems the United States and its NATO partners face, including the war in Afghanistan and other security issues affecting the military alliance.
"I come here today with a straightforward, simple message: The United States and Europe, a Europe whole and united, will meet these challenges together, for that's the only way they can be met," he said.
Biden's remarks come as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates traveled to Bratislava, Slovakia, today for a two-day NATO defense ministers meeting to discuss the U.S.-NATO role in Afghanistan. Biden's visit also comes as a pretext to the Obama administration's revamped missile defense plan, which includes placing anti-ballistic missiles in Poland.
With the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall nearing, Biden called the U.S.-European partnership the "cornerstone of American foreign policy" and reflected on the progress European nations have made since emerging from behind the Soviet Union's Iron Curtain.
"The true validation of 1989, the real story of your country and this region lies less in what you tore down, and more in what you have built," he said.
In his remarks, Biden sought to correct what he said is a misperception some hold regarding American attitudes toward the former Soviet bloc. While some view broad U.S. involvement around the world as distancing itself from its European partners, the contrary is true, he said.
"In fact, it's precisely because of our global responsibilities and your growing and capacity and willingness to meet them with us that we value our partnership with Central Europe and Europe now more than we ever had," he said. "Together, we have responsibilities to shoulder, and we have promises to keep. Those responsibilities are larger now, and the promises more significant."
Speaking about NATO, Biden said the 28-member alliance is the bedrock that binds together the nation's shared values and their common commitment to protect those values.
"As President Obama has said, there are no old members, there are no new members of NATO; there are just members. Under Article 5, an attack on one is an attack against all," he said, referring to the statute in the NATO charter undergirding the alliance's security umbrella.
"Our countries are bound together by America's dedication to European security and by Europe's dedication to America's security, which you demonstrated quickly and powerfully in the wake of 9/11, the first time Article 5 was invoked, without us asking," he added.
Gates and his European counterparts are set to discuss the U.S.-NATO strategy in Afghanistan during the ministers' meeting. The United States, which reportedly is considering a request by the top American commander in Afghanistan for an additional 40,000 troops, has some 68,000 forces there in addition to 41,000 NATO troops.
Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal's assessment and resource request is being reviewed through NATO as well as U.S. chains of command. Gates called the upcoming NATO meeting part of the "process of intense consultation" the United States is undergoing with its allies and partners as it evaluates the way forward in Afghanistan.