President Clinton Signs NATO Expansion Ratification

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 21, 1998


The Rose Garden

1:35 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I suppose I shouldbegin with an apology for having to dash off and pick up the paper,but I would hate to lose this document after all the effort we putinto getting to this point. (Laughter.)

Mr. Vice President, thank you for your leadership onthis issue. Senator Roth, Senator Biden, Secretary Albright,Secretary Cohen, General Ralston, Mr. Berger, to the ambassadors ofPoland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and the other members of thediplomatic corps who are here, to Senators Levin and Lieberman andLugar, Mikulski, and Smith, I thank all of you so much.

Ladies and gentlemen, before we begin I would like tomake a couple of brief comments. First of all, let me say I knowthat all Americans are heartbroken by the terrible shooting at theschool in Springfield, Oregon, today. And I would just like to sayon behalf of the American people that our thoughts and prayers arewith the families of the people who were killed and wounded, and withthat entire fine community.

Next let me say that I welcome the wise decision madeless than 24 hours ago by President Suharto in Indonesia. It nowgives the Indonesian people a chance to come together to build astable democracy for the 21st century. I hope that the leaders willnow move forward promptly, with an open and peaceful transition thatenjoys broad public support.

Indonesia is a very great nation -- populous, wideranging, diverse -- with remarkable accomplishments to its credit inthe last few decades. It has a great future. The United Statesstands ready to work, as we have with other nations in the past, tosupport Indonesia's leaders and people as they pursue democraticreform.

Finally, by way of introduction, let me say, since we'rehere to talk about Europe today, I'd like to put in one last plug forthe vote in Ireland and Northern Ireland tomorrow. And I suspect allof you agree with me. And I hope that those fine people will liftthe burden of the last 30 years from their shoulders and embrace acommon future in peace. (Applause.)

Let me say notwithstanding my good friend SenatorBiden's overly generous remarks, we are here today because of theefforts of a lot of people who supported this effort: members ofCongress and former members of Congress, present and former nationalsecurity officials, present and former military leaders,representatives of our veterans, business unions, religious groups,ethnic communities. I especially thank Senators Lott and Daschle,Senators Helms and Biden, and you, Senator Roth, the chairman of ourNATO observer group.

You behaved in the great tradition of Truman andMarshall and Vandenberg, uniting our country across party for commonvalues, common interests, and a common future.

It's really amazing, isn't it, that Bill Roth and JoeBiden come from Delaware. I want you to know there is no truth tothe rumor that I agreed to move the NATO headquarters to Wilmingtonin return for this vote. (Laughter.) However, it does say a lot forthose small states that these two remarkable men have made such anindispensable contribution to this effort. I thank the othersenators who are here for their passionate commitments.

I'd also like to mention one other person, my advisor onNATO enlargement who managed the ratification process for the WhiteHouse, Jeremy Rosner. Thank you, Jeremy. You did a great job, too,and we thank you. (Applause.)

I see so many people here that -- and I don't want toget into calling names, but I thank Mr. Brzezinski, AmbassadorKirkpatrick, General Joulwan and so many others who are here who havebeen a part of America's effort over the last 50 years to make surethat after World War II freedom triumphs.

We learned at great cost in this century that if wewanted America to be secure at home we had to stand up for ourinterests, our ideals, and our friends around the world. Because ofthe alliances we've built and the work that our people have been ableto do here, we near the end of this great century at a remarkablepinnacle of peace, with prosperity and declining social problems athome, and for the very first time ever a majority of the world'speople living under governments of their own choosing.

Since World War II, no alliance for freedom has beenmore important or enduring than NATO. And as we look ahead to thenext 50 years, we have to imagine what the world will be like andwhat it is we expect to do and, in particular, in this case, whatabout NATO. Today we welcome Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic,finally erasing the boundary line the Cold War artificially imposedon the continent of Europe, strengthening an alliance that now,clearly, is better preserved to keep the peace and preserve oursecurity into the 21st century.

For the 16 of us already in NATO, enlarging our alliancewill create three new allies ready to contribute troops andtechnology and ingenuity to protecting our territory, defending oursecurity and pursuing our vital interest. The 60 million people wholive in Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic, they now know thatwhat they build in peace they will be able to keep in security. AndAmerica now knows that we have new allies to help us meet the newsecurity challenges of the 21st century -- something that ourpartnership in Bosnia so clearly demonstrates.

I would say also to the nations who have joined with usin the Partnership for Peace, and others who have considered doingso, and those who hope still someday to become NATO members, we arein the process of adapting this organization to the securitychallenges of the 21st century, and those who are with us in thePartnership for Peace, those who have been part of our endeavors inBosnia, we appreciate you as well. We respect your aspirations forsecurity; we share your devotion to your freedom; and we hope this isa day which you can celebrate as well.

We come to this day, thanks to many acts of courage --courage that toppled the Berlin Wall, ended the Cold War; thesacrifices by those who raised freedom's banner in Budapest in 1956,in Prague in 1968, in Gdansk in 1980; people like Lech Walesa, VaclavHavel, Arpad Goncz, so many others. The selfless investment of bloodand treasure the American people made in freedom in the 20th century

is also something we ought to stop and remember here today. Thereare so many people whose families gave so much in two world wars andthe Cold War who should feel a personal sense of satisfaction andtriumph because of this day. And I hope they do.

As we look ahead to the 21st century, again I say, wehave to see what we're doing in NATO in the larger context ofpreparing for a different era. Our goal is to help to build a Europethat is undivided, free, democratic, at peace, and secure; a Europein which Russia, Ukraine, and other states of the former Soviet Unionjoin with us to make common cause; a dynamic new Europe withpartnership for commerce and cooperation.

Therefore, we have supported the expansion of NATO andthe Partnership for Peace. We have also supported all efforts atEuropean integration and the expansion of European institutions towelcome new democracies. And we will continue to do so.

We want to imagine a future in which our children willbe much less likely to cross the Atlantic to fight and die in a war,but much more likely to find partners in security, in cultural andcommercial and educational endeavors. The expansion of NATO and thePartnership for Peace make the positive outcome much more probable.

This is a day for celebration, but also a day forlooking ahead. Our work to adapt all our institutions to thechallenges of the new century is far from done. On Monday I had theopportunity to go to Geneva to lay out a seven-point plan for thechanges I believe the world trading system must embrace in order tofully and faithfully serve free people in the 21st century.

And just very briefly before I close, let me mention thethings that I believe we still have to do with NATO. We have tobuild closer ties with the Partnership for Peace members. We have toreinforce the practical cooperation between NATO and Russia, and NATOand Ukraine. We have to see through our efforts to secure a lastingpeace in the Balkans, and we cannot walk away until the job is done.(Applause.) We must achieve deeper reductions in our nuclear forcesand lower the limits on conventional arms across the Europeancontinent.

Yes, we have more work to do, but for today, we remindthe people of Europe that in the efforts that lie ahead, they cancontinue to count on the United States. And we remind the world thattomorrow, as yesterday, America will defend its values, protect itsinterests, and stand by its friends. So that years from now anothergeneration may gather in this place and bask in the warm glow ofliberty's light, because in our time we fulfilled America's eternalmission: to deepen the meaning of freedom, to widen the circle ofopportunity, to strengthen the bonds of our union among ourselves andwith others who believe in the primary importance of liberty andhuman dignity.

Thank you and God bless you all.

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