Guten Tag. Thank you, Michael, for that warm introduction, and thank you to Mirco and everyone here at FES for hosting us. It is a true honor to speak with so many leading minds from across Berlin.
Back in 1987, this will tell you how old I am, which I’m very proud of… I’m 73. Back in 1987, I traveled to this city as one of the “40 Americans under 40” to mark the 40th anniversary of the Marshall Plan.
I have clear memories from that visit. I remember sitting in the Reichstag hearing George Kennan describe the origin story of the Marshall Plan, discussing how far we had come since those post-war years but how far we still had to go as the Cold War persisted.
Berlin at that time, as you well know, remained a divided city. The Wall still stood and still cast a shadow over the lives of Berliners and millions more across Europe.
Perhaps my most vivid recollections of that trip came outside the official program, when my husband and I—they didn’t know we were married… and they made us each one of 40 Americans under the age of 40, and we decided to cross into East Berlin. We could only carry 50 East German marks with us, and when we ran out of money, which is easy to do, we were helped by a stranger—a citizen living under the yoke of repression, yet ready to show us kindness and care.
Then came the most searing memory of all: when East German soldiers told us we could only exit East Berlin exactly where we had entered. We could only use that one gate and it was far away from where we were, no questions asked.
In that brief moment, we got a very tiny taste of the lack of freedom felt by those who lived there. It was of course nothing compared to the oppression endured by those who had little choice in where they could travel, walk, work, or communicate each day.
But the lesson from that experience sticks with me. We can never return to the days of barriers to individual rights on this continent—on this continent or anywhere else. We cannot allow new walls to be constructed, new divisions to be sown.
Instead, we should take inspiration from acts of courage around us—from Ukrainians sacrificing for their independence or Iranian women marching and giving their lives for their liberty. These are reminders that people are always willing to fight to determine their own destiny. A reminder, as was the case in Berlin in the Cold War, as we see in nearly every generation, that our ideals are always worth fighting for.
Today, as Michael said, that struggle is playing out in Ukraine, where Ukrainians are courageously waging a battle for their lives… where Russia’s unprovoked aggression and Putin’s barbaric acts are threatening entire cities, entire communities… where energy security, food security, and our collective security are under siege throughout the world… where our common principles hang in the balance.
Today that struggle is taking shape in a different form in the Indo-Pacific—home to more than half the planet’s population and two-thirds of the world’s economy— where the future of the rules-based international order will be written… where that future is being challenged by forces arrayed against free enterprise, against democratic values, and against human rights.
"For us, Germany is an ally of first resort. Our bilateral relationship is a cornerstone of the transatlantic alliance, which remains a source of stability in Europe and beyond."- Wendy Sherman
The question now is as leaders on the world stage, how will we respond? How will we promote freedom in our time? In a word: together.
The United States and Germany are bound by so much. Our values of openness and democracy. Our defense partnership that helps ensure our collective safety. Our economic cooperation that facilitates nearly $200 billion in trade every year; that deepens our people-to-people ties; that sees us contributing worldwide in sectors like infrastructure, health, manufacturing, and transportation.
For us, Germany is an ally of first resort. Our bilateral relationship is a cornerstone of the transatlantic alliance, which remains a source of stability in Europe and beyond.
Right now, our unity is vital. It is a bedrock of the international system. It is critical as we collaborate with our partners in the Indo-Pacific, as we support their political and economic security.
Just before traveling to Europe this week, two gatherings in Washington demonstrated our unity in action, as you all know. President Biden hosted President Macron for a State Visit where our leaders reaffirmed our common commitment across the transatlantic partnership to a free and open Indo-Pacific and our unified support for freedom of navigation, transparency, and fair economic practices. On those same days, those very busy days, I welcomed my European Union counterpart to the State Department for the U.S.-EU Dialogue on China and Indo-Pacific Consultations.
Coming out of those engagements, I believe it’s safe to say that the U.S. and the EU, of which Germany is an essential leader, have never been more aligned on our approach to the Indo-Pacific.
We share an affirmative vision for the region, of a region that is free, open, connected and prosperous, resilient and secure, and we are working with our friends in the Indo-Pacific to realize that ambition.
Together, we are supporting our Indo-Pacific partners to ensure their maritime security, counter disinformation, and develop high-quality sustainable infrastructure. We are building resilience in areas essential to the region–technology, economic development, governance, supply chains, and more. We are working with our Indo-Pacific friends to strengthen shared principles and to reinforce the regional architecture for the 21st century.
"What’s at stake for all of us is the fate and the safety of the rules-based international order as we know it."-Wendy Sherman
We are coordinating with actors across the Indo-Pacific, as well as Germany, the European Union, and others, on matters of urgency like ensuring a stable food supply, providing humanitarian assistance, enhancing energy affordability, combating climate change, and creating shared prosperity—bold objectives we all share.
At the end of the day, finding solutions on these issues is the true measure of our diplomacy, whether shoulder-to-shoulder we can build greater health, wider growth, stronger norms, and a future of freedom in the Indo-Pacific, in America, Europe, and around the world.
What’s at stake for all of us is the fate and the safety of the rules-based international order as we know it. One the United States, Germany, transatlantic allies, and many others helped build, fortify, and sustain in the wake of World War II.
Everyone here recognizes that the People’s Republic of China presents the most serious long-term challenge to that order, to the very system that enabled the China’s rise in the first place. Yet the PRC is the only nation anywhere with the means to reshape global norms and the apparent intent to see it through.
For the United States, our approach to the PRC begins on clear terms. We do not seek, invite, or expect conflict. President Biden has made clear that we do not want a new Cold War. But we will compete vigorously while managing our competition responsibly.
"We share the Chancellor’s clarity of purpose in condemning the PRC’s human rights abuses, criticizing escalations in the Taiwan Strait, and decrying unjust economic policies."- Wendy Sherman
When Secretary Blinken presented our broader outlook on the PRC last spring, he outlined three core pillars: Invest. Align, Compete. That second pillar involves aligning with our allies and partners here in Germany and across the board to realize our shared vision and address harmful PRC activities. Simply put: coordinating with our partners like Germany isn’t an afterthought in the strategy. It is a key tenet of the strategy.
That’s why, before Chancellor Scholz traveled to Beijing, or before President Biden met with President Xi at the G-20, our two governments were in close contact. We welcome the Chancellor’s clear messages to PRC leadership vigorously opposing Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, denouncing Russia’s unacceptable nuclear saber-rattling, and confronting the PRC’s unwillingness to oppose Putin’s invasion of a sovereign country. We share the Chancellor’s clarity of purpose in condemning the PRC’s human rights abuses, criticizing escalations in the Taiwan Strait, and decrying unjust economic policies.
When President Biden met with President Xi at the G20, he did the same—stating plainly that we will always defend American interests, promote universal human rights, and work in lockstep with our allies and partners. We will maintain open lines of communication with Beijing and work with the PRC where we can, to solve tough problems that require collective action.
This cohesive approach is what we need. At every turn, we have to be careful to guard our common interests and values, and none of us should depend on one nation in areas that are critical to supporting our businesses or ensuring our people’s safety. We need to work hand-in-hand to counter predatory non-market policies by the PRC and others, all of which threaten the region’s security and the planet’s prosperity.
"Here’s the bottom line: We are acting, together with Germany and other partners, to tackle the full range of challenges presented by the PRC."- Wendy Sherman
We must not permit our economic overdependence to be exploited as leverage against us or our partners in the Indo-Pacific. We cannot rely on Beijing to alter its behavior, undo its use of disinformation, or withdraw its reckless actions. We will not stay silent when the PRC violates international rules in the East and South China Seas; when it violates rights in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Hong Kong; when it engages in economic coercion in Lithuania and elsewhere.
Here’s the bottom line: We are acting, together with Germany and other partners, to tackle the full range of challenges presented by the PRC.
But we will do our part to ensure any competition never veers into conflict. We will continue to align our strategies with our allies, always rallying around the principles of the rule of law and fair competition, always standing fast for democratic norms and individual freedom.
You know, when that group of us came together in this city 35 years ago—and those who are younger than I, and that’s pretty much all of you, it seems like a blink of my eye. Our purpose was to celebrate the Marshall Plan, study its lessons, and continue its legacy.
But that task was never meant solely for the 40 of us meeting in Berlin on a single anniversary. That legacy belongs to all of us, in the United States, in Germany, across this continent. Because ultimately, that landmark plan was more than a package of aid or an investment in economic recovery or a measure of goodwill for post-war Europe.
It was among the very first cornerstones of the transatlantic alliance. On that foundation, we built the partnership that carries us forward to this day. That partnership that is squarely in our hands to solidify, deepen, and grow.
For both our nations and our friends in Europe and the Indo-Pacific and beyond, indeed the whole world, we must continue to stand firm, stand strong, and stand together for what that partnership has always stood for: a more secure, more free, and more prosperous future. Thank you.
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