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As He Retires, U.S. Diplomat Delivers Message That 'Values Have Power'

Longtime diplomat Daniel Fried, shown here at a meeting in Seoul in 2016, told colleagues at his retirement party on Friday he's "learned never to underestimate the possibility of change."

Retirement parties have become frequent events at the State Department in recent weeks. So, too, are the warnings about where foreign policy may be heading under the Trump Administration.

On Friday afternoon, yet another experienced State Department official moved on. Daniel Fried was feted with champagne and cake at the end of his 40-year career as a diplomat who helped shape America's post-Cold War policy in Europe.

Fried, a longtime critic of Russia, served in the then-Soviet Union, worked on Poland and Central Europe and was the assistant secretary of state for Europe under President George W. Bush.

Most recently, Fried was the lead sanctions expert at the State Department, formulating sanctions including those imposed on Russia for annexing Crimea in 2014 and stirring up a conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Fried told colleagues at his party on Friday that over the years, he learned that values have power. Time and patience can pay off, as it did when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

"The West's great institutions, NATO and the EU, grew to embrace 100 million liberated Europeans," Fried said. "It was my honor to do what I could to help."

"I learned never to underestimate the possibility of change," he said. "Nothing can be taken for granted, and this great achievement is now under assault by Russia, but what we did in my time is no less honorable. It is for the present generation to defend and, when the time comes again, extend freedom in Europe."

There were some not-too-subtle digs, too, at President Trump, who has talked about trying to make "a deal" with Russia.

Germany offered Britain a sphere of influence deal in 1940, Fried reminded his colleagues. "Churchill didn't take the deal then," he said. "We shouldn't take similar deals now."

The Atlantic Council's Damon Wilson tweeted that Fried's remarks were a "clarion call for the U.S. to believe in itself and lead [a] liberal order."

Fried urged his colleagues to continue to serve the Trump administration with "loyalty, dedication and courage."

"Help Secretary Tillerson," he said. "He deserves it. And he needs it. And help the president as well, putting your backs in it."

Fried also spoke of the importance of American values and identity.

"We are not an ethno-state, with identity rooted in shared blood," he noted. "The option of a white man's republic ended at Appomattox."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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