On Tuesday evening in the University's Weiser Hall, 100 years and one day since President Woodrow Wilson delivered his famous “Fourteen Points” speech, used to negotiate peace talks to end Word War I, Ambassador Daniel Fried delivered his own five points outlining how the United States should address the challenges of promoting Western strategy in Central Europe.
Regent Ron Weiser, R, introduced Ambassador Fried to the podium as he recounted their work together when Ambassador Fried was the head of the National Security Council for Europe and Eurasia in 2001. Weiser emphasized the impact Fried has had on international affairs over his forty year career in foreign service.
“This man has had enormous influence on the shape of Europe as we see it today,” he said. “A Europe whole and free, mostly whole and mostly free, and that is a product of much of the work he did for many many years.”
Today, Fried is a fellow at the Atlantic Council, an organization that works to address global challenges by helping to inform strategy among international leaders.
Fried’s lecture was attended by about fifty people ranging from undergraduate students with a developing interest in policy to several of Fried’s former colleagues including Weiser and Public Policy Prof. Melvyn Levitsky.
The lecture opened with Fried’s admiration for the sustained success of American foreign policy, while also noting the potential risk of leaving the Russian government unchecked.
“Under American leadership, the West enjoyed its longest period of general peace since Roman times, an unprecedented prosperity in democracy,” he said. “Security challenges and attempted subversion from Russia is not new. What is alarming, and dismaying are the doubts and divisions within the West. A questioning of our own model, of our own values.”
Fried’s lecture continued to detail the events of the latter half of the 20th century and the current challenges both Central European countries and the United States face including economic stress, political stagnation, and questions of national identity. Through a historical lens, which Fried credited to his undergraduate days at Cornell majoring in history, he laced historical strife with its modern consequences.
“As Brexit, the Front Nationale, and other right-wing movements demonstrate, the prevailing post-national political culture in Western Europe is not always as popular as people think inside the Brussels beltway and it does not speak for the whole nation,” he said. “All of this took place against a backdrop of massive social and economic transformation resulting from free-market reforms.”
Fried ended his lecture with a succinct five points — which he admitted were much easier to envision than to put into action. Broadly outlined, the points included the need for the United States to “show up” and present strategy, establish a message nuanced with sensitivity, defend Central Europeans against Russia’s offensive tactics, notify governments when they are risking democratic values and maintain the position as a leader of the free world.
Following the lecture, Fried engaged with the audience during a 40-minute question and answer session. One audience member asked Fried the meaning of American leadership and how the phrase is embodied in international affairs.
“American leadership means having our power in the window so everyone can see it, but not talking about that — talking about our vision of the world,” Fried responded.
Engineer junior Neil Karr said he appreciated the novelty of how Fried defined American leadership.
“It was kind of reassuring to hear that there is a purpose to our leadership and to our values and that it is okay to have strong belief in your values if you think they are right,” he said.
Public Policy senior Gabriel Lerner was also in attendance and said Fried’s analysis of a successful democracy resonated with him.
“I think the point that he closed with that the successes of democracies in Poland are shared between liberal and conservative governments, sort of democracy is not of a party, but it is of a constitution, and a system, and a history," Lerner said. “I thought that that was really compelling.”