Obama, Sarkozy in Strasbourg, France

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Now, let me just respond to your question very quickly.

NATO is the most successful alliance in modern history. And the basic premise of NATO was that Europe’s security was the United States’ security, and vice versa. That’s its central tenet that is a pillar of American foreign policy that has been unchanging over the last 60 years. It is something that I am here to affirm. And with France’s reintegration into the highest command structures of NATO, that principle will continue to be upheld.

I want to echo what President Sarkozy just said. We want strong allies. We would like to see Europe have much more robust defense capabilities. That’s not something we discourage. We’re not looking to be the patron of Europe. We’re looking to be partners with Europe. And the more capable they are defensively, the more we can act in concert on the shared challenges that we face.

And so, you know, one of my messages to our NATO allies is going to be the more capability we see here in Europe, the happier the United States will be, the more effective we will be in coordinating our activities.

Holly Bailey.

Q — earlier President Sarkozy talking about having strong allies that own up to responsibilities. You know, President Obama has vowed to close Guantanamo Bay in the next year or so. Would you be willing to take some of the prisoners from there?

And, President Obama, have you addressed this issue with him?

PRESIDENT SARKOZY: Well, there again, you know, I believe democracy makes it incumbent upon heads of state to speak the truth and to live up to what they say. I am a longstanding friend of the United States. But Guantanamo was not in keeping with U.S. values– at least with my perception of what American values were and are. And I was proud and happy that the United States should have taken the decision that we were hoping for, which was to close down that base. We all were, here in Europe.

My deeply held belief is that you don’t combat terrorists with terrorist methods. You combat them with the methods and the weapons of democracy.

Now, having said that — and I have said that — if then the President of the United States says, I’m going to close down Guantanamo, but I need my allies to take — in this particular instance, this one person — into our prisons, because this is going to help me, the U.S. President, to shut down this base — if we are consistent, then we say, yes. Otherwise we’re inconsistent. We can’t condemn the United States to have this camp and then simply wash our hands of the whole business when they close it down. That’s not what being an ally, a friend, means, let alone standing up for what we believe in.

France’s word is France’s bond. We have conducted a line which is strong, honest and in keeping with democracy, which is what our American friends are doing.

Yes, we talked about it. And what I have said in my response is honest and consistent, and that’s the way I wish you to see France — honest and consistent.

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