Remarks by Chargé d’affaires Kristin Kane – Curso de Promoção a Oficial General at Instituto Universitário Militar

Bom dia.  Thank you for the kind introduction.  It is a pleasure to be here today at the Instituto Universitario Militar, and I wanted to note the presence also of our Defense Attaché, Colonel Andrew “Saint” Bernard, who will speak to you after my remarks for a defense perspective.

You are the future leaders of the Portuguese – and Brazilian — Armed Forces and will help shape the future of the important relationship between our countries, so it is my honor to speak with you today.

Portugal is always special to us:  You are a NATO Ally, a strong European Union member state for the past 45 years – holding at present the EU Presidency.  And our people-to-people relationship is as strong as in any country I have served.

I am very happy to see there are Brazilian officers in this distinguished group – just before coming to Lisbon, I worked for three years at our Embassy in Brasilia during which time we helped secure Major Non-NATO Ally Status for Brazil, an important milestone and in recognition of the size and strength of the Brazilian military.  There is much more that we can work on together in a trilateral or even quadrilateral way – the United States, Portugal, and Brazil, perhaps with African states.  The United States and Brazil are both supporters of Portugal’s nascent Atlantic Center on the Azores for this reason, I know we will discuss that later.


I was asked to speak on The U.S. Strategy in the Current Context.”

Before we get to current / today, let us look briefly on what got us here; we always learn from history – in this case, I’ll do it only superficially as I know you are all familiar with this history:  The global order during the Cold War period in which many of us grew up seems almost simple and antiquated now:  It was, one could say, black and white:  capitalism or communism.  And we divided the world that way.  While the United States and the Soviet Union never went into a physical direct war, there were many proxy wars around the world where lives were lost.  Then after the fall of USSR in the decade after we began to develop an understanding on the post-Cold War period which of course is “Globalization.”  While we still live in that globalized world, as Americans, the terrorist attacks of September 11th shifted us into a time of conflict:  It led us and our Allies into war, through Article 5 of the NATO Treaty:  “An attack on one is an attack on all.”  It also changed how we diplomats did diplomacy around the world, with a focus on trying to better understand what leads to violent extremism or terrorism — so different from nation-state conflict — and how to combat it.  Our previous U.S. Administration under Donald Trump brought to the forefront, especially through our work with European partners, the “Great Power Competition” with China and Russia – two challenging countries that will remain as challenges going forward and on which I will speak.

Now, to look at the present, and also forward:   I will outline the current U.S. approach to foreign policy under President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris: It is actually a very opportune moment as just this month the White House outlined our new National Security Strategy — and I will welcome your thoughts on it.

I will cover five critical aspects of the U.S. approach to foreign policy:

  • Firstwill be how the Biden administration places diplomacy at the center of U.S. foreign policy.
  • Second, I will speak about the importance of our alliancesand in particular, Portugal.  We need to cooperate more than ever before; not a single global challenge can be met by any one nation acting alone.
  • In order todo this, the third important aspect, will be the United States’ commitment to revitalizing and increasing the level of cooperation with our partners and allies and using multilateral fora.
  • Fourth,I will discuss how the United States, together will our partners, will work to address shared global challenges such as COVID-19, climate change, and regional   This also means creating a more inclusive global economy and taking on the dangers and opportunities posed by China and Russia.
  • Fifth- -and sixth and seventh and eighth…:  Democracy, democracy, democracy. Our democratic values will guide all of our engagement.  In order to lead by example, we will work to strengthen democracy in the United States and around the world.

I’m glad I can address this topic with you, future leaders of Portugal’s and Brazil’s military.  21st century leadership includes the women and men of the military — and I am delighted to see some women in this cohort – as an important role in a country’s foreign policy strategy.  We call it our National Security Strategy for a reason:  you are charged with bringing security to an often-times unsecure world.   Whether it’s helping curb the pandemic; addressing the threats of climate change, securing our collective security; or being part of an ongoing fight for human rights and democracy around the world, the military has a role, often on the front lines.

You are essential to how we meet the challenges of this century.

So, here we go, the five aspects — Part 1 is Foreign Policy Led by Diplomacy:

President Biden made clear when he gave his first foreign policy speech as President at our headquarters, our Ministry — the U.S. Department of State — after only 10 days in office that America is on the world stage, and diplomacy is at the center of how we engage with the world.

This should not come as a surprise.  It’s the role of the State Department – and America’s diplomats and development workers – to engage around the world and build cooperation. Diplomacy has played an essential role in some of the most important moments in U.S. history, from the beginning:

One of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, used his outreach to France to help secure our independence from Britain during the Revolutionary War.  Sometimes one forgets that Americans had to fight a war 245 years ago to be free.  Shortly after, in 1796, a young man by the name of John Quincy Adams, was sent to Lisbon to be Ambassador – or Minister, as we called it then.  His father, John Adams, was elected president of the United States that very year to become our 2nd president, after George Washington.  The elder John Adams as President soon moved his son from Portugal to Prussia, or modern-day Germany, to be Ambassador there.   There was no relationship for our stability, and global stability, as important as the new relationships we were building as a young nation with our European partners, and diplomats like Benjamin Franklin and John Adams helped do that centuries ago.   (Later, some of you may know, the son John Quincy Adams became President of the United States himself.)  Fast forward 150 years and of course, diplomacy defined the vision of the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II when the continent had been ravaged.  Our First Lady of that time, Eleanor Roosevelt, spouse of Franklin Delano Roosevelt – our only president to have served more than two terms by the way, because of the extraordinary times – boldly declared in Geneva the bold idea that universal rights belong to everyone; and helped found what is today the United Nations where of course a Portuguese statesman Antonio Guterres is in charge as Secretary General.

In sum, diplomacy is the premier tool of our global engagement, and the main one we will use to engage our allies and partners, and to address challenging countries like China and Russia.

Part 2:  Let me speak a bit about the important U.S.-Portugal bilateral relationship:

The United States is the strongest military and economic power in the world, but as my new boss Secretary of State Antony Blinken likes to say, “We need to show not just the example of our power – but the power of our example.”  In either case, this is based so much on relationships.

The U.S.-Portugal relationship is long-standing, special, and strong.  We have been close since Portugal recognized the United States in 1791, you were the first neutral country to do so.  And yes, our founders like Benjamin Franklin toasted the U.S. declaration of independence and later the U.S. constitution both with Portuguese Madeira wine.  Our Consulate on the Azores is the oldest in the world at 226 years – and as I mentioned before one of our Ambassadors became President of the United States. There are nearly a million and a half people of Portuguese origin in the United States and over a million American tourists came to visit Portugal in 2019 before the pandemic struck.  There are seven members of the U.S. Congress of Portuguese origin, Republican and Democrat, in both chambers – the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Portugal is a founding NATO member and agreed to the Wales pledge, indicating all NATO allies would do more to protect the alliance.  Together, we promote peace, security, and stability around the globe.  The United States has turned to Portugal for political and material support in almost every peacekeeping and peacemaking effort that the United States, NATO, and the United Nations have led since the Cold War that includes troops in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Defense Attaché will speak more on our defense relationship, so I will conclude this part noting that beyond the people-to-people and security and defense relationship, we also have an important economic relationship with investment and trade – areas that we will all rely on as we focus on economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic.

Part 3 is Working with Partners and Allies

Working with partners and Allies like Portugal is key to what the United States seeks to achieve in our National Security Strategy.  In the recently-released guidelines, the White House notes that “our vital national interests compel the deepest connection to the Indo-Pacific, Europe, and the Western Hemisphere.”  With Europe, we share deep-rooted common values and perspectives including a stalwart commitment to democracy and human rights.  To quote President Biden last month at the Munich Security Conference:

“The Transatlantic alliance is the strong foundation on which our collective security and our shared prosperity are built. The partnership between Europe and the United States is, and must remain, the cornerstone of all that we hope to accomplish in the 21st century.

For the past 75 years, the United States has promoted a strong U.S.-European partnership.  This Transatlantic partnership is grounded in the post-World War II order based on alliances with like-minded democratic countries and a shared U.S.-European commitment to free markets and an open international trading system.  It is nearly impossible to overstate how crucial that partnership has been:  In short, brought together by our values and ideals, we have essentially defined and led the world order over decades. Successive U.S. Administrations have supported the broad engagement and our deep-rooted transatlantic relationship, from Roosevelt to now, Biden.

The United States remains committed to NATO and to multilateralism. The United States will continue to support the goal of a Europe that is whole, free, and at peace.

This is why the United States welcomes Europe’s growing investment in military capabilities that enable our shared defense.  This is also why the United States will work closely with our European Union partners and the capitals across the continent to meet the range of shared challenges we face.

While the Secretary of State’s first in-person trip along with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is happening now to Japan and to Korea, but the Transatlantic dialogue has already been very active with virtual attendance at the NATO Defense Ministerial; Secretary of State Blinken’s meeting with the “E3” (France, the UK, and Germany) counterparts; and Secretary Blinken’s participation in the EU Foreign Affairs Council and the G7 Summit.  We look forward to much more to come soon.

4 – on Handling Challenges 

Challenges:  There are many of them, so bear with me as I discuss our approach to just a few – COVID, climate change, and regional actors creating instability.

On COVID-19: 

The COVID-19 pandemic is of course the most pressing global challenge at this moment.  The United States believes a coordinated Transatlantic response is necessary and provided a $2 billion pledge to COVAX, with the promise of an additional $2 billion to urge others to step up as well, $4 billion in all.

As we fight the current pandemic, we must simultaneously work to finance health security; strengthen global health systems; and create early warning systems to prevent, detect, and respond to future biological threat — because they will keep coming.

The pandemic has caused unemployment to surge around the world.  Nearly every country on earth is now in a recession but with this great challenge, there is opportunity to build stronger and healthier economies.  We will turn around the economic crisis and build a more stable, inclusive global economy.  We will work to ensure workers’ rights, stop countries from stealing our intellectual property or manipulating their currencies to get an unfair advantage, and fight corruption.

On Climate Change:

The Biden Administration has put an emphasis on combating climate change.  Every year, we see the consequences of increasing incidents of flooding, drought, wildfires, and extreme weather events at home making it urgent to address this global, existential crisis.  My home state, California, like Portugal, has been ravaged in recent years by forest fires.

What role do military officers play in this part?  Our new Secretary of Defense listed “Tackling the Climate Crisis” as one of top five priorities to defend our nation.  Military officers can know better than anybody the risk that climate change poses to national security: it is the military who conducts operations that result from instability in societies strained by desertification, the threat of adversary access to homelands through the Arctic, and the demands for humanitarian assistance worldwide.

You are all aware that one of the first actions by our new President was to rejoin the Paris Agreement, COP-21, and plans are already underway for our action at COP-26 this year in Glasgow.  Before Glasgow however there is Earth Day, next month on April 22nd.  President Biden will host a summit that day and encourage joint investment on climate-related innovation.  There is, simply put, no time to waste. Together, we need to invest in the technological innovations that are going to power our clean energy futures and enable us to build clean energy solutions to global markets – putting us on the road to net zero and holding the Earth’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.  I should note that we recognize Portugal as a leader on clean energy and also a major investor in clean energy in the United States through its company EDP – Renewables.

We applaud Portugal’s focus during its EU Presidency on negotiating the EU’s Climate Law.  To support Portugal’s leadership on climate issues, Special Envoy John Kerry sent a representative to Portugal’s EU Presidency event on Transatlantic climate and ocean diplomacy last month.

On Regional Security Issues:  

We know that our countries are not safe when there is conflict in states that affect us.  We collaborate with Portugal on northern Mozambique where ISIS has taken a stronghold and taken over 1000 lives.  We support Foreign Minister Santos Silva’s important leadership role as the EU’s Mozambique envoy and commend his efforts to launch a new European Union Training Mission.  Mozambique is a country I served in for three years and hope all of you already know or will get to know: It has incredible potential but absolutely needs stability to move forward economically.

Venezuela, North Korea, and Iran are all states that threaten stability as well, but I want to focus on “the biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century – China, and also Russia, because it’s right here in Europe.  We should not forget that conflict or competition with Beijing and Moscow is also a struggle for our values.

How we work together on China will be among the most consequential efforts we undertake.

China is the only country with the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to seriously challenge the stable and open international system.

As our Secretary said, “Our relationship with China will be competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be.  The common denominator is the need to engage China from a position of strength.”

So we will confront China’s economic abuses; counter its aggressive, coercive action; push back on China’s attack on human rights, intellectual property, and global governance.  We have to ensure that the benefits of growth are shared broadly and equitably, not just by a few.

We have to stand up to the Chinese government’s economic abuses and coercion that undercut the foundations of the international economic system.  If we learned anything from the pandemic is that we can’t be overly dependent on one nation for our personal protective equipment, or on supply chains.

We must shape the rules that will govern the advance of technology and the norms of behavior in cyberspace, artificial intelligence, biotechnology to ensure democratic values are honored rather than having this technology utilized for repression.

And we will stand up for democracy, human rights, and human dignity, including in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet.  We will support Taiwan, a leading democracy and a critical economic and security partner, in line with longstanding American commitments.  On all these issues, we will work to forge a common approach with like-minded countries.

But we also stand ready to engage with Beijing when it’s in our interest to do so.  We will compete from a position of strength through cooperation with our allies and partners, renewing our role in international institutions, and leading by example.

The challenges with Russia may be different than the ones with China, but they’re just as real.

Our President has spoken about our concerns that Putin has imprisoned his top opponent, Alexei Navalny; is behind the recent SolarWinds cyber attack and put “bounty” on the heads of our soldiers in Afghanistan, a sickening act.  Putin seeks to weaken the European project and our NATO Alliance and undermine Transatlantic unity.

We stand for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.  This is not just about Ukraine but about freedom and democracy; we want a future where nations are able to freely determine their own paths without a threat of violence and coercion.

This is how with Russia, too, it comes back to values, including the value of democracy.  I told you that I would say democracy a lot in this speech.

… and so the last point in this 5-aspect speech is Democracy

Our partnerships like the one with Portugal have endured and grown through the years because they are rooted in our shared democratic values.  Authoritarianism and nationalism are on the rise around the world. We saw our own democracy threatened in the storming of our Capitol building on January 6 of this year. Strengthening democracy is a top foreign policy priority for us.

The United States has recommitted to a foreign policy centered on democracy, human rights, and equality.  It is based on a vision of a future where every voice matters, where the rights of all are protected, and the rule of law is upheld.

This is why Department of State is reengaging again with the UN Human Rights Council (and other multilateral institutions).  This is why we are standing up against the overthrow of a democratically-elected in Myanmar and why we have sanctioned violent actors just last week in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique where we have long been the biggest bilateral donor, concerned for and deeply engaged in that country’s development.  One of the first actions President Biden in office did was to end our military funding to Saudi Arabia in its conflict in Yemen, known as the worst humanitarian disaster in the world.  None of these situations is easy – nor is the one in Syria, where there has now been a decade of war – but the United States is committed to doing what is right for the democratic and human rights values we, and you, hold dear.

In order to lead with our values, it’s important for the United States to build a national security workforce that reflects America in all its diversity. All U.S. government and agencies are to promote and protect the human rights of those from all backgrounds, including racial and ethnic minorities and also the LGBTQ community.

Just last month, we celebrated the contributions of African Americans and now in March, we honor the accomplishments of women.  These two months also serve as important reminders how far the United States still needs to go.  We won’t shy away from our struggles and will deal with them in the open because that is how we will make progress.  My favorite quote from Europe about America is by Alexis de Toqueville, “The greatness of American lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in the the ability to repair her faults.”  We have seen that our democracy has cracks in it, but it remains strong.  Institutions held.  People ultimately made the right decisions to uphold the tenets of our country’s ideals.  We share these ideals with countries like Portugal and will continue to work toward them, as democracy is never guaranteed.  Portugal struggled to get to its own full-fledged multi-party democracy, close to a half-century ago.  Brazil is one of the biggest democracies on the planet, our mammoth neighbor to the south with which we engage on the hemisphere’s most pressing problems.


In conclusion, it is clear that the range of challenges the United States and Europe must take on together is broad and complex.  With shared belief in the importance of the Transatlantic relationship and value of multilateralism, we have the ability to meet any challenge to secure our futures together.