A Vital and Enduring Alliance

In recent years, many experts and commentators have said that the Atlantic Alliance would crumble or become irrelevant. As a former ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), I can say from experience that such dire predictions are nothing new. As America’s current Secretary of Defense, it is clear to me that the transatlantic partnership is as relevant and essential as ever.

Consider the historic events that have taken place in the past year and the role played by the United States and Europe. NATO added seven new members – nations eager to contribute to the Alliance in powerful ways. In Afghanistan, eight million voters, 40% of them women, chose their first democratically elected President in 5,000 years. In the Palestinian Authority, a democratically elected president offers the hope of a new chance for peace. In Ukraine, ordinary citizens demonstrated the depth of their commitment to free and fair elections.

In Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s former subjects braved threats and voted for the first time with ballots that offered a choice of 70 political parties, rather than only one. Across the country, voters arrived on crutches and in donkey carts, passing by posters that threatened: “You vote, you die.” What a damaging blow to the extremists, whose ideology the voters so clearly rejected.

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