April 20, 1999: Honoring the Legacy of Helmut Kohl


Today we honor a partnership dedicated to extending the boundaries of freedom, and a leader whose values and vision made it possible. We mark our progress toward realizing what was once only a dream...a Europe that is peaceful, undivided, and free.

President Bill Clinton
April 20, 1999

Today, at the White House, President Clinton presented the Medal of Freedom to former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. The President emphasized the importance of a strong alliance between America and Europe to protect our shared values and further our common goals.

Celebrating the Strength of Democracy. The dream of Helmet Kohl and the generation that founded NATO was of a Europe undivided, democratic, and at peace. NATO helped make that dream a reality by promoting democracy, deterring aggression, and creating conditions in which prosperity could flourish in the United States and Western Europe. NATO's strength, coupled with the determination of people to live free, subsequently extended the dream to all of Europe. The Alliance reached out to include three nations -- Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic -- as full members and added 25 new partners, including Russia and Ukraine. At this week's Summit, we will mark the success of NATO's first 50 years in defending democracy in Europe's west and helping to make freedom a reality for people in Europe's east. We will also reaffirm NATO's commitment to embrace democracies that demonstrate their ability to meet the obligations of NATO membership.

Safeguarding Freedom. In this century, American engagement has often made the difference between war and peace, tyranny and freedom. Nowhere is that more true than in Europe, where Americans fought two world wars, then joined with Europe to create NATO and other institutions that have safeguarded our security and prosperity for 50 years. But, as Kosovo so clearly demonstrates, crucial challenges remain. In the next century, together with our European allies, we must continue our engagement in order to defend our values, protect our interests, and further our common goals.

Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century. For the past 50 years, the United States and its allies confronted a single common enemy: communism. For the next 50 years, the challenges we face will be much more diverse: ethnic and regional conflict, like we have seen in Bosnia and face today in Kosovo; the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their means of delivery; and terrorism. At this week's Summit, the Allies will accelerate efforts to ensure NATO has the capabilities to deter and overcome these threats. In the next century, the Alliance must work closely with other Euro-Atlantic institutions -- notably the European Union and the OSCE -- in tackling the challenges ahead.

Building a Peaceful, United and Democratic Europe. For the first time in modern history, Europe is uniting around common values -- peace and stability, democracy and human rights, free markets and free trade. NATO has helped make this possible by defending against aggression and providing a source of stability for nearly half a century. Now, a new NATO in a new era can extend those benefits to the entire continent, strengthening our partnerships with Europe's new market democracies and helping to build a more integrated Europe. In Kosovo, NATO is seeking to stop those who would obstruct this process by bringing war, division, and oppression to their fellow Europeans. NATO is also working intensively to strengthen cooperation with Russia and Ukraine -- essential partners in building the new Europe.

April 1999

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