Now it falls to us to be the guardians of the freedom we inherited. By strengthening the ties that bind free people, by committing ourselves anew to the values on which our Nation was founded and to which the world aspires, we ensure that, years from now, another generation may gather in this place, bask in the warm glow if liberty's light, and say that, in our time, we helped make their century -- the 21st Century -- one of peace and freedom.
Today, President Clinton is joined by Vice President Gore, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Secretary of Defense William Cohen, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Ralston, National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, past and present members of the Executive Branch, and a bipartisan delegation from Congress, in signing historic papers granting United States approval for enlarging NATO to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.
Preserving Peace for Today, Protecting Peace For Tomorrow. Over four years ago, the President articulated his vision for a New Europe which would work together with the United States to ensure that the entire continent enjoyed the benefits of democracy, prosperity, and security. In the ensuing years, much progress has been made toward achieving this goal. At the 1997 NATO Summit held in Madrid, Spain, NATO's member states extended formal invitations to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to join the Alliance. In addition, the NATO leaders signed agreements in 1997 with both Russia and the Ukraine which forge closer and more cooperative ties between these two countries and the Alliance. Today, the President signs instruments of ratification for the enlargement of NATO to include the three aspiring countries.
NATO Advances Collective Security And Democratic Objectives. By enlarging NATO, the Alliance can better carry out its core mission of collective defense, while also addressing other matters, such as the threat of nuclear proliferation. At the same time, the prospect of NATO membership has helped countries in Central Europe to improve ties with neighbors, settle border and ethnic disputes, strengthen civilian control of their militaries, and increase tolerance for ethnic and religious minorities.
Enlarging The Alliance Will Make NATO Stronger. Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic will add some 200,000 troops to the Alliance, as well as naval, air force, and infrastructure assets. They have proven their willingness and ability to contribute to the security of the region by providing over 1,000 troops to help secure the peace in Bosnia, and participation in hundreds of Partnership for Peace exercises and activities.
Building A Stronger U.S.-European Partnership For the 21st Century. Today's historic signing ceremony is another step toward ensuring a safer future for our children. The enlargement of NATO brings Europeans closer together, reaffirms the longstanding commitment of the United States to remain engaged in Europe, and erases another Cold War dividing line. It is the President's hope that the 19 current and incoming member states of the Alliance will ratify enlargement ratification by the end of 1998 so that NATO can welcome Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic as its newest members at the 50th Anniversary Summit to be held in Washington in April, 1999.
President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore