Aznar’s address focused on the four issues Aznar believes remain critical to the US-EU alliance. He began by addressing the financial crisis, arguing that we must “resist the interventionist temptation.” His calls to action greatly resembled the campaign platform of the recently-defeated McCain campaign, including a disciplined budget, fewer taxes, labor reforms, free trade, competition, and the improvement of regulatory institutions. Next, the former prime minister addressed the war in Afghanistan, commenting that a greater number of NATO allies must commit troops to combat operations.
Aznar displayed considerable sympathy for the plight of President George W. Bush, remarking that European disdain was inevitable due to his Republican, Texan, Born-Again Christian background. Aznar also made his uneasiness over the election of Barack Obama quite clear. He humorously commented, “[Obama] was president of the whole world before being properly elected by the American people.” Citing the unrealistically high expectations of the president-elect, Aznar noted that “President Obama will need more than special effects to walk on water.” The former prime minister also appeared concerned about the changes Obama may make to American foreign policy. “[The world] needs a strong America, not a weak and introspective one,” he asserted.
Aznar proudly displayed his conservative ideals, quoting the likes of Ronald Reagan, Milton Friedman, and Winston Churchill. On multiple occasions, he firmly stated, “I believe in the West,” as both an indication of his desire to maintain a strong American-European alliance and of the role he hopes the United States will continue to play in the world. Justifying his call for “strengthening the West,” he contended that “our Western culture is the only one that promotes freedom and tolerance.”
Aznar’s final two points included brief commentary on American and European policy vis-à-vis both Russia and Iran. He stated definitively that a nuclear Iran “is an unacceptable situation.” Arguing that the result of negotiations or sanctions would be Iranian acquisition of the bomb, the former prime minister made the case for the continued development of Ballistic Missile Defense in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Aznar’s suggestions for the upkeep of NATO included a greater focus on the pressing threat of terrorism and more assistance for democracies in critical areas, such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, Israel, and others. He advocated strengthening various institutions, including a beneficial conclusion to the Doha Round and, more generally, a commitment to keeping free markets “free and open.”
The Spaniard concluded with a reiteration of the “very dangerous threat” of Jihadism, as well as a final plea for the strengthening of US-NATO and US-EU cooperation to confront the issues of China, energy security, and terrorism. The topic of terrorism seemed especially close to his heart. He related the story of how he survived a car bombing in 1995. “Today was not the dream we thought we’d live in after the West won [the Cold War],” he contended.
Aznar concluded with a dose of advice for President-Elect Obama: “He who walks in the middle of the road gets hit on both sides.” With that, the audience was invited to direct questions at the former Prime Minister. Some of the more interesting lines of inquiry included a suggestion that Warren Buffett was a financial terrorist, as well as a pseudo-conspiracy theorist’s demand for the true story behind the March 2004 terrorist attack in Spain. In the midst of the hubbub, Aznar’s humor managed to shine through, as he expressed joy at the sight of a fellow countryman, remarking, “Juan: this is not an English name.”