A New Transatlantic Partnership

Ming Campbell gave the following address at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., as Chancellor of St Andrew’s University.

It is a great honour to be here with you today to acknowledge the relationship between two world famous academic institutions.

Two universities with a global reputation for academic excellence.

One founded in 1413.

The other founded in 1789.

One situated in a town where Scotland’s last pre-Reformation Cardinal was murdered. I assure you, things have moved on.

The other the first Catholic and Jesuit University in the United States.

One located in an historic medieval town known the world over as the home of golf.

The other located in a city where political decisions act as the heartbeat of the modern world.

Georgetown University’s contribution to the debate on foreign affairs is especially great.

The Georgetown University Law Centre.

The Walsh School of Foreign Service.

And the Centre for Peace and Security Studies are all centres of that excellence.

As Chancellor of St Andrew’s University I am proud that the work that is done here in Washington is mirrored by St Andrews in its Department of International Relations and its Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence.

The purpose of our joint endeavours is to understand, to explain and to ease conflict in a turbulent world.

Different departments.

Different universities.

Different countries.

But the same objective.

In Georgetown you say “Utraque Unum”, both into one.

And in St Andrews we say “Aien Aristeuein”, always to be the best.

I am therefore delighted by the new partnership between Georgetown and St Andrews.

International exchange students have wonderful opportunities to experience the academic and cultural environments of their host university.

Experiences that broaden their outlook and challenge them.

The relationships that will form across the Atlantic between our academic staff will provoke debate and stimulate thought in areas of crucial importance to both our countries.

Our joint conference on security issues next June will provide opportunities for cooperation of that kind and add to the debate on vital issues of our time.

But our relationship has the potential to grow further still.

My hope is that this will be the beginning of a long-lasting agreement that will strengthen and deepen over the coming years, and will involve staff and students from across academic departments.

Our new transatlantic partnership between Georgetown and St Andrews has a clear parallel in the relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States.

British and American politicians pay tribute to what it was once fashionable to call the “special relationship” between our two countries.

They point to the common law and our common language, common culture and common history.

These are symptomatic of something fundamental.

Common values.



And the rule of law.

Neither of our countries has an impeccable record in upholding these.

But each of our countries is committed to doing so.

The United Kingdom and the United States have a proud history of working together in defence of our common values.

In World War One and World War Two we stood together to defend our own freedom.

And in the First Gulf War, we stood together to defend the freedom of others.

We have not always seen eye to eye.

We fell out badly over Suez when America was right, and over Grenada, when America was wrong.

This is a relationship built on trust that neither side wishes to jettison.

But true friendships are based on partnership and lasting alliances on partnerships of influence.

Not on the principle “my ally, right or wrong”.

Candid friendship provides the best and most lasting foundation for effective alliances.

There have been periods of discord between our two great nations.

Harold Wilson’s relationship with Lyndon Johnson was strained over the issue of Vietnam.

And there was a certain distance between John Major and President Clinton.

By contrast, Churchill and FDR, Macmillan and JFK, and Thatcher and Reagan were personally close.

The “special relationship” was at its most cordial when President and Prime Minister were at their most affectionate.

But strain in the transatlantic relationship cannot always be avoided.

Even although divorce is unthinkable.

Our shared values and our desire to protect and promote them require our partnership to last.

But it is fair to say that we are in a period of strain now.

The relationship between President Bush and Prime Minister Blair could hardly have been closer.

But the trouble is more fundamental than that.

In the minds of the British public the United Kingdom has found itself enmeshed in an unwanted, unsuccessful and – in the opinion of many – illegal war in Iraq.

The President is blamed for initiating the conflict, and the Prime Minister for enabling it.

This is not the forum for debating the rights and wrongs of the invasion of Iraq.

But I will allow myself the observation that the decision to go to war or not would have benefited from a more honest and robust diplomatic partnership.

And that the decision to go to war or not would have benefited from an unequivocal commitment to international institutions and the rule of law.

Britain’s relationship with the United States today cannot be seen as wholly bilateral.

There is an added dimension.

British membership of the European Union.

The goals shared by America and Britain are also shared by the EU.

Therefore, we must renew the transatlantic partnership between the United States and the continent of Europe.

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country currently holds both the EU and G8 presidencies, has already called for this.

As she has pointed out, globalisation provides both the imperative and the obligation for closer economic links.

And if we make progress in these economic areas, where our relationship is already equal, the EU and the US will surely find it easier to reach common ground on foreign and security matters.

That has certainly been the case within the EU where an ever deeper and wider Union has brought both peace and prosperity to nation states from the former Soviet bloc.

This is “soft power” achieving more than military might ever did for those countries.

But the EU is willing to take on a greater role international role than that.

Chancellor Merkel seeks “a broader division of labour within the international community”.

But it can only do so if Europe maintains an adequate military capability.

Too many European countries have allowed their capabilities to fall below acceptable standards.

Europe has to step up to the plate.

Europe has much to offer with regard to the Middle East.

The flashpoints of Iraq, Lebanon and Israel / Palestine all pose a threat to regional stability.

It is clear that without American involvement, none of these will be solved.

But in the eyes of many in the region, the United States is perceived to be biased in favour of Israel and its strategic interests.

The EU is not regarded as wholly impartial either.

But it is in better odour with many in the region, and is well-placed to front diplomatic efforts to broker a just peace.

And, potentially, to police any settlement too.

Americans have often justifiably spoken about the need for Europe to take a greater role in promoting peace and security.

A new and invigorated partnership between the EU and the USA could be a spur for the EU to do just that.

There are some both in Britain and America who share hostility towards the EU.

They would approve of a greater British distance from it.

But Britain’s position within the EU is deep and embedded.

And there can be no turning back.

It is in all of our interests for America and the EU to work together.

And it is in our interests too for Britain to act as a bridge between them.

That is the traditional wish of American presidents, from Eisenhower to Clinton.

It was also Tony Blair’s stated objective when he came to power in 1997.

We can be that bridge.

And I believe that we should.

The UK and the US.

Georgetown and St Andrews.

Bilateral partnerships that offer future success.

“Utraque Unum.”

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2 Responses to A New Transatlantic Partnership

  1. Pingback: Kaveman’s Daily Feed of Informative Blogs » A New Transatlantic Partnership

  2. Tecla says:

    Interesting to know.

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