Athens Acropolis Hotel
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m., June 28, 2018
Thank you very much for the warm welcome and for the opportunity to address the alumni, friends, and supporters of The George C. Marshall Center.
I want to acknowledge and congratulate in particular my counterpart Ambassador Angelov. It’s been a historic couple of weeks for you and your work here so congratulations on that. And John, you mentioned all the great things about Greece, but you didn’t mention the weather. And I have to share with you that we’re coming off of two days of Bavarian weather, and my Greek friends were panicked, and I’m glad to see we have the Greek summer back for you and Donna to enjoy a bit.
I’ll say as a past speaker at several Marshall Center events and a great admirer of the special atmosphere that provides, I really am delighted to join you. And when I saw Donna and John this evening, the first thing I asked them was to pass my regards to General Dayton and the rest of the leadership team at the Marshall Center. I think it really is a U.S. treasure.
The Marshall Center is one of the strongest pillars of the American diplomatic and military presence in Europe – promoting democratic values, security, and relationships among nations. It is unique in its ability to bring together leaders in government, defense, and public institutions to engage openly, to discuss issues, not just within Europe, but also across the region and the globe.
The Marshall Center excels at building these relationships while forging the cooperation required to solve the many challenges shared across borders. The distinguished graduates present here today are excellent examples of Greek leadership and influence in your strategic location. The lessons learned and ideas you shared at the Marshall Center foster an even greater level of engagement within organizations across this region.
Gatherings like tonight’s event provide opportunities for alumni to promote regional cooperation, share ideas and best practices, and engage in continuous professional development. They are also proof that the time you spent in Garmisch is just the beginning of what we hope will be a lifelong relationship with the Marshall Center and your fellow alumni.
The value of the Marshall Center network has been recognized at the highest levels of the U.S. government. And this is why the Marshall Center continues to invest heavily in its alumni.
I want to compliment all of the alumni here for your dedication and openness in discussing tough issues and bringing your vast experience to advance democracy and to promote peaceful region. As leaders in the Greek security establishment, you are all key partners for the United States Mission in Greece, but your status as Marshall Center alumni gives you a special role.
The way I see the European security situation has a lot to do with our view of NATO and our regional partnerships, and the ways in which regional institutions are helping to advance security and stability.
First, regarding the U.S. relationship with NATO and the EU, I want to emphasize that the United States remains committed to our alliance relationships. It is in America’s interests for our allies to be strong, sovereign, prosperous, and committed to the advancement of our shared values and ideals.
Terrorism, ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine, and unprecedented migration flows to Europe are among the most pressing challenges we face, and the cooperation fostered at events like this through the George C. Marshall Center is an important demonstration of the United States’ commitment to facing these challenges together.
We are grateful for Greece’s leadership in the region and commitment to what we believe is the world’s most successful alliance in history, one that remains a foundation of U.S. global engagement.
It’s worth remembering that Secretary of State Pompeo’s first trip abroad was to the NATO Ministerial, sending a clear message of U.S. commitment to the alliance.
Our Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasia Wess Mitchell reiterated this point in a recent speech at the Heritage Foundation. There he emphasized that, “There is nothing more precious to us as societies, more valuable to our long-term economic prosperity, or more necessary for our mutual defense, than the bonds of history, culture, commerce and security that exist between the United States and the countries of Europe.”
The United States has spent the last 70 years working with our European allies and friends to build peace, prosperity, and security on the foundation of a close and effective transatlantic partnership. Our relationship is rooted in enduring economic, political, and social ties – which together have ushered in a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity.
Greece’s role as a regional pillar of stability is one of the reasons why I’ve spent so much time and energy promoting this year’s Thessaloniki International Fair, where the U.S. will be the honored country. The Fair will provide a compelling platform to highlight Greece’s strategic role in building bridges with the Balkan countries, while also showcasing our close bilateral cooperation and Greece’s enormous potential as the economy at last emerges from economic crisis.
So to conclude, The Marshall Center excels at fostering relationships. And so, as John said, I would encourage you all to actively stay in touch with each other and to call upon one another for advice and assistance as you tackle security issues in your countries, because these are challenges that none of us can face alone.
Thank you very much for your attention, thank you to the Marshall Center for the invitation, and I look forward to hearing colleagues’ remarks on a particularly challenging set of issues.