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Both of us came of age during the 1980s. Like so many others, we recall a turbulent decade that began with armies confronting each other across a divided Europe and ended with the Berlin Wall coming down, millions freed from the shackles of communism and human dignity extended across the continent.
The Cold War reached this conclusion because of the actions of many brave individuals and many strong nations, but we saw how the bond between our two countries – and our two leaders at the time – proved such a vital catalyst for change. It reminded us that when the United States and Britain stand together, our people and people around the world can become more secure and more prosperous.
And that is the key to our relationship. Yes, it is founded on a deep emotional connection, by sentiment and ties of people and culture. But the reason it thrives, the reason why this is such a natural partnership, is because it advances our common interests and shared values. It is a perfect alignment of what we both need and what we both believe. And the reason it remains strong is because it delivers time and again. Ours is not just a special relationship, it is an essential relationship – for us and for the world.
So as we meet today, facing immense economic, social and strategic challenges, it is natural that once again our two nations join together in common cause. Today the foundations of our partnership are rock solid. Our servicemen and women serve alongside one another, whether fighting in Helmand, protecting innocent people in Libya or combating piracy off the Horn of Africa. Every day our diplomats and security and intelligence agencies work together. We are working urgently to de-escalate tensions and prevent a return to war in Sudan’s contested Abyei region. And we are unified in our support for a lasting peace between a secure Israel and a sovereign Palestine.
And we can honestly say that despite being two leaders from two different political traditions, we see eye to eye. We look at the world in a similar way, share the same concerns and see the same strategic possibilities. So we will build on the relationship between the UK and US, working closely together on areas of common interest to make it stronger still.
One area where we need to co-operate is on rebuilding our economies. In the past few years, the global economy has gone through a profound shock. And what’s at stake now is whether new jobs and businesses take root in our countries or somewhere else. Now we are two different countries but our destination must be the same: strong and stable growth, reduced deficits and reform of our financial systems – so that they will never again be open to the abuses of the past.
Governments do not create jobs: bold people and innovative businesses do. We know that our nations are self-reliant and infused with the entrepreneurial spirit. We have proud traditions of out-innovating and out-building the rest of the world – and of doing it together. Today the US remains the largest investor in Britain, and Britain the largest investor in the US – each supporting around a million jobs in our countries. We want to encourage more of this exchange of capital, goods and ideas. So this week we will reaffirm our commitment to strong collaboration between our universities and research facilities.
We must also co-operate on ensuring our shared security. The death of Osama bin Laden marks the most significant blow against al-Qaeda since its inception – but it does not mark the end of the terror. Al-Qaeda and its affiliates will continue to pursue attacks against our countries so we must work together to protect our people from their poisonous ideology and the violence that flows from it. This means sharing information so we trace, track and disrupt terrorist plots – and bring those who plan them to justice. There can be no impunity and no refuge for those who wish to do us harm. And yes, this also means continuing our mission in Afghanistan, training the Afghan national army and police so they can provide security for their country, and our troops can come home.
But we also need to understand why people can become attracted to violent extremism in the first place. When young men and women feel that their rights are not respected, they can become more prone to the narrative of separateness and victimhood that al-Qaeda’s ideology feeds off. This is just one reason why recent events in the Arab world and Middle East are so momentous. What we are seeing there is a groundswell of people demanding the basic rights, freedoms and dignities that we take for granted. We all share in their success or failure.
Progress in the region will be uneven and it is not our place to dictate the pace and scope of this change. But we will stand with those who want to bring light into dark, support those who seek freedom in place of repression, aid those laying the building blocks of democracy. We do so because democracy and respect for universal rights is a good for the people of the region, and also because it’s a key part of the antidote to the instability and extremism that threatens our security. And we will not stand by as their aspirations get crushed in a hail of bombs, bullets and mortar fire. We are reluctant to use force but when our interests and values come together we know that we have a responsibility to act.
This is why we mobilised the international community to protect the Libyan people from Colonel Gaddafi’s regime. We have degraded his war machine and prevented a humanitarian catastrophe. And we will continue to enforce the UN resolutions with our allies until they are completely complied with. Our actions in Libya are not, and will never be, a burden our countries carry alone. We will work with partners so they share the load and the costs and continue to support the legitimate and credible Transitional National Council and its efforts to prepare for an inclusive, democratic transition. Together we show the world that the principles of justice and freedom will be upheld by all.
Our efforts against al-Qaeda – and our mission in Libya – are critical to the type of world that we want to build. Bin Laden’s ideology is one that has failed to take hold. Gaddafi’s reign represents the region’s past. We stand for something different. We see the prospect of democracy and universal rights taking hold in the Arab World, and it fills us with confidence and a renewed commitment to an alliance based not just on interests but on values. Yes, we are mindful of the risks and aware of the uncertainties. But we stand together, optimistic and confident that our two nations can achieve peace, prosperity and security in the years ahead.