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Written Speech for the Leangkollen Conference Cycle

por João Teixeira de Freitas, em 18.03.12

A 7 de Fevereiro do presente ano proferi um discurso sobre Transatlanticismo e valores Transatlânticos no Século XXI num dos eventos internacionais da Comissão Norueguesa do Atlântico (Norwegian Atlantic Committee - Den Norsk Atlanterhavskomite) a pedido da mesma. Sendo que venho acusando algumas falhas em termos de assiduidade na minha escrita, procuro agora compensar tal situação - mesmo que ligeiramente - postando aqui o discurso que proferi. Em Inglês, claro.


Espero que seja do vosso apreço; como sempre, os comentários construtivos são bem-vindos. A versão do discurso aqui 'postada' será a editada a dia 13 de Fevereiro de 2012.


Segue a dita:


"Honourable members of State, diplomatic delegates and representatives, colleagues and friends of the Atlantic Treaty Association and of the YATA:


During the past day we heard many claims regarding a power shift from the West to the East and, thus, we were all confronted with the questionable nature of the relevance in the U.S. – E.U. relation. However, we must consider that there is no actual power shift - there’s an occurrence of power dispersion, which is mainly motivated by the various forces of globalization and by the unsurpassable fact of erosion in collective Western capacity. This gap opening signifies an opportunity for the Eastern players (mainly in Asia), and even players in the South-Atlantic (like Brazil), to occupy - for the moment - key roles in global geopolitics, but while maintaining positive interaction (or even tight cooperation) with pre-existent key players – all of which are born within and operate on a Western framework.


When considering the phenomenon of power dispersion in this new multi-polar paradigm we must also be attentive to the fact that the new players have patrimonial-like relations of power and wealth (see Russia and China), which means globalization serves them more as a tool rather than an equalizing process of methodologies and ideology. As such, this power dispersion - or multidimensional redistribution of power - most likely will not mean the harnessing of new and comfortably integrated allies, but rather will signify the necessity of a more affirmed western identity that will simply have to deal with the undeniable relevance of ideologically differing agents and players. The only global identity is indeed human nature itself.


This means the US-Europe (E.U.) relationship will be and still is the spearhead of the West and western values (and thus of trans-Atlantic values), albeit the E.U. has lost some of its western identity to post-modernism and a slightly anti-conservatism posture.


In practical terms, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) is extremely relevant to the U.S.A. due to how it allows the European Union and its respective member-states to deal with the Middle-East through the Mediterranean partnerships within a developmental security framework. On its own side, the U.S. may just function as a gateway to the broader east, and the transatlantic link can bring players like Russia into aiding with that proximity; additionally, we need to consider the influence of current Chinese investment in European economies – mainly the southern ones which will, in fact, determine the future of the Eurozone itself and, by extension, the future of the European Project.


As such, it is very relevant for The Alliance to get on board with the Eastern players making the best possible geostrategic use of the U.S.-E.U. connection. Trans-atlanticism has indeed not been this relevant since the Cold War, thus I believe it is far from decaying or over.



But many relevant questions still remain and some of them have indeed been mentioned before, here at Leangkollen...what is the modern trans-Atlantic relationship supposed to be founded on? Is it values, institutions or interests?


Well, all relationships between power blocks within the international system are invariably motivated by interests and circumstantial economic climates. The values and institutions are simply that same motivation made manifest through formalizing processes – the founding interest for NATO and the trans-Atlantic effort was stopping the advance of the Soviet system, ideologically, politically and strategically. From this interest were birthed the many institutions and the formal and emotional ties that would later develop into framework values for NATO and the trans-Atlantic Link. Values that would help further the notion of Western identity.


The so-called core values are born from the allegiance to core interests; we must not forget that my country, Portugal, was a dictatorship when it became one of the founding members of NATO and, supposedly, at the time there were already core values regarding civil liberty and the freedom of the individual; we now know, of course, that back then this was just pure rhetoric. Today it is not, however, and indeed Portugal grew towards being able to call itself an Atlanticist Nation-State in what regards security and defence policy, as well as ideology. Again, values become the consequence of the prolonged convergence of common interests and, mainly, common threats – they are the fruit of allegiance.


I must stress however that it is also true that we need to return to a policy of values and principle. The somewhat Liberal views of the Alliance were actually connected to North-American Conservatism, and when the European member-states of the Alliance embraced post-modernist logics as the European Project winded on we were stuck with a fragmented and even slightly divided western identity (even if still sharing a common framework); as such, it is by using the historical values of The Alliance (which were, in their beginning, relative) that we might strive to create common ground.


There’s no such thing as core values though, there’s merely a framework for a common driving force (ideological) based on state-culture and its foundational ideas and values. So, to foster an effective cooperation between the growing European Union’s centralized authority for foreign action (not foreign policy, that is still a sovereign monopoly and rightfully so) and the U.S.A., the E.U. member-states that are also NATO members must be committed to the construction of a value based framework that makes the best possible usage of the many converging interests The Alliance naturally shares with the E.U.


The modern trans-Atlantic relation must also take into consideration modern circumstances. Not only does this relation have to deal with power dispersion it must also deal with identity dispersion.


The fractured mentality in Europe has dispersed many Youth’s identities, leading a vast majority of young people to find solace of existence in broader identities, quite separate or unrelated ad inicium from their original country’s perspectives and cultural heritage – as such, it becomes even more important to have a relevant common ground in which it must be possible to bring and bind together the Western Youth, promoting the convergence of diverging ideas and edifying a beacon for the trans-Atlantic ideal and western culture. There are even many young western people who don’t feel western at all, and it is exactly because of such a situation that this becomes an even greater necessity.


Returning to practical matters however, the issue of Security still remains to be tackled. What is it that binds us in terms of Security policy within the Alliance? And does the relationship with Asia make the E.U. irrelevant towards the U.S.?


Answering the second question, I believe that a potential irrelevance is a non-issue. The relationship with Asia is all the more reason why The Alliance should strive to build deeper ties with members of the E.U. that are not yet members of NATO; and the U.S. itself should keep fostering relations with NATO and E.U. members. Surely the U.S. has a greater economic interest in the Pacific and Asia since all the booming wealth and commerce markets are there – but this is also why many E.U. members have private enterprises located in that region. When we talk about issues of relevance in international relations we must talk Geopolitics, not just Economy since that part is (mostly) already handled well enough by private sector players and, thus, there’s no point in smoke-screening the already smaller relevance of Government in these aspects.


Asia is, as I mentioned, a gateway, not an invitation for stasis in the ongoing relationship between the U.S.A. and the E.U. Asia also binds together both of these regions due to its growing influence in the financial and manufacture based commerce sectors world-wide. It is also a fact that our common geopolitical interests paradoxically foster diverging benefits - which can be extracted from security cooperation.


Western based societies and states share similar views for Development and Security, as well as sharing many similar threats – even if their specific origins are different. Currently we are further bound together not only by that slightly more conceptual framework but also by a very palpable reality: the Arab spring and the Middle-East. Common threats (potential or materialized) breed common security interests, and common security interests are what bind states together in matters of security cooperation and common policy.


Both the aforementioned binding elements are currently the main sources of potential and materialized security issues, respectively. The E.U. must deal with what is going on in the south of the Mediterranean in the best possible way if it doesn’t want increasing instability in close geographical proximity; and that approach will undoubtedly affect the Middle-East, where the U.S.A. are still the main player –  one must note that the E.N.P does not offer structures that allow for the same kind of influence, and the very framework and finance allocation of the E.U. does not allow it as well –, and, by extension, where NATO might also be a main player.


We must also remember that the E.U. has a very residual and ineffective common security policy, not really possessing the necessary coordination and legal framework (much less the resources as things currently stand) to have a “NATO of its own”. As such, The Alliance still plays a major role for the security of both the European states that are NATO and E.U. members and those that aren’t but are part of the E.U. And the U.S. knows it must still play this cooperative role, for the threats of one Block may quickly become the threats of the other; diverging economic interest notwithstanding, the U.S. and most of the E.U. member-states have not forgotten the relevance of the NATO cooperation framework and the importance of their continued relationship for ensuring a common survival in an ever changing and unpredictable international system.


We must not bury our heads in the idealist bubble of a fantasy world ran only by peaceful economic interest; NATO hasn’t and, as such, neither can the U.S.A. or the E.U. And neither can the rest of us. 



João Teixeira de Freitas


- President of the Portuguese Atlantic Youth Association (YATA Portugal)

- Secretary-General for the Youth Atlantic Treaty Association "





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