Centro Studi Americani
March 6, 2023
(As prepared for delivery)
Buon pomeriggio a tutti.
I want to thank our friends at the Centro Studi Americani, the Aspen Institute, and the European Council on Foreign Relations for organizing this afternoon’s discussion.
It is an honor to be here with Presidents Gianni De Gennaro and Giulio Tremonti, and to welcome so many distinguished experts.
Just over one year ago, my predecessor spoke at this same podium for the 2022 Transatlantic Forum as Russia was preparing its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. He said:
What this crisis is about, at its core, is Russia’s rejection of a post-Cold War Europe that is whole and free. It is about Russia turning away from agreements that have kept the peace across the continent for decades, taking aim at NATO and at the governing principles of international peace, security, and democracy that we all have a stake in defending. To allow Russia to violate those principles with impunity would drag us all back to a much more dangerous and unstable time and send a message to others around the world that these principles are expendable.
Those words are as true today as they were a year ago. Russia’s brutal, full-scale invasion of Ukraine is one of the most significant events in this century. The war has global implications requiring a strong, united, and decisive transatlantic response.
Putin thought he could roll over Kyiv and that the transatlantic community was too divided to respond. To Putin’s surprise, the Ukrainian population have defended themselves effectively with courage and ingenuity. To Putin’s consternation, the transatlantic community has rallied to assist the people of Ukraine. To Putin’s dismay, his attempt to annex another country’s territory has failed.
The one-year mark of the conflict did not see a victory parade by Putin in Kyiv or Moscow. Instead, it brought valiant resistance by the people of Ukraine against a foreign power seeking to take away their freedom and right to choose their own government. It brought a barrage of Russian and Iranian-made missiles and drones deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure to deprive the population of electricity and water. It brought further evidence of Russian atrocities and war crimes that are, in the words of Vice President Harris, an assault on our common values and common humanity. It brought President Zelenskyy to Washington, Brussels,
and European capitals. It also brought visits to Kyiv by President Biden, Prime Minister Meloni, and many others.
The broad coalition supporting Ukraine speaks volumes about the kind of world in which both Americans and Europeans want to live. Russia’s attack elicited a commitment by Europeans to invest the resources required to defend themselves and their allies from aggression. Historically neutral states, such as Sweden and Finland, asked to become members of NATO. All of us now focus on the importance of security for energy resources and supply chains, topics that are important to every person and business facing high energy prices and inflation.
Transatlantic teamwork is needed now more than ever, even in areas where we sometimes have different paths toward the same goal. For example, some European states have raised questions about the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, which will address global climate change. We believe there are opportunities for European firms in the IRA, as well as benefit respective positions in a joint task force with the European Union and have already made progress on certain issues.
Since we are meeting in Rome, I note that Italy has been a key component of the transatlantic response to the war in Ukraine. The Italian people welcomed over 170,000 Ukrainian refugees. Italy has donated millions in humanitarian assistance. Italy has provided vital equipment to allow the Ukrainians to defend their families, their cities, and their independence. Italy has also led the way in encouraging other EU states to offer Ukraine a real European perspective. This willingness to stand up for the values it holds dear has reinforced Italy’s position as a leader in NATO, the EU, and the G7.
During his visit to Kyiv, President Biden told the Ukrainian people, quote: “You remind us that freedom is priceless; it’s worth fighting for, for as long as it takes. And that’s how long we’re going to be with you: for as long as it takes.” By “we” the President did not just mean the United States. He also meant Italy. He meant the EU. He meant NATO and he meant the broader transatlantic community.
Let me close by stating that the United States is committed to strengthening NATO, raising the level of ambition in the U.S.-EU relationship, and standing with our European partners in defense of the rules-based system that underpins our security, prosperity, and values. Grazie.